Vegan Days?!

Last week I was left to my own devices for dinner, having both a little bit of time and the capability to make just about anything I wanted. The answer? Vindaloo vegetable curry! Yum. I don't make it as hot and spicy as some folks, but I think I do it justice.

As I was making dinner, I had an idle thought: Hey, this meal will be fully vegan, and I'm making it as a treat! Vegan meals contain no animal products, which generally means they have no meat, eggs, dairy, and various animal by-products (like lard, broth, or gelatin). In addition, many vegans extend the no-animal-products idea into other areas of their lives, eschewing (for instance) leather and honey, as well as cosmetics or personal care items tested on animals. ( offers some information on veganism; the Wikipedia's entry on veganism is also a good starting point..)

Me, I'm no fan of agro-business or factory farming, and, having worked briefly at a couple jobs which put me in slaughterhouses, can offer first-hand accounts of the meat industry which would probably turn most faces green. These things are well-documented elsewhere. And I've been vegetarian more than half my life, partly for health reasons (cardiovascular disease practically gallops in my family; my elder brother died of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 40, etc.) but also because the sheer waste of resources and energy engendered by the meat industry. Without preaching, a diet including meat is not necessary for health, not the way to feed the world, or nor a way maintain an Earth-like environment on this planet.

But I've never gone vegan: things like eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter are still part of my life and have been for years. It's complicated, but the basic rationale is that I'm a pretty lazy person. I can't be counted on to feed the cats and keep groceries in a refrigerator, so planning balanced, reasonable food and meals which don't include dairy is more thought and effort than I can reliably expend. (Although, like vegetarianism, I suspect veganism can be almost no trouble once you have the necessary knowledge and skills: it becomes second nature. I probably put less active thought and consideration into my food choices than most meat-eaters... although I'm admittedly a pretty dull guy.) For a few years, social pressure played into my not becoming vegan, although I've mostly stopped caring. I mean, people have thought I'm a freak and a pain-in-the-ass for being vegetarian who doesn't drink alcohol; I can't imagine they'd be any more put out if I were vegan.

Making vindaloo curry, I realized how much I've unintentionally gravitated towards a vegan diet, and, counting back, that I've been eating vegan three to five days a week. At some point last year—probably during the springtime rise in gasoline prices, which eventually made dairy prices sour—I realized I could get decent soy milk considerably cheaper than decent "real" milk. I'd long kept soy milk around for certain things (and some specific guests), but I figured, hey, why not give up milk and see what happens? Turned out the most painful thing about the transition was the cartons my so-far favored brand of soy milk uses: they might be best described as "dribble-matic."

A year or so before that, I'd stopped buying cheese, although I'd still eat some rennetless cheeses if they were offered. (Today I buy cheese essentially once in a blue moon for a specific meal. And, honestly, I'll probably stop using it in that meal too. And I haven't made paneer in ages.) I still buy butter, but only because hydrogenated margarines seem difficult to avoid. Other than for waffles or baking, I only use butter preparing oatmeal or on a random slice of bread. Yogurt is still on my radar: I like plain yogurt with hot curries, and also as the basis of fruit smoothies. I guess I could try out vegan substitutes for cheese, but they bring out the same reaction in me as "meat substitutes" like tofu-pups or soy-sausages (that being a loud Huh? I'm sure some of these products are quite good, but I don't want to eat something pretending to be meat. I mean, would you eat something pretending to be broccoli?) Anyway, the idea of "fake cheese" kinda strikes me badly. But since soy milk was painless, soy yogurt might be worth a try.

Who knows? Maybe I can get work up to five or six consistent vegan days a week.

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