Op-Egg: How to Be a Vegan at Breakfast
A lone organism navigates a hostile world, every circumstance threatens its survival... trust none but yourself, act fast, think faster... 'Eat me' reads the label on the bran and blueberry muffin... what harm can one small bite do?
Don't make the mistake of thinking that a vegetarian and a vegan are in any way alike. They are as different as black pudding and marmalade. A vegan demands to read the box the vegetarian sausage came in, needs you to remember not to spread flora on their toast, requires their mushrooms to be fried in a different pan from the other mushrooms (which you're lovingly sautéing in butter and fresh parsley). A vegan cannot be fobbed off with an extra egg. But the most important and crucial thing is that a vegan will not under any circumstances be satisfied with fruit (or muesli).
A vegan has been through an extreme and sometimes violent reprogramming process, has been unplugged from the matrix of breakfast enjoyment. The temptation and magic they used to feel is a distant memory (with unpleasant connotations). A piece of over-processed tofu impregnated with natural beetroot colouring and cut into the shape of a 'bacon rasher' is not what they seek. They aren't trying to simulate a meat/dairy experience: they are creating their own new universe. Above all of the vegan's survival skills the most crucial is the ability to read beyond the menu.
That and communication.
At first communication will be a highly traumatic experience for the vegan and all those who have the misfortune to breakfast with them. Embarrassing stand offs over soya milk, politically offensive claims to debilitating allergies, over-complicated descriptions about the rainforests, animal liberation and offsetting your carbon emissions, tears, apologies, regrets. Singularly any of these will curdle good porridge and an inexperienced breakfasting vegan may face all in the one sitting.
Fortunately this phase doesn't last for long. A vegan soon learns to stand on their own wobbly gelatine-free jelly legs and embark on the experimental delights which lie between choices three and four on the specials board. The dining car is serving breakfast, the train is ready for boarding, please go to platform 9¾.
Vegan breakfast ordering is an art. It requires subtle but firm precision, gentle manipulation, and incredible foresight. A Vegan requires an expert insight into the mind of the chef, the ability to freeze time, telepathic powers, conflict resolution training, practice, perseverance and commitment.
So begin by drawing a circle around your table. Use ground pepper if it's available - ketchup will do otherwise. Summon the five sacred animal friends, the spirit guides which will accompany you through the choices you will face, carefully arrange your cutlery in the shape of a five pointed star and form the likeness of your spirit companions in salt at each magical tip.
When the waiter approaches don't ever declare yourself as a vegan. They won't understand, they will try to give you fish or refuse to give you toast. Begin as if everything is going to be very straightforward... order the vegetarian breakfast then take a deep breath. State clearly that you don't want an egg. If this goes well you can move on to tell them casually that you don't eat dairy products, inquisitively ask if they cook the mushrooms in butter, oil or dry fry, and if the answer is butter ask cautiously if they could possibly cook them in oil for you. All good? Now go for the big ask... They most certainly won't know if the vegetarian sausages contain eggs or dairy, but approach the question as if they will. When they look at you as if you'd just asked them to lay the egg, remain centred, repeat some deep breaths and return the exact same gaze. Normally this works but if nothing happens, ask if they could go and check with the chef.
When they return you're on the home straight. Firmly tell them you don't want any butter on your toast (avoid any conversation about margarine, they rarely have a tub of omega 3 linseed spread out back). Now just before they walk away, if you're feeling really lucky, go for it! Smiling appreciatively ask if they could possibly provide you with a little olive oil on the side.
A job well done, treat yourself to a decaf soya latte. Go on, be a devil and have a brown sugar in that. Now sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. The new world order is about to arrive.