Now Trending...Whether you were raised in an Italian American household or not (Maybe you were besties with someone who was?), you'll appreciate Gabrielle's story. Especially how it shines a light on those who were early adopters of what's now known as a plant based diet, without even realizing.
I come from a family of Italian immigrants, and my family immigrated, like so many others, for a better life. And although they left their homeland and families behind for a better life, it still meant working hard and saving money upon arriving to the United States. While adapting to the American way of life, many Italian traditions and ways of eating still remained strong.
Eating meat was not an everyday staple since it was considered expensive. But this didn’t mean my family starved. Food is such an important part of the Italian culture that all types of food are celebrated, including consuming items that were simply plant based. Pasta, rice, beans, vegetables, and fruits are central to the Italian diet, and when corners needed to be cut, these food groups were leaned upon heavily since they were much more affordable and can feed many mouths on a tight budget. Affordable meals became traditional meals, and still today, these plant based Italian meals are common in Italian households.
During the war, my grand parents and great grandparents ate no meat, and survived well into their late 80’s without it effecting their health into their later years. And even though my parents, immigrants themselves, were able to afford to buy more meat say, compared to my grandparents back in 1950’s America, my parents were not raised with a ton of meat in their diets either. During my youth, I remember eating meat at the most three times a week.
At a very young age however, I developed a very soft heart for animals – not just for the domesticated cat and dog. I loved all animals. I remember my Italian relatives would slaughter animals for food from their farms and it would upset me and I refused to eat them. They explained there was no difference between that versus buying meat from the store, but I verbally insisted (in Italian of course) that it was different, but of course, they were right.
As I hit the ripe age of 16, a shift happened in my teenage brain. I still had a very soft heart for animals, and I asked myself one day, “Why do I eat them?" As I began to think about my diet and upbringing, I realized how little meat I consumed and how largely plant based it was. I made the decision to slowly start eliminating animal products from my diet. This was all new to me, so I wanted the transition to be positive and good for my body.
By the age of 19, I was in college and finally adopted a full plant based diet. And it was not hard at all! Many of the recipes I grew up with have been passed onto to me, an American born gal with strong Italian roots. I am grateful to my Italian upbringing because I really didn’t have to do anything that much different or give up many of my favorite foods.
My (completely) plant based diet did take some time for my family to understand and accept, but eventually they did. And 20+ years later, they still do.
More About Gabrielle
Gabrielle DeFusco is a native New Yorker and Rhode Island has become her new home. Her plant based lifestyle is shaped and balanced by her practice of yoga, ultimately inspiring her to become a yoga teacher. When not teaching yoga, she enjoys spending time outdoors or getting in the kitchen and cooking creative Italian dishes, all inspired from recipes passed down by her Italian family.
Facebook: Gabrielle DeFusco Yoga