Did you know that the term vegan was first used in the 1940s by a group who wanted to take vegetarianism to the next level and who weren't sure they would actually be able to survive for very long without any animal products of any kind? That's one thing attendees learned at our first speaker series event this month; those first vegans had to take a stand not only against the greater society, but also against their vegetarian comrades who didn't believe veganism practical for health or for converting omnivores to the cause. They did it anyway, because vegetarianism didn't go far enough for them ethically. "We didn't know if our bones would disintegrate. We didn't know if we would die in a fortnight. We just did it out of pure...compassion."
Our monthly speaker series kicked off in January with Peta's sexiest woman over 50, the creator of Main Street Vegan and author of more books than there are fingers on both of my hands: Victoria Moran!
Victoria helped bring veganism into the mainstream when she published Compassion the Ultimate Ethic which was based on her college thesis. She's most well known for Main Street Vegan, the brand based on her book of the same title. Main Street Vegan is all about living the vegan life in the "real world;" it's for those of us who aren't celebrities or the super-rich but who still want to do veganism the right way! She has written over a dozen books, co-founded and runs the Main Street Vegan Academy and has a podcast called Main Street Vegan.
The Main Street Vegan Academy is where Riverdel's founder, Michaela Grob, got the knowledge basis to open your favorite vegan cheese shop. It also boasts alumni such as the founders of Bryt Life and the author of The Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide (among many others). The Academy teaches people how to essentially spread the gospel of veganism, bringing vegan options to the world in creative ways. Alumni have opened shops like Riverdel, are working on brands that feature vegan cowboy boots, and have written countless books about how to do veganism right!
Victoria spoke at Riverdel to an intimate crowd right after the New Year. She spoke about one of the books she's written that is closest to her heart, The Love-Powered Diet (also published as Love Yourself Thin) which discusses her own eating disorder and how she got healthy and thin through self-love, all while sticking to the vegan diet. She discussed the difference between "plant-based" diets and "veganism," stating that identifying as vegan, to her, is a definitive statement about how she lives her life and why.
One of the most powerful aspects of her discussion involved talking about the power of children and the future generations. She talked about how natural it is for children to want to protect animals and do good things for the world, the Earth and all its inhabitants.
Her mission is to spread veganism as far as she can and to spread it to people who will go on to help it spread themselves. Tying her discussion into Riverdel, she talked about how horribly horses used to be treated when they were the main source of transportation, especially in cities. Back then, no one thought there was an alternative so the treatment was as inevitable as the means of transportation. Then, Henry Ford came along and offered alternative transportation, minimizing the number of horses in the city and, therefore, the number of horses being neglected, abused and contributing to pollution and health risks. Riverdel is one such alternative, offering the chance for those begrudging of their loss of cheese or milk, ice cream or yogurt, pepperoni or BBQ ribs. Many believe, according to Moran, that there will be a day when no animals are slaughtered or tortured so that we can eat, because the alternatives will only continue to multiply!
Veganism for Ms. Moran is about personal sustainability as much as about environmental and ecological sustainability. The vitality you receive from the vegan diet, she says, contributes to a better physicality, higher spiritual awareness, and the knowledge that our diet choices can protect, preserve and expand the life of our world, along with the animals and ourselves.
She ended by encouraging us to stay true to ourselves and to push the people we care about, to continue to find creative ways to get the vegan message out there as well as creative alternative that will make the transition easier for more and more people. "You're allowed to be a little bit eccentric."
Thank you Victoria for giving us one hour of inspiration from your over 3-decades of vegan activism and experience!
Our next speaker series will take place on February 1 at 6:30. We will be joined by Michael Suchman, who is a vegan and gay rights activist and blogger who has also contributed to Main Street Vegan's blog! He has a book out called Vegan Mexico, which gives you those alternatives Victoria talked about for one of the most popular cuisines in existence (and my personal favorite) and he has a book coming out called NYC Vegan: Iconic Recipes for a Taste of the Big Apple, which offers vegan alternatives for the most iconic recipes NYC has to offer!
He'll be speaking at Riverdel about living (and surviving, and, hopefully thriving) as a Vegan in an Omnivore family! I know the most popular question we got leading up to the holidays in the shop was "What should I buy to show my family that vegan food can actually be good?" Michael's talk promises insights into just such experiences and more. RSVP today and start preparing your questions!