Tuesday, April 26, 2016
By Margo Page
Being a sorta vegan is no way to make friends. You’re too vegan-y for the carnivores and too carnivore-y for the vegetarians. They might not kick you out on the curb but you’re definitely going to miss out on the vegan bonding time. But I’ve always enjoyed fence sitting… chain link might hurt your butt but it always gives you the best view. I’m pretty sure that’s a worthless metaphor, but balancing yourself on a high fence is usually hilarious. Ok well now that I’ve sold you on my wonderful judgment I’ll get to the point…
Some negative spins on the concept include being a half-assed vegan, a wannabe vegan, and a cheating vegan. But being a sorta vegan is different. You’re not half-assing something if full-assing was never your intent in the first place, you’re not a wannabe if you don’t really wanna be, and you’re not cheating if you never took the vegan oath. Being up front with your sorta vegan status is much better than claiming veganhood and then having your vegan friend spy you sneaking a milk-based cookie up your sleeve, taking a bite in the bathroom and then solemnly burying the rest in the flower bed outside of the OK Natural Food Store on Preston Street while saying five Hail-Donald Watsons. Vegans are a little more elevated than me morally, and I’m ok with that. Being a total vegan is the ideal. But I’m not and I don’t feel like beating myself up over it now. Maybe in the future I will be, but I doubt it. I highly doubt I will ever decide to pass on all dairy desserts for the rest of my life. If I’ve had a few and someone puts a cheese pizza in front of me, more likely than not, I’m going to eat a piece (about a 90:10 chance, to be clear). And this is hard to say, but, I also eat meat sometimes. This sounds perplexing, I know. Usually veganism is considered so advanced, you’re only even allowed to think about it after you have successfully mastered the entire vegetarianism level. But I probably eat 98% less meat and dairy than before becoming a sorta vegan, so that’s a vastly positive move in my opinion.
Why not vegan
Everyone knows the benefits of veganism. There are the environmental benefits of eating vegan (reduced water usage and greenhouse gas emissions), the humane aspect of not using animals as slaves, not using selective breeding (warning: sad but not graphic) like breeding chickens so they lay an unnatural amount of eggs, the emotional benefits of knowing that you’re not ingesting another animal or drinking it’s lactation, and the health benefits of paying more attention to what you’re eating and eating food that’s healthier than meat. There’s quite a few invalid arguments against veganism still floating around, like getting enough protein and nutrients (have you ever seen a gorilla), and putting dairy farmers out of business (sorry for your loss, but maybe you can trade in your cow stalls for soybean stalks). Craving meat is often mentioned as a “need”, but as for the psychological aspect of it, slowly weaning yourself off of it does the trick. I’m an advocate for less and less often instead of cold turkey for quitting most things, especially at first. If you have a physical craving for meat, you’re probably low in zinc, iron or both and could use a supplement or alternative food sources. Some people go pale at the mention of not eating meat every day, but gradually cutting back to every other day, and then maybe twice a week is really not that difficult for anyone. Twice a week, that’s every three days… that means you only go two days at a stretch without eating meat. Before I ever ate tofu, I would want meat when I was really hungry. But now I’ve eaten tofu enough that I automatically associate tofu with satisfaction and want it when I’m hungry. Our brains are so amazing to adjust our tastes and preferences based on what we eat.
There are only two arguments against eating vegan that have any merit whatsoever, which are that vegan food products are not as good, and it can be more expensive. However, these are both becoming less and less true as the market demand continues to increase for vegan products, driving innovation for vegan food products, and eventually lowering the cost for them. Plus the majority of a vegan diet is fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains and legumes. So if you spend a dollar more on a vegan food product here and there the difference is pretty negligible. The couple of ways we can continue to influence our society into becoming more vegan is by word of mouth, and the capitalism method of voting with your dollars. Few people listen to me all that much, and I’m not buying truck loads of vegan food items, so like most of us, I’m not having much of an influence any way you spin it. But that’s really not important, because our roles in making this huge world a better place are all about the collective of our itty-bitty influences.
Preferring vegan products
A simple preference for vegan products goes a long way. Even when there isn’t a viable vegan option to buy, asking the servers what the vegan options are because you prefer to eat vegan can encourage store, cafe, bar, and restaurant owners to look into more vegan options. Sometimes the vegan options are kind of irritating and make me a little normous. Like when The Charmery in Hampden offers one random vegan flavor. They’re like “Oh we see you vegans, and we would like to offer you this… strawberry ice cream [smiling sarcastically].” That’s like a schoolyard bully asking if you want a cupcake, and while you are saying yes with eyes gleaming like the light of a thousand suns, dropping that cupcake of delight on the ground and stepping on it with their Sketchers boot while maintaining emotionless, fixed eye contact, and asking you “how ’bout …now?” Strawberry ice cream sounds appealing to me about once every 10 years. And substituting sorbet for ice cream is like eating pasta when you were in the mood for pizza, just no.
