Monday, 27 June 2011

Thoughts on Vegan Freak

Vegan Freak by Bob and Jenna Torres is the first 'new' vegan book I've read in quite a while, the combination of very little money, regular access to the internet and already knowing the basic facts has meant I haven't really made much effort to seek such things out. But - several years late - I decided I'd see what the fuss was about.

I have to admit I wasn't expecting to like this one as much as I did. I used to hang out on the Vegan Freak forums and didn't have a hugely happy experience there. There were a lot of cool people, but also quite a few who, well, I'm sure they're good people and their hearts are in the right place but we did not take the same approach to vegan advocacy or practice. In any other forum people get dissed for getting drunk, eating cheese and needing hand-holding. In that one admitting to making and feeling repentant about a mistake got the same reaction. Many new vegans need advice on getting their significant other on side, if they asked for that there you could guarantee multiple 'dump him/her' type responses. (Disclaimer, I was either single or dating a vegan at that point, so I'm not being sore from getting this response myself) I'd recommend it to an existing vegan or a new one with a thick skin, not to anyone easily offended. Personally I have my doubts about that sort of approach, even in terms of its effectiveness as a means to encourage people to go vegan. (Ok, being entirely fair, I also stopped hanging out there as much because a regular had an avatar that referenced one of my few phobias, that's nobody's issue but mine.)

In the light of this, the book was a pleasant surprise. Sure it pushed the hard line on veganism, but that's a good thing when done in a constructive way. The Torres' gave a lot of measured advice on how to talk about veganism in what contexts - don't preach or get gory over dinner with omni family, talk about it calmly another time, stick to your guns *without* creating a major row. (I know, and Bob and Jenna may also know, that not everyone can do this - there will be some contexts where no approach will entirely avoid aggro - I'm afraid the only solution there is probably to stick it out until the problem starts to fade. Eventually it will. Or if the aggressor isn't in your immediate family or your favourite person evah apart from this they might fade out instead.) There is a bit of goriness, just to fill the reader in (or provide a reminder of) why to go vegan, but the focus is generally on how/why it is wrong to *use* animals rather than why particularly egregious abuses are wrong. (We all know the latter anyway, you can eat meat four times a day and still think some things are wrong, so it isn't always the best hook to use for veganism specifically) There's a lot on why people become ex-vegans, which I found useful in trying to understand the most recent crop, and also how to avoid becoming one yourself.

There are a lot of books out there on either why or how to go vegan. This is probably the best I've seen at combining the two.

(Originally posted at Increasing Veganicity)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Tips for a drunk vegan - eating isn't cheating!

A frequent bugbear of longer-standing vegans hanging out in unmoderated online spaces is the new-ish vegan who posts about how they wound up eating cheese (or 'worse') when drunk. Now, it is annoying when someone does this (especially repeatedly) then asks for sympathy - dude, unless someone tricked you into eating it, you are not the victim here! On the other hand, I've often thought that getting too harsh might put a newbie off trying again to stay vegan. If someone tries again, makes a few mistakes in their first year or so then stays vegan their whole life, it's better than being perfect for a couple of months then burning out and becoming an ex-vegan. They may be like me and become an ex-ex-vegan, but that has its own problems. And it is my ex-ex-vegan phase that I'm drawing from here - during that phase, I did occasionally get drunk and eat cheese, usually pizza. I didn't need my hand held, I did (as it turned out) need my hayfever meds due to mild throat swelling - yeah that improves a hangover no end - but I did come up with a practical strategy for not doing that anymore. So here goes:

Drink with vegans (mine's a Sam Smith's wheatbeer if you're offering) - then the temptation won't be there.
Drink with non-vegans who respect your veganism - then the only problem is your willpower not peer pressure.
Eat properly before you go out - something with fat and carbs to absorb the booze.
If you're going to a house party, take vegan pizza. Vegan pizza is always a good thing. Make sure there's enough in case other people eat it too. (there's a high chance they will!) Couscous and rice salads are also good alcohol absorbers.
Hang out in pubs where you can get something to eat, even if it is just chips or plain crisps. This will put something fatty and carby into the liquid contents of your stomach.
Eventually, your brain will reset itself into thinking non-vegan stuff isn't food. This takes longer than one evening, hence the tips.

