Thinking of going vegan? Maybe after your turkey and pigs in blankets?! I have a chat about the possibilities, lifestyle and, you know me, a number of silly tangents, with Wiltshire foodie blogger Jill; to see if she can convert me!
I dissented my daughter’s culinary request on peculiar grounds; two everyday objects, sausages and bacon, when the latter is wrapped around the other, are, for some outlandish reason, a treat retained for Christmas dinner only, and to have them on our mid-December roast dinner would spoil the magic of the imminent feast. But once served, I ate ‘em anyway!
An oddity, why certain things, like Brussel sprouts are attributed only to Christmas dinner and eating them at any other time is like swearing at a vicar. Absorbed by the explicit naming of pigs in blankets too, like a hog-roast or rabbit stew, and unlike venison or beef, they don’t attempt to disguise the notion you’re munching on dead animal. Rather celebrate pride in the fact.
Such is my allure for something in blankets, if not pigs, I was intrigued by a recipe for a vegan alternative on a local based website, Especially Vegan. The site’s creator, Jill, uses parsnips wrapped in vegan bacon. I quiver at meat alternatives, but love a good parsnip; becoming vegetarian is something although I consider pursuing, I never attain. I blame pigs in blankets; oh, the smell of bacon cooking, chicken and numerous other dishes of god’s creatures great and small.
However much I preach about environmental issues, I find the idea we all must go vegan the hardest pill to swallow. On principle I agree, but the reality, the golden aura of a roasted chicken, just overrides my carnal appetite and I cave helplessly like the carnivorous beast I am. If it was going to happen, you’d have thought my years working at a butcher, skinning rabbits and watching turkeys meeting their maker might have dissuaded me.
Can Jill help? Especially Vegan is a fantastic website, chockful of hints, tips and recipes. Can Jill convince someone as thick skinned as me to turn vegan? No, not really, she’s not the pushy type. “That’s the thing,” she explained, “I am not trying to change your mind. I would like a happier world, you know, world peace,” she laughed.
“I am not trying to change your mind. I would like a happier world, you know, world peace.”
Rather stereotypical of vegans, they rarely preach or thrust their ideas down your throat. Perhaps this is the undoing, I need the direct approach, a seven-foot skinhead vegan to order me to give up hotdog-stuffed pizza, or else!
I put it to Jill I could meet her halfway, reduce my meat allowance by 50%. Environmentally if everyone did, we’d reduce carbon emissions from 18% to 9%. “I feel we should all make our own choices about what we eat,” Jill clarified, “but obviously, the more those choices are based on the environment and health and, for me personally, animal welfare, the better.” A dislike of meat-eating is perhaps the most common reason, Jill wrote a post on the blog explaining why she became a vegan; “in recent years it’s more about health for a lot of people. For me it’s always been about animals.” I was still keen to gage her on her feelings about the environmental impact of not turning vegan.
“Absolutely,” she replied, “it has a big influence now. But not when I ‘turned’ back in the nineties! I feel any reason that people eat less meat is a good thing. It is fact now, regardless of what the meat industry says, less meat will help the planet. But there are other things we could all do that will also help.” Jill continued on recycling and the supermarkets cutting down on packaging. “I also know that cost is a big factor. When low-income families can buy cheaper meat due to the way it is farmed, they may have no choice. I think the government should make well-bred and cared for animal meat affordable for all.”
But if you know the methods, I figured, most of the recipes on Especially Vegan wouldn’t break the bank. It was Jill’s husband who came up with the idea for Especially Vegan, in May, and the blog was launched in August. “So,” Jill enlightened, “it’s still quite small but growing weekly.”
Jill still cooks meat for her friends and family, “that’s their choice,” and was keen to point out her blog is not just for vegans. “I take the meat, etc, out of recipes I like, so there’s no reason why people can’t add meat to my recipes. The hope is that they will try it my way. So, try parsnips but with your bacon!”
“There’s no reason why people can’t add meat to my recipes. The hope is that they will try it my way….”
