The London Review of Breakfasts

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Op-Egg: How to Be a Vegan at Breakfast

by La Soya Jackson

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.


Blogger Browners said...

Fantastic review. I recently went to saf in Hoxton which is militantly vegan. Your review really captured the vegan spirit. Especaially from an omnivore's perspective.

10:43 AM, January 29, 2009  
Blogger HB said...

And there was me thinking veganism took all the fun out of life...

11:13 AM, January 29, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like a lot of effort for very little reward. I always thought it was lack of protein that made vegans looks so unhealthy but in fact it is all the stress and guile required to order breakfast.

I admire your spirit even though I think you're mad.

3:05 PM, January 29, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you tip well after subjecting a waiter to your nonsense.

7:06 PM, February 05, 2009  
Blogger Jen Huddleston said...

I am one of those extremely annoying people who enjoys eating a vegan meal, but I so appreciate your review style (and blog branding) that I am so glad to have stumbled onto your blog. I even enjoy the way you poke fun at me in this post. The thought of firm, wet sausages makes my stomach do flips. However, I am a fan of your reviews and I am very appreciative of your view on the value of the breakfast meal. The worth of a proper cup of tea, and accompanying breakfast meal, is almost without words. But you have found them.

6:18 PM, February 14, 2009  
Blogger kerstin said...

So you've been to Pogo's then?

10:11 PM, March 04, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never seen it summed up so neatly! It's a battle every time. & that disappointing taste vaguely buttery taste you sometimes cannot avoid tasting. *sigh*

11:30 PM, March 15, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless one of your party is gluten free. Finding a place in Central London for a carnivorous coffee-quaffing soldier, a skinny dieting princess and a gluten-free vegan is no picnic.

7:00 PM, November 02, 2012  

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