Okay, no need to panic, I didn't really eat pork. Not the kind that once had a beating heart anyway.
I had my first, real, proper "fake meat" experience! And....oh Lord....was it an experience.
I went to one of Brooklyn's many Vegan havens: "Wild Ginger" yesterday for lunch. Very excited. I've been there once before and had a Pad Thai that blew my mind. Also - the atmosphere is lovely too. So many Vegan restaurants have this shitty, dodgy vibe that pisses me off. Just because I'm Vegan, doesn't mean I don't want nice food and good service. Come on people, we have to compete! Luckily Wild Ginger totally competes. They have a brilliant menu, friendly staff and lovely ambiance. This is somewhere I can take my meat-eating companion and feel proud.
But yesterday I went alone and being someone who doesn't miss meat at all, I never order fake meat or have even tried it. I observed the overwhelmingly lovely menu and decided on Pumpkin soup and steamed dumplings. Yum.
It arrived, but no dumplings. In place of my lovely steamed spinach dumplings was this interesting looking dish you see on the left. I thought....hmm...vegetable skewers? In....sauce? Interesting. I thought about asking her to take it back, but then decided against it. I know it's Vegan, so who cares: let's try something different. Upon closer examination I realised it's a version of fake meat with some grilled capsicum and onion between. Interesting. After a few safe mouthfuls of soup and a lot of looking...I took a big bite into a hunk of "meat".
It TASTED SO MUCH LIKE PORK I CANNOT EVEN TELL YOU!!!! Oh my lordy lord. I nearly gagged I had to spit it out. Interestingly enough: it tasted good and yummy and saucy and juicy and all the things I know are meant to be "delicious" and I would have thought were a year or two ago, but now of course I just don't want that flavour in my mouth, it makes me think of pain and dead flesh and suffering.
But, the good news is: now I truly believe that ANYONE could be converted to Veganism with fake meat. This tasted so much like Pork, I have no words. The place for fake meat is finally clear to me now - if you miss these flavours, you can still have them.
I don't think they've mastered a fake steak yet, but if and when they do, if it's anything like as realistic as this was - we can save a lot of cows.
Are you HARDCORE?!
Are you mellow, chilled and relaxed?
Are you attending protests every weekend?
Are you too polite to say "no cheese"?
Do you avoid honey or not really care?
Are you a dietary Vegan or a full-lifestyle Vegan?
Are you a Vegetarian contemplating shirking dairy and eggs?
Look, whatever it may be: YOU ARE AMAZING. You are wonderful!
Lots of things about being Vegan can be challenging, which is why there seem to be so many "shades" as I call it. It's no longer just Meat-Eater, Vegetarian or Vegan. There seem to be so many variations these days and I think that is because a lot of people find they are okay with some things and not others. Or they are impacted by different social pressures perhaps? Recently I've realized that for me the hardest challenge is feeling like I have to put my values on the backseat for family and friends and I'm seeing how much I let that affect my "level" of Veganism.
Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, if you're going through your friends photos because she's trying to pick an Instagram shot and there: right in front of you: is a picture of her fishing and holding up her catch with a big smile, wind catching her hair, the fish hanging limply from her line, you'll understand what I mean.
What am I going to do? Tell her I think that's evil and totally unnecessary? Of course I'm not. She's my friend. Also: she knows I'm a Vegan, I don't need to remind her every five minutes. But that doesn't mean there isn't a part of me that wouldn't really love to say SOMETHING. Anything. It's our job to remind people casually about the "issues", right?
I don't know. That is a moment when my 100% passionate Vegan is silenced for social reasons.
When is it too much? Often, with meat-eaters, anything is too much. They don't really want to talk about it. Understandable. When I ate meat I didn't want to talk about Vegetarianism at all. It didn't offend me, it just didn't interest me. And it's SO EASY to be seen as "preachy".
The worst Vegan stereotype, that I in no way want to re-enforce, is this idea that veganism takes over your life. I don't think it does, at least, not in a negative way. I understand where it comes from and is true to a certain extent, but because of a few basic facts. Firstly: you see meat and dairy everywhere. When you see it, of course you think about it for a moment. Secondly: unless you're absurdly lucky, most of your family and friends probably eat meat and dairy. Not easy to set aside. Thirdly: food is something you face and deal with at least three times a day and finally: animal cruelty is something you often have to observe everywhere! Whether it's someone leaving their dog tied up in the freezing cold while they have a coffee inside, or someone heading out for a weekend fishing trip. Whatever it may be.
There's a reason why "Veganism" takes over your thoughts. Because apposing most people's basic ideas and actions is a round-the-clock job. It shouldn't be, but it is.
So, this means that Veganism can come in many different "shades". What will work for you? What will make your life easiest and keep your family and friends closer? I'm very blessed in that my loved ones are very supportive of my, some-what militant, Veganism. I don't consume any animal products unless I'm in a situation where it's simply illogical. For example: the food for some reason comes out with cheese on it (which was not on the menu, or they've messed up) I'm not going to send it back and create more waste. That's about the only exception I'll make. When going to a restaurant and they have NO options at all (this has only happened to me twice in a year of wining and dining) you just do whatever you feel comfortable with in that moment. If you kick up a stink at this restaurant and make everyone uncomfortable, that isn't necessarily going to do anything for the Vegan cause or save any animals lives. Just do what you think is best. Order a salad, order two sides or, order the creamy pasta if you want to. Whatever you feel good about. My friend and I went to an Italian restaurant the other night (where I usually find it pretty easy to eat) and all the pasta dishes were creamy or cheese or meaty. I was stuck: then I looked at the entrees and they had a Tomato Brushcetta! Simply: tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil on "house baked bread". Can you say ORGASM! I ordered it without any sadness or pangs and it was amazing.
There was a time when I would judge people for not being 100% in their Vegan ideals, but that time is gone. The world we live in is so cruel, when someone is willing to do anything to help: I'm happy. The only thing I struggle with is understanding what is difficult about going 100%. In the examples I listed above, I get it: social acceptance, restaurant limitations....I understand. We are only human. But people who eat fish because they "don't believe fish feel pain" or keep eggs "for protein". These reasons just say "ignorance" to me. Neither are correct.
When people say "oh, it's really challenging" I don't understand. Yes, there may be "challenges", like at that restaurant, but that doesn't make Veganism "challenging" as a whole. It's only a challenge if you make it one. Like anything in life: your motivation must be true and your attitude has to be positive :)
At this stage: Vegan logic always wins out for me. Why am I going to work so hard to put something in my diet? Why am I going to try and find endless loopholes of logic and morality and practicality to eat something when I DON'T EVEN NEED IT. I don't need fish for Omega-3. Why not let them just do their own thing? And there was a time when an eggs Benedict with salmon was my idea of heaven, now the idea of hollandaise sauce makes me feel ill. And eggs make me embarrassed. God I can't believe I ever stomached eggs. We are all capable of change.
So, do whatever works for you. But question the reasons why 100% doesn't. 100% is actually easier in my opinion than trying to make exceptions. When we try and cut corners, things get complicated. Just live your life, be happy and do what makes you feel good. Hopefully cruelty-free makes you feel good!
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