From three square meals to snacking and tea in-between, food is a pivotal part of our day. Not only a necessary energy force, eating is also a relaxing and enjoyable activity that most savour. Meals provide a way to connect with others as well as share cultural dishes and traditions. To many, there aren’t a lot of things that trump the bliss of the first bite of their favourite food, except maybe the rest of the meal.
The Oxfam Favourite Food Survey of 2011 found that pasta was the universal number one preferred food, with meat at two and pizza at four. Depending on how you prepare these dishes, each contains at least one animal product, or meat and dairy. That means that a hefty size of the world population prefers animal products to other foods and consumes them regularly.
Photo by George Rex
Meat and dairy (milk, yoghurt, ice cream, you know the drill), as well as eggs, quantify much of an average person’s daily meals, although they are meant to be eaten sparingly, with meat ideally consumed less than once a day.
So what happens if you cut these food groups out? When suddenly you’re ordering pizza without cheese (what even is that?) and avoiding cake and creme brûlée in favor of sorbet for dessert?
In deciding to go vegan for this academic year, I have already made these decisions and others in order to avoid animal products.
The definition of a vegan diet, or plant-based diet, is one that doesn’t consist of any animals or animal products, meaning no meats, dairy, eggs, or honey. Sometimes unexpected foods aren’t vegan, which makes adhering to the diet trickier. While everyone knows wine is made from grapes, most people don’t know that wine is often filtered through “fining agents” such as animal gelatin or blood and bone marrow.
This choice has, conceivably, changed how I think about my food. Cooking for myself isn’t so difficult as I determine what goes into my meal, and it’s pushed me to be more adventurous with what I prepare and eat, as well as mindful. I recently made a vegan “mac and cheese” that tasted surprisingly delicious. Ingredients such as cashews, nutritional yeast, miso paste, almond milk, and spices came extremely close to gooey cheese.
Photo by Amarand Agasi.
Dining out is more difficult, as menus don’t usually have many, or any, vegan options, but restaurants have been polite and willing to accommodate. My cheese-less pizza from Glass House was way less sad than it sounds and I highly recommend Jannetta’s lavender sorbet.
Many often respond with surprise or confusion to my restaurant orders, and wonder why I’ve made this decision. The diet was a long time coming for me. I have become increasingly bothered by the deplorable conditions of slaughterhouses and dairy farms, from how poorly the animals are treated to the unsanitary way most institutions are run. If these factories are so disgusting, why do we eat out of them? Why do we allow our food to be raised in such an unsustainable and unacceptable way?
For the most part, everyone knows what the conditions are like in slaughterhouses, but as no one has to face it, it is easier to ignore. For me, this was a large factor in my decision to quit meat and other animal products, but it is not an issue for everyone. Of course, it is also possible to find local and humane farms with ethical practices and be able to include animal products in your diet without subscribing to industrialised and unsanitary food production.
I also committed to this diet to challenge myself. Like most, two of my favorite foods include animal products: sushi and cheese. But I wanted to set a goal for myself and see if I could achieve it, and because I have strong convictions backing my decision, it is easier to remain dedicated in the face of a roll of camembert.
Finally, personal health was a strong point in changing the way I eat. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat”, and I don’t want to fill myself with meat or dairy from animals that are mistreated and distressed in unhealthy conditions.
Strict diets are not for everyone. It is hard to abstain from anything you enjoy, especially entire food groups. However, I highly suggest that you look into eating sustainably, from local farmers, whenever possible. This not only supports the local farmers and economy, but creates far fewer carbon emissions, and provides you with better-tasting and more diverse produce and animal products.