Friday, 4 April 2008

Veganism and (in)convenience

Yes, first update in ages. But, hey, it isn't a food post!

So, I've mentioned that I don't find a vegan diet the easiest. I'm aware that this is an unpopular thing to say, and that quite a few people will throw their hands up and shout me down with cries of 'but it's EEEEAAAASY!!! You just aren't TRYING!' or just mutter about the crazy fat girl trying to put people off veganism as if she didn't do this enough by merely admitting to being vegan with *that* figure. (Assuming they acknowledge me as a vegan in the first place - my not-especially-tiny figure puts me under suspicion in certain folk's eyes - that's a whole other post though!) But, the fact is, it isn't easy. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's found that. Not everybody has cooking facilities at work or a canteen that serves vegan food beyond plain crisps and overpriced apples and bananas. Not everybody has vegan or even vegetarian workmates or ones who are willing to try two or three different food outlets, even with the promise of finding something eventually, for the benefit of the weird girl who won't eat normal food. Not everybody has colleagues and friends who factor veganism in when organising group meals, let alone who are willing to actually go to a vegetarian resturant. (Before going any further, the people I work with *are* usually pretty good about stuff like this, but there are often limits to what is possible when accommodating a wide range of expectations.)

There are ways around the inconvenience angle. Most of the food posts on this blog have reflected/will reflect this. I am not going to deny, though, that it involves a change of routine, some level of thought for the first few weeks (in my case, the first few weeks of each university term) beyond merely choosing a different option in the canteen. (If your work canteen has a vegan option, lolz d00d ur lucky. I want to work where you do. Unless of course I hate the sound of your job...) It may need to be done gradually, dropping a few things at a time until you realise that you can in fact live perfectly happily without *any* of this stuff. You are very likely to eventually just stop thinking of animal material as food, but it won't be instant. The habit of a lifetime is hard to break, and (this is one thing where i agree with the Skinny Bitch authors, crack out the bunting folks) cheese contains addictive substances.

But, believe me, it does get to be less difficult over time. Your mileage may vary with what 'time' actually means. So, hmm, I suppose I should try to quantify how exactly to make it easier? Ok, well, in no particular order:
  • Don't freak out if you can't go the whole way from the start. It might help to set an official starting-point in the future, and work towards veganism gradually until then. (Tip: it's fine to say 'I'm going to be vegan after I've moved into the new house/finished the stuff in the fridge/come off the medication/overcome whatever your main stumbling-block is, but don't expect anyone (yourself included) to take you seriously if you play the unrepentant carnivore until that point.)
  • Don't be demoralised by other people's pronouncements that being vegan is easy. They are either in a very lucky situation (don't like non-vegan food on taste grounds, have easier access than you to decent vegan food, have more supportive friends/family, etc) or have been vegan for so long that it seems easy to them. As I said, it gets a whole lot easier with practice.
  • Don't give up on the whole thing because you mess up a couple of times. You won't be struck down if you forget to check for whey powder until you've eaten half the packet of crisps. But it doesn't mean you might as well go back to your old eating habits! A new vegan who makes a few mistakes is still on track to do a whole lot more good than someone who doesn't even try. Just remember to check the label next time, huh?
  • Make sure you are doing this for reasons you believe in. That's the only way to truly commit to something. It is those reasons which you will call up in your mind as a counterbalance for your desire for pizza or whatever. They will also form the basis of the arguments you use if/when people give you grief.
  • Approach going vegan with a positive frame of mind. If you see yourself as a martyr it won't work.
  • Learn to cook. It doesn't have to involve anything complicated (if it does, make enough for leftovers or freezing - three days' worth of food is worth a whole lot more faff than one evening's dinner) but it is worth developing a rota of staple meals that you can make quickly. Something which is quite restricted for vegans is access to convenience foods as the term is traditionally understood. (Are supermarket readymeals that much of a sacrifice??) If you already cook, you just need to use a bit of imagination to replace the non-vegan stuff. Get a decent cookbook (eg Vegan with a Vengance) or look on teh interwebz.
Those are all the tips I can think of for now, and I think they are the most vital ones for vegans having teething problems. (absolutely no pun intended there, yeahright) Think of it this way: you don't give up on everything that takes some practice, do you? No? Well, this is the same.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I'm attempting to go vegan myself after reading the Skinny Bitch books, but it's not always as easy as you want it to be. I'm trying to eat only whole or non-processed foods as well, and it's nearly impossible to cook 7 days, 3 meals each week. Whoever said it was easy eats chopped veggies every day for 3 meals. I wish you luck with your endeavor. If you ever want a buddy to vent to about veganism, I'd be happy to chat. Good luck to you!