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. (Vegan.com 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 yearprobably during the springtime rise in gasoline prices, which eventually made dairy prices sourI 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.
Hey, what's life without fine print?