Let’s start from the very beginning. What? Why? When? and How?
Allow me to preface by saying that no, I am not 100% vegan 100% of the time. And I’m okay with that. I’m a firm believer in the vegan lifestyle but I personally follow a vegan diet at least 98% of the time. I’m not professing to be a perfect vegan and I don’t think I ever will be. That being said, my intentions are never to force being vegan on anyone, I don’t believe in all these labels that are purely man made concepts, instead I encourage and promote trying new and healthy things and learning something about a lifestyle that may be different from your own, that serves a good cause. I don’t miss meat at all, but I do miss seafood and cheesecake. I won’t ever call you a murderer for eating meat and although I’m all for promoting animal rights, I fully believe scientists if they say that the cavemen ate meat and so maybe humans are meant to eat meat after all. I come from a tiny group of islands, and eating meat and seafood is engrained in our culture, so nothing can change the love and respect that I have for my roots. With that, 6 months into my vegan adventure; here is my honest truth.
I first developed an interest in veganism when I got to London at the end of last year. Out of pure curiosity I found myself reading up about the movement that was growing in popularity all over the world and the community that seemed to be so energetic and passionate. My starting point was the tons of articles on www.thevegansociety.com which I would recommend to anyone interested in learning anything at all about veganism. I learnt so much about nutrition and meat substitutes, where vegans get their protein from, what exactly vegans eat and where I was going to get all the ingredients for me to make these recipes that looked so good. They had an ad in big bold letters inviting me to plunge myself into the deep end and try their 30-day vegan challenge and I thought why not! Some people ask me how I had the willpower to do it, and the truth is, I just did it. If you tell yourself you’re going to do something, it’s all in your mind and there’s nothing anyone can tell you to prompt you or ease you into doing it. So there I was, from one day to the next I had stopped eating meat, eggs and dairy. But in my mind it was definitely short term, an experiment that would end when December came along. But then the most magical thing happened… I frikking loved it! When December rolled around and I had accomplished the 30day challenge, I came home for the holidays and I knew that in January I was going to set myself to do ‘this vegan thing’ for the whole year. So I ate EVERYTHING during Christmas. I indulged in all the things I was going to be cutting out and come January I was ready for the New Year and the new challenge. I have to say that at this point, I could not be more happy with my choices.
The primary reason that I enjoyed doing the 30 day challenge was because at the time, it gave me something to take my mind off the fact that I was homesick and new to the whole university experience. It gave me a hobby, something to do to pass the time while I figured my way around new friends and new interests and the university life I was building for myself. It also ignited a passion for cooking and baking that I had lost for a couple of years but now that I was living on my own, had no choice but to dig up (I refuse to survive on ready meals and deliveries.) The reason I continue to do it is because I fell in love with the way it makes me feel and the taste of the food. First, there are the changes that I saw in my body when I started. Going from eating meat or eggs or dairy nearly every single day, to not eating it at all, made me feel a) less bloated b) more energetic and c) more confident because I knew that what was going into my body was nothing but good for me. I felt so alive! Additionally, I was so proud that in my own little way, I was and am doing something to help this planet that we live on. When you do some research you’ll see the horrific effects that the meat market has on the environment, the wildlife and the people of the world. It feels so good to know that what I am eating is something that didn’t involve killing an animal, hadn’t led to families being driven from their homes and isn’t causing the global warming that is melting the ice caps. I mean, I know I’m only one person but the butterfly effect is a small but powerful thing. I respect anyone’s decision to eat whatever it is they want to eat, but I think that it is our obligation as citizens of the world to know where our food is coming from, what processes it’s gone through and what good it’ll do us when it enters our bodies. If with this knowledge you are happy with your choices, then no-one can judge you for that, but I think that with the way the world is going, if you chose to live in ignorance, then you can’t really complain when things aren’t going the way they should. Also, until you try one of my vegan recipes, I can’t even make you begin to understand how vegan food tastes just as good or, dare I say it, EVEN BETTER than ‘non-vegan food’.
How did I prep myself for this change and actually stick to it. To start off I make sure that my pantry is fully stocked at all times. Having read up about must haves in a vegan pantry (from the amazing Tess Begg), I stock myself up at the beginning of the month with supplies that’ll last me the whole month, except for fruits and veg which I buy weekly. There are so many options available everywhere (in London at least, you have to find out about where you live) and it’s so easy finding the ingredients you need (except maybe back home in the Seychelles but I’ll come to that). But now what to actually do with all this food? I plan my recipes way beforehand. I had stockpiled a ton of things I wanted to try and vegan alternatives for things that I enjoyed, that I knew I wanted to master, like carbonara a la vegan. I continue to add to the things I want to do and the internet and tons of books helped me piece together different techniques and different recipes that I have tried. I keep a little recipe book where I write down the things that I try, the mistakes I make and how I fix them so that I can track my progress. I’m not a master chef but I learn very quickly and it hasn’t been that long so I’m still learning so much every time I try a new recipe.
