Ethical eating

A week-long adventure in veganism

Opinions editor Parker Crook sits with his plate of kale at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Crook successfully became a vegan for an entire week. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

Opinions editor Parker Crook sits with his plate of kale at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Crook successfully became a vegan for an entire week. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

After a final meal of burgers, chocolate, ice cream and everything else unhealthy, I’ve decided it’s time. I’m going vegan for a week. 

The idea first came to me a few months back after watching a documentary called Earthlings. The documentary displayed the atrocities that occur in some slaughterhouses in North America. It’s important to note that not all farm animals are treated with such malice as those shown in Earthlings, but the film is certainly eye-opening and prompted this experiment. 

So, here we are. I can no longer eat any animal by-products for the next seven days. While it doesn’t sound like much,  I’m someone who eats both yogurt and meat daily, though not in the same meal.

Foolishly, I have nothing planned out as of day one, so I will be relying heavily on my vegan life coach, Blaire Arcand, who went vegetarian in 2014 after watching a documentary with a similar premise titled Vegucated.

“I remember how awful I felt that one species was treated as better, while one was just a source of food,” remarks Arcand. “I didn’t understand why.”

And, after a happy and healthy four-month stint as a vegetarian, Arcand decided to make the difficult transition to veganism.

“Throughout my life, I’ve realised that I’ve always wanted kindness for all creatures,” says Arcand. “It all clicked at once.”

Unlike Arcand, my headfirst dive into veganism wasn’t as well thought-out, nor was it for what I believe to be the greater good.

This may be more difficult than I think.

This is already harder than expected. Perhaps due to my lack of planning and foresight, I didn’t have anything available for dinner. 

After 45 minutes of searching the restaurants that were open late for vegan menu options, of which there were none, I gave up and bought a vegetable stir-fry from Safeway for nearly $6. 

It’s now even later, and I’m still hungry, but at least I have one thing with me from my past life: wine.

I don’t know if this is a common problem all new vegans face, but I’ve eaten far too many bananas today. 

At The Gateway for dinner, I was appalled to find that there was a grand total of two vegan meal options, not including appetizers. But, because I am a man who believes a salad isn’t a full meal on its own, I opted for the “Italian Veggie” sandwich. While not technically vegan, I was able to change and remove ingredients to make it fit with my new dietary restriction. And, honestly, I would order it again. 

Unlike I often find with a beef burger, I felt energized after dinner, as opposed to the blob of a man I am. 

However, the lack of vegan options available was certainly a bummer.

I find it’s becoming habitual to consume the same food day in day out. And, according to Arcand, the first few weeks as a vegan are the hardest. 

“I am a super plain eater, so I would always just ask for rice or a tossed salad.

“Fries are usually safe, but they can get old in a hurry.” 

Truer words have never been spoken.

There is hope. The Coup, an ethical vegetarian restaurant located on 17th Ave., serves food that is not only top notch on a vegan scale, but food that easily places it on my top 10 list of Calgary restaurants.

I had an almond satay bowl, consisting of steamed broccoli and seared tofu with organic spinach on rice vermicelli, topped with spiced almond satay sauce and crushed almonds. 

While a bit on the rich side, this meal stands as the best I’ve had this week, and one of the best I’ve had overall.

Overall, this project is getting easier by the day. However, while vegan food is becoming less strenuous to find, it certainly isn’t becoming cheaper. 

Leaves are expensive.

Today, this difficult and time-consuming lifestyle felt more routine. Additionally, this project forces you to look deeper into the ingredients in the food you eat and where it comes from, which is a benefit itself. 

My final day as a vegan has been somewhat bittersweet. 

With the same issues ordering food every other day, it felt almost nostalgic, as if something good is about to end. 

A vegan puffed-wheat cake fell into my lap this evening and was the perfect proverbial last snack in this project.

To my surprise, it is with some sadness that this experiment has come to an end.

Overall, it was a rollercoaster of food-related emotion, from being unable to find affordable options to finding vegan cuisine that outdoes its meaty competition.

However, it was far from what I expected.

Like Arcand, I expected this change to have a sizeable impact on my life. In reality, the only thing that changed was my relationship with food.

“I didn’t think I would have the same social life as a vegan, but it was all in my head.

It gets so much easier,” remarks Arcand.

And she’s right. This is due, in part, to the negative stereotypes people often have of vegans. Contrary to popular belief, most vegans don’t care what you eat, nor do they push their lifestyle choices on you.

“I wish people wouldn’t associate it as a negative thing,” sighs Arcand.

And while I don’t see myself continuing on this path of animal by-product free living, I can honestly say that I feel physically better than I did a week ago.

I have the utmost respect for anyone who chooses to pursue this lifestyle. It’s far from easy, and it takes hell-bound determination to see it through.

So the next time you’re at a restaurant and are ready to roll your eyes at someone asking about vegan meal options, just don’t.

“It’s a very personal decision.”

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