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What do vegan's eat?

I’m glad you asked, because eating is one of my favourite things to do! I believe going vegan and what you eat evolves from the foods you’re used to being replaced by vegan alternatives, to eating foods that are uniquely plant-based. In time, the animal-based foods you thought you needed is forgotten and you will be amazed you ever ate it.


My pre-vegan diet.


Growing up, we didn't eat certain meats but meat did appear in most of our meals. The meat was usually minced beef/lamb or lamb with our Iraqi rice stews. I never ate the meaty bits, mum would ask I at least ate one piece, and I would. We ate a lot of fish, which I enjoyed, but I disliked other seafood - especially tuna and crab. Chicken was never on the menu, but a whole roast chicken was on offer for Christmas. I used to watch mum prepare meat and stress about being an adult and having to do it myself. I loved mum’s kofta kebabs, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, shepherd’s pie, and her varieties of timin wa marag (Iraqi rice and stews). Mum was a health nut and hid a lot of veggies in her cooking. A salad was served with every meal. It was family tradition to get fish 'n' chips in Wynnum - a bay side suburb what felt like hours away from home - around once a month. Take-away pizza was purchased every so often but mum didn't like getting it because all I wanted was cheese pizza, no other toppings.


My ultimate weakness was cheese. I would have my bowl of spaghetti bolognese covered with grated parmesan and a separate bowl with grated cheese (so every bite had ample cheese). I once went to a restaurant in Italy and the waiter laughed at me because I wanted a separate bowl of parmesan because they weren't putting enough cheese on my pasta.


Sour cream, bulk sour cream. I enjoyed dairy products, but always found myself chewing gum or brushing my teeth vigorously afterwards as I didn't enjoy the feeling in my mouth or "dairy breath". (I don't have to worry about that any more).


I never liked pork (ate it when it was served on me as a dinner guest). People always questioned worryingly if I ate pig - which was already cooked and served in front of me - assuming I was Muslim. I always found this offensive. Just because I looked different, I felt the question was ignorant, not considerate. I never understood the obsession of bacon, but enjoyed it in food, like carbonara or scrambled eggs, but would prefer ham. I ate ham sandwiches stuffed with other ingredients to mask the slimy ham taste. I didn’t like the taste of ham on its own.

I ate eggs, but they always made me feel sick so I had a special way of eating them. Mum had a way of preparing them just the way I liked them.


I did not like eating steak, ever, but did to be polite if served at dinner. Sometimes I would hold my nose and swallow chunks without even finishing chewing it. I loved gravy, and would flood my steak with it to mask the taste.


I loved butter, lots of butter on my bread.


That’s what I had to work with going vegan. Not too bad, right?


Starting vegan.


Slipping up. I quit all animal based foods, cold turkey. All, including honey. The day I decided, the day it happened. A few weeks later I was having drinks with friends and they served a chicken curry. They forgot I was vegan, I felt bad, so I ate it. A few months later I ordered a Hungry Jacks Rebel Burger. I took a bite, it was meat! I cried, then vomited. I've devoured bread I later found out had egg-white powder in it. I've eaten other processed foods I've later found out it contained egg-white powder. In a drunken state, I ate some of my friends butter chicken, without the chicken. The next morning, I remembered butter chicken is full of dairy. When I was really sick and my mum came up to care for me, I really craved salmon and she cooked some for me. That's it.


Cravings and struggles. I tried all the replacement cheeses, never found one I liked, so I got used to not having cheese on my food. Not as hard as I thought it would be for a former cheese addict. I still have creamy cheese-free dishes which Whitney has mastered for me. I didn't enjoy the taste of meat-free mince, originally I wasn't enjoying my usual minced meat meals. I felt the mince taste was overpowering. Road trips were the hardest. I missed McDonald's Sausage McMuffin’s on roadtrips. Traveling outback and through country towns, my options were limited. Hot chips. I later discovered Pie Face and their vegan range. I prepare my foods now when I travel, because some times I would travel for a few days and I can't eat the same thing every meal, every day - even if I broke it up with ample fruit.


Starting out. It's a good time to go vegan. There are so many vegan alternatives; cheeses, yoghurts, butters, chocolate, milk, ice-creams, chicken products (schnitzels, kievs, nuggets), bacon, sausages, mince, burger patties, sausage rolls and pies etc. Until you get used to the world of a plant-based diet, there are meat-alternatives to fulfill any craving. You will try some products and want to barf, but you will keep trying until you find the products that acquire to your taste. A lot of fast food joints have vegan alternatives too.


Moving on and up.


Joining the vegan community is exciting. I discovered terms like, "plant-based" and "whole food plant based". We became creative, and started trying meals we never would have otherwise.


Tofu. I find the taste of tofu quite overpowering and I'm not a fan of the texture. It could be because I never grew up with it. I also find tofu doesn't soak the flavours as well as, say, chicken does. But I discovered I love really scrambled tofu, particularly to replace "fake mince".


Fake mince. I leave it out altogether, or use minuscule amounts. Shepherd's pie doesn't need mince to taste like shepherd's pie. Nor does spaghetti bolognese. Vegetables are the star ingredient of our meals, not meats.


