Throughout my childhood I was surrounded by multiple family members that were as they said, “vegetarian”. I put this in quotes because they were only vegetarian when they wanted to be; when someone made, they gobbled them down. Nevertheless, as a child I too aspired to be just like my Grandma and become a “vegetarian”. Multiple times throughout my youth I would claim that I was officially a vegetarian and was not eating meat, everyone scoffed at me and my mother was not happy having to prepare separate dishes for me. To be fair, the longest I have ever stuck to being a vegetarian was about a month, this lasted until my father brought home Swiss Chalet one night.
Even with all my failed attempts, I still dream of the day when I fully quit meat. I have never been one for meat, I only occasionally eat chicken and beef, and very rarely, pork. I’ve always been a huge supporter of animal rights and anytime I see an animal cruelty video I automatically become vegetarian again. However, I love other animal products. Cheese, milk, and eggs are a large part of my diet and I truly can’t fathom a life where I never eat them again. Which is why I would like to challenge myself to become vegan for the next week.
So what is a vegan? A vegan is someone that does not consume or use ANY products that are made from animals. This means; meat, eggs, milk, cheese, leather products, honey, wool, silk, and more, are fully off limits (The Vegetarian Resource Diet, n.d.). For this week I only stuck to the food portion of being vegan, I wasn’t ready to sift through my wardrobe just yet. However, I myself do not purchase any leather in my usual non-vegan life (I do own a leather wallet, but it was a present and you just can’t let it go to waste). I’m also aware that a lot of beauty products are either tested on animals or made from animal products. For example, many eyeshadows contain fish scales to give the product a shine. When purchasing these products I always consult the PETA website as they have a fully consolidated list of what brands are vegan (PETA, n.d.).
I personally find that the vegan diet is one of the most complex, and hard to maintain. There are just so many restrictions and you truly have to look at all the ingredients in a product before you buy it, vegan is not for the lazy. By doing a quick Google search you can find numerous vegan diet plans. As it is a predominately vegetable based diet, you need to make sure that you are having enough protein and calcium and other vitamins and nutrients that you may lack due to not eating animal products. Soy products, nuts, lentils, beans, and more are all great sources of protein (MacEacheren, 2015).
I highly recommend that you go shopping for delicious and nutritious vegan food before trying to make the transition; I did not follow my own advice. I woke up on Monday knowing that today was the day that I was going to start my vegan diet, but I couldn’t find the motivation to get to the grocery store. I looked through my sparse food products to see what I could eat that would be vegan. I read through the ingredients of my Quaker instant oatmeal and discovered that luckily, it was vegan! Hooray!! I scarfed down two bowls of that and a large black coffee and got on with my day (binge watching Bates Motel, which I highly recommend). Thankfully, that tided me over until around dinner time. For dinner, I was ecstatic to find that my dried pasta contained no eggs and that the one jar of pasta sauce I had was in-fact cheese and meat free! I devoured a bowl of that and chalked it up to a relatively success first day of veganism (considering the not grocery shopping thing).
I woke up in a chipper mood, which soon faded as I realized that I had ate my last bit of instant oatmeal yesterday. It went even more downhill as I saw that I only had one piece of bread; I toasted it up and added some peanut butter to it and chugged down a large black coffee before running to class. By 4 o’clock I was starving and so were all my friends. They wanted to go to the pizza restaurant called True True which is located on King Street, right across the street from George Brown’s St. James campus. I decided to go with them and hoped that they would have a vegan option. There were a couple salads on the menu, but I had never tried the pizza before and it looked so delicious. After hearing remarks, “who orders a salad when they come to a pizza place”, I decided to stray from the vegan diet and order a pizza called the Aristocrat. I felt ashamed that I literally only lasted one day, but the pizza tasted so good. I ended up going to see the movie Get Out (I highly recommend) and ordered popcorn, because what’s a movie without popcorn? On my way home from the theatre I decided to pop into Metro to get some groceries as this was getting ridiculous. Thirty dollars in debt later, I had two bags of groceries and tears in my eyes.
I woke up ready to take on the vegan day today. I brewed myself a coffee and had a bowl of instant oatmeal. After my one class of the day, myself and my friends were hungry and wanted to go to Cluck Cluck’s which is a chicken and waffle place by George Brown. I had it one time previously, and it was super yummy. I walked all the way to Cluck Clucks to realize that I was not going to eat there. They had no vegan options (duh) and I wasn’t going to be that person that just sits there and doesn’t order any food. So, I left the establishment and walked home. My roommates were out, so I took over the kitchen. I made a red curry vegan soup and also vegan quesadillas. I had a quesadilla for lunch, which was mediocre. I’ll talk about how I made them below and how I would improve them. For dinner I literally ate the whole pot of soup that I made, it was a total win. I love anything curry and this was no exception, I will definitely be making it again (but maybe with chicken, shh).
