Vegan 101: How I learned to go vegan (It’s my Veganniversary!)

by JL Fields on February 21, 2011

One year ago, yesterday, I began my vegan journey.

I am currently enrolled in a graduate program on Adult Learning. Yes, 25 years after earning a master’s degree I decided to go back to school. (I tell ya, I’m a work in progress!)  In my first course, Adult Learning Theory, I immediately recognized that I was in the midst of a learning experience myself — I was learning how to be vegan.

On this one year “veganniversary,” I thought that rather than share how to be vegan—you can check out my post Vegan for a Year on Veggie Buntch for that—I would share how I learned to go vegan by connecting the process to some Adult Learning Theory concepts with which I have connected.

Adults are self-directed learners

My take on Malcolm Knowles’ theory: The learner teaches herself, or, rather, she determines her goals and seeks the required information to achieve those goals. This can be formal (classroom) or informal (a knitting group, for example).

When I made the decision to transition from a vegetarian to vegan diet, I wanted information, and fast!  First I met with Jill, my nutrition counselor to discuss it.  She really wanted to understand my motivation, and my plan, and we both agreed that it was a natural progression for me after years of eating vegetarian.

Then I turned to the web. And how.  I started subscribing to vegan food blogs and became active on Twitter. I had questions and went right to the source—to other people just like me, not “authorities,” to observe their experiences.  I wanted to learn what to eat, how to prepare it and how to be healthy and thrive.

Adults learn by doing

David Kolb said

learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience

and one learning style that corresponds to the active experimentation stage in this learning theory is the

accommodator: those who learn better when provided with hands-on ”experiences.”

I mostly learned how to go vegan from reading books and blogs and then DOING it (stocking my pantry with vegan staples, trying out new recipes, etc.)  Suddenly, after a lifetime of avoiding the kitchen, I was in it, big time, and loving it.  Referring back to the notion of self-direction, it should come as no surprise that I then registered for a vegan cooking class.

I should add that a big part of the learning process was not only learning to eat and cook vegan but by blogging.  After a few failed attempts at blogging a few years ago, I finally found my voice.  See, I learned about going vegan—nutrition, vegan foods, methods of cooking (and not cooking…hello higher raw!)— by reading blogs.  My natural inclination to “do” led me to blogging myself, this time with a clear intention. I suppose it became one more way to integrate the learning.  Observe. Experiment. Share.  Which leads to…

Adults learn in community

My two favorite readings on adult learning were from Women’s Ways of Knowing and bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress. My take:  the instructor and the student are equal participants in the learning process. Both the instructor and the student have the knowledge/experience. The dance is moving back and forth in the role of facilitating the learning process. Sometimes the educator is the facilitator and sometimes it is the student who is facilitating.  Learning occurs within the context of community.

In addition to being an adult learner, my day job is to design adult learning programs and, on the side, I teach adult learners in a business program at a local university.  I approach both design and instruction with community in mind. When I design programs I think in terms of the cohort. When I teach, I rely on the students to educate one another as much as I educate them. As a learner, I crave learning from others.

I learned to go vegan within a social media community — a community of bloggers, authors and people on Twitter and Facebook.  I learned something from one of them and two weeks later I would hear that he/she learned something from me. I learn something every single day about being vegan on a blog or other forms of social media.  At the same time, someone reading my blog is learning, too.

There are far too many people in this fabulous, vast, vegan community of learning to thank for the support, and education, that I have received over the past year. Instead, simply check out my blogroll and my two primary Twitter lists (vegan-ish and vegan-ish2) to meet my teachers.  My community.


What fun is a “veganniversary” post on a food blog without pictures and recipes?  I give you the top five most viewed recipes that I have created during my first year as a vegan:

#5  Tofu Pumpkin Soup
#4  Azuki beans in the rice cooker = You. Had. Me. At. Hello.
#3  Millet Stuffed Acorn Squash
#2  Vegan Breakfast Casserole


#1  Asian-Azuki Bean Crockpot Chili

Fun news:  I am delighted to announce that a few of my favorite bloggers, my teachers, have agreed to contribute to this “Vegan 101” series on my blog, commemorating my one-year veganniversary.  Stay tuned for some very exciting guest posts!

