It Would be so Much Easier if…

I should have known better. He could have died. Was it worth the risk?

What does this have to do with the OneGreenSmoothie movement? Let me explain…

The Event

Last Sunday evening, we were winding down a pleasant weekend when I offered my youngest son his new favorite “bowl” – yogurt topped with cinnamon, fruit, and oatmeal.

It’s complicated trying to feed this primarily plant-based, allergic, and picky eater so I was relieved to have stumbled upon this easy and nutritious meal for him during a recent heat wave we’d had.

Vegan “dairy” products have improved exponentially over the past few years, primarily those that are nut and hemp-based because they are so rich, creamy and frankly, delicious! I buy several varieties of these for everyone in our family except for Mattias, who is severely allergic to nuts and hemp; he gets soy- and coconut-based dairy.

mattiasyogurtbowl

Moments after I’d served Mattias his bowl, I hear footsteps running into the kitchen, and his trembling voice scratch out, “Mom, my throat hurts.” Bam! Everything stops.

His lips are already swollen and tears have pooled into his frightened eyes. He knows what’s coming. We rush to the cupboard to find the Benadryl, and I give him two tiny pink pills.

Minutes pass. No relief.

Oh no, I think to myself. This is it. I’m going to have to inject him with the EpiPen­­—a chilling prospect for both of us. I’d have to jab the thick needle through his pants, into his thigh muscle, and hold it firmly in place while the epinephrine flows through his veins ultimately reaching his heart, making it race wildly. It also would mean a trip to the Emergency Room and a long, late night.

I hesitate. Instead, I give him two more pink pills and pray. He brushes his teeth and takes a shower trying to cleanse away the offending allergen—cashew milk yogurt. He has hives. He crawls into bed, and we do deep breathing exercises to relax his body.

I track the amount of time passing. I cannot delay much longer. Finally, the swelling of his throat starts to ease. His breathing stabilizes. We continue the deep breathing, for my sake as much as his. Inside, I am afraid he’ll have a secondary reaction once the medicine wears off, but he refuses to sleep in my bed so I that I can keep watch over him during the night.

The Doubt

I am furious with myself! How could I, of all people, make such a dangerous mistake? Then they hit me in rapid-fire succession:

this is too hard; risky. it’s not worth it. it would be so much easier if I would just give him normal yogurt. i would make sure it’s organic, free range, humane, whatever it takes. he could use the calories. yes, it’s inflammatory, but at least it’s safe. I wouldn’t have to think, triple check labels, plan ahead…

The Dilemma

Why do I make things so much more difficult for myself and my family by seeking out plant-based milk, cheese, and yogurt? It would certainly be easier, perhaps even “safer” in our case, to stock our fridge with animal-based dairy products.

Here is what I’ve come up with:

When we first started this journey, it was all about our own personal health. I’m a health nut and actively seek out the latest research on nutrition. When I discovered that animal milk is known to be the root cause of all sorts of ailments from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, cancer, etc., we became dairy free at home (click this link for a myriad of videos on this topic).

If you’ve read the Our Story page on this blog, you know that the documentary Cowspiracy completely rocked our world and inspired not only the creation of the OneGreenSmoothie movement, but gave us a greater sense of urgency and commitment to plant-based eating for the health of the planet.

Caring for our environment and personal health continue to be the driving forces behind our decisions and actions, but something unexpected has happened in the last year or so that has caused us greater consternation.

We’ve become more aware of the ethical dilemma of eating animals and their secretions. I’m not sure why this never factored into our consciousness before, other than ignorance or denial. But we’ve since come to appreciate that animals are sentient beings capable of bonding with humans, and feeling love, fear, stress, and pain.

Truth be told, even my kids, who were the ones pushing us to not eat animals, hadn’t made the connection with milk. Perhaps it was my motherly instincts that grew my empathy for the mother cow who’s breast milk was being taken and used to make dairy products to feed us. Although they now see that just as we love our dog, we wouldn’t drink his mother’s milk or even make yogurt or cheese with it (so why would we with that from goats or cows?), they still sometimes grumble at my efforts on dairy. Which just adds a layer of guilt to my dilemma…

A New Day

The next morning Mattias wakes with swollen eyes like he’d been in a fight; his throat is still tight. My guilt returns. The thought returns, “normal” yogurt would be so much easier!

