I was reading through some of my old school books earlier and it was a stark reminder of how difficult it was to be a vegetarian in the 80’s 90’s.
I’m by no means vegan, I’m more of a Pescatarian, and if I am feeling under the weather I may occasionally eat a little chicken, but I do my best. I only drink dairy free milk and try to eat plant based foods as much as possible. It’s not always easy with a busy schedule and I’ve slipped up a few times along the way, but I believe that any reduction of animal products in our diet will help the plant.
It is a lot easier these days with products like Plant Kitchen, Linda Mcartney and Quorn readily available, but I also try to incorporate fresh vegetables as much as possible and make my own home made smoothies and soups with the blender. Avocado on toast with freshly squeezed lemon juice, chilli flakes and black pepper is a also a firm favourite.
I think it was 1989 I stopped eating meat the first time round. In the late 80’s and 90’s there was a much smaller selection of vegetarian foods available. I remember eating bean chilli for 3 nights in a row as a child, and one Sunday my Mother insisting I eat some chicken as I was so pale I made Caspar the ghost look like he’d been in Barbados for a week!
Eating out was problematic too and the menu was limited to – Omelette. Mushroom omelette if you were lucky!
Societies attitudes towards vegan and vegetarianism has changed dramatically. If you didn’t eat meat in the 90’s, people thought you were some kind of left wing rebel terrorist. They expected you to start burning your bra, letting animals out of cages and causing anarchy. You were not able to say, “No thanks, I don’t eat meat,” without a verbal assault on your ethics. Meat eaters did not like to hear that you didn’t share the same values as them and would prattle on for hours about why humans should eat meat, until your eyes flickered with weariness and saliva dribbled down your chin as you desperately tried to stay awake.
I remember a great deal of bullying from school kids over my dietary choices as well. If you didn’t eat meat you weren’t one of them. In year 11 I went on a school trip to La Rochelle in France to improve my French. Of course the French are renowned for their love of animal products and this proved a real struggle. My friend Natalie and I existed on bread rolls for the entirety of the trip as that was the only meat free option.
The lowest point of the trip was visiting a mussel farm. The hosts cooked the mussels by burning them alive on a fire and dished them up with frogs legs. I declined to eat. When pressured into the reasons why I wouldn’t eat, things turned rather sour. I was pelted with mussels and frogs legs by the boys and had meat burgers waved in front of my face. The teachers didn’t intervene as they couldn’t understand why chucking bits of dead animal at me would be distressing.
I like to think over the past few years I’ve given at least 2 or 3 of those lads a good thrashing with the whip, and just haven’t recognised them 😉
With the arrival of the n00ties I faced new challenges when I went off to university and had to survive on a student loan and part time jobs. All was going well until I woke up one morning with a hangover after a night in the student union and was offered a bacon sandwich. With an empty food cupboard I knew I couldn’t afford to be fussy and was thankful for the free breakfast. I’ll be honest, that bacon sandwich that morning was like a slice of Heaven as I inhaled it’s smoky flavours and relished the sharp tang of budget tomato sauce assaulting my tastebuds. This was the start of me dipping in and out of vegetarianism for many years.
Having lived so many years without eating red meat, I never ate it a great deal, but finally removed it completely from my diet about two and half years ago, and I feel a lot better for it. My skin is clearer and I don’t feel as lethargic. Having said that I do have a bottle of Feroglobin on standby for when my skins start to match my eggshell white bedroom walls. I’ve found that adding more lentils, apricots and other iron rich foods helps with this too.
There are also a better range of healthy grains available nowadays. When I was a teen I’d never heard of bulgar wheat, spelt or freekah, which are excellent bases for a vegetarian meal. Simply cook and mix in some stir fried vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, grated courgette, aubergine, onions or mix and match to suit your pallet. If your in need of protein a handle of nuts and seeds bulk the meal out and give you some of the essential fatty acids your body needs to maintain optimum function.
We live in very different times to when I was growing up. If I had of known back then that the world would change so much, and that so many people would dedicate themselves to animal welfare, it would have been a real comfort. I applaud anyone who has the dedication to be a full time vegan. I’m not sure that route is for me, but I will do my best to make ethical choices.
Some of my favourite products are:
Artisan Grains Country Veg Nut Roast
Violife Original Grated Non-Dairy Cheese Alternative
THIS Isn’t Bacon Plant-Based Rashers
Oatly Oat Drink
Marks & Spencer
Plant Kitchen BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Pizza
Sweet Potato & Red Pepper Sausages
If you are looking to go vegan or reduce your consumption of animal products there are some great resources on the web. I have added some links for you to peruse at your leisure, should you wish. Have a great week everyone!