It feels very strange to sit down and formally write this post about something that now seems like such a natural part of my life. At first it was hard, and part of me thought it wasn’t worth all the effort but now I don’t think too hard about being vegan, it just comes naturally. Eating food is natural and I just eat something different to the majority of people, but I never feel deprived.
My weekly shop has changed, I’d say at least 2/3 of what goes into my basket is fresh veggies (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, avocado and onions are my go to), then plenty of tinned beans and pulses, bread and tortillas are versatile so go in my basket, pasta and rice, almond milk, and violife spread. There’s always a stock of herbs and spices in my cupboard, which I generally get from the Asian supermarket – cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, mixed herbs, garlic cloves, garlic powder, ginger root, chilli powder, and paprika. Nutritional yeast and Marmite are my secret ingredients to bring hearty cheesy, or meaty, flavours to meals.
My go to meals haven’t even changed that much. I make my lazy pasta dishes at the end of a long day, I bulk cook chilli’s and curries a lot to eat throughout the week. I realise more and more that a lot of the foods I made before are easy to veganise, or were already vegan. Where I would have had mac and cheese as a comfort meal before, I still have mac and ‘cheese’, but I make the sauce with almond milk, violife spread, oodles of nutritional yeast to bring the flavour and maybe a slice or two of vegan cheese if I feel like making it fancy. I eat more variously than I have in the past because I’m always challenging myself to mix things up and buy new ingredients. Having a more limited choice of foods to cook with has forced with the work more creatively with the ingredients I have. I’m constantly inspired by the colourful vegetables, vibrant spices, and vegan community. There’s so many great culinary innovators in the community who I’m always learning from. With vegetables, that are so good raw on their own, it’s pretty much impossible to go wrong.
Now I know the tricks and dishes to look out for now I find it a lot easier to eat out, and eat takeaways. I don’t think of myself as a vegan particularly anymore, right now it’s just background information that is integrated into my life. I check the menu of the places that I want to go eat online before I attend, as I’ve done for most of my life growing up in a pescitarian household I’ve always been in the habit of checking for the menu Morse-code of ‘v’ symbols and tiny plant leaves. I’ve even traveled to London and still felt comfortable finding something to eat, now I feel more confident knowing where to go, and which sauces to ask the waiter to hold. Curry houses are my go to, or exclusively vegan places like ‘V-Rev’ dinner in Manchester which is absolutely amazing and serve the best vegan mac n cheese I’ve ever had. When in doubt every town has a Wetherspoon’s, and their vegan curry is surprisingly very good and they even had a full page article in their most recent magazine listing which of their alcoholic and soft-drinks are fully vegan.
Disappointing a lot of vegetarian restaurants lack vegan options and rely too closely on cheese and eggs to bring substance to their dishes (not calling out any names), but it’s disappointing to go to a veggie place and find only one or two vegan dishes, and maybe another couple if cheesy toppings are removed. For the past three months I was lucky to work at a fabulous cafe in Lancaster (The Sunbury Coffee House) where I got lunch on shift, I was slowly working my way through the amble vegan options on the menu. On the menu at The Sunbury the vegan options feel integrated into the rest of the menu, not just stuck on as an aside, which I wish more places would embrace as an ethos.
So far this post has been all about the food side of veganism, and nothing about the ethics, because honestly just like vegan recipes pop into my head naturally now I no longer struggle to associate diary and eggs with animals, as in the past I would have seen a slab of meat and felt a bit weird I now feel the same way when confronted with a glass of milk or scrambled eggs. I think as humans we forget that we are animals at a base level, and on this planet we must learn to live with all the other animals that inhabit it. Being more conscious in my food choices has helped me feel more connected to the world, and in cutting back on junk foods I feel more connected to myself. I’m thinking more about the way I consume everything now, not just food. After moving out of my University house recently I looked at how much stuff I have. I think the next step in to think about how I consume stuff, that might be a challenge post for another time.