Am I going mad or was veganism fun as well as a compassionate choice? I’m sure it used to have some lighthearted moments back in the day.
Before I start, I’d like to make it clear that my entire household — husband and baby included — align with an ethical vegan lifestyle. We don’t eat, wear or exploit animals in any way and we support independent companies with the same morals as ourselves, wherever possible.
We are active Amazon boycotters (sorry Bezos fans!), we vote with our feet and our money, and are always cognizant that the way we live is a guiding force for our daughter in the future. That being said, it’s all gotten a bit serious, hasn’t it?
Like many vegans, I was vegetarian first and for most of my teens, then on and off in my twenties. During that time, I also flirted with veganism. I don’t think I had the self-confidence to pin my ethics to one lifestyle before I met my husband, but we are now more than five years-strong as a vegan family and we will never look back. Behind closed doors, we still have a lot of fun, while staying true to our ethics, but out in the wider world, it seems to have become a battleground of who is the most extreme, or who aligns with the most niche version of vegan beliefs.
I mean, can’t we all just get along? Let those that have not had an experimental kitchen failure — in a bid to use up some old tofu or something — cast the first stone, or in my case, ‘herby dumpling’. More on those later.
Hey, raw vegans who avoid maple syrup! I see you, love a lot of your recipes and I admire your commitment to a dehydrator, but can we have a giggle about the fact that you might, once in a while, fancy something hotter than room temp?
What about feminist vegans? Are we allowed to have a collective eye-roll at some of the crass t-shirts that talk about boobs and milk production, without always getting into a philosophical debate about the evils of the dairy industry? (I know about them and they are a huge part of why I choose to be vegan, but sometimes I just want to laugh at clothing that calls dairy milk “cow titty juice”.)
All I’m saying is that we can be conscious consumers — of both food and other goods — without totally losing our sense of humour. There’s always space for discursive debate and I’m the first to admit that if I sense a weakness in someone, I’ll offer some information that might encourage a move towards the meat-free side (like some kind of vegan Jedi. Oh no, that’s just another niche, isn’t it?). But just for a few minutes, can we remember some of the fun elements of veganism?
Come with me on a nostalgic journey as I recall some of my less serious vegan moments.
Decoding the Animal Free Shopper
I still remember my first copy of this bible for new vegans. Flicking through the tiny but dense tome, my eyes couldn’t decide what to look at first and it soon became a rucksack essential. You could often find me in the aisles of Tesco — The Vegan Society book in hand — looking for a biscuit I could eat. The silly thing is, I could have just taken a look at the ingredients and been out in half the time, but this was pre-smartphone days. (That’s right, everyone: I’m hurtling towards 40.)
Buying all the slogan t-shirts
If it could even vaguely be considered as vegan-adjacent, I was buying it. I had a few PETA tees back in the day that made more direct statements, but it was the sillier things I liked most, such as the top with a random broccoli print on it or the t-shirt I often used to wear when I worked in a bar that said “squeeze me” beneath two appropriately placed lemon slices. Not exactly one of my five-a-day, but fun at the time.
Eating endless junk
Wow. Do you remember finding out that something was vegan-friendly and then just eating it non-stop? I distinctly remember enjoying a Kettle Crisps, pasta and jam doughnut phase, until I inevitably gained quite a bit of weight, leading to lots of self-deprecating humour about managing to be a “fat vegan”. I still enjoy a doughnut or two, so thank you Co-op for keeping yours animal-free.
Trying your hand at new recipes
The days of trying to whip something up for family and friends that they’d never guess was vegan were hilarious, because it was always so obvious. I love TVP as much as the next person, but wow. It does not taste or look like meat, so it never fooled anyone. These heady kitchen days usually included some funky experiments too, to try and not waste veggies that were on the turn.
That’s how I came to make my infamous herby dumplings. Rock-hard lumps of what can only be described as clag, which tasted like TCP and Germoline had an unfortunate baby. They left a sense memory and as I type, I can taste and smell them. I think I was almost divorced over them too.
Feeling a bit smug
I say this with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but be honest; who didn’t enjoy the smugness of being a vegan, back when it was a bit more challenging and unusual? Sure, you were doing something positive for the environment and not contributing to the meat production industry, but also, you were a tiny bit special too. It’s okay to feel good about it.
As things move forward, maybe we can all find the fun in veganism again. Thanks to Veganuary, World Vegan Month and all the other initiatives designed to encourage plant-based experimentation, our numbers are growing. And wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a collective giggle now and then? Go on and grab that silly t-shirt. You won’t lose any vegan superpowers over it.