Easier for me and my child? Yes! (and more convenient and less expensive, too!)

Easier for the mother cow and her calf? No.

Easier on our planet? No.

I vow to be more vigilant. I vow to keep taking one step at a time trying to figure out this whole plant-based way of eating, way of living. I begin anew and share this with you.

To Tell or Not To Tell

One of the impetuses for my starting the OneGreenSmoothie movement was an experience a friend shared with me. On separate occasions, she had met two women who both happened to hail from the island where she was from. She was excited to welcome them to her town so she threw a big dinner for them, serving all the traditional foods from said island. She prepared and cooked for days, planned themed decorations, cleaned house–the whole shebang.

The night of the dinner, all of the families had a grand time, except for the glaringly awkward fact that the platters of skewered chicken were still full. When my friend asked her guests about it, they sheepishly admitted that they were vegetarian.

Oh man was my friend frustrated, dare I say, even angry?! Had she known, she would have never bought and labored over all that meat. She would have happily made other veggie dishes and/or asked them to bring their favorites.

To Tell or Not to Tell…that is a common question vegetarians ask themselves, and vegans even more so. Vegetarians are generally more accepted in our society, and it’s usually pretty easy to make a meal from side dishes.

However, vegans, and I’d imagine those with gluten issues, are faced with the dilemma of speaking up about their diets and potentially causing the host anxiety and extra work. No one wants to put anyone else out, and likewise, most people are super thoughtful and want to prepare something their guests will enjoy! So all this politeness can inadvertently create awkward situations.

Our Evolution–We have been on both sides of this dilemma. When Niklas and I were first married and living in Stockholm, I was vegetarian. Already feeling like an outsider being American, I usually asked Niklas to please not mention my vegetarianism to hosts we didn’t feel comfortable “imposing” upon – like his work colleagues or perhaps new friends. But sometimes it was difficult trying to hide around the side dishes, especially on occasions when there were no sides without some ham or bacon mixed in. I remember Niklas’ sweet great-grandmother, whom I adored, chastising me for being rude. “You eat what someone puts in front of you,” she admonished. “That’s just good manners.” Ugh, how can one argue with that?!?

On the flip side, a few years ago, we had some friends in town who were dairy and gluten free. I had wanted to prepare something nice for them and anguished over it for weeks before they arrived. Granted, I am not a natural cook and would have probably stressed about it anyway, but, mainly, I was just used to “cooking” with flour and dairy–bread and cheese anyone?

Looking back on it now, I am thrilled our friends trusted us enough to share their dietary restrictions, and I was happy to accommodate them; we love these people after all, and their next visit will be a cinch to prepare for now that we have much more experience being dairy-free ourselves.

Where We Stand Today–Before starting OneGreenSmoothie, we opted not to tell people. It was one thing to say we’re trying to be the stigmatized V-word when all five of us are at ever so slightly different commitment levels, and then add the challenge that one of our children is allergic to the traditional vegan stables. It just seemed too complicated.

But with our OneGreenSmoothie project trying to highlight all the positive benefits of eating more plants, we are out in the open about our food choices. We do this with all our imperfections and the risks that entails. Perhaps, that’s why we aren’t invited over for dinner with friends as much as we were before. Maybe people fear we are judgmental of them for eating meat, which is not the case. But that’s OK, I get it.

Looping Back–Hearing about my friend’s frustrating experience, I thought we needed a forum where we all could feel comfortable discussing our life choices without the fear of being judged for them, one way or the other. That’s one of the reasons we started our OneGreenSmoothie project.

Our strategy now is to always offer to bring something plant-based to contribute to the meal or eat before we go so we can spend our time enjoying the company! Relationships are what it’s about in the end anywayJ!

So the question is…

Do you tell or not tell? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks, as always, for all the support and encouragement so many of you have sent our way!

Susan