Don’t call it Vegan !
A guest post by Royal – a member of the team at Avocadoo – tool designed to help users discover healthy new recipes from indie cooks and bloggers.
I spent 6 years as a vegan and one of the first things I learned (other than “don’t tell people you’re vegan”) was to keep quiet about what actually was vegan. If I made something for a dinner party or had friends over that didn’t know, I wouldn’t tell them that what they were going to eat was vegan.
Why? Well, if the reaction to the food was positive or indifferent it would almost always become negative as soon as I admitted that that wasn’t technically quaeso or really a hamburger.
The idea that vegan is a synonym for disgusting was just that ingrained in their minds, and, well, our culture overall. To the general populace the word vegan doesn’t bring to mind a quinoa salad or guacamole, it bring to mind some kind of frankensteinesque confection of soy trying to masquerade as
The biggest problem that ‘vegan’ has always faced is the preponderance of vegan alternatives to meat and animal products. For some reason many vegans are willing to make massive changes to their diet but they don’t want to fully give up the likes of hamburgers or bacon. So naturally businesses were more than willing to create expensive alternatives to animal products that are of dubious quality and indecipherable composition. New vegans spend a lot of money on these products as they try to transition away from animal product and, naturally, they develop the idea that veganism is both expensive and tastes weirdly soyish.
Instead of going all the way and just giving up on eggs and bacon they buy vegan alternatives that will obviously not live up to the real thing.
Which is a shame because there are so many vegan foods out there that are actually wonderful and that could replace these animal products as a staple in any diet.
One of the best things about being vegan is the fact that it forces you to discover new food, and if you ever quit, as I did, some of them are definitely worth integrating into a more general omnivore diet:
The first isn’t a food. It’s almond milk. One thing that I never managed to return to after I became a lapsed vegan was milk. Dairy was fine so long as there was another stage to separate it from the cow – be it yogurt or cheese – but both the idea and taste of milk was no longer to my liking. At all. So I retained Almond milk as my main ‘milk’ for cereals, tea, and, sometimes, cooking. You can make it yourself if you are adventurous, but an increasing number of omnivores are making the switch as well – so it is very easy to find in stores. Because on top of having a generally better taste (subjective, I know), it is far healthier. And that is indisputable.
No ‘vegan’ foood has been more demonized by vegan alternative foods than Tofu. Unless you are at an asian restaurant, Tofu brings to mind Tofurkey and other fake-meat vegan alternatives. This is a tragedy as Tofu is something that should appeal to just about everyone. The real downside with Tofu is the time it takes to prepare it even if you buy it premade (the way it is made is pretty cool though!). Tofu has the wonderul property of tasting like whatever it is cooked in, so it can be added to many, many recipes as a way to add texture, volume, or even just as an interesting twist.
Tofu and Almond milk are relatively mainstreamed nowadays. The former by vegans, vegetarians and healthnuts, the latter by Asian cuisine. This one is a bit of a departure as it is rarely consumed by omnivores, or even many vegetarians. This protein-rich food is called Seitan (pronounced like as in the bringer of light). If the name doesn’t scare people off, the fact that it is basically 100% gluten does. If you are on a gluten-free diet, Seitan is your kryptonite. If your not, then it is an excellent, excellent source of protein and make wonderful fajitas. Seitan can also replace all kinds of meat in recipes calling for steak.
And now we are starting to get into the really strange products out there. This is tempeh, it consists of soybeans that have been carefully fermented and cultured into a block. Fermented soybeans glued together by fungus, does that sound appetizing or what? Even if you aren’t completely convinced it is still worth a try as it really doesn’t taste the way you’d expect fungus-soy to taste.
Have you ever wanted to drink sweetened tea that has been fermented with yeast and bacteria? Because that is exactly what kombucha is. The way it works is a fungus/bacteria/yeast colony is allowed to grow into a fleshy mass and is then placed into sweetened tea for a set period of time. After a certain amount of time, voila, kombcha. Having a hard time imagining this processes? Here is an appetizing video.
These are just some of the interesting foods that I discovered when I undertook my half decade vegan experiment. There are plenty of other more ‘normal’ foods that you might have tried once or twice but become staples as a vegan (or at least did for me), such as polenta, quinoa and yucca root.
I still maintain that nothing expanded my palate and made me try more food than limiting the kinds of food I allowed myself to eat.
I suppose it’s is something of a happy paradox.