I’ve been a committed vegan for the past 13 years, and I’ve written a few blog posts about why I made such a choice. During those 13 years, I could probably count on just one hand the number of times I may have slipped up and purposely eaten something that was not vegan. Such slip-ups never involved meat, but were usually things that involved looking the other way when eating something that I knew most likely had dairy or eggs in it.
But like I said, that has only happened a handful of times over the past 13 years. I find it much easier to be a vegan by thinking beyond just the health aspects of such a choice, and being aware of the impact of such a choice on the environment and animal rights.
I’ve spent the past eight weeks in Singapore, with two more to go. Prior to coming here, I just assumed that it would be quite easy to find vegan food, since I am a fan of Thai, Indian, and Chinese foods, and I’ve always found great vegan options with such foods.
In fact, when we went to London two years ago, I thought it would be so difficult to find vegan foods there that I actually brought my Vitamix blender with me so that I could have my daily green smoothie. Once we got to London, I was surprised by how vegan-friendly a city it was, and there was never a problem finding foods that met my needs. And the fact that we arrived in the midst of Veganuary made it quite easy.
That experience just added more confidence to my beliefs that Singapore would be an easy place to be a vegan.
So I left the Vitamix behind, thinking I could find smoothies on every corner. Wrong.
There are an incredible number of options where to get your food from while in Singapore. And while some of the places claim that their meals are vegan, after a couple of questions to try and confirm that fact, I either could not quite understand their response, they could not understand my question, or they simply didn’t seem to know what vegan really meant.
I remember talking with the owner of an Indian food stand where the menu had a list of vegan options. I asked him what was included in one such meal, and he mentioned cheese. I said cheese is not vegan. He just looked at me and pointed at another menu item. When I asked what was in it, he said eggs. Again, I said that’s not vegan. I finally found something that I think was vegan, and it was absolutely delicious. But that only happened because I was able to understand what the person working there was saying, which has not always been the case.
So what that all means is that I am guessing there may have been some meals I have had that may not have been 100% vegan. One other example is trying to figure out if the food vendor uses oyster sauce in its recipes. Not always an easy thing to find out.
But be that as it may, my biggest offenses as a vegan have been blatantly ordering things that I know are not vegan.
There have been a few things that I wanted to try because they seem to be such a part of the Singaporean culture, and I wanted to have that experience (and yes, the fact that the food tasted so good has made me want to keep trying it).
For example, tea (teh) and coffee (kopi), seem to be a big part of the culture. The normal way to drink them is with sweetened condensed milk, which I have been doing, and it is, for lack of a better word, yummy. So strike one. I usually go down to the corner cafe with my son in the morning and order a teh and some kaya toast. Kaya toast is a thin slice of toast with Kaya jam, a sweet, egg-based jam. So strike two. (At least I tell them to hold the butter and the egg).
Another big part of the food culture seems to be a wide variety of bread sandwiches. I found a place that sells potato curry stuffed inside a roll. It is quite delicious, and I tried to find out what was in the curry and what the rolls were made of, but to no avail. My guess is that there is something non-vegan in there. So strike three.
So I just want to offer my apologies to the vegan community for my less than perfect behavior. I’m not trying to justify my behavior, just sharing my experiences. I guess this means I’m OK with the cognitive dissonance such behavior has created. I hope the vegan community is OK with it as well.
I am 100% confident that when I return to the U.S. I will be back to my strict vegan ways as soon as the plane lands. I can’t wait to have a green smoothie.
But in the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy my teh and kaya toast.
Who knows, maybe before I leave I’ll find vegan versions of such foods, but I’m not hopeful.
*image from Youtube