Vegan Christmas dinner is a million taste-buds away from what it used to be (but now I'm back eating meat) – Hayley Matthews

Protesters dressed as Santa Claus urge people to go vegan (Picture: Richard A Brooks/AFP via Getty Images)Protesters dressed as Santa Claus urge people to go vegan (Picture: Richard A Brooks/AFP via Getty Images)
Protesters dressed as Santa Claus urge people to go vegan (Picture: Richard A Brooks/AFP via Getty Images)
I've been vegetarian in the past and for quite a long time too. My herbivore stage started around the age of 14 and lasted all the way to my early 20s.

Then, I went full vegan and despite just having a few soya alternatives in the shops, I managed to keep to my vegan values for three years. Even though being veggie in the late 90s seemed acceptable, when I committed to veganism in the early 2000s, I was met with some confused questions.

People used to ask "what do you eat?" To be honest it was mainly just rice, pasta and falafels! But I didn't tell them that. I remember the hurdles of being vegan well before actually being vegan was cool. And no milk chocolate – that was hard!

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However, I got to the point I was eyeing up my cat’s food so realised I was craving protein, and slowly started eating fish again. I still eat a lot of meat replacements and 90 per cent of the time choose veggie over meat despite Mr Hayley's best efforts.

But things have come a long way since the early 2000s. I remember one Christmas having a square of puff pastry with a slice of tomato on it for Christmas dinner and that was as exciting as the vegan alternative got. My pudding was a glass of fizz.

But fast-forward 20-plus years and as I'm standing in Asda with two vegan chocolate baubles in my basket for desert (they look out of this world, almost too good to eat), and all I can see are vegan turkey crowns filling the aisles that look a million taste-buds away from my 2002 Christmas dinner.

Hats off to Asda who seem to be streets ahead with their vegan Christmas items! The turkey crown with umami stock is on my friend’s list for her Christmas dinner and my kids have already eaten a few packs of vegan chocolate baubles.

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Honestly, what I would have done for a 2022-style veggie Christmas feast back in 2000! So it's clear to see that a vegan Christmas is much tastier now. However, despite my best efforts, my suggestion of a vegan turkey has not been accepted and a family vote would be pointless. The males practicality live off sausages and chicken, taking the mick out of my ‘hamster food’ but the joke’s on them because guess who's been eating vegan chocolate baubles for dessert with no idea? Yes, my kids!

Mr Hayley is a strict meat-with-a-small-sprinkling-of-vegetables kind of person so he's tucked away a large Tomahawk Wellington that my two boys (and Dolly dog) have been licking their lips at.

I'm not devoted to being vegan or vegetarian anymore, Mr Hayley is an amazing chef and when he makes a meal, it's difficult to give it a negative critique so I indulge in the odd meat dish now. But for those that are strict vegans, I'm pleased that meal times don't have to be miserable these days. I'm also pleased vegan desserts look and taste better.

However, meat or no meat, we're just very grateful to be spending the festive period with each other. (Just don't tell my kids they've been eating dairy-free chocolate because I'm still trying to convert them all over to the vegan life.)

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