Vegan FAQ!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What exactly IS a vegan?
Okay so a vegetarian does not eat animal flesh. This includes beef, pork, chicken, veal, lamb, duck, fish... Anything that once lived and breathed or had a pulse etc. A vegan is someone that in addition to this, also does not eat, wear or use any animal derived products so dairy, eggs, honey and so on, leather, animal tested products... Anything that uses an animal for profit or human gain is out. We believe that animals are not ours to use, simply because they are voiceless and unable to defend themselves against us. People ask me what about squishing bugs or eating plants since they are alive too. Let me try to make it simple - firstly, I try not to squish bugs and relocate them instead, but if I slap a mozzie and it dies, I don't beat myself up. It's self defence! Seriously though, killing bacteria is also self defence. Additionally, whilst plants live, they are not sentient beings that can think and feel, and as such, there is not a valid reason not to eat them.

Aren't you guys all hardcore, militant, omni bashing, guilt trippers?
Ha! Well, some can be sure. But so can some omnivores. Or some religious people, or anyone with a cause they believe in. I've certainly seen some around, but I was lucky enough to be unofficially mentored by two vegan friends who never judged me, always gave me ideas and alternatives and encouragement, but never forced their beliefs or reasons and only offered when I asked for them. There are some great videos and information on the web. Take the good with the bad and don't let it put you off. Everyone is on their own path and pace.

So I have to give up cheese altogether? I don't think I can...
You know why? Because cheese is literally addictive. Those naughty casomorphins! They have an opioid effect. Yes that's right. Cheese is opiate like, morphins. Morphine. In your cheese. No wonder you love that stuff, right? So once you can break that addiction, you won't miss cheese. The vegan cheeses available commercially are continually improving. There is parmazano, a vegan parmesan, and my current favorite is Vegusto. That stuff is awesome and soy free (soy cheeses can sometimes leave an aftertaste). I am also very partial to tofutti and kingland cream cheeses! As for your cheese sauces for pasta and so on, never fear, nutritional yeast (read further down) is a vegans bestie.

Some of my best comfort foods are vegan, won't I miss them?
Okay so we are talking what here? Chocolate, ice cream, pizza... all that crap that firstly isn't good for you but we all want anyway. Let me let you in on a secret - you can still have all of that as a vegan. ALL. Of. It. Vegan chocolate includes most dark chocolates, and there are brands such as sweet william that have milk and white varieties and can be found in Coles. Venture further afield to a specialist vegan store and you'll be inundated with vegan chocolate varieties in every flavour imaginable. Including tasties such as champagne truffles. To die for.
Ice cream is another one we can sort you out on easily. Coconut based ice cream is delish. I've even made my own in the ice cream maker (with a salted caramel sauce over the top - decadence!) but its available to buy as well. And if you want to go a healthier route, there's always (egg free) gelati!
Let me talk about pizza. I've been working on a good vegan pizza over time. How can you do pizza without cheese man?! Easy!!! I've used a cashew cheese that I home made, and I've used vegusto. Both were yum. I am hanging to get my hands on some Notzarella which I have heard amazing things about, but also Cheezly do a vegan mozzarella and a vegan nacho melty cheese. Drooooool.
There are a huge range of vegan burgers and bacons and so on if you know where to look. You don't miss out, and it's worth hunting for it for the lives you are saving.

Doesn't vegan mean all healthy and raw and grainy?
Well, it can. Unless you are like me and love your creamy, cheesey, carby, 'bad for you' food too much... I've made or bought vegan schnitzels with mash and gravy, cheesy potato bakes, lasagnes, pizzas, chocolate peanut butter pies, cupcakes, yum cha... All 100% vegan. I have always loved food, too much mostly. But I am not someone who could easily go without. I am a foodie, I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to taste. Being vegan doesn't cost me any of that, and indeed with it the satisfaction and kick I get from eating cruelty free and knowing no animal was hurt for the sake of my taste buds, it just gives me a pretty cool high. As a bit of a teaser, check out these vegan cookie dough truffles from my favorite vegan chef... drool!

What are all these things that are new to me? Agave? Nutritional yeast? Gluten flour?
This was a minefield for me when I first started eating vegan. I'd say it took me a good year to get my head around all the substitutes and their uses. When I first got nutritional yeast, I used it as a sprinkle on chips. Which is great, but it's nothing on using it to make a cheese sauce for a lasagna or alfredo. It's not yeast like baking or brewers yeast. A friend told me it looks like fish food. lol. It kinda does! But it really emulates a cheese flavour perfectly.
Agave syrup is a great alternative to honey. It's sweeter than honey and has a kind of toffee taste to it. Brilliant sweetener.
Gluten flour can make a product called seitan, that's kind of a wheat meat thing. It also makes killer schnitzels.
There are various egg replacers, a ton of milks and techniques for baking that make cupcakes nicer than any dairy based cake I have ever had in my life. Vegan baking always comes out lighter and fluffier for me!

What is the hardest part?
For me, it was cheese. Once I got rid of cheese, I was fine. I find meat and eggs kinda gross anyway, they're all veiny or mucousy and just... ew. lol. So I didn't find it hard to dump those. Milk was also easy to switch (my favourite alternatives are bonsoy, almond and hazelnut milks). But cheese was tough. I tried I guess 4 or 5 different cheese alternatives but none were as good as dairy cheese until I found mild vegusto. I'd not know the difference between it and a dairy gouda. Whilst it doesn't melt well, it still tastes good on pizza, and they also do a more piquant flavour that I am told is sharp and bitey like a parmesan though I am yet to try that one myself. That and just learning what substitutes are out there and getting familiar with them took time. Oh, and reading labels on things I assume are vegan but turn out not to be is frustrating at times (eg lime and pepper crisps, you'd think oh vegan easy. Hello milk solids. FOILED AGAIN!)

What is the best part?
I said it earlier, I really get a kick out of eating cruelty free. I think that before I always ate with a subconscious feeling of unease and guilt without ever really being aware of it. now that I avoid all those products, I just feel so happy and amazing. So true to myself. I've never experienced anything quite like that before! Knowing my health is better, and losing weight more easily are added bonuses.

Got any other questions? Ask away. I'm here to help!

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