What would grandma say if we told her the backyard vegetable patch she's been cultivating for years is full of 'vegan ingredients'?
The human animal has this wonderful thing called consciousness, which employs basic processes. One of the most prominent of them is pattern recognition. Assigning labels to things is our way of simplifying an ever-growing barrage of stimuli we have to contend with in modern life.
In this case, however, our use of labels leads to a crucial misconception.
Dispelling this misconception can greatly improve your life and make it much simpler, especially as you take your first step in cooking vegan food.
Introducing the label: Vegan ingredients
Many home cooks who take their first steps in cooking vegan food feel they need to acquaint themselves with ingredients labeled as vegan. Tofu, quinoa, mash, and Seitan are but a few of the plant-based ingredients that have earned this miss-labeling throughout the years.
If you ask a person from countries where these have been staples for generations, if they think of them as vegan ingredients, you will probably get a confounded look in response. Apart from the fact that these are frequently used with animal based ingredients to cook local dishes, the mere existence of the vegan-ingredient label is at times foreign to their thought and culture.
This label would also seem absurd to anyone who's ever cultivated a vegetable patch in their back yard. When is a potato a vegan ingredient? And does is stop being one on thanksgiving just because you pour gravy on it?
Non-vegans eat 'vegan' ingredients and plant-based dishes all the time without giving a second thought to the fact that these are plants they are eating. Are French-fries a vegan dish? And how about Guacamole Tacos?
Forget the labels, there are only COOKING ingredients
As an enthusiastic home cook, I only stock cooking ingredients, and always have. It's true for both the time before I started cooking vegan food, and still is now when it's the main kind of cooking I do. Cooking ingredients are either animal-based or plant-based, and maybe one day technology will form another category, but for now that is all we have.
So feel free to disregard made-up labels. When doing the transition from non-vegan to vegan cooking you can hang on to all the familiar plant-based ingredients you have been using so far (be sure to take a look at my Pantry Entries to find that most of them are already in use in your kitchen). I assure you that they represent plenty of options to cook vegan food, without the need to add new stuff only because it is now known as a vegan ingredient.
The comfort of familiar things
Furthermore, my personal experience has been that being served familiar food greatly reduces objections and gut reactions of non-vegans to their being 'forced' to eat 'vegan' food; An important consideration in an inter-dietary household, and even more important for any home cook who doesn't want to cook twice for every meal.
However, I strongly recommend you try new things and go on a cooking adventure, as they are usually lots of fun.
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