Going-going-vegan!

So I went vegan on my 27th birthday. Rewind back to 2001 when I was diagnosed with IBD – Inflammatory Bowel Disease, aka Crohn’s Disease, not to be confused with IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Read more about the distinctions from the Mayo Clinic here–  and had to eat a low-residue or low-fibre diet for a long time, to allow my gut to heal. That was one of my big hesitations with going vegan, as I thought that veganism necessitated a high-fibre diet (not helped by the preachings of the clean-eating wing of the movement!). Happily I was wrong.
Over the following 9 years I met and married my now wife, and in actual fact we’ve had to adapt her diet as she needs to eat low-potassium – something else I didn’t know could be done on a vegan diet. She had gone vegan for ethical reasons a month before my 27th birthday, and while I recognised that veganism neatly solved several moral, environmental, and health issues, I didn’t know whether I could be vegan with my IBD, also I hesitated to feed my son a vegan diet.
So I decided to try me and Joshua on a vegan diet for the week leading up to my birthday. And that’s how I discovered that not only is dairy my main bowel irritant, but also that Joshua was lactose intolerant as well. And presto-change-o! On my birthday the whole family officially went vegan. I’m now managing my IBD completely without medication! Sometimes I get bloated which is annoying because I fart a lot, but once I’ve weaned my second son, I plan to try Beano tablets which apparently help with that. 
Joshua’s schools have always been brilliant about his diet. It wasn’t a big deal when we were packing his lunch but he now eats in the cafeteria and the dinner ladies all know him and have spoken with me about what’s vegan and what isn’t. I also bring in soya yoghurts for his puddings. With my second son Zac, we relied less on commercial baby food, a
as past stage 1 they add meat and milk to everything  So I made most of my own purees and blends. I also have breastfed a *lot* longer as we couldn’t easily wean him onto a formula – the soya one we tried made him constipated. He’s 17 months now and still breastfeeding at night, won’t take a bottle…it’s annoying… But! I have also have blossomed as a cook!  It’s so fun to veganise my mum’s Southern home cooking for my kids! I have lots of great Southern dishes in my repertoire now! I do an awesome macaroni bake, when I’m ill I make potato dumpling soup, and I’ve done biscuits and gravy too. (I’ve got loads of recipes on my blog too, justplainvegan.com .) I haven’t written down my gravy recipe yet because, to be honest, it’s so bloody simple I haven’t thought to. Basically for gravy all you need to do is slice up a couple onions, caramelise in a generous amount of margarine, then add flour to make a roux and stir in some vegetable broth and nutritional yeast. If you want it to be nice and creamy add some plant milk too, vegan worcester sauce is a good addition too, and you can add salt and pepper to taste. For a creamy bechamel-style gravy add plant milk and a little nutmeg. Et voila!
Going out to eat can be a different story, though. And surprisingly not because of cross-contamination. My problem is that some establishments just have *no* clue how to accommodate vegans – eg, their fries are cooked in duck fat (WHY), or their vegetarian burger patties are held together with egg or cheese (NO). Like, it’s relatively simple to put an easy vegan option on your menu, y u no do that??
I was fairly familiar with the vegan lifestyle back when I lived in DC as many of my friends were – the punk/hardcore/anarchist scene in DC is very vegan-friendly, and there are a few institutional establishments like Sticky Fingers Bakery. I happily ate vegan food, but was also happy to go back home and eat ‘real’ food…sigh. And while I was initially motivated by health reasons, I’ve come to have an animal-liberationist viewpoint. I wish more people considered the impact of what they eat. I try to mainly outreach through food but I want people to look at meat and see the thousands of gallons of water wasted to make it, the grains and soya fed to it instead of to starving humans, the ecological destruction of animal agriculture – and of course, the life of that animal, needlessly cut short.
The one way I’d tell people to look at food differently, would be to stop seeing meat as food that’s good and appetising to eat. That is a dismembered corpse on a plate. When you think about eating *actual corpses*, as opposed to looking at a raw hunk of chicken breast and thinking about how delicious it’s going to taste when you cook it, it suddenly all pops into place. A friend of mine recently went vegan, and he told me that the moment it really clicked for him was when he was at work in the break room, and a colleague was sat watching TV and eating a giant pile of chicken wings. My friend suddenly saw them as a charred pile of dismembered corpse arms, and the idea of eating meat ceased to have any appeal for him.
There’s a trope in veganism that there are two kinds of vegans. The first is the ‘clean-eating’ vegans, inclusive of raw vegans and plant-based dieters, who post pictures of their wanky Buddha bowls filled with quinoa and heaped high with shredded raw carrots and raw bell peppers and salad leaves and blah…I mean, you do you, but I feel like ‘normal’ people eating a standard Western diet get put off veganism because they think they’ll only be able to eat ‘healthy’ food (my mom tried veganism for a month but got put off because she felt like she was only cooking ‘mush’ – okay then Mom lol). Whereas the second type of vegan is one like me who loves veganising classic omni meals like macaroni, burgers, BBQ, etc, loves making fatty fried food, and loves finding vegan junk food in shops like Oreos and bacon-flavoured crisps (they just use liquid smoke!). I feel like clean eating does have a place in the movement, but I don’t want veganism associated exclusively with health-conscious vegans – I’d rather see environmental vegans take the helm, in tandem with the great work that ethical vegans are doing in the movement.

 

The money myth: One huge pro is it’s definitely cheaper to be vegan. Our main protein is legumes, which are so so so much cheaper than any kind of meat. Put it this way, I comfortably feed a family of four – plus guests, all the time – on a vegan diet. It’s not especially hard to get lacking vitamins in your diet as a vegan, particularly if using B12-fortified nutritional yeast, but we supplement anyways just to make sure our kids are getting everything they need.
I do sometimes feel like the label ‘vegan’ on food is used to justify a massive price hike! Oftentimes I think it’s a lot easier to just cook what you want to eat yourself – eg, make your own seitan sausages, your own cheesy sauces, etc. It’s sometimes nice to just be able to pick up a packet of vegan sausages or burger patties but you spend a lot more money than you need to if you eat that way all the time!

-This came all the way across the pond from England where the author also writes her own vegan blog and lives with her wife and two sons. 

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