In switching from carnist to vegan, the easiest option to us seemed to just swap out the animal ingredient with a fake food equivalent. An easy way to transition, right? Eh. Not so much for us. Skimming through forums and blogs, we found plenty of vegans enthusing about certain alternative foods. I don’t know how long they were vegan, but it must have been quite a while for them to think that some of these foods are replacements for meat and dairy. Milk was fine, but meat and cheese would seem to be a greater challenge. It’s only when we tried something that claimed to be like a certain food, we appreciated how much goes into the identity of food–look, texture, smell, taste–and that just any one of these being amiss makes for an uneasy experience. It’s the food equivalent of the dead eyes of one of those robots made to look as close to a human as possible–and not quite succeeding.
Here are some of our experiences, starting with the bad, the ugly, but thankfully ending on the few examples we’ve tried of the good stuff. Now, these are just our opinions, and you might LOVE some or all of these, so it’s always worth trying them yourselves. A lot of these are recommended and successful brands, so they’re certainly doing something right for their customers. We’re just sharing our experience of them because we found this process a little disheartening, and wanted to show that while it can be a trial, we found some things we liked for us, and it helped us to some conclusions around what type of vegan food we want to be eating…
Ah, 2017. A year that will be long remembered in our home, for it was the year of the great and terrible vegan biscuit purge. Gone were the chocolate digestives, the all butter cookies, even the plain digestives which were just there to make us feel a little better about our choices. All gone. Well, eaten. And for the last time.
With loss comes emptiness–and an empty biscuit barrel and tummies with room reserved for biscuits. We thought the biscuit barrel would be filled with uncanny valley vegan fake biscuits–biscuits that look like a biscuit favourite, smell like them, even feel like them–and then turn to tasteless dust in the mouth. Maybe a funky aftertaste if they used fake chocolate. But, there was a new hope… One biscuit remained after the great vegan biscuit purge. The
humble gratuitous double-stuffed Oreo biscuit.
Yes, a mainstream biscuit that we could eat! And eat them we have. In fact, most Oreos (check the ingredients) are accidentally vegan! Woohoo, unintentionally ethical biscuits! Awesome.
We hit the biscuit aisle and read lots and lots of labels. And then read them again. And then found ingredients the other had missed (whey–I didn’t really know what that was, but it’s not vegan, and honey–not in bold because it seems no one is actually allergic to honey). We have now begun the great biscuit restoration. Yes, some biscuits are irreplaceable, and the biscuit barrel is different to what it once was, but we have guilt-free treats that hit the mark! Well, when I say ‘guilt free’ I mean no animal
suffered was required for the biscuit. I’ll start our list of our picks with the star of the show…
At the start of our 40s, my partner and I have decided to give up breast-feeding. I’m too squeamish to keep doing it. We just can’t stand the thought of drinking the secretions of a cow anymore. I’ve always been a bit squeamish about milk because of the thought of where it comes from, but like most of us, I didn’t think about that very much, and somehow was able to put it out of conscious thought. I also don’t like the creaminess and the way it coats my tongue and throat. Ugh. Gross. There’s no way I could’ve ever downed a glass of milk straight—not without seeing it again. Thankfully milk was often just an ingredient in my diet and flavoured and disguised by other things—on a day to day level as a functional splash on my cereal and in my regular cups of tea through the day, and the holy transmutation into thick milk shakes and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I would’ve been going ‘mmmmmm’ at the thought of Ben and Jerry’s before watching Simon Amstell’s Carnage, and seeing what cows have to go through for our tastes. Even if I could be ok with breast feeding, the methods and practices of the dairy industry is offputting enough. Watching that, my squeamishness around milk was triggered and reinforced, and I knew I wanted milk out of my diet.
Watch this and make your own mind up about dairy.
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…