CYoFC: Describe your current diet/lifestyle (vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescetarian, freegan, flexitarian, omnivore with vegan tendencies...etc.).
Ashley: I'm a strict vegetarian but not quite vegan. There is no cheese or dairy in my house, but I will have pizza or mac and cheese occasionally when I'm out. I try to stick to goat cheese.
CYoFC: For how long have you been a strict vegetarian?
Ashley: I've been vegetarian since I was 16, so 18 years.
CYoFC: What prompted you?
Ashley: The scene in The Silence of the Lambs where Hannibal is asking Clarice how she felt when she heard the lambs screaming. For real.
CYoFC: I hear you, that scene is enough to convince anyone. What were the challenges to becoming this sort of vegetarian? What about current challenges, or aspects of being an almost-vegan, vegetarian that you don't like?
Ashley: It's never been hard for me to not eat meat. There were things I didn't consider, like broth in soups, etc. So there were some accidents. In college, I would have to walk back into the kitchen to look at the soup ingredients. I was a horrible vegan in college, just eating fries and bagels, it's easy to carb overload. What I don't like now is so much vegan food is soy based. Also asking if rice, etc has broth in it, I never know whether to believe the cooks!
CYoFC: There are a lot of soy-based vegan products out there, and there's such controversy over it. I've yet to determine what to believe myself. And with regard to hidden meat, it is always a leap of faith to trust that cooks and wait staff have your dietary interests in mind. Good for you for checking the kitchen's labels yourself! Do you plan on remaining vegetarian? If so, what motivates you?
Ashley: Yes, forever. It never even crosses my mind to eat animals. Sometimes I have nightmares I have eaten a cheeseburger and I wake up in a cold sweat. I get nauseous when I see people eating chicken, it just freaks me out.
CYoFC: Why should other people strive for a vegan diet?
Ashley: There are so many reasons to list. For your health, for animals, for the environment.
CYoFC: Do you have any tips or advice for people who are just starting out with a vegetarian-type lifesytle?
Ashley: Don't forget hidden ingredients. Also, try not to be judgemental. I have met vegetarians who eat gelatin, or who eat bacon in ice cream, and I want to scream "then you aren't vegetarian!" But try to remember that every little thing helps. Don't try to out-veg someone.
CYoFC: I completely agree - every little bit DOES make a difference. What are your favorite foods?
Ashley: Hummus, Broccoli, Spinach, Curry, Sunshine Burgers. Guac, Kettle Chips.
CYoFC: Describe what the giving-up-cheese process was like for you.
Ashley: I've been vegan twice, cheese wasn't so hard, but giving up regular cupcakes, foods that had milk in them was hard.
CYoFC: Now for the age-old question: Are you getting enough protein?
Ashley: Probably too much, like most Americans.
CYoFC: Thanks, Ashley!!!
For more information about the misconceptions about protein in America, check out this article written by Monique Gilbert, a certified personal trainer/fitness counselor. (I warn you, though, she's says mostly good things about soy. ;)) You can also check out this article at The Cancer Project, which is a part of The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine.
You can read more about Ashley here. Please commission her for pet portraits or buy some paintings!