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27th February 2020

Unwrapping the Greggs vegan sausage roll

What is it about the vegan sausage roll that keeps us coming back for more?
Unwrapping the Greggs vegan sausage roll
Photo: Unisouth @Wikimedia commons

Having my card declined whilst attempting to make the modest purchase of another £1 vegan sausage roll was a blaring sign from the universe/Halifax to stop.

To stop and think about my decisions and addictions, financial or otherwise. Perhaps it was also an indication to stop and think about what on earth that sweet gristly fake meat is made of. Upon looking this up, I am more confused than ever as to why on earth fungi fermented in a giant metal vat in Darlington and engineered to taste like a dead pig is so delicious.

Regardless, it is, and we will continue to give Greggs a considerable amount of our money, particularly when it’s raining.

The unrelenting pace of a Greggs lunchtime queue needs no explanation. If we could carry this rolling forward momentum into all other aspects of life (think the self-checkouts at Lidl/ Ryanair airport security/ women’s toilets in clubs), we could be living in a radically different society.

In the midst of this chaos and a flurry of contactless payment, the weak or indecisive can fall behind. I was both that day – in a moment of delusional hesitation even considering the vegan steak bake as a viable option.

I had made a foolishly premature exit, a crisp parcel of goodness in hand. Yet the paper hadn’t even begun to leave its signature greasy sheen on my hand when the woman from behind the till was forced to run out after me and onto the cruel streets of East Didsbury. At this point, I would like to formally apologise to this woman for making her run out and shout at a literal stranger. It is surprisingly hard to get somebody’s attention when you don’t know their name and they are in the midst of an oil-induced daze. Fortunately, a dear friend and her Monzo account were at hand to resolve the flaky situation.

But the incident got me thinking. What was it about the vegan sausage roll that keeps us coming back for more? There is the excess of oil and salt of course, which when combined with garlic comes together to form a holy trinity and the basis of all vegan student cooking.  The sausage roll provides a quick fix, an instant dopamine hit, buttery and addictive in an age of instant coffee and Instagram, binge drinking and binge-worthy shows.

Of course, there’s a valid argument against ever going into Greggs as a vegan, and financially supporting a business that continues to profit directly off of the meat and dairy industry (despite the owner of Greggs himself being vegan). On principle, we should all be aiming to be more mindful consumers. But in reality, every person; vegan or not, will have lazy days.

For the lazy vegan, the sausage roll is the ultimate comfort food. The crumbling pastry that flakes everywhere should be stressful but is in fact endlessly comforting in its familiarity, harking back to a time before veganism was the mainstream and before we acknowledged how dangerously warm the planet was. It hails back to a time of childish innocence when the words pineapple and leather had never sat next to each other in my mind.

The vegan sausage roll is a hug, wrapped in a sleeping bag. It’s what we turn to for comfort, the dietary equivalent of calling a friend for advice and simply wanting excessive sympathy, not a practical solution. A good friend would tell us to go to Lidl, buy some butter beans, and meal prep your way through the week like a real and functioning human being. But a better friend would give you a warm hug, an awkward pat on the back, and ask all too-knowingly: “Shall we go and get a vegan sausage roll?”

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