Hi! So many people I've met over the years seem to be curious about not only my family, but about me. So I thought I'd take this space to "virtually" introduce myself and answer some of the questions that may be on your mind about me and how I became a vegetarian.
I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but I grew up in the great city of Detroit and graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1980. I then went on to the University of Michigan where I majored in accounting and actually stayed in a dorm on campus just two blocks from the University Hospital where I was born. After graduating from U of M, I packed up my little car and headed west to Los Angeles where my mother and older sister moved while I was still in high school.
People often ask me, "were you a vegetarian growing up?" The answer is NO. My Mom is from the south and I was raised in Detroit. To be honest, before I moved to California, I had only met one vegetarian - my boss at my first job scooping ice cream (making $1.65 an hour!) at the Northland Shopping Center. She was Indian, and she and her entire family practiced the Jain religion and were vegetarian. I never even asked her why they were vegetarian. From my perspective, as a teenager in Detroit, being a vegetarian was a concept just as foreign to me as the land she came from.
Ten days after I graduated from college in Ann Arbor, I moved to Los Angeles in August of 1983 at the age of twenty and had NO IDEA how much my life was about to change. I had driven across the country and arrived in LA just in time to report to work at one of the largest Certified Public Accounting firms in the world. I was overwhelmed to say the least.
I was a little Black girl from Detroit and all of a sudden I was playing with the "big boys" who were climbing the corporate ladder and having three martini lunches. Remember, I wasn't even twenty-one so I couldn't drink - a blessing to be sure. So instead of hanging out and going to happy hour every day after work, I focused on my job and did not play the games the others played - I didn't fit in anyway so what was the point? Eventually, I did get my CPA license which I still have today.
In 1985, I formally met my husband Londale, even though I had seen him months before working a special security detail for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He was tall, strong, impeccably dressed in police fatigues, and was on a rooftop carrying a shotgun looking for anything out of place in the Olympic Village. My first thought was "wow...that's the type of man who could protect me from anything!" I guess subconsciously I was looking for someone to "run interference" for me since I still had my Detroit mentality which was necessary because that city can be a rough place for a young woman without a father in the household.
Ironically, Londale actually knew my Mother, who worked at the University of Southern California where he was a campus police officer. He used to walk her to her car some evenings when she had to work late. When I moved to LA, she and I would carpool together - so Londale and I would see each other from time to time, never speaking a word. I didn't think he knew I existed, so you can imagine my surprise when on February 14, 1985 my Mother handed me a Valentine's Day card from Londale (I had no admirers so I was totally confused when she handed me the envelope. I remember thinking that it was pretty lame to get your only Valentine's Day card from your Mom!) I was shocked. I called him the next day and we had a five hour conversation that changed my life profoundly.
He explained first and foremost what he was about and what he believed. The most amazing part, in my opinion, was that he was a vegetarian, and that it was a commitment he made in accordance with a spiritual path he was following. This took me by complete surprise, because as I mentioned, I had only met one vegetarian in my life and she most certainly was not a young Black man from South Central Los Angeles. For the first time, I met someone who "looked like me" and was a vegetarian. If nothing else, that intrigued me and I had to know more. I really cannot describe what happened, but by the end of that conversation, I knew everything would be different. I felt as though some sort of veil had been lifted and I did not look at myself, the world, or its inhabitants in the same way. For the first time, I saw animals as living creatures with consciousness that were not put upon this planet simply to satisfy our appetites. Londale and I met several times over the next few weeks and I grilled him about this philosophy and about all aspects of vegetarianism. On April 9, 1985 I ate my last animal at breakfast. It was a pig - or should I say part of a pig - pork chops to be exact! I don't know what shifted in my soul between breakfast and lunch, but I have not eaten poultry, fish, eggs, or any type of red meat since that morning in 1985.
Things moved REALLY quickly after that! We were married on September 14, 1985 in Venice, California, just steps from the beach. Three days later, Kamaal (my daughter and co-author) was on her way to spoil our fun. Can you imagine getting married and pregnant within the same week? I was adjusting to my new husband, my new surroundings, my new in-laws, my new spiritual philosophy, my new diet, and my new baby growing inside of me. All of this at the tender age of twenty - two. It was a lot to deal with, to say the least!
All throughout my pregnancy I maintained a strict vegetarian diet. Nearly everyone told me that it was not safe, and that my baby would not be healthy if I didn't eat meat (in many ways 1985 was still the dark ages). I would be lying to you if I said that this did not bother me and even scare me in some way. But I KNEW that my choice was a choice for compassion and that by choosing to honor the spirit in all of God's creatures, that He would bless me and my new baby with good health. My doctor (ironically a young U of M grad) supported my decision which was a great comfort to me as well.
Kamaal was born June 6, 1986. Five months later, Londale Jr. was on his way (I know - enough with the barefoot and pregnant jokes!) and was born on August 25, 1987. Bottom line, between September 1985 and August 1987 I was pregnant for 18 of those 23 months and did not compromise my vegetarian diet in any way. Both of my children were completely healthy at birth and are still healthy today, after 28 and 27 years respectively of being vegetarian by THEIR CHOICE. We never forced our way of life on them - we just demanded that they respect our choice and not bring meat of any kind into our home, just like alcohol and drugs were forbidden. We never fed them animals either - if we consider something poison for us, why would we feed it to our kids? Even still, we as parents always gave them the right to choose when they became older - we believe in being living examples and not making undue restrictions on our kids. This is a personal choice and they have to choose their own path. The fact that they are still vegetarian today is a testament to them and their understanding of why we believe what we believe.
Out of curiosity one day, I asked them when they were teenagers if they ever thought about at least trying meat since they had never had it and they had always heard "you don't know what you're missing." They both looked at me like I was crazy. They told me it was disgusting and cruel, and why would they want to eat dead animals now, after all these years? Obviously, being a vegetarian did not hurt their physical development at all (see the pictures) so why eat meat now? One day, I was talking to my son about it (it seems that as a young athlete, he was always explaining his diet) and he said, "Mom....think about it.....name one disadvantage to a vegetarian diet....just one", and to be honest, I couldn't. That statement made it so simple - I believe my family is living proof that there are no disadvantages to the way we live our vegetarian lives.
Why I wrote "Throwin' Down" Vegetarian Style!
I really have to credit Kamaal for the conception of our first cookbook, "Throwin' Down" Vegetarian Style! When she went off to college, she already knew how to cook (she was way more ahead of the game than I was at that point) but she did everything informally, just like I did, and never really knew how to put together dishes on her own. She asked me to email her the recipes which forced me to write down what I cooked over the years for the first time in my life. When Kamaal came home on break, she stood by me in the kitchen and meticulously recorded what I did and asked questions about why I did it. I transcribed her notes, and in the process, the book took on a life of its own. I tried to include as much information that I could about our reasons, the advantages of vegetarianism, the products we use and where to buy them and of course, the recipes. Basically, our aim was to create the book I wish I had when I first became a vegetarian in 1985. It would have saved me a lot of time and a lot of trial and error in the early days trying to figure out how to make tofu interesting!
This first book, and our subsequent books, The Vegan System and the 7 Day Vegetarian Starter Kit, are labors of love and are intended to help anyone who is interested in vegetarian living or options. We are not "angry vegetarians" and are not criticizing anyone about their way of life or their eating habits. Our goal is to be of service and to share what we've learned over the years with anyone who may benefit.
Thanks for taking the time to get to know me and my family!