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The Omnivorous Septuagenarian’s Experience in a Vegan Home, by Carmella Lanni-Giardina, VLCE


My mother enjoying Mother’s Day brunch at Candle Café West, New York, NY (May 2015)

That photo is of my mother, Effius, enjoying Mother’s Day bunch in May of last year.

This Mother’s Day, my mom fell ill. I won’t go into the particulars, but it was shocking to say the least. She hadn’t been sick, since I was born, except for the rare cold or flu. Needless to say, having to go to the hospital was a shock for everyone, especially her.

Up until that day in this May, my mom was relatively healthy, despite being a diabetic. In all her 78 years, she’s managed the disease well. She believed in a combination of Western medicine and homeopathic care. She mostly took her medicine as prescribed, while incorporating more natural treatments that worked for her. 78 years old and full of independence and spirit, my mom always did things her own way.

She even tried being plant-based for 3 months last year. That was HUGE! Granted, it was done more on a dare, but she stuck to it until she felt it was “enough” for her, whatever that means. While sitting on our couch a couple of weeks ago, she said she remembered feeling a lot better when she ate just plants.

While my mom recovers from her health battles, she has been staying with Carlo, our 2 cats and me in our one-bedroom NYC apartment. It’s been interesting. Having health restrictions and being in a vegan household (one without cable TV, mind you) has been a challenge for Mom, but she’s getting through things day-to-day.

I conducted a little interview with my mom to share her experience in living in our crazy vegan abode, and how it has impacted her as she prepares to move back to her own home.

Question: What has been the biggest challenge in living in a vegan home?

Mom: I’m not used to all the rules. Sometimes, I’m not too sure what’s vegan and what’s not. It’s not just the food: sometimes you forget where things come from, like leather in handbags. You told me there is even vegan toothpaste? How do you know these things?

Carmella: We learn something new every day. We apply that knowledge to how we live. We try to do the least harm against all animals, including us.

Mom: It’s a little too much to learn at my age. It’s your home so I follow your rules. I don’t bring meat into the home, like you asked.

Carmella: We appreciate that, but you understand why, I hope.

Mom: I’m learning.

Question: Some days you spend time at your sister’s home, which is far from vegan. You’re not eating as much meat there as you used to. Why?

Mom: You know I was never a big meat eater. Chicken and fish, usually. I just don’t care for the taste of it as much. Maybe because I’ve not been well.

Carmella: But you’ve been feeling better since you’ve left the hospital

Mom: Yes, but I don’t really want meat. and I don’t really need it. I do like most of what you and Carlo make at home. I like eating at home more. However, if your aunt makes lunch or dinner, I will eat it. Lately, she’s made me some vegetarian meals with mac and cheese or something with beans or sweet potato.

Question: Do you think diet and lifestyle changes are more difficult for someone your age versus someone younger?

Mom: I think we can change at any time. We have our own ways of doing things, but we all can change. We just have to want to do it.

Carmella: Are you planning on making changes?

Mom: I have to. Being in the hospital changes you. I have to start over.

Question: Soon, you’ll be moving back into your home. Do you think you’ll eat more plant-based meals, or even go vegan?

Mom: I don’t know. You know Grandma made a lot of vegetables when we were growing up. I’ve always loved them. I don’t eat much meat, but I’m not sure I can give it up entirely. Living with you has been easier for me to see how to do it. You eat things other than tofu.

I wouldn’t know where to start besides the food, but maybe you can show me, when I’m ready.

Carmella: Sure. Tell me when. I won’t dare you next time.


Mom enjoys some watermelon gazpacho at Vedge Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA (June, 2016)

Question: We’ve taken you to a few vegan or veg-friendly restaurants. Which have been your favorite, so far?

Mom: That place in Philadelphia. What’s it called?

Carmella: Vedge!

Mom: Oh, that was simply excellent. And that Candle (Café West) place in Manhattan, where we went with Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Frank after your graduation was very good.

Question: How different are vegans from you?

Mom: Not so different.

Carmella: We’re pretty normal.

Mom: I sometimes don’t know about that. You aren’t really normal, but I’m not either.

Carmella: Thanks, Mom!

In over 2 months, Mom has learned to like vegan cheese, drink kombucha and look for leaping bunnies on health and beauty products.

carmellaCarmella Lanni-Giardina, VLCE is co-owner of V Marks the Shop, a vegan convenience store with her husband and fellow VLCE, Carlo. Their cat kiddos, Connie and Mozzer, are nurses to their grandmother and expect their full salaries in treats. Carmella & family split their time between New York, NY and Philadelphia, PA