So, dear readers, how have you LEARNED to be vegan? I’d love to know.

  • Stinamang

    While I don’t think I’d ever go vegan, I’ve enjoyed reading and learning about your journey! Can’t wait to see where year number 2 leads you!

    • Thank you, Christina. And I do like to think that the recipes are great for non-vegans as well!

  • Keri – I Eat Trees

    Happy Veganniversary, JL! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Vegan blogs and Twitter are an incredible source for information, and as you said, support. I have been vegan a very long time but I find new inspiration everyday from the people I have connected with online. You are such a wonderful addition to the vegan community. Thank you for sharing your experience and encouraging others.

    • Thanks so much, Lisa. I really do learn something every day through social media. It’s pretty amazing.

  • Congrats on your one-year veganniversary! You’re such a great vegan role model, I actually thought you’d been vegan for longer! Like you, I learned a lot and continue learning through the social media community. I think that’s the main reason going vegan was so easy for me, compared to how hard it was to vegetarian when I had no idea how to cook or what to eat and had no supportive community to teach me.

    • Exactly, Jennifer. I found going vegetarian, nine years ago, much more difficult. Great information is so accessible now. Thank goodness!

  • Anonymous

    Yay! Congratulations on your first year as a vegan! What a great post.

  • Well Happy Veganniversary! How exciting! I would like to learn about being a part time vegan 🙂 I was vegan for 12 years and i don’t think i ever fully grasped how to cook indulgent vegan treats. I have long been without my own kitchen and that has been a huge part of the problem. We are getting ready to buy our first home in the next few months and I eagerly anticipate reacquainting myself with the joys of learning to cook vegan again! I enjoy following your tweets. 🙂

    • Oh, won’t you be happy in your kitchen?! I mostly cook “regular” vegan eats and purchase the indulgent treats! LOL And thanks for following me on Twitter!

  • Happy vegan-iversary!! Isn’t the blog/twitter world amazing for inspiration?
    Similar to you, I learned by doing and through the guidance of some pretty amazing teachers. I took some of Meghan Telpner’s classes and still use her recipes weekly. She has been an amazing source of wisdom for me. I also LOVE cookbooks and have accumulated quite the collection of my nearly 2 years of being vegan. I am also very lucky to have amazing friends who are willing to try lots of vegan restaurants with me.

    • Ashley, thanks for stopping by. Yes, yes, yes! The inspiration is astounding!

  • Congrats JL! I am not surprised by your top 5 most viewed recipes, those are definitely my favorites!

  • Wow, how exciting! Congrats on your first year and thanks for sharing your amazing experience. You’re an inspiration to us baby vegans (I’m 5 mos. now). 🙂

  • congratulations on this special one year anniversary! i really commend you on continuing your self-growth journey (becoming vegan, taking courses).
    i would say i am learnING about becoming vegan – very interested and making small and gradual changes.,,and enjoying the process!

  • Happy anniversary JL! Going vegan (or pretty much almost vegan) was one of the best things that I have ever done in my life. And I agree with you– it certainly is wonderful to learn from and share that passion with the online community. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement!

    • Thank you, Wendy – my thanks to you for the same!

  • Kankana

    Seriously enjoyed reading this post 🙂 I am not a vegan and I don’t think I can be one.. but reading you blog i learn so much.

  • Congrats JL! so glad your vegan really enjoy your posts!

  • There’s never a wrong time to go back to school! Great post and what a journey. For me, I learned through raw vegan classes, blogs and books picking up on ingredients that contain animal products and substitutes for them.

    • Agreed! I’m loving school even more than when I was in grad school, too.

  • Bonnie

    At sixty three and six months into mostly vegan, whole grain, no oil eating, I’m so grateful for inspiration and ideas gleaned from you and other bloggers. Both my husband and I are thoroughly enjoying new adventures in healthy eating and I appreciate the on-line community.

    • Bonnie, thank you and kudos to you and your husband on your healthy lifestyle! I so appreciate the on-line community, too! Glad you’re a part of it!

