It’s funny how things over the years have changed, and something I never anticipated happening was that vegans would have their own month! Veganuary is this month, and that it would be talked about on mainstream TV.
I will be honest, when I became vegetarian at 18 it was so I fitted in, I was at art school and everyone was vegetarian and anti everything to do with the establishment. At that point in my life, I would have been out campaigning against everything from the canteen shutting down to student fees being started, CND and animal welfare was just another thing I added to the campaign list. I was out with a placard at the drop of a hat with my newly forming opinions mostly developed via peer pressure and arguments with my parents.
My mother would have had none of it if I had been living with her at that point, no one would have been vegetarian on her watch, so I had to wait until I turned 18 and I no longer lived with her. She had been brought up with the meat and 2 veg approach, not a bad one all considering because it’s pretty balanced, and a dessert of rice pudding, or Victoria Sandwich at the weekend. She made great food. She bought the Deluxe Hamlyn All Colour Cookery Book and my mother became Cordon Blue overnight, with vol au vents and Bœuf Bourguignon, which added a whole new dimension to the Lancashire Hotpot we were used to. But she would never have thought that animal produce wouldn’t be part of a meal it would have been unfathomable to her.
In the fine old I haven’t a clue what to do fashion even though my mum taught us to cook, as a student I lived on Greggs cheese and onion pasties, cheese pie, chips and gravy, baked potato, cheese, and beans, with the odd pasta, butter and grated cheese dish thrown in for variety. It didn’t seem odd at all or restrictive, fortunately, I learnt over the years to widen my food net to include all the vegetables my mother had spent years trying to get me to eat through a variety of methods including sending me to my room and eating them cold the next day.
When I was younger we had little processed foods, they just weren’t available, but in my early 20’s I discovered Linda McCartney sausages, and back came sausage sandwiches a la vegetarian. I even ate her fake meaty pies, they were a crutch that helped me move from the meat and 2 veg world into the one I have now. One of the best things I discovered at the time was something we called fakon sandwiches, which turned into BLT’s, these were strips of fake soy bacon made up as a bacon butty, and after that life just never turned back to meat.
Once I left the safety of the alternative environment I found that being vegetarian was a rare thing to be, and not something that was widespread, and that more importantly I was told that most people gave up at the first smell of bacon.
I didn’t, and it carried on throughout my life for 30 years so far, with me slowly developing my vegetarian repertoire thanks to Robert Carrier, Crank’s cookbooks, Rose Eliot, and Moosewood who were saviours. I found that to increase your understanding of how foods go together you need a great set of people to guide you and a good set of cookbooks. With these mentors, my diet became less restrictive and less based on the meat and 2 veg approach I had been brought up with and far wider and explorative than it probably ever would have been.
Years of being vegetarian led me to consider trying to become vegan, a much stricter approach that took a lot more effort once out of the house. I tried and failed, tried again, and this went on for years until one day I could give up the thing that held me back, it was crumpets and grilled cheese with butter melted and dripping out of them. I still salivate over just the thought of it, because that is what food is meant to do to you when you really love it, you should salivate just at the thought of it. I sometimes think in our fast-paced world we’ve forgotten that food should get the juices flowing, instead, we often settle for food that is tasteless, and pointless except for achieving a refuel.
So it was one day that I just decided to become vegan, and I never really thought about my food choices again apart from when I travelled and I moved to Northern Ireland a few years ago.
Travelling came with a need to become assertive in my food choices, offer alternatives from the menu’s and inevitably learn the local terms for no meat, no cheese, no milk, no fish, no butter, etc.. Although I wasn’t infallible, there were times I would get a salad with chicken on top, a soup clearly made with meat stock, and other things still to this day I don’t think were from the plant world. In later life I would just take the food item out or off with an eye roll, earlier in life I would have passed out in all honesty and almost did in a noodle bar who in the vegan forums was notorious for serving up the meat dumplings instead of the vegetarian ones, I just learnt to no longer order them than wonder on my first bite is it or isn’t it?
But when I moved to Northern Ireland it was a whole new ball game, and each time I went anywhere I found that I was introduced as “this is Deborah and she’s a vegan”. I suddenly felt like I had landed from outer space, all eyes on me, whilst they would wonder what on earth they would feed me. In Ireland it’s a bit like the North of England back when I was a child, they get a spread out when you turn up. Buns, cakes, biscuits, and sandwiches with tea are the norm for most visits, and they are incredibly generous. Something is for sure in Ireland, you are unlikely to go hungry. Saying no isn’t an option apparently, so I showed them that the fruit bowl was an easy way out of trying to feed me, and happiness ensued because feeding a vegan wasn’t as hard as it initially sounded for both of us particularly as tea can be made without milk.
So I’ve seen a lot of changes, and one of those is that a month is named after vegans!
I never thought I would see people eat so few vegetables in their lives, and I never thought I would see so much clean eating and natural foods being promoted in the mainstream media at the same time. Everywhere I look natural eating is in my timeline, obviously, it’s biased, but even on the news, and on radio and TV I’m seeing all sorts of healthier dietary approaches and foods being talked about. More celebrities are embracing the lifestyle and athletes are more forward in talking about it, so things are changing and they are influencing the mainstream to try a more plant-based diet. The coffee shops and cafe’s have options which I kept asking for and they now have, so it’s possible to change things, sometimes it just takes time.
What is interesting is that a lot more supplement companies are now producing supplements that have no animal products within them, making it much easier for you to supplement if you want to.
- Wild Nutrition
All have vegetarian and vegan options now available.