Say with your pay – Andy Abellow
There are so many amazing recipes and recommendations online on cooking and eating vegan. Vegans are usually great cooks because they know such a variety of food and realize that how the main ingredient is prepared is so much more important than what the main ingredient is. Aside from the endless foods that are naturally vegan (the vegetables, fruits, grains, rice, legumes, beans, and nuts which are majority of a vegan diet. Oh, and coffee, alcohol, and chocolate which are food groups too, right?) the market for vegan versions of traditionally non-vegan foods is booming — all due to so many people buying vegan products. And you don’t have to be vegan 24/7 365 to contribute to the movement. Just choosing vegan products sometimes helps a lot. Now we have whole vegan sections in stores with pre-packaged vegan meals. The day of the fat lazy vegans is dawning! I went to MOM’s grocery store for the first time recently, which has so many vegan items, it’s like shopping in a future paradise. Although, I have to say it… the name “MOM’s” isn’t very progressive… I mean let’s not leave out the awesome Guardians and amazing Dads. Wouldn’t “NOMs” be better? Maybe it could stand for Nascent Organic Markets?
Like all food products, some vegan food products aren’t very good, so sometimes people might try one and think all vegan ice cream isn’t that choice. So here are my favorite vegan items so far, I’m sure there are other great ones out there but these definitely don’t disappoint.
Yogurt – Daiya.
I’ve only seen this at MOM’s so far.
Pizza – Amy’s Organic Roasted Vegetable
I bought this to make lunch for a few people excited to introduce them to it, but it turned out that two of them actually had it in their freezer at home. So it’s definitely not just me, and once you try it I’m sure you’ll want to get it again.
Cheese – Go Veggie’s shredded mozzarella
I haven’t had a vegan cheese yet that I want to eat alone, like on a cheese board, but it could be because I haven’t tried them all yet. Some of the ones with the best reviews aren’t even sold in the US, so recommending them to a grocery store could be helpful. And as long as we’re keeping up the demand, in the near future there will definitely be more improved vegan cheese options readily available. Even though some of them aren’t in local stores they do exist and some you can order online. For just adding onto pizza and other things though, Go Veggie’s shredded mozzarella is pretty good and available in most stores.
Cream Cheese – Daiya, plain cream cheese
Soup – Amy’s No Chicken Noodle, Amy’s Southwest Veggie
In theory, it’s easy for soups to be made naturally vegan. But for some reason, vegan canned soups are scarce. I guess they think, oh let’s throw some chicken in the butternut squash because what the heck…? But Amy’s has a lot of great vegan soups.
Eggs – Follow Your Heart
This is the only thing on this list I haven’t tried yet. I just ordered it online from ThriveMarket.com just to try it. It was only $6 including shipping because it was my first order. If I like it enough to buy it again I’m going to recommend it to local grocery stores and see if any of them will consider carrying it.
Butter – Earth Balance buttery spread
Seitan – Upton’s Seitan, Chorizo flavored
If you’re gluten-intolerant this obviously is not an option for you since seitan is gluten (the main protein in wheat). But if you’re okay with gluten it’s a nice option on occasion.
Tofu – Nasoya and Organics’s firm tofu
If you’re an OK cook, firm tofu is great.
If you’re a less than OK cook like me ; ) these pre-baked, seasoned and marinated tofu are excellent.
Jack fruit – The Jackfruit Company
This is a miracle fruit. Now it’s sold pre-packaged with various marinations (definitely at Wegman’s, I’m not sure where else). Teriyaki is my favorite so far. When I made dinner for my parents last month, I put this over rice as the main dish and told them it was pulled pork. After dinner I told them everything they’d eaten was vegan and they were super surprised! You couldn’t fool everyone with this prank, but it’s legitimately good and filling.
Cheesecake – Daiya’s keylime cheesecake
The blueberries were key, and adding raspberry sauce and some other fruit would make it even better. It’s not the best cheesecake you’ve ever have (at least I hope not, for your sake), but how often do you eat your favorite cheesecake anyways? There’s lots of vegan keylime recipes online if you’re so inclined.
Ice cream – SO’s Chocolate Truffle
Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter and Cookies. Fingers crossed that B&J comes out with some more vegan ice cream flavors!
Chocolate sauce (make sure to keep it in the pouch when you warm it up), and Marshmallow fluff.
And the number one food group… Marshmallows.
Most of these are sold at Wegman’s, Safeway, Giant, Whole Foods, and MOM’s with some exceptions. If you can’t find it, and have time to suggest it to a manager, maybe they’ll start to carry it. The marshmallow fluff is sold online along with a bunch of other vegan products like rice nectar (the vegan version of honey), at Suzanne’s Specialties. There are also a lot of vegan products online at The Vegan Store. More vegan products like vegan mayo, at Follow Your Heart. There’s a ton more great vegan food items out there but if you’re wondering where to start or want to try a few out maybe this could help. Ok well I better go, before this turns into a food blog.