Just the other day, we were cruising our Facebook homepages, when we came across the following post from a family friend:
“Vegans live 9 years longer than the average person …
Nine horrible, boring, baconless years.”
This post was not completely unexpected. It’s the “sad” truth that when a person who lives on the S.A.D. (standard American) diet thinks of a vegan, the stereotype is of a person who exists on tasteless sticks and twigs or flavorless tofu. It’s a strong disincentive, for sure. As evidenced by this recent post, the disincentive is so strong, that it will even deter a person from considering a plant-based diet despite actually knowing that they will live significantly longer. So, if you’re considering whether you should be vegan, this particular stereotype might be the one holding you back.
Thank goodness then that this too is just a myth. Those who have been vegan for some time understand that, as our taste buds adjust to healthy, whole, unprocessed plant foods like fruits, veggies, beans and grains, we begin to taste flavors we never knew existed. The truth is studies show humans do not like the taste of animal products by themselves. It’s the additives (which, like salt and sugar can be extremely addicting, not to mention harmful) that we crave. Mother Nature’s foods, on the other hand, are naturally delicious; much more so than foods processed in a factory
But just about everyone who considers going vegan goes through what we refer to as a “transition period.” This period, which can last from weeks to months or more, is defined by still craving what you know. That’s why it’s a good thing there is an endless number of “mock” animal products on the market that have become so good at mimicking the real thing, you can easily fool your comfort-craving tastebuds.
Anything you can eat I can eat Vegan
The introduction of meat alternatives in western markets began in the early 1960s with soy protein and wheat gluten as the predominant raw materials. Today, protein products are derived from surprising new sources, including peas, amaranth, rice, canola and fungi. As a result, the range of alternative meat and fish options is growing significantly, from Beyond Meat’s vegan “beef” crumble, “chickenless” strips and sliders, to Sophie’s Kitchen’s breaded “fish” fillets, “shrimp,” “scallops” and “crab cakes” for the frozen aisle, plus Vegan Toona, sold in cans right next to the tuna fish. And, yes, there’s even a number of delicious brands of baconless bacon on the market, if that’s your sticking point.
If cheese is your thing, and you’re having a hard time letting go, brands like Daiya and Kite Hill have brought credible vegan cheese to the marketplace and helped drive it forward. Galaxy Foods now even has a whole line of vegan shredded cheeses you can get at the Acme! And in Los Angeles, a new vegan cheese shop called Vromage is blowing away vegans and dairy-cheese snobs alike with an array of incredibly diverse gormet vegan cheeses (made fresh daily).
But even if you aren’t lucky enough to live in Los Angeles – which has the most diverse array of vegan restaurants on the planet, from Thai to sushi to gormet Mexican – you can still make gormet animal-free cheese at home, with help from an increasing number of food writers. For example, try Jo Stepaniak’s “Uncheese Cookbook,” which focuses on cheesy sauces, or Miyoko Schinner’s “Artisan Vegan Cheese,” which gives you the secret to sliceworthy cheeses like sharp cheddar, parmesan and hard gruyere that achieve their cheesiness through aging over several days. Schinner’s book also offers softer, often quicker options like tofu ricotta, meltable muenster, Camembert and cream cheese.
And, finally, if cooking’s not your thing, vegan restaurants are popping up everywhere. The all-vegan restaurant chain, Veggie Grill, recently ranked as one of the fastest growing small restaurant chains according to Restaurant Business Magazine. Notably, this list was not limited to “veggie” restaurant chains; it was a survey of ALL small restaurant chains in the country. Their comfort menu offers (among other things) chickenless Buffalo wings, a B.L.T. sandwich made with tempeh bacon, a veggie cheeseburger, a fried “chicken” sandwich and a “crabcake” sandwich.
Similarly, one of VegWorld staff’s favorite local vegan haunts – Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, California – was on Yelp’s 2014 list of the top 100 ranked restaurants in the country. Stuff I Eat is a tiny vegan soul food eatery that beat out Mastro’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills and Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, among thousands of other meat-centered establishments, for the honor of being ranked 90th in the country. Now that’s saying something. (You can benefit from Stuff I Eat’s amazing head chef, Babbette Davis’, recipes every issue in our Recipes for Foodies section).
Perhaps most interesting, according to the chefs at many of these restaurants, from 50-80 percent of their patrons are not even vegan. So, whether you’re just a little veg-curious or taking the plunge into full-on veganism, chances are there is a delicious veggie eatery near you.
The Bottom Line: Taste is not a Barrier
Steve has been vegan for over 20 years. And he can tell you that, while it was always worth it, it wasn’t always easy to be a vegan. That has changed. So, if you’re decided today whether you should be vegan … good for you! The answer has never been easier to make or more delicious.