For all of my 20s and part of my 30s, I didn’t cook at all. I made a few attempts here and there, but the results were never all that enjoyable to eat. Most of my meals came from fast food restaurants and the frozen foods section at the grocery store.

A friend of mine told me about this goofy reality show called Worst Cooks in AmericaI initially thought it sounded like a ridiculous concept, but I ended up watching the second season. I was immediately hooked.

Worst Cooks in America set me on my path to becoming a cook.  I learned how to properly hold a knife and some basic knife cuts. I learned how to chop an onion. I learned not to be afraid of seasoning my food, how to preheat pans, how to properly cook pasta and a number of other basic cooking skills.

The most important thing I learned was the concept of mise en place. The simple concept of preparing all of my ingredients before I began cooking changed my life. When I had made previous attempts at cooking, I would try to prep my ingredients as I went along. This resulted in a lot of kitchen failures and made the task of following a recipe seem much more daunting than it actually was. Simply reading the recipe before I began cooking and having everything ready to go made cooking so much more approachable and my cooking attempts so much more successful. I discovered that I could in fact produce food that was worth eating.

From Worst Cooks, I developed something of an addiction to reality cooking competitions. Some of my favorites include Top ChefChopped, Masterchef  and Iron Chef. Watching these shows encouraged me to become more adventurous in what I chose to eat and cook.

Last year, I was reading the blog of a friend of mine who has been vegan for most of her adult life. One particular thing she wrote really resonated with me. I didn’t save the link to the blog post, so this is paraphrasing, but basically her point was that it was great to try to advocate for less cruelty by purchasing “free range” and humanely produced meats, but why not go one step further and opt for no cruelty? She put it more eloquently than that, but reading that post convinced me that if I was serious about making the world a better place for animals, I should stop eating them.

I’ve never been a huge meat-eater, so the prospect of giving up meat wasn’t all that scary to me, but I absolutely love dairy products, particularly cheese. I was also a bit mournful of all the things I would have to give up cooking. However, I decided to give it a go.

I had a freezer full of meat I had already purchased, so I decided I wouldn’t purchase any more meat, but I’d continue to use dairy products until I had used up the meat I already had on hand. However, along the way, I decided to go ahead and start replacing the dairy products in my recipes with vegan alternatives.

I still haven’t fully transitioned to a 100% vegan diet. Most of my home cooking is vegan now, though I do occasionally prepare a dish with some butter or cheese when I have a particular craving for something. Switching to eating vegan at restaurants has been more challenging.

On this blog I will be talking about my vegan cooking and also about the vegan options I have discovered at restaurants in the Hot Springs, Arkansas area.