So, I’ve decided to finally come clean on why I decided to start a blog call The Real Junk Food Vegan and why now.
The day I decided to go ‘Veggie’
It was just after my 15th birthday my twin sister and I both decided that we’d stop eating meat; actually it may not have been quite so clean cut as that but I am sure it happened about the same time. Now, for many people deciding to stop eating meat is a very important time in one’s life; it can be a defining moment and the reasoning behind it a very passionate one. However, personally it wasn’t like that at all.
I can’t actually remember why, it certainly wasn’t anything to do with the cruelty involved, the barbaric torture some animals can endure I;m sad to say. No in actual fact it was because I just wanted to and if you’ve ever met me,well you know I don’t normally do things by halves.
Back in the 1990’s being a vegetarian wasn’t as widely known as it is today, perhaps that’s to do with social media, the celebrities that love to tell the world that they are one or the numerous animal welfare charities these days. I do however; remember BROS highlighting Lynx fur and the unnecessary breeding and killing of them; so it could have been that! Or I distinctly remember being fed the chewiest meat, taking too big a bite sat at the dinner table desperately trying to swallow it even when the taste had long gone – never a nice way to digest your food – when you’ve chewed the hell out of it and try to swallow it whole.
Anyway whatever it was, I just remember telling mum that I’d no longer be eating meat and that was that.
Luckily for me and although I’d grown up with meat being the staple food on my dinner plate; my mum was supportive of us. To her credit she’d always fed us on lots of veg anyway, so taking just one thing off our dinner plate was no big thing at the end of the day! We’d sit at the dinner table most evenings with a plate of veg, or a quiche or even a Linda McCartney pie if the pennies would stretch that far. It was a straight forward transition from meat eater to vegetarian, no questions asked.
Yes I did slip ‘off the wagon’
I guess when there is no real reasoning behind something, no real justification or heart wrenching emotion behind the decision, slipping off the meat ‘wagon’ was bound to happen from time to time. I’m not averse to admitting that I’d sometimes nick a bit of chicken from someone else’s plate when it was my time to clear the dishes away, just for ‘old time’s sake’. Yet it never really made much difference to me, there would never be any real guilt because what was I to feel guilty for? It was just decision I’d made when I was 15, nuff said.
So 9 years I continued to not eat meat, and the majority of that time I stuck to it like glue. That is until I met a chef, he offered me a Kentucky Fried Chicken (yeah I know – what the? right?) and the rest they say is history. I have to be honest though, fast food has never appealed to me and certainly not Kentucky Fried Chicken, I think I’ve eaten it twice in my entire life – so I guess once I popped I just couldn’t stop.
The next 10 or so years I did eat meat, never a lot mind you, but I did and it was just what I did at the time. Looking back now, those where the years I didn’t really know much about who I was, what I stood for and my values……..well I didn’t really have any. I went through a pretty turbulent time from my early 30’s until about 2/3 years ago.
And then…….Then The Real Junk Food Project happened!
If you’ve been following the progress of The Real Junk Food Project, you’d know it’s a project aiming to abolish food waste within the next 10 years. Starting back in 2013, Adam Smith wanted to turn the whole food waste thing on its head and decided that doing what others did wasn’t going to do it for him anymore.
He was, or rather IS, a man after my own heart. He’s not a follower of crowds and certainly doesn’t conform; and neither do I! So in March 2015 I started The Real Junk Food Project Portsmouth, intercepting waste food in my local area and feeding it to bellies rather than to bins! It wasn’t a scary thing to do, in fact it felt like the right thing to do plus I was going through a pretty difficult time financially so it felt like the ONLY thing I could do with what little I had.
You see, its right when people say ‘you only understand what it’s like to be poor, when you’ve been poor yourself’ and that is too true. Although what we do at The Real Junk Food Project Portsmouth isn’t about feeding the poor, it’s about three things in my eyes. It’s about educating people about food waste, that the food labelled by these big corporate companies isn’t really about your health but more about how they can get you to keep buying more and more. It’s about looking at what you eat, why you eat it and where it comes from. It’s also about creating a place for anyone to come to with no rules, no judgments and doing it on a regular basis. It’s also about caring for the planet and sticking two fingers up to the system and doing what we want, when we want to.
The hardest times are our biggest lessons
You see, whilst doing all this I was going through the mill myself. I didn’t have food in my cupboards and yet I wanted to feed others. I’m no Mother Theresa, but it’s when you have nothing that you finally understand what it is to be grateful for what you have – and that’s how I felt. Doing this project has not only given so much gratitude for what I have, it’s had a profound effect on how I eat and how I cook. You see, before I started this project I never cooked for myself. I think my only real ‘signature dish’ was Shepherd’s Pie! Yet, having little food meant that I had to experiment and make good food out of what I already had. Plus, I went back to being a Vegetarian. Again, not through any real sense of injustice but because meat just didn’t figure in the whole food waste thing for me. You see, I started to appreciate the odd carrot, the apple and even the rotten banana – like I’d never ever done before. Meat for me just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.
So what’s the Vegan bit all about then?
Ha! I knew you’d ask that! The funny thing is becoming Vegan has meant a lot more to me than becoming veggie. You see, through the project I’ve met a diverse set of people. From ethically minded people, passionate people, vegetarians, meat eaters, vegans, parents, the lonely, homeless and ‘ordinary’ folk. Yet, we all share one common thing we all want to eat and eat good nutritious food (I am going somewhere with this, so please bear with me!) – Whether they know it or not!
Yes, becoming Vegan this time around, has a lot to do with animal suffering, the cruel way animals are used as commodities rather than seen as the beautiful creatures they are. But through the project, I’ve developed a heightened sense of compassion, a kindred spirit with fellow human beings and most of all I feel huge amounts of responsibility for my role in this world, whilst I am here. You see, being a Vegan (for me) is about standing up not only for animals, for the planet but also for all living things.
It’s not about the ‘them and us’ thing, perhaps some vegans do feel like that, I don’t know (just guessing here). But it’s about making sure that if I am going to live this life, and see a big change in the world – then I’ve got to be that change too (yeah that’s not my quote by the way!). So it means doing, saying and being the person I really am and doing so straight from the heart. Yeah, I may be a stubborn, selfish prat sometimes (which I fully acknowledge), but it’s having a moral obligation to the rest of the world that really matters. Putting aside what I ‘think’ I want, and finally standing up and doing what I am here to do cos ‘this ship aint gonna turn around’ on its own is it?
So The Real Junk Food Vegan is about making a stand. It’s about making a difference and it’s about living in a way that creates goodness, that no longer accepts ‘the way it is’ and doing it the kindest most loving way. If we can stop cruelty not only to animals but also to the planet, they why wouldn’t we at least try?
Are you with me?
p.s if you’ve gotten this far thank you for reading…..if not I’ll see you on my next blog post – probably the one where I’m cooking up a nice vegan cake! 😉