I became a vegetarian on Earth Day, 1986. Back then it was no easy task because the many food options we enjoy today didn't exist. Finding meat substitutes at the local grocery store was difficult if not impossible, so I ended up making weekly trips to the health food store... a very expensive endeavor.
As the years marched on, access to more reasonably-priced and better-tasting vegetarian options for all my favorite foods became easier. Burgers, bacon, hotdogs, sausages... it was all there. And my diet today is much the same as it was in the 1990's. Except now I can get an Impossible Whopper at Burger King. Now-a-days, being a vegetarian is easy. It's going vegan that's hard.
Because there's one dietary staple I simply cannot give up: dairy & egg products.
But not for lack of trying. This past year I've made a real effort to ditch milk. I mostly buy almond or soy milk. And it's fine. I love to drink chocolate-flavored faux-milks (mylks, they're called now?). I have no problem putting vanilla or plain mylks on my cereals. Everything that I used to do with milk works with imitation milk. I'm good. But there's three things that there is no adequate substitute for...
This is not a deal-breaker. I can live without ice cream. I don't eat a ton of it anyway. Juice bars are good enough. But still... there are times that it's the perfect treat, and the vegan options aren't great.
I don't really have to eat eggs. So long as there's a substitute to use in baking cakes and such, I could give up eggs without too much issue. I use maybe a maximum of a half-dozen a month (mostly in baking). I'd eat a lot more for the protein content, but I don't like the smell that comes from cooking them. When cooked at home, I eat them mostly scrambled inside of breakfast burritos. But if I'm at a restaurant? Over medium on toast all the way, baby.
I love cheese, I live for cheese, most of my favorite dishes are built around cheese, and giving up cheese would require a radical shift in my diet that I'm not prepared to make. Currently, I've not been able to find a vegan cheese that is in any way acceptable to eat.
If a vegan cheese is developed which has the texture, cooking properties, and approximate taste of real cheese, I could become a vegan overnight. I wouldn't even have to think about it. And I really hope that day is coming. If Burger King's "Impossible Whopper" has taught me anything, it's that the science of plant-based foods is seriously breaking barriers.
It's only a matter of time.
But will it be before I die?