I travelled to the outer south-east Melbourne for a family celebration a few weeks ago. Like any celebration, the time eventually came after lunch to celebrate the occasion with birthday cake. There were two cakes – one was decorated with glowing candles ready to be blown out, and the other was to cater for the vegan coeliac in the crowd (me). Once the candles were blown out, guests huddled, ready to receive their plate of cake. Some guests were unsure as to which cake to try.
The matriarch of the family clarified the dilemma for any guests who seemed perplexed. ‘That one is a golden syrup cake. It’s vegan and gluten free. ‘And this,’ as she motioned to the birthday cake, ‘this is the normal one’. These are the types of conversations I encounter regularly as one who observes a vegan, and now strictly gluten free, diet. Yet, I try to meet these conversations with a neutral stance, without taking these comments personally.
You see, a vegan gluten free lifestyle may not be understood by everyone. It is assumed that vegan gluten free goes against everything we’ve been born and brought up to understand as truth; how to eat and live our lives so we can thrive. But, what happens when we question these beliefs then take the opportunity to shift to a new way of living? Rather than ask the question why, 'why shift to a vegan diet, why take the gluten free option', I think we should all be asking the question why not? By reframing the question, we can become more curious about our beliefs and what new possibilities can give us.
Research was conducted by the University of Lancaster in the UK into the justification of eating meat and why humans do eat meat. In that research, it was found that people eat meat because it’s normal, it’s natural, it’s necessary and it’s nice. ‘Necessary’ was found to be the common response.
What I’d like to do, over two parts, is to explore these four N’s from a vegan traveller’s perspective.
Vegan Food Travel is Normal
Let’s look at the meaning of normal. Normal is to conform to a standard; what is usual, what is typical, or what is expected. For my meat-eating family, consuming animal products is the ‘normal’. I was born and raised this way, and I didn’t start to question this until about five years ago. Feeling tired, feeling heavy and feeling sniffly or stuffy were all intense symptoms I was feeling before going vegan and I was questioning how I could feel better. After research, along with a conscious pull from my inner self, I came to the conclusion that vegan was the way to go. How does this relate to travel? Food is how we all relate and bring ourselves together – over a meal at the dinner table for example. This is a concept that’s found globally.
I’ve discovered that travel is vital when it comes to learning new concepts all the while educating others in my ‘normal’. It’s one thing to be born with particular beliefs, so we all have the ability to question the status quo and take a new path in our life journeys. Through vegan food travel, it is possible to still feel a sense of connectedness and security as we exist and learn from one another.
Vegan Food Travel is Necessary
Now, back to those pre-vegan feelings of tired, heavy and sniffly or stuffy, I have experienced allergies my whole life, specifically eczsma and hayfever. My mum has told me repeatedly how many different milks I was given as a child in order to alleviate the pain and irritability. It wasn’t until I probed her further did I discover that the milk that gave me the most relief was soy milk. It was at this lightbulb moment when I realised I made the right choice by going vegan. All the nutrients I need are also readily available through a vegan diet and it’s a matter of living as healthily as I can in order to live and thrive at my utmost potential.
Yet the tiredness was still an issue. After a series of tests and doctors’ appointments, I discovered in mid-2016 that I had Coeliac Disease. Again, this was another lightbulb moment. I immediately cut gluten out of my diet and almost immediately started to feel the benefits. In the context of travel, I find it thrilling to travel to new restaurants and destinations only to discover the local vegan and gluten free options available. It’s an opportunity to explore further and again, question the normal. Through vegan food travel I’m also creating a demand for vegan gluten-free options.
This wraps up the first in this two-part blog post so look out for the second instalment in the next couple of days where I’ll be exploring two more N’s – natural and nice.