If you've taken a look at the grocery store shelves lately you've probably noticed a ton of new items all sporting a "vegan option" label on them. While vegan products seem to be the newest fad to hit the frozen food aisle, the vegan diet has been around since the beginning of time (like, the year 900). But the word "vegan" didn't actually come into play until the 1940's, when Donald Watson co-founded the Vegan Society in England, and veganism was born.
At its core, the vegan lifestyle focuses on animal welfare and avoids eating animals and animal products. This includes butter, cow's milk, eggs, cheese and any other animal ingredients. Basically, it's a diet that focuses on plant-based foods. Vegans also tend to stick to the healthier side such as eating organic, drinking almond milk, and sticking to whole wheat and whole grains like brown rice. Some vegans are completely ridden of animal by-products like honey and discourage wearing leather while others are more strict vegetarians with tendencies to go dairy-free.
I'm going to say this upfront, I love my meat. Give me a steak, medium-rare and a baked potato and I am one happy camper. However, it doesn't mean I haven't eaten vegan foods from time to time. In fact, if I am eating a vegan recipe, it's usually by accident. For example guacamole. Totally a vegan item but you wouldn't realize it is on your plate.
I also love lentils, quinoa, peanut butter, and chickpeas, but I honestly could never just go vegan no matter how much delicious food there would be to eat. I'm a proud omnivore and even enjoy fast food from time to time. I love trying new foods including healthy vegan fare.
So when I saw that a vegan festival was in town I knew I had to make my way over and try out some of my favorite non-vegan dishes (pulled pork sandwich and ice cream) in their vegan meal state. This wasn't a time to try veggie burgers and salads. No sir, I wanted to taste a meat eater's diet through a plant-based diet. Let's get right into it.
1. Vegan Kombucha
To begin, I wanted to try something I knew. Okay, kombucha is always vegan, but I had to start small, okay? I decided to order the Avonlea Kombucha which features orange, mango and sea buckthorn from the company, Buchi. A purchase of this brew also donated to local non-profit schools in the area, which is pretty cool.
As far as health benefits go, kombucha is the perfect drink to sip when it comes to a hot day. Not to mention there's something so refreshing about a bubbly drink when walking around.
Verdict: Refreshing, bubbly and fruity. Would drink again.
2. Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwich
I see you rolling your eyes. There's no way you can enjoy a pulled pork sandwich while eating plant foods. And you are right. So, so right. Although this vegan alternative doesn't taste like the real thing, this pulled jackfruit substitution is as close as plant-eaters are going to get to the real thing.
Verdict: Surprising meat texture. The closest comparison would be the pulled pork sandwiches I got served in the Elementary school cafeteria. Not quite meat but close enough for me to spend my $1.25 with chocolate milk. (Side note: this sandwich was not priced like my school days.) Would not order again.
3. Vegan Macaroni & Cheese
You know what really makes a good macaroni and cheese? The cheese. So I was super surprised when this macaroni exceeded all expectations and turned me into a vegan macaroni fan. Topped with a copious amount of fried onions, this dish showed me that all vegan cheese isn't so bad.
Verdict: The fried onions and spices in the sauce elevated this macaroni and cheese to compete with the best. Would totally eat again.
4. Vegan Date Balls
Woo boy. These little guys were only a dollar at the food truck that sold the macaroni and cheese so I thought I would try them out. Honestly would have been a better use of my dollar to just throw it into the street and watch it fly away. These little balls were flavored with dates and coconut sugar. Vegan cookbooks usually include a recipe for these no-bake balls which include coconut oil, dates, cashews, and coconut.
Verdict: The texture was funky. 1/10 would not eat again.
5. Vegan Ice Cream
If there was one item I was pumped to try, it was the ice cream. Made by local ice cream store, The Hop, this vanilla and cookie ice cream put dairy products to shame. Creamy and light, this ice cream was the perfect alternative for anyone who suffers from milk-induced tummy aches. Although it is not as creamy as say, a gelato, it still gets the job done.
Verdict: Cool and creamy, would eat again.
Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
This article was originally published on August 15, 2018