My Vegan Journey – 2 Years On

How do you know if someone’s a vegan?

Don’t worry, they’ll tell you write a 1,500 word blog post about it.

It’s officially been 2 years since I posted my blog ‘My Vegan Week’ which was a challenge to myself to eat only plant based meals for a whole week. (It’s actually been 2 years and a month but it’s been a busy month so I’ve not had chance to finish this post) I can’t say that it’s my official Vegan 2nd anniversary as I did go back to being veggie after the challenge and then went on to be fully vegan around Christmas time of 2017, but it does seem like a fitting time to write this post.

My life has changed a lot in the last two years. When I first took the challenge I was at University in a small town and I was living in a house share in which I was responsible for only my own meals, which meant that sometimes I did eat the same thing three days in a row. Now I live in Manchester with my boyfriend, I cook for both of us most days and I like to cook something different everyday to give him something to look forwards to when he gets in from work.

Manchester’s vegan food scene is leagues ahead of Lancaster, it’s so easy to eat out in this city that it’s become almost difficult as I’m overwhelmed by choice. I posted around this time last year about some of my favourite vegan friendly places in MCR and the list has only grown since then. To name just a few of my recent favourites: Hatch (a street food complex with ever changing vendors who haven’t let me down with their vegan options yet), Alvarium (a lovely bar with features a fully vegan tasting menu) and Unicorn Co-operative (a fully vegan organic supermarket to pick up all the best produce). It’s not only an abundance of independent businesses that I’ve enjoyed in the last 2 years, I’ve been so happy to see big corporations expanding their vegan options from Greggs and Papa Johns, to Subway and Ben & Jerry’s. Being vegan has become even easier in the past two years, I see more and more options every time I go to the supermarket or look for somewhere to eat out, I’m excited to see how many more products and options come out in the next few years to come.

This blog is supposed to be about my experience though, you’ve already heard about these big corporate options and a detailed look at my favourite venues will come in a further post so I thought I’d answer a few FAQs here, questions that I’ve often been confronted with as soon as people find out I’m vegan – and I assure you they ‘find out’, I don’t go into every room and make an announcement, my diet is so normal to me now that I forget that to a lot of people it is a novelty which is why I do answer their questions, as annoying as it is sometimes to feel like a stuck record.

Why are you vegan?

There’s many varied reasons why people go vegan including health, environmental concerns, ethical issues, issues with allergies, and personal challenge. My reasons are pretty simple: I love animals so much, I think they’re all very cute and the purest thing in the world (except big birds, they kind of scare me, but I respect them so I don’t want to hurt them). In my world view all animals are conscience sentient being able to feel pain, suffering and grief at the loss of their friends just like I would, so if I can do anything to minimise my negative impact on animal kind I will. Sometimes I do feel tempted by non-vegan foods but I know the momentary sensory pleasure I will have from eating it won’t be worth the sadness I’ll feel for contributing to animal pain. Furthermore after my one week challenge I did see a slight change in my health for the better; my skin felt less greasy and I felt less bloated and lethargic, which is something that has definitely continued over the last two years. This health benefit is more of a welcome side affect than a reason for being vegan, but it’s something I definitely wouldn’t want to give up.

Are you shaming me for not being vegan?

No. We all have our own world view and as I said above my feelings about animals are part of mine, there is evidence that animals feel pain and grief but little evidence to say they feel it in the same way as humans do. But if you go out of your way to make me uncomfortable I’m going to start shaming you for being an annoying person, not because you’re an omnivore.

Don’t you miss bacon/cheese/ice cream/*other animal product*?

Yes and no. I don’t miss meat at all, meat gives me the heebie-jeebies, to be crude about it – I am a meat and nourishing my body with a different kind of meat feels rather cursed. This feeling was further cemented when I spent 4 months working in a charcuteria, the leg of ham on the kitchen surface felt like an image of momento mori slipped into a renaissance painting reminding me of my own fleshy being and my own impending death – I’m glad I don’t work there anymore.

When it comes to dairy products the answer is a bit more complicated, because I do miss cheese and milk and ice cream but it’s been so long now since I’ve had the real deal that the vegan versions of taste brilliant to me (and a lot of them are on par with the OG as my omni bf will confirm). I love almond milk, Violife vegan cheese and Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream. My old favourites have simply changed their form slightly, so I have no reason to miss them, they’re still there.

Will you ever go back?

At this point I don’t think I would, it feels instinctual to know what to cook at home and how to look at packaging to check that it’s suitable. Travelling has been made a bit harder by my choice to be vegan, earlier this year we went to Madrid and I did find it difficult to find food but this by no means impacted my enjoyment of the trip. Maybe if I was ever planning to travel for more than a week or two at a time I might have to think a bit harder about whether I should ‘relax’ my veganism for the sake of my health – for a few days bread, potatoes, and lettuce is okay but for more than that it might come with negative side affects.

What if you were in the apocalypse? Would you eat meat to survive?

No, I wouldn’t want to survive the apocalypse, I’ve read ‘The Road’ I don’t want to become some post-apocalyptic War Lord’s baby making slave. So no, I won’t be eating meat come the end of the world, I’ll be dead.

What do you eat? What about the protein?

I am a carbon based life formed and I am now a carb based life form. I get the majority of my calories (and therefore energy) from carbs like potatoes, sweet potatoes, bread, legumes, and lentils; no I don’t feel stodgy or weighed down (expect when I *accidentally* eat a whole baguette in one sitting). I eat everything that you probably eat from curries and stew, to macaroni cheese and pizza. My diet is varied and interesting, I listen to what my body craves in terms of sustenance. Furthermore I am not a body builder, my exercise consists of cycling to work and back everyday so I don’t need a deficit of protein like someone looking to build muscle, but I think I do consume a good amount of protein from legumes, lentils, green vegetables, and tofu (tofu is good refer to next question).

Tofu is gross

Not a question, but it is a statement I’ve heard frequently. Not to go to “that place” but I feel like this statement has some xenophobic subtext, or at least encompasses a fear of the unknown. Tofu originates in the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and has been a staple protein of Southeast Asian cultures since then – all of those people for all of those years cannot be part of some elaborate tofu PR stunt, it’s a good ingredient and if you think it’s gross you probably haven’t had it cooked properly. Yes on it’s own it is slimy and bland (but so is chicken breast). Press it, season it, and treat it with love and you’ll be onto a winner in no time – look for authentic recipes to follow from a Southeast Asian culture of your choice and I assure you you’ll find a tofu recipe you love. Personally I love crispy tofu nuggets in a sticky sweet chilli glaze, tofu katsu where patties of tofu are fried with a panko crust with a katsu curry sauce, and miso soup with delicate tofu cubes throughout the delicious broth.

I could never be vegan

You probably could if you wanted to, but making a big lifestyle change requires a lot of wanting it. I’d suggest trying it for a week with no expectations to continue it forever, then expand your education of animal agriculture and the environmental impact of animal products before weighing up whether you’d like to continue a plant based diet. Cooking and eating three meals a day is something we learn from childhood and the things we eat are deep rooted and so routine that they become innate – the cereal with milk for breakfast, a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch – breaking a routine is hard and that’s what becoming vegan is, a big change in routine and a breakaway from deep rooted learning. It’s hard but just like learning any new thing it becomes a lot easier over time. Two years on I don’t even think about it anymore.

If you never want to try veganism that’s okay just try to take one thing from the vegan philosophy into your diet – consciousness. Be aware of what you are eating, where it comes from, how it impact the world outside of you.

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