Creativity. We find we waste less food, and would often work with what we have. With only broccoli, carrot and zucchini in the fridge, we could make a pesto based pasta, a veggie and rice curry, a veggie pie, veggies and gravy over mashed potato, lasagne, spaghetti bolognese. Depends what we feel like on the night.


It doesn't take long for your taste buds to adjust and expand. You will find yourself eating-in more (which isn't a bad thing) and attending the same restaurants/fast food joints that satisfy your vegan-needs. I live in a town where vegan variety isn't great, but it's getting there. There is a couple who moved up from Melbourne and found it sad there was nothing solely for vegans, so they opened a vegan take-away (I swear their battered fish is real fish and they're tricking us).


It did not take me long to forget about the animal-based foods I used to love. It's not even a thought. Even if I try to think, "Mmm Sausage McMuffin", I think of the sausage and cheese, and can't even. An image of a beautiful cow with sad looking eyes comes to my mind, without even meaning to, and it's not even a consideration any more. I think of my health, and the planet (I will discuss these topics in future posts).


Alternatives.


Butter. I only eat Naturli' Organic Vegan Spreadable. It's the only alternative I've found that still tastes like the real thing. They don't sell it everywhere, unfortunately, and sometimes Coles runs out. So I usually buy a few at a time (maybe that's why it runs out, others are doing the same thing). I recently found out I could buy it bulk from my local organic store, but it is ridiculously expensive.


Mince. Supermarkets sell vegan/plant-based mince from your supermarket. Some common vegan-based brands include Naturli', Quorn, Linda McCartney's Vegemince, Fry's and V2, to name a few. To be honest, I couldn't rate them, because I gave up on meat-free mince a while a go and never found the need to go back. We have a food crusher thing where you put a bunch of ingredients in it and pull the string which dices the ingredients. We use tofu and whatever vegetables we want in our dish as our mince replacement.


Chicken. As above, there are plenty of vegan-based brands that imitate chicken-based products like nuggets, schnitzle, burger patties etc. Some are quite yum. I recommend giving it all a try until you find something you like.


Sausage rolls, meat pies, deli meats and sausages. OH! The vegan alternatives are better than the meat-based ones. No random yucky chunky bits having you question, "Eh what part of an animal was that?" They have more flavour too. I love sausages and I rather it taste like a real sausage. The closest I've found is Fry's Meat-Free Traditional Sausages. A lot of Fry's plant-based-alternatives are close to the original, but without the random yucky chunky bits. Linda McCartney's sausage rolls are delicious. You can make your own sausage rolls with your choice of fillings. Yum! Deli meats? I tried some bacon-wannabes when I first started as a vegan, never again. Can live without. But there are some options there for you, I just can't recommend any. The only other deli meat I have tried or eat, is Vegie Delights Classic Hot Dogs - I'm a fan. The other day I heated it up in a container with baked beans. YUM! Try it steamed, not fried. There are also recipes online replacing the hot dog with a carrot. We haven't tried it yet, just need to pick up some liquid smoke.


Burger patties. Too easy! With the brands I mentioned above, there are so many vegan or plant-based burger patties. I haven't tried too many, but I found Beyond Meat The Beyond Burger do the job. I also enjoyed The Alternative Meat Co. Plant Based Burger.


Steak. Like bacon, look, you're just not going to find a decent alternative. You might enjoy some replacements, but I can imagine they won't mimic that steak taste and feel if that's what you're after.


Dishes containing pieces of lamb, chicken, beef. You can do without. Trust me. You can find the vegan replacements, but honestly, try the dishes you love without it. Replace it with beans or lentils, or don't. The meat isn't really what gives the dish the taste, lets be real. It's more the texture you'll be missing. The meat soaks in the flavours very nicely, yes. But it's not the meat that makes the dish taste good, it's the flavourings you add to it.


Dairy products. I've rarely found alternatives that taste like the original dairy product. I mentioned butter above. Sour cream and yoghurts, I live without now, so I can't help you there. There are so many dairy-free alternatives in any supermarket, even a remote IGA, thanks to the acceptably growing lactose-intolerant population. One dairy product manufacturers have gotten right, is ice-cream! Magnum Dairy Free Sea Salt Caramel... YUM! Cheese, well you know my thoughts there. I've given up on cheese, but I haven't given up on cheese-based meals; carbonara, lasagne, mac n cheese. We have mastered cheese flavoured creamy sauces, there are plenty of recipes online. Milk? We only buy Bonsai Soy Milk. Until other plant-based milks stop using plastic caps, we will continue to spend the money (it's dear) on Bonsai.


Inspiration.


Whitney does all the cooking in our family, but I cook... rarely. But I can cook! Because I love my food, I watch videos on YouTube for meal ideas. Here are the ones I've discovered so far:

  • Rainbow Plant Life

  • The Whole Food Plant Based Cooking Show

  • SweetPotatoSoul

  • Brett Cobley

There are so many out there and Plant Based News interview a lot of vegan chefs.


To come.


I mentioned above Whitney does all the cooking, and boy can she cook! I hope to eventually post some of her yummy recipes. My favourite that springs to mind is her yummy dumplings (thanks to our neighbour, Erin). Speaking of Erin, she makes the best vegan spaghetti bolognese I have ever eaten.


If you are on the verge of diving into veganism and your worries are what you will eat, I hope this post helps you see there is nothing to be scared of. If you want to start, give it a go, what have you got to lose? Good luck!



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