A few years back whenever the word “Vegan” popped up somewhere, I thought it was just a slang people used for being vegetarian. It was in the recent year that there has been a buzz around the term “Vegan” around me and I understood what being a Vegan meant.
I saw some great documentaries on Veganism. How people cured their illness, lead a healthy life, excelled in sports by just following this diet. I was determined to make some changes in my life.
Issues highlighted in documentaries portrayed some of the health harm as well as environmental harm of the increasing consumption of animal products. Red meat is one of the major causes of climatic change. Imagine how much food, cultivation, water has to be spent on animals so that they could be ready to be consumed. The scenario would be a lot better if the humans and animals coexist.
I thought to make some changes in my lifestyle.
I am not much of a meat lover. I prefer vegetarian food over non-vegetarian food. So leaving the consumption of animal meat was not a challenge for me.
The second step and the most difficult part was to eliminate dairy.
I come from a small town in India and the stores near me only had soy milk, no other alternative versions. There was no replacement for yogurt/butter/cheese or any other dairy product.
The first step I took was to replace milk with Soy Milk. To be honest I didn’t enjoy the taste of it. It was nothing compared to the milk I was used to but maybe I did not give up for this.
This made me look at the more deeper aspect of Veganism in India. Is India Vegan Ready?
India is a food paradise when it comes to vegetarian food. We have a variety of cuisines offering such a wide range of delicacy. The basic difference between a vegan diet and a vegetarian diet is Dairy.
India is a place where people love dairy. If I analyze the role of dairy in our lives. We have deeply enrooted this into our food. This is not limited to milk. The Rotis (bread) we make, is made in Desi Ghee (clarified butter), the pulses we cook have butter/cream for better taste, popular sweet dishes like kheer, malai all have milk as the main ingredient.
The main reason for the unavailability of dairy replacement
Milk products not only hold taste/nutritional values but also cultural value. A child here grows up watching Tales of Krishna (major deity in Hinduism). He is depicted eating Makhan ( butter), it has been embedded in us since childhood. Milk is a figure used synonymously for health and wellness.
The main reason Indians opted for a vegetarian diet from a non-vegetarian diet is to remove violence from food. The Idea of eating food which comes on the table through violence would inhibit violent characteristics in a Person
In most part of the country, people believe that the milk served to them comes from a place where the cows/buffalo are being fed properly and taken care of. In some cases it is true but for the major milk sources, it is not.
Something that is close to milk and we can make products tasting similar to that. no, we don’t have anything. Comparing the price of store-bought milk and soy milk the difference is almost double.
As there is no demand for non-dairy products, most of the restaurants serve everything in dairy.
I thought of giving up completely on my vegan journey and start it once I have proper resources available, but maybe I was making an excuse to start it.
So I decided to take small steps at a time and you can too if you are someone living in the country which has a sparse replacement for dairy.
- Homemade solution for milk: The normal vegan milk (in my case Soy milk) costs over double the price of the normal milk I used to have. Though no other Milk variant is available in my area, there are many big cities which have them and they are no cheap. So I decided to make them at home. Just searching on youtube and you will see many recipes. You can easily make almond/cashew/coconut/soy milk and yogurt at home with a little effort and also ensure quality plus save money.
- Cheating on some of the dairy products: I don’t even know how the store-bought cheese slices are made let alone making them at home. I am not committed to replacing this but I can reduce the consumption on a large level. I have been used to eating dairy almost daily by doing this I am reducing a lot of the consumption, not to a large scale but just a small contribution.
The idea seems to be pretty doable when at home. What about the time You are traveling across the country. I like experiencing the local food. For the most part, it would demand vegan restaurants around me. This is pretty unreasonable as an Indian you have a variety of dishes to taste which are vegetarian but there are components like butter/Ghee associated with it which defeats the purpose. It would mean limiting the food places to eat by. I am not committed to a strict diet but can reduce the frequency of times I eat such items.
A vegan diet is not something that is not achievable but is surely a little difficult in this country. If you are determined to follow a strict diet for yourself everything is possible. For me, I am trying my best to avoid most of the things and try my own innovative skills to satisfy my inner cravings. Veganism has started gaining popularity in India. Cosmetic brands have been built which are 100 % Vegan. Things will definitely be better in coming years as the diet popularises and grants people all the replacement for a dairy-free diet.
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