The lifestyle change for me and my partner to vegetarian and then vegan has been a process of giving up life-long staple, favourite and comfort foods.
Beyond the peace of mind this gives me I find myself wondering whether I will ever see food in the same way again, and enjoy it as much as I always have.
This irregular series of non-preachy blog posts will follow us, two regular guys, meat and dairy eaters for all our lives, as we explore the reasons for and the challenges and rewards of a plant based diet as we go on our new veg munching adventure…
Why go vegan?
Burger and thick chocolate milkshake. Chicken tikka masala. Tuna pasta bake smothered with cheese and crumbled crisps. Fish finger sandwich with salt and vinegar crisps and a pint of cider. Peperoni pizza. Fish and chips. Chocolate. Cake. Cake. Cake. While these weren’t our everyday food choices, and we made the effort to balance our diet with fruit and veg, these were–are?–our favourite foods. The go to options for date nights or chilling out together. Experiences and treats we shared. However, we also share a care for the world and animals. As many people do. And just recently we came to think more about how our food choices were a big contradiction of our claim of caring about the environment…
We have been circling eating less meat for a long time. Probably a decade. My partner watched some videos about the treatment of animals in food production. I wouldn’t watch them. Too squeamish. But I didn’t need to watch them to be concerned. There were also the health issues of eating meat and dairy which we were conscious of. So, we reduced our meat portions and tried to eat ethically–you know, food items which are free-range, organic, come from some maker with the idyllic ‘farm’ in the title. We even did some meat free meals. We considered going vegetarian, but it didn’t seem achievable. Too limiting. Too much of a change. Eating every day–usually a chore at the end of a workday with preparation making demands on precious weekday evening home time, and once or twice a week a treat in our relationship or around social occasions, the consideration of what we eat and how it got to us was lost within the routine of food.
Fast forward to April 2017. We sat down and watched Simon Amstell’s ‘Carnage’. For what we thought would be comedic and–perhaps–thought provoking look at veganism. I was a little wary. Squeamish. I didn’t want to be reminded of what I knew, and kept at the back of my mind behind a wall of foods I enjoyed. I watched it. And I laughed. And I got choked up. At points I had to look away. Afterwards, me and my partner shared a brief expression of how we wish we could be vegetarian and moved on to some easier viewing. The next day, I couldn’t face putting milk on my cereal. That’s where this all began.
Me and my partner talked and we both agreed that we knew too much and felt too strongly to carry on eating meat. We thought veganism a step too far. Too limiting. As we’d once thought about vegetarianism. So, we agreed that we would go meat free, and reduce dairy–‘veganish’. I’d never been a fan of milk. I didn’t like the taste or the way it left my mouth feeling. I was never a big fan of butter or marge either. So I was keen to switch these out. Just doing that, I felt it could be enough. I could keep chocolate then. Phew! Eggs seemed okay, but then we didn’t eat them much. Cheese, I only ever ate if it was melted, and even then didn’t have that often because of moderation. Suddenly, giving up dairy seemed a bit easier. We would just keep dairy if it’s an ingredient–we couldn’t do much about that, after all, and we’d already agreed to give up meat. Our last meat meal was the 7th of April (2017).
At this point, we’ve only been vegetarian for 4 weeks, but in that time we’ve come to the conclusion that if you go vegetarian for ethical reasons, then animals are still going to suffer for your food choices. It felt out of place with what we knew and what we didn’t want to be a part of. Suddenly, we were vegan. We’re still clinging to ‘veganish’. We live in an area with a lot of bars and restaurants and we didn’t want to give up this is an option (even writing that sounds wrong–don’t want to give up animal suffering and damage to the environment for a nice meal). We’ve only eaten out a handful of times–at a vegan restaurant, then a cafe where we had vegan cake, and a couple of toasted sandwiches–the second one I asked to have it without cheese, and our local burger place now has 3 vegan options. So, it looks like we’re really doing the vegan thing.
Why go vegan? In 2016 I was in full on stress mode–working, studying something completely new to me, and trying to have a life. I don’t normally watch the news. It gets to me. I’m too sensitive. But that was the year of Brexit and Trump. WTAF was going on last year? The news wasn’t something that could be ignored. It was everywhere. I became more conscious that the things I care about and want in the world–people respecting one another and the world–is not something I can rely on governments to make happen. The interests of political parties are essentially popularity and money. So it strikes me that their impact is going to be limited. The treatment of people, animals and the world is going to flip flop depending on whatever party gets in every so many years or so. Just look at Trump repealing all the environmental and health care progress of the last decade or so, and the Tories cutting our social and health care budgets and ignoring America’s experiences with fracking and deciding it’s okay and planning on billions for weapons of mass destruction. I’m not about to run for MP and I’m not an activist. But, giving up meat and dairy is me taking control of something I care about. This is a big change for us–tokenistic in the grand scheme of things–but if more of us do it, then that’s how change comes about. Slowly. Over time. That’s my reasoning, but this video sums up the best answers for ‘why go vegan?’…
Why go vegan? When I know that animals suffer and the meat industry has a huge impact on our environment just for my–our–food preferences, I can’t help asking myself why I didn’t think about this earlier, and knowing what I know–and what I’ve kind of known for a long time and ignored like most people in the world–the more appropriate question should be ‘why eat meat?’. The less enlightened and head in the sand me would’ve answered ‘because I like the taste’. Which just doesn’t cut it when you consider the food tastes–preferences which can be fickle and changeable–can be so damaging.
That’s as preachy as this gets. It’s not intended to be. It’s the question we’ve been asked the most since we decided to do this, and these posts are going to be about our own questions, concerns, struggles and experiences. I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t get a thrill out of these posts getting someone thinking about their food choices, but I will be just as grateful for these posts simply adding to the vegan presence and visibility on the interwebs. From now on it’s going to be about how we personally eat when suddenly pretty much everything we’ve been eating–and using–would’ve been better for the animal if it had stayed on or in the animal it came from… Tea, biscuits, treats, meals, luxuries and of course, the necessities.
Next up–and at the risk of sounding very English–milk for tea. Of all the things we’ve had to give up and replace, this had the potential for being my deal breaker.
Next post: The Dairy Free Milk of Human Kindness…