Hello there and welcome to my blog! Thank you for taking the time to check it out and I hope that you come along with me for vegan adventures in and around Philly.
My name is Eric and I’m an Italian who grew up in South Philly and from a very early age I would hang in the kitchen and watch my grandmother, Little Lil, in amazement as she effortlessly cooked meal after meal. She instilled in me a love of food and of cooking. I would spend my Saturday mornings helping her make gravy for Sunday’s pasta dinner.
As I got older I often cooked entire meals myself and put my skills to use to make ‘healthier’ versions of her dishes when I began to work out at the gym in my early twenties. But as I got older, slower, and had less time I began to gain weight and did very little, if any, physical activity. In 2011 I weighed in at 260 pounds. I can remember walking our dogs with my wife Karen on an August morning and telling her, I just can’t do this anymore. I just can’t feel sick and tired and have knees and feet that hurt all the time.
That afternoon we decided we needed to start making some major lifestyle changes. I started watching what I ate, and started going to the gym again and working out regularly. Immediately my acid reflux stopped and I began to feel better each day. After several months at the gym doing circuit training and cardio Karen somehow convinced me we should go for a run – outside! I told her, ‘I hate running.’ and her answer to me was, ‘if you don’t like it you can stop running!’. To my surprise, I loved it immediately and it has developed into a passion of mine!
As I began this healthy lifestyle trip, I was not a vegan. The road to being vegan had a few bends along the way. At first I did drastically reduce the amount of meat in my diet and ate more salads – because you know, they are healthy! But as I went along I started finding out more and more about the food I was eating. GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics and arsenic fed to the animals I was eating. It is truly unbelievable to me what is allowed to go on in our food chain. At this point I was looking to eat only pasture raised chickens and grass fed beef thinking this was the ‘healthier’ way to eat. But as early as 2011 those were not that readily available and when I did find them they were pricey, so while not declaring myself as such, I was a vegetarian, although I still wasn’t truly thinking about the impact of my diet on animals.
Learning more about the food chain brought us one evening to a viewing of the documentary Vegucated. And it was an eye opener for both of us. My wife had been a vegetarian from before college, but hadn’t realized the abuses of the dairy and egg industries. From there we decided to try the 28 Day Engine 2 Diet. It was during this ‘trial’ period that I read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. The parts of the book where he compares cultures and how each see animals in different roles really struck a chord with me and made me think about what I was eating. All this time in my life, even while ‘eating healthy’ I never gave a second thought, or a first one for that matter, about the animals that I so easily ate, the torture they endured or how they ended up on my plate.
For the better part of the last 15 years I spent a lot of time, effort, emotion and money volunteering with a couple different dog rescues. I served on their boards, attended meet and greets to raise awareness and I opened my home to close to 50 foster dogs over time. All those years it never occurred to me how irreconcilable it was to stand up for the rights of one animal while sitting down at a table and eating another. Foer’s book helped me change that. It made me question how I could so easily draw a line between what I considered a ‘pet’ and what I considered ‘food’. It was my ethical Ah-Ha moment. It was then I realized I had to eliminate that imaginary, arbitrary line. It made no sense to me anymore to distinguish between loving one animal and eating another.
By the end of the the 28 days we were firmly traveling down the ethical vegan lifestyle road. No longer eating any meat, which for me was like flicking a switch, never even having a craving. I eliminated the use and consumption of all animal products and I admit it took me probably 6 weeks or so to get over thinking a little cheese would make a dish better. I hate to be the quintessential vegan when it comes to cheese, but it was almost like an addiction withdraw! As time went on, I noticed my palate had a reset – my taste for things was changing. Things started to taste ‘cleaner’ somehow…flavors that were once muted now were bright and at the forefront…I mean…I am even eating and enjoying broccoli now, which if Little Lil was still around would make her faint!
From the change on my plate to the change in my closet – I no longer wear leather, suede, silk, or wool, and I look for cruelty free labels on all household and personal care products as well. This lifestyle has had so many positive impacts on me I wish I had discovered it sooner.
This blog will be a way for me to advocate living compassionately through a vegan lifestyle by sharing my passion and experiences. Thank you for taking the time to read my story, I hope that you come along for the ride with me as I explore vegan eats, cruelty-free products and running trails and races in and around Philly.