It’s been a little over a year since I started my vegan journey, so it seems fitting that this morning I found myself reflecting. Reflecting on the many changes that I’ve made and how they’ve affected my every day life. Reflecting on the things I’ve learned to live without and what I’ve gained from living without those things. Reflecting on some of the questions that I often get asked from curious animal eaters… Questions like, “But don’t you miss it???” The answer isn’t so clear cut. Yes and No.
I loved me some cheese. All kinds of cheese. Any kind of cheese. Anytime. I don’t think I ever found myself in a situation where I felt like, ‘nawww.. I’m not in the mood for cheese’. I could polish off a ‘snack platter’ with cheese, summer sausage, crackers, grapes, carrots, celery, dip… So easy! Cheese on bagels. Cheetos. Poutine. Cheese burger. Nacho cheese. Cheese. Cheese. CHEESE!
These days I barely find myself thinking about cheese. While I’m not going to site research I am going to share something that I read which makes logical sense to me. Milk contains hormones from the mother cow which when ingested by her calf, results in the calf wanting to come back for more. It’s necessary for their survival; so the calf can form an attachment to the mother and so it can grow. This is what we’re consuming in milk. Now think about how much milk is in cheese… An even higher concentration of those hormones. What happens when I ingest those hormones? Well I want to eat more cheese of course. It’s an addiction. After my first two weeks of not consuming cheese I no longer desired it. Previously, it would have been impossible for me not to grab a handful of cheese if a platter presented itself in the lunch room at work, but now I look at it and I feel nothing.
Of course there are options if you still crave cheese (some better than others). Field Roast makes some delicious Chao slices which I’ve found to be pretty darn close to cow’s cheese – I’ve used it many times to make a grilled cheese, tomato and cubanelle pepper sandwich and on a veggie or black bean burger (amazing!). You can also get nut cheese, which I have yet to purchase but I have successfully made my own cashew nut cheese – which is a lot easier than it sounds (Jenny Mustard has a super easy video on this). I’ve also found using hummus works well in some places where I would have previously used cow’s cheese. For example on a bagel (credit to Kalyn Nicholson who suggested this in a video). As the ‘cheese’ layer in a layered mexican dip. To add a ‘cheesy’ spread to my tortilla wrap or quesadilla before adding the fixins’. I usually use a flavoured hummus, most often a spicy one in the case of the mexican dip but any hummus works just as well.
What I want to make clear here is that I was a lover of cow’s cheese and I never imagined that I would ever give it up but for me at least, it wasn’t nearly as challenging as I had imagined. Besides living a life more aligned with my personal values the other bonus that I’ve gained from giving up cow’s cheese is not consuming all of that fat that comes along with cow’s cheese. It’s not like when I had cow’s cheese I was consuming in moderation, oh no, it was excessive. Who can stop at just one handful of cheese cubes? Not this girl! Now I no longer have to deal with that temptation — It’s freeing.
When I say treats I’m not referring to candy. I’m talking about donuts, chocolate croissants, brioche, cakes, cupcakes, chocolate bars, muffins etc. Now don’t get it twisted, you can certainly get these animal-free and you can bake them yourself too. They taste just as amazing as their animal-positive counterpart without the guilt. There are vegan friendly shops like the Vegan Danish Bakery where I got the most decadent chocolate coconut cream cake for birthday cake this year and you can quickly search the internet on your phone to find vegan options at many of your favourite coffee shops and restaurants.
It’s not so much that I miss the treats themselves, because I can still get them. What I miss is the ease at which I could access these treats before. What I miss is how readily available they were. Of course there is where you find the silver lining. Because these treats are not as easy to access, it means I consume less of them. Far healthier for my sugar levels as well as my waistline. No longer is it so easy to grab a muffin or a donut with my coffee at Tims or a sweet treat from Starbucks. It’s so much easier not to swipe one (or two) of every dessert at the table during our monthly BBQs at work. It’s so much easier not to take two or three cupcakes at the party because unless I’ve prepared by bringing my own baked good to gathering (which I often do), there’s nothing for me on the dessert spread.
You can also purchase ready baked sweet treats at the health food store or sometimes even a regular grocery store. Sweets from the Earth makes some of the most amazing animal-free baked goods that are sold in many health food stores. My favourites are their cupcakes and whoopie pies but store bought vegan treats can come with a higher price tag. This is understandable considering the product is for a smaller market, less volume will be sold and a profit must be made but this also means I have to choose how often I purchase and as a consequence how often I consume these treats wisely. For the record, I’m not sad about it. It’s far easier to say no, when you don’t have an option and I’m sure my pancreas is doing a happy dance right about now.
There are a few other things that I miss. Seafood for example, mostly shrimp and lobster but these weren’t animals I consumed very often, so they’re less of a challenge. I also miss how easy it used to be to pick a restaurant when I wanted to eat out. Granted, you can find something vegan friendly to eat on almost any restaurant menu. I even found something at an oyster bar in the Distillery District. I’ve learned to plan ahead and check out the menu online first as well as committed to memory the animal-free items at fast food joints that I frequent.
What’s more important than the things I might miss are the things that I’ve gained. I feel awake. You’ll notice that I’ve said ‘animal’ and ‘cow’ frequently throughout this post where normally you might have just said ‘meat’ or ‘cheese’. I feel like I was oblivious to what I was eating before… Yes it is meat, but it was a cow at one point and it was killed for me to eat. I feel like I should at least acknowledge that it was previously a living, breathing cow, before it was meat.
I feel like I am moving my life in a direction that is more closely aligned with my values.
I feel conscious.
I feel free.