Bottoms up... ;)

(Originally posted at Increasing Veganicity)

Saturday, 25 June 2011

For the vegan in your life and the life in your vegan

I have no idea whether anyone reading this blog fits the demographic I have in mind - those who aren't vegan, may or may not be interested in veganism for themselves, but have one or more vegan friends they want to do stuff with without hassle. (Of course if you're vegan and agree with this list it could be something to refer your friends to!)

Anyway, here are a few hints for being a friend to a vegan:
-Give their favourite cafe a try - if someone has been vegan for any length of time they will have some good ideas of where to go.
-If you're going for a meal, be prepared to check the menus of a few different places - there are some really good vegan options out there, but sometimes they need looking for.
-Vegan food is food everyone can eat, vegetarian food is food *almost* anyone can eat, so don't get too scared by the prospect of going in a vegan or vegetarian cafe.
-Likewise, don't be scared if your vegan friend invites you over to dinner. You can guess that at least we don't bite. Of course I can't guarantee that they are a good cook, but veganism certainly doesn't guarantee that they are not!
-You may have questions about the whys and hows of veganism, especially if this friend is the first vegan you've got to know well. It is fine to ask questions. Try to do it constructively and not get upset at the answers. Mealtimes aren't the best place for these discussions. Dialogue is cool, a fight isn't.
-If you're cooking at home, you don't have to make everything vegan (although you may like to) - however your friend might feel singled out if they are limited to a plate of lettuce. The 'net is full of vegan recipe sites - you can find a few in the sidebar here. There are a fair few recipe ideas on this blog, just click the tag marked 'food'. You may also find Activeg's Special Guests useful. The Co-op is the best UK supermarket for labelling of vegan alcohol, followed by Sainsbury's - Tesco is ok but you have to make do by spotting vegetarian wines that don't list egg or milk as allergens. (NB if you aren't the one who cooks in your house, let your significant other/roommate/parent know ahead of time that there will be a vegan there!)
-New vegans can sometimes be a bit like newborn vampires in their enthusiasm for vegangelising, this is generally motivated by genuine compassion for animals and a desire for a better world, so try not to let it get to you. Although if you do feel inspired to go vegan, that's a very good thing indeed. ;)

(Originally posted at Increasing Veganicity)

Friday, 24 June 2011

Finding other vegans

Going and staying vegan can be rather daunting if you don't know any other vegans, if the vegetarians in your social group (assuming there are any) are already seen as scary militants (particularly if they don't like that position being challenged by someone doing more!), if you mostly know 'vegans' who cheat regularly using tenuous excuses, if you love your friends dearly but feel the absence of that particular common factor... you get the idea. It can be positively isolating if the people you hang out with are openly hostile and threatened by the prospect of eating anywhere that even has a vegan option - I hope that's the case for waaaay fewer people than it was in the past, but I hear enough stories that suggest the phenomenon hasn't died out quite yet. Anyway, more friends is always a good thing right? And I can say from experience that having more vegan friends makes it a whole lot easier to be vegan yourself. So here's some places to start looking!

There are vegan Meetup groups across the world, just type in your post/zip code to see where your nearest one is. I'd never used Meetup until my last big move, it's been a great way to get to know people.

If you don't quite feel like turning up to a cafe to meet a bunch of people you don't (yet) know - or don't have a local group - you can gear yourself up by getting to know other vegans online. My favourite places are Vegan Lounge and Vegan Forum.

The Vegan Society and ActiVeg both maintain databases of local groups and contacts. The Veggies Directory, meanwhile, is a treasure trove for all things vegan, animal rights, etc that you might want or need to look up.

And of course you can comment here, click through to other blogs, and maybe start your own... ;)

(Originally posted at Increasing Veganicity)