Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

Oh, how the mighty fall. I knew I would cheat one day. I didn’t know when or how, but I knew it was inevitable. 

I was having visions of how I might cheat. Perhaps biking through Spain and happening upon a gathering of sunny locals cooking paella and accepting their kind invitation to partake. Or perhaps when traveling out west for the weekend, and visiting my dear friend who lives near a salmon farm. There's a kindly old gent who always gave me a rash of the most gorgeous smoked salmon, then always refused payment with a wink, saying I reminded him of his late wife. (“She was a crazy redhead, too.”)

Or maybe when I decided to get pregnant. You know, what with the weird food cravings and all. Just the other day I visited a confined ex-colleague who would balance a jar of relish on her swollen belly and dip terriyaki beef jerky in it. Terrifying stuff, sure, but it happens to the best of us. 

What can I say? It had been a hell of a week, and I had vegan fatigue. I was hungry, tired and hormonal. I had plenty of food in the house, but nothing easily snarfed. The doorbell rang; my roomies had ordered pizza from the local cheap, yet passable pizzeria. 

I announced I would have some. They looked from one to the other with a mixture of suspicion and concern. Their reaction reminded me of an episode of Beverly Hills 90210. You know the one where Dylan falls off the wagon (again) and goes to the old pool hall? And the bartender doesn’t really want to serve him, but hands it over anyway?  Rather like that, sans the terrible synthesized keyboards signaling an imminent Shannen Doherty hissyfit. ("Dylan! You've been drinking!")

Long story short: I ate the pizza. It wasn’t great. Vegetables and cheese. No meat. I’d heard stories of vegans breaking the code before, usually accompanied by harrowing tales of gastrointestinal misfortune. I didn’t think it would be too bad for me; it was just a bit of cheese, right?

Wrong. Half an hour later, my stomach was as hard as a baseball and a churning, burning mess. I had to gulp down several doses of Pepto Bismol and some probiotic enzymes just to get through the rest of the night. I won’t bother to enlighten you as to the nature of my time on the, ahem, throne this morning, but I am currently humming an old, legendary Johnny Cash tune. Can you guess which one?

From what I gather, many of the enzymes our body uses for various types of food, in this case animal proteins, cease production if we don’t need them. If these foods are ingested without the usual dose of enzymes required to break it down into digestible nutrients or waste, the stomach builds up acids to break it down in a far more painful manner. Hence the pain, swelling and burning.

As well as a sore tummy, I’m not particularly happy with myself from a moral standpoint. I don’t think I was attempting to scrub away imaginary bloodstains from my hands while sleepwalking last night, but I do feel like I crossed a line.  I’m not going to write a note of apology to PETA, but I’ve learned my lesson.

So, budding vegans, a note of caution: if you’re craving a fix, tread carefully. We all know the seitan jerky sometimes just doesn't cut it, but consider yourselves warned.