I know for many Africans they hear the word 'Vegetarian' and shake their heads or scoff at the very idea. The word 'Vegan' or an African even entertaining the idea makes them literally pop a blood vessel. The general consensus is it's okay for Europeans to choose how they want to eat their food - this is because they have always had the luxury of making lifestyle choices. For Africans on the other hand, it's a whole different matter. Africans dont 'pick and choose' their food. They eat what is available and that's that. The very idea of 'choosing' food and treating it as though it were some sort of 'commodity' is proposterous in their minds, this mindset exists even when living in the West.
West Africa Cooks would like to introduce Jemila Pratt, Vegan Chef and Greeting Card Crafter www.positivecreativeenergy.com who lives in California, USA and is of Sierra Leonean parentage. She begs to differ on the idea of being 'confused 'or 'less African' should you or anyone else out there, choose one day to become a Vegetarian.
Here is what she has to say.....
The day October 29, 2010 may not be one that you remember. I’m sure something historic happened that made headlines that day. The fact that I became a vegan wasn’t splashed all over newspapers and magazines, but it did change my life. Vegans are people who don’t eat any animal flesh or foods that contain animal byproducts. So that means I don’t eat beef, pork, chicken or fish. I also don’t eat butter, cheese, milk, eggs, or ice cream (at least in the traditional and popular commercial sense). Most people have already stopped reading this. But hold on and stay with me.
This was not a change I made overnight nor did I hear a powerful speech that moved me to change my diet. It began in April 2010, I was on a routine trip to the grocery store. I remember standing in the meat section. In front of me were hundreds of packages of every cut of beef. These were once alive, I thought to myself. Tallying the possible number of cows it took to stock the store made me think about how much meat I ate each day. And I didn’t like it. So I challenged myself, Why don’t you just stop eating meat or at least cut down drastically? I soon changed my weekly menu and dedicated myself to becoming a vegetarian.
It didn’t seem like a big deal, in theory. I always eat a salad for lunch, so that was easy. But what can I do for dinner? Should I still eat eggs with my Saturday morning special? I compromised and still occasionally ate fish and eggs on Saturdays, but swore off chicken and beef.
I was somewhat apprehensive to tell my mom. She questioned me when I gave up pork when I got to college. So what would this be like? This time around there weren’t so many questions. She still cooks for me, but she withholds the meat from my portion of cassava leaves or ground nut stew.
In June I started dating a man who eventually became my boyfriend and he’s vegan. He took me to new restaurants, talked to me about becoming vegan, and as we got to know one another he brought over a few books he wanted me to read.
So I read The Kind Diet, Mad Cowboy, and By Any Greens Necessary. The more I read the more convinced I became that my diet needed to change (again). Meanwhile I kept getting sick; sick with colds that made it impossible to wake up in the morning without sneezing, having congestion, headaches or all the nasty symptoms you can think of. And all the while my boyfriend stayed healthy, never once catching whatever I had. I kept getting a cold after cold each month, even in the summer time!
I started to notice that I would develop allergy and cold symptoms on Sundays. Why Sundays? What was I doing on Sundays that triggered this? My mom pointed out that I ate the same foods on the weekends. Oh! That Saturday morning special was definitely a constant each weekend without fail. It’s just a bagel with two scrambled eggs, sausage, and jalepeno cheese.
I experimented with eliminating the dairy items and then re-introducing them into my diet weeks later and realized they indeed were the problem. These are the types of examples outlined in the books. What else was I eating and how did it affect my body?!
Since I was about thirteen years old I have battled acne. And with each breakout I have wondered endlessly why I have it and when will it finally leave me alone? No medicines, internal or external, have had long-lasting success on my skin. I was constantly looking for the next new thing to treat the skin that always seemed to betray me. Acne has been deeply frustrating and aggressively threatens my self-esteem.
So what do you think? Do you think become a Vegan can solve skin or digestive problems? How did Jemila's family respond to this whole Veganism confusion? Was it deemed acceptable? Did she develop severe Anemia? Read Part 2 to find out