I didn’t plan on becoming a vegan, but now that I am one, I never want to go back.
My journey to veganism was gradual and almost accidental: I was a pescovegetarian for about six or seven years, when I befriended a vegan and moved in with her. I had already tried out soy milk and tofu and other products on my own, but I’d never fully understood how easy and pleasant vegan food is until we started cooking together. When the pandemic started, I found comfort in cooking interesting and different meals, and by having to cook food that both of us can eat, I naturally learned a lot about vegan food. I realised that veganism isn’t a chore or a sacrifice – I really enjoyed the food I was eating. And after some further thinking last summer, I realised that vegan food truly made me happier and reflected my views. It wasn’t hard to switch to a completely plant-based diet after that.
That doesn’t mean there have never been challenges, of course. Some basic vegan products can be hard to find, and I sometimes have to go to three separate grocery stores to get everything I want. Most meat-free ready-made meals still have dairy or eggs in them and generally the quality of ready-made vegan meals is quite poor here; sometimes I look at the frozen pizza aisle in a store and miss the convenience of just grabbing something. But this has never made me want to give in. It has only made me more indignant about the prevalence of animal products everywhere. Why do they have to put milk powder in most crisps? Or instant noodles? Why is there often animal fat in my soap, or my toothpaste? When you think about it, it’s ridiculous how the world is built around animal consumption.
One of my other challenges used to be finding a replacement for eggs. I loved scrambled eggs, and it was such an easy and cheap source of protein. I liked scrambled tofu too, but it wasn’t the same and it was more expensive. Other egg replacements also felt off to me. But once I stopped trying to find a close enough replacement for eggs, I realised that I can instead enjoy the new options I’ve found as their own thing. I’ve come to really love scrambled tofu, and for a cheaper and also delicious option, I make omelettes out of chickpea flour (gram flour) which is actually overall cheaper than eggs!
While there have been challenges, the joys of veganism outweigh them. I find it such a relief to know that I can choose to opt out of causing harm to animals. And it’s a more sustainable option for the environment, too. Veganism has also made me consider where the things we consume come from, and how I can try to make more ethical choices. For example, when I was trying to decide if I want to become a vegan, I asked myself why I think my affection for cheese would be more important than cows that get their calves separated from them so they can produce milk for us? Why do I think I’m so important? Why do we, as a society, always demand to have everything catered to us, even if it’s not sustainable or compassionate?
Plant-based food has been better for my health too, both digestion-wise and because now that I need to pay attention to eating enough protein, I actually eat better than I used to. It feels good to take care of myself and make sure that I eat enough! I’ve also become better at cooking and have found joy in trying out new recipes, ingredients, and vegan products; I have a much greater curiosity towards food than I ever have.
Now, if you’re interested in veganism, I have some tips for you!
Firstly, don’t think that to become a vegan you need to do it overnight. Nothing is stopping you from changing your butter spread to a vegan margarine spread and from trying out different plant-based milks already (I recommend sweetened soya milk and oat milk!) and trying to see if you can cook something without using any animal products. Beans, vegetables, and spices are so much cheaper than buying meat anyway, and you can see if you’d like to continue veganising your shopping further. Grocery shopping also won’t always be constant label-reading. Once you become more familiar with different products, you will start to know what’s vegan and what might not be. A lot of products state whether they are vegan, and words like milk and eggs are often bolded in the ingredients lists to help you spot them easier. There are ingredients like carmine, casein, gelatine, whey, etc, that aren’t vegan and that you might not be that familiar with, so watch out for those. Accidents still absolutely happen, and sometimes you’ll forget to check because you’ll assume that something like the paprika flavoured peanuts are obviously vegan and notice too late (speaking from experience). That’s okay! You can learn from your mistake and move on (and if it bothers you, gift those peanuts to someone who eats dairy).
Where to find nice vegan products here in Aberdeen? I love shopping at Matthew’s Foods because they have different kinds of tofu, noodles, vegan mochi, and cheap spices! To find vegan and cruelty free cleaning products, I go to Co-Op (some of them are rebranded Nisa, but still carry those products). I buy all my cosmetics, toothpaste, etc, from Superdrug, where their own brand is cruelty free and often vegan. I also really love Rosemount Market, which is a refill store where you can bring your own containers and buy things like lentils, rice, seeds, etc and other cool stuff! Some of the products there are pricier, but sometimes it’s nice to buy things in bulk and reuse old containers, and they have lots of organic products. From Asda I like to buy vegan cheese because their own mozzarella is really good! They also sell Applewood Cheese which is very nice. For everything else, I go to Lidl.
It’s also a good idea to engage with vegan communities. There are (local) vegan Facebook groups, and lots of youtubers with delicious recipes. I’d like to recommend Mina Rome and Rainbow Plant Life, who have really inspiring ideas. I don’t always have all the ingredients to follow them, but you can try some things out and adapt them to your needs!
I will leave you with two cooking tips.
How to make good chickpea omelettes:
- 1 dl gram flour (can be found from Morrisons or Matthew’s Foods)
- 1 ¼ dl water
- half a teaspoon of salt
- half a teaspoon of cumin
- half a teaspoon of turmeric
- a teaspoon of garlic powder
- about a teaspoon of paprika powder
- 1-2 teaspoons of dried parsley (optional)
- a tablespoon of nutritional yeast (optional)
- some spring onion, chopped (optional)
Mix all the dry ingredients, and then add the water slowly while whisking. Let sit for 5 min and pour onto a hot pan with oil in it! Fry and flip when it starts getting brown. The frying won’t take long! I recommend eating the omelette on a slice of bread.
A yummy and easy way to season your tofu:
- as much of tofu as you want to eat
- soy sauce (Kikkoman’s is excellent and cheaper at Matthew’s Foods)
- about a teaspoon of smoked paprika powder
- about two teaspoons of dried parsley
- either a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped, or about 1 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder
If your tofu is spongy and watery, press it for about 30 min by wrapping it in paper towels and putting some weight on it, for example a frying pan and cans on top of it. Then cut the tofu into pieces, like small cubes, and put them in a large enough container. Pour over soy sauce, enough to make a puddle that covers the bottom of the container, but not too much so the tofu is completely swimming in it (as soy sauce is very salty). Add the other seasonings, close the lid, and shake the container. Then fry them in the pan with some oil until they start to look brown. For an easy meal, you can eat it with noodles or rice and some veggie on the side, like boiled broccoli.
Good luck and please leave me questions if you have any!