Veganicide n. The social effect of turning vegan.
Over Easter i began plotting how to best destroy my close relationships, so i decided to become vegan, as well as taking a ‘white month’ (cute Swedish for ‘alcohol free month’). It’s funny how one’s food choices can become destabilising for others, although i’d understand it more in my case had i been the regular star turn at the Beef Association weekly dinner. And, it may surprise you to hear, it’s not like people are constantly asking me over for dinner anyway. Also, i live in Fitzroy, where Maccas is more taboo than veganism and i’m within 5 minutes to 5K of vegetarian restaurants such as The Vegie Bar, Madame K, Soul Food, Las Vegan, Smith St Food Co-op, the Tofu Shop, White Lotus and Yong Green Food. I’m also more than happy to make adjustments at restaurants (it’s mainstream!) and at people’s houses without making a big deal out of it. It’s only one meal and personally i don’t mind if i’m eating salad while everyone is eating salad with feta. But i guess a host has pride and therefore anxiety and so that’s probably what’s going on when people react disproportionately to another’s ‘dietary requirements’. Which is both sweet and sad.
Personally, having been vegan for 18 months in the 90s, i knew all it took was a slight shift in headspace and shopping list to execute it well. I decided to do veganism in conjunction with sobriety because it seemed like a cool, fun challenge to direct my energy into when i was removing a dependence. And it has been cool and fun. I also assumed that I’d lose weight giving up alcohol so it would be fine to eat however i wanted as vegan. Having carte blanche to cook and eat whatever i felt like in the vegan world meant veganism felt expansive and liberating. In addition to normal groceries, I bought a few new things such as nutritional yeast, white miso, chia seeds, almond milk, agave and maple syrup. A big bag of smoked paprika replaced my little sachet. A whole stack of quinoa (which i’m now eating for breakfast) and i restocked all my pulses. I’ve also been getting into golden sultanas, dried blueberries and cranberries with roasted hazelnuts.
My decision to go alcohol-free was motivated by the desire to have more clarity, consistency, continuity and concentration as i wrap up my Phd. The run-on detox effects have made me much more aware of the effects of other things on me. In the past, i think i attributed all symptoms of anything negative in my life, including issues with people, to the effects of alcohol. But now i’ve noticed that gluten makes my sinuses swell up really nastily, gives me headaches and makes me itchy – bizarre! So i’ve backed off gluten as well. Not avoiding it all together, cos god knows everyone loves scratching, but checking out gluten-free options and asking myself whether i’d prefer the gluten or the effects of gluten. Usually i don’t want the effects, so i don’t have the gluten. In this way, veganism in conjunction with an alcohol-free month has been so good and so unexpected for enabling me to see what makes me feel good and what doesn’t. I’m working with a clean slate and the effects are immediate. As with any new, introduced program, however, you always need an exit strategy because it can be really weird going from go to woe. So with veganism, my exit strategy is to continue cooking vegan at home but eat vegetarian socially because i don’t want to be rude, or emphasise food too much over social things. I think vegetarian is a good compromise. I’d been eating fish again for a few years but the thought of going back to it now is really unappealing.
I believe that one’s relationship to food reflects one’s relationship with one’s mother. When you’re a tiny baby, food and mother are basically one and the same thing. If you don’t have your mother, you don’t have food. So food takes on a personality and a meaning independent of its requirement for survival, for nourishment and its capacity to give pleasure. When you’re a little kid, food is one thing with which you can stage a rebellion. Kids who don’t eat, kids who overeat, kids who eat standing on their head, are all trying to say something with the medium of food. Becoming an adult generally entails choosing a different value system to that of your parents. Most people disguised as adults are just older-looking kids with the same problems and coping mechanisms. It’s interesting to consider your ethics of consumption – which are so often interwoven with social modes - when you make the decision to distinguish your own ideology from that of your parents. This includes your actual mode of subversion. If you subvert your inherited ideology in the way your parents would, then it’s not really subversive at all.
If you believe that there’s no such thing as an accident, then our actual food tastes also have some meaning. Every meal we eat, every thing on the plate, can quite possibly be traced back to a psychological mechanism or memory somewhere. That could be a new occupation – Food Readers. I know that food-obsession is in part of the #firstworldproblems. But even within an awareness of this phenomenon, the psychological aspects behind our choices are subsumed to environmental or appearance-based concerns and the complex status indicators attached to these categories. Imagine if we could trace a psychological narrative from everything we ate. Hmm, i wonder why those dinner invitations are not forthcoming.
Anyway, predating my decision to go vegan, I was already a reader of a Seattle blog called Daily Garnish which is maintained by a vegan chef, Emily Malone, who seems so sweet and has a very cute baby. I’m not a recipe fanatic but i wanted to embrace the genre, so I went through Emily’s recipe archive and compiled a document of all the things i wanted to eat and i’ve been cooking mostly stuff from her site.
What i’ve made from Emily – all sensational:
Vegetable Pasta with Miso Tahini Sauce (I like more sauce, less pasta)
Broccoli “Cheese” Pasta Bake (Ditto with the sauce and i added sundried tomatoes to the bake)
Homemade Enchilada Sauce I used 2 tbsp smoked paprika + 1 chilli instead of 3 tbsp chilli
Blackened Crispy tofu (This is on high rotation, for lunch in wraps or dinner in tacos with various sauces. You need to control the salt level – i think her ingredients are American)
I’m also making this breakfast quinoa, which i eat with banana and tahini. Deluxe.
And next up is this Smoky Southwestern Kelp Noodle Bowl with Black Beans Corn
and these Vegan Fig Bars are looking pretty good.