What Do Vegans Eat?
This is the question most people ask. It is a plant-based diet.
In other words, if no animals were used in the ingredients of the dish, it’s vegan.
Is It Easy?
The truth is that a vegan or vegetarian cook works harder.
There is more prep with vegetables than any other foodstuff. Think of the scrubbing, peeling, chopping and blanching.
Although there are quick, simple dishes in this book, for the intrepid cook who wants to stretch their capabilities and expand their repertoire, there are also more complicated recipes.
The vegan cook must also work on flavour. There is no instant umami (savoury) flavour coming from the Maillard (browning) reactions of seared flesh. But you can accomplish these flavour boosts in vegan cooking too. The vegan cook also draws on food from around the world to provide variety. The vegan cook is adventurous with ingredients.
Homely Food, Simply Cooked?
While I’m a great believer in simplicity, letting the ingredient take centre stage, some vegans use complex cooking techniques to prepare their dishes. With the effort it takes to become vegan, most vegans spend time preparing their meals. This means that they will research and discover cutting-edge food preparation and rediscover old forgotten techniques.
Vegans use substitutes to replace animal products. In this book you will find recipes to make your own vegan substitutes for milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt and mayonnaise. As a cook I don’t go for mock meats such as TVP (textured vegetable protein) or ‘facon’ (fake bacon). I prefer to use natural, unprocessed foods.
What Vegans Don't Eat & Why
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi
Vegans have two primary objections to eating animal-derived food: ethical and environmental. For the former, some people simply feel uncomfortable eating sentient food and have strong feelings about animal welfare. For the latter, industrial livestock farming is undeniably having a disastrous effect on the environment. Most modern farming is industrial. Only a tiny proportion of animals are reared on a traditional farm.
So even if you don’t become a full-time vegan, lowering your industrial meat and farmed fish intake is good for you, good for the planet and good for animals. The only direct power we have is as consumers, so unless you know the source of your animal product, don’t buy it.
Here is some information if you are thinking of going vegan for ethical reasons. No dogma, no guilt trip, just some information to think about.
We never used to eat this much flesh: meat eating has gone up by 300% over the last 50 years. Yet the price of meat and fish as a proportion of our income has plummeted. This can only be achieved by treating industrially farmed animals very badly.
Cattle need water, feed and land. Our beef addiction destroys rainforests. As Dr Mark Post, scientist and creator of synthetic lab meat, comments, “It takes 100 g of plant food to create 15 g of meat; this isn’t an efficient use of our resources.”
Not only do industrially farmed livestock have terrible lives, it affects our environment. One instance: pig manure from industrial farming is on such a scale that it is leaking into the water table. People that live near these factory farms have asthma and other health problems.
Over the last few decades, there have been endless scandals regarding the cheap meat available in our shops, from Mad Cow Disease to the horse meat scandal. Meat eaters have no idea what they are eating.
Consuming dairy, you might think, does not harm animals. But the dairy industry, under the system of intensive factory farming, is cruel. Cows left to their own devices live, on average, to be 20 years old, but industrial dairy cows live a mere 4 or 5 years. Cows are kept constantly pregnant and lactating, and given hormones to grow to adolescence more quickly. The milking machines cause pain and injury. The tiny baby bulls are removed from their mothers within one day of being born and are kept in the dark, then killed as veal, while the calves are removed at one day old and fed milk replacers. Baby cows don’t get the milk; we do. But that milk often contains pesticides, pus, hormones and antibiotics.
Only female chickens produce eggs, so in industrial egg production the males are disposed of, often while still alive. All industrial egg production, even if ‘free range’, is cruel. The hens are kept in crowded conditions, their beaks are amputated, they are pushed to produce more eggs than is natural, which deprives their bodies of calcium, and as soon as their egg production goes down, they are killed.
Problems include over-fishing, to the point that many species (cod, tuna) will be extinct within 50 years. Farmed fish eat their own body weight in antibiotics to combat disease from overcrowding. Dredge-net fishing, using nets the size of several football fields, is a crude commercial way of fishing, killing dolphins and sea turtles (by-catch) along with the fish. Radiation is also a problem, due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Jelly and gelatine are made from cows’ hooves. Vegan, plant-based alternatives (carrageen, agar agar) are available but so far do not have all the qualities of jelly, which melts at body temperature.
Most honey comes from farmed bees and, just like other industrially farmed creatures, they are mistreated. Their hives are artificially fed with sugar or corn syrup rather than nectar, so their honey is of poor quality. Bee numbers are declining because of pesticides, antibiotics, being restricted to the nectar of monoculture crops and mobile phones messing with their navigation systems. If you buy honey, find out about natural beekeeping, which respects the hive.
Finally, each bee produces about a teaspoon of honey during its lifetime. Bees produce honey because they need it, to survive winter.
There are vegan wines, beer or ‘natural’ wines. But wine doesn’t have animal products in it, I hear you say. Actually, egg whites, fish bladders, albumen, milk protein and shellfish are used for clarification. Most ‘natural’ wines (which contain no additives or sulphur) are vegan. Most hard alcohol is vegan.
Vegan Cosmetics & Clothes
Dedicated vegans use vegan-friendly cosmetics, nail varnish, shampoo and conditioner. Pearlised eyeshadow is created from oyster shells.
Some vegans will also avoid medicines that contain animal products; however, all medicines are currently tested on animals prior to being used by humans.
Strict vegans do not wear leather, fur, wool, ivory or bone jewellery, silk (made from silkworms boiled alive), feathers or pearls. Pearls used to be very rare, but nowadays are farmed industrially.
