My experience with the trials, tribulations, and thrills of The Kind Diet
It all started ten years ago. I was 12 and my grandfather brought home a set of three beautiful white rabbits from the farm. As is to be expected, the bunnies and I quickly became best buds. I named one Fluffy (obvious, but necessary), another one Cottontail (after Peter Cottontail from the book The Tale of Peter Rabbit), and the other one Snowball (also obvious, but remember that I was 12 years old at the time). Of course, I couldn’t really tell them apart so their names were somewhat interchangeable. The point is, they had names because they were like people and because they were loved. My cousins and I played with the rabbits for a full day before going home.
The next day, when I arrived at my grandmother’s house, I ran straight outside to see my fluffy friends. Where were they? My grandfather said that they had gone back to the farm, to be with their family. Oh well, I thought, that was short-lived but fun. Little did I know that a day later, as I was opening the cold room door to get some juice, I would see Fluffy, Cottontail, and Snowball again – but this time, they were skinned and hanging on a hook on from the ceiling. Needless to say, I felt devastated, outraged, and nauseous all at the same time. Immediately, I decided to become a vegetarian. I was a little bit of a drama queen, yes. Unfortunately, as a 12 year old, I didn’t have any clout in the kitchen though. My mother said that I could either be a vegetarian or I could be Italian (i.e. Italians eat meat, and A LOT of it). She also said that I had no choice when it came to the Italian part. It would be a lot of trouble for her to cook special meals for me. So it was decided that my vegetarianism would have to wait – at least until I could cook my own food and make my own decisions without having to ask permission.
Fast-forward to ten years later. As a 22-year old animal-lover, I decided to give veganism a go about two months ago. I had heard about the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet (glowing skin, cancer-crushing anti-oxidants, natural vitamins, renewed energy and amazing digestion). I had also witnessed the unbelievable success of The Kind Diet, as Alicia Silverstone appeared on a slew of talk shows, including Oprah, and her book skyrocketed to the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. Most of the people who flirt with veganism dread giving up dairy or meat, but in my case, that wasn’t such a big deal. I’m lactose intolerant and I only eat white meat twice a week, at most. The only thing I really had to give up was fish and eggs. It sounded easy at first, and as a health nut, I’m usually willing to try almost anything. In my eyes, there are more reasons to be vegan than there are reasons to be a carnivore. But salmon is one of my favourite dishes and eggs are present in things you would never imagine (like homemade pasta, waffles, mayonnaise).
After two months as a vegan, cooking recipes from The Kind Diet, I caved. I had a slip up. I fell off the wagon. The analogies are endless, really. The catalyst? Salmon. This is not to say that the recipes weren’t mouth-watering. They were! It’s just that salmon is my kryptonite. I came home after a night out with friends and found that my house smelled of something delicious. “What is that scent?” I asked myself, “God, that’s heavenly.” I walked into the kitchen and found a container of salmon waiting for me in the fridge. Like a junkie, I scoffed it down without thinking twice. I know fish is still a living thing. It has a face and feelings, and we shouldn’t feel less guilty eating it than we do a t-bone steak. Yet, my body craves fish and it is something that, for now, I cannot live without.
The whole point of adopting a specific diet or lifestyle is because it makes you feel good. What you eat should nourish you. While I was a vegan, my family and friends sometimes chided me. I kept getting bewildered looks of pity. “What do you eat, then?” “How do you go out to restaurants?” “Why do you have to be a vegan, isn’t that really exaggerated?” “You think that if YOU don’t eat chicken, they’ll stop killing animals and you’ll change the world?” The questions were endless, and it started to become exhausting. Some questions stemmed from sheer ignorance, some from places of judgment, and others from places of love and worry that I wouldn’t be getting the right nutrients. Either way, it was not the feedback that detracted me.
