Thursday, February 7, 2008

Top 10 n00b mistakes

This is a long entry but as we said, we're new vegans, and we want to help new vegans make the transition as smooth as possible, so you don't end up getting ranty and angry and write blog entries about your mistakes later (ha). All of these except one or two are flubs that I made myself, even well past a few months of being vegan. MISTAKES HAPPEN, it doesn't make you any less vegan if your intentions remain being cruelty-free. Just learn from your mistakes and move on.

1. Soy/almond/rice cheese
A lot of vegans who are more internet-savvy than I am know about this even before they go vegan. I, however, did not. I bought some benign-looking 'Veggie Slices' from Galaxy Nutritional Foods. I was NOT pleased when, after receiving a helpful warning from someone on the Vegan Freak forums, I realized these sons of blintzes have CASEIN in them (GNF does make other vegan products, just not these, which is dumb, but whatevs). Since then, I've discovered that the 'soy cheeze' on Amy's Pizza's has dairy in it as well (NOT, however, the ones that say dairy-free on them, which are vegan and delisheeyoos). Some almond and rice cheeses can also have casein in them.

2. Chai
Flippin' chai! I'd been vegan for five months when I realized that carton of Oregon Chai sitting in my fridge has HONEY in it. Bastard honey! Always gettin' in my food. Anyhow. (Most) Oregon Chai, Tazo Chai, and others that come in the box-form usually have honey in them. Which means Starbucks' chai is NOT vegan (they use Tazo), for any of you SB addicts out there. Be sure to check the ingredient list. For your chai needs, either buy loose chai tea or chai tea bags and brew your own, and add your non-dairy milk of choice. Also, for some reason the ORGANIC Oregon Chai does NOT have honey in it! That's what I've been using. Wandering Goat in Eugene, OR (the city where the hippies come from) has an excellent honey-free house chai (and they upcharge for dairy, muahaha!)

3. Horseradish
This may be a durrrr entry for most of you but I did not realize that most jarred horseradish had egg in it. Pffft! Lame. Stick to the fresh kind and grate it yourself. Much stronger and tastier, anyhow! I lurve it on mockmeat sammiches and homemade tofu burgers.

4. Beer
What?, you ask in dismay. How can beer possibly not be vegan? One word: isinglass. What the hell is that? FUCKING FISH BLADDERS. That's right. At this point, beers fined with isinglass aren't even VEGETARIAN.

And it gets even worse: gelatin can be used to fine beer if the brewery doesn't want to filter or use gravity filtration, and sometimes even bone char can be used to filter (vegan alternatives include irish moss and diatomaceous earth, among others). Honey is also an ingredient in many beers, but I've noticed it's often in the name of the particular brew (i.e., Eugene City Brewery's Honey Orange Wheat).

Don't be a lamer and be all "Well if I can't drink any damn beer I want, screw being vegan!" That's like the bitchiest excuse I can think of, other than "But but but but cheeeeeeeese!" Be a (wo)man, drink cruelty-free beer and tell those fish-drinking suckers they know where they can stick it.

Some of my favorite (accidentally) vegan microbreweries: Anderson Valley Brewing Co., Bison Brewing Co., Rogue Beers and Dogfish Head Brewing Co..
Watch out for egg whites and other non-vegan ingredients in wine and hard liquor, too!

5. Thai food
MMM. I loves me some Thai food. Which is ridiculous because I didn't try it until I was 21. So much wasted time! Anyway. The things to look out for are sometimes easy to spot (other than meat, duh), like egg or egg noodles. Fish sauce, however, a common ingredient in many Thai dishes, is not always listed on the menu. Most of the places I've been will gladly leave it off for you. If it's already mixed into, say, the pad thai sauce (I'm looking at you, Sweet Basil Express), though, opt for something fish sauce-free. It won't kill you.

6. Caesar dressing
This is for the vegetarians out there (come on, give up those animal secretions!). Most vegans know that caeser dressing contains some kind of cheese, and usually egg as well. However, what I did NOT know, is that it also includes ANCHOVY PASTE. Uh, gross. Make Dreena Burton's Living Caesar Salad Dressing instead - it's raw, too!

7. Many mockmeats (Gardenburger, Quorn, MorningStar, Boca)
Who makes a mockmeat with egg whites? Pooheads, that's who. And that's including the original Gardenburger, which I thought was safe until just last week (it's got cheese(s) in it). Always always always check. Most of these companies, and others, make one or two token vegan items: the breaded chik'n patties from GardenBurger are actually really tasty. I do my best to make my own, though, on principle: JP made some lentil-walnut burgers from a Moosewood cookbook that were pretty dang amazing.

8. Fries
Always ask about the oil that your fries are fried in, because otherwise you may end up with greasy chicken-flavored potato grossness.

9. Dark chocolate
WTF, chocolate-making folk? Why would you put milk powder in dark chocolate? The Europeans are laughing at us, hands to their bellies, gasping for breath. Leave the chocolate as it should be: pure and delicious. My chocolate flub? Ghiradelli's 60% cacoa bittersweet chocolate baking chips. What is god damn milk powder doing in it? Your guess is as good as mine.

10. Margarine
Not all margarines are created equal. A lot of them still have milkfat and whey in them. Make sure to get Earth Balance or something else soy-based and dairy-free to spread on your cinnamon-raisin toast.

Easiest thing to do? Never assume anything is vegan! Always check, and ask questions. I get shy if I have to ask someone about a product or dish, but I've come home with doubts and worries that left me very unhappy. It's easier to ask, in the long run.

Any others you think we should include? Let us know!


Sara said...

I've made very one of those noob mistakes, except the horseradish because that's just disgusting. In fact, I have some oregon chai in my fridge now. !!! Honey, WTF! Do you know if the Dragonfly Chai is vegan? I need to find a new brand. I don't think the store I go to has Wandering Goat...

Another n00b mistake is assuming that the innocuous sounding "green salad" on a menu is vegan. I've seen some where they've randomly thrown in shrimp, cheese, boiled egg and all kinds of other shit not listed on the menu. :(

herbstsonne said...

Not sure about the Dragonfly Chai! Never heard of it, actually. :)

I've had the same thing happen with salad - bacon and cheese and egg, blecchhhh!!

Andrew Gubb said...

I hate to say it but we Europeans kind of are laughing ;) milk in dark chocolate????? only once in a thousand times of looking did I ever see that.

And I read *every* label.