In November 2017 I went to stay with some friends of friends for a long weekend.
They were vegans. I was dreading this. I told everybody ‘oh my god we’re going to stay with vegans for a long weekend’ and they commiserated.
It turned out to be not much of a big deal at all.
The whole weekend I was waiting for it to get weird and it never did. I thought this ‘vegan’ thing would be their whole lives, that everything about them would be different from me in some way because ‘They’re Vegan(!)’.
But they were relentlessly normal in every other way. Their house was a normal terraced house, beautifully decorated, straight from Pinterest. Their kitchen was a normal kitchen – hob, oven, fridge, freezer, sink, pots, pans… I have those things, hmm. Cupboards just the same as any cupboards, full of ingredients I knew – pasta, rice, beans, spices, nuts, cereal, jam, marmite, hmm.
They made dinner and ate it the same way you and I make dinner and eat it, no major drama.
Pottering about the kitchen, sipping wine, stirring things, listening to music. They didn’t wear a hazmat suit or weigh and measure ingredients with tweezers or say a special prayer to the vegetable gods.
We ate curries, soup, burritos, bread – all home cooked normal food. We sat at a normal table, on normal chairs. Conversations while eating were about boring bosses and co workers, new movies and good books. It didn’t require special instructions for eating and I didn’t embarrass myself by eating it wrong.
In the afternoon when these vegan lifeforms were hungry they had a cup of tea and a snack.
They did’t hang upside down from a roof beam or go for a six mile swim in a frozen lake – they had a little sit down and a snack…. I do that, hmm. The snack was a muffin, or some crackers, or an apple – not dehydrated space food from a sachet specially formulated to keep them alive for an exact number of hours.
All weekend nothing felt missing and I didn’t feel hungry.
I said on the way home I could probably be vegan if somebody else cooked all the food for me – it’s easy when the plate is just put in front of you. Or maybe even if my house was stocked with only vegan ingredients and I did’t have to do the shopping, but I couldn’t go grocery shopping and pass all the aisles of cheese and butter.
As soon as we got home I forgot all about it. The weekend didn’t make one bit of difference to what I cooked or ate.
Then in March 2018 I had to feed a vegan for a week.
I go every year in March to this place in France where I used to live as a student. They host a 10 day seminar every year where about 20 people stay on the property to take part. I cook lunch and dinner every day for all the participants. It’s tradition by now. I’ve been going for more than 10 years.
So they had a vegan on the course and I was responsible for keeping her alive for over a week. This place is in the middle of nowhere. There is no cheating possible. 5km from the nearest shop and this vegan didn’t have a car.
I did a LOT of research.
I turned the internet upside down looking for vegan everything. Pasta sauces, bean burgers, nut roasts, chillis, curries, snacks, desserts. I had a stack of printed recipes with hand written notes and a timetable. I thought I had to stick rigidly to these recipes or she might die.
After a few days I started to relax. She wasn’t fainting after breakfast or convulsing at the dinner table.
She was just eating her vegetables, her nuts and her lentils, saying thank you and generally being very agreeable. Turns out, it wasn’t that hard. I remembered I knew how to cook pulses and season vegetables and combine a few bits of leftovers in the fridge to make something for dinner.
‘Vegan food’ it turned out, is just food. Yes there were a few new discoveries – One major triumph was a creamy cashew pasta sauce that really surprised me but apart from that, it was fine.
My pet vegan survived the week.
Then I went home and forgot all about it. I left her recipes in my France folder.
In October 2018 curiosity finally got the better of me.
There was much more chatter in the media about eating less meat. I had been primed by my two exposures to real life, friendly, reasonable vegans to pay a bit more attention than I had done before.
As a cook and food person I wanted to know if I could do it.
A lot of the internet recipes were still lacking. I had sifted through dozens of them just to come up with a menu for my French vegan for 10 days. Our vegan friend’s food was ok but it wasn’t my food.
Could I cook and eat all vegan for myself without feeling like I was compromising anything?
I did a 3 day experiment. Again I made a lot of lists and a military style plan.
It was interesting and similar to what happened when we visited the vegans. One day after another waiting for it to get weird and it didn’t. After the initial stress of everything being new and weird I calmed down again and noticed ‘Oh, it’s just food. I know food’.
Since then I have pretty much strung one experiment together after another until I’ve ended up eating vegan all the time. I’ve made so many delicious things I never would have made otherwise.
I feel like I would have missed out on a lot of good things if I hadn’t stayed at those vegan’s house for the weekend and had to challenge myself to learn new things.
I’ve never made a decision ‘Ok, now I am “A Vegan” and I’m never going back’. It’s just how I eat at the moment out of curiosity.
Nothing weird has happened to me. Body and soul remain together the same as they ever were.
I still don’t call myself ‘a vegan’ – that makes me wince – ‘Oh no I’m not one of them, they’re weird, aren’t they??’ And I still don’t think I eat ‘vegan food’ – ‘No, vegan food is awful isn’t it? I eat Ella food!’
So, there we are then. That is how it came about that I ‘am vegan’ now, even though I don’t think I am really. I don’t even have a certificate.
This is my first blog post and I don’t know how to end a blog post so, ok, bye.
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