‘Coming a Veg’ is a monthly series which highlights vegetarian and vegan “coming of age” stories. BC Condon-Gill’s story shares how over time her compassion for animals has led her to veganism. She is active in the Juniata Valley Vegetarian Society in the heart of this region.
My journey began around 1985 in southern New Mexico, where I lived for many years. My family and I were given two female goats, and we decided to get one bred and have fresh goat’s milk. It soon became apparent that the whole process was quite a bit more involved than we had imagined, but luckily we had friends with experience in the dairy-goat realm.
When the kids were born – 2 females and a male – we quickly grew very attached to them, and they to us. It was necessary to take them away from their mothers shortly after birth and bottle-feed them, so we could have the milk. I brought them into the house and watched them totter around. As they grew older, we were charmed and amused by their antics, and my children would play inside the goat enclosure, climbing on and jumping off the barrels along with the goats.
As the “kids” got older, it became prohibitively expensive to feed them, so reluctantly we decided we needed to find homes for them. Goat barbecues were as popular there are as pig roasts are here, so one of our stipulations was that the goats were not to be killed for food. The two females went to people interested in having dairy goats of their own, and the male was given to a co-worker who told me he wanted it as a pet for his son. He told me story after story in the following weeks about how his son loved the goat, and how he made a little cart for his son to sit in as the goat pulled it along, etc. etc. One evening, another co-worker pulled me aside and said “I can’t stand listening to Fernando any more, BC. He killed the goat and ate it the weekend after you gave it to him”.
Well, I felt as if someone had killed and eaten my child – shocked and sickened. As I thought about it, I realized that I ate cows all the time, and that cows were very much like goats. I decided that I wouldn’t eat the meat of any mammals, or serve it in my house. I still used poultry and fish, but began cooking vegetarian meals. I ate this way for the next 20 years, and eventually returned to Pennsylvania. At some point, I began losing my taste for things – white chicken meat, shrimp, crab – and began to think, quite spontaneously, about incorporating whole foods into my diet more, all of which led to more and more vegetarian cooking. I also lost 15 pounds without even trying.
One day, I was downtown for a Women’s Wellness Day event in Lewistown, working at a booth set up by my employer, Lewistown Hospital. Right across from us was a table set up by the Juniata Valley Vegetarian Society. I went over, looked at their brochures, bought a tofu cookbook and signed up to be on their mailing list. I was so excited to discover that there was such a group in Lewistown, and I looked forward to meeting other vegetarians and maybe getting some ideas from them about how to go further with my budding vegetarianism. By this time, I was eating almost no meat and had started to use soymilk instead of cow’s milk. About six months later, I met my husband, who was the coordinator of JVVS. We recognized each other from that day at the Women’s Wellness Day event, and also realized that we had passed each other riding our bikes one day a year or so earlier near where I was living at the time.
Ice cream and cheese, my two great dairy loves, were the last to go. Luckily I found a great vegan ice cream, and we use a good cheese substitute made from tapioca sometimes – but I don’t eat a lot of either of those things.
I’m completely happy with my evolution from “meat and potatoes” to vegan. The most important aspect of it, to my mind, is that no living creature is killed or exploited for my nourishment. No babies are being taken away from their mothers to provide milk for me. I feel great, and co-workers several decades younger than me tell me they wish they had my energy!
Compared to southern New Mexico, the climate in central “Pennsyltucky” is much less vegetarian/vegan friendly, but I’m hoping that will change. I enjoy it when I take food from home for my lunch at work, and people ask me about what I’m eating and tell me how good it smells. They do like to poke fun at the “veg-head” sometimes, but then someone will bring me a vegan recipe they cut out of a magazine. Just today, the Lewistown Sentinel “Food” section featured a vegetarian recipe. The times they are a-changin’.
December 14, 2011
The first Monday of every month I feature a new ‘Coming a Veg’ story and would I love to include yours! If you are feeling shy, your story can be posted under a creative screen name, anonymous or at least pass this request along to any other groups or individuals who may be interested. Find more information at this link or send submissions to my email: Pennsyltucky Veggie.