“I could never live without cheese!” That was one of Ashley Addington’s mottoes. She’d been vegetarian since she was a tween, after seeing videos of animals being “processed” in what was supposed to be a humane facility. “It really upset me…to watch a life violently end for someone’s five-minute meal didn’t make sense to me,” she says. She knew she’d never eat animals again.
She’d always thought veganism—eliminating all animal products, not just meat, from one’s diet—was extreme. But once she realized veganism better aligned with her values of not wanting animals to suffer in any way for her sake, she decided to try it.
Addington, who works for a local solar energy company, blogs about veganism (as well as motherhood and transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle) on ashleyjanethevegan.wordpress.com, where she keeps an impressive log of where to get vegan eats in town (including vegan cheese). Here, she shares some advice for anyone interested in going vegan.
K&F: How was the transition from vegetarian to vegan?
Addington: Making the switch seemed daunting. I enjoyed the taste of some meats and especially cheese and ice cream. I asked myself, “What do vegans even eat?” And most importantly, “How will I live without cheese?” What helped me wrap my mind around it was advice from a longtime vegan friend: Replace one thing at a time, one day at a time. I felt less pressure to be perfect and I was pretty much vegan within a week. Don’t aim for perfection immediately—just start!
What was the easiest part of going vegan? The hardest part?
The easiest part was aligning my diet with my values, as I had been fighting with my conscience while I ate animal products and parts. The hardest part was learning to navigate eating with friends and family, and at restaurants. Now it’s second nature.
What might people be surprised to learn is easy about a vegan lifestyle?
Veganism can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. You can meal prep around plant-based staples like bananas, oats, beans, rice, corn, potatoes, etc. for dollars a day. Or you can eat expensive, processed and packaged vegan food, or, if you have the means, gourmet vegan burgers and fancy cultured vegan cheese.
Veganism can also be as healthy or unhealthy as you make it. You can gorge on French fries, chips, bread, faux meats, Taco Bell burritos and vegan ice cream…or you can stick to whole foods and plant-based meals.
What is it like to be vegan in Charlottesville?
Larger cities do have higher concentrations of fully vegan restaurants and vegan options. For this reason, my husband and I take trips to vegan- friendly cities like Montreal, and for date nights we might drive to Richmond or Washington, D.C. Charlottesville is adapting, though. I see new vegan offerings all the time; even barbecue places here offer vegan sides and some even do smoked pulled tofu with barbecue sauce. If I have to be at a certain restaurant for family or work, I’ve had luck politely asking the kitchen to make me something vegan.
What is your advice to someone contemplating a vegan lifestyle?
Try it! Remember: Replace one item at a time, one day at a time. Read labels. So many things are already accidentally vegan.
Ashley Jane’s four local faves
“They’re completely vegan and inexpensive; the PB&J and hummus sandwiches are especially good.”
Texas hummus at Continental Divide
“A classic. One of my favorite hummus recipes in town.”
The Impossible Burger at Boylan Heights
“It bleeds like a burger and tastes like one. It’s pretty crazy.”
“In addition to juice and smoothies, this all-vegan, sustainable company often serves hot food like chili with cashew sour cream or broccoli cheddar soup.”