The Kind Diet leaves many people feeling energized and happy, but I felt sluggish and tired. I was eating way too many carbs to supplement the other foods I could no longer eat. Although they were all wholegrain, and scrumptious, I was consuming a lot more sugar than my body needed. (Yes, carbs contain sugar.) I was also having cravings that left me feeling cranky and mean. After two months, I realized that as much as I would love to be a full time vegan, it wasn’t working for me. I might eventually make the full-transition to veganism or vegetarianism but for now, I eat fish and eggs every once in a while. I believe whole heartedly in treating animals with compassion, growing your own natural produce, and knowing where your food comes from. However, I also think it’s important to accept the fact that the transition to veganism is not an easy one. Even for someone who is already half way there, like myself.
Even with my recent decision, I still adore Alicia Silverstone’s book. I finished it the day I bought it. It’s just fantastic! I speed read chapters filled with facts about the effects of the meat industry on the environment and the cruel realities of slaughter houses, then laughed at her adorable charm and enjoyable honesty. Yes, there are a lot of scary numbers in The Kind Diet – and they are obviously there to make a point. Meat carries pathogens, hormones, and antibiotics. Not to mention that chicken’s beaks and wings are clipped, and baby calfs are taken away from their mothers immediately. We all know about the realities of meat consumption. A whole slew of celebrities are vegan, including Nathalie Portman, Carrie Underwood, Prince, even Albert Einstein was a vegetarian. Especially now, with the recent stats showing the environmental effect of grazing cows (Cows’ burps produce 19% of the world’s methane emissions and livestock can produce up to 130 times more waste than people do, in terms of the water and food needed to wash and fatten them), there is even more reason to switch to a plant-based diet. But for most, this just isn’t realistic. My father would never be able to give up meat and cheese. He dreams of mozzarella di bufala. What I appreciated most about the book is that it doesn’t preach. For those who know they cannot make the switch, it aims to educate them and to slowly guide them to take baby steps towards a kinder lifestyle, if they so choose. I would’ve been happier if Miss Silverstone mentioned the words “yuck” or “yucky” a little less often. But, overall, The Kind Diet is a simple discussion where Silverstone shares her own experience and beliefs, in the hopes of making even a miniscule difference.
Of course, my favourite part of the book were the 150 pages filled with Alicia’s personal recipes (accompanied by gorgeous colour photos of the most exciting dishes). They make up exactly 50% of the book’s content, as they should. Vegans will feel their jaws drop to the floor as they taste dishes from The Kind Diet. And for those of you who do eat meat, you will still find pages of amazingly delicious dishes – none of which will leave you feeling like you just had green grass for dinner. It is amazing what Silverstone can do with fresh produce, a few key spices, and a lot of creativity. The only thing is… you need to know how to cook, and you need to love doing it. Your grocery list must be well-organized and there a few recipes that take patience and are difficult to master. My attempt at the Polenta Casserole, for example, was disastrous. Still, I encourage to you to give the easier ones a shot, and to slowly attempt the harder ones. You definitely won’t be disappointed. In all honesty, my cooking has improved exponentially since reading The Kind Diet. Some of the recipes, like the Cuban Style Sweet Potatoes, Nori Rolls, and the Azuki Beans and Squash, have become some of my favourite plates of all time (vegan, or otherwise).
In the coming days, I’ll be posting my favourite recipes from the book, with a few little tweaks here and there. They’ll range from very easy-peasy to medium level skillet wielder, but they will all leave your friends and family wanting more. Silverstone certainly knows what she’s doing.
Keep checking The Cafe Phenomenon in the upcoming weeks for: Homemade Granola, Quick Maple-Date Oatmeal, Cuban Style Sweet Potatoes, Tofu Cream, Nori Rolls, Snap Peas/Radishes/Edamame with lemon Butter, Sicilian Collard Beans with Raisins, Squash/Black Bean Stew, Radicchio Pizza with Truffle Oil, and Ginger Pasta with Zucchini, and a few of my favourite Quinoa/Couscous recipes.
By Sophia Loffreda
You can follow me on twitter @sloffreda