A vegan Christmas

We had a great Christmas, even though it was a bit different from what we are used to. We talked to our families through phone and Skype, we met some of our friends at church, we got few but great gifts, and we had some great food.

The food is what this post is going to be about.

Here in Finland we have a bunch of typical Christmas dishes that people usually eat every year, such as different casseroles (“porkkanalaatikko”, “lanttulaatikko”), ham, different kind of salads, and so on. I have kind of found my way to make vegan versions of some of these, and have also added some other dishes that we didn’t necessarily have on the Christmas table when I grew up.

christmas table

So on our vegan Christmas table this year we had these dishes;

  • A vegan ham based on gluten, chickpea and soy flour
  • Porkkanalaatikko, or carrot casserole
  • Red beet salad with home-made mayonnaise
  • Marinated eggplant slices, a vegan version of herring (“silli”)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Mushroom sauce
  • “Ris á la Malta”, which is a dessert based on rice porridge, with vegan whipped cream, oranges and pomegranatesaladdessert

Vegetarian Awareness Month

Today is the kick-off of Vegetarian Awareness Month, a month centered on vegetarian food in all its glory. It starts off with today’s celebration of World Vegetarian Day. This is a great opportunity to take the pledge to go vegetarian for one month!

There’s a lot of different campaigns out there challenging people to ditch meat – or animal products all together – this month, and offering support (recipes, information etc) to you while doing so. Here in Finland we have for example Lihaton Lokakuu (“Meat-free October”) and Vegaanihaaste (“Vegan challenge”).

I also personally challenge you, try it out! It doesn’t have to be perfect, this is not a challenge that you can fail. It’s just a challenge for you to step out of your comfort zone, getting to know vegetarian food, making a change for the animals and the planet, and hopefully also having some fun in the process!

vegan bbq

Maybe you choose to go full-out vegan for a month, maybe you choose to only cut the meat out of your diet for a month, any way you decide to accept the challenge, it will still make a difference to the animals and to our planet, and probably most of all to you. When you are “forced” to look for alternatives of the foods you normally eat, a whole new world of food – food you never thought existed – will open up to you.

The Vegetarian Awareness Month will culminate on November 1, which is World Vegan Day (and coincidentally my anniversary as a vegan!). Then I suggest you eat some vegan cake! At least I will.

 

“Do you feel sorry for them?”

As I was having lunch with some of my work mates, they asked me – as so many times before – about my food and what it contains. One of them thought it contained fish, so I told her that I don’t eat fish. Her response was “Why? Do you feel sorry for them?”. I’m not really fluent enough in Finnish to properly explain to her my reasons for being vegan (which I have to admit frustrates me), but I told her that my decision doesn’t have to do with feeling sorry for someone, because that’s not what it’s all about.

This question, “Do you feel sorry for the animals?”, comes up quite often when you tell someone that you are vegetarian or vegan. It is a legitimate question, because you could choose not to eat animals just because you feel sorry for them, but for me – and for most other vegans out there – the choice is about something much deeper than just pity for the animals that get hurt. It’s about respect for them and their lives, not simply their right to be alive, but their right to a good life.

Seeing vegetarians and vegans as just people feeling pity for animals reduce the message that lies behind the choice to not consume them or their secretions, since that would mean you base your choices on emotion rather than rational thinking. Of course there are emotions involved – realizing how animals have to suffer every day for our selfish purposes can be very painful – but the choice to go vegan is usually based on a lot of research, discussions and rational thinking. It’s a choice you make because you come to the conclusion that not consuming animals or their secretions (of which you actually have no nutritional requirement) is the most compassionate way to live; not a decision based on naive emotions.

More vegetarian food to the people!

Recently I’ve read two different articles about vegetarian food becoming more and more popular in Finland. What could make me happier than that?

In Helsinki, there are some high schools where even more than half of the students are vegetarians, some of them vegans. In general, 10-15% of students in Helsinki are vegetarians. During school lunches* in Helsinki there is always one lacto-ovo-vegetarian alternative apart from the alternative containing meat. Once a week the school lunch consists of only vegetarian food.

Also in Tampere, Turku, Lahti and Jyväskylä vegetarian food is getting more popular; more and more children in day care in these cities are vegetarians. More children than before are also vegans, which has led to that the city of Tampere has decided to offer vegan food as one of the daily choices for the children’s lunch. In the other cities vegan food can be offered to children upon request.

*For those of you who are not Finnish and might not know this: In Finland children in day care and schools up until high school get free lunch (paid by tax money) served to them every day.