My vegan story

I’ve wanted to write a post called my vegan story for some time now, but I’ve been putting it off because it’s not that easy to write. There’s too much to say for one post, plus I know lots of people hate the topic. Please, don’t understand this as me telling you to go vegan because I’m not (despite of the picture). I’m just trying to be informative here, hoping that stories like this one can be an interesting read, and can open your eyes to things you’ve never thought of before.

Somewhere in Valencia, September 2018

My reasons

There are more reasons for me going vegan, but the first and the most powerful one was my love for animals – all animals. I’ve seen videos of the conditions in factory farms years ago, but I refused to think about it, despite of how much the videos got to me. I’ve always had reasons not to go vegan: it’s not healthy, vegans are annoying, Greek yogurt is life. The truth is that a vegan diet can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on how much of what you put in your body, while vegans can, of course, be annoying if they try to force their beliefs on people in a violent way. And Greek yogurt… well, it’s delicious, but I don’t miss it anymore and I’m sure there’s a vegan alternative somewhere out there.

The second reason is the environment: if you haven’t heard, eating less meat benefits the environment. By not consuming animal products you cut your greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water and preserve species and their habitats (I’m not going to link studies here because I intend to do another post with actual data, but feel free to google it – there’s a lot of info out there).

The third reason is health. I’m obviously not a nutritionist, but I know I feel better eating plant-based. I feel lighter after meals and good in general.  I’ve always liked fruit and vegetables, but going vegan made me start consuming even more of them, discover new pulses and grains, and learn how to cook diverse and simple meals.

Before

I’ve never been a meat person; I’ve always been known as the one who complicates when it comes to food (and that reputation isn’t gone or anything). But I ate meat or at least fish most of my life: there were periods when I ate more of it and periods when I ate less; at times I liked certain types of meat and at times I didn’t, I even had a »pescatarian« period at some point. I developed a taste for eggs in the year before turning vegan (I was living in London and my flatmates ate a lot of eggs, so I followed suit). I’ve always liked dairy too; I wasn’t as crazy about cheese as some people are (hi), but I loved Greek yogurt and all kinds of sweet treats that contained milk.

I had been thinking about veganism on and off for years, but I always dismissed the thought because of the reasons I mentioned above. Then I tried it once in London for about three days, but I felt hungry constantly and was craving tuna, cheese and Greek yogurt, so I gave in. Little did I know that I simply wasn’t eating enough.

The transition

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but last year in the first week of October, just when uni started, I decided to give it a go again. I said: one week. And this time it was successful: I didn’t feel hungry and I didn’t miss non-vegan food because I read a lot about veganism before, during and after that week. I knew that I had to eat more because plant-based food is generally lower in calories, and I had the necessary motivation because I read about all the benefits.

The week passed, and I kept going, but it wasn’t perfect, and I have no intention of lying about that. I can proudly say that I haven’t eaten fish or meat in more than a year, but I can’t say the same for eggs and dairy. There were occasions when I had something vegetarian in the following months. The reasons were different: not wanting to complicate in a restaurant, eating at my boyfriend’s parents’ house and wanting to be polite, travelling and not finding anything suitable or wanting to try local food, or just giving in to something my mum bought or made, or to something someone else was having.

I feel like I’ve thoroughly made the transition only a couple of months ago, even though I’ve been eating almost completely plant-based for the past year. A couple of months ago I decided that it was easier for me to stand behind this way of life if I’m 100% in it.

The reactions

They were different and everything from typical, surprisingly nice and very stupid. Some people feel somewhat offended when someone’s vegan, as if it were criticism pointed directly at them. I’ve never told anyone to go vegan and I have no intention to, despite of what the sign in the pic above says. The way of eating is a personal choice after all.

So, I’ve had all the possible reactions from my friends, family and complete strangers: people asked me where would all the cows go and where would we plant all the salad if the world went vegan, people were worried about my protein intake, they asked whether I could eat beans, but then some also cooked a completely vegan dinner just because of me, or baked something vegan because I was coming. And then I also heard (and am still hearing) all the possible jokes, which isn’t that bad; I like to laugh, even if it’s about me.

Living among non-vegans

I, sadly, don’t have any vegan friends, and have met few vegan people in my life. Everyone I love, care for and spend time with is omnivore, and that doesn’t make me love them any less. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like it if they ate less animal products, of course I would. But I’m not forcing them; I just explain things when they ask me, I cook and bring vegan food, and I post things. I’m sharing my belief and my interests, as other people share their own.

I think it’s important to understand that eating fewer animal products DOES have an impact, and a positive one: on animals’ lives, the environment and quite possibly also on your health. It’s crucial to realize that every individual has an impact every day, with every little thing we choose to eat, and consequently buy. All of this is sending a message to the market.

So…

I’ll stop now because this is beginning to sound like vegan propaganda, and I promised not to do that. Let me just say this one last thing: vegans (or at least vegans with a mentality similar to mine) aren’t trying to make anyone go vegan because they think they are superior as people and everyone should be like them. All we have in mind is that more people eating less meat equals less animals suffering and harm to the environment. Our goal is to stop pain and death, and we know we can’t do it alone. Consequently, some plant-based people might get aggressive, mean or plain rude. I hope I’m never like that, my goal certainly isn’t to be. I don’t think it brings any good to anyone.

It’s important that people realize we’re not criticizing them – how could we? Most of us used to think and act just like you, at least I know I did. All that mattered was the taste, the price and the convenience. I ate animal products, I thought vegans were rude hippies and I laughed at jokes about them (which still happens). Overcoming that and understanding that I, as an individual, influence the way things are, taught me to look at food differently. I’d never go back – going vegan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

5 VEGAN LUNCHES

5 simple and quick vegan recipes for lunch or dinner; I wrote lunches because I usually have an even simpler dinner, but of course they can be prepared for dinner as well. They are quite cheap; the only expensive ingredients are tahini and nutritional yeast, and you don’t necessarily have to use them. They do make food tastier, though, and once you buy them you can use them for a couple of months.

