Oh boy. The angry vegan. The suffragette to the suffragist movement, the ‘one in every family’ of an otherwise totally life-affirming posse. We’re a peaceful bunch… until someone starts batting around phrases like ‘flexi-vegan’, or just plain old sauntering in to a vegan restaurant in a fox fur stole. Because yes, that’s what Beyoncé did last week.
My knee-jerk reaction is to slam phrases like flexi-vegan, but behind that irritating buzzword is a concept that denotes a shift in attitude. Everyone in the world is a vegan or flexi-vegan, because everyone eats vegan food, while the majority mix this in with other, non-vegan food. Vegetables, fruit, most breads, wheat pasta, rice, beans: all vegan by default. So I am tempted to argue that terms like flexi-vegan are totally redundant- but they’re not, because if it’s a word that appeals to someone trying to steer their life to the side of kindness and responsibility in what they consume, then why not slap a stoopid name on it and move along?
There is a slim-to-none chance Beyoncé didn’t realise what she was doing by wearing fur and then, to another lunch date later in the week, a cow hide top paired with, ahem, leather trousers. But turning totally vegan is a process, and whether you sign up for life or for 22 days, it’s not doing anyone any harm by eating a few less animals. Maybe I misunderstood, but isn’t that what this whole thing was about in the first place?
Hell hath no fury like a vegan scorned, but it’s actually the major reason why I was so reluctant to go vegan in the first place- I worried for ages about slip-ups I might make, or what another vegan would do if they saw me eating something non-vegan by accident.
Then, you know what happened? I had been vegan for a month and was out for my birthday when I decided the day just wasn’t feeling right without cake. High on the promise of frosting, I caught a bus across London to the one vegan cupcake store I knew would be open, before realizing I was carrying a leather clutch, wearing leather shoes and you know, if we’re gonna get picky about this, a pretty garish leopard print coat. I looked like the Worst Vegan Ever. Worse than Beyoncé. But I wanted that birthday cupcake so bad. So I walked right on in to the store and no-one batted an eye lid. No-one threw paint at me, there were no sarcastic comments – just an awesome first birthday as a vegan, with a ton of vegan cake.
But imagine turning vegan and getting zero animosity from everyone except vegans. Sure enough, a quick look around Instagram suggests the angry side of the vegan camp has decided where to hold its AGM this year: Beyoncé’s comment section, with blast after blast about how Beyoncé is ruining veganism for the rest of us. Am I missing something here? If we’re so set on saving as many animals as possible, then surely someone making a show of eating in a vegan restaurant to their ginormous global following is not a bad move?
Despite where I started, in a vegan cake shop on my birthday, a head-to-toe advertisement for the commodification of animal skin, I have never felt stronger in my beliefs as a vegan. I’m not proud of the person I was then, but I’m proud of the changes I’ve been able to make since, and everyone has to start somewhere. Unless you are reading this in a Wi-Fi enabled pit in a forest, everyone can improve their impact on the world’s resources. No one is perfect, and giving veganism a try is only a good thing. So angry vegans? Do us all a favour and back off.
Here’s a recipe for a vegan brunch, because as easy as it is to dream about bacon all day long, it’s also really easy to choose to eat a plant-based breakfast for as long as you want to. Homemade beans, smashed avocado with lemon, chilli and mint; this breakfast is hearty, filling and comforting, and hell, it’s even suitable for all you 2.0 flexi-vegans out there.
Homemade baked beans and smashed avocado with lemon, chilli and mint
Makes enough for two
- Olive oil
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 cup cooked cannellini (white kidney) beans
- 1 cup cooked haricot beans
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups chopped tinned tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato purée or paste
For the smashed avocado:
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 red chilli, sliced in to strips
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 tbsp chopped mint leaves
- Zest from ½ lemon
- Juice from ½ lemon
- Plus half a loaf of ciabatta bread for toasting
The beans take around twenty minutes so get these on the go first. In a frying pan or skillet, heat a generous glug of olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Cook on a low heat for five minutes until the onion has softened, making sure the garlic doesn’t brown. Now add the cannellini and haricot beans and stir in with salt and pepper. If you’re using tinned beans, there should be a little water from the beans so nothing should stick, but just add some water if this starts to happen.
Once the beans have cooked for about five minutes, add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée, and stir well. The beans might look a little runny now, but as the liquid reduces, the mixture will thicken and begin to look much richer. Simmer for another ten minutes, until the beans turn an almost sticky consistency.
While the beans are simmering you can smash some avocados! In a dish, add in the avocado flesh, slices of chilli, some salt, pepper and olive oil, and stir. Taste and season some more if you want to, then roughly mix in the mint leaves and lemon zest and juice.
Toast the ciabatta bread in the final minutes of cooking time, and plate up while the beans are hot.