A week ago I celebrated my one-year veganniversary. I would have missed it if it wasn’t for my boyfriend who reminded me that it was coming up (he’s very good with dates and numbers). I cannot believe that a year had gone by. It felt like it was only a few months ago that I made this life-changing decision.
I was going to write a post outlining my 12 month experience as a newbie vegan but I thought I would save that for another day and instead, do something a little bit different this time like; getting my boyfriend to write his experience with me during this transition. After all, this lifestyle change did not only impact me, it impacted him too, and probably more than what I gave him credit for. And for the record, he is not a vegan, yet. I’d like to think of him as a VIP (vegan in progress).
He has been nothing short of supportive and wonderful in the last 12 months accommodating my new vegan lifestyle. I don’t have any vegan friends in real life and he is one of the few people I know who really understands how much this change means to me and accepts it (even if it did take some time as you will read from his post below). He has an old, formal and ehem, pompous style of writing (sorry sweetie :P) but I think you will enjoy his piece. If nothing else, you will be able to see things from a different perspective which may help you, should you decide to pursue the same path as me, to understand the impact it may have to people closest to you.
So, without further a do. Here’s Buzz.
Occasionally I make an appearance in this blog, usually with the nom de guerre ‘Buzz’ or something similar, and frequently with a mild rebuke for uncivilised manners or for my propensity for punishing ourselves in the gym or with our jogging shoes to earn what it is we will have for dinner that night. I have a confession to make. I am as far removed from a foodie as one possibly can get. I am the sort who eats to live, that is, I use food as a car uses petrol rather than seeking satisfaction or stimulation from food in its own right. I don’t know which end of a cucumber to hold, or the difference between pomegranates and pommes frites, and I certainly can’t be trusted within two metres of the kitchen, so I end up sitting on the sofa, along with the dog, patiently waiting until a scrap is thrown on the floor for my consumption.
How it all started
Just over a year ago my girlfriend, the author of this blog, woke up one morning, decided my life wasn’t hard enough as it already was, and adopted a vegan diet and lifestyle. We all know what a vegetarian diet is but I did not know the difference between vegetarian or vegan diets until this time. The timing was a little bit unfortunate as we had booked flights to Japan, for Christmas, and that country’s culinary culture revolves around sushi and sashimi.
To be perfectly forthright I didn’t expect her vegan phase (for I took to calling it a phase to her annoyance) would last until, or during, our trip to Japan so after some grumbling I acquiesced, forewent the prospect of home-cooked haloumi cheese (a particular delicacy which ended up in the bin one unfortunate evening when I ate them to the exclusion of everything else on the plate) and began familiarising myself with strange and exotic phrases such as probiotics, sustainability and, worst of all, cruelty-free. It might be cruelty-free for animals, but it’s certainly cruel and unusual punishment for me. But her phase lasted, and lasted so long I eventually gave up referring to it as a phase, and twelve months later here we are, still alive, still with sufficient protein, and, I cannot deny it, a bit healthier.
Vegan foods and health
I think most people adopt a vegan, or vegetarian, lifestyle either for the sake of our four-legged or two-winged friends or for health considerations. Since I can’t cook, since I live in a house with pizza coming and going literally every other day, my diet was, shall we say, less than perfect before meeting our vegan blogger. Even when we began courting each other, a year before she embarked on her project, we were still eating rubbish on most occasions. In her case it was a weekend indulgence since she ate well enough the rest of the time, and in my case it was no worse than what I ordinarily ate when left to my own devices. But when she adopted a vegan lifestyle, when I began eating vegan food with her, my diet cleaned up almost overnight.
Even if you don’t adopt vegan food specifically to eat better, it’s impossible not to, because, frankly, what else is there to eat other than greens and other vegetables and fruits? Yes, there are nuts, chips and other guilty treats to indulge in but if nothing else, you are going to have a plateful of vegetables almost every meal and that certainly beat my usual fare of pizza, burgers and other greasy substances. My skin’s tone has improved, my stamina has increased and I’m getting sick a little less often now that most of my weekend meals come with a vegan or vegetarian flavour. The psychological effect of eating a big plate of vegetables on the weekend carries over during the week, as well: it seems to defeat the point to eat well on the weekend and then clog up my arteries the rest of the time, and I find I am beginning to seek out healthier alternatives during the week when I am by myself as well as when I go out and about with a vegan companion.