Brief History of Veganism
Veganism is not a newfangled thing. In Ancient Greece, philosophers such as Pythagoras argued that both humans and animals should be treated with respect. By the late 4th century BC, a debate had developed between two opposing schools of thought: while Theophrastus suggested that animals possess reason, Aristotle disagreed.
Around the time of Jesus Christ, many sects discussed the mistreatment of other species. There is a long tradition of people refusing to eat animal-derived foods based on either religion or philosophy. Many devout Christians assert that Jesus was a vegetarian, and cite the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and the Book of Daniel.
Centuries later, in the UK, anti-monarchist Oliver Cromwell passed animal welfare laws (1653) and Puritanism became associated with animal protection.
During the French enlightenment, humanist philosopher Rousseau argued in A Discourse on Inequality (1755) that animals are sentient beings. Later he encouraged a vegetarian diet for children.
During the early 19th century in Britain, moral discourse advocated restraint with regard to eating meat, and there was a parallel between better treatment of animals and the anti-slavery movement.
Dr William Lambe wrote the first ever vegan diet book Water and Vegetable Diet in Consumption, Scrofula, Cancer, Asthma and Other Chronic Diseases (1815). The early 19th century was also the romantic period, which valued compassion and nature, and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary, plus their friend Byron all became vegan for periods of time. Shelley lived for a while in a vegan commune in Bracknell. He wrote A Vindication of Natural Diet (1813), while Mary Shelley wrote the celebrated book Frankenstein (1818) whose famous ‘monster’ is vegan! At the same time, more fruits and vegetables were available in Europe, making a meat-free diet more accessible.
In 1824 in the UK, the RSPCA was formed by anti-slavery parliamentarian William Wilberforce and others, including Lewis Gompertz who published Moral Inquiries on the Situation of Man and of Brutes. Gompertz was possibly the first ‘freegan’ - he thought that if the animal died of natural causes, it was fine to eat meat and if a calf died naturally, it was fine to drink the milk of the mother.
In the USA, there was a similar drive towards a plant-based diet in the early to mid-19th century, for health and spiritual reasons.
Influential author, philosopher and abolitionist Henry David Thoreau ate only plant-based foods. Dr Sylvester Graham, creator of Graham (wholewheat) flour, published Lectures on the Science of Human Life (1839), advocating a diet of plant food and water. Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott who wrote Little Women, was an advocate of the ‘vegetable diet’. He opened a vegan commune in New England called Fruitlands. Alcott was also an abolitionist who argued for women’s rights. Alcott then travelled to England where the first vegetarian school, Alcott House School, was opened just outside of London.
Back in the UK, William Horsell created the London Vegetarian Association (1847) and then published Hydropathy for the People: with Plain Observations on Drugs, Diet, Water, Air, and Exercise. Horsell’s wife, Elizabeth, was also an active vegetarian and writer. When Horsell died, she went on to open a vegetarian girl’s boarding school.
Three years later, The American Vegetarian Society was formed, led by Sylvester Graham and Russell Thacher Trall; the latter, a naturopathic doctor, published the first official ‘vegan’ cookbook (1854).
In Germany, Gustav Schlickeysen published Fruit and Bread - A Scientific Diet (1875), which is vegan, fruitarian and raw-foodarian.
1887: Dr Kellogg, inventor of the cornflake, was also vegan. He was a great promoter of soya products and rediscovered soya milk, used for centuries in Chinese cuisine, as part of a healthy, plant-based diet. (USA)
1886: Henry Salt, master at Eton, published A Plea for Vegetarianism and coined the phrase ‘animal rights’. (UK)
1900: Maximilian Bircher-Benner invented Bircher muesli. He was strongly influenced by the writings of Schlickeysen. (Switzerland)
1910: The publication of the first British vegan cookbook No Animal Food and Nutrition and Diet with Vegetable Recipes by Rupert Wheldon.
1931: Mahatma Gandhi spoke at the London Vegetarian Society. Ghandi was influenced by the works of Thoreau and Salt.
1944: The invention of the word ‘vegan’: Donald Watson, a Yorkshireman, coined the term and founded the Vegan Society. Watson lived a long, healthy life, dying in 2005 at the age of 95.
–Some Hindus including: Hare Krishna, Brahma, Kumaris and Jain.
Know Your 'egans' and Your 'arians'
Vegans: eat no animal products whatsoever.
Pescatarians: will not eat meat, red or white, but will eat fish.
Pollotarians: will not eat meat from a mammal but will eat chicken.
Freegans: a portmanteau word combining ‘free’ and ‘vegan’; freegans do not buy animal products. This is an anti-consumerist, anti-food waste movement, so they will eat animal products if they would otherwise be discarded.
Flexitarians: are semi-vegetarian. They occasionally eat meat. These are people who are ‘meat reducers’, that is, trying to reduce the amount of meat they eat, or at the very least, trying to source meat from ethical suppliers. They are probably the biggest sector.
Ovo-lacto-vegetarians: will eat plant foods plus eggs and dairy.
Lacto-vegetarians: will eat dairy but no eggs.
Ayurvedics: are vegan, but do not eat garlic, mushrooms or onions because these are supposed to ‘excite’ the body.
Raw foodists: only eat raw, uncooked food (cooked at less than 46°C), as cooked food loses many nutritional benefits. They often use sprouted or fermented foods. They sometimes eat raw fish, eggs and meat.
Fruitarians: only eat fruit, berries, seeds and nuts.
Juicearians: exist on consuming only smoothies and juices made from fruit and vegetables.
Breatharians: don’t eat food, they only need sunlight and fresh air. Don’t try this at home.