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Understanding vegans and their food

December 2017

Pic courtesy of BBC Good Food

Christmas is not as easy as it was thanks to today’s individualism over food. Allergies, beliefs and various health reasons mean many of us have certain foods that we need to avoid, and this can cause anxiety as we try and cater for a group of family and friends over Christmas.

One thing that can cause a degree of panic at this time of year is when someone announces they are vegan. Most of us have heard of this but what does it really mean?

Interestingly the concept of vegans hasn’t come in from America or the Middle East but in fact is British. A small group of vegetarians decided they wanted to do something a little difference from their local Leicester Vegetarian Society and so they broke away and formed the Vegan Society – in 1944. It is not a new concept!

Along with not eating any meat, they decided they didn’t want to eat any dairy, eggs or indeed any product at all with an animal origin, hence they decided to form their own society. The word vegan was selected from the first and last letters of the word vegetarian.

It pottered on for a while but in 1979 became a registered charity with the aim of establishing a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, not only for food but for clothing or any other purpose.

Some vegans have chosen their life style because of health reasons and specific diseases where they feel a vegan diet might be able to help. There is also some thought that by avoiding animal products, you will avoid the side effects of the antibiotics and hormones used in modern animal farming.

More recently vegans have suggested that their lifestyle choices could reduce the need for animal agriculture, something that contributed to 65% of the total amount of nitrous oxide emissions in the atmosphere together with 35% of global methane emissions and 9% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Interestingly, animal agriculture can be a water intensive process, with 43 times more water needed to produce beef than for the same amount of cereal grain.

With more concern that ever in the state of our world, vegans are on the increase. Luckily this means that for Christmas, and indeed any other part of the year, having vegan guests doesn’t need to send you into panic mode.

Many people cook their normal planned meals and then buy in a range of vegan options. Most big supermarkets offer a lovely range of specially prepared vegan meals these days and these can take all the worry out of a meal.

In America in some states you can have vegan meals delivered but this hasn’t reached the UK yet.

The alternative though is to cook your own vegan meals and that can be enormous fun and also provide some new tasty treats for everyone else as well. Who could not want to try the BBC’s Good Food Vegan Mince Pie recipe?...with its black cherries soaked in kirsch and vodka pastry it certain adds an exciting new flavour for Christmas!

The BBC Good Food also has some exceptional really special Christmas celebration foods such as their Vegan Christmas Wreath (see picture at top of story).

Another good source of easy vegan recipes has been put together by Good Housekeeping, using ingredients that you will find easily in your local high street.

Today there is no need to be apprehensive about vegans coming to your home; with a bit of understanding of what it is all about and a willingness to give a little extra time to create some additional special dishes, you can make vegan guests feel very welcome...and probably create a great talking point for your other guests as well.

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