AS MY SECOND Christmas as a vegan approaches, I realise that I am most definitely beyond the point of no return. I have made the giant leap across the chasm into the vegan world, and I can never go back.
This realisation hit me last weekend when I purchased three chickens to cook and serve at a pre-Christmas dinner that it was my turn to host (for 15 non-vegans). It took me by surprise how unsettled I felt just purchasing the chooks. Of course I bought free range birds, but that was of little consolation, knowing that the vision of happy chooks clucking outdoors is about as real as the idea that nannies can levitate if their name is Mary.
Preparing the birds for cooking wasn’t exactly a picnic, but it was serving them up that was the worst part: I felt that I’d not only compromised my principles in my own kitchen, but also not done my guests any favours. My new year’s resolution that I will never cook and serve meat again. I do confess to being somewhat nervous about how this decision will be received by my wider family, but only time will tell.
Over the last month my patience has been challenged on a number of occasions by pesky people who seem to think my dietary choices have condemned me to a life of deprivation. What, no cakes or pies, no biscuits, no chocolate? Oh you poor thing! Trying to tell them that I really don’t miss eating those things, and that I feel much better for it, is like talking to a brick wall.
In my first blog I said that ours was ‘a quiet revolution’. Well, I have to say I’m getting tired of keeping my mouth shut so much of the time and always having to be the one who ‘puts up and shuts up’. On the whole, I keep my ideas to myself unless my thoughts are invited; not only about being a vegan, but generally. As time goes on though, I notice it’s become more common for people around me (mainly work colleagues and acquaintances) to ask probing (sometimes provocative) questions about my choice of eating habits. “Do you mind me asking…” seems to be a common opening question, and that’s always a bad start.
On the one hand, I feel that I have to be a good ambassador and answer questions openly and politely so as not to bring the vegan community into disrepute. On the other hand, what really annoys me is how, after pestering me with numerous questions, the person usually ends the conversation with a statement which totally negates the idea that they were ever in the slightest bit open to considering any of my opinions in the first place.
One day last week the familiar “Do you mind if I ask…” question was put to me by someone I don’t know well, but whom I had noticed seemed to have an unusually strong interest in what I ate and the fact that I was a vegan. The question related to whether my choice was for “health or ethical reasons”. I answered honestly, saying that what started out as being a totally health related decision was now equally associated with ethical and environmental concerns. The probing questions continued and as it turned out, the very condition that had led me towards my change in diet was in fact at the root of this person’s line of questioning, because a close relative was suffering from the very same problem. After the initial excitement that she had hit the jackpot with her questioning, I could see that the more I talked the more I was losing her interest. The conversation eventually came to a close with her rather dismissive statement that my suggestion of a change in diet seemed “too extreme”.
I am absolutely fascinated by the fact that a lot of people feel that it is too extreme to change their diet, but not too extreme to be cut open by surgeons to have organs and body parts removed or patched up, or to swallow prescription drugs like Smarties, thereby experiencing all manner of unpleasant side effects which often require further medication to compensate. This person had just been telling me that her relative was waking crying in the night due to pain, and yet a few heartbeats later she was able to say that a change in diet as a remedy seemed too extreme. Personally, becoming a vegan is probably the least extreme course of action I have ever taken towards better health, and thus far it has certainly proved to be the most effective.
As Christmas time draws closer and food becomes even more of a focus than it is at other times of the year, I’m sure I’ll be challenged time and time again on the food front. The shared ‘office breakfast’ of waffles, pancakes and a selection of sticky syrups will see me arrive with my own bowl of rolled oats and stewed fruit. The ‘office dinner’ will likely be held at a restaurant where the ‘V’ dish on the menu is a creamy, cheesy pasta or an eggy flan of some sort. But that’s okay, because I’m learning that there’s a way around most situations, like choosing vegetables and a salad off the ‘sides’ menu when there are really no main options that suit.
Which reminds me of a time recently when in desperation I ordered the ‘fish, fries and salad’ – minus the fish – off a restaurant menu. The helpful waitress explained to me that I should order the two items separately off the sides menu, or otherwise the fish would just be removed off the plate and I’d end up with a big empty space and not much food! Can you believe it? I took her good advice and she even brought me an empty dinner plate to ‘plate up my own meal’.
Now that I’ve got all that off my chest, it’s time to acknowledge that despite how it seems, Christmas isn’t just about food, is it? It’s the time of year when most of us feel just a little more compassion for our fellow human beings, and just a little more mellow and accepting than we are at other times of the year. And yes, that goes for me too, of course. I’ll try harder to bear in mind that I am part of a quiet revolution, and that at the end of the day, actions always speak louder than words.
Here’s a great recipe I found for vegan mayonnaise; it’s perfect for dressing coleslaw and potato salad this summer! Easy to make and really delicious. Enjoy! CARRIE STEELE
Basic Raw Vegan Mayonnaise
• 1 cup raw cashews (soaked for 2 hours – optional)
• ¼ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup raw cauliflower (I use one very large floret)
• ½ cup filtered or spring water
• 3 tbsp lemon juice, or more to taste
• 1 tsp mustard
• 1 tsp raw agave nectar or 1 chopped pitted date
• 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
• Pinch of salt (or more to taste)
Put the cashews and cauliflower in a high speed blender and add the water until well combined. Slowly add the oil in one steady stream and process until thick and creamy.
Place the rest of the ingredients into the blender to taste, and process until smooth.
Add more salt, mustard or lemon juice to taste until you create your perfect blend.