Eating out as a vegan
The subject of going out and about is the biggest obstacle to leading a vegan lifestyle. When eating at home you have control over every ingredient and you know to avoid butter or honey or other animal products besides meat (the difference between a vegetarian and a strict vegan diet) and there is absolutely no ambiguity as to whether something is permissible or not. When venturing out, however, when you turn over the chef’s hat to someone else, you lose that control and you have to plan ahead, ask questions and take precautions to avoid nasty surprises.
There are many vegan-friendly places nowadays (I certainly think there are a lot more now than, say, ten years ago although I wasn’t paying close attention a decade ago) and I’m sure it’s much easier now than it was in the past, but accidents still happen. There is nothing more irritating than sitting down for a meal in a restaurant when your stomach’s rumbling after a long day and when the food comes, it has a dab of butter or a scrap of egg or a dollop of cream which renders the whole plate inedible (and although I still eat meat and animal products, when I go out with my girlfriend, I consciously ask for dishes which we can share together because, otherwise, it defeats the point of eating together).
It’s a challenge
The two biggest evils, in my opinion, are butter and noodles made from egg, because although most people know not to put meat in a vegan dish, many kitchens automatically or absentmindedly pour butter on top of vegetables and other side dishes, and most noodles (a staple of Asian food) are made from eggs and the waiting staff are not always aware of the exact contents of something as generic and common as noodles.
We’ve had our share of culinary mishaps and plates sent back to the kitchen in disgrace but we’re getting better: we’re asking the right questions, we’re not taking the waiting staff’s competence for granted, and we’re flexible (as you must be to obtain vegan fare in a restaurant that does not cater specifically for vegans). When I make a booking I now know to ask whether so-and-so has vegan-friendly food, when I scan the menu I look for dishes which are vegan or which can easily be converted (usually with the removal of the feta) before I look for myself, and my girlfriend has a knack for getting entrée-sized dishes increased to constitute her main course (a clever technique which has saved the day more than once), and steakhouses and marina restaurants will always have a very limited range of permissible dishes so you’re best off going elsewhere. It can be done, but you have to plan ahead, ask the right questions, and be willing to compromise with an entrée or side dish made larger to function as the main course.
A sidenote about eating out with a vegan companion: Our trip to Japan went ahead, and despite the profound language barrier and unfamiliarity with the country we managed to find enough vegan food to survive. In fact we may even have put on weight. Of all the places to go with a vegan companion Japan wouldn’t be the worst because, apart from fish, they have a very clean diet full of tofu and free of Western-style additives such as butter and cream and my girlfriend discovered the unmitigated joys of red bean buns, which all the convenience stores carry. I think our trip to Japan was an epiphany for me: if we could get through the trip, food-wise, it really wouldn’t be all that bad back in Sydney, and so it has proven.
My final thoughts
Is a vegan lifestyle for everyone? Probably not, at least not until the politically-correct brigade take over the world and ban everything tasty and pleasant, but it can be done, if you’re willing to make the effort and go to the trouble (you’ll have to cook a lot of food and forgo a lot of popular dishes at restaurants); and it can be survived, if you like your vegan partner enough.
Like everything else you get a return proportionate to the effort you make: my girlfriend made the effort to adopt a vegan lifestyle and as a result she can rest with a clean conscience at night content in the knowledge she hasn’t caused any unnecessary suffering, she has the healthiest diet I’ve ever encountered and she has cultivated a new measure of discipline and which will stand her in good stead for everything else she undertakes. And I made the effort to accommodate her phase and so I still have a girlfriend.
Interesting insight. I’m so happy to know that it’s not all bad and frustrating for him. What about you? Have you experienced something similar?