The Knife & Fork Project extends a warm welcome to our guest blogger, The Vegan Roadie. This post is the first in a series that Dustin Harder will be contributing as he creates a road map across America for the vegan and veg-curious. Check out his website and his videos at veganroadie.com.
Who am I and why does The Knife and Fork project care about me?
I’m somebody who lives a plant-based lifestyle and thrives in finding ways to bring that information to the masses. I believe people should eat food that matches their ethical beliefs, be it vegan, carnivore, omnivore, pescitarian. I think everyone should eat what feels right to his or her own individual constitution, regardless of labels, keeping in mind that everyone is different and everyone has the right to change their constitution throughout the course of their lives.
Take me, for example. I used to revel in my mother’s pot roast every Easter. Her pot roast was, in fact, my last meat-filled meal I ever had on Easter in 2009. I also used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. True story. I smoked Marlboro Lights from the age of 16 until 26. That’s ten years of smoking. It blows my mind when I think about it now. There are a million and one reasons I made those choices back then. None of that matters now, all that matters is that my views changed, I educated myself, and learned by trial and error what makes my body perform at it’s fullest potential and also what makes me feel my best!
My journey to veganism started when I casually started switching out my ground chuck for MorningStar Farms veggie burgers. I did this primarily because I was on Weight Watchers and those meatless options were fewer calories than my cow burger, giving me more points in the day on my program. Also, most vegetables on Weight Watchers are 0 points, so I started exploring vegetables more and incorporating them into my diet. Noticing the way I felt and the loss of weight, I decided to read a little more into vegetarianism. I gradually started swapping out all of my meat for faux meat products. I’m not by any means endorsing faux meat products as a generalization, simply telling my story.
I had heard of the book Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. I thought I might give it a read and discovered Skinny Bastard written by the same saucy ladies. Skinny Bastard exposed the horrors of the food industry while inspiring people to eat well and enjoy food. The books are written with such humor and wit while also giving you an eye-opening swift kick in the tush that I listened, read the entire book and suggested it to friends.
From that moment I have been meat-free, but my journey had only just begun. I handle rescue dogs with William Berloni Theatrical Animals, Inc. for film, Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring productions. I found myself on the road having very few meatless options, depending on the location. This made it very difficult to stay vegan, I would crash and have cheese pizza (wah wahhhh), cheese Combos (loved these bad boys as a long drive treat) or nachos with all the fixin’s (ole!) while out with co-workers trying a new fiesta joint in an unknown town.
And then came the day that I booked a steady gig in my home, New York City, where I knew I would stay put for a couple years and could focus on making my diet exactly what I wanted it to be to fit my ethics. During this time I explored the kitchen like I never had in my existence thus far as a meat-free enthusiast. I was a fortunate, thanks to my job, to have a really great apartment with a fantastic kitchen to start honing my vegan skills. But that wasn’t enough for me! I was so inspired by the possibilities and fairly sure I was going to be headed out on the road again in the future, so I enrolled in the Chef’s Training program at The Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC to expand my culinary toolbox.
What happened next was life-changing. On my first day of class, I was in a room full of strangers with one common goal: to eat better (whatever that meant for them individually) and to become capable of inspiring and educating others on how to do the same. There were people from every corner of the world in our class it seemed: folks representing Canada, the Philippines, Brazil, and Russia to name a few. Truly amazing. And everyone had different ethics; we all respected each other and celebrated our individuality.
Over the next six months I learned an invaluable wealth of information with regards to plant-based cooking. It stimulated me to create a resource that I could share with vegans and those who may be vegan-curious. I discovered whole foods and liked the way they made me feel when I ate them. I put myself to work practicing choices that were right for my ethics whenever I was out at a restaurant. It’s possible! And most importantly, I gained a respect for food and where it comes from.
This is how The Vegan Roadie was born. I’m back out on the road and committed to keeping it vegan one town, rest stop and highway at a time. America is a great place with the means to supply those who are looking with fresh and sustainable products to fuel our lives. I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity to challenge myself and maybe, just maybe, motivate others to do the same. If we all strived for excellence in the world of commercial food, I think we would be surprised at the difference it would make. I’m up for the challenge, are you?
- Dustin Harder
Join The Vegan Roadie as he travels the country in search of delicious vegan eats, hotel room cooking solutions and other culinary adventures.