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Veg life in the Mile High City: An interview with Bonnie Elliott

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Bonnie Elliott

Bonnie Elliott: Feminist, childless, homemaker. She was working at Ahimsa Footwear in Denver, but now that the shop is closing, she's working on launching an online business.

Bonnie Elliott knows what it's like to be veg in the Mile High City
Bonnie Elliott
  • Age: 31
  • Born in: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Raised in: Divide, CO / New Jersey / California
  • Currently lives in: Denver, CO

Jill Harrigan: Thanks so much for agreeing to an interview. Let’s jump right into it! What brought you to Denver?

Bonnie Elliott: My boyfriend grew up here, we tried living in Cincinnati for a few years, and I lived in Brooklyn for a while, but we missed our family and friends too much. Also, it seems to be the perfect balance of city living and access to nature. I'd love to move to a city with more vegan options, but I think Denver is getting better all the time!

JH: How long have you been a vegetarian/vegan?

BE: I've been a vegan for two years and almost 4 months.

JH: How long were you vegetarian before going vegan?

BE: I was vegetarian off and on throughout my twenties, but I had a lot of issues with cravings so I cheated occasionally. Most recently, I was a faithful / consistent vegetarian for about a year before going vegan.

JH: Why did you go vegetarian?

BE: The first time I was 14, and I thought it would make me cool, I only lasted for a few months. The second or third time, while in my early twenties, I learned about factory farming in a college course. That opened my eyes a bit and I went vegetarian for a few years. Throughout the years I would occasionally do a little research when it didn't break my heart too much. I believed in the idea of vegetarianism for a long time, but I really struggled sticking with it during my mid-twenties.

JH: Why did you go vegan?

BE: The first few times I went vegetarian, I thought vegans were super radical, and not in a cool way. Eventually I realized dairy cows suffer more than beef cows, and for me, being a vegetarian was only going so far as it was convenient. Slowly I realized veganism made sense, for animal welfare, for personal health, for the planet and humanity's well being, but it still sounded impossible to me. After reading The China Study, my boyfriend and I decided to try it for a week on a whim, and here we are over 2 years later. I can't imagine not being vegan.

JH: Did you find it difficult to be vegetarian?

BE: Yes, when I was a vegetarian, I always struggled with cravings, especially for cheeseburgers, and physically and emotionally I felt like crap. But I was a junk food vegetarian, I survived on pizza, mac & cheese, and ramen. I think that's a big part of why it was so hard.

JH: Do you find it difficult to be vegan?

BE: No, going vegan was like switching a light bulb on in my life. Everything suddenly made sense in my brain and in my heart. I eat way more variety now, than ever before in my life. I'm loving learning how to cook, and now I love vegetables, really! I still probably eat too much junk food, but I'm finally feeling at peace with myself. And I lost 25 pounds without even trying.

JH: Do you ever have non-veg cravings? If so, how do you fulfill them?

BE: Very rarely I have a flash of "oooo cheese pizza sounds good" or "maybe I could enjoy an omelet or a steak right now," but then I instantly get grossed out by remembering that I'm daydreaming about eating a carcass, or that an egg is a reproductive leftover that came out of chicken's private parts. I thought it would be impossible to give up cheese, but it grosses me out the most now. Plus vegan options are getting better all the time. I am fully satisfied by a pizza with Daiya, or no vegan cheese at all, and I love most vegan meats, especially seitan and Gardein - mmm yummy. But honestly…now I actually crave things like tofu, kale, and quinoa, no joke.

JH: Do you have a favorite veg recipe?

BE: I love the chickpea cutlets in Veganomicon by Moskowitz and Romero. Also, I'm hooked on the chocolate cake in The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and so are all my non-vegan family and friends.

JH: What do you say to people when they ask you why you would ever want to stop eating meat and drinking dairy, etc?

BE: I still haven't come up with a great concise, one liner explaining all of my beliefs and passions. Usually I just ramble on until they cut me off or sometimes I say something vague about animal cruelty, my health, and the environment. As much as people want to ask that question, they don't seem to want to think about the answer. They just seem to want to tell me that they could never do it, or that they don't eat red meat, or that they have a gluten allergy.

JH: Do you ever get negative feedback when you tell someone you're veg?

BE: Sometimes. People make fun of me or try to challenge me, but mostly I've been surprised at how kind, but just confused people are about it. I don't really talk about it much, unless someone asks questions. I think some omnivores are so defensive / aggressive about it because somewhere in the back of their mind is a little voice saying that I am right and they are causing grave harm, just because it tastes good.

JH: How did your family and friends take it when you told them you were going to go vegetarian?

BE: They were surprised, but they didn't seem to think it would last, so they weren't too jarred by it.

