LORINDA MARRIAN AND DITEBOGO TSHAKA
Every week, Perdeby sends their journalists to experience something out of their comfort zones. Many students at the University of Pretoria follow a vegan lifestyle, which can often be extremely difficult. In order to understand the reality of this, Lorinda Marrian and Ditebogo Tshaka tried to being vegan for the day.
My experience began with the realisation that I was utterly unprepared to follow a vegan lifestyle. Nearly all the food in my kitchen had some kind of animal by-product in it, from my morning cereal to the pasta that I planned to make for dinner that night. After realising that the only vegan breakfast food that I had was an apple, I decided to find some quick vegan friendly breakfast on campus. This started my excruciating quest to find reasonably priced vegan food on campus. I quickly realised that very few food places catered for vegan students and the meals that were available were pricy.
Ultimately I decided on having a bowl of fruit. At around 12:00, I had to attend a catered seminar. Unfortunately, the only vegan friendly food was a few pieces of lettuce used for garnish. At this point, I was starving and decided to venture to the engineering side of campus with the belief that I would find a decent meal. After going to multiple places looking for reasonably priced food vegan food, I eventually found a couscous and chickpea salad. Unfortunately, the salad had a few pieces of feta that I painstakingly had to pick off. Knowing the absolute bareness of my own cupboards I decided to go home to my parents with the hope of find a little more vegan friendly food. Unfortunately, my parents had ordered Nandos for dinner. So, I had a few chips and made myself a hearty green salad with ingredients from my mom’s fridge.
I admit that this was a challenging experience for me that taught me a few important lessons about being vegan. Firstly, I realised how much more food than I originally thought had some kind of animal by-product in it, ranging from the bread I would normally have, to the honey I put in my tea. Secondly, being a vegan is also very difficult on campus as you are starved for choice and often have to spend a hefty sum of money on decent food. Therefore, most vegan students bring their own food to campus. Lastly, it is hard being vegan if you do not have the support of your friends and family, as I was consistently tempted by friends to nibble on some non-vegan snacks. Nonetheless, although it was a short experience, it was very insightful and I now have a new-found respect for people with very specific dietary requirements on campus.
When I volunteered to take part in this experience, I thought that it would be easiest for me to get through than my meat-eating experiencers, as I have been a pescatarian for over five years. Stating and regularly reminding people of this accomplishment alone was already a big step towards going vegan.
But my leg up soon buckled when I was getting ready for bed and realised that the only thing that makes getting up in the morning half bearable – breakfast – would be derailed since I only had dairy milk in my fridge. So some context. I have cereal, or muesli and yogurt for breakfast, at home or at res, most mornings and sometimes even for supper. I can have breakfast, skip subsequent meals and still get by throughout the day. I feel that skipping breakfast just sets me up to have a difficult day so I rarely miss it. Too tired to worry about a potentially bad start to my day, I went to sleep.
In the morning, I looked through my animal by-product filled fridge and found the only vegan diet adhering food to be apricot jam. After glancing at my food cupboards I was tempted to create a WeetBix-Apricot jam combo but was saved by my four month old, hardly ever touched Provitas. My train had arrived at ‘good day ahead station’.
Going home made the rest of the day easier because I was able to oven cook some Fry’s Family vegan chicken style nuggets. So yes, this experience was relatively easy for me. Clearly, as I had gone through the experience of changing my diet and lifestyle, the transition to being vegan for a day was easy. However, I am also aware of difficult it can be for anyone with living this kind of lifestyle, especially as a student. Res food rarely adequately caters for non-meat eaters and people with specific dietary requirements like Halal food. The food selection is often very limited, bland and rarely filling. Secondly, I am also aware of how people treat people with different dietary lifestyles. I was often questioned and made to feel very uncomfortable because of my lifestyle change.