What I Learnt After A Week Of Being Vegan In Malta
*Sobbing*: Goodbye gbejna!
As a person who already eats very little meat, reading about how short periods of veganism and even vegetarianism can make a huge difference to environmental issues (such as helping to fight climate change), pushed me to try go completely vegan for one week. I know that a week, in the grand scheme of things, does not seem like a sufficient amount of time, but I had to start somewhere. These are a few things that I’ve learned.
1. Vegans like to talk about being vegan... a lot.
You know the joke, if someone is vegan and does Crossfit, which do they talk about first?
I don’t do Crossfit but I guess that being vegan would take the prize. I found myself being forced to say it to everyone that crossed my path, all day long. “No, I can’t, I’m vegan,” became my standard response. To everything.
-“Want a bite of my cake?”
-“No, I can’t, I’m vegan”
-“Do you want a coffee?”
-“No, I can’t, I’m vegan”
-“Did you see how Melania Trump copied Michelle Obama’s speech?”
-“No, I can’t…"
2. Most people in Malta hate vegans.
If I had a cent for every time someone rolled their eyes at my proclamation of veganism and went "jaq!” or "get out!" I’d have 9 cents. Considering I only did this for 6 days, that's pretty heavy. It's basically the equivalent of telling someone you've got leprosy.
And no, contrary to popular belief, fish is not vegan. My favourite comment was definitely “What the hell do you eat then?” followed up with “Mhux rabbit food?”
3. Vegan cuisine is extremely varied… but forget about eating out.
Try ordering a Caesar salad but asking them to remove the chicken, the dressing and the parmesan and having to ask “Are those croutons fried in butter?”
Eating out as a vegan is hard, especially in Malta. Don’t get me wrong, things are slowly changing, and there are some fantastic places offering vegan food, such as The Grassy Hopper and Pure. But I don’t work in Sliema or Valletta and if I didn’t take a lunch box to work I would need to survive on sad, wilted lettuce from the local café.
Being vegan means being prepared. I wanted to expand my vegan cooking skills by trying out new vegan recipes I found online and was actually impressed with the results, as they were usually very tasty and filling. Little snacks during the day and a pre-packed lunch kept me going. Hummus, and the Farmer’s market on a Saturday morning, are your best friends, trust me.
4. There are animal products in lots of stuff you don’t even know about.
I learned this one the hard way when I put a fruit pastille in my mouth and a friend informed me that it contains gelatine. Sneaky, sneaky gelatine.
That delicious glass of wine you were looking forward to after work? Not vegan. It’s not uncommon for beverages like beer and wine to be clarified using a variety of animal products. There is of course vegan alcohol, but you can’t exactly ask for a glass of vegan Rosé at your local każin without being laughed out into the street.
Can I get a holla for Oreos though? Those little vegan and gluten intolerant morsels of happiness even though technically the Oreo website states that Oreos are vegan, but might come in contact with milk traces from chocolate produced in the same factory. But we need a win here and Oreos are life.
5. I missed cheese the most.
After six days I definitely didn’t feel like I was missing meat at all. My taste buds just adjusted. I managed to walk past a table full of chocolate in the office without batting an eyelid and chose to snack on fruit instead.
Eggs? Ha! I laugh at the face of thee. Seafood? Nah, I’m good thanks. But cheese, oh tasty tasty cheese. It’s really hard to be all zen-like and exude positive energy while dreaming of a huge slab of manchego. And everyone knows that all food tastes 160% better with some feta on it. That is a scientific fact.
6. Surprise surprise: I felt better and had more energy.
Cutting out all animal products and dairy definitely made me feel less lethargic and gave me much more energy. I know what you’re thinking: “ This is total bullshit, you can’t feel any effects after just 6 days!” Yes, perhaps. But a placebo effect that helps me cut down my excessive coffee intake and makes me feel like punching an eagle, is a placebo I’d like to keep. (I don’t actually want to punch an eagle, I’m vegan…duh)
But wait, didn’t you say you would do this for a week?
Well here’s the thing, on my last day I got invited to my boyfriend’s grandma for dinner, where I was offered a plate of “Nanna’s famous octopus pasta”. I dare any of you reading this to look at a Maltese nanna in the face and say “No, I can’t I’m vegan.”
My Conclusion: I’m convinced I’ve experienced positive effects on myself, even after such a short-lived experiment. And though I’m not going to be a vegan, (hey Brie, I'm back) I will definitely be slotting in a lot more vegan meals than I was before. Also, Malta really needs to catch up on proper creative vegan cuisine - that stuff is good.