Monday, May 17, 2010

Recent Challenges

Being a vegan isn't always easy, in fact one could say that it is often "difficult, difficult, lemon difficult". I've come across a few issues recently that I thought I'd write about. The first, being a milkshake bar that has opened in Dublin city centre.

Quite a few people have been getting excited about this new place on Dame Street. It is Dublin's first and only milkshake bar and it offers soya milk and soya ice cream alternatives on its menu. So yesterday I went into the bar with a friend who is doing an experiment for her end of year Journalism course - she went vegan for a week and blogged about it here: A History of Dieting. We queued for over 10 minutes to eventually be told "sorry, we ran out of soya milk, we'll definitely have some in tomorrow". I know of someone else who was told the same thing that day AND a couple of days previously. Since our visit I've heard of even more people being turned away on different days! I was pretty disappointed (and confused) at how a milkshake bar could run out of two rather important ingredients for such a long duration of time. Then the more I thought about it, the more I realised just how wrong going to a place like this was, for a vegan. Do I really want to patronise a company that makes most of its money from dairy milkshakes? Do I really want to give them my money and help them to thrive? There are only a couple of things on the menu vegans can choose from - peanut butter, bourbon biscuits and jelly tots being among the few. Absolutely everything else they stock is a vegan's nightmare: Oreos, Kit Kats, Kelloggs' Cereals, Galaxy, all manner of Dairy Milk chocolates, Nestlé products, Toblerones, Jaffa Cakes, Custard Creams, Wine Gums, Hersheys.... anything and everything we vegans choose to avoid! People have been telling me that I should feel "greatful" that this store is recognising the needs of vegans and the dairy intolerant amongst us. However, I beg to differ, seeing as most places you go to eat will have at least something edible on the menu, whether it is a salad or a veggie fry up, it doesn't mean we should feel so greatful that we should support these places! Just because MacDonalds have a veggie burger, fries, onion rings and an apple pie that vegans can eat, does that mean we should support them? Most vegans would feel uncomfortable purchasing something from a joint such as Maccy D's, and I find it equally disturbing supporting a bar that dishes out dairy products by the gallon every day. So I've come to the conclusion that I should probably avoid this place like the plague. I can make my own milkshakes at home, thank you very much, then I can know exactly what goes into them and also not waste my time or money getting to your store only to find out I can't even have anything!

My friend Orna and I came across another challenge while out at Dublin's "Africa Day" in the Iveagh Gardens on Sunday. We really wanted to try some authentic African food but they didn't seem to have any Ethiopean stalls - I tried some of this food from a stall out in Dun Laoghaire last year and it was totally vegan friendly and absolutely delish! So we located the stall which looked the most veggie/vegan friendly and on trying to ask what was in a certain item, we found the language barrier to be quite a hurdle. After asking the first time and getting "potato" as the answer, we tried to press the chef into elaborating a little further, upon where she just started shouting "POTATO! POTATO!" at us. There was quite a queue forming behind so we opted for some of this "potato" concoction and a plateful of spicy rice. It was very tasty, but I'm not at all sure if the potato dish was actually vegan. We couldn't quite work it out - it had a hint of cheese and the colour was yellowy, but it definitely didn't have the texture or consistency of cheese and the colour could easily have been from the sweet potato or the spices.

On talking to the daughter of a Nigerian friend today I mentioned what we'd had and she told me "oh that would be Pan da Diam" (apologies, but I have no idea how to spell this, therefore it was impossible to Google) and when I asked if it was made with cheese or dairy I got laughed at as if I was stupid. However, as we all know, just because some people think it's dairy free doesn't mean it is dairy free - they just don't think to check the label. Apparently it's made with some kind of powder, so it's possible that there could be cheese or milk in it, we just don't know! However, it was an enjoyable afternoon and it was nice to get to try some traditional food, experience a different culture and listen to some African music.

Another issue would be: Pets! Is it ok for a vegan to have a pet? I have kept dwarf hamsters for a while now and love them so much (my first dwarfie, Bump, is pictured above). I'd ideally love a dog or a cat, but at the moment our lifestyle just wouldn't suit owning a larger pet that requires more responsibility. Rescue animals are obviously the main choice for vegans wanting pets, but then questions such as whether to feed it a diet of meat or not are raised (no problem there with my vegan hammies!), and whether you should be the "owner" of an animal like it is an object.

I have no idea what to think about this as I originally went vegan for health reasons alone. I am relatively new to the whole ethical side of veganism. What does everyone else here think about animals as pets?


