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10 not-so-stupid questions about veganism

23 Nov

One of the things vegans have to get used to is being asked an awful lot of questions. While all vegetarians and vegans have at least one story about an offensive or ill-informed conversation with an omnivore, I find that most people are genuinely interested and just want to know about the practicalities of what they see as an extreme or unusual lifestyle choice. The best advice I can give to new vegans is to be prepared for the sorts of questions that come up, and to answer questions calmly and honestly. Here are my responses to some of the questions I’ve been asked over the last few months.

  1. Is it difficult?

Logistically? I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but I do have to always plan ahead. If I’m going on a long journey I tend to research where I might be able to eat on the way. If I’m going to see friends for the weekend I take some almond milk and veggie sausages so I know I can have a cup of tea and some breakfast without causing them any problems. Wherever I go I always have healthy snacks in my bag. Are any of those things a problem? Of course not. I’ve always been obsessed with food anyway, so this isn’t much different from before. Even if it were an effort it would be a small price to pay, the benefits of being vegan outweigh the work that goes into it.

  1. Are there any foods that you miss?

When I first turned vegan I dreamed about oozy cheese every night, but got over it really quickly. I still miss eggs sometimes though, there are times that I get a real hankering for a boiled egg with soldiers, but I know I will get over it. When I first turned vegetarian at the age of 12, whenever I smelled bacon cooking I’d get a real longing for it, but after a few months the craving disappeared to the point that when I smell it cooking now it doesn’t even register as food.

  1. Are you ever tempted to say “oh sod it” and just have some cake?

Honestly? Not in the slightest. My reasons for being vegan are stronger than my desire to eat something animal products. When I do crave an egg, for instance, I just ask myself what happens to the chickens when they’ve stopped being useful, and that’s enough to kill the craving.

  1. But you can’t eat cake!

I don’t know if it’s because I hang around with particularly cake-obsessed individuals, but this is by far the most common thing people say when they find out I’m vegan. I can’t buy cake from a shop, and if someone brings cake to work I have to turn it down, but don’t worry because I can definitely eat cake. My favourite method of vegan advocacy is to bring them some delicious cake and surprise them afterwards by telling them it was vegan.

  1. I’ve been reading all about vegans on the internet, and I’ll let you do it as long as you promise me you’re getting enough vitamin B12.

Thanks Mum! I’m 32, I’ve got an important job, I’m married, but I’m still my Mum’s baby and she will never stop worrying about me. B12 is a vitamin we normally get from animal sources, but it’s actually made by bacteria rather than the animals themselves, so it is possible to get vegan sources of it. Loads of things are fortified with it, like breakfast cereals, non-dairy milks and yogurts, marmite, and nooch.

  1. Is your partner vegan?

He’s vegetarian but not vegan. Mr Veg is a very ethically-minded person, I know and trust that he doesn’t make any decision lightly, so while I don’t agree with his reasons for eating eggs and dairy, I do respect his choice. Does it cause any problems? All of the meals we make together at home will be vegan, if that bothered him he would be welcome to make himself something different, but it doesn’t. The only issue, and it’s really trivial, is that he feels uncomfortable eating certain things when I’m there, he thinks it bothers me an awful lot more than it does.

  1. How do you cope going on holiday?

This is really two questions in one. Firstly, in terms of accommodation then either self-catering or a vegetarian bed and breakfast will be easiest, but most hotels will have a breakfast buffet with at least some vegan choice (e.g. beans on toast or some fruit) so it’s not really an issue. Secondly, they might be asking about eating out. My answer to this is that I’ve learned what sort of places I can get easily a vegan meal in, and how not to be shy to ask questions or ask for tweaks to things on the menu. I sometimes get funny looks asking for things without the cheese, but when it’s a choice between getting a funny look and going hungry, I’d much rather put up with being the weird customer who wanted the goats’ cheese salad without the goats’ cheese.

  1. Do you find you have enough energy?

This surprises some people, but I actually feel physically a lot better now than before I was vegan. I have more energy, my acne is a lot better, my hair is less greasy, my nails are stronger, and I suffer a lot less with bloating. I transitioned to veganism gradually, and for a few months I was vegan in the week and just vegetarian at the weekends, until I realised that every Monday and Tuesday I felt bloated and grumpy. That was enough to give me the final push!

  1. Do you want some cake or are you still doing that vegan thing?

I have to admit, this does wind me up a bit. It’s not the offer of cake, they’re just being polite after all. What really does bother me is that people assume it’s a phase or a fad diet, or that I’m vegan most of the time unless it’s someone’s birthday. I’m not on the 5:2 diet or WeightWatchers, I made a permanent lifestyle change due to an ethical choice. Thank you very much for the offer but, in the same way a vegetarian would turn down a bacon butty, I’ll politely decline.

