As a veteran vegetarian, the transition to eating a Whole Foods Plant-based Diet AKA Vegan Diet seemed straightforward. Remove eggs and dairy from my diet and ta-da, task accomplished.
But it hasn't been as easy as that.
If you've been following along on Instagram Stories you'll know that I've had several 'Vegan Fails' already. Here they are for those of you who haven't seen my updates on social media:
Vegan Fail #1 - Wine can contain eggs & milk products.
A week into the new year, swearing off all animals and byproducts of animals as my resolution, I encounter my first vegan problem: many alcoholic beverages aren't vegan!
Here's how I learned this despicable and inconceivable fact...
While sipping on some sparkling wine left over from New Years Eve, my eyes happened to land on the label and there in fine print, at the bottom was a sentence indicating that there were eggs and milk products in the wine. My alcohol wasn't vegan. What the?! Who knew that wine and beer makers needed to use egg and dairy products to help filter out visible particles? I certainly didn't! Unbelievable but true.
Vegan Fail #2 - Eating seafood dinner at Jimbaran Bay
To complicate eating matters further, I went on holiday to Bali with my fiance Ben, who is an omnivore and my brother Jerwin, who is a pescatorian. We left on January 18, just over two weeks into my vegan food challenge.
Travelling with others when dietary requirements differ is not always easy, and in our case, it was a tad bit of an issue. The boys didn't want to circumnavigate Bali just to satisfy my vegan food cravings and I didn't want to be the one who dictated which restaurants we should visit. Unfortunately as the foodie and seasoned traveller in our group, it turned out that I made most of the decisions regarding itinerary, day trips and places to eat.
Having explored parts of the world with travel companions before, I was conscious of not taking away any experiences from by brother and partner. As Jimbaran Bay is renowned for its seafood restaurants, I didn't want the boys to miss out on a sunset seafood dinner. I had had that same experience 12 years earlier when I first travelled to Bali, and it was an experience I still remember. I wanted them to enjoy fresh, delicious seafood like I had (although with ocean pollution being an issue, I'm not sure how clean this food is). Since the boys weren't fussed which restaurant they wanted to eat at, we let our Indonesian driver Agunk make the decision. He suggested New Moon cafe, claiming it had the freshest seafood.
Since none of us had done our homework and I couldn't remember which restaurant I had been a decade earlier, we told Agunk, Take us there! Of course as seafood is the only substantial thing on the menu, I decided that I too would eat it. After a big day of venturing out to Changgu and Kuta, I wasn't going to say no to a meal! I ate fish, lobster and prawns and declined the fish soup, squid and oysters. I had zero regrets as the food was tasty. The boys rated it as one of their top meals in Bali.
Vegan Fail #3 - Drank coffee with dairy milk & Luwak coffee
Now as part of our tour around Ubud with a private driver - I think his name was Wayan - we stopped at a coffee plantation which I didn't realise would be included when we booked the tour with our hotel. As a co-owner of a farm, I am curious as to how others run their agricultural operations so when I jumped out of the car, I was bursting with excitement, particularly as we have only just planted some coffee at our own farm.
When we meandered our way down with our guide Ota who pointed out the various coffee plants, she then lectured us on Kopi Luwak coffee, a term I instantly recognised as I had watched The Bucket List movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. From what I gathered from the movie, I understood it to be the most expensive coffee in the world. When she pointed to a cage which held civet cats, three piled on top of each other, I only had questions whirring in my head about how they were being treated. But I also didn't feel it was the right time or place to shoot down this smily, happy, beautiful Indonesian messenger.
When I passed an older Balinese lady who looked about 60 years old crushing coffee beans in a small wooden barrel with a huge wooden paddle, I forgot about my animal cruelty concerns. This woman had a baby civet cat called Luna sitting on her shoulder and Luna seemed happy to be clinging to her. These people aren't bad people, I told myself. You're projecting. I temporarily forgot about the caged animals I had seen.
Now where I failed in my vegan commitment was when taste-testing began and Ota brought out various tea and coffee to try such as Coconut tea and Ginger coffee. I am from Melbourne and drinking coffee is in my DNA! Dairy milk was all she had on hand. As I watched the boys taking sips I instantly made up my mind that I would try it too. I wasn't going to say no to this experience, drinking coffee overlooking rice terraces, no friggin' way! So I sipped and tried and oohed and ahhed. I especially liked the ginseng coffee.
I had already vegan-failed so when the boys decided they would try the luwak coffee, I told myself, I've gone this far, may as well take a sip. So I did. It was a pleasant flavour, really very smooth tasting and not at all bitter. Ota did a great job of making this coffee. But when we walked back up to the car passing civet cats along the way, I felt this twang of guilt for taking that sip and purchasing some luwak coffee for my in-laws (they are coffee fiends too).
Was I supporting an industry paved with animal cruelty? Possibly.
Vegan Fail #4 - Ordered room service: pasta & garlic bread
We left the scuba-diving mecca that is Gili Trawangan and made our way back to mainland Bali. As it was wet season, it had been raining for more than half of our trip and this particular day was no different. Travelling back by speed boat from the island to the eastern coastal town of Pandangbai, we then took a one-hour shuttle bus ride to Sanur and then took a five-minute taxi ride from the drop off point to our resort style hotel, Kajora Suites.
After the almost four-hour commute, we were wet, tired and hungry and decided that the rest of the afternoon would be spent ordering room service and chillaxing in our rooms. After a month of being vegan, I knew better than to expect cuisine fit for my culinary preferences and when I reviewed the menu, I wasn't at all surprised.
The only options available to vegan ol' me were the vegetable rice paper rolls and vegetable nasi goreng.
Travelling through Bali for more than two weeks, I was sick of eating vegan nasi goreng, so I ordered the rice paper rolls and the asparagus pasta with garlic bread as well. I was starvation central. Plus I could not be bothered fighting my way through the torrential rain to find a restaurant that served something other than Indonesian food, and I was craving to eat something different. It was tasty and I have no regrets.
Now that the holiday is over and I'm back on home soil, I now have full control over my meals, sourcing and preparing it just the way I like it. And if I never see a vegan nasi goreng, vegetable curry or fried tempe or tofu with sambal sauce, it wouldn't be the end of my world, let me tell you. I am so very content to be cooking for myself again. Hashtag, totally grateful.
If you enjoyed this post and wondering why the heck I decided to go vegan, I recommend you read my post: Why I'll Be Eating a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet (AKA Vegan Diet) in 2017