1 box of vegetable stock
1 bunch of broccoli
1 can of tomatoes
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp ginger
3 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp Thai curry paste
Salt and pepper
- Rough dice the onion and then lightly sweat in olive oil until translucent.
- Roughly chop the broccoli and add to the onions.
- Add minced garlic and ginger.
- Mix in curry paste.
- Add stock and can of tomatoes.
- Let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- Season to however you desire.
Today I got crazy and had a bowl of Apple Cinnamon oatmeal and a black coffee. Since I knew I had class until 6:00 at night, I decided for the FIRST time this year to bring a snack to school. At 2:00pm my friends were ready to eat, and so was I. They decided on McDonalds, where I ordered a coffee and ate an apple while I slowly suffered whilst watching them eat their fries and all day breakfast. Don’t be deceived, McDonalds fries and hash browns AREN’T vegan as they’re cooked in animal fat. My stomach growled all throughout my next class. When I got home I devoured the remaining quesadillas that I made, which had gotten soggy and I didn’t even bother trying to make them better as I was so hungry.
I woke up crazy late at 2:00 in the afternoon, strangely, I wasn’t very hungry. I ended up have two slices of toast with some peanut butter and a cup of black coffee. That’s all I had to eat until I got home from my late class at 11:00 at night. When I got home I decided to make myself a little feast. I chopped up an eggplant and fried it then added in some tomato sauce, bread crumbs, and seasoning to make almost an eggplant parmesan dish. I also made myself some home fries by cubing a potato and frying it in some oil and salt. I ate my two dishes and watched some Netflix for the rest of the night.
As per my usual, I woke up and had another bowl of instant oatmeal and a cup of black coffee; I am really starting to get tired of oatmeal. For lunch I decided to whip up some vegan grilled cheese which sounds almost as bad as it tastes. I had purchased some vegan cheese from the company Daiya after hearing that it was the best vegan cheese out there and that it almost tasted identical to real cow cheese — I disagree. It wasn’t the worst sandwich in the world, but it certainly does not live up to the real deal. I masked some of the flavour by dipping it in tomato sauce. In the evening I munched on an apple with some peanut butter and then went to bed.
I awoke so excited knowing that it was my last day of being a vegan! I made myself some toast with peanut butter and got myself a black coffee and continued my life knowing that tomorrow I could devour a whole roast chicken. I didn’t each much on as I was so sick of what food that I had in the house, I ended up just eating an apple and some carrots throughout the rest of the day.
I went to Loblaws and purchased a whole roast chicken — I devoured almost all of it and feel no remorse.
I do not think that I will continue with this diet in the near future. Not because I found the diet to be too challenging and unbearable, but because it really interfered with my social life. You don’t realize how related food and your social life is until you can’t eat what your friends are having. It really sucks being the person that goes out with a group of people and has to ask just for water, it also is a pain to ask staff to alter meals for you.
An aspect that I also found difficult was not being able to taste my food in my cooking labs at school. As a chef, I think that it would be extremely difficult to be a vegan, unless you work only with vegan foods. You could definitely get other people to taste your dishes for you, but I just can’t see one being a very successful chef as a vegan. I’m sure it’s possible, but for myself, it’s just not realistic.
Other than the negative impact the diet had on my social life, the diet wasn’t all that bad. I did find myself starving midday a few times but I think that was due to a lack of preparation on my part. I feel that in order to sustain this diet you must have a big budget if you want to eat healthy; you could easily be an unhealthy vegan by just eating pasta each night (kind of like what I did), but that’s unrealistic and frankly a bad diet choice. While on my journey I watched a lot of vegan YouTubers to see how they go about their daily life. One that I found that I absolutely adored was a woman named Jess, she cooks the most aesthetically pleasing vegan foods that I have ever seen. She truly inspired me to keep going on my diet and realize all the options vegans have (JessBeautician, n.d.). I highly recommend checking her out if you’re considering going vegan. A few tips that I would offer to anyone that’s wanting to give vegan a try are; plan your meals, have a large budget, and try not to replicate non-vegan food (grilled cheese). Explore the diet for what it is and try to be creative with your recipes. I think everyone should attempt this diet at some point in their life, even if it’s just for a week. I learnt just how difficult this diet can be and have a new found respect for vegans.