Friday, 18 April 2008

Kim Stallwood vs George Monbiot

Monbiot wrote a cop-out article suggesting people eat less meat - he admits that veganism might be even better for the environment, but apparently can't advocate a diet that he couldn't personally follow. Here, Kim Stallwood vents some prime grumpy veganicity in response.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

My first real rant

And guess what, it involves weight.

See this article? I don't even know where to start.
Oh yeah - with the idea that going vegetarian is something you do to get thin. And that anything other than thin is ugly. And if you aren't thin you deserve to have shots of your fat ugly legs in a national newspaper and on its website. Being fat is of course purely down to gluttony. (Yeah, in Nigella's case that may be true - but, jeez, her USP for years was her pride in this fact)
Next, the fact that this article was promoted as a good thing on a vegan website. The fact that Nigella's husband went on an all-egg diet is about as far from any vegan's ideals as you can get. Plus, ew, who exactly would want to sleep with someone who was on a diet seemingly designed to produce body odour, bad breath and stinky farts? I'll stick to being fat and vegan, thanks.

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.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Where I stand

Well, since I'm giving advice, I should probably explain where it comes from. Just to fend off anyone who reads this and thinks 'hey, that doesn't apply to me!' So, a few things:

- I am in a medium-distance relationship (with a vegan) and don't have children.
- I have been vegetarian since well before puberty.
- My first inroads into veganism happened as a teenager. (My parents were and are omnis)
- I've never been thin and probably never will be

As such
- Most of the significant relationships in my life have been developed as a vegetarian or a vegan. Hence, I have zero insight into how becoming a vegetarian or vegan affects existing friendships.
- I don't know if cutting out animal products has an effect on periods, skin condition or anything else related to physical maturation. I have never had a period as a meat-eater.
- I learned to cook as a very young vegan living with my parents. The main change in my life was having to make more of my own meals rather than eating what was put in front of me. So I don't know what it is like to cook for yourself as an omnivore for several years and then veganise. (I do, however, quite enjoy taking meat recipes and adapting them - so if you send me one i'll have a go with it. That's a serious offer, although it may take a while for me to get round to doing anything.)
- If you're after using veganism only or mainly as a method for weight loss, please go somewhere else for your sake and mine. And please find a healthy somewhere else, and take Skinny Bitch with a pinch of (pun completely intended) salt if you must insist on using it at all.

Having said that, I certainly do know about being and staying vegan in a whole range of circumstances. And I know about the joy of carrying food around for lunch and having salad dressing and curry sauce leaking over one's teaching materials and a whole lot of other fun stuff like that. So, y'know, swings and roundabouts...