Today (November 1) marks World Vegan Day. Organised by the Vegan Society, the day has been celebrated since 1994. The Vegan Society describes the day as a chance to entice people to become vegan. But just how easy is that? To find out, I went completely vegan for a few days, and was surprised by how I found it.
I’m going to start this post with a few disclaimers; firstly, I did not expect myself to actually see this through. I’ve got a few vegan friends, and I’ve always thought that I wouldn’t be able to manage it myself.
To be quite honest, I would have probably bet good money on me giving up and ordering a Big Mac two days in. I’m that kind of weirdo that absolutely loves a cold pint of milk; absolutely not the type of guy who you would expect to go vegan.
What I found genuinely surprised me. Being vegan was actually relatively easy. I didn’t really miss meat products or dairy all that much. Of course, there was some adjustment required, but once I got the hang of it the whole thing was a piece of (dairy-free) cake.
Here’s what I learned.
Loads of things are vegan, and loads of things aren’t.
Shopping on the first day as a vegan was a minefield. But, to be fair, that was probably down to me being a bit silly more than anything else. Most supermarkets seemed to have all the staples; even if there was only the choice of one brand of each. Of course, some stores are better than others as well. In Stirling, I found that Sainsbury’s had the best range by far.
The first big lesson to learn is that, and this may make me sound stupid, things don’t have to be explicitly labelled as vegan to be vegan. For example, I went out and bought myself a pack of gluten-free bagels (which, for the record, were not nice at all and were also double the price) because they were the only ones that explicitly said they were vegan. As it turns out, the normal ones are actually vegan anyway, as are most bread products in the shops. Lesson learned there.
On the flip side though, there are a lot of things that aren’t vegan which I would have thought are. For example, I didn’t realise most marshmallows aren’t. Neither are some jams if they contain gelatin. Most white sugar is processed using bone char to make it look whiter and is therefore also not vegan. That being said, you do get used to working out what you can or can’t eat. It just takes a little bit of time.
There’s a lot you can cook with vegan alternatives, and a lot of it is actually pretty nice.
Once you’ve been out and gotten all of your stuff, the next thing is to cook. Before I started, I spoke to one of my vegan friends and their advice was to try and ‘veganise’ food that I enjoyed when I ate meat. That advice, by the way, was an absolute godsend. Like I said, the supermarkets tend to stock most of the staples – so you should be able to make vegan versions of most of your favourite dishes.
Personally, I love stuff like pasta, korma, and stir fry. All of these were fairly easy to replicate, both Tesco and Sainsbury’s stock ‘This Isn’t Chicken’ which worked amazingly in a vegan korma. Quorn sells a plant-based mince that actually tastes and feels really similar to normal mince, which made for a really tasty bolognese. Sainsbury’s also sells a plant-based kebab alternative, if you stick that in a tortilla with chips and vegan cheese you get a really tasty vegan hoagie wrap. It’s maybe worth noting that you should double-check the sauces you buy as well though – a lot of bolognese sauces contain beef stock, and some microwave rice also contains animal products.
Obviously, those recommendations are based on things that I like – but you can definitely find alternatives for foods you like. Most of the supermarkets sold vegan pizzas and burgers, soups are by nature quite easy to make vegan, there’s also a fairly wide range of meat-free breakfast foods and stuff for sandwiches. Again, the whole thing is a bit of a learning curve – and it will no doubt take you a little while to work out what you do or don’t like.
The same is true if you’re looking for something to scran…
Likewise, there is a fairly wide selection of snacks available for your enjoyment. A lot of these are ‘accidentally’ vegan. Oreos and fruit pastilles, for example, are both vegan. Most ready-salted crisps are too.
Most chocolate contains milk, and so is not vegan. Though there are loads of different dairy-free chocolate alternatives. I found that the NoMo Caramel bar, available in most supermarkets, tasted really similar to Cadbury’s. There was also a Magic Stars vegan chocolate bar which was fairly decent.
If it is the middle of assignment season, and all you want is to curl up in bed and eat a whole tub of ice cream, then don’t worry, because Ben and Jerry’s do dairy-free versions of their ice creams which I found to be fairly identical to the normal ones.
There’s definitely enough stuff for you to eat your vegan heart out, there’s just one thing that lets the side down a bit.
Cooking vegan food is easy enough, but don’t expect the same ease if you’re ordering in.
Did somebody say Just Eat? Somebody might have, but they probably weren’t a vegan. While it’s fairly easy to find vegan food in the shops, it’s a fair bit harder trying to get a takeaway if you don’t eat animal products. A lot of places in Stirling seemed not to offer any kind of vegan option, and the ones that did were only offering one thing. A lot of what was being offered was also very similar; a lot of nuggets, burgers, or pizzas. Cafe Aina offers a vegan kebab souvlaki which looks pretty decent. All in all though, there’s not much variety.
Cafés do a much better job.
That being said, cafés seem to cater to better cater to vegans. The local cafés, in particular, tend to have a more extensive vegan selection – and that’s not to mention the specifically vegan cafés in Stirling. On campus, Sup do a selection of vegan cakes and pastries which are out of this world. My personal favourite was their blueberry croissant which was exactly what I needed after my Monday morning 10am lecture.
Most of the cafés also offer a fairly extensive selection of dairy alternatives, so there’s always somewhere to get that essential coffee.
Now for the big question…
Considering all of this, we arrive at the main question; would I go vegan permanently? The answer is probably, yes. The only thing that is a little bit daunting is the idea of basically never eating meat or animal products again.
But, at the same time, I’ve seen how easy it actually is. So, I guess that it is more the idea of not eating meat or dairy again that seems a bit weird. That’s more of a psychological thing, and it’s the sort of thing that is probably fairly easy to get over if I try.
As I said at the start, I do eat a lot of meat and so maybe it seems like it’s a bigger change because of how involved meat is in my diet. I’d say that if you’re someone who naturally eats less meat anyway then it’ll probably not be as big a deal.
But I would definitely recommend people to try it. I was really skeptical and actually found the whole experience fairly simple. Once I’d gotten over myself a bit and worked out what I could eat, the whole thing became easier. And more than that, I also realised that it isn’t necessarily as limiting as I expected it to be.
Featured Image Credit: Pexels
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