To all of you brand new vegans, trying to be vegans, vegetarians, wherever you are, if you’re struggling with the change I promise it gets easier! Stick with it! Let me share a story…
I was reminded of this experience by a great post on r/ZeroWasteVegans yesterday about why people give up on veganism (spoiler: mostly because they don't know what to cook). Having been vegan for 15 years now, I wanted to share my experience and hopefully offer some words of encouragement to anyone who may need it, or just a laugh at my expense.
I officially went vegan when I turned 18, and I could make my own choices, buy my own food and cook for myself (in theory). My first attempt at a vegan meal was papaya stuffed with poppyseed couscous which I probably got from some random internet blog. Spent almost an hour cooking it, including baking the papaya after stuffing it with mushy couscous.
I remember all of this very distinctly because it tasted horrible. I was so disappointed, but I was determined to eat it because I had cooked it, and I was committed to this. My family ate their meal and left, and it was just me alone at the table, staring down that papaya. I ate probably four bites in half an hour. Disappointment gave way to melancholy and questioning my life decisions.
Eventually my mom looked over and said "you don't have to eat that if you don't like it." Oh. Ok. That kind of snapped me out of my papaya-induced stupor. Just because I didn't like this meal doesn't mean that I can't be vegan. I didn't fail (well, kind of). I dumped that papaya in the trash along with the recipe, and boiled some pasta instead.
I wish I could say my meals got better after that. They did, but very slowly. At the same time I bought the papaya I also bought a giant bag of lentils, because they're protein packed and everyone seems to love them! Except me, because I learned that I'm allergic to them. I gave away the bag and tossed that recipe too. There was also the time I tried making lo mein, when my recipe called for a half cup of soy sauce I added more, because you can't have too much of a good thing right? Wrong. Follow your recipes, at least the very first time. I don't know how much soy sauce I added but it tasted like pure salt so that went into the trash too.
So, moral of my long winded story here is that every one of us goes through this frustrating transition phase. Well, ok, maybe 97% of vegans do, and another 2% either don't remember it or won't admit it. If this is you right now, feeling dejected and daunted by meal planning, it's ok. You're not doing it wrong. You're on the learning curve, and it will get easier. And you're not alone, because we have all been there. Use this community as a resource if you have questions, or just need some support. There's lots of vegan cooking subs too. Even if your cooking is bland or inedible, boil some pasta and try again tomorrow.