I was cooking dinner a few nights ago when I realized that the pre-made sauce that I was going to use for the pad thai I was making had fish sauce in it. This is weird, because we are usually pretty careful about that sort of thing. And fish sauce is easy. It says the word "fish" and the word "sauce" right there on the package. But it managed to slip through the chinks in my armor. Many of the animal by-products found in your everyday foods, cosmetics, clothes, shoes, etc. are much more cleverly disguised.
I figured out a solution. I took a bunch of the various Asian sauces and spices that were in the fridge and whipped up a little impromptu pad-thai sauce concoction that turned out great as far as we were concerned.
So, you might be thinking that this was a small victory for an aspiring vegan. Well....not exactly. After I finished eating, I recalled that I had not checked the ingredients in each of the individual sauces that I used to create my masterpiece. So I pulled them back out and checked the labels. I got to the sriracha sauce that I had used and imagine my consternation when:
Yes, the label on that sriracha sauce says "fish extract." (Fortunately, the Huy Fong sriracha sauce that we prefer and normally use is vegan.)
Fish Extract?!! I'm familiar with the widespread use of fish sauce in thai food and have admittedly conveniently ignored it in the past. Recently, I learned that my new favorite local asian food place will make almost anything on the menu without fish sauce. I've never tasted any difference. I can't imagine that one in a thousand people could tell the difference between a sauce made with or without fish extract. It just seems silly. I'm glad that "dog extract" doesn't enhance the flavor of anything.
Back to my point: the joke is on me here. Despite my effort and my fleeting vegan victory, I let down my guard. This is sure to happen again as the result of laziness, or lack of vigilance, or frustration, or whatever. But I'm going to keep working on it. PETA has compiled a list of animal by-products to help people in my situation with our shopping. Check it out here and tell me that thing isn't a little overwhelming when you think of it in the context of walking down the grocery aisle reading labels.