2 months down the vegan rabbit hole, and things are going shockingly well. pizza still makes me a little sad, and i have a hard time looking at photos of melted cheese. but, things like guacamole and fake chicken salad make it all ok. the truth is, even 5 years as a veg and i still haven’t gotten to the part where meat looks disgusting to me. i can’t imagine cheese ever repulsing me, but i have high hopes that it will kick in any day now. any day…
but even if i miss cheese forever, i find new things every day that make this whole new diet thing seem less like an effort. i think there is a perception that being vegan is a lot of work/cooking and that you have to eat twigs and berries and spend $200 a week at whole foods. and there was definitely a little part of me that was worried that the perception was true.
but at the 2 month juncture, i am pleased to report that it is not (well, so far at least). why just 2 days ago i went to margarita’s with that boy i like (a chain restaurant would surely spell disaster!), and our waiter informed us that their tortillas (corn and flour), refritos, beans & rice… all vegan. they also said that they have a ton of grilled vegetables and would be happy to veganize anything on the menu for us. +1 for a restaurant that i never even considered eating at ever.
but back to candy. delicious candy.
when you google “vegan candy”, you’ll find a lot of recipes for making your own shit, a lot of smug whining about how candy is unhealthy, and a lot of debating about which commercial products are actually vegan. it’s kind of a mess. what i want to do is just waltz into a grocery store and buy a goddamn candy bar and eat it. and so far what i’m finding is that i kind of can’t.
with a very few exceptions, standard commercial candy is OUT (ESPECIALLY YOU M&M MARS). most of it contains milk or gelatin but also a lot of weird multi-syllabic products of indeterminate origin and nebulous terms like “natural flavors” that could virtually mean ANYTHING.
there is also some weirdness where things that clearly contain no animal ingredients may not be considered truly vegan because they are made on or near the same equipment as products with dairy. i don’t care so much about this, but some people do. but again, it’s FUCKING CONFUSING.
that said, i’m finally starting to get into the swing of things, and at least for me, the key to feeling good about candy is to just have it around the house so that i can grab it when i need to go to the movies or on a long car trip. not ideal (especially if you’re prone to eating candy all the time), but so far (with the exception of the fact that i just ate mambas for breakfast) so good.
here’s my top 7 list of vegan candy that makes it genuinely ok that i can never have another snickers bar again:
1. MAMBA. since i just ate them for breakfast… they’re kind of like starbursts with a little vanilla flavor thrown in. chewy. tangy. not too sweet. i just bought 5 jumbo rolls of them for $1 each at target. they’re not always at the regular grocery store, but i often see them at gas stations and weird places like joann fabrics. the packaging is completely excessive, but the 4 mini packs (100 calories each) within the big pack make it great for lunchtime portioning.
2. CHOCOLOVE. stupid name. amazing chocolate (only the dark chocolate is vegan, and you should still read all the labels). this is one of the those “not technically vegan because of the machinery thing” companies, so if that’s not your jig, i’m sorry! my favorite is the dark chocolate with dehydrated raspberries. exactly the right blend sweet and tart, and very satisfying in small quantities. i often have one of these babies in my desk drawer at work and will munch on it throughout the week.
3. SWEDISH FISH. actually, anything in the swedish fish family including sour patch kids, and my fav, gummy watermelons. what’s cool about these guys is that you can find them at the movie theatre, and you don’t have to feel all weird that there isn’t anything at the concession stand that you can eat.
4. JUSTIN PEANUT BUTTER CUPS. when i was a kid, i used to throw semisweet chocolate chips into a jar of teddy peanut butter and eat it with a spoon. this is the peanut butter cup version of that experience. the dark chocolate and salty peanut butter make it a more sophisticated PB cup experience than your garden variety (and i think overly sweet) reeses.
5. BUTTERSCOTCH DISCS. a lot of hard candy is vegan like jolly ranchers and dum dums lollipops, but the thing that scratches the caramel/butterscotch topping itch for me the best is super cheapo grade butterscotch discs. i have a bag going in my pantry at all times. but be warned, the higher end you go with the brand, the more likely that they will contain actual butter or cream (brachs!). NOOOOOOOOOO! i usually get mine at gas stations or convenience stores. but seriously, just read the package.
6. GO MAX GO! i was initially very skeptical of these knock off vegan candy bars. rice milk chocolate? NO WAY! but when i found a bunch at the shaw’s in scarborough on the “reduced to clear” shelf, i decided that it was time to lay my skepticism to the side in the name of EAT MORE CANDY. they weren’t all winners. i just didn’t love the “twilight” (fake milky way)(too sweet), and the “mahalo” (fake almond joy) was really tasty, but way too dense. but the “jokerz” snickers clone was spot on (although you can’t freeze them unless you want to break off all your teeth), and the “bucaneer”, a clone of a candy bar (3 musketeers) that i don’t even like, was far and away the most delicious. i can’t even verbalize why, but it’s everything that 3 musketeers wishes it was. and the rice milk chocolate was not crumbly or weird. i guess it’s not that hard to replicate shitty commercial candy chocolate in the vegan basement lab.
7. SMARTIES. i love these because they remind me of trick or treating in the 80s. we also used to pretend that they were medicine when we were playing hospital. something about the mixture of chalky and sour, i find myself eating them until my stomach lining starts to erode. also, their website has an awesome page for vegans. thanks for looking out for us smarties!
what i’m finding more than anything is that i’m trending toward the candy that says VEGAN right on it. after finding about the weirdness that is the m&m mars animal testing thing, and that “natural flavoring” could mean “essence of pork”, i just don’t feel like i can trust it. i do make some exceptions for now, but it is my sincere hope is that more options and better food labeling will follow this upswing in vegan popularity (i’m counting on you ellen!).
did i miss anything vegan friends?