Colin Hohnstein, a 2012 SPU graduate, has many titles. Brilliant writer, skilled musician, roommate to the best blogger on the planet; these are just a small sampling of the ways in which you might describe him. As of last August, Vegan could be added to the list. Colin has swept away all traces of animal product consumption from his life, which affects more than what initially comes to mind. If you’re considering veganism, or just cutting down the use of animal products in your lifestyle to whatever extent, the insight Colin gives in the below interview will likely be very helpful.
Q: What inspired you to go vegan?
A: I was a vegetarian for roughly four years, so I didn’t just switch from omnivore to vegan. What inspires me to be vegan is that, in my life, I don’t see any good reason not to. Yes, meat can taste good, and it can be difficult to forfeit a lifestyle you have been raised with, but beyond those two cons, everything else is a pro. I feel good about the fact that I am consistently removing animal products from my lifestyle, both ethically and literally. Ethically, by being vegan I am not supporting companies that mistreat or misuse animals or the products derived from them (not to mention, sometimes, their employees), and, on a less political level, it’s nice to eat a meal knowing that no animal was harmed in the making of it. Literally, I am healthier (though not always “healthy”). Being vegan greatly reduces the amount of unhealthy foods I can eat, and it has challenged me to try new, healthier alternatives to the animal products I would otherwise use in a lot of my cooking like butter and milk. Also, eating vegan has expanded my culinary horizons. I’m no expert, but I enjoy cooking, and I have discovered many new things to cook as well as new ways to cook them. It’s been a really eye-opening experience as far as cuisine goes, and I have found many food favorites that I may never have found otherwise.
Q: What, for you, has been the most challenging part of being vegan?
A: The challenging part, I guess, is exactly what you think it would be. While you definitely get used to it, there is a fair amount of caution I must take in the things I eat, especially when eating out. It’s easy for me to get into a “what I don’t know can’t hurt me” mindset about menus at non-vegan restaurants (so, most of them). I had to teach myself to ask questions about how something is made and what it is made with and to say no to things I found out had animal products in them or that I was unsure about.You have to do a little research, too, when you go vegan. If I never looked into it, I may not have found out that things like white sugar and certain brands of beer and liquor were not vegan due to animal products (fish bones) used in the filtering process. Things you might not even consider or think to look into. It took some time to get used to, but I feel that I am much better off being fully aware of what exactly I’m eating and drinking, and I think even if they’re not vegan, many people could benefit from learning more about the food they consume on a regular basis.
Q: Can you tell us about some great vegan meals you’ve discovered?
A: Yes and no. I have found an endless resource of vegan meals and recipes that look absolutely delicious. But I don’t always have time to cook something unfamiliar, especially if it requires a lot of preparation, learning, or new ingredients.I’ve rekindled my love of pasta by finding vegan methods of preparing various sauces like marinara and pesto. Black bean soup seems boring and typical, but I had never tried it until I went vegan. I love it. Super simple, just some beans, onions, garlic, stock of your choice, seasoning and spices and drizzle some (or, like me, lots) of hot sauce on there. It’s magnificent. I’ve also found many vegan alternatives to non-vegan meals I like that are amazing. You can by wheat-or-soy-derived meat substitutes that are absolutely delicious when you prepare them like you would animal meat. Also, there’s a place called Veggie Grill that makes veggie versions of your favorite comfort foods that are about to die for. I had a carne asada sandwich there that blew my mind. It may take a bit of getting used to, but there’s a lot out there for vegans to eat, as long as you keep an open mind.
Are you thinking of going Vegan or altering your current diet? Or are you already there? Feel free to tell us about your experience in the comments below.