  1. Wow, what a lame excuse! They ran out of soy milk? I bet they will never ever run out of cow's milk.
    Personally, I try not to see my veganism as a "challenge" with food all around me I am not "allowed" to eat. I decided to do this for ethical reasons and therefore I try to look positive at things. You are right, most companies don't take vegans seriously and they don't offer many vegan options. In my town, there is not one single vegan place, so I have to "support" places that offer mostly non-vegan food. And by going to non-vegan places and demanding a soy milk shake every day, people someday will hopefully realize that they better should have that damn soy milk in stock.
    About "pets" - I don't have any but I know many vegans who do. They don't see themself as the "owner" of the "pet" but as their companion.
    Most of those animals were rescued from horrible places or are adopted, so in my opinion it's a very good thing to give them a new home.
    I'm sure you'll figure out your own answers to all of these questions soon! I know I was asking myself the same questions when I went vegan and it took me a while to answer them for myself. It was important for me to find out what I thought about these things and not what other (vegans or omnis) expected me to think. You'll figure it out someday :)

  2. Thank you for your opinion on this! It's great to hear what other people think. On hindsight I probably chose the wrong word, I don't really see it as a "challenge", just a few issues that I've come across I guess. I think I have a lot to learn, but I think as long as we do what we believe is right then that's the best we can do in the end. I think I may edit my post and change "not allowed to eat" to "things we choose to avoid". Thanks for pointing that out, it does sound a bit odd alright, like I think I'm being deprived - when this can't be further from the truth! The milk bar has informed us that they now have soya milk in stock and as they were a new shop they weren't expecting soya milk to be so popular. That's still no excuse though, they should have noticed it was running out! AND soya milk lasts a lot longer than dairy, so there's no excuse not to order a huge load in! I may very well go and try one of their soya shakes on the weekend and see what the fuss is about. Then I can make up my own mind! :)

  3. Hopefully they'll realise that soya milk is going to be a popular choice! It's such a pity they ran out. Rice milk or almond milk would be even better, but I can't see them getting that any time soon...
    With regard to not patronising dairy milkshake bars etc, I think it's important to encourage them to support all customers. If they realise how popular non-dairy shakes are, or vegan/veggie ingredients are, then they may add more. That, to me personally, is better than boycotting certain businesses.

  4. True true! I suppose I was a) a little bit miffed that loads of people including myself were turned away for several days in a row, and b) you can basically only really choose from a peanut butter or a jelly tot shake from what I can see. I'm not really sure what else they could get in for mixers/toppings? Any ideas? I could suggest it to them!

  5. hmm...
    Fry's chocolate bars? I'm slightly obsessed with them, if you like mint then they'd be lovely! Or Bourbon biscuits (most brands are vegan)...(can you tell I like chocolate :P )
    Dark chocolate crumbled up...
    Veggie haribo for people who eat beeswax...
    Dairy-free oreos (apparently you can get them in Asian foodstores!)
    Nuts or dried or fresh fruit too...

  6. Nice ideas! I think they have bourbon biscuits as an option already - I didn't know these were vegan?! Oooh! I'll check those out when I'm next in a supermarket... although I find buying packets of biscuits myself quite dangerous, I'd eat them all in one go if they were sitting there in the kitchen! :-0 Yes I LOVE CHOCOLATE as well! It's mad because before I was a vegan I used to have a more savoury tooth. Now I'd say I have more of a sweet tooth. Not sure what the story is with that!! I heard about the dairy free oreos, I'm going to look next time I'm in an asian market... although the same thing goes for those as the bourbons, I'd find them difficult to resist so it's a bad idea for me to go searching really. I can be a right pig!!

  7. I don't buy bourbon biscuits often for that exact reason - they don't last very long! Yep, they're vegan alright, which is great!
    I've always had a ridiculous sweet tooth, it's mad. But since I went veg I've gotten a real grá for fresh vegetables - never in my life would I have said that before ;) Especially roasted peppers...yummmm...

  8. Me too! I could happily eat a can of sweetcorn as a snack, or a plate of roasted veg, or a whole beetroot, or a plate of broccoli... My fave is actually boiled green cabbage, plain on its own, nothing added! Hehe, madness! ;)

    I still do have a very sweet tooth though. I love cakes and biscuits. Fave biscuits are: Pink Wafers, Bourbons, Ginger Nuts, Jersey Creams & Hobnobs. MMMMMM MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!