While looking at old posts I realized how much this blog has changed over the years. When I started blogging in 2007 there weren’t so many other vegan blogs available. I had a simple point and shoot camera, no clue about how to take a decent picture, no clue about how to develop a recipe etc. I just started blogging because I wanted to connect with other vegans. Which worked out absolutely wonderful!
As a couple of other bloggers have remarked lately, the blog world has changed a lot since then. I gave up keeping up with all the vegan blogs out there long ago. I am sure I miss out on many wonderful entries, recipes, and pictures on a daily basis. I think it’s really great that there are so many blogs out there that focus on vegan food, the vegan lifestyle, vegan advocacy, etc. It will show people that being vegan is a completely normal way of living and it’s getting more popular every day.
When looking at some of those blogs I realized that the focus of my blog has changed, too. I used to post several times a week, sharing a lot of what I ate on a daily basis. Now I don’t post that often anymore and if I do, I do share mostly baked goods. There are several reasons for this. I have a sweet tooth. But Dresden doesn’t offer many options when it comes to vegan cakes, cookies, etc. I am used to baking my own cake. And I think it is fun. Baking your own cake from scratch is a challenge and I like that, too. Cake is something special and it’s something that should be shared.
While blogging for over four years now I thought a lot about what vegan cooking and baking means. Many people see veganism as a hardship. It is a lifestyle focusing on what you cannot eat rather than what you can. And if these people see that vegans found creative ways to cut out meat, dairy, eggs, honey, leather, etc, they ask you “But what do you use instead? Does it taste the same?”
Recently the first vegan restaurant opened in our city. It’s a wonderful little place and we’ve eaten there for a couple of times now. They have a standard menu as well as some weekly changing options. The people who run the restaurant started out by doing vegan catering. Amazing vegan catering. Catering focused at vegans and meat eaters alike. The same goes for that restaurant, I think. But what does it mean? It means a lot of meat substitutes. Burgers, goulash, traditional German cuisine, etc.
I sometimes wonder what’s up with that. Don’t get me wrong, I like vegan burgers, sausages, etc. I like the occasional fast food veganized. But I also think that vegan cooking has so much more to offer. I do understand that for new vegans, it is very, very helpful to have these substitutes. It can be confusing enough to cut out lots of foods. It can be even more confusing to learn a new style of cooking. I started out the same way. I took “regular” recipes and replaced eggs, cream, butter etc. with vegan ingredients. But over time I got bored with this kind of cooking. I looked through newly published vegan cookbooks and decided that I didn’t need another recipe for mac and cheese, spaghetti bolognese, refried beans, banana bread, or chocolate chip cookies. I realized that many vegan cookbooks aim at new vegans or they try to convince non-vegans that vegan food is indeed edible and tasty. I don’t think this is wrong. (And it’s probably not even what the writer wanted to focus on in the first place. It might also have a lot to do with the publisher’s marketing strategies.) These books are help- and useful. Just not for me. Not any longer. I’ve been vegan for over four years and I expect different things from cookbooks now. I also expect differnt things from my way of cooking and baking.
I think that vegan cooking and baking offers so many new possibilities. Moving away from egg-replacers, fake meats, and soyatoo whipped cream, I found many new and awesome ingredients. I think vegan cooking and baking can be something independent, something special, something that surprises people. It is a lot of fun to use an unusual ingredient and see how it works.Or to try a new method of baking or cooking things.
When I started to bring food to parties or when I cooked for my friends, I constantly asked myself: “Does this taste like the omni-version?” I don’t do this anymore. I stopped bringing something like a black forest cake to a party and waiting for people to tell me “Oh, this doesn’t taste like soy.” Instead I made a whole different cake. So people would stop comparing. So I would stop comparing. I don’t want people to see veganism as a fake and substitute lifestyle any longer. I gave up animal ingredients because I think it is wrong to use animals. But I am not deprieved, I am not missing out on anything, I am not suffering. This way of eating is not hard.
This is why I spent a lot of time learning to make my own cake, cookie, muffin, ice cream recipes, etc from scratch. Baking is where I can be most creative. When it comes to cooking in general, this is what I can do best, I think. It is very challenging to see if the ratio of flour, sugar, and fat, the combination of different flavours and ingredients will work out in the end. Or if you will end up with a giant mountain of sad crumbs. If I would ever write a cookbook, it would be a baking book. I am way less creative when it comes to cooking regular meals. Veganism started all this. It did not only help me not to feel guilty any longer about the way we treat animals. It taught me how to bake.
I do live in a country/society where veganism is not seen as a healthy lifestyle by most people. (Especially not if you are pregnant!) And personally I think that is all ok. I am not a health nut. Of course I take my vitamin B 12 and I do eat a balanced diet. But I am a vegan for ethical reasons and I don’t buy into the no sugar, no gluten, no fat ideology. (I want to make sure I get all the nutrients so I can keep up living as a happy vegan and I don’t want to be someone who had to give up veganism because they didn’t take care of themselves.)
When I post a new entry and I receive a comment by a person who tells me that “yes, the food looks delicious, but right now I cannot have gluten, fat, sugar, etc…” it makes me sad. Sometimes these people have their good reasons (like a gluten intolerance) but sometimes they might buy into the latest fad.
I have read books about how to live a fat-free vegan diet and I am sure these diets can be helpful for certain people with certain health conditions. But I don’t think they are necessary or useful for me. If I would follow them, they’d probably do more harm then good.
I used to be overweight for most of my life and I lost the excess a couple of years ago. Not on a vegan diet though. I was a vegetarian back at that time and my eating habits weren’t the best. I was there, I cut out all fat, I cut out all sugar, I followed a lot of restrictions. And I felt miserable.
Since then I have learned that for me the best way to go is not only a balanced diet but also a fearless diet. I don’t want to cut out certain foods for the rest of my life. (Except for animal products of course. But I do cut these out for ethical reasons.) I want to eat the occasional fast food and cake. I want to drizzle some olive oil onto my pizza or my pasta. I do not make the perfect food choices every day and I do think it is okay. Everyone has to eat and I like to eat. But I don’t want food choices (healthy or unhealthy) to take over my life.
As I said, I do think a balanced diet is important, but I also think it is important to not stick to it from time to time. To eat a piece of cake with all the oil, all the sugar, and all the white flour and not be afraid of it. And never ever use the phrase “guilt”.
Maybe I am on the wrong track here, but I sometimes think that the health discourse is very similar or maybe even tied to this ideal of female beauty that is floating around everywhere and that is so hard to ignore. As a woman, being thin and beautiful is what you were supposed to aim for. And now it is thinness, beauty, and health. And in this context health equals a lifestyle full of exercise and the right food choices. I see lots of women sharing their stories on their blogs. Most of the time they tell you they were fat and miserable and now they are thin, healthy, and happy. But how about those people who are fat, healthy, and happy? Those, thin or fat, who still eat their cake? Those who don’t follow all the rules and restrictions, refuse to feel “guilty” about food choices they’ve made, but instead have a healthy relationship with their food? What about those? Those are the ones I bake my cakes for. (More on this subject here.)
And of course for everyone else who wants them.