Going Pesky Vegan in Dubai

OK, OK. So I’m not trying to invent a new weird diet name, or convert anyone to do anything. I really don’t care what anyone else eats, as long as I feel OK with the decisions I make, I’m not a perfect human (who is). I’m not here to tell anyone what to do, what to eat, or what to buy… except anyone who eats Fois Gras, wears cashmere, or uses feather duvets and pillows. You guys are going straight to hell. Sorry, not sorry. You deserve it.

I’ve given up dairy. That’s what this post is all about today.

My biggest challenge right now? (And this hasn’t changed from 20 years ago) What do I eat? No really, what do I eat? Where do I eat from? I’m not a hippie, I like eating out, I don’t want to travel miles to organic superfood markets and I don’t want to hang out in weird cafes, surrounded by the smell of incense, listening to wind chimes and world music, wearing hemp and discussing the dairy industry. Mostly because I’m not clever or articulate enough to hold any kind of argument. I just do me.

The biggest problem is the things I love, such as tea with milk, yoghurt, eggs, chocolate, cheese (all of it), pizza, hot chocolate, ice-cream, tuna mayo, toast with butter, lattes, cakes, biscuits, milk, sour cream, pies, pastry….. Quorn! Basically, all the dairy-filled bad for your diet stuff.

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I’m not a perfect vegetarian, vegan blah blah, so to give you a not-quite-as-brief-as-I-intended backstory… here’s the story of “vegetarian” me.

Vegetarianism and veganism in the 1990s

I became vegetarian when I was about 11 years old, I’d wanted to stop eating animals for a very, very long time, after seeing animals being transported across the country in trucks and seeing news stories of veal being transported to France. My parents promised me that if I still wanted to by the time I started secondary school, then that was up to me.

They kept to their word and I become a vegetarian. It was 1994, Quorn was still pretty hard to come by back then, and I think Linda McCartney’s Deep Dish Country Pies became a staple Sunday Lunch item. I’m not totally sure what I lived on, although I remember a baptism by fire when it came to kidney beans (you either liked them or you basically didn’t eat any pre-prepared veggie food), and I still shudder when I think about nut roasts and the dreaded “vegetable burgers with carrots and peas”. Vom.

deep-dish-country-pies-product

I was a “pure” vegetarian for a long time, and to be honest it was tough. In the 90s vegetarianism wasn’t hugely common and I went through many years awkwardly explaining to people’s mums I didn’t eat meat, as I was presented with lasagne, sausages, burgers, fish fingers etc. One mum even proudly explained she’d sieved out all the chicken from the chicken sauce for the pasta I was about to eat. Mortifying. Although this mum went on to become a vegetarian’s dream host and always made sure she had a freezer of veggie options for me. 😍

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Around my mid-teens more and more stories around dairy and battery farms came to light – probably largely from BBC 2 and Channel 4 documentaries (Sky TV who?!). Celebrities were also getting in on the conversation – for reasons I can’t remember, an interview with Sporty Spice really stuck with me – she explained how bad dairy was for your body, frequently mentioning the phrase “mucus forming”. This is despite launching a cadbury’s chocolate bar around the same time. Sigh.

With the media coverage I was seeing combined with the basic internet we had for research back then, it was the mid 90s after all, I absorbed all this information like a sponge, and decided to go vegan. I lasted a miserable 5 months. I just didn’t know what to eat. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING in my diet had a form of egg or milk-based ingredient, even my go-to, Quorn. I can’t honestly tell you how amazing I felt, or my perfect skin (I had terrible acne that still haunts me to this day), or my body or digestion blah blah… because I was confused, fed up…. and yes, as I mentioned, very, very miserable.

Then I was pescetarian in the 2000s

Around my late teens I gave in to the relentless limited food options I was faced with, I was sick of Tesco Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni, five bean chilli’sm and there’s only so much Quorn a person can eat, so I started eating fish. Not much, but enough to be able to have some sort of extended choice. I remember my first big fish meal when I was about 19 – Tuna steak, monkfish and something else. I’ve never been so sick in my life, I had stomach pains that lasted all evening and all night and had to go straight to bed. But I persisted.

In my 20s I think I watched most videos Peta2 had available, was a proud owner of the “I am not a nugget stickers”, I was trying to face up to the realities of farming by crying through shows such as ‘Kill It, Cook It, Eat It’ (I made it through one show…), and the guy I was dating at the time also decided to become pescetarian so it was nice to have someone to face the challenge with. I felt comfortable with my life choices. Although when PETA eventually shifted their marketing campaigns to focus on spamming people with graphic and disturbing videos and images, I unsubscribed. That kind of approach is not what I’m about.

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Just as an aside this isn’t indicative of most abattoirs… this the humane version…

 

2016. A Pescevegan what? 

It’s now 2016. I battle constantly with more or less all of my decisions which could affect the planet badly, but I’m not ready to cut fish out of my diet just yet (the perma-guilt is soon going to win, I’m sure). But here I am….

A palm oil avoiding fish eating vegan or a ‘Pesky Vegan’, as my friend Gemma would say.

I won’t bother delving into the palm oil debate here other than to say three things:

  1. It’s ruining planet Earth
  2. How the hell did we live without this ingredient for hundreds of years before we decided to cut down half of the rainforest and evict its natural residents?
  3. It’s in fucking everything.

Watch Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Before the Flood”, or just google “Orangutan Habitat Destruction” if you’re remotely interested in finding out more.

 

So this is my challenge, this is what I’m doing, I’ll let you know how I get on.

#ConcernedOfTheMarina

 

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