When I first went vegan I imagined a life deprived of dairy products to be one full of pining and longing, a sad and insipid existence made tolerable only by the self-righteous glow of the martyr.
Uh, no. This is about as far from the truth as my very melodramatic and vivid imagination would take me.
At first I leaned heavily on dairy analogues, hoping they would simulate the cows’ milk versions I grew up on, in order to make a seamless conversion and debunk all fears of a bread-and-water existence.
This didn’t really happen for me: I am not one of those people who could drink cows’ milk and plain soy milk interchangeably without noticing a difference. I haven’t had much exposure to vegan cheese, but my limited experience has been uninspiring.
When it comes to other kinds of substitution, however, I’ve found more success. I find that my occasional cravings for something creamy, soothing, cloying or tangy can easily be filled by vegan ingredients that boast these features naturally: coconut milk in curries, frozen banana in smoothies, hummus on toasted sandwiches, soy milk and lemon juice in place of sour cream.
In some cases I have simply found alternative ways to complete a dish: coleslaw is now dressed with crushed pineapple rather than mayonnaise, and potato salad is now made creamy by tossing in a simple vineagrette while still hot. Pizza is cheese-free, nachos have extra guacamole, and tea and coffee are served black.
I now very rarely have the dairy cravings, and I like to think that my taste has changed for the better. I’m living proof: even the most reluctant (or delusional) of us can change.