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I KNOW what a vegan is. Here, have an egg.

July 27, 2016

I have a flow chart at the bottom of my bag, which I have never yet had the nerve to show people, though I have had substantial cause. The chart reads: “Veganism explained: Does it contain animal products? Yes → Don’t eat it. No → Eat it.”

In case you were thinking about it, my dad has already made the joke about the flowchart compelling us to eat bits of moss and small stones. But do feel free to follow suit. Wilful misinterpretations of simple concepts I happen to agree with are a type of wit of which I never tire.

But as you can no doubt see, we’re really making fun of people who don’t quite get it. I think the problem is not that people don’t know what veganism is, and not that people don’t know what their food contains, exactly; if pushed, I think people do know that mayonnaise contains egg.

The problem is a lack of day-to-day application of this knowledge. What this tells me is that our level of engagement with food is at an all time low. We don’t consciously think what’s in it and thus forget what’s in it at the time of consumption.

Part of the reason may be that we know the content of our food is unappetising, either in concept (bits of animal, or things that come out their bums) or in practice, such as rabbit bone, chicken feet and other barely edible bits making their way in to processed food.

This, unfortunately, causes problems for me. It extends to everything from obliviously slipping me a bit of egg to serving me some of the least well thought-out vegan meals I’ve ever come across.

Here is a list of my favourite “suitable for vegans” bloopers from my life, to be added to over time.

*Warning: exceptional middle-classness ahead.

1) The Sentient Apple

Once dining at the Brasserie Blanc in London, my mum and I discovered it was a butter, fish and meat heavy establishment. But, success! They had an alternative menu for people with “alternative” diets. This complicated little menu tried simultaneously to deal with lactose intolerance, nut and gluten allergies and vegetarianism in one fell swoop, resulting in a menu of plain potatoes and fruit.

My favourite was the curious “apple in apple sauce” on the main desert menu, which on the alternative menu was successfully altered to vegan by the simple expedient of containing “no apple”.

2) Cheese Is A Given

My favourite dish is probably imam bayildi. It’s a Turkish dish: fried and roasted aubergine with an oily spiced tomato sauce and stuffing. My nearest Turkish restaurant serves this. I ordered it once, as there was no mention of any dairy addition. My dish, however, came with… Cheese. The most pungent dairy product of all dairy products.

We asked the waiter about this, and his reaction rather suggested that to serve this dish without cheese would be a sign of the deepest insanity on behalf of both chef and customer. I’ve had it without cheese many times. It’s better without.

3) Ms I Can’t Believe I Forgot (Again. In the space of five seconds.)

My most supportive friend by a country mile is, unfortunately, also the scattiest. For someone who’s been vegan before, she’s remarkably prone to forget that I am.

From inviting me to a food market filled with every meat product from ostrich jerky to a whole hog roast, to the other day offering me a cheesy melt, then inciting me to play a game of Egg Russian Roulette (which involves cracking a possibly hard boiled, possibly raw egg into your face), to then after having been reminded of my veganism, chasing me with a raw egg threatening to throw it and consequently needing to be reminded again, my One American Friend gets it wrong incredibly often.

The dry peanut sandwiches were lovely though, thank you. As were the frozen peanut butter and jam. Almost.

4) We Tried!

One of the things that makes me feel a bit guilty is when people try and fail fantastically to cater for my veganism. More than one food event has been altered a little with me in mind, from a tray of Subway sandwiches which all contained plenty of delicious salad… And mayonnaise… To the party cucumber sandwiches. With butter. That day, I subsisted on sherbet powder and was high as a kite for the rest of the evening.

5) Just In Case You Wondered

Not forgetting the countless bags of unprocessed fruit and grains which helpfully tell me they’re suitable for vegans. Why Oreos neglect to mention this but Royal Galas remember, I can’t imagine.

6) It Will Have To Do

My friend had a wedding recently, which sadly I couldn’t attend. However, under the assumption that I would, she sent me a chain text (a text sent to many people at once) asking if I would prefer chicken or beef for the wedding meal. Two seconds later, a text arrived just for me, saying “Sorry, I know you’re vegan. You’re having vegetables and potatoes.”

7) Black Coffee Double Take

Guernsey is known for its cream and butter, as it contains a large creamery and decently sized cow population. When I went there, I encountered a fair few problems, but one of the funniest was trying order a black coffee. The waiter was walking away as I said I wanted it black and did a double take, as if he’d never heard of such a thing.

Anyone would think I had requested refined goji berry syrup, with a sprinkle of dry nutritional yeast. He wasn’t a native of Guernsey, either, but rather from the continent, where it’s perfectly fine to drink coffee black.