JH: Could you ever date someone who was not vegetarian?

BE: I don't think so. I believe in the power of love conquering all, but the cognitive dissonance required to be an omnivore often seems to spread to other aspects of life. I'm attracted to people who are rational and conscientious. And I heart big hearts. Are there many vegan, atheist, feminist, nerds in this state? Perhaps, I'm meeting more all the time, but I can't imagine finding someone as suited for me as my boyfriend. So I might be single for a long time if we were ever to break up.

JH: Do you hang out with non-vegans/vegetarians?

BE: Yes, almost everyone I know and love eats meat, except for my boyfriend, my sister, and some family on the East Coast. I only recently met some other vegans in real life. Before that, I only had the online community for support, and of course, my boyfriend. It's hard to imagine if we could have gone vegan without doing it together.

JH: Is there more to being veg than diet?

BE: To me, being a vegan is about doing the best you can to be loving and peaceful in all areas of life. I don't buy new products or clothes that are made from animals or animal byproducts. I have donated most of my old stuff that was leather or wool. I try to be green, but I also try to support vegan options so sometimes I struggle with throwing out an old non-vegan item, versus buying a new vegan one. I love thrift store shopping, and am currently trying to decide the fate of my leather couch, which is too destroyed by my cats to donate or sell. Luckily the longer I'm vegan, there are fewer remnants of my omnivore life left, so it just keeps getting easier. For me, the first year was all about the food and learning what to eat, and how to survive. The second year I became more focused on my consumerism, by looking more into animal testing and using vegan products from floor cleaner to mascara. Only recently I've begun focusing on activism and I started volunteering with a local vegan advocacy group called Plants & Animals.

JH: What's the most frequently asked question from a non-veg?

BE: The classic: "Where do you get your protein?" or "How do you live without cheese?"

JH: What is your response?

BE: I get my protein from plants, I get my cheese from plants.

JH: What are some myths about veg lifestyle that you would like to put to rest?

BE: That we are judgmental and holier than thou. All the vegans I have met are the nicest, coolest people who just hope that more omnivores will someday be able to open their eyes to the truth. To me veganism is an act of love; love for animals, the earth, humankind, and one's self. It makes sense that vegetarians and vegans are among the most compassionate people you'll ever meet.

JH: What is your favorite veg resource website?

BE: For local stuff Plants & Animals or - and not just because I sometimes blog for them! I also like the vegan subreddit and the ppk for basic questions and banter. For news I like Can you tell I spend too much time online?

JH: Other than surfing the internet, what do you do for fun?

BE: I am finally becoming more of a "Colorado person," so I'm getting more into skiing, biking, hiking, camping, anything outside. But I'll also always be a lazy nerd that loves reading, video games, the internet, and watching movies.

JH: What bands/singers could we find on your ipod right now?

BE: I have tons of old favorites from the Beatles, Bjork, Peaches, Led Zepplin, and Jimi Hendrix. I am hooked on Pandora right now so my favorite channels are based on Band of Horses, the Blow, Santogold, and the Postal Service.

JH: What are your top 5 favorite movies?

BE: The Big Lebowski, Wall-E, There Will be Blood, Star Wars, and Pretty in Pink.

JH: Favorite books?

BE: No One Belongs Here More than You by Miranda July, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy are unforgettable. I also love Kurt Vonnegut, bell hooks, and Temple Grandin.

JH: Do you have a vegetarian friendly book that you could suggest to our readers?

BE: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. The China Study by Campbell and Campbell and Veganomicon, which is a cookbook but it really helped me feel like veganism was possible.

JH: How about veg-friendly films?

BE: The Cove, Earthlings, and Babe. How can you eat pigs after watching Babe?

JH: Do you have a favorite veg or veg friendly restaurant in Denver? If so, what's your favorite dish?

BE: The seitan buffalo wings at WaterCourse and City O' City are a classic favorite. I crave vegan ice cream from Sweet Action and I love everything on the vegan menu at Yak & Yeti in Arvada. Udi's Cafes recently added a lot of vegan options and so far everything I've tried is mind-blowing.

JH: Where do you hang out most often in Denver?

BE: Besides my basement? I'm quite a homebody. I do like to go to the park and I eat out way too often. You'll always find me at Chomp! which is Plants & Animals' monthly vegan community dinner. It's open to anyone and everyone - you really should check it out if you haven't already.

JH: Are you a part of any meetup groups in Denver?

BE: Just Plants & Animals. I stalk the other local meetups online but always seem to have to work or have plans when they schedule something.

JH: Do you have any advice for new vegetarians?

BE: Don't be too hard on yourself, and if you have any questions get thee to the internets.


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