‘It must be really hard being a vegan’

It’s something I hear quite often and I don’t mind at all when people say it. ‘It must be really hard being a vegan’ ‘You have to give up so much.’ ‘I could live without meat but exist without cheese? Never.’

I can understand why people make these comments. I’m less anarchic than I used to be. As a teenager, I would talk passionately about how meat was bad for the environment, bad for the health, bad for the animals. And so it is. But I have discovered that the best way to help people think positively about veganism is to feed them. For at least one meal, they’re vegan and who knows, they might consider having another.

I’ve done my share of cooking ‘worthy vegan food’ too: the tasteless, bland stuff with buckwheat, lentils, oats and very little else, that tastes like goat feed. I’m interested now in meals which are really nutritious, which pack in all the stuff our bodies need and none of the rubbish we don’t, allow us to peak with energy at the right time of day. It’s also important that we have meals which taste really good.

I’ve cracked making my own vegan cheese, using home made rejuvelac and soaked nuts and so I can do a really nice spanakopita with my own feta. I make melting mozzarella and hard cheddar with beer and brie and camembert and emmental. Home baked bread is crammed really full of good stuff such as chia seeds, sunflower seeds, psyllium husk  and linseeds and it is usually gluten free and always delicious. I make butter with coconut and rapeseed oils and soya lecithin and if I need to, I’ll make the occasional cake and muffin and dessert and ice cream, although salads and soups and stews and smoothies and savoury mains are my favourites, especially if they fuse lebanese, greek or asian origins. I’m branching out into soul food now and raw stuff is high on the agenda, thanks to a great local veg store.

Today I cracked a new breakfast. My  favourite Sunday protein breakfast is usually tofu scramble, although I do like making my own home made baked beans. Croissants, however, hit the plates for a change this morning as I had to find out if vegan ones were ok. They are really nice and not too hard to make and I’m told they are less greasy than the shop bought butter ones. I made them with wholemeal flour and vegan butter and shortening and they really worked well. I served them up with grape and red wine jelly, which has no sugar and is nicer than jam. A batch of dough makes 24 croissants so I put most of them in the freezer.They are next to the vegan ‘Magnum’-style  ice creams I made last week, which are packed with coconut oil, peanuts, dates, chocolate and vanilla. I’ll give most of them away as treats to non-vegans.

Autumn is a time for soups and stews and also for making lots of chutneys. I’ve made some good ones from fruits like peaches, apricots, plums, pears and mangoes.I’m pleased with the pickles and especially the pickled button mushrooms which are going down a treat. The sauerkraut has turned out to be very popular and is really gut-beneficial, so I’m happy with that.

I haven’t finished trying out new recipes by a long way. There are still vegan dishes to perfect: I’ve been working on cauliflower ‘steaks’ and carrot ‘hot dogs’ and they are almost there. It’s not hard being vegan as far as I’m concerned but I’m full of admiration for meat lovers who give it up. I know someone who adores the taste of a fried steak and hasn’t touched one in years. That’s impressive. But the days of rubbery vegan cheese and the cardboard textured lentil burger have long gone. To those people who aren’t vegan and don’t want to be: choice is everything, and you don’t have to give up for ever. But making a good vegan meal once or twice a week which tastes delicious and helps you bounce with health can’t be a bad thing. And who knows. you might even do it again. And again.

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