“Observe the vegans, grazing peacefully in the wake of dawn” is a sentence used to perfectly sum up my sentiments towards the herbivorous folks up until two years ago. I used to be unable to quite understand why anyone would decide to drop meat and dairy products from their diet and settle for a lifetime of plant-based meals – until I met my wife, that is.
With Anna’s veganism in the mix, I was forced to reconsider my take on alternative lifestyles: from what I had the chance to see, my girlfriend was healthier, more energetic and in far better shape than most people I know, which did not play well with my mental image of a gangling vegan pointing a finger at bacon-eaters, shouting about animal cruelty and sulking alone at meat-free table corners at social events. During our relationship, I got to learn more about veganism and though I am still not considering going herbivore, I feel forced to admit that my former perspective as an omnivore concerning the vegan choice was utterly uncalled for.
The Vegan Chimera: What Do They Eat?
Most omnivores cannot tell the difference between vegans, vegetarians and other non meat-eaters. To avoid social awkwardness in a vegan company, skip the stereotypical questions such as “and what do you eat exactly?” or “but you do eat fish/cheese/eggs, right?” The vegan diet consists of vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes. This means no milk, cheese, eggs, fish, gravy or other animal-based products. Vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products; vegans don’t. So, do not serve them foods that have the slightest trace of animal in it. While this, to a carnivore does, sound like they eat nothing at all, the vegan diet is in fact healthy.
Table Manners: To Meat or Not to Meat
Omnivores and carnivores often feel awkward ordering meat in the company of vegans. I had the same problem with my wife – every time we dined out, I felt guilty for even considering a dish that had meat in it, with her nibbling at peas by my side. Though certain hard-core animal rights activists (who may incidentally be herbivorous) might frown at your bacon-laden plate, most vegans are highly tolerant of different lifestyles and dietary choices. Vegans are usually caring by nature, so they probably will not be bothered if you order a double cheeseburger on your second date.
Balance the Scales: Don’t Judge a Vegan by Their Weight
If the image of a lanky, starved fellow with protruding cheekbones or an anorexic-looking girl with her clavicles sticking out at odd angles is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word vegan, you are terribly mistaken. Vegans eat fatty and starchy food too. For instance, some vegan dishes such as tempura are extremely high in fat and vegan condiments sometimes pack more calories and carbs than regular sweets. In other words, you cannot tell a vegan by their weight – although a plant-based diet is considered healthier in theory, not every vegan is exactly disciplined when it comes to their food choices.
Vegan Dishes vs. Non-Meat Dishes: It Is Not About Taking out the Meat Bits
Taking out pieces of meat from a dish does not make it vegan (or vegetarian for that matter). If you really want to please your vegan friend or partner, you should make a little extra effort and prepare a meal that has no meat, eggs or dairy in it. Meat releases flavorful substances during cooking, and however in love with you they may be, no honest vegan will want a beef-tasting potato on their plate. The same goes for cheese and eggs: a tiny bit of dairy never killed anyone, but it can (and probably will) kill your vegan dining companion’s appetite. If you loathe broccoli, you probably will not enjoy broccoli-flavored chips, right?
They Do Not Starve: Vegan Does Not Mean Protein-Free
Contrary to most omnivores’ opinion, meat is not the only source of protein. Various vegetables, nuts and seeds contain proteins, such as green peas, beans, almonds, peanut butter, tempeh, tofu and seitan, so herbivores can enjoy a balanced nutrition, too. Whatever your opinion of a non-meat diet may be, going vegan does not mean settling for a lifetime of low stamina and no muscle mass – and this point is supported by science, too. Don’t believe me? Look at elephants: they are big and strong – and vegan by birth.
Vegans are not mythical creatures – they are quite real, healthy and happy just the way you are. Don’t be arrogant the next time you meet an herbivore. In fact, you can learn a lot from them about tolerance, proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle. Who knows, you may even get to like them and wind up marrying one – just like me.