Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Being Vegan...

is a rollercoaster ride!  Becoming vegan has been something of a journey.  

As some of you may know, it started out based on medical need. The wonky thyroid did not like meat; its consumption was causing me all sorts of stomach issues and they, in turn, caused other issues, it was a vicious circle.  It wasn't a terribly difficult, physical, move to become vegetarian, I'd always been ethically minded about the meat we ate (free range, organic, certified, local etc.) and consequently ate less than most people do anyway.  The mental move was that bit harder; we may not have eaten much meat, but I love to cook, I love to eat, and the textures and flavours of the meat I chose to use were a great part of that.  I will still get the odd craving for a good rare steak, but they are rarer and rarer and, put one in front of me, I couldn't eat it now.  What has happened, and pretty much of it's own accord, is that I became morally minded too. Yes, at the start, I read a couple of books and became very passionate about some facts... the environmental impact of our current meat consumption and what it means for the planet and us still astounds me, and I can't understand why more people don't want to change their eating habits based on those facts alone, I digress... but the mental shift happened very much without a great deal of self lecturing from me.  Somewhere, deep down, there has been an understanding that this is the right thing to do; an anchor point that not only keeps me steady but makes it so easy to feel anything but hard done by!  Its not hard to explain but it seems to be the hardest thing for some other, non veggie, folk to understand.  Having eaten, and loved eating it, not eating meat suddenly becomes a very obvious thing to do.  Mentally, my shift from veggie to vegan happened months before the physical one, complicated by a Drs insistence that I would do myself more harm than good if I stopped eating dairy.  Scarily, there are a great many people who will tell you that vegetarianism can cause hypothyroidism and more than once I've been told I am doing myself more harm than good.  All I can say is that if they looked at me then and now, their argument, in my case, is meritless.  By taking the path I have, I've helped medicines that didn't work for  me actually start to do their job.  Nothing is perfect, nothing ever is, but I feel like I have my life and, more importantly, my self back.  With the dairy, I took it slowly, slowly cutting out everything but cheese (another foible) and educated myself on the alternatives (as I have to moderate my soya intake, thanks again to wonky) and then one day I just stopped, and I'm not looking back!

The greatest thing about the way I eat now is the freedom that it brings; another hard-to-understand for some. The freedom comes in two very different forms: the first, lack of choice, is surprisingly freeing. Yes, menus are very short and sweet, but I spend all that time not choosing enjoying the experience instead.  Try going into a restaurant sometime determined to pick a main course based on one ingredient (chicken or pasta or vegetarian) and there's so much less to think about.  In this crazy, busy world, that fast becomes a blessing!  The other freedom is the exact opposite; at home, cooking, I have never felt freer or eaten as well.  Especially on a vegan diet, we not only eat but experiment and play with our food, it is genuinely exciting to discover what can be done.  Also, in a  meat-free kitchen I have found that a great deal less goes to waste.  Planning meals is also much less necessary, I will always have a few dishes I want to make but if we decide to go out for dinner every night instead, or if I change my mind about what to cook, there is always something that can be done without worrying about food going to waste and with a lot less "oh I just need this" trips to the supermarket too.  With the focus moved away from the meat, and firmly back to its former accompaniments, we are discovering new tastes and ways to cook all the time and the effect on the 11yr old has also been a joy to see.  She is still a meatie out of the house, but she is exploring food and cooking again; baking when she comes home from school, or grilling me about how I plan to cook the dinner and making suggestions of her own.  What she chooses to eat will be her choice, but it is a pleasure to see her so engaged and enthused.

Which brings me to the reason for this whole ramble... garlic sautéed savoy cabbage and peas in couscous.  One part leftover, one part panic grab from the cupboard, it would never have occurred to me a few months ago but is utterly delicious and my new lunchtime favourite.

Texture, flavour, colour and (great) taste... sunshine in a bowl, vegan-stylie ;o)
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