Vegans should embrace the joys of eating

There's nothing life affirming about your fifth helping of chickpeas in a week, writes Daisy Chandley

I have two reasons for not being vegan, and neither of them are that I disagree with veganism. I think veganism is ethically required of me if I follow almost any of my other standpoints: it’s pretty much the best thing we can do for the environment as individuals, and it is an incredibly admirable lifestyle. At least half the vegan hate lurking out there is because people know that they could do more good for the world in their own lives. I was MVFS (mostly vegetarian while sober) for two years, and a vegan for exactly four days, before I gave up. Firstly, because veganism is wound so tightly with clean eating culture and lifestyle Instagram accounts, that I was not able to healthily pursue it. And second, because vegan food is absolutely disgusting.

Whilst the first seems by far the more interesting, others have spoken about it far better than I could — read Ruby Tandoh. Hopefully by this point there are very few who would deny the toxic culture that’s sadly enveloped so much of what could be a beautiful and positive lifestyle, albeit one that’s really into weirdly racist slavery parallels. For now I’ll be looking at the second, which rather than portraying me as a level-headed self-love activist shows me in my true colours: the unchaperoned child at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Food is the highlight of my day. I have more recipe books in my room than fiction books, and, by no slim margin, more actual food in my room at this very moment than reading from my course. I love the gluttonous excitement of a Domino’s pizza arriving, the fact that you know full well that you don’t even particularly like Domino’s pizza, but, much like Ben and Jerry’s, there is an immeasurable comfort in the ugly, greasy, bitter-sweet ritual of the purchase, the unveiling, and the overeating. I love it when you add cream to a warm pan that you’ve been frying bacon in, when the cream turns gently-toasted-marshmallow brown, bubbling and sticking to the sides.

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Don’t get me wrong, vegetables make the cut: baby carrots with honey, the mint, tarragon, walnut and feta salad from my local Persian restaurant, pretty much anything with caramelized onions on.

The problem I have, above and beyond veganism’s perils, is that you lose some of the most beautiful and peaceful rituals that exist. There is nothing life-affirming about an activated cashew, a £13 Buddha Bowl that tastes of grass or, let’s be honest, your fifth helping of chickpeas this week.

Of course, from a utilitarian point of view this is pathetic: the horrors of the dairy industry and slaughterhouses are anything but beautiful and peaceful, and the fact that we want to keep eating these things shouldn’t matter, but I do even if it does. Life is too dark and relentless to lose anything this joyful.

Clearly, the solution is to make new rituals around plant-based and cruelty-free food. We must find cathartic recipes and delicious fast food that simply don’t involve the ingredients that hurt the planet and the animals that live on it.

I’m happy to try and do this – honestly I am – but for one reason or another the world just isn’t game. Whilst there are some fantastic vegan places popping up which offer the sort of finger-licking-goodness I’m after – Temple of Seitan in London for instance – and many Asian-inspired restaurants such as Wagamama are mastering the art of ‘you wouldn’t know it’s vegan’, most others are lagging behind. I don’t want quinoa or a range of lukewarm plain vegetables whilst my friends are eating a burger, I just want you to make the burger without meat, eggs or dairy.

I know I’ll never be able to give up non-vegan things entirely, or even just give up meat, but I wish I could make more vegan choices without losing the joy of food. Until restaurants, supermarkets and bloggers accept that veganism is a simple restriction on ingredients rather than a life ban on seasoning, texture and luxury, that’s going to be a difficult task.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Vegans already embrace the joys of eating, whether it’s junk food (Temple of Seitan as you mentioned) or the joys of having a superior health status from eating a whole foods plant based diet. I think what you’re getting at is that you want food manufacturers and retailers to increase their range vegan products, which is happening all the time. It just doesn’t make sense to claim that vegans don’t enjoy food, based on what is commerically available to them.

  2. I don’t know where you’re living, eating out or shopping because the rest of us are finding fabulous food out there, on a daily basis! There’s nothing that can’t be veganised these days… Seems to me you either just don’t want to make any effort or are being paid by the animal ag industry to write like this.

    • Totally agree. I’ve enjoyed vegan food so much more, exploring new recipes & adapting old ones which actually taste better. Taste honestly cannot be an excuse if you plan / reasearch a little bit!!

  3. learn to cook and you’ll love it! Doesn’t take long either half the time my meat dishes took to cook. I ate meat for 41 years I’ve been vegan for 2 years and haven’t ate as well in my live! I’m an unhealthy junk food vegan and even then I’ve lost two stone without trying! I don’t like most healthy healthy vegan food but there is tons of junk food out there you just need to look!

  4. My diet is way way more varied as a result of being vegan – just sounds like the author doesn’t know how to cook? I definitely don’t think veganism and clean eating are entwinned that is such a false stereotype from a decade ago

  5. It’s a shame you began this article so negatively. I’ve been vegan my whole life and I agree there are many places (some exclusively vegan) that serve bland, boring vegan food. I’ve been embarrassed before when taking omni friends out to try vegan cuisine and we’ve been served food with no seasoning or imagination.
    My sister and I opened a vegan restaurant this summer and our aim is to prove that vegan food is tasty and normal. We serve meaty burgers and seitan steaks with peppercorn sauce, bbq jackfruit nachos and cheese and pesto panini. We’ve had so many complements from omni customers.
    Keep thinking of the animals and experimenting with vegan cooking. And visit us at Potato Tomato in Whitstable, Kent if you’re ever over that way!

  6. Vegans do embrace the joy of eating. We enjoy tasty and diverse meals, including curried vegetables, black bean and corn chili, Beyond Burgers, vegan chicken salad, falafel, pad Thai tofu, vegan chocolate, vegan cheese pizza, Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream, Gardein crabless cakes and fishless filets, vegan pancakes, vegan shepherd’s pie, tofu cheesecake, vegan mac & cheese, and so on. I eat a much greater variety of good food now than I ever did before I went vegan. Perhaps you just don’t know where to shop or dine…hopefully you don’t just like to complain and make excuses. Because none of your excuses hold water. Vegans enjoy delicious foods, good health, and the great feeling that comes from helping animals and the environment. I’ve been vegan for more than 25 years. Going vegan was the best decision ever. I hope you’ll try to find out more about vegan living before you make any more unfounded claims. I urge you to visit http://www.peta.org

  7. Don’t blame the food for the fact that you either can’t cook or can’t find the tasty, ready made stuff that is already out there. I’ve been vegan for 22 years and I can cook up some mean vegan junk food if I want to. You do mention the horrific cruelty that is the meat and (particularly) the dairy industry and yet you still consider satisfying your taste buds more important? What a selfish, arrogant piece of work you are!

  8. What a strange article. This person comes across as confused at best and just plain wrong at worst. She obviously hasn’t done any real research or talked to anyone who is vegan. She seems to think that a vegan diet consists of opening a tin of chick peas and eating them out of the tin! She comes across as arrogant and narrow minded and makes unjustified and inaccurate sweeping statements. I have been vegan for 25 years and can assure her there has never been a better time to be vegan.

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