Stepping into the shoes of a vegan

Those who know me, know how much I love good food. Cooking has recently become one of my hobbies as I love to create new dishes and explore possibilities with the variety of products available here.

In fact, it is known that good food coupled with nice weather, impact significantly on our moods. In my attempt to taste culinary marvels, I have been eating calorie-loaded meals and while that felt great for a while, it soon dawned upon me that I was not taking proper care of my body. Although, I made it a point to go to the gym at least thrice a week, this was often not enough to compensate my unhealthy habits. On top of that, I had ceased hitting the gym altogether the past two months, because I had to juggle between extensive revisions, tough finals and tiring work. With the advent of holidays, I resumed exercising and decided to try some healthier eating habits simultaneously. I had been intending to try veganism for a while now, since some of my close friends have adopted this lifestyle, and here I tested it during week days, for two weeks now. The reason why I do not stick to this diet on the weekend is that, I am usually staying over at relatives’ and I do not want to be a bother to them.
After some badly needed grocery shopping, my fridge looked anew. Tofu, kale, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and bell peppers, amongst others, were an explosion of colours against the white container. I had even bought bananas! And I rarely, if ever, eat that fruit. However my wallet had noticeably suffered, I had spent a total of 46€ for my new purchases and that is about 15 to 20 € more than my usual weekly grocery shopping (buying fresh meat from the butcher’s, cheese and baguettes included). This rise in grocery budget is no surprise since bio produce are usually a few euros more expensive and that soya milk (of the “lowest” quality brand) costs about 1,85 € as compared to cow milk (of the “finest” brand) which gets you up to 99cts. I also had the arduous task of identifying the “vegan” goods. This is not labelled properly on every product and thus, it took me twice as much time to go grocery shopping as I had to get acquainted to the “vegan” world and navigate around the shelves effectively. I am usually a “put what catches my eye in the cart” type of grocery shopper so you can imagine why this time it was trickier.
Tofu and Broccoli


The first day was surprisingly the easiest. I had taken special care to craft consistent and filling meals so that I would not feel bloated or as if I was starving myself. So Julienne bolognese tagliatelle and “Tofu and Broccoli” made like the well-appreciated “Beef and Broccoli” chinese takeout, were on the menu. I was particularly happy about how the meals turned out and I started developing the habit of taking snapshots of my creations.Before undertaking this personal challenge, I had discussed with some of my surroundings and while some were supportive, others expressed their concerns about me lacking nutrients or eating poorly. You could say that I felt the need to immortalise what I was eating and i felt that I needed to justify me eating enough and healthily to people around me. So here you go, I took more time to prepare my meals and I relished the satisfaction it procured me when I saw a dish turn more than okay.
Julienne vegetables styled into bolognese sauce with tagliatelle
I was also paranoid during this whole process. I’m an emotional eater you see (no judging, I know it’s bad), and I tend to absentmindedly grab that bag of chips or leftover ham in the fridge to snack on. I often caught myself eating snacks then all of a sudden I would stop right in my tracks and have a mini panic attack about whether or not I was still eating vegan. Like: oh hell is coffee vegan?! And oh my gosh, is bread allowed?! I ended up doubting the very basics of nutrition and food groups while on this diet. Having to stick to a diet when you’re a die-hard meat-eater does that to you. You would be altering your whole mannerisms and life pattern, so it only made sense I would not come naturally at first. So you can picture my disgust when I realised sushi wouldn’t be on the menu at all or when I was relying on honey to improve the taste of some dish of my making. Can you believe that even some of the foodstuffs that look innocent and meat-free, are actually non vegan?! Like honey and veggie sushi for instance, one is produced by the exploitation of bees and the nori is a subtle form of exploitation of sea molluscs. I was heartbroken at the idea of not being able to eat my all-time favourite snack that is Doritos Nachos Flavour but I used Pringles of the original flavour as substitute and tried to make my snacks healthier by eating apple slices with fig jam (because I was unsure about where my beloved peanut butter fits on the chart) and soy yogurt (this is a discovery and definitely earns a place in my weekly shopping).

I would be lying if I said I have lost weight during this experience. My weight has been maintained but I definitely felt lighter, less bloated and “healthier”. The whole lecture about “5 fruits and vegetables per day” turned out to be true. I was considerably better, I did not feel stuffed or weigh down after meals yet I didn’t feel starved either. My whole digestive system felt better thanks to the amount of fibre and vitamin I was consuming. I have to admit that some times I did miss eating meat, most particular when my close ones had sirloin steak and creamy sauces on their menu but after the first few days, resisting the pull of juicy steaks and big fat pieces of poultry was easy. As for creamy sauces, some vegan butter, coconut milk and maize starch can do wonders. Being in Paris and being vegan is a double-edged sword. For one, you do have nice and cosy vegan restaurants and cafés that make you drool and the variety of vegan products on the market is extremely helpful. On the other hand, you cannot haphazardly enter a bakery and bite into fluffy “croissants” and “pains au chocolat”. You also cannot spread some traditional cheesy goodness on warm baguette loaves.

Anyway, I have greatly enjoyed eating healthy these past two weeks and my body is thanking me. Even though I am not going to turn completely vegan (yet), I intend to continue the trend by doing some revisited version of “Meatless Mondays” some days of the week. I might even choose to be vegetarian on most weekdays because I’d rather not eat meat but still get to nib at that delicious raclette cheese and parmesan during Happy hours. Yes, double standards yet to each his own way of making things change for the best. It’s still better than staying idle and waiting for species’ extinction and resource depletion.
Cheers x
-Tessa Lalljee (guest writer)

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