  1. You’ve lost weight, is it your [whispers like there’s something shameful about it] vegan diet?

I did lose a few pounds when I turned vegan, it’s quite common but not guaranteed. I was at the upper limit of a healthy weight for my height before, and now I’m comfortably below that line but definitely nowhere near underweight. I had to work very hard with this particular person to demonstrate that my diet is vibrant and healthy and varied and definitely not something to be worried about, and I think I won her round.

I’d be really interested to know what questions others have been asked, or what answers you’ve given to some of the questions above. Please leave your comments below.

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Mrs Veg is back

15 Jul

I’m finally back after my annual hiatus! I work as an administrator at a university and around exam time I’m so drained that I can’t quite articulate myself as well as normal, and I have to have a little break from blogging. I’ve not been sitting at home doing nothing though, I’ve been doing all of the usual Mrs Veg things (growing, cooking, and eating vegetables). Here are some of the things I’ve been up to over the last couple of months:

Our gardening so far this summer has been a bit hit and miss. The pigeons damaged our garlic and broad beans which was really frustrating, but I’ve replaced both with courgette plants which have now started producing. Courgettes are one of the things that are definitely worth trying at home – they’re easy to grow and they taste about a million times better than anything you can buy in the shop. Our strawberry plants are taking a while to get established, but we got our best ever crop this year – about seven of the little beauties in total. As with courgettes you just can’t beat home-grown ones.

In June I went to a vegan food event at my local yoga centre. I could tell that most of the people I told about it were a bit baffled by the idea (after all, vegans just eat plain tofu, brown rice, and kale don’t they? What else is there to know?) It was really interesting and I had such a lovely time. We had a really helpful talk on nutrition, which might have been a bit too scientific for some but as I’m a bit of a geek I found it fascinating. After the talk we had a beautiful meal including ful medame (made of fava beans – my new favourite), a vibrant green tabbouleh, courgette rolls, and a few different salads and dressings. The other people there ranged from veg-curious all the way to long-term vegans. I really enjoyed sharing a meal with new people who I had a common interest with, and the the nutritional information that I learned is really sticking with me and guiding my food choices.

2014-06-22 15.37.06

One of the people I met at the yoga centre seemed to be as interested in experimenting with food as I am, and told me about his adventures making his own tempeh. I had eaten and enjoyed tempeh a couple of times before but it never occurred to me that I might be able to make it at home. I bought some tempeh starter and some whole, dried soya beans and tried it myself. Mr Veg helped me make a makeshift incubator using a wire cooling rack set over a terrarium heat mat (pictured above). It was very extremely time-consuming but totally worth it. If you ignore the labour costs of the hours I spent sat in front of the tv dehulling the beans, it works out much more cost-effective than the tempeh you can buy in the shops, and it’s tastier too. I will definitely make it again, but with hulled beans next time. I will take pictures when I do and I will write more about it.

Last week I went to the V Delicious show at Olympia in London. I’ve never been to a vegetarian food exhibition before and I’m so glad I did because I had a whale of a time trying (and buying) different veggie foods. As soon as I decided to go I developed a really strong craving for jelly sweets, which I’ve not eaten for a long time because of the gelatin. When I found the Goody Good Stuff stall I was thrilled, and as embarrassing as this is to admit, when I tried a cola bottle sweet I actually felt a bit emotional, and of course had to buy several bags of them.

Another thing I was particularly interested in trying at the show was vegan cheese. As a former cheese fiend I find the idea of pretend cheese more than a little bit horrifying, but at the same time I’ve been curious to find out what it’s actually like. I tried several of the cheeses made by Vegusto, the texture was a bit too soft and homogeneous, but a couple of them tasted kind of nice. It was interesting to try but I don’t think I’d ever buy it, I’d rather replace dairy with more naturally creamy foods like avocado, tahini, hummus, or cashew cream.

Amongst other things I bought an awful lot of snacks (mostly Nakd bars, which are my absolute favourite), a couple of good books, kombucha (which I’m now thinking about making at home), aloe vera juice, delicious veggie sushi, Round Ups vegan wagon-wheel-style biscuits), tea, crackers, and some habas fritas. It was a great day out and I’d definitely go back or to a similar event again in the future.

Now the hungry gap is well and truly over my vegetable box deliveries are finally interesting again, and the “In my veg box this week…” series will resume this week.

I’m really looking forward to getting back into writing again, and to catching up with people. I’ve got a few recipes and other things to write about and I can’t wait to share them with you.

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