Veganism: Does it affect your social life?
Since becoming, in his words “almost vegan”, people don’t ask Adrian Chiles out for dinner any more.
Has the presenter just got fickle friends, or does being vegan really affect more than your diet? Does it have an effect on your social life too?
These vegans have told us how they navigate the issue and give tips for anyone else thinking about a plant-based diet.
‘So… where CAN you eat?’
Amy Robson, 28, has been vegan for three years. She says: “What usually happens when you’re the vegan in your friendship group is that you end up picking the place you go.
“I think you have to take the initiative and never assume others are responsible for your food choices. Look at restaurant websites in advance so you know what you can have. And for things like barbecues, bring your own food as it’s a great opportunity to engage people.”
“A lot of it is fear of unfamiliar cuisine, as if someone told you, ‘I’m only eating Jamaican food from now on’ and you didn’t know much about it.
“I really try to demystify it. There are only two things I won’t eat, animals and things that come from animals.”
Amy, who spoke at last weekend’s VegFest in London, adds: “People tend to think ‘well, where CAN you eat?’ but the answer is ‘pretty much anywhere’. You can even go into places like Wetherspoons, Domino’s and Beefeater now.”
‘No one wants to be told off’
Ellie Brown says Chiles’s comments are saddening and definitely don’t reflect her own experience.
“But I have to caveat that by saying that I live in east London, which is very vegan friendly,” she goes on.
“What helps is that there are lots of places with lovely vegan options. And some friends are really up for the challenge of cooking something vegan.”
Ellie, who’s the founder of Kinda Co, which makes vegan cashew-based cheeses, adds: “It probably depends on how you go about your change in dietary habits.
“I know some people will be very outspoken about being vegan and might admonish someone for eating a steak, which is like having a go at someone for their political beliefs. It’s not very nice to go for dinner with someone who tells you off.”
Gemma Tomlinson, 33, who has written a vegan recipe book, says that when it comes to eating out vegan as part of a group, just be friendly, polite and accept “there will be rare occasions you have to cobble together a meal from starters and sides.”
“I’m happy to do that if I’m in good company and I’ve yet to go hungry.”
Gemma says the trickiest places are “traditionally British” – where the choice is dominated by steaks, roast dinners and pies.
“This is never my choice of restaurant anyway but I imagine that if Adrian Chiles is used to choosing these kinds of establishments when in company, he might struggle!”
Veganism seems to elicit strong feelings in some – Waitrose Food magazine editor William Sitwell quit the post on Wednesday after saying vegans should be “killed… one by one”.
While not that extreme, Gemma agrees there can be difficult conversations with non-vegans, adding: “It sometimes does feel like you’re on the witness stand and faced with a lot of questions.
“These situations can easily escalate to the point that a nice family meal ends up sounding more like a talk radio phone-in, all because you ordered some tofu pad thai.”
PR consultant Claire Rees went vegan after becoming a mum when she found it difficult to teach her son compassion, and about different animals, and then go on to “serve them up as food”.
In her words, “eating out isn’t what it used to be”.
“It was a big part of my friendship group, the shared love of food – and roasts on a Sunday. Now we tend to cook more at home.
“If we’re going out, we’ll need to research restaurants and go where we know will cater well for us. I’ve had my fair share of lacklustre salads or dishes where they’ve just taken out the meat and not replaced it.”
Claire, 37, from Cardiff, advises offering recipes and ideas to whoever’s hosting you – that way you’ll keep receiving those invitations – and adds that lots of dishes can be “veganised” with a tweak here or there.