8) This Is The Kind of Thing You Guys Eat, Right?

The impression I got in Guernsey was that running out of food stuff or not having the right chef in the kitchen at the right time for the dish ordered is something of a given fact of life on the island. Once, my brother and I ordered an off-menu roasted vegetable sandwich, for the simple reason that the one vegan thing on the menu was sold out and this was the suggested alternative. The waiter came back ages later with bruschetta without the pesto. Otherwise known as tomatoes on toast.

9) Chicken, Vegetables, What’s The Difference?

I once walked past a stall that had a scribble over one of its items, which always makes me look twice. This one said: “Vegan Thai curry”, but underneath the red penned “vegan” was clearly visible the word “chicken”. I guess they ran out of chicken, so had to catch themselves a few vegans from the nearest fruit market stall, easy targets when roaming around comparing the relative squidginess of the custard apples.

10) Vegetables are something one tries to avoid, aren’t they?

At a café in a gym complex, equipped with all the usual health foods you would expect at an establishment of fitness – bacon, sausages, grease – my mum and I ordered two falafel burgers, amazed that such an option existed at all.

A member of staff couldn’t say if they were vegan or not when we asked, so he brought out the box for us to examine the ingredients list, whereupon we were greeted with the words “Suitable for vegetarians and vegans” written clearly on the front.

The burgers had the distinctive texture and temperature of having been hastily defrosted, and the salad they were supposed to come with didn’t arrive.

When my mum asked the counter guy where it had got to, he looked amazed that we should request such a thing, as if nobody who had just ordered a veggie burger could possible be desirous of salad, too.

On top of that, despite the absence of the (perfectly vegan) salad, we were furnished with two packs of (not vegan) salad cream. And mayonnaise.

11) I don’t know any vegans, do you?

“That guy,” an acquaintance says to another acquaintance, “Is actually a vegan!”

She is not referring to me.

“Really?” replies the other. “How strange!”

“I’m a vegan…” I say, hesitantly.

“What does he eat, then?” asks the second of the first, over the top of my stutters.

“I’m a vegan?” I repeat, helpfully.

“Flax seeds,” says the first to the second.

“… Um, well, actually, I…” I try again.

“It must be really hard to be vegan…” says the second.

I leave them to their conversion. Which is taking place over the top of my head. Incidentally, I am no big fan of flax seeds.

12) Veganism, that’s the gross health thing that people with B.O. do, right?

I was on 9gag the other day, and someone made a comment strip where they were talking to their beloved about sexy things, in relation to food. Eating ice cream, and suchlike. The beloved pointed out that, as a vegan, the sexy foods may not contain animal products. To which the original speaker claimed: Let’s face it, vegan food isn’t sexy.

Dairy is most certainly sexy. Because it is a viscous fluid extracted from another species, which we curdle and let fester until it forms intriguingly spongy and gloopy substances.

It makes that delightful cloying feeling at the back of your throat that often makes you want to spit. and it builds up your nasal mucus.

Then there’s that thing where a lot of people don’t know they’re dairy intolerant, so it flares up their eczema or presents other mild allergy symptoms. Sexy, sexy bodily failures.

Also, my sexy foods have to be generated by a creature being put in something called a “rape rack” and, preferably, eventually killed for being old after a lifetime of forced service. Nothing gets me off like the product of interspecies sexual slavery.

I heard that oysters are an aphrodisiac. Those are the slimy fish-smelling molluscs you traditionally eat alive, right? Mmmm. Compared to that, humus is a horrifying abomination. Crushed chickpeas! For shame. Leave your hummus out the bedroom, no matter how much of an aphrodisiac it may be.

That goes for all vegetable foods, like grapes, cocoa and strawberry. None of these plant aphrodisiacs / sexy foods will do. They all happen to be vegan, making them quite unacceptable.

Rather than plant-based ice creams, you must be sure to get dairy versions, the type people eat by the bucket when they get depressed because dairy has a comforting effect on the brain.

The happy component makes it addictive. This sexy fatty, sugary food that is addictive leads us all to eat it in front of the TV until we can no longer move.

It has much saturated fat, and scientists can’t agree on whether this causes heart attacks and other enjoyable things – therefore, of course, I will take the risk for the sake of sexy food. Sexy unfitness, depression and untimely death.

So if you know a vegan, feel free to just ask if they’re going to need food, and if so, what. We know our prepackaged sandwich situation is impossible; no one expects you to get it right. Usually, the answer is simpler than you were expecting.


From → Animal Rights

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