The Trials and Triumphs of Only Eating Plants

Would you rather:

-Eat thick greasy American-style pizza in Estonia OR eat cold kidney beans in Estonia?

Beans vs. Pizza

-Enjoy whipped cream on your stack of delicate Swedish pancakes OR enjoy your weird looking vegan pancakes plain?

As sad they look, the vegan pancakes weren’t bad!

-Start a three-course meal with a fancy cheesecake and smoked salmon OR start a three-course meal with basically just glorified lettuce?

Presentable, elegant, but hardly satisfying.

Comical contrasts, I know. But these conundrums are common for committed consumers of exclusively plants. Choosing option number two has been my reality as a vegan for the past month.

In this post, I want to lay out what I see to be the hardest and scariest parts of veganism. Part of my decision to go vegan was to become an activist for others to reduce the meat and animal-products in their diets. But it would be misleading to sell veganism as an easy and convenient lifestyle shift. I have found the conversion relatively painless, and I think anyone is capable of making the switch. Nevertheless, it is worth acknowledging the aspects of the plant-based diet that may turn people off.

The most obvious one is taste. That’s probably why most people would choose the former option in the would-you-rathers posed above. Giving up many foods and dishes from your diet is a huge sacrifice for the taste buds. It would be futile to try to convince a meat or cheese lover to eat beans instead of pizza, salad instead of cheesecake, or straight up worse pancakes on the basis of taste alone. But I will point out that vegan food does not have to be bland. There are so many ways to make plant food delicious, and it’s been a joy to explore new recipes in my first month of veganism. It’s also probably healthier and cheaper.

Second, veganism requires so much more effort! I really do think this is a major deterrent, especially for people who aren’t used to the extra planning and need for foresight that dietary restrictions demand. The beauty of omnivorism is the assurance that even if you didn’t pack lunch, you have a million food options wherever you go. Vegans generally do have options eating out, but they’re limited. Planning for every meal seems daunting, but once you get in the routine of making all your meals and always having food to bring on the go, habit takes over and it really does become easy! Sometimes that means relying on just beans, nuts and fruits for an afternoon. But most of the time, it’s delicious, and once again, healthier and cheaper!

A last potentially terrifying reality of veganism is the risk of inconveniencing other people or creating awkward social situations. “George, if you ever come over, you will have to eat meat,” my one friend warned me. I don’t have too many wise words on how to handle situations like that, as I have not yet encountered many. But I think being flexible and potentially even breaking the veganism for a meal or two to avoid conflict isn’t the end of the world.

I knew giving up animal products was going to involve sacrifices. My main reason for going vegan, to avoid the massive environmental damage done by the livestock industry, has superseded all the inconveniences and made the switch completely worth it. But I’m surprised to say I’m actually enjoying veganism so much. I feel better about the food I’m eating than ever before. Being forced to cook all my meals and try out new foods is a great thing. I’ve still found food to still be a source of great pleasure and satisfaction. I crave eggs every morning, but am content with tofu scrambles instead.

The title of this post alluded to a triumph or success story from my experience only eating plants. What could be more triumphant than hosting non-vegan guests for several vegan meals, and actually satisfying them (unless my friends are lying to me)? It’s been a pleasure to share my favourite vegan dishes, and it’s my hope that discussing my veganism has brought environmentally conscious eating to the attention of those around me.

The triumphs have ranged from simple veggie stir-fries, to a multi-course Yom Kippur break fast feast, all the way to a pizza party featuring six unique and mostly tasty vegan pizzas for ten guests. Some claimed it was the first vegan meal of their lives. Changing that is what vegan activism is all about.

Please feel free to comment on anything you agreed or disagreed with about this post!

-George Radner

Common Energy External Team

Visual proof the vegan pizza party happened. I’d say the guests look pleased.