IN January, Greggs launched their own vegan sausage rolls. The BBC put out a Dirty Vegan series. Global icon Beyonce encouraged fans to become vegan in a competition. Those who adopted the diet and won received free tickets to concerts forever. January also became Vegan-uary, when people gave up meat and ate a plant-based diet.
Veganism has become a thriving community. Before you turn and run, I am not going to preach to you about why you should become a vegan. That is down to you. While the ideas hold many valid points, I do not plan to adopt the diet. All I try to do is recommend good food wherever I see it and for this article it happens to be vegan food.
It wasn’t always that way though. My first experience with veganism wasn’t great. I recall a date I had in 2011 where a vegan woman invited me to her flat for dinner. I left school, started university at 18 and for a naïve insecure teenager, this invitation was a big deal. I showered, brushed my teeth and gave a pep-talk to myself. I sprayed ludicrous amounts of deodorant on myself too.
On arrival, she served me a bowl of seeds. I joked and asked if this was my starter and she looked at me perplexed.
This was the meal she said. I stared at the bowl. I was distraught. This is not dinner. Not even a robin would find this filling. After our dinner I said goodnight and I ran to the nearest kebab shop.
In 2018, I was typing away at work, when a friend emailed me an invite to a local vegan festival. I had flashbacks of the bowl of seeds and was apprehensive going. Then I thought, should I judge all vegan food based on one dish many years ago? To prove this point I went to the festival where I was expecting the worst. Angry vegans, ‘meat is murder’ signs and more girls with more inedible seeds. On arrival I was greeted by friendly easygoing people. There was ice cream, burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes and more. I ate Indian street food and I had samosa chaat, green beans, spices topped with fresh coriander. The amount of flavours in one dish, was pure perfection. It was then I realised that vegan food isn’t so bad after all. It was that single bad meal I had that night that made me believe all vegan food was terrible.
Through this newfound perspective, I’ve opened arms to the vegan community. Of all the vegans I’ve met, not one was aggressive or yelled at me for eating meat. I may not agree on all their points but that didn’t stop me from asking for their recipes or where to find great vegan food. Cardiff has a great vegan scene serving up all kinds of meals. Not all of them serve kale, quinoa and pomegranate seeds blended inside an avocado shell. Some kick that stereotype out the door and serve up mean dirty cruelty-free burgers. Many restaurants are jam-packed with families, couples and teens devouring plant-based fast food. In one place I tried a vegan take on the big mac with cheesy (vegan) chips. The cheesy chips were gooey just like how cheese should be. The burger looked enticing wrapped in the paper bag, but I was skeptical. When it comes to burgers, I’m a bit of a snob. No matter what anyone says about substitute burgers, they can’t fool me. I took a bite and I was ‘bamboozled’. This burger tasted exactly like the real thing. Had I been blindfolded I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.
If you’re against vegan food put the politics aside for a moment and try the food first. As people we have a tendency to categorise people in social groups. The danger of this is that we stereotype and demonise people. If we stop the us versus them mentality and the arguing we can enjoy vegan food for what it can be. Real good food.
Daniel Martin writes for The Carmarthenshire Times.