The last few months have marked a significant chapter in my life: I have started to come out to my friends and family as vegan. Though most have been supportive, some have not taken the news well and have needed much reassurance that I’m still the same person – the same friend, daughter, mother that they love, only now I never get a piece of chicken stuck between my teeth.
“Well!” puffed one friend of a friend. “I hope you’re not going to start judging me on my food choices.”
I patiently told her I wasn’t; that we were in fact just acquaintances seated together at a wedding and the moment the speeches were finished I was going to skedaddle and hang out with folk who weren’t so threatened by butter abstention.
“It’s just a way to get attention,” a relative said.
I am a stand-up comedian. A stand-up comedian is a professional attention seeker. I’m very proud of the 20 years I’ve dedicated to getting attention – I’ve worked very hard at it, been tenacious. I was once booed off stage and went back the next night for more. I doggedly stuck at a high risk, often soul-destroying, ego-bashing job in order to sate my need for attention.
Asking for soya milk in a café is not the same league. The attention you get as a vegan would be nowhere near enough for me.
One hurdle I’ve had to overcome is the endless bacon chat. “Don’t you miss bacon? Isn’t the smell of bacon cooking the best smell? How can you resist bacon?”
It’s easy. My daughter brought Peppa Pig into our lives in a big way. This isn’t something I should admit, but I find Peppa and her family bloody annoying and don’t want to ingest them as well as having to hear their endless oinkity-oink.
I don’t miss cheese; there are vegan alternatives. They taste nothing like cheese but they melt and go well with chutney and dammit, life’s not perfect.
I only ever meant to do it for a month. I worried it would be a faff. Then I had a glorious realisation: lots of beer is vegan, gin is vegan and crisps are vegan. What else do I need? OK. I’ll have a handful of blueberries and some red kidneys beans if you insist.
A quick nutrition cram on the internet and it was a cinch. The month is now three months and I’m full of energy but the best thing? I can lord it over vegetarians.
All my life I’ve suffered their smugness. In my university days they were superior with their “Meat is Murder” posters aggressively stuck to the fridge and their “Please DON’T put your ham on top shelf, I don’t like DEAD THINGS near my food” notes.
Oh how bitter I was about those veggies with their nut roasts and their endless pursuit of cheese. But who’s laughing now, veggies? You butter-munching, brie-bothering, egg-cracking part-timers.
If you are a vegetarian who is offended by these words, relax. I am kidding. Just like you are kidding yourselves that your diet does not harm animals (please note, I am still kidding).
Becoming vegan isn’t just about food. It’s a movement – one that I’ve joined – and, like all movements, there are disagreements within because none of us are exactly the same and some of us are insufferable hectoring hummus warriors.
I have kept my leather product clothes. To some vegans this means I am not a vegan. That’s OK. It’s not the label I am after – it’s the aubergine recipes.
Another vegan told me I wasn’t a proper vegan because I still occasionally have a little honey. It’s a work in progress and if we look to point and jeer and shriek “But you’re not doing it properly!” at each other, then we will perpetuate an image of being snooty piles of mungbean.
Image is important because – now this is my confession – I do want more people to join the movement. Yes, yes. I care about the pain and suffering of animals, but crucially, I really want more than one option on a menu and I want white tea to always be available without the contents of a cow’s udder in it.
At first, I didn’t really know what to eat so in the first week, I didn’t eat much at all – but after a couple of fainting spells, I got the hang of it. It’s made food a wonderful new adventure.
I’m not saying that there will never again be a time when I will see a kebab and stick my face in it, but, for now, looking at a vegetarian friend with patronising disappointment as she eats a cheese sandwich is giving me much joy.
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