Food Fight: Vegan Week Reflections
Despite my dramatic predictions, I didn’t end my vegan week in a catatonic state. Instead, felt like I was hitting my stride. Here’s why.
Vegetables truly are beautiful. Little and large wonders of nature, blooming into appealing, photograph-ready shapes and colours, like romanesco, pomegranate, avocado. You can see the appeal for me. Now I see that meat isn’t as aesthetically appealing as vegetables. The appeal of meat is more primal than visual.
My desire to experiment and room for mistakes was generous. Having this latitude without relying on the predictable, grounding flavour of meat was oddly liberating. Extracting maximum flavour from vegetables felt adventurous and challenging, and showed me how complete a vegan lifestyle could be.
“Forgetting” about the existence of meat for a week. I decided to take on the challenge of making meals that didn’t seek out a meat replacement. Not trying to extract or infuse flavour into things like tofu made the challenge more fun, and opened up a world of creativity. I probably could have kept on going for the whole month.
But within these pros, also lie the difficulties in maintaining a vegan diet.
Although beautiful, I found it harder to really extrapolate the flavour out of every vegetable on the plate. Creating the dishes required a certain understanding of how a dish would be consumed, what combinations of flavour would create a full mouth experience. On top of this, we do eat with our eyes, but a comprehensive, thoughtful flavour balance was needed to make sure there was a balance of fatty, sweet, acid, umami, salt. Meat on its own covers three of these in one hit.
The experimentation was fine for me - it’s what I do. But for someone who is relying on veganism for actual existence- this doesn’t cut the mustard. You can’t afford to have a culinary screw up when it’s the only dinner you’ve got. Because of this, perhaps people become risk averse. That’s a fast track to boring dinner, and even a lapsing in veganism.
Forgetting about meat for a week meant I had to look to cover all my nutritional needs. Not hunting for a meat replacement makes the creation slightly more complicated. Again, this could cause movement towards meat replacements like tofu to cover nutrition adequately.
Also as another side note, its very easy to slip into unhealthy cooking habits, like deep frying. I’m not sure where I stand on this.
So my advice to food-loving vegans?
It’s the same for any aspiring cook, really. Understand, and connect with your ingredients. Herbs and spices, carbs, proteins, fibers, irons and green. Understand your arsenal. Then you can create wonders.
There is no need to try and “replace animal products” - vegan ingredients already have everything you need. If you start with a blank slate, you can create anything! Then, veganism isn’t a limitation or a complication, and is perfectly doable and can be exceptionally cheap.
The world of vegetables is so much larger than the world of meat. The combinations are practically endless. You are the explorers - venture out and discover, invent, fabricate and masticate.
So where do I stand?
I’m not going to stop eating meat. It’s not a lifestyle choice I wish to pursue at this point in time. While the moral views of veganism are of concern to me, especially in situations where animals are mistreated, I’ll be doing more to make sure animal products I do source are reliably humane (although I know vegans find “humane” to be entirely subjective).
However, just one week of veganism was enough to make me lower my meat intake, and make me reconsider dishes where I think meat might be needed, when it’s often not. It’s also enough to make me recommend the inclusion of vegan meals into typical diets, in an effort to make it mainstream.
As a result, I’m starting “Vegan Viernes”. An regimented effort to cut down on my own animal product intake, and recommend it as a worthy, healthy “don’t even think about it” inclusion into people’s diets.
The Militant Vegan Approach
With the wonderful abundance of vegan creators out there, I see little need for the shock approach. I understand the passion behind it, but we are cooks, chefs and creators. We do not disgust people into eating differently. We entice them. We make them post emojis of drool faces and in best case scenario, get into the kitchen and try it. So to the creators out there: persist.
The Future of Animal Products/Veganism
I’m wading into open waters here and am going to ask a few questions.
Lab Meat: Is it Vegan, and would vegans eat it if so?
Could Veganism become the most common diet?
What do vegans find is the most common means of conversion?
Slow progress: is one conversion at a time fast enough?
Green Vegans: is the environment a bigger, more critical cause to not eat meat?
Comment below, or hit me up on instagram. Let’s argue!