You guys! It's my thirtieth birthday. That means it's also my thirtieth anniversary of being vegan!
I know you didn't ask, but here's a list of 30 things I've figure out over the past 30 years, in no particular order:
- B12 deficiency is scary AF and the only reliable insurance against it is to take a supplement.
- It’s impossible to live in the world without ever indirectly harming another living being, or using an animal by-product. Don’t be the kind of vegan who tells people their car tyres aren’t vegan. Figure out where your line is about be strong about sticking to it, but cut yourself (and other people) some slack. We are all doing the best we can.
- Diffuse arguments by asking genuine questions. It’s hard for somebody to yell at you when you’re acting really interested in what they think.
- Don’t take any shit from baristas about soy milk. If your coffee curdled, that’s on them.
- The secret to a perfect vegan cake is vinegar.
- Every new vegan is on the quest for vegan cheese. Do you guys realise how weird you look to somebody who’s never eaten cheese? It’s a block of fat that you grate. Wut. Take it from me: life is good without cheese.
- Red and yellow lentils don’t need to be soaked before cooking. Green and brown ones do. Red lentils have the fastest cooking time, which is why I nearly always use those for making dhal.
- Sometimes your heart will hurt because the world isn’t vegan. Figure out what you need to do to cope in times like that. Meditate, hug an animal, take action, bake a vegan chocolate cake. Band together with other vegans. Don’t strike out in anger.
- In Australia it’s now a requirement that allergens are listed on wine, so if the bottle doesn’t have a warning about a non-vegan ingredient (like fish, egg or dairy products) it’s safe to assume it’s vegan. Many wines are labelled as vegan if you prefer to stick with those. If in doubt, check Barnivore.
- Avocado is frickin’ delicious but it’s not actually in any of the food groups. (No, it is NOT a green vegetable!) It’s a discretionary food that’s super high in fat. I classify it as a condiment and use it like one.
- All plant milks are not created equal - to each other, or to cows’ milk. Almond milk is delicious and I drink it every day, but nutrition-wise it’s basically water. Just because something LOOKS like milk doesn’t mean it works the same way. Let’s all learn to read nutrition panels and we’ll be happier, healthier vegans.
- Honey is not vegan. We decided this back in the early nineties and we’re not talking about it any more, okay?
- To make ‘cheesy’ sauce with nutritional yeast, the ratio is double the amount of water to yeast flakes. Add flour to thicken and seasoning to taste. I use 1 cup yeast flakes, 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons of flour (any kind) and 1 vegan stock cube.
- If you’d like to encourage your friends and family to go vegan, learn to cook at least one amazing signature vegan thing. It’s harder for people to argue when their mouth is full of vegan cheesecake. (If you would like the recipe, email me.)
- It’s a myth that eggs bind a cake. If you mix flour and water, you have glue. If your cake contains flour and liquid, it will bind. People always ask me what to put in a cake instead of eggs. The answer is nothing. Just make up for the volume of the eggs by adding a little extra liquid and fat.
- Silken tofu is softer than soft tofu. See my post about things to do with tofu.
- Yes, the liquid from a can of chickpeas whips like egg whites. Pick the chickpeas that don’t have any salt added though, or you will get weird salty chocolate mousse. (Speaking from experience.)
- Basic ingredients can vary from country to country. So many Australian vegans believe that ‘soy is genetically modified’—but if it’s grown in Australia, it’s actually not. I had an American friend express surprise when I used ordinary sugar because in the States it’s not considered vegan (it’s fined through animal bone char) but this isn’t the case here. So when you’re reading websites from other countries, be aware of the source and check if the information is true for your location.
- You probably don’t eat enough vegies. Most Australian adults eat less than the recommended amount of vegetables for a two-year-old. Try doubling the amount of vegetables you eat in a day and see what happens.
- If you struggle to eat a kale salad, try chopping the kale finely and rubbing lemon juice into the leaves. Lemon juice reduces the bitterness and softens the raw leaves so they’re easier to eat. Tuscan kale (aka Cavolo Nero) has smaller, darker, softer leaves and is a lot easier to eat raw than the typical, bright green curly kale.
- Coconut is not a health food. It’s one of the only plant foods that contains significant amounts of saturated fat. Sorry, not sorry for pointing this out. (On the other hand, coconut oil is amazing on your skin and I always use it to take off my eye makeup. My rule is ‘put it on your face, not in your mouth’.) (I occasionally do put it in my mouth tho because it’s delicious.)
- The definitive ratios for making a vegan cake: 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda (or 1 tbsp baking powder), 2/3 cup sugar, 1 pinch salt, 1 1/2 cups liquid (plant milk or water), 2 tbsp vinegar (apple cider or white), 1/2 cup moisture (vegan margarine, oil or applesauce). Everything else I do is built on this.
- ‘May contain traces of’ is an allergen warning, typically included because the product was manufactured in the same facility that also processes foods containing those ingredients. The official vegan ruling is that it’s fine to eat products that ‘may contain traces of’ milk or other animal ingredients—it’s just a disclaimer in case you have a deathly allergic reaction.
- Just because you’re a vegan doesn’t give people a free pass to be rude to you. One time (as an adult) I found myself with a bunch of women standing around me in a circle, watching me eat and firing questions about my vegan lunch. Eventually I said, “Hey guys, I’m totally happy to talk to you about being vegan but I was brought up to think it’s rude to ask somebody a lot of questions about their food while they’re eating.” They backed off. Even if you’re an object of curiosity, you’re allowed to remind people of their manners.
- No, it doesn’t matter which plant milk you use when you’re baking. You can probably use tap water. I do.
- Cooking familiar food without the meat can make it feel like something is missing from the plate. Instead, try taking inspiration from cuisines that have lots of traditionally vegetarian dishes—make an Indian curry, an Italian bean soup or middle eastern wraps with falafel and hommus.
- Most bread is vegan. Most pasta is vegan. I don’t know why some vegans don’t know this. Definitely check the label in case it’s not (some breads are fortified with fish oil, gluten free bread often contains eggs or milk, sourdough culture can be dairy-based, some pasta contains eggs) but don’t assume you have to give these things up, because you don’t.
- I’ve been a vegan for thirty years and I still don't buy that there’s a difference between 'firm', 'extra-firm' and 'hard' tofu. Also, some tofu is labelled as ‘firm’ when it’s clearly not. The secret: nine times out of ten, if it’s in a plastic punnet it will be soft and if it’s wrapped in a plastic packet it will be firm. If in doubt, poke it. #protips
- When somebody asks you a question about being vegan, don’t immediately assume the defensive. Some people are genuinely interested. It’s hard when we’re used to being bullied all the time, but let’s try not to perpetuate the ‘angry vegan’ stereotype in every single interaction. Maybe the person is just trying to ask you for a vegan muffin recipe.
- I already said this, but take the B12.
You can find 65+ years of collective wisdom in my ebook, 'Easy Peasy Plant-Based Eating' which I co-authored with a vegan dietitian and mother of two vegan children. (One of the children was me.)
If you have questions, comments or objections to the above, please let me know in the comments or feel free to get in touch!