I have to tell you about this thing that happened to me the other day. It made me really mad. Usually I don’t get mad about petty things, and I get annoyed when other people do. But this wasn’t about the actual situation, but more about what it had been representing to me for a while.
I was in Borough Market and had just had lunch so decided to get a little treat for on the way home to my boring life of procrastination. I spotted this bakery stand which sold free-from cakes and the like. A lot of their stuff was either gluten or dairy free, and some of it was vegan. I thought I had hit the jackpot, options wise. I love anything delicious and home made that I am able to eat and haven’t had to make myself.
There was a girl next to me who was equally as hyped about the situation. “Oh my god,” she squeeled to her friend, “I love it when I find dairy free things I can actually eat, I’m definitely getting something.” This is the kind of person I enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I love veganism, I was a vegan myself for quite a long time. I support anyone’s choice to eat whatever they want, as long as it’s not like battery farmed eggs or whatever. But there’s something different about being a vegan by choice, and having to eat vegan food a lot of the time because you can’t eat dairy and it’s your only option. These people are my true homies.
This girl and I both selected a rather appetising looking banana and chocolate loaf. I love banana bread and I love dark chocolate so I thought this would be better than choosing a vegan cupcake with it’s slightly wilted frosting. The loaf was £2.50 for a slice, which is a little steep, but like the girl said, oppurtunities like that don’t come along often for people like us.
I was so excited to try it, but when I bit into it, it was mealy, tastless and I actually could barely keep it in my mouth and swallow it, the taste was that bad. The girl from the stall had dissapeared into the crowd, so I couldn’t find out what she thought about it. My intital reaction was dissappointment. I didn’t want to go over and cause a scene and lose a small business customers, so I was left £2.50 down with a bin full of banana loaf.
My second reaction was, to be honest, humiliation. I felt like it was the nail in the coffin for something that had been bothering me for a long time.
I love it that there are more vegan food possibilities out there these days. I love it that even supermarkets try to replicate chocolate, yoghurt and all kinds of shit that the normal people eat with no bother. I really appreciate it.
What I do NOT appreciate is people who think that just because they have made something vegan, we should be grateful to pay sky high prices for it and lie down and eat it no matter what the taste is. I was upset that somewhere like Borough Market, which is a foodie haven, would sell something like that. Maybe it was a bad batch, or a bad day, but surely if this baker had tasted it she would have known it wasn’t nice. Yet she continues to sell it, because she knows we have few other options.
There has been so much hype lately around “clean eating” replicas of foods that are unhealthy – Snickers bars, ice cream, banoffe pie, you name it. Now this might be a nice compramise for people on strict diets, but let’s be real, these things do NOT taste the same as what they are claiming to replicate. Not even close. And while the recipes are fun to create, to a certain extent I feel mocked when these products are marketed as “vegan alternatives” to the original product. I feel like someone’s playing a cruel joke on all of us dairy intolerant people, like holding a carrot out in front of an exhausted donkey.
The main thing to remember is, we don’t need to be worrying about what we eat being a “cheat” version of something else. There is so much joy to be had from fresh fruit, homemade sauces, perfectly seasoned vegetables and a poached egg to warm your heart. The fact that I and so many others have this hinderance does not mean we should desperately be trying to replicate the mainstream diet. It means we have the perfect oppurtunity for a more healthy and creative lifestyle, getting back to simple, nutritious cooking and taking pleasure in the little things, like a warm, ripe pear or fresh strawberries in season.
All I want you to take away from this is, the next time you’re whizzing up cashews and medjool dates in a food processor, praying for a sugary miracle to tide you over until your next chicken salad, just grab an apple instead. Good food is like good love, it shouldn’t have to be that difficult. No one will judge you for not Instagramming a mango cacao chia pudding just this once.