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Veganuary shopping trip

Just a few days left until I begin my Veganuary challenge, and almost time to step away from the cheese and crackers. Full disclosure: I ate fondue on Boxing Day, and baked Camembert the day after that. Going cold Cheddar is going to be tough.

Retail therapy is the only way to stave off those fears, so I hit the shops today to stock up on some vegan supplies. My local supermarket proved very fruitful, and I piled my trolley high with fresh veg, tinned pulses and a few specialist vegan products. Some, like the plant milks and the vegan mayonnaise, I haven’t tried before and I am looking forward to experimenting with. Tofu, falafel (I had to take care not to buy a brand with honey in) and aubergine pesto I much more familiar with. Many of the vegan products were eye-wateringly expensive, but the almond butter was on special offer, which I was very grateful for. There was only one kind of “Gary” for sale that I could see – which means it must be the most delicious, right? Hmmm …


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If you have any recommendations – please let me know. Is the margarine really going to be as disgusting as I have been told? And the mayonnaise as tasty as I have been promised? I have high hopes for almond and oat milk, though there was a formidable choice of alternatives …

I am planning another trip to a healthfood shop to stock up on nuts and more rarefied products, including nutritional yeast, which I am already quite a fan of. And my local vegan cafe has begun to sell local, home-made vegan goodies such as vegan butter and seitan, which makes me a very lucky novice.

When it comes to fitting out a vegan kitchen, this post from the lovely Hannah and her joyous vegan blog is very useful, and comprehensive. You should probably read that instead of this, and then check out the rest of her site, which is infectiously enthusiastic and full of information. Also, pictures of kittens.

There is a lot of animated talk on vegan websites about products being “accidentally vegan”. This is not always as exciting than it sounds – yes it’s nice that Jus-rol pastry and croissants, for example, are vegan, but it mostly just means that factories are mass-producing products cheaply using vegetable oil. And if it’s palm oil, that is quite concerning. (The picture at the top of this post, for example, is a pie I made last Christmas, that was accidentally, or otherwise, vegan, thanks to that fact.) Still, I slung some cheap, “accidentally vegan” garlic baguettes in my freezer, next to the Linda McCartney sausages and pies that are not-so-accidentally vegan. Baby steps.

It has to be said that most “accidentally vegan” lists seem to major on crisps, sweets and booze – things you might not expect to contain animal products in the first place, but certainly nothing I will turn my nose up at, especially if I am missing some of my favourite foods. You can check out lots of these products on the Accidentally Vegan UK Instagram feed.

🎅🏻 Vegan Christmas Series 🎅🏻M&S Christmas Cobbler Cocktail

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Sainsbury’s, the supermarket I visited today, is one of the best at labelling its vegan products as such, apparently, but I still spent an awful lot of time reading the backs of packets and tins. It begins to be quite maddening that some are still labelled vegetarian when they are full-fat vegan … Tinned soup is a minefield, although if the name begