The Raw Vegan: My History, Part I

My sister and meI’ve been asked many times why I decided to become a raw vegan. It certainly wasn’t something I did lightly or on a whim. The fact that it took 61 years of living on Planet Earth to even begin transitioning should tell you something. I’ve written about my life in bits and pieces throughout my blog and on the forum but I’ll try to at least get a start on it here tonight. There is one thing I want understood at the very beginning. I do not blame my mother for any of my health issues. She had a hard time coping after the death of my father and did the best she could with what she had available. Plus, if she was at fault at all, it was because of her over-indulgence. She wanted me to be happy. (The people in the picture are my dear sister and me.)

I was born at a very young age 🙂 to a 39 year old woman and her 50 year old husband. She’d had four daughters before I came onto the scene but I was his first. He was a doting husband and an equally doting father so when she decided I would be the first in the family to never eat meat, he didn’t protest. It turned out that was to my advantage later on.

Even though I was raised a vegetarian, I wasn’t brought up on a thoroughly health-oriented diet. There was lots of junk food, fried food, sweets and condiments on the table. After my father died a premature death after surgery at age 55, the variety decreased but the healthiness of it didn’t increase.

My mother believed that every young lady should learn to cook. When my sisters were growing up, they would take turns in the kitchen. I was young enough that I missed out on that (my oldest sister was married when I was still being carried around by my father). No matter. I was at the stove stirring the gravy when I was three and made a cobbler my mother bragged on about the same time. I found it hard to believe when she told me that later on but she swore it was true.

I showed a real talent for all things kitcheny. It wasn’t long before I was fixing my own breakfast and my favorite was fried potatoes & onions and a fried egg or two liberally seasoned with garlic salt. That might or might not be accompanied by a slice of fried bread. You can tell I loved fried. I remember one of my sisters giving me a page from a magazine saying that we shouldn’t eat fried foods. She was barking up the wrong tree. I snorted and gave it back.

Mother taught me to use her knives and I was standing on a stool at the kitchen sink before I was in the double digits cutting corn off the cob to be canned. She patiently showed me how to “tip” the kernels and then scrape out the cream. I got every drop and would suck on the cobs. Raw food! Several times every summer we’d have fried corn along with fried green tomatoes, pinto beans and corn bread. Usually, a healthy meal was one with a single fried dish but summer was different. I’ll have to give Mother the nod that she usually had a big platter of sliced ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers. They took up a very small section on my plate, though.

We didn’t have a freezer except at the top of the Frigidaire and it wasn’t very big. We canned. We canned from the first crop coming in until the last bit that Mother Nature would have in her store. Our cousin had a truck farm and he’d leave baskets of produce on his neighbors’ doorsteps on the way back from market. Whatever he didn’t sell, he shared. He sold cull tomatoes (nicer than the first quality ones I buy now) for 50¢ a bushel. We canned tomatoes, juice, soup, and one summer Mother made a chili sauce that was to die for. I never could find the recipe. Probably a good thing. Yet something else to give up.

The first cake I made by myself was when I was nine. I won a blue ribbon for my canned peaches at the community fair when I was in the 7th grade. And I didn’t have Mother’s help with them no matter what the other entrants said.

MeI should have been healthy with all the good food around but I was a puny kid because I was allowed to eat anything I wanted. The only stipulation was that it had to be vegetarian. And that was my choice. My mother later said she was surprised I never ate meat. I did try to once. The neighbors talked me into it. They had fried chicken. I picked up a leg and attempted to bite it. It was cold, greasy, and tough. I remember it was kind of bluish at one end, too. It wouldn’t give ‘way to my teeth so I put it down and was never tempted again.

My illness history (besides being a croupy baby) began at age three with chicken pox. I still have a scar on my leg. I had whooping cough. I’d commence the winter with a cold and have it until spring with sore throats, coughing, snotty nose, the whole nine yards. When I was seven, I had my tonsils and adenoids out. The doctor didn’t completely remove the right tonsil and it grew back. So much the better for me. I tend to believe the Lord didn’t put unnecessary parts in my body.

Let’s move on to the teenage years. The second semester of my freshman year in high school was spent in bed with scarlet fever and a light case of rheumatic fever. My mother was a widow and her only dependable income was a widow’s pension from my father’s World War I service and $40 a month she made teaching school. I don’t know how she managed. My joints were so painful I couldn’t stand more than a sheet covering me. She heated the bedroom with a little electric heater, the kind that sends the meter into orbit. I drank quantities of the home-canned tomato juice heated up with lemon juice. It was the only thing that would slide down my painfully sore throat. The doctor made house calls then and he was a frequent visitor. Even my 8th grade teacher and principal came to see me. I was one sick puppy. It took months for me to recover and get back to normal (whatever that was).

My teeth suffered through all this, too. I fell down and knocked out the two front ones on a tree root when I was six. When the permanent ones came in, I fell and broke one. Two weeks later, I fell and broke it some more and broke the other one. That resulted in my having to visit the dentist often to “have the nerve removed” was the way it was explained to me. He drilled a hole in the back of the tooth and would pack it with wax between visits. When I’d go in, he’d pull it out and the awfullest stench would ascend up my nose. He’d clean my tooth then repack it with wax. That was my favorite part of the whole thing. I loved smelling the melted wax. I ended up, finally, with a dark gray, almost black tooth that was broken into a point. It made me self-conscious but I tried not to let it bother me.

Hours upon hours were dental-related. My teeth were not sound at all. I had multiple fillings before I was 10 and it stretched on, seemingly forever.

Though I seemed to get anything and everything that came along, I never had any of the “measles” strains. I did have a kidney infection that took me out of school for several weeks in my junior year. Later on, I collapsed from exhaustion and had to get rid of some of my extra-curricular activities. Now and then, there were minor fainting spells. At least they were treated that way.

The really exciting times came when I had my own children but that’s another post.

To be continued…

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11 Responses to The Raw Vegan: My History, Part I

  1. irma March 17, 2008 at 1:20 am #

    Nice story Tommy and what a beautiful hair you had as a child. And how nice of your mother you didn,t have to eat meat if you did,nt want to!

  2. Annie March 17, 2008 at 1:37 am #

    Tommie I love the new look and I enjoyed reading about your early days too. I love those old photos. You were lucky to get fillings, I was at boarding school from 9 years old and we had a butcher for a dentist who was eventually struck off. He didn’t fill teeth he just yanked them out!

  3. susan March 17, 2008 at 4:57 am #

    Merry Christmas to you! Your re-vamped blog looks absolutely (r)Awesome!!

    I really enjoy this blog entry and how you came to raw foods. I just assumed that your entire family was vegetarian – how did it come to be that your Mom had the wisdom to decide that you were THE ONE to be raised vegetarian? What a wonderful intention!

    I can’t wait to read Part II and then later about how many children you have and how you and your Hubby raised them!

    When you retire from your j-o-b, would you ever consider coaching people on the raw lifestyle?? That could bring in extra income – you surely have the knowledge and experience!!

    Hugs to you!


  4. Tommie March 17, 2008 at 5:53 am #

    Irma, it began as Mother’s choice that I didn’t eat meat. I would have probably loved it had I been brought up eating it. My taste went to things that weren’t good for me. My hair was referred to once as “strands of gold” but it never made me any money. 🙂

    Ouch! Annie, that was awful! What a terrible thing to do to a child! Did he at least deaden them first? Mother paid dearly for my dental work. She did it monthly and was very faithful about paying the bill. I know it wasn’t easy on her income.

    Thanks, Susan (all of you, actually) for the kind words. I love the new look. My DD has been working on it for a long time with much tweaking.

    My father ate meat but he would take over the kitchen at times and cook vegetarian. He liked “fake steak”. My mother was brought up (sort of) as a Seventh-day Adventist. As a whole, SDAs are very health-minded and a vegetarian diet is advised though not enforced. When I was born, she was trending back to the church. She was baptized when I was three and had been church pianist for years before that.

    Don’t anticipate the Childbearing Years too much. There wasn’t that much raw food there, either.

    I’m not certified in anything that would qualify me as a coach. I’ve studied it just like I have cooked nutrition over the years. I’ll either need extra income when I retire or you’ll see me greeting people at the local Wal*Mart! It is an idea, though, and I appreciate it.

    Look for Part II tomorrow!

  5. SUVINE.COM March 17, 2008 at 1:52 pm #


  6. terry in the keys March 17, 2008 at 9:28 pm #

    You write beautifully, Tommie. I’ll be looking for Part II!

  7. Tommie March 18, 2008 at 6:10 am #

    Thanks, Suvine and Terry!

    Part II will be posted tonight, I think. It’s proving to be more challenging than Part I.

  8. Fruitloop March 20, 2008 at 10:52 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your story. I look forward to more. Your website looks lovely!


  9. Tommie March 21, 2008 at 7:24 pm #

    You’re welcome. I feel rather exposed and it’s only going to get more that way before it’s over—or until I catch up with where I am now.

    Thanks to my DD and merm, the site is outstanding!

  10. Via June 1, 2008 at 10:54 am #

    I’m just starting to read your story and I love it so far. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  11. Tommie June 1, 2008 at 9:16 pm #

    My! You have a long way to go! Good luck!

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