Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Accidental Vegan

One of Guy Dauncey's favourite statistics is the following: a vegetarian using a car for transportation has a lower carbon footprint than a meat eater riding a bike.

His point is not that vegetarians are weak from lack of protein and can't muster the strength to pedal; he's saying that compared to car emissions, eating meat is a bigger contributor to greenhouse gases.

This is due to the high methane production expelled from cows, the fertilizers used to grow the feed for the cattle and the large amount of land needed to grow meat versus vegetables.

The only real question is — where on a bike do you hang your gun rack, beef boy?

As Katie and I are mostly vegetarian — we empathize with Buster Lynn's friend who believes that for Thanksgiving, turkey becomes an honorary vegetable — we wanted to test ourselves with veganism and eliminate any cattle-connection we had.

Katie has dabbled in the past and survived on a diet of rice, crackers and ketchup. Our goal was to actually eat food we enjoy — not that ketchup isn't an enjoyable staple — and eat vegan for two days.

I've got to admit, it wasn't as easy as we thought it would be.

When we look in our fridge dairy stares back at us. Yogurt, cream for coffee, eggs and the biggest contributor, cheese.

For me, the first day was easy. I didn't eat until 1 p.m., then had an apple. Then I cooked beans and rice for dinner and didn't have ice cream. It was a case of accidental veganism.

When Katie and I actually concentrated on eating differently and not taking my initial approach, it was an exciting endeavour. (Imagine dying from starvation because you tried to be vegan. I can see my epitaph now: No cow, he said. And now? He dead. )

It took an effort in planning to find meals that didn't include dairy, but for our two days of veganism we were looking forward to experimenting with new recipes. We pulled out the vegan cook books and went to work. We had nut loaf, salad, and some other stuff. — to be honest, I can't remember all we ate. Maybe dairy is responsible for helping the memory.

We had vegan treats from the Community Farm Store's Corfield Cafe, which we are fortunate enough to live close to.

The hardest thing was realizing how much we depend on dairy for making our meals tastier. We often take dairy-free food and sprinkle it with a touch of animal product to enhance the overall flavour: brown rice with butter, vegan chili with grated cheddar cheese on top, or Katie's biggest weakness - cream in her coffee.

It would be easier for us to be vegan with better planning, and even more so if we never brought dairy into the house. We'd have to find something else to put on rice though (could shrivelled raisins take the place of creamy butter? or how about simply dirt?).