The most inspiring Veggie Heroes are those who work tirelessly as advocates in our local communities. They don't get their names up in lights or splashed across book covers; many are hardly ever recognized at all. And yet, their work is perhaps the most important. They teach vegetarian cooking classes, write letters to the editors, or rescue animals all out of compassion. One of my personal Veggie Heroes falls into this category.
Cathy Evans works diligently for the Campus Cat Coalition of the College of Charleston in South Carolina. This grass roots group rescues urban cats and has them spayed or neutered, vaccinated, injected with a flea preventative, tested for feline diseases, dewormed and tagged. The cats are then released back on to the urban campus. Every day volunteers provide food, water and affection. Countless cats have been saved by this wonderful program due in no small part by the efforts of today's Veggie Hero. (If you'd like to learn more or find out how you can help, see the information below the interview. )
Vegetarian or vegan?
I call myself 99% vegan. I eat scallops about once a year -- they seem like an in-between life-form to me and I haven't fully resolved this yet. I welcome input.
How long have you been veg*n?
Vegetarian since the early 1970s; 99% vegan since 1996.
What inspired you to go veg?
I actually had a serious moral reaction against eating meat when I was a very young child - about two or three. I went fishing with my father and witnessed him catching fish on hooks by their mouths and later skinning them alive. I was traumatized by this and refused to eat fish the whole time I was growing up. When I was four or five, I discovered that "meat" meant dead animals. I was horrified and told my mother I didn't want to eat meat any more. She said she respected that and wouldn't make me eat it. Although I did go back to eating meat, I had periodic revulsions towards it and sometimes wouldn't eat it. In my teen years, my parents raised a few male cattle which they had slaughtered for meat. Again, I was horrified, repelled and refused to eat it. Luckily, my parents also raised a large organic garden and we had a large fruit orchard. My mom canned and froze vegetables which we ate all year; and she made grape juice from our arbor -- so I ate well and healthily. When I was 20, I started experimenting with vegetarianism, and within a couple of years that had stabilized into a lifestyle. This choice was powerfully reinforced a few years later in 1975 when I read philosopher Peter Singer's Animal Liberation.
What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
I typically have been very fortunate in finding great vegetarian food. I often say I have been blessed with good food karma. However, I had a very difficult time when my husband Lee and I went to South Dakota. I remember being in a restaurant for breakfast where I the only viable choice for me on the menu was white toast. I asked if they served grits and no one knew what I was talking about.
How do you handle family holiday dinners?
I simply avoid situations where there is likely to be contention or a conflict. However, I find that most hosts are very accommodating. That said, I generally avoid Thanksgivings unless they are vegetarian celebrations. The popular name for this holiday is "Turkey Day" and I always think of all the turkeys that are raised for slaughter just so people can eat them on this particular day of the year. I am monumentally turned off by this. In fact, I turn off in general to Thanksgiving holiday since it has much more to do with gluttony than with the celebration of people sharing multicultural differences. I have often found myself fasting on that day -- and if left entirely to my own devices, I'm pretty sure I would do that every year. I guess that sounds rather bah-humbug, but I don't think of it that way. I just like to let my body and my subconscious mind lead me, and that's where I seem to be led in relationship to Thanksgiving. I think it's an impulse towards compensation for a cultural imbalance.
What's your favorite veg food?
That's hard to answer, since I love almost all vegan food. I find it ironic that non-vegetarians think I probably have a very narrow diet. Actually, I eat a much wider variety of food than the average person who lives on fast foods, junk foods, and convenience foods. My mom tells me that when I was an infant, my first food choice was baby spinach. In fact, I ate it as a treat even into my teen years! I could not live without an abundant supply of green vegetables, fruits, raw nuts, grains, soy milk -- the whole gamut, organic if possible. I find that my food preferences shift seasonally.
Do you have a favorite veg book?
I cook from inspiration, so I generally don't follow cookbooks. There are about a billion great vegetarian cookbooks, though.
Tofu or tempeh?
I love both -- but I especially love tempeh.
What did you have for breakfast today?
Before I left the house this morning I had a cup of organic black tea and organic echinacea-plus tea, with agave nectar and soymilk. I always take my breakfast to work with me and eat about 10:00 a.m. This morning it was a banana with soy yogurt and raw organic walnuts, plus Ezekiel sesame toast with Earth Balance margarine. But usually I have a lot more fruit on hand. Yesterday I had the soy yogurt with bananas, pineapple, blueberries and grapes. I generally sprinkle soy lecithin into my yogurt along with fruit, nuts, and granola or muesli. Dee-licious!