I thought I’d take a short break from cooking blogs to write about why I dabble in vegan recipes from time to time. I’m sure I’ve confused a number of vegan tweeters over the last year by posting various vegan recipes, only to follow them up with recipes that are decidedly not vegan (slow-cooked beef cheeks, anyone?).
I enjoy vegan cooking for a number of reasons but I am far from actually being a vegan. I thought I’d call myself a non-practising vegan (love this term but sadly it was coined by someone else!) but in truth, I am not even that. I wasn’t raised a vegan, nor am I a vegan who strayed from the flock. I’m just an omnivore who gets the vegan message and enjoys the satisfying challenge of making food that tastes good to both vegans and non-vegans. I’d certainly like to see Masterchef include a vegan pressure test next series!
Naturally one needs a muse (and guinea pig) to be inspired to cook vegan food. My work colleague converted to Veganism a few years ago because he met a girl who hailed from Planet Vegan. Prior to that he was guaranteed the first person to rummage through my shopping bags in search of things to eat. Since the conversion, I’ve been able to keep most food lying around the office without fear of it being devoured by him during my absence. For a while it was nice, but soon enough it became a bit boring to not have a co-arbiter of good food. I realised then that I needed to channel my inner vegan.
This actually wasn’t too hard as I had spent a good number of my undergraduate years eschewing dairy products, caffeine and red meat on advice of a naturopath, with unquestioning obedience (as you do when you’re only nineteen). For a long time soy yoghurt was my friend and I recall smugly relishing the occasions when I could put up my hand and say no to cheese platters (“Oh no. I don’t eat dairy. Thanks though.” *smirks secretly*). This lifestyle ended when I moved to Japan. After all, who can say no to Wagyu beef, green tea ice cream and Mister Donut coffee?
If you ask me if I felt significantly healthier eating dairy-free and meat-free, I couldn’t really tell you. What person in their early 20s shouldn’t ideally feel healthy at that point in their lives? I can only tell you that I didn’t feel significantly less healthy for stopping that diet and eating meat and dairy again. But as most vegans would tell you, improvement in health is probably the last point of consideration in choosing Veganism. Veganism is more or less a moral/ethical choice to exclude the use of animals in any way. In short, if an animal has been bred or kept solely for the benefit of humans, it’s not on.
Now I am all for animal welfare which is probably another reason why I am a vegan sympathiser. I’m very much against the use of animal fur in the developed world (ie – Inuit, Yes. Paris Hilton, No) and I welcome any step that ensures that the animal products we do eat are processed with due respect and care for the animals that provide it. Happily, things are looking on the up in this respect in Australia. You just have to visit the egg section of Coles to see that the Free Range message is making an impact on consumers. This is crossing over to meat and poultry which is great.
In terms of health, it’s not a bad thing to incorporate a little Veganism into the average diet. My hubby has had to abandon cheese due to a slightly elevated cholesterol level, and I’ve dutifully found a lot of great vegan cookie and cake recipes to meet hubby’s morning tea requirements. I do think red meat is beneficial for physiological development and don’t doubt that human evolution was propelled by the introduction of meat (but did we really need to have Sam Neill dance around with a monkey to highlight this point?). At the same time I agree that the modern man doesn’t have the same dietary requirements as his hunter-gatherer forefathers so easing up on meat makes sense to me.
I definitely won’t go into any of the full-blown arguments for veganism and other bioethical debates here. It’s well beyond my scope of knowledge. I’m also mindful that I may actually come across more as a fence-sitter than a sympathiser but if anything I’m just trying to suggest that it wouldn’t hurt if some vegan ideas rubbed off on the average person. If you respect your body then it makes perfect sense to respect the food that you take into it. There’s no need to shun animal products but some awareness of how some of the things we consume come to be wouldn’t be so bad either.
I’m looking at having a vegan/vegetarian day per week next year. Anyone else up for the challenge? :D
Interesting things about Veganism
* I’m sure it’s no surprise to most people but honey is off-limits. Respect to all creatures great and small!
* I only recently found out through the awesome book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar that vegans need to be mindful of some sugars not being vegan. Some refined white sugars are processed with bone char to remove colour. Thankfully we don’t have to worry about it in Australia as Sugar Australia does not process this way.
* A fun debate to get into with vegans: Is roadkill OK for vegans to eat? :) If the idea that roadkill perished at the hand of humankind (ie – cars) puts this one out, I thought about the improbable (but quite possible) scenario of a bird of prey dropping a fresh kill while in flight. Can/would a vegan eat this? Discuss.