Another thing I do is meal prep. If you know that you’re going to be busy during the week, as we all are at uni and in life, then I take some time on the weekend, if I’m not out of the house, to prep for the week. My two best investments at university by far would have to be my blender (for my smoothies, soups and sauces) and my storage boxes which have been life savers. I cook in big batches, and then I freeze them, making little meals that I can heat up as and when I need during the week. Sometimes I’ll cook something fresh during the week but only if I have time or if I know my friends are coming over. What about eating at restaurants? How do I do that? In London at least, so far, I haven’t been to any restaurant that doesn’t have at least one vegan option. Even if it doesn’t specifically say that its catering for vegans, all it needs to do is not have meat, eggs or dairy foods in them. Otherwise if I get to choose where I eat, then you can bet it’s a vegan restaurant. I’ve discovered a love for the vibes in vegan places and I love trying their versions of the foods that im discovering. Oh and I have drunk at least a dozen different turmeric lattes at this point. I don’t blame you if the first thing that comes to mind when you think of vegan restaurants is bohemian, yoga loving hippies, because I totally had that misconception too. Actually, to be fair, you wouldn’t be that far off. At the first vegan restaurant I went to, I kid you not, a woman on the table next to me was telling her friend (that she evidently hadn’t seen in a while) that since she had broken up with her boyfriend she felt so free that she had quit her job and decided to go on a 6 month meditative retreat in Bali . Safe to say I was hooked right away! And if that also makes me a bohemian tree hugger then that’s what it is!
How do I eat when I go to see friends or family? I would never want to be rude or cause anyone trouble in their own homes, so if the question were to come up, especially if I know I don’t want anyone to go out of their way, I simply say that I’m vegan but not to worry because I’d be very happy eating something simply vegetarian. I completely understand that veganism is not a known concept and if you don’t know it, it can be hard to understand and cater for right away so I’m happy to just go for the next best thing.
FAQs: I think it’s so cool that I’m somehow making you guys interested in asking questions and finding out more about this lifestyle. So I’ve compiled all the questions that you all have asked me about my adventure.
Is it expensive?
The biggest misconception is that to be vegan you need all of these super fancy ingredients. Just because quinoa and kale are words that aren’t in a lot of people’s daily vocabulary, doesn’t mean they aren’t as normal to many as lettuce or rice. And it doesn’t mean that they’re any more expensive. Most of the things you buy in the shop anyway are considered ‘vegan’ like most baked beans, flour, pasta, lentils and nuts. If you’re trying out some vegan recipes lets say 5 days a week and eating normally for the other days then you don’t have to worry about being deficient or missing out on anything. It’s only if you’re planning on going 100% vegan for the rest of your life that you’ll need to start looking into what to supplement for deficiencies and you’ll want to keep it interesting by learning about things like spirulina, morringa, carob powder and basic things that just have fancy names like buckwheat flour and flax seeds. I still find all of these super interesting to cook with and read up about. Also, I should point out that you’re normally buying, (or should be buying!!) lots of fruits and vegetables anyway as part of a regular diet to keep you in good health and so in fact, if all you’re doing is cutting out meat products and by products then you’re actually going to be spending less which you could then use to buy specific vegan products if you’re interested. Case in point!
But Vadz, if you’re ok with eating vegetarian then why do you call yourself vegan? What’s the point?
There have been times when a friend would offer me something, let’s say a sweet or a cake that they made from home and they’ll go ‘oh but this is not vegan’. There have been times when I’ve tried to explain that I’d be ok with eating something vegetarian but then been told what’s the point of even going on with the vegan stuff if it’s, as some people think, ‘too extreme.’ For me personally, when I say that I’m vegan, it means so much more than just ‘I eat a certain type of food all the time and hate on you animal eaters’. That’s the terrible misconception that the ‘extremists’ have placed on the vegan community. That they’re a bunch of radicals who stand outside protesting with pitchforks and posters with dead baby cows. The movement is about so much more than that. When I say I eat vegan, or that I follow a vegan lifestyle, it’s because I genuinely love the food, I love the message it sends, I love the ingredients, I love the cooking techniques, I love the impact it has on my body, I love the impact it has on the environment. Nothing in life is ever black and white, everything is often more complicated than it seems but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to deprive myself from one sweet at one birthday party once a month just because it’s got 0.25 grams of dairy milk in it. It’s somewhat hypocritical but like I mentioned above, labels are too simplistic. The truth about how a person chooses to follow their lifestyle is often a lot more complicated. But I choose to try and share that complication as well as all the benefits with you all, not because I think I’m doing anything better than you, or because I’m doing it perfectly, but because maybe, just maybe, I could inspire you to learn something new.
Why don’t vegans eat eggs and milk?
The argument is that technically, milk production doesn’t involve harming the animal and eggs aren’t yet animals themselves, so why are vegans against them?
