Vegan Curious? Follow me!

By - Thursday 22nd August, 2013

Freaking out about the frankenburger? Relax. Help is at hand.

Imagine you are Madonna. Imagine I am Madonna’s dad. You are screeching “Pleeeeaaase, Papa don’t preach” at me and it’s not because you’re in an awful mess. It’s because I’m going to talk about Veganism.

Don’t hang up! We can get through this. If I did it (when aged 38) then anyone can.

Just Falafel opened in Croydon last week offering another welcome bit of variety to the local fast food restaurant scene. I popped in prior to submitting this article in the name of research and had a chat with the manager. He told me I was of several people that day to ask about a vegan menu and that he would be changing his signage to provide greater information about what was vegan-friendly (and gluten free while he’s at it).  He admitted to being surprised at the interest. Good on him for adapting quickly. Mind you, they’ll be going some to rival the falafel food stall on Surrey Street Market. Recommended.

When my other half suggested going vegan for Lent a few years back I responded with a shrugged “sure, why not!” We were both omnivores (she still is) but the idea wasn’t completely out of the blue. My brother and his wife took the giant leap from vegetarian to vegan 3 years before that and still looked reasonably normal. When they came around, it was a bit of a thrill to cook for their needs especially as I don’t take kindly to being out-holier-than-thou-ed in my own home. Going vegan for those 46 days would expand our repertoire no end.

First, some preparation. In order to cleanse the house of meat and dairy products, a lot of meat and dairy based cooking was required.  Curiously, this also led to a lot more meat and dairy shopping to create the meals in question. This was a bit of a head-spinner, “why am I buying this stuff when I’m supposed to be giving it up?” I was like a kid who was caught smoking a cigarette and was forced smoke the whole packet until he was sick enough to never want to see a cigarette again.

When the big day came it was a blessed relief not to be eating the other bloody stuff. The only impact I could see was different products in my kitchen. Sunflower butter, egg-free mayonnaise etc., the products that make being vegan full time almost easier that creating a one-off vegan meal. You’ve just got the right stuff at your disposal. In Croydon, Authentic Roots and Holland and Barrett offer plenty of the ingredients to help change your lifestyle. I must confess to not being won over by meat-free meat and cheese-free cheese. In fact, I swear that many cheese and meat replacement products on the market are put there by the meat industry to convince the vegan-curious to stick with what they know. In reality, my diet probably wasn’t as balanced as it should have been in those first 2 weeks. However I did feel better, those extra pounds probably did need shifting and soon everything stabilised. It’s not quite so easy to wing it as a vegan. The huge sandwich industry has no vegan options readily available so you do have to be prepared.

Eventually I had to ‘fess up to my other half that I was staying vegan. This absolutely appalled my mother-in-law who had played along with the novelty up to now. The backlash was starting. “Is it the self-flagellation you find so appealing?” chirped up my suspicious father-in-law. This is equally difficult to stomach, the accusation of vanity. However, with time everyone got used to it and it’s no longer even mentioned.

One downside has been the attitude of many restaurants. I had thought that chefs might enjoy a challenge. I had to think again. You get the feeling that some chefs believe vegans don’t deserve to eat. The economic case for catering for the increasing number vegans now is as true as it has been for vegetarians for years. If a large group of people are eating out together, the restaurant that can cater for the vegan gets the cash for the entire group. This has got be worth the, frankly, miniscule effort.

I’m not going to talk about animal rights, environmental or health benefits in this article. Such information is easily available on the net, usually with a thousand comments. I know there are some issues with sourcing food from far off lands but while we still are getting lamb and apples from New Zealand, no-one can point fingers. We all tend to be incredibly defensive of our own positions, whatever they may be, and it always feels like someone of a different persuasion is judging you or trying to influence you. All I’m trying to say is that there is nothing to fear in giving it a go; it’s amazing how quickly it becomes a habit.

Don’t believe me? Fine. There is a meet-up of the Croydon Vegetarians and Vegans at Just Falafel on Saturday August 24th at 12 noon. Give it a try and I promise it’ll make you feel good.

Brendan Walsh

Brendan Walsh

Balham born but raised in Cork in the Republic of Ireland, moved to London permanently in 1994 and lived in Stockwell before settling in Thornton Heath in 2000. A Civil Engineer with unhealthy interests in DIY, CPFC and Irish Cricket. In 2009, swapped shouting at the TV for political activism. Went straight from omnivore to vegan in 2010 for a one month long experiment and haven’t looked back. Currently Tweeting on behalf of the Croydon Green Party.

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  • sam

    Very cool mate! Keep it up and eeeaaaagggglllleeesss!!! :-)

    • Brendan Walsh

      Oh Jeez, not ANOTHER Palace Vegan. *Adds 3rd name to list*