Note: apparently chickpeas for lunch are what bananas are to me for breakfast – a necessity (and that’s why 4 out of 5 of these recipes contain them).

Some sort of pad thai

It’s not real pad thai; I, as usually, didn’t follow any recipe and didn’t use any oil (you can, of course, use oil if you’re a normal person and you’re not experimenting like me).

Ingredients

  • rice noodles for one person (if it’s for more than one, just use more of the rest of the ingredients)
  • veggies, for example: one onion, one pepper, some broccoli
  • half a can of mushrooms
  • half a block of tofu
  • soy sauce to taste
  • a splash of soy milk (I didn’t have any other sauce)
  • spices of choice (I used paprika, turmeric and black pepper)
  • crushed peanuts or other nuts (I used pistachios)

Instructions

Fry the onion for about a minute, then add pieces of broccoli, red pepper and mushrooms and fry some more, adding soy sauce and spices of choice. Fry until the veggies are not completely raw anymore but not soft either; they should still be crunchy. Cook the noodles according to the instructions. Cut the tofu into small cubes and »fry« them in soy sauce. Throw the veggies and the noodles on it and mix well. I added a splash of soy milk here because it was too dry; real cooks and people who care more mix up a special sauce at this point. I didn’t mind the dish being a bit drier because the noodles were super soft and good (overcooked according to my boyfriend, but I seem to like overdone food for some reason). Sprinkle some roasted nuts on top and eat!

My version of pad thai.

Pasta with hummus sauce

I know it sounds odd, but I guarantee you it’s life.

Ingredients

  • any pasta (as much as you’d like to eat)
  • hummus: the more you use, the juicier it will be (I use about half of what I make out of one can of chickpeas)
  • nutritional yeast: a tablespoon or two
  • some dried tomatoes
  • some fresh cherry tomatoes

Instructions

Cook the pasta, drain it, put it back in the same pot you cooked it in, and throw all the ingredients on top. Add some salt or pepper if desired (I don’t). Mix it well and eat!

Hummus

You can cook your own chickpeas or buy a can (drain the chickpeas and then rinse well in case it’s a can; in my case it usually is). Place around 240 grams (1 can) of chickpeas in a bowl or blender, squeeze some lemon on it, add a pinch of salt, some garlic powder (or fresh minced garlic) and a teaspoon of tahini (sesame paste). Blend it in a blender or in a bowl using a stick hand blender. That’s it! Adding oil is completely unnecessary, but some people find the store-bought hummus tastier (it contains oil, more salt and preservatives).

It looks gross but it ain’t.

Chickpea »curry«

The question marks are there because that’s probably not real curry, it’s just something I made up after reading a couple of recipes and deciding they were too complicated/I didn’t have the ingredients and was too lazy to get them. It was for about two people or two lunches.

Ingredients

  • an onion
  • a clove of garlic
  • 2 medium carrots
  • some green beans
  • a courgette
  • a can of chickpeas
  • soy milk (coconut would be better, I just didn’t have it)
  • spices: salt, black pepper, paprika, curry obviously, turmeric

Instructions

Cut the onion and fry it in some kind of oil (or in water). Add the garlic after about a minute. Fry everything for another minute at medium temperature, then add all the remaining veggies and pour about a glass of water and a glass of soy milk over them. At this point I also added some soy sauce and all the spices, and then cooked it all until the veggies were almost done, then added the canned chickpeas (rinse it first, my friends), some nutritional yeast because I like it, and cooked a couple of minutes more. If it’s too dry add more liquid and if it’s too watery don’t cover it while cooking. Serve with rice.

I had it with rice (I usually have brown, but mummy made white) and more green sprouts because vegetables are important.

Chippies with hummus, eggplant and tomato sauce

If you’re not vegan it probably seems like this meal is missing something (maybe it seems like they all do), but for me it’s a completely normal lunch. I just have it with some hummus and my life’s complete.

Ingredients

  • thinly sliced potatoes (as much as you’d like to eat)
  • an eggplant, sliced
  • any tomato sauce (my mum makes her own, will ask how at some point)

Instructions

Put the potatoes and the eggplant on a baking tray lined with baking paper, add salt and desired spices and bake at around 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 to 25 minutes. Heat up the tomato sauce and, if you’re me, make some hummus! Put it all on a plate and dip the potatoes in the sauce/hummus.

Just try making oil-free potatoes; it’s life-changing.

Sweet potato with, surprise, hummus

Sweet potato is different from regular potato: it’s sweeter and the structure is different; it’s pumpkin-like. If I bake it in the oven, I always cut regular potatoes into thin slices and sweet potato into thicker slices; it’s just my preference, though.

Ingredients

  • sweet potato (I used two small ones)
  • hummus (check the recipe above)

Instructions

Cut the sweet potato into slices that are about one centimetre thick. Put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 to 25 minutes. I don’t add any spices because I love the taste as it is. I recommend having it with hummus or avocado spread (I make it with lemon, salt, black pepper and garlic powder).

Actually, I think guacamole is even better with sweet potato than hummus, I just didn’t have any avocados.

And that’s it! I hope this gives you guys some ideas about what a vegan lunch could look like. Of course, I could have added tempeh, seitan or some sort of fake meat to any of these meals, but I don’t do that often, except for the occasional tofu (like in the pad thai recipe). I also had raw veggies with all of these meals, like lettuce or something similar. I think they are filling, tasty meals that provide the necessary carbs, fats and protein (because of all the hummus).  More importantly, I think they can be enjoyed by anyone, vegan or not!