Last week, Tuesday 19th February, marked my one year as a vegan. That's over 365 days following a lifestyle that eschews animal products in food, clothing and various other products. It has been a tranformative year and I have definitely learned a lot.
I have been asked, both online and in person, why I went vegan and how I found it. It is not exactly an easy question to answer in a few words or less. To attempt to do so would probably be a disservice to the truth. In fact, when I originally started writing this blog post I realised I would have to split it into two parts.
The first part, the one you are now reading, is about the beginning: why I went vegan and how I did it at the start discussing mostly food. The second instalment which, dear reader I hope you return for, will be about what I've learned over the past year. Specifically the second post will discuss how being vegan has evolved my feelings towards animals on a more personal level, and other elements such as plastic, palm oil and cosmetics.
- The Decision -
Originally I dabbled with vegetarianism. It didn’t last long. There was something in the knowledge that because I did not consume red meat or fish, and little pork it separated me from other meat eaters. Surely, by only eating chicken, I was not that bad? I could only fool myself for so long.
On New Year’s Eve 2017 I sat around a fire in my friend’s back garden discussing New Year’s Resolutions. I uttered a powerful statement: to live more ethically. I wanted to go vegan because, simply, I did not want to eat animals or animal products. How could I truly adhere to ethical living if I was still supporting cruelty?
Yet a few weeks had passed and I was still eating sausage rolls and chicken baguettes. This was at the beginning of February about six weeks after I sat around that fire, and said that in 2018 I wanted to live a life aware of my actions and how they can contribute to suffering.
That was the last day I ate meat. There is no baptism, neither contract nor grand affair when you decide that this is how you are going to live. You stand at the threshold of a door that will not take you anywhere new, but back to where you were with a new sight.
- Getting To Grips With Food -
It became apparent that in my conviction that every meal must work itself around an animal protein, in my case chicken, I was unaware of how food could really work. I needed to research an abundance of recipes.
I had assumed that because of my pre-existing aversion for red meat that I would be okay. However as it turned out the initial changes were tough. Depending on your diet beforehand, you may have to give up a lot. I struggled most with the convenience aspect, as I relied heavily upon being able to quickly grab something for lunch or a snack.
At the beginning I struggled with giving up meat. It was the texture and taste that I missed, and this is something I wrote about before. It did not take long to move on but I did have a lingering desire for dairy products. As I mention in my other blog piece, no one seems to ask me if I miss chocolate? I did, and sometimes still do. Having a sweet tooth I indulged frequently in pastries, cakes and yogurts modelled on various confectionary.
Nevertheless with an inquisitive mind I set out to explore new recipes and hope, nay pray, that I would never have to suffer from hunger pains and perpetual dissatisfaction at meals. A whole new world of ingredients was opened up to me: I had definitely never eaten this amount of vegetables before, nor such a variety. And I fell in love with tofu.
Immediately I began a diet of pesto pasta and mushrooms, you know, just to hold me over until I was able to hold my own. One of the first things I ever made, aside from pasta, was a vegan pizza. I did not love it. I made another, and again I was not overly impressed. Third time the charm! I made a pizza base smothered in home made pesto, shredded carrot, fried mushrooms, grated Violife cheese, and BBQ tofu.
Yes, just maybe it was going to work out okay. It took a while to get comfortable and know what I liked. Despite a love of fruit and vegetables, I still have a slight discomfort with tomato sauce - don't ask me why, I don't know.
The success of the pizza moved onto experimenting with other kinds of food: more pizzas, burgers, lasagnas, pancakes and trying to replicate tofu as chicken. I did not rush out to buy the meat substitutes, but I have definitely enjoyed one or two of the Gregg's vegan sausage rolls.
For a while I swapped my history books for vegan YouTube and Instagram. Instead of studying Hebrew grammar I was now copying down recipes of various vegan dishes that looked out of this world. A new passion for food had emerged and a trip to the supermarket was never dull. I can now confidently create meals! You can read more about that here.
In response to this I have been told by meat eaters that I probably never appreciated or understood food beforehand. This is most likely true. Going vegan allowed me to tap into a new understanding of both how and what we eat.
This conscientiousness laid the foundation to build a vegan ethic that transcends the circumference of my plate, but how I shop, what I wear and put on my skin. Stay tuned for my next post which will discuss all of this!
Image Source: Free From Wix