Friday, 20 May 2011

Ideas about Veganism

I've been vegan before, though my love of a real burger and lack of finding a good veggie burger caused me to stop, its always been a neat challenge. What I don't understand though, is how healthy it is to eat all the processed soy products? Is it really so terrible to eat meat that you'll eat imitation meat? Same with all the vegan frozen meals, all processed. I'd be interested to hear vegans views! Please note: I'm honestly curious so there's no need to get defensive or be rude or tell me what I eat is wrong. I welcome all your input! :)

I came across this on a forum, and it's an interesting and common misconception.

As you've probably gathered, if you've taken a look through this blog, I don't really at anything she mentions.  I do sometimes use tofu - like, once every two months? - but I can never get through a block of it, and I do drink soya milk for the protein.  That's it, that's the limit of my processed soy.

As for imitation meat...well, I was going to say that I don't eat it, but I guess seitan counts.  I don't buy pre-made imitation meats, or meat mixes, and my mind doesn't instantly link seitan with imitation meat.  Seitan is its own kind of food - a tasty, tasty, protein source.

Same with ready meals.  I don't eat them.  I do my own cooking.

If you did try to replicate a standard western diet, using vegan equivalents, you'd be dissatisfied.  It would be expensive, and it would be a poor imitation.  While vegan diets often do use flavours and textures from omnivorous diets - again, the meaty texture and flavours of seitan - I find it naturally evolves into its own kind of thing.

I try to avoid straight veganising recipes, particularly cakes and other baked goods, and avoid things like commercial egg replacers.  I find that recipes that are designed to be vegan are often better than those which try to be omnivorous, but replace animal products with fakes.

One thing that really gets on my tits is the way that 'try commercial fake meats' often sneaks onto lists of tips for new vegetarians.  Now, I admit, I ate a lot of quorn at first, and it worked for me.  I transitioned into making my own seitan when I went vegan.  I can't remember why it originally occurred to me to make seitan (or how I found that first recipe, since I'd never heard of it before last year), but I'm glad I went that route rather than the fake meat route.  It's cheaper, for a start.

In Oprah's recent experiment in veganism, I gather that they simply replicated a standard American diet using commercial fake meats and cheeses.  There's an article on Oprah's experiment on Wicked Good Dinner, and while I agree with most of it, I do need to call out another common idea which bugs me (particularly when omnivores bring it up, as if it will score a point, but that's an entirely different topic).

I always thought veganism was based on a health and/or moral decision to avoid animal products. Eating foods pressed into shapes of animal products or made to mimic animal products, which is what Kathy was promoting, seems to negate the purpose of becoming vegan.

I fall into the moral decision category, and, to me, eating seitan which is designed to play the role traditionally taken by meat in my diet does not negate the purpose at all.  I stopped eating animal products because I think the way animals are treated is wrong.  As long as I don't eat any animal products, I'm good.  The only thing I could do, apart from that, to negate my purpose would be to buy new leather, wool, suede, or silk products.

For those who make the decision for health reasons, I would, again, disagree, with homemade seitan in mind.  It's about as bad for you as homemade bread.  I know there is debate about the gluten, but I'm neither gluten-free, nor a raw foodist, though I do avoid processed foods.  I am also, happily, not allergic to any of the ingredients.  Seitan is well within my self-defined dietary requirements (minimal processing, homemade with natural ingredients, animal-free).  However, if I consider commerical fake meats, then I agree.  Heavily processed foods set off my "should I put that in my body?" triggers, so, yes, if I'd become a vegan for health reasons, I'd be avoiding those (I do anyway).

(I've italiced 'my' a few times to drive home the point that I am purely speaking for myself, and my diet and choices, not all vegans.)

Anyway, short version is, I disagree that commercial fake meats defeat the purpose of a vegan diet for those who became vegan for moral reasons.  However, Oprah was, I believe, promoting health reasons, so yes, I guess it was hypocritical, though not for the reason stated.  Plus, I have a feeling it directly lead to that question at the top of the page, pushing that idea out to omnivores that a vegan diet has to include this stuff, or that those products are the things vegans normally eat.  There's a very good discussion on the topic here.

In summary; a vegan diet is not a poor imitation of an omnivorous diet.  It doesn't have to be expensive or heavily processed.  And it's really, surprisingly, fun, to come up with creative ways around the restrictions placed on vegan cooking.

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