As well as the idea of where it comes from; because some vegans think it is very wrong for humans to be drinking milk from another animal but I don’t dare get into that argument, it’s also about the things it goes through before it gets on the shelf. Like I’ve said before, veganism is about so much more than the actual food. It’s about the planet and about the consequences of the industries. In order to mass produce dairy products, (with the exception of small scale farmers who practice sustainable farming), the animals are kept in horrible conditions, are fed with hormones and are bred through artificial insemination, the land on which they graze, in many places in South America for example, was once lush rainforest which has been destroyed, relocating the fauna and any indigenous peoples in order to feed an increasingly greedy world. Although it’s a crude image, female cows have to be pregnant in order to produce milk, which leads to the birth of many calves; many of the males end up slaughtered for veal and the fate of the females are varied but they’re taken away from their mothers after only a few days, leading to the mothers being depressed which can affect their hormones.
With eggs and chickens, it appears that they get the worst treatment out of all the farm animals. Females chickens in modern farms are bred to lay eggs far more than any bird naturally would in the wild, which has scientifically been shown to leach calcium from their bones, so very often, the chickens are fed their own eggs in order to get that calcium back into their systems. Farmers also don’t want male chicks because obviously it’s the female chicks who lay the eggs and more often than not they’re the wrong breed for meat. So the male chicks (and again I’m sorry the image is very raw) are killed right after birth by being piled onto a conveyer belt and then “macerated” (ground up alive)
There’s so much more to where our food comes from than we could even begin to imagine.
How easy is it being vegan at uni?
There’s never a ‘perfect’ time to start doing anything, but the present is never a bad place to bet on. And I think if you’re going to start anything at any point in your life, it should be at uni! You’re out on your own, you don’t have a family to support and you’re only feeding yourself, so why not experiment with something that’s not drugs or unhealthy amounts of alcohol on the daily. If you know where to look, everything is available where you’d least expect it and if any time is the right time, it’s the present. I don’t see why being vegan is any more of a commitment than the decision to go to the gym every day while you’re at uni for example.
Do you think being vegan affects my cultural identity? Have you become too westernised? Veganism in the Seychelles?
Coming from an island with a population of 98,000, rich in culture and diversity and history, does living in Europe now mean that I’m allowing a European concept like veganism to affect who I am in my roots? If I were to try and introduce veganism in Seychelles on a bigger scale, would I be at risk of westernising it too much?
This was super interesting to think about. And here is my answer. From an analysis of our tradition, eating meat on the daily, is not part of the Seychelles culture. On the contrary, eating meat was a rarity in the old days, only being eaten on Sundays, with fish being eaten primarily every other day of the week. We used to live on coconut milk (definitely vegan) in all our meals, and ate tons of local fruits and vegetables that people used to grow in their gardens. People had their own animals which they would then kill for meat and we would fish on the daily for what would be on the dinner table that night, but that was part of the island life which is part of the identity of the people, which nothing and no-one can take away from us.
There was none of the commercialisation that there is today, and that, if anything, is what has westernised the islands. I don’t think that it would be feasible to attempt to introduce the concept of a 100% vegan diet in the Seychelles, because the islands would refuse it outright. And at the current time, the availability of products that make veganism in Europe so much fun and much easier, doesn’t exist in Seychelles. Some places do stock soy milk for example, but that has to be imported and chances are it’s there for one week of the month and then gone for the other three. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but even I personally don’t think I would be able to live on the islands, surrounded by the ocean and be able to resist the temptations of what Mother Nature has given the islanders to sustain themselves with. That being said, if we as islanders were to understand that all we need is the food that we can produce ourselves, and what lies around us, then we don’t need any fancy ingredients from the west to live a more plant based lifestyle.
We shouldn’t dismiss the idea entirely. Introducing the concept of veganism and the idea of going back to healthy eating habits and sustainable ways of life could solve many of the problems facing the islands, including obesity, illnesses related to unhealthy lifestyles, costs of living and could potentially take us back to the days when life was simpler, the island was greener, and people lived for much, much longer.
It’s an odd place to be in to be honest, on the one hand, eating meat and dairy and eggs is not something odd to me, since it’s something I grew up with. But when I sit down and think about it, knowing what I do now about food and its impact on the world, the fact that I have a choice between eating a dead animal (sorry) or something that comes from an animal, or eating something from the earth, that nothing had to die for, that’s healthy and good for the planet, I’d feel horrible about choosing the former. Once I’d eaten the meal, no matter how good it tastes, I’d feel guilty, because I know that the choice of the later exists. Why would you choose to eat a dead animal just because it tastes good, when you can live an equally amazing life not eating it. Food for thought.
If you’ve ever asked me a question about veganism either in person or on instagram, I tried my best to answer them all in this post. Here’s the link for another great vegan blog that I stay up to date that you should definitely check out if you want to know even more about this amazing movement.
Do leave a comment below or over on my instagram, and let’s get the discussion going, because this is about so much more than food, it’s about the future of the planet and of future generations.
Sit back, grab some Oreos, and let’s see what life has to offer us next!