Oct 21, 2013

Meatless Monday: Dan Hanks

On Mondays I will be featuring fellow vegetarian and vegan book people. Today on the blog, I have a really cool vegetarian writer who is going vegan and sharing his story and blog with us! Come check out his blog and his website to see what he's up to. Also, chat him up on Twitter. He's a fun guy. Enjoy!

Why I Am A Vegetarian

I've been vegetarian for about 31 years now. It started when I was about 7, for two reasons: 1) My parents had recently gone veggie, and 2) I hated school dinners. Liver and onions? Sausage roll with extra gristle? Ugh! *shivers*

Also, you know, I loved animals and I wasn't comfortable with eating them once I found out they were the meat. So I made the call to be a veggie. Obviously my parents going the same route made it far easier on me than it would most kids. They sent me to school with 'sosmix' for the (lovely and understanding) small school canteen to whip up. And when we dined out they took the lead in mixing and matching the various foods on the menu to create our own vegetarian options - because at that time there simply weren't any (although I'd like to think all those waitresses we made cry eventually led to the widespread choice vegetarians now enjoy across the UK!)

Since then I've never looked back. Most of my friends are big meat eaters and have made the obligatory jokes about carrots and feelings, etc, but you learn to live with their lack of sharp wit. Moving to Australia to be with my wife (also veggie) about 9 years ago was tough, as Aussies are known for their love of meat and BBQs, but by the time I left to return to England last year they had really caught up and the supermarkets were stocking some fantastic veggie and vegan options. Which is great.

And all this time, despite my initial reasons for becoming veggie being a little on the shallow side, the ethics behind my decision are the reason I've dismissed the crappy jokes and sly digs, and held to it as the best option for me all these years...

...UNTIL I did a bit of research a couple of years ago for an article on vegetarianism that ran on a website called The Punch. My intention was to write a balanced piece about animal cruelty that tried to get meat eaters onside early on (I made a joke about making fun of vegans *cringes*) before trying to hit them with a bit of an eye-opener about factory farming and the rather Nazi-like processes involved.

Of course, the outcome was that I was the one who actually learned what all vegans already know - the processes involved in obtaining dairy and eggs can also be pretty awful. Thus the article turned into a confession that my smug position as an animal-loving vegetarian was on thin ice and I was going to take the next step and become vegan.

It's been a long couple of years, weeding out all those staple dairy foods, but I'm almost there. I could have gone cold turkey, but I knew that would be really hard to stick to. Instead I took it in small steps. Swapping my hot chocolate for a soy hot chocolate. Not having butter on my deli lunchtime salad sandwiches, that kind of thing. Small steps makes for a stronger transition in my opinion. And it's worked out really well.

Eggs and cheese have been a bit of a struggle, mainly because of the lack of alternatives. Eggs I just stopped buying, but it was only recently that I started avoiding them as the ingredients in baked goods. Cheese... well, who doesn't love cheese? I finally gave it up a couple of months ago, but that's been really tough, mainly because it's in everything designated as vegetarian and the alternatives are absolutely repulsive!

Well... except one. I'm relieved and OH MY GOD THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU delighted to confirm that two days ago I discovered a vegan cheese in the UK that not only doesn't look like clay, but actually tastes like cheese! Violife Original (and other versions) cheese slices. Just the best. I've been eating them all weekend.

So there we go. I'm *almost* there. The next stage, I guess, is taking my dietary difficulties to the outside world, checking more ingredients, and being enough of a pain for more vegan options to start appearing on menus in the coming years.

Nothing I've not done before... ;)

My Favorite Vegetarian Recipe

I wish I had a favourite, but to be honest I've been a little slack in expanding my culinary repertoire at the same time my list of suitable ingredients has been decreasing.

I'm a big fan of the roast dinner, complete with a vegan meat alternative. Lots of veg. You can't really go wrong. But my Mum baked a delicious chocolate mud cake that was entirely vegan for my birthday this year, so I'm looking forward to getting to grips with that one. I'll let you know how it goes!

About Dan:

I'm a writer who gets around a bit. Born in London, finely tuned in Manchester, matured in Sydney, and now settled back in the beautiful Peak District in England… hoping not to add another location to this far-too-long list (at least not for a while).

Currently a copywriter by day and writer of other things by night—from articles, reviews and interviews for the award-winning blog Fantasy Faction, to fantasy novels, a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style film script and various TV shows.

Unless I’m on Twitter, in which case I’m getting nothing done.

Around all that I’m also a husband and father of three (including a dog named Indiana), an over-qualified, under-utilised archaeologist, and recovering accidental property developer. I'm pretty tired.

Find Dan:

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