  • Bravo!!!

  • Elizabeth @ RunWithSneakers

    Congrats on your Vegan-versary! I’m coming up on mine too and it hadn’t even occurred to me until I read your post. I’ve definitely learned (and am still learning) to be vegan by reading books and blogs (mostly blogs). There is such a great community out there. You are one of my top inspirations!

    • Thank you, Elizabeth! I get so much from you blog, too!

  • Great post! Your grad school program sounds fascinating, and it’s interesting to see how the information translates to your own vegan experience. You already know that I’m interested in this stuff 🙂

    • Thank you for stopping by Ginny! Your posts give me a lot to think about and have been so helpful in my vegan journey!

  • JL @ HealthyHeyday

    Great post, JL! And Happy Veganniversary!!! I look forward to learning something new everyday … together! 🙂 Cheers!

  • Skybright1

    I love your “veganniversary” idea! I learned to go Vegan by trying to figure out what the difference between Vegetarian and Vegan, and trying to figure out what was so wrong with milk and eggs. Whoa! With the pictures of a little veal calf eye staring at me, and the horrors of chicken battery cages, I quickly gave up those foods, and learned to love oatmeal (no milk please.) The biggest help in my learning curve was typing the word Vegan in Google and finding all these great Vegan sites and then subscribing to ALL that have e news letters either daily or weekly that keep me updated on all things Vegan. Any Vegan or animal rights book I read about, I quickly ordered from Amazon. Including cook books. I live in Southern California, where there are lots of Whole Foods Markets, and a Follow Your Heart Market, Trader Joes, and plenty of Organic Farmers Markets. I am even getting good at finding lots of Vegan choices in ANY supermarket. I am very adventuresome when it comes to eating veggies, and although I love my own cooking- I tend to put way too many ingredients in one dish, and feel I still need to improve my skills. But I am enjoying trying new recipes. I find that cooking is an essential Vegan skill. Especially if you go places that you know are going to have limited food choices. I am proud to say my one year Veganniversary is in June. In my Vegan journey, I’ve also visited 2 farm animal sanctuaries. The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita, as well as Animal Acres in Acton to feed the turkeys, which helped me get through Thanksgiving. I marched in a Veggie Pride Parade in October in Santa Monica. I’ve visited Vegan Toastmasters to hear emerging Vegan speakers. I found I was strangely tongue tied, so I’m waiting to soak up more info, before I return. I am most proud that I got up the courage, thanks to Nikki Benoit of Vegan Outreach, to hand out 1,550 leaflets (so far) in their Adopt A College program. Thank you for your great info and blog and most of all encouragement ….Julie Davis

    • Julie, thank you for stopping by and sharing so many great ideas! See, this is why I love the virtual vegan world! We can learn so much from one another!

  • Pgspicegirl

    I just found your blog this morning and I LOVE it!! I was supposed to be on the computer briefly but,now I am going back through reading your love it that you talk about the lifestyle and share some recipes.I really like to learn about others journeys.It makes it less lonely.I am new to being a vegan.I have found people strangely put off by it.Honestly I don’t think I have ever come up against so much misconception and horror.The good thing is I have NEVER felt so good and at peace with something so it makes it easy to say I don’t want any part of consuming animals any more.But,wow people are pretty funny.Anyways you look fantastic..I am going to be forty myself this year and i am looking forward to enjoy this part of my journey even more.
    So thanks JL for sharing and your blog is so inspiring!! I am looking forward to following your journey.Kindest regards Tanya

    • Tanya, I’m so happy to have you here on the blog! I know what you mean. When you’re learning you feel like you’re alone. But, as you can see, you’re not alone! So many great resources right here, on the internet! Please, ask questions, whenever you have them!

      • Pgspicegirl

        JL I also joined you on Facebook that day.I did make it through most of your archives..LOVE YOUR BLOG!! I recommended you to the girls and family on my blog.I don’t want to seem like it’s a plug.I just had to share you are an inspiration!! So thanks again.Looking forward to more recipes and your journey.

        • Thank you! I just check out your blog — very nice! I look forward to reading more from you!

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