Veganism et moi

4 August 2011

This is me. The reason for the shark teeth may (or may not) become clear later on…

I’ve been a vegetarian ever since the age of seven thanks to a dislike for the taste, smell and texture of meat and then, a bit later, a genuine distress at the thought of eating animals. This is partially down to the vile and inedible gristle that the nasty little Scottish primary school I went to served up (hey there Oldmeldrum School, I still have nightmares about you!) and which proved too much of a challenge for my painfully sensitive hyperdentic teeth (I had dozens of teeth removed as a child thanks to extra chompers growing through and have stitches right across my top gums where some were cut out – I know, ewww). I don’t know what the correct term for ‘extra teeth’ is and can’t google it as I have a phobia of sharks…

Moving swiftly on! Veganism followed as a natural progression when I was at university and I really did love it – I was thinner, more energetic and also a lot more grumpy and with rather more spots. My love of soured cream with Mexican food did for my blossoming veganism back then but I’ve remained wistful ever since, to the point that my hatred for dairy and longing to become a vegan became impossible to ignore and even my husband suggested that I just give in and do it as after all, there’s even vegan soured cream these days so what’s stopping me?

How times have changed though! When I first attempted veganism as an undergraduate back in the 1990s, there were only a few dedicated ingredients available to me and I could only find one cookbook, which was full of unappealing recipes involving a lot of grains, nuts and pulses. I must be the worst vegan in the world as I actually can’t abide anything more beany than Heinz Baked Beans and pulses terrify me a bit thanks to a slight paranoia about the precise cooking times required to stop kidney beans being poisonous.

Nowadays though, we are spoiled for choice and a whole new and exciting vegan cuisine appears to have burst onto the scene. Back in the 1990s, vegans were considered to be a dour, smelly, preachy and miserable lot with dreads, army surplus combats and more than their fair share of facial hair – nowadays though they are likely to be tattooed, rainbow haired, sassy and in love with cupcakes, music, art and having fun.

It’s amazing and I think that there is no better time to embrace the dairy free lifestyle if that is what you have a yearning to do. In fact, it’s clearly so amazing that my meat loving husband (but not the boys – they can make their own minds up about it later on) has decided to join in! This is great for me as it means I have some moral support and also the benefit of his own rather more methodical approach to these matters – I’ve been obsessing about mayonnaise, sandals and cool American vegan cookbooks (there’s some amazing ones out there, some of which I plan to review on a future post) while he’s been busy emailing all the major UK supermarkets and cross examining them about their attitudes towards food labelling, with Sainsbury’s being the best and Morrison’s being by far the worst. No surprise there then.

We’ve been vegans for three months now and it’s been a really good experience so far. I’ve lost over two stone, despite eating better than I think I have ever done – ably assisted by the fact that Bristol, the city we live in is incredibly switched on to veganism, with a plethora of shops, cafes and restaurants that serve all manner of treats. We even have vegan cupcakes!

The thing about being vegan is that you have to be a bit more adventurous about cooking if you’re going to have any semblance of variety in your diet and at times you will find yourself doing things like having onion bhajis or beans and mash for breakfast (this happened on Friday morning at Camp Bestival). So far, my husband and I have been enjoying burritos, curries (both Indian and Thai), chilli, pasta and all manner of stuff. It’s been a bit exciting actually. I may never entirely get over my dread of beans and pulses but I’m getting there…

How about you? Do I have any vegan readers out there? I’m a bit worried about the fact that I will be a vegan next time I visit Paris – I’ve always been vegetarian during my many visits to the City of Macarons and have found that a mixed experience so this is a bit daunting as cheese, eggs, butter and cream are now all off the menu for me!