Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d enjoy eating pizza without the obligatory slices of salami or ham. Now I can’t imagine pizza without banana or mushrooms.
This month marks three years since I decided to become a vegetarian.
Most of the time it was relatively easy making the switch as I’ve never been much of a red meat eater. Fish was (mostly) pretty easy to give up, but I struggled a bit with cutting out chicken, and tofu isn’t exactly cheap over here – or offers much of a variety, come to think of it. It hasn’t been a perfect transition, though: I’ve fallen off the bandwagon a handful of times – but only when we’ve been at a sushi buffet and literally everything was fish, (for those of you who don’t know, and I didn’t until a few years ago, you do get vegetarian sushi and it’s amazing), or when I ate half of G’s chicken curry by mistake thinking it was tofu, but otherwise, it’s been fairly easy.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a newfound love for chickpeas (you haven’t lived until you’ve tried roasted curry chickpeas!), I’ve learnt how to enjoy eating vegetables in so many different ways, and I’ve really understood what it means to keep my body healthy.
Working for a health eCommerce company and a vitamin manufacturing company over the last two years really opened my eyes to so many amazing probiotics, vitamins, and supplements. I didn’t even know that our bodies needed extra vitamin C when we’re sick or doing intensive exercising, like running races, etc. Or that if you don’t eat meat, you should consider taking a good quality iron supplement.
So many things have changed for me these past three years. Like my vegetarian “preachiness.” I remember the first few months, all I wanted to do was convince everyone else to do the same. And because of the reasons I do it, I used to get pretty emotional about the response I’d get back. But, I’ve calmed down quite a lot; I don’t judge family or friends who eat meat and likewise, I expect the same. Even though to this day, I still get asked what I’m going to eat at the braai (hello Quorn burgers; hello Fry’s sausage) or where I’m going to get my protein – note: chickpeas, beans, lentils, dark leafy green veggies, etc., etc., etc. And I still get bewildered looks from some of the Spur waitrons on Burger Monday when I order a soya patty.
But that’s all good because I’m happy with my choice.
I’ve always been a huge animal lover and like so many others, as much as I wish I could change the world and end animal suffering, there’s only so much any of us can do – we’re just not the Leonardo’s of the world. But, it really gets to me when I hear people say, “I hate that xyz is happening, but I can’t do anything about it.” Um, actually, yes, you can… we all can in our own small way. For instance, if you don’t want to give up meat, just cut it down. Or maybe just consider switching some of your household cleaning products or beauty products to cruelty-free brands. I only use Wet ‘n Wild or NYX Cosmetics as they’re not tested on animals. We use Good Stuff hand soap and body lotions, and LUSH shampoo bars (which by the way, last MONTHS). I just recently discovered that Oh So Heavenly has expanded their range to include deodorants and hair products. These little switches… anyone can do. It feels good to support companies who don’t support cruelty to animals.
So… what the vegan?
I’ve often thought about going vegan, for the same reasons I chose to go vegetarian. But I’ve never felt like I could do it and found a whole bunch of reasons not to: I’d miss cheese too much, it’s too expensive, I’m doing what I can, if finding vegetarian places to eat in the winelands is challenging, imagine trying to find vegan food. I kept putting it off. And then a few weeks ago, for reasons unknown to me, I started having sensitivities to eating yoghurt – something I ate every day without thinking twice about. That was weird and annoying. I’ve read about making your own yoghurt with crushed nuts or something like that, but have you seen the price of nuts these days?! I only buy seeds now, sorry, not paying R40 for a tiny packet of almonds!
And then I read a blog post today which literally shook my world.
It was so well written and so eye-opening. There was no preaching; it was raw and real and honest. And it made so much sense. It also had a five-minute video embedded in the post about the reality of the dairy world. Something, quite honestly, I refused to think about. Because ice cream, cheese, cream, etc. And I know so many friends and family who choose the bliss of ignorance, because thinking about factory farming is just too horrific. I get it, trust me. I have yet to meet anyone as sensitive as what I am. To give you an idea, yesterday I flicked an inquisitive ant off my arm and instead of sending him on his merry way, my nail chopped him in half. I instantly burst into tears, feeling like the biggest monster in the world. I can’t even kill mosquitoes. I also can’t watch certain cooking shows that insist on showing live lobsters chucked into boiling water or animal documentaries where there is almost always some hunt or kill (can’t we just see happy animals in their natural habitat without violence, for goodness sake?). I just can’t. But, one day I came across a documentary called Food Inc. I didn’t know what it was, I thought it was all about organic vegetables or healthy eating. It wasn’t. I made myself sit through that documentary – I had to fast forward through some pieces, but I stuck with it, because sometimes you just can’t put your head in the sand and pretend like things don’t exist. These documentaries aren’t made as scare tactics, they’re made to educate people.
Like this short five-minute video of the dairy industry. For the longest time, I’ve been consciously oblivious to it. You drive past lovely green pastures and see cows happily grazing and it never occurred to me what goes behind that creamy bottle of milk we get each week. Never. I chose not to think about it; pretend it was all good. So this post today really got me reading and thinking and then I watched the video. And that was it, really. My moment of enlightenment.
I’m going to give this vegan lifestyle a go. From today. It’s going to be hard; there are going to be days when I yearn for a bite of cheese – pizzas won’t be the same for a long time, or when I have to resist the temptation to eat an ice cream on a hot day… maybe I’ll check out some recipes and make my own ice cream with almond milk? I don’t expect anyone else to understand, this is my decision and it’s something I’m doing for me. I’m not trying to convert anyone or make people feel bad about what they eat, or insult anyone by this choice (because weirdly, some people tend to take this kind of thing really personally!) It’s been a long time coming and it’s something I’ve thought about for ages.
The truth is, I need this. I need to fall in love with food again – I found a whole bunch of cool vegan vloggers on YouTube this morning and I’m really excited to start experimenting in the kitchen again. I’ll share my vegan food journey with some recipes and tips I pick up along the way, what supplements I take, and any really good vegan restaurants or online stores I come across.
I’m excited. This is a whole new chapter – a scary one at that, but I’m willing to give it a go. It’s going to be interesting to see what the next month brings – maybe I’ll do a write up about different foods and the cost of eating vegan food for a week, or something like that. Feel free to follow along if you’d like. 🙂
P.S. If you’re curious as to the post I read this morning with that video, here it is: Dairy is f*cking scary.