When Grant Butler decided to take on veganism for his job as a staff writer at The Oregonian, he was originally just trying to put a more positive spin on the experiment than he’d seen others do.
When Grant Butler decided to take on veganism for his job as a staff writer at The Oregonian, he was originally just trying to put a more positive spin on the experiment than he’d seen others do. Little did he know that his life and career would change dramatically. His new column, “Going Vegan,” will appear in The Oregonian twice a month sharing information on vegan cooking, dining and living.
Daily Vanguard: At what point did you decide to make veganism more than an experiment and shift it to be your actual lifestyle?
Grant Butler: In just a month, I dropped about 12 pounds, and noticed how much more energy I had. Food writers often struggle with weight—occupational hazard—and this was perhaps the first time I’ve actually lost weight as the result of a food assignment.
But health benefits were just one factor in my decision. I’ve been thinking a lot about green issues, and I’ve been reading a lot about how unsustainable meat is. Plus, when you become aware of what happens on factory farms, it’s hard not to think about reducing the amount of meat, eggs and dairy in one’s diet, if not to eliminate them altogether.
DV: You have an impressive Twitter following. Did your interactions on the site affect your decision?
GB: The Twitter community made this journey a lot easier and a lot more fun. Every day I was getting encouraging words and tips from people here in Portland, but also from people all over the world. I’ve been having this incredible ongoing discussion with a thoughtful college student in Melbourne, Australia, that’s been blowing my mind. About every week, he checks in with me to see how I’m doing, ask if he can answer any questions, and just cheer me on. He’s 8,000 miles away!
DV: How has your new lifestyle changed your work life?
GB: My coworkers have been great, and they’re always curious to see what tasty leftover I’ve brought for my lunch, or where I’ve been getting take-out. I guess my attitude has a lot to do with how people have reacted.
I’m treating this as a fun adventure, and I’m not the sanctimonious sort and have no intention of telling other people how they should be eating. It’s a personal decision, and everyone has choices they need to make for themselves. I’m just sharing what I’m learning.
DV: Where have you found the tastiest vegan meals in Portland?
GB: There are so many wonderful vegan restaurants and bakeries. There’s really good Mexican fare at Los Gorditos along Southeast Division, some killer barbecued soy curl bowls at this awesome food cart called Native Bowl in the Mississippi Marketplace on North Mississippi. There’s a great café with a lot of vegan options in the basement of Smith Memorial Union called Food for Thought that I’ve been enjoying at lunchtime.
Northeast Alberta is a vegan mecca, with several vegan restaurants, a vegan shoe store and even a vegan belt maker. My favorite on that street is Back to Eden Bakery Boutique, which is run by an adorable couple of guys who make cupcakes, cheesecakes and whole cakes that are better than what you’d find at a conventional bakery. I’ve served their stuff to non-vegans, and it’s so much fun to watch their eyes pop open when you tell them that the deliciously moist cake they’re eating doesn’t have any butter or eggs in it.
That said, I think some of the tastiest vegan food in Portland is what’s coming out of my own kitchen. I love cooking, and I haven’t been turned off by one thing I’ve made since changing my diet.
DV: What will your new column bring to the vegan world? Will it focus on cookin’ up vegan meals, or Portland restaurants with vegan fare?
GB: I want my column to do a lot of things. It will focus on cooking much of the time, but I want to keep a nice mix of places and personalities in it. There are some smart people making some very creative dishes out there. I want to tell their stories and share their ideas.
DV: Lastly, do you miss bacon?
GB: I was out for breakfast with some work friends last month, and it did smell good. But I’ve made this mental leap, and I’m comfortable saying it’s not for me anymore.