Who are we?
We are the Mississippi Vegetarians and Vegans group. We have been in existence for more than ten years, beginning with Yahoo Groups (where we still have a presence), then continuing with Facebook (with over 1000 'likes' as of Spring 2016). Now we have our own website and blog. We hope interested folks will subscribe to the blog to receive regular information about meetups, potluck suppers, recipes, and other veggie information. (We promise not to overdo it.)
Where do we meet?
The group used to meet every second Thursday of the month, often at Bravo! in Jackson. Thursday is their regular vegan special night with a three course meal (sometimes paired with a flight of wines). They have a great vegan pizza and many regular menu items can be made vegetarian or vegan (or gluten free). The group also has changing meetups at other restaurants around Jackson, Hattiesburg, and other parts of the state. High Noon Cafe hosts vegan potluck suppers where organic and non-GMO foods are encouraged. Currently small groups of members meet casually and randomly. Our Facebook discussion group sometimes talks about meetups and potlucks.
Where do we find vegetarian and vegan foods in Mississippi?
Many restaurants are beginning to add veggie items on the menu and are helpful about modifying meals on the menu to suit a veggie diet. High Noon Cafe serves tasty vegan, organic, and non-GMO meals. Vegan Connection has a list of Jackson area veggie friendly restaurants, many with detailed reviews. Imagine Vegan Cafe in Memphis (for those who don't mind crossing a state line) is 100% vegan. Memphis Style BBQ on Wheels in Tupelo has BBQ black bean burgers. Hattiesburg veggie and vegan friendly restaurants: Thirsty Hippo Izzo's Illegal Burrito Which Wich Qdoba
Rainbow Co-op Grocery is a good source for all-organic, non-GMO products, including vegetarian and vegan foods.
Where do vegans get protein?
From a great many plant foods. Beans, grains, bread, even broccoli have plenty of protein to meet the needs everyone, including athletes. The Vegetarian Resource Group has a good page about protein from plants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this to say, "Because some vegetarians avoid eating all (or most) animal foods, they must rely on plant-based sources of protein to meet their protein needs. With some planning, a vegetarian diet can easily meet the recommended protein needs of adults and children."
What about other nutrients like iron or calcium?
Again, eating a variety of plant foods can supply humans with all the nutrients necessary for a healthy life. The veggie restaurant guide, Happy Cow, has a good page about vegan sources of nutients. The USDA offers useful guidelines.
What are the best veggie alternatives to meat (or dairy or eggs)?
When it comes to substitutes or analogs for animal products, it appears that veggie people are divided into two kinds: Some miss their old way of eating and look for substitutes that resemble as closely as possible say, chicken, cheese, or milk. Others dislike the idea of eating something that even remotely resembles meat. In either case ask yourself, does a food tastes good as itself? Not, does it taste like what it resembles? Few veggie analogs would pass the scrutiny of a current meat-eater looking for differences. We've seen people at a party taste testing black-eye pea sausage or chili, not knowing what it was among the other foods. Some said they couldn't tell (or didn't question) whether it was animal or vegetable, but they thought it was good. Some convincing animal product analogs might be Gardien vegan meats or Daiya cheese and cream cheese. Less convincing alternatives might be Boca or textured vegetable protien (TVP). Distant substitutes include tofu, seitan, or tempeh.
How does a person make the transition toward a vegetarian or vegan diet?
Often in small steps over time. Some people begin with Meatless Monday or they cut out one kind of meat or animal product at a time as they learn how to find healthier foods. Some people go veggie for health reasons, some for ethical or religious reasons. We find that people who begin for one reason find themselves agreeing with other reasons to go veggie.
How do we handle holiday dinners or business functions where other people eat meat?
In different ways. Sometimes we eat ahead of time. Sometimes we bring the foods we like so it's easier on our hosts. Sometimes restaurants or business meeting venues are surprisingly happy to accommodate diet restrictions. Be prepared.
How do we know (or ask) what's in the food at restaurants or other people's homes?
One person's definition of vegetarian or vegan might not match another's. Sometimes a host or server might say something is vegetarian if there is no visible meat without being aware that bacon drippings or chicken bouillon might not be acceptable. Some restaurants use lard in refried beans or anchovies in BBQ sauce. Fish sauce or flavoring is common in Asian foods. In the same way that people with allergies learn to avoid some foods, veggie people learn to ask about ingredients and avoid foods they aren't comfortable with.
How do we explain to family and friends why we made the change to a more plant-based diet?
That one's tough and commonly asked at veggie meetups. It leads to questions about living with family members who don't share your diet. Answers vary depending on why people made the change (health, dieting, religious, ethical, or environmental issues all have different answers). Family dynamics and personality issues play a part. Are people around you open-minded or intolerant? Are they concerned about your health and not yet aware of the health benefits of reducing or eliminating animal products from your diet? Our meetups can be like support groups for new veggie folks.
How do we decide what we will eat and what we won't eat?
Everyone, not just veggie people, draws a line between what is edible and what is not. Each of us has to decide where we draw the line. The Jewish writer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, said, "A vegetarian is an inconsitent person. I don't meat, but if a mosquito bites me, I swat it. Still, it is better to be vegetarian than not." Wherever we draw our own line, we will be inconsistent. Decide what works best for you, what you're comfortable with, what you can manage. Especially, don't panic and give up if you fail.
If you would like to help us cover some the costs of hosting the MSveg website and blog, follow this link to Amazon.com where a small portion of your purchase will help us without adding to your cost. Thank you very much if you decide to help. :)
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