I’m Jen and I’m a mostly-vegan who lives on DelMarVa. DelMarVa, also known as the Eastern Shore (or the “The Shore”) is where Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia meet down by the ocean. While it’s not completely rural, it’s not a booming metropolis either. We love the area for raising our children and feeling a sense of community, but being vegan down here is pretty nontraditional and has its share of pitfalls.
I have started this mostly-vegan journey for my health. In 2010 I was finally given a diagnosis for the pain and inflammation that I’d been living with for over a year: Rheumatoid Arthritis. I’m on quite a few meds to try to both relieve the pain and waylay any further deterioration. But I felt like I should be doing more; I wanted a way to feel more proactive in my treatment. My work as a special needs teacher is rewarding but stressful and RA is worsened by stress. Since I couldn’t control that part as much as I wanted to, I needed to find another way. After reading quite a bit, I decided that I wanted to try some dietary measures along with my medications. There is a lot of controversy on this point. Double blind studies involving food are difficult to do, and most of the information on food helping RA is anecdotal. However, most of what is out there recommends a vegan or a vegan/gluten-free diet for people with RA. Along with the pain and inflammation, people with RA have an increased risk of heart disease, another reason to worry about what I am eating. The most common foods that seem to bother people with RA are meat, dairy, eggs, wheat, corn, nuts, night-shade vegetables (like tomatoes & eggplant), and citrus. My biggest trigger seems to be dairy so that is the one I avoid pretty much all the time. For the most part I do not eat meat or eggs, though very occasionally I eat some organic and free-range meat or eggs. I am pondering the idea of going gluten-free but that is not going to be immediate. My rheumatologist is fine with my decision since I am staying on traditional drug therapies as well.
There is no “Trader Joe’s”; No “Whole Foods.” We do have a few small farmers’ markets and a lot of local produce stands in the summer months. The sweet corn and lopes (cantaloupes for those of you not versed in Shore Speak! LOL) are stellar. And as we are home to the world famous “Punkin Chunkin” http://www.punkinchunkin.com/ festival, we do get very good pumpkins. So the produce is good, but the availability of other products is limited. We have a small health food store in my town (the largest town on Delmarva), and some of the grocery stores carry some products. But there are a lot of difficulties. For example the grocery store nearest to me is obviously dismantling their frozen health food section as I write this. I can tell because many of the products are 75% off and marked discontinued. I did stock up at the wonderful prices, but this means I soon won’t be able to get these things conveniently. There are no vegetarian or vegan restaurants nearby, though a few are vegetarian friendly. Recently I went to a large locally owned restaurant for a party. I called a week ahead and explained the situation since it was a buffet. While I appreciate the fact that they did accommodate me, the large plate of half plain steamed broccoli and half plain steamed green beans plus green salad was less than filling or very interesting.
I try to make smart vegan decisions about things, but I still make mistakes. How about when I made a really good vegan pot-pie but I used a Pillsbury pie crust since I checked the ingredient list and there was no dairy or egg. Oops, that lard is not vegan! And with an intense full-time job, 2 children, and a husband who works full-time and is in grad school, not to mention the auto-immune disorder that started this journey, I don’t always have the time or energy to cook much of anything really exciting. So since I am starting to be concerned that my family and friends are going to quickly be tired of my constant need to have this conversation, I wanted to share it with someone! So I figured I could take you along while I discover vegan food down here on the shore. This will be my place to share this journey wherever it takes me. There will probably be some restaurant stuff, some recipes of other peoples’ I have tried and maybe, if I get really brave, some of my own recipes. Probably some rambling about other vegan-ish things in here as well; I suspect it’s going to be an interesting ride!