Vegan. Even the word sounds a little judgemental. As a dietary concept, it’s riddled with misinformation (Dictionary.com’s word of the year), FOMO and animal politics. And yet, five years ago, I decided to take the plunge. I’m Alex, male, 27, and vegan.
Like many millennial veggie-hypers, the 2014 documentary Cowspiracy was my blinding light. Sixty minutes into the film, shaking under Kip Anderson’s nightmarish tales of the impact of animal agriculture, I had decided to go vegan. My “spiritual level 5”, drum-wielding, shamanic brother-in-Law, Eddy had made the switch six months earlier, so I’d already mocked the health benefits, watched close-your-eyes animal videos and rolled my eyes at the myriad environmental insights. But this Netflix session floored me.
Being vegan became my freak flag to fly, but even I was annoyed by how “right” veganism suddenly felt. It’s definitely healthier – within weeks of making the switch, I realised I’d never felt better. My regular bloat pains went, I dropped a few pounds, gained an ounce of energy and started experimenting in the kitchen. I found the food swaps pretty easy – and, if you got it right, delicious. Nut milks, cashew creams, cauliflower steaks, actually fluffy coconut pancakes – all went down like a dream.
The social situations, however, were absolutely not dreamy. Pre-veganism, I had been a meat-eating champion. Aged 9, I cut my carnivore teeth gobbling up 29 pork sausages in one sitting at a hotel breakfast buffet. My surname, Petrides (pronounced Pe-tree-dies), had often been tweaked to reflect this: Pegreedies, Fatrides, ad infinitum. Then there’s the fact that I’m Greek. “What do you mean, he don’t eat no meat?” isn’t just a line in a romantic comedy. Meat is part of my family’s culture.
My girlfriend thought I’d lost the plot. Having watched the same Netflix documentary, she’d had a more pragmatic reaction to the vegan urge, and decided to make small, regular changes to her daily routine rather than going, as it were, the whole hog: she limited her meat intake to just once a week, took a hunk rather than a slice of cheese, and opted for oat milk in her tea. I’ll admit I didn’t find it easy to accept her self-identifying as a “vegan who eats pork… and fish… and cheese”. But love knows no boundaries. When I asked her to marry me, I knew she’d want fish at the wedding. My vegan bubble had officially burst.
In a bizarre turn of events, my brother, lovingly known as JP, decided to change his diet at the same time as me. Even more astonishingly, friends and family followed suit. Suddenly everyone was talking about plants. I began to experiment with recipes. JP and I started hosting supper clubs, showing off our latest creations. Our guests loved the food, our values and the idea of eating more plants, but quizzed us on how we had made the time to enact this sweeping lifestyle change.
That led to the conception of allplants. My brother and I realised we could make it delicious and easy for everyone to eat more plants by delivering chef-prepared meals (by foot, bus or uber) to your home. It’s healthy, comfort food – think luscious lasagnes (walnut and plum
ragu with butternut squash béchamel), rigatoni Bolognese (minced mushroom, basil and walnut ragu with almond crumb), bhaji daal, and cashew mac (cashew cream, kale and macaroni). We’ve now delivered over 300,000 dishes nationwide and our kitchen regularly prepares 12,000 meals each week. All our dishes are entirely vegan, nutritionally balanced and ready to eat from your freezer.
Interestingly, though, we still shy away from using the V-word. Indeed, some vegans would deem me vegetarian. I regularly sup on non-vegan wines. I occasionally buy shoes, clothes or furniture that comprise wool or leather. And from time to time, I’ve, accidentally (on purpose), let a snowstorm of cheese rain down on my spaghetti.
Some vegans call this failing. I call it being human. Take shoes: upon occasion, it is impossible to find a shoe I actually like that ticks all the vegan boxes. Besides, while I know that mushroom and pineapple leather are currently in production and might change my mind,
choosing plastic or cotton as alternatives to leather isn’t always the better choice for the environment.
Myself, my brother and allplants are deeply committed to bigger picture, vegan values and 99.9 per cent of my monthly foods are totally plant-based. I still question my philosophies every day. Will I raise my children vegan? Should my dog be vegan? Is this pint, shampoo or
moisturiser vegan? The answer is simple: commit to kindness. Towards yourself, others and our planet. Promote peace through all you do, say and buy. We all need to eat more plants. But a little vegan can go a long way.