In the months after Sept. 11, 2001, cruise companies were offering significant bargains to get people to book. My partner and I took a 10-day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale for about $250. On that cruise we met Abi and her mum from London.
Abi introduced us to veganism. We were unfamiliar with it, but mostly enjoyed the fact that the only pretty young blonde on the ship didn’t drink, yet had male servers tripping over themselves to wait on her. She was offered lots of free bottles of wine, and we were only too happy to drink it for her.
In the following years, Abi visited us in South Florida. I remember a trip to Whole Foods to scout out the vegan products: the soy chocolate chip cookies, the unchicken and the tofurkey breast I ran up and down the aisle with, making gobble-gobble sounds. In 2007 we visited her in London and found that eggs or cheese would “contaminate” her refrigerator. She’s hardcore. In 2009, she finally landed her vegan beau and we attended their vegan wedding in Scotland, complete with vegan haggis. In 2010 they had a son and gave him a very meat-eater sounding name: Maverick.
While my crash course in veganism has often amused me, I had my own vegetarian episode in college, and I consider retreating back to it any time I see a truck carrying animals off to slaughter. People have different reasons for eating — and not eating — what they do, and in a week in which Americans are focused on food like no other, it seemed a good time to speak with a few locals about their own meatless — or near meatless — eating habits.
Andrea Marzullo has been a pescatarian — one who eats fish, no other meat — for only a few months. Before that, it was anything goes. “It’s been coming for a while, gnawing at me,” she told me. She talks of motivators being both health and the treatment of animals, saying it used to be, “Oh, that’s terrible. Let’s go to Del Frisco’s tonight.” The change is recent, but she says, “Over time, just changing some things, I want to get to that point where I don’t eat fish either.”
With Abi — who would not wear leather, silk, wool, anything animal related — as my reference point, I often check out any prospective vegan’s shoes. Andrea’s are leather. She jokes that they’re from a second-hand store. “It’s hard to get there, isn’t it? I mean that goes for every stitch of clothing that I buy.” She then adds, “Having a closet full of sheep sweaters would probably be OK. No one was harmed.”
I meet Brittany Englert at Ethos, the vegan restaurant that just relocated to Fairbanks and New York in August. She’s been mostly vegan for two years. Her boyfriend, Paul Schetzle, was raised vegan. “If I have control of it, we’re 95-, 99-percent vegan at home,” she explains, but talks of some flexibility, citing, “So many good restaurants.” She speaks of its challenges and opportunities. “I love vegan cooking, experimenting, how everything works together. There are vegan substitutes for everything,” she says, mentioning soy products, almond milk, vegan butter. Brittany is 27, and on her recent birthday, Paul had a surprise for her: a huge tub of vegan mayonnaise in the refrigerator.
Dani Bowman is behind the bar Ethos as we talk. She’s been vegan for five years, and lost 90 pounds over seven months when she made the transition. She’d played college basketball, always been active, but it was becoming vegan that dramatically changed her body. She’s been working at Ethos since August, and says, “We definitely have a big vegan, vegetarian following, but I think a lot of people are intrigued by it, so they come in to check it out.”
I ask Brittany about holidays and she says, “Thanksgiving is a crazy thing for us because Paul’s family is all – mostly – vegan, like his uncle is hardcore vegan, but the rest of his family is more like vegetarian vegan. So, when it comes to holidays we do a Tofurky roast thing and we all make something to bring.”
Paul says, “Growing up vegan seemed normal through the eyes of a kid. My parents usually packed my lunch for school. When I did buy my lunch Orange County Schools always accommodated. They either made me lunch out of sides or let me make a salad from the teachers’ salad bar. I remember feeling left out that I didn't have any milk to dip my cookies in.”
He continued, “I did get picked on quite a bit even into high school. When I was going through high school, I had a rebellious stage where I started to try all kinds of stuff: cheese, hotdogs and even a hamburger. Most meat products didn't appeal to me because my palette was adjusted for a no-meat diet. Even today it is a challenge to not give in to dairy. That is the hardest temptation for me and my family. I have a sister who grew up vegan with me. She is only vegetarian today and has still never tried any meats.
When it came to the holidays, it was really hard to replace turkey at the dinner table, especially in the ’80s and ’90s, when substitutions weren't readily available. I still have never tried turkey. We started off just having other main courses like pasta or couscous. Then we moved into veggie chicken patties and now onto the Tofurky Thanksgiving ball and products like it, like the field loaf that has just come on the market. We have never had an issue about what we eat. All that matters to us is bringing the family together on one day. Thankfully my entire family is vegan. We have eight family members in Winter Park who have all been vegan for 25-plus years.”
Happy Thanksgiving, no matter what is on your dinner table.
Local Lun'n Local
Heidi Lifrage’s artwork is now on display at Ice Cream Treats & Eats on Corrine Drive in Audubon Park. In addition, she’s also conducting children’s art classes there on certain days. Call 407-894-0286 for more information. Visit heidilifrage.com
Clyde Moore operates local sites ILUVWinterPark.com, ILUVParkAve.com and LUVMyRate.com, and aims to help local businesses promote themselves for free and help save them money, having some fun along the way. Email him at [email protected] or write to ILuv Winter Park on Facebook or Twitter.