After a successful start, this week my veganism took a slight segue. I travelled to Istanbul, Turkey for a long- weekend city break. When planning Veganuary, I didn’t really stop to consider the implications of visiting a country that’s far better known for its lamb kebabs than its plant-based cuisine.
While it might have been possible to get through the weekend sticking to veganism, I was torn. For me, so much of exploring and immersing myself in a new culture involves tasting all of the culinary delights that a new place has to offer. After some deliberation, and a bit of guilt, I decided to relax veganism for the four days I was away. I had no trouble snapping up vegetarian dishes, but much of the food on the menu was lathered in cheese or mixed with yoghurt. In the end, I could have been pretty peckish if I continued to boycott dairy.
Food for thought
My dilemma about how to eat green abroad got me thinking about the relationship between culture and veganism. For me, growing up in a culture without strong cultural values and expectations around food identity, choosing to eat vegan is not a choice that has a big impact on those around me. I’ve found that other than perhaps a roast at Christmas (for which you can easily substitute the meat), there aren’t really any special festivals or occasions for which certain foods are a central part of the celebration.
In comparison, I’ve spoken to friends from different cultures and ethnicities who feel not being able to share certain foods together would impact their family life. Perhaps for some families, particular dishes help to maintain connections with their cultural backgrounds (particularly if they have moved away from home). Food may also play a part in maintaining other cultural or social norms as well. It’s important to bear in mind that making food choices isn’t necessarily equally available to all of us for cultural, as well as financial reasons.
Family, tradition and culture can be such important glues that hold us together. I wonder, if your family traditions make veganism more complicated for you, at what point ought your culture, community and family be prioritised over your pursuit of animal welfare or environmental sustainability? I expect that the answer is much more nuanced than can be explored in this short space, and will differ from person to person. However it has certainly helped me to see another dimension to the vegan conversation.
Recipe of the week:
Mediterranean inspired falafel and sweet potato sandwich
(This is my own recipe, so I apologise in advance for any slightly vague instructions – I’m no Delia yet.)
Time to make – approximately 25 minutes
- your choice of vegan bread (pitta, flat bread, sour dough) enough for 4 sandwiches
- 6-8 falafels
- pot of hummus
- A handful of olives
- A sprinkling of rocket
- 1 lime
- half a sweet potato
- olive oil
Preheat oven to medium-high
Cut the sweet potato into small cubes, approximately 1cm squared. Place on a baking tray with olive oil to prevent sticking. Leave in the oven until soft.
Place falafel in the oven (follow guidance on the packet)
If using pitta bread, slice through the middle to find the hollow section in the middle. Lightly toast bread/ pitta, until warm.
Once the sweet potato and falafel are cooked, take them out of the oven to cool.
Put a generous helping of hummus on both slices of bread. Squash 1 or 2 falafel on each slice of bread with the back of a fork.
Sprinkle a portion of the baked sweet potato on each slice of bread, and a few olives. Add a small handful of rocket, and a squeeze of lime.
Put the two slices of bread together to make a sandwich.
Eat warm or cold