by David Hewitt
Stereotypes are generally pretty tiresome things. Even more so when they are wrapped up in attempted humour and / or faux bewilderment. So, if you’re vegan, you know any one of the following questions when the vegan-curious get that slightly puzzled look on their face and ask of you:
1. “What can vegans eat?”
2. “How do you live without cheese?”
3. “What do you do for protein?”
(You’ll find some slightly snarky vegan responses to those three questions at the end of this article by the way.)
That aside, as veganism continues to gain momentum, there is a responsibility, and a willingness, for those already committed to spread the word about not only the benefits of a vegan diet but also the variety of foods and choice available.
It can though be helpful to start from the perspective more so of what vegans can’t eat. Veganism is the absence from diet of any animal product or by-product. So, that’s regular meat and fish off the menu for a reasonably obvious start. In addition, vegans choose not to consume animal by-products such as egg, milk, cheese and honey (yep, honey is an animal by-product too.)
Those proscribed food-stuffs can seem, at first, to leave a newbie vegan scratching their head as to what to use instead of those items.
Meat and animal by-products, if you stop and think about it, actually represent a minority of what “regular” meat-eating omnivores consume. The majority of what they eat is vegan by default. The animal stuff just gets blended in to some, not all, recipes and dishes, often times through repetitive habit.
Vegan by default foods? Honestly and truly, where to begin? Well let’s try vegetables, fruit, rice, nuts, beans, seeds, multigrain pasta, chickpeas, quinoa, couscous and oats.
The more you think about this, the more you realise just how diverse vegan foods are and how prevalent they are in the diets of non-vegans. Sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and garlic – the world would be a sad, sad place for the absence of either one of those culinary delights.
Then you have your sides to consider: peanut butter, yeast extract (for vegan B12 needs if needs be) and jam. Throw either one, or all three if you’re a little kinky, onto some wholemeal toast and you’ve got a vegan breakfast option, super easy, right before you.
Milk alternatives to dairy are readily available, like soy, coconut, almond or oat milk. Not only are they cruelty-free, but they are packed with nutrients and much lower in fat than “regular” dairy milk.
If you need to have a meat-like component to your meals, there are meat substitutes a-plenty to be found – burgers, sausages and roasts. All vegan and increasingly as tasty as you like.
Tofu, tempeh and seitan are all vegan options when it comes to giving your dishes a “meaty” body. Other options to consider.
Indian / Pakistani / Bangladeshi curries – veganized. Easy to do and many south Asian dishes already are vegan from the get-go. Chinese and Thai – veganized. There are many vegan options in Chinese and Thai cooking, remember though to check for oyster sauce and fish sauce.
This is one of the true joys of veganism – that it encourages creativity and diversity in the kitchen. Herbs, spices and seasonings seem to inevitably come more into play with a vegan diet. And for many vegans out there, their kitchen wouldn’t be complete with a jar or five of nutritional yeast.
“Nooch” as it is fondly called, is often-times fortified with B12, and offers a nutty, cheesy taste and when sprinkled on a pasta sauce, it’s something else. I’m no gambling man, and my (vegan) wife is utterly attached to me, but if she had to run off with another guy, a million pounds says it would be with a nutritional yeast manufacturing magnate.
Desert wise, try maple syrup in place of honey. And there’s a growing range of vegan desserts and non-dairy ice-creams turning up in stores and online all the time.
Or why not try making a Raw Vegan treat?
The days of vegans being seen to eat nothing but limp lettuce while languishing in the shadows, pale and devoid of flavour, have gone. Veganism offers a bright, vibrant, healthy and nutritious lifestyle. Sure, you can even be vegan and eat unhealthily. Oreos are vegan and a pack of two of those a day will get your belt-buckle panicking – if that’s what you want to do.
And of course, technology is a beautiful thing. There are mountain ranges of online vegan recipes, resources and help sites to happily hike your way through.
Check these out for example: Its a recipe for Pulled BBQ Carrots by VegAnnie
or this recipe for Spicy Black Bean Soup from VeganBitchCanCook
There’s also raw vegan to consider too. Raw vegan is a diet of unprocessed foods that have not been heated to a temperature greater than 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees in old money.)
Advocates of raw veganism hold that by keeping foods below that temperature, enzymes and nutrients are kept and not destroyed. Likewise, there are a load of online raw vegan resources for recipes, support, courses and so on.
Don’t let the omnivores think they have all the fun and flavour – veganism offers just as much, but less the cruelty and more in good health.
1. Lots of things, thanks for asking. How’s your cholesterol?
2. Calm down, it’s cheese. Not my cardiovascular system.
3. I don’t. I’m dead. Just like all the skinny, protein deficient rhinos, elephants, yaks and bison, you always see. All vegan by the way.