Guest blog by Vegan Chef Day who has been vegan for over 21 years and works as a private chef and food designer in London. She regularly shares healthy vegan recipes on her website veganchefday.com.
Living in London I have seen the healthy eating industry blossom. Many of its tribe pronounce themselves vegan because they are under the misguided belief that vegan is a diet. As any vegan will attest it is not a diet. It is a belief system that affects every part of your life, informing your decision on everything you consume and purchase, of which food is a part. This misnomer is certainly an aspect of the divide between vegans and plant based people. But has the vegan health fad been a help or hindrance to those that really matter in this argument - the animals?
In December 2013 Beyonce dined in Cafe Gratitude. She arrived wearing a fox fur coat. A personal trainer put her on a 22 day plant based diet. Whilst the media snickered at this apparent faux pas I believed this to be a great opportunity. An opportunity for the vegan community to show that anyone who is interested in veganism, for whatever reason, can and should be welcomed.
Since that time the vegan diet has become the latest food fad and my city of London is now home to a wealth of vegan-friendly restaurants, cafes and health food stores. But many come with a high price tag. Healthy plant based food has attracted higher pricing as it is food that gained attention because of the wealthy and famous. Food companies are aware that huge profits can be made. In certain large health food shops you can pay double for a product you could find on Ocado or in smaller stores. This strategy has taught many of us that healthy equals costly. After decades of the processed food industry having, quite frankly, a carte blanche as to what they feed us and how they can misinform us, we do not need any more barriers to wellness and health. The illusion that health is just for the wealthy is just that, an illusion.
The healthy elite, those golden long-haired, tall blonde ladies of London who look like they exited the womb in downward dog are not the most loyal customer base. Flitting from raw vegan to bone broth after the food fashion turned tides, illustrated this. However there were some people who did not flock with a crowd onto the next fad. Some stayed. They had entered the vegan world for fashion and health. But they had been opened up to images and facts that turned them into ethical vegans. These people, and I know several, would not have made the step if it wasn't for veganism being the fad that it was.
During this period we have seen a huge rise in media attention on the vegan diet. Some of it mocking, some silly, some informative and some downright infuriating. All publicity, as they say, is good publicity. It has opened the airwaves to our cause and invited new levels of communication and understanding.
The journey from health and exercise to veganism has also been reversed for some vegans such as myself. Becoming more aware of how a wholefoods plant based diet can support physical activity and the hectic lifestyle I crave has led me to embrace this triad of - VEGAN-HEALTH-EXERCISE. And I have reaped the benefits. I was cognizant that I knew I had already done the hard bit by stopping eating non vegan food in 1995. In 2005 I began my journey towards health and in so doing realised that my diet could also be compassionate towards me, as well as to animals and the planet. It’s a win - win - win!
The popularity of the vegan diet as a food fad has given rise to many a recipe book, blog, Instagram post and is present in all of the modes of free information we have in abundance in this Internet age. This has assisted many people in their journey towards veganism and so, even just for this reason alone, has helped the animals enormously.
I, for one, welcome the food faddists with open arms and I say ‘Welcome, eat with me, drink with me, laugh with me, have a positive experience and hopefully you will stay awhile. But if not, veganism never truly had your heart.’