Jill was direct when I asked if she felt there’s a lot of misguided information, “meat propaganda” which ridicules or gives incorrect facts about vegans? “Yes, I do. I haven’t researched it fully myself because I do not preach about being vegan, my choice! However, I do belong to some Facebook groups and see posts about industry starting rumours about vegans and it being a dreadful, non-healthy diet. I am pleased to say, I have thrived on it for over twenty-two years and have never taken a supplement, which is another area for misguided influence from the drug companies who sell supplements.”
I did read the blogpost on her not taking vitamin supplements; it’s necessity to is a given stereotype, isn’t it? “Yes, a stereotype!” Jill replied, “however, not everyone can absorb vitamins naturally and do need help. But, not just vegans. There are a couple of things that are a little more difficult to obtain as a vegan. B12 – I get from marmite and fortified cereals and milks. And the new one is Vitamin D. Which can be an issue, but if you are careful and research your dietary needs well, then it can be overcome. However, I am not saying there is not a need, but that need could be for anyone whose body needs it, non-vegans too!”
If I was going to consider this, is it a good idea to dip my toe in the water, you know, try being a vegetarian first, or diving right in to vegan?
“Way back when,” Jill elucidated, “I didn’t really know much about veganism, so vegetarianism was the way for me. It was only later as I learnt more about vegetarianism that veganism crept into what I was reading. No internet to hand back then, like it is today. And cheese was the hardest for me to give up when I turned vegan. I think with all the info there is today, and you are really sure it’s what you want, then, yeah, head straight in. But otherwise, take it slow. If it’s your end goal, the importance is getting there, not how fast you get there.” Meat was Jill’s favourite thing on her plate, growing up, and said she couldn’t stand vegetables. Internet or not, though, I wasn’t put off by Iceland’s chicken tikka lasagne; it’s surely too late for me!
“Cheese was the hardest for me to give up when I turned vegan.”
The internet is an information minefield. I typed into Google: “do we need to go vegan to…” intending to add “environment,” but a more popular choice suggestion freaked me out. It was “…to get into heaven?!” Seems people use the word of god to encourage their own opinion on it. There’s some shocking stuff suggesting you’re on your way to hell for not eating meat! But equally there’s many who say, and I’d agree, if I wasn’t an atheist, you’d be a higher tier in heaven for not eating God’s creatures.
“Say no more!” Jill agreed, even as a bellringer, “I have to honestly say, what a load of rubbish. But that’s what happens with everything, there will always be people out there who say stuff like that. I’m sat here with a G & T so I must be heading downwards, surely; but it is vegan!”
The Especially Vegan website has hosted events and cookery courses, and offers a free tapas recipe eBook on signup. I asked Jill what was next, if a paperback was an option. “I will try to grow it and, yes, would love to have some books in print, also looking to develop a YouTube channel, but for now, I will just keep developing and adding recipes to the blog. It would be lovely to have friendly people subscribe as that’s an incentive to keep going.”
Our chat drifted on tangents hereafter, ending with me waffling. I cannot believe I bought up the subject of Douglas Adams’ ironic “Amegluan Cow,” with a vegan; an animal which wants to be eaten. Served live it offers the diners its rump or its organs, and they’re horrified, save for the alien Zaphod Beeblebrox, who offered to Arthur Dent that he would gladly eat a creature which didn’t want to be eaten. Furthermore, the Ameglian Cow added many vegetables were “very clear” on the point of not wanting to be eaten!
Mind you, Jill bought up a horrible scene in The Waking Dead, where they ate a horse, likened it to Tesco’s burgers, and suggested she hoped she never meets an Ameglian Cow.
But she was an endearing and interesting person to chat with, and Especially Vegan is a well-written, personal styled foodie blog, you should check it out. I noted my sad hypocrisy, given the horsemeat refraction, as I wouldn’t eat nice and fluffy animals. But perhaps my hypocrisy is my reason for an interest in veganism.
Jill mentioned how horrified she was by shark catching fishermen who put big hooks through live dogs’ jaws. She can be horrified, but I’m a hypocrite for being equally horrified, does she think?
“No,” she replied, “just the way we are.” See, a genuinely nice person, and she left pondering her next recipe post, orange zest cake. Nice, in my mind I’m there already!