Growing up in West Chester, in a family of Italian cooks, Christine
Sheller appreciated the love that went into the meals she and her
siblings ate, even if she sometimes rolled her eyes at the endless
foodfest in the kitchen.
"Saturday at 5 a.m., you'd be lying in bed and the smell of garlic
would be wafting upstairs. It did not appeal," she recalls with a
These days, Sheller, 39, a graphic designer living in Philadelphia's
Blue Bell Hill neighborhood, has embraced her family's culinary legacy
- with one significant change.
She's a vegan, which means no meatballs, no mozzarella, no food of any
kind that comes from animals, including honey. Instead, meals feature
fresh fruits and vegetables, tofu, beans, nuts, and grains.
And plant-based substitutes stand in for ingredients such as eggs and
pepperoni, a hefty sacrifice for lovers of pastry and pizza.
Sounds difficult, even anhedonic. But for Sheller and Paul Hedman, 33,
partners for almost four years, cooking and eating vegan is as easy,
and delicious, as a carnivorous diet.
Sheller and Hedman are part of the growing ranks of vegans.
According to a 2012 Harris Interactive telephone survey commissioned
by the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) in Baltimore, 4 percent of
Americans over 18 - 9 million people - are vegetarian; 2 million of
those are vegan. In 1994, a similar poll identified only 1.5 percent
of the country as vegetarian and vegan.
As recently as the 1980s, according to John Cunningham, the VRG's
research manager, "being a vegetarian was shorthand for saying someone
was flaky and fringe. These days, if you say you're vegetarian or
vegan, you're more likely to hear, 'Wow, wish I could do that.'
"That's a very big change in mind-set," he says.
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