It’s one year since I went vegan. In January of 2017 I gave Veganuary a go (more on that here), and having carried on with it after the month had ended and then some, my first vegan birthday has now been and gone. Vegday? Vegthday? Nope, doesn’t work. It’s been a positive change for me, for sure, but hasn’t been wholly without it’s difficulties and quirks.
In the 12 months I’ve been doing this I’ve seen/heard/learnt some interesting, enlightening and in some cases rather strange things, and today’s post is going to be a random selection of those. A disclaimer, before we begin; I’m fully aware that this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that sometimes just the word ‘vegan’ is enough to make people run a mile in the opposite direction. It is, however, my cup of tea, and hey – this is my blog, so this is what I’m going to write about today. I’m in no way trying to ‘force my opinions’ on anyone – this is just a random selection of different things I’ve noticed, some of which will poke a little fun at no one in particular in an entirely lighthearted way, and hopefully it won’t be wholly abhorrent whatever your eating habits happen to be.
With the disclaimers out of the way, here are some observations from my first year of Veganism:
1. Food manufacturers will try to put milk or milk powder in everything. I mean, salt and vinegar crisps? Come on people.
2. It’s likely that one of two contrasting assumptions about your health will be made when you say you are vegan. Sometimes you are assumed to be super healthy, filling your body with wholesome superfoods and exercising on the daily; this can make them look at you slightly suspiciously, because how can you be carrying that extra roll around the stomach area if you’re meant to be a health goddess?! Alternatively, you’re assumed to be super unhealthy. If this is the case, it’ll be one of two things; either you’re gorging yourself on bread, pasta and sugar, or you’re subsisting purely on bean mulch and therefore probably rather frail.
3. That whole ‘and since being vegan I think meat tastes and smells disgusting’ thing either takes a while or is a bare faced lie. (Or, as is probably the case, varies entirely from person to person). Big admission; if I smell bacon, I want to eat bacon. If I smell cheese, I want to eat cheese. They smell delicious. Obviously I don’t, but I often still think I’d very much like to.
4. Shopping for winter accessories is hard when you’re avoiding fabrics made from animal products. It took me THREE MONTHS to locate a wool free beret.
5. There are some eating establishments who really need to train their staff on dietary requirements, since they are apparently quite unable to distinguish one from another. ‘Excuse me, could you tell me what on the menu is suitable for vegans please?’ ‘Err…I…the gluten free ones are on the back…’
6. Not sure if our parents realised at the time, but 90s kids parties were a pretty good place for Veganism. Frazzles and party rings are both free from animal products and you better believe I’ve eaten a lot of them over the past year. The sausage rolls and Colin the Caterpillar cake not so much, but every little helps and all that.
7. Some people seem to have literally no idea where their food comes from. Here are some things that people have suggested I can eat; chicken stock, butter, prawns, mayonnaise, tuna, tuna mayonnaise…
8. Some people seem to literally have no idea where their food comes from. Here are some things that people have suggested I cannot eat; bread, chips, nuts, pasta, potato.
9. I had literally no idea where some of my food came from. Here are some things I’ve gone to eat; sour cream, mini cheddars, yoghurt… (in case you’re interested, I realised about the cheddars and the yoghurt in time, but shoved a dorito with sour cream into my stupid gob before a friend reminded me that you know, sour cream is in fact an animal product…)
10. The above three points are just examples of something I notice all the time but find it difficult to explain; basically, lots of us know (mostly) where our food comes from when we’re asked to think about it, but we also think of it as just ‘food’ or just ‘dip’ or ‘sauce’ or some other category of things we eat. Clearly this isn’t applicable to everyone, but in general there is a disconnect there which makes it easy to eat animal products without truly appreciating what they are or how they were obtained.
11. Norwich is a GREAT place to be vegan. In all honesty, I wouldn’t necessarily have thought it of my little old home city – but it’s full of great options.
12. Some people are really bothered by what other people eat. I mean it makes no sense to me, but you wouldn’t believe how offended people can get by what you are putting in your mouth when it literally makes no difference to them whatsoever.
13. When I wasn’t vegan and was looking for a new pair of boots, I’d find lots of non-leather pairs that I liked, despite the fact that I’d been wanting to invest in some leather ones. This year when I was looking for a new pair of boots, all of the non-leather ones were designs I didn’t like and all of the ones I loved the design of were ones I wouldn’t be able to buy.
14. It’s okay to slip up. Before doing this I thought that if I ate something with milk in, for example, then that would be a fail and I’d have to just give up. Throughout the year I’ve learned that it’s about intention, not perfection, and if that happens, I’ll have to just accept the mistake and move on.
15. It is much, much more difficult to get that really disgustingly full feeling on a vegan diet. Let me be straight with you; I’m a big eater. I mean not trying to brag, but I honestly think I could win eating competitions. When I was a meat-and-dairy-eater, I would sometimes eat so much that I got that awful, full-to-burst, incredibly uncomfortable, oh-god-maybe-I’ll-actually-die feeling. I haven’t felt that since being vegan; while I still eat a LOT sometimes, and have no problems being a very satisfied level of full, I just don’t feel…icky, you know?
16. Linda McCartney is a grade A babe.
17. The word ‘vegan’ is heavily loaded with stigma, but I’m yet to meet even one in person who matches that in real life (although I’m not contesting that a few exist).
18. Just like if you were eating an omnivorous diet, there are literally endless recipes for great meals you can cook if you’re vegan. I am nowhere near exhausting new foods to try, so variety is not a problem.
19. Sometimes, when I go past McDonalds, I think ‘I could just go in there and get a cheeseburger and no one would know’. I can’t quite believe I’m admitting that, but I wanted to be truthful…maybe I should have called this ‘Observations and confessions’? Seriously though – I don’t think I could actually do it, but I think it, and that does make me feel a little guilty.
20. If you say ‘I had a vegan burger’, then you’re so annoying and you’re always going on about it all the time and GOD don’t you ever stop saying the word vegan? If you say ‘I had a burger’, it’s all but I thought you were vegan and err burgers aren’t vegan. You can’t win sometimes, basically.
21. I have some bloody lovely friends and family. There have been so many times I’ve turned up to a social occasion involving food to be met with ‘I got these, because you can eat them’ or ‘I checked, and lots of these are suitable for vegans!’ when I wasn’t expecting to be able to eat anything. At Christmas, I was absolutely loaded up with dairy free chocolate, nut roasts, vegan mince pies and many other treats. YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST.
So, it’s been quite the experience thus far – a good one, and one I’ll be continuing, but certainly a learning curve too. Here’s to all the delicious things I’ll eat in year two!
Photography: Rob Poor