Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned
by Laura Beaulne-Stuebing, December 6, 2007

Classes are finished and exams are just beginning. It’s the end of the term and I’m, well… done. My first semester of my second year of university, and my first official semester of Vegan University, is over.

It seems fitting, then, to look back on what I’ve learned this term. What have my experiences taught me? What have been my “vegan lessons”?

And yes, dear readers, I will share them with you. In a way, the student becomes the teacher.

Lesson number one: think critically about, and develop, your own values to live by.

I think I’m doing pretty well with this vegan thing, but it’s not just a “thing” to me – it’s a part of my value system. I tread softly on the planet, I respect other living things, and I eat and buy wholesome foods. Environment, animals, and health. My vegan values.

Lesson number two: find others with similar values.

Having a community of people with shared values is… invaluable. I’ve found two great vegetarian communities – and I’m so thankful. I joined the campus vegetarian club and I’m even an executive member – VP Events! We’re called the Purple Veggies Club and we’ve had potlucks, restaurant dinners, and – this was my favourite event – we volunteered at a farm sanctuary.

I mentioned two great vegetarian communities. So here’s my shout-out to the vegans and vegetarians of vegweb.com! An online community is just as valuable as a “real” world community, and I call vegweb my own. I’ve learned from, and shared a great deal with, my fellow vegwebbers – baking tips, good recipes, experiences as vegans, animal adventures, and just… life. A wonderful Puppy even organized care packages for college and university students who frequent the message boards. Kind-hearted vegweb members baked vegan goodies, wrapped up holiday gifts, and sent them in the mail for us stressed out students. I got mine a couple of days ago – thank you Jessesmum!

Lesson number three: try new things. Stretch a little.

Ah, the ubiquitous “try new things.” But it’s a good lesson, and if I didn’t follow it, I would not be the culinary expert I am today.

OK, that last line was a bit of a joke. The truth is, I’m not a culinary expert, or a baking goddess. I’m just… pretty good. That’s all I can say for now. I’ve made some warming soups, baked a few dozen tasty cookies, and made multiple batches of cinnamon raisin scones – and each batch gets just a little better than the last. When I look at a recipe I want to try, I’m often seized with panic and anxiety. What if it turns out wrong? What if the beans don’t cook? What if the bread doesn’t rise? What if I’m not the perfect cook/baker? But, of course, I can’t be perfect. I can only try new things.

Lesson number four: keep stretching.

So, I’ve conquered the cinnamon raisin scone, a few cookie recipes, Dreena Burton‘s “Mellow Lentil ‘Sniffle’ Soup” from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, a wonderful veggie stew posted on vegweb.com, and a few other recipes. I’ve even conquered my fear of oils, real sugar in baking, and, well, calories.

Now, I need to keep stretching. It’s time for Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! It’s time for baking bread (no wait, I’ve tried that already and to be honest, I’d rather spend $2 on a loaf of multigrain from the grocery store). It’s time to continue with the progress I’ve made in and out of the kitchen. I have momentum, and I can’t let it slide.

And all of this while maintaining my grades! I’m super vegan.

What’s my next hurdle? Christmas dinner with the family. The whole family – grandmother, cousins, aunts and uncles. How will I deal with Christmas as a vegan? That will be another lesson learned.

I’m glad there aren’t any written exams in Vegan University.

Laura is a university student in London, Ontario.

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