Meat the vegans
After 12 years of being a professional sportsman, living a somewhat healthy lifestyle with varied delicious meals from around the globe. I couldn’t deny that as my 40th year on the planet drew closer and my waistline expanded like an Umpa Lumpa, I would need to drastically change things. I had heard of a group of people quite unlike us, vegans, they seemed to exist without the need for animal products in their diet. They were healthy and normal and so it seemed the next step, and I kind of wanted to challenge myself into doing this after many times going vegetarian and then slowly going back to eating meat. I was in for a surprise on many levels.
Why would I do this?
Well like I said, all this started as a challenge to see if I could go a whole month without consuming any meats, milks, eggs, and other “animal products”. Heini had shown me a link to “Veganuary”, and through the site I signed up to the challenge also browsing through lots of youtube videos to better inform myself and undo years of meat eating mindset. Documentaries such as “Earthlings”, “Forks over knives” had planted seeds of doubt in my mind years before and, although I found them troubling and informative, I never really saw myself as vegan.
The convincing piece of the puzzle came when we watched “Cowspiracy” documentary, this exposed not only the cruelty and damage the industry causes, but also a cover up that most environmental groups were unwilling to comment on for fear of rocking the boat and loosing funding. For me the oceans are my livelihood and I have no plans to work in any other field as of yet, so it would seem very hypocritical if I were to teach environmental policies whilst supporting the destruction of the same environment through agriculture. And as a plus, maybe the waistline would reduce with some healthier options on the menu.
We’re all nutritional experts
Support of family and friends is always crucial, though I did expect the trolls to camp on my social media posts, I took most as the fun banter it was meant to be, after all these were friends I’d served with and knew they had no limit to black humour and “piss taking”. One of the biggest trolls I know is a practicing animal rights vegan who “likes to poke the bear” for amusement. I’d always enjoyed the debate of meat eaters over vegans whilst having a few beers at a bar, but now I was on the other side of the fence. One thing I always noticed is no matter how subtle the reference to vegetarian or vegan life choice was it would open the flood gates for accusations, moral dilemmas, and of course all the health and evolution experts from around the globe.
Previously I’d amused myself as the lone vegan would sit on their chair and roll their eyes when presented with “this is why we have teeth” or “where do you get you protein from”, “Lions eat meat” facts. Even as a meat eater I knew there was no logical reason not to try a plant based diet and every argument for meat was met by a stronger counter point. For this reason (and that I do like to be a smart ass) I’d educated myself more be aware of facts for when I was to be the lone vegan in the bar, being circled by salivating carnivores!
Eating out without compromise
Eating out was and still is one of my favourite pastimes and this was about to become more difficult. Before I’d open the menu and head straight to the steak or burger section of the menu, I find a meal I enjoy and stick to it like glue with little or no variation from the words “fried” and “fillet”. Thinking I’d be forced to delve into the realm of salads, steamed veg, and even – dare I say it “raw food” for substance, I was happy to find burgers, pizza, pasta readily available. I’d hear myself repeating my order several times to ensure animal products wouldn’t be included in my meal, it sometimes became irritating and even embarrasing to me, and probably others around me. I’d not find so many choices as I’d had previously, but I plodded onwards with the challenge. Thankfully we have found many great restaurants that catered for my new lifestyle, even my favourite bar snack was vegan – beer and french fries!
Dominican Republic was going to be our first challenge and if I’m honest I expected to be eating a lot of beans and rice. We headed to Sosua town in mid January and on the first night we ate fries and beer, then headed for the supermarket to see what was on offer. Fruits including the juiciest papaya were plentiful and we also found the hugest avocados I’ve ever seen. Each the size of a babies head, these were gonna be my number one food in Dominican Republic. And with my newly found kitchen skills I became a pretty good Guacamole chef! As well as the beans which made hummus and falafel’s pretty easy to make. Unfortunately we were very restricted eating out in Sosua and neighbouring Cabarete aside from one cafe called “Fresh Fresh” which served great vegetarian and vegan wraps and burgers although the also served meat.
As is always the way we found our perfect lunch spot four days before we left Dominican Republic heading back to Asia! A bamboo shack with some tables and simple set menu was located down a small side street. This simple setup offered a fixed menu of 4-5 items full of colour and flavour, a lovely woman prepared the set meals every day and kite surfers and tourists “in the know” headed to her cafe for some filling and extremely well thought out menus of the day. This washed down with some fresh coconut water was a welcomed oasis amongst the normal sea fish and meat lovers restaurants of Cabarete.
Philippines, an unexpected pleasure
My first trip to Philippines was not the culinary delight that I’d had in other Asian countries, salt seemed to be the main spice used in the food, and local specialty seemed to all be revolving around pork, pizza, or pasta. After a few months of veganism behind my belt I have learned to be VERY clear when ordering food in Asia. Some staff were really confused about what veganism is, but with a lot of explanations and repetition we have almost managed to have great meals out 75% of the time. Alona beach, our new home, has much to offer. OK its not a vegetarian or vegan paradise but most cafes and eateries offer some alternate choices compared to a few years ago. This helped me on the new lifestyle choice and although I’d stopped enjoying eating out as much as I used too due to having to send food back and being the “awkward” person at the table. As always local markets have been full of great fruit and veg that will provide more than you can eat, though seasonal fruit like avocado are either plentiful or non existent. Home cooking has become a great pleasure and I have been surprised how good plant based food can be with many friends saying how surprised they were when having dinner and drinks at home with us, some even taking a great experimental leap into vegetarianism… soon I will turn them full vegan!
Don’t I miss bacon?
So a year after becoming a vegan hippy pot smoking dreadlocked protester what has changed? My wardrobe is in need of more belts and instead of XXL I even consider M size clothing, 10kg less and feeling more energetic. Would I go back to meat? I think that the idea of a good ol’ full English breakfast is better than the actual greasy reality, and not having lactose problems after a pizza is a welcome change. Do I miss some meat taste? Fucking hell yeah! Remember, originally it was only going to last for a month and it was for moral reasons not because I didn’t like the taste, now? I don’t think I’d go back to chemical enhanced prison food that I’d find hard to justify, and with such wide range of similar alternatives – why would I.
More about Panglao and Philippines eating will be covered in Heini’s upcoming post about Panglao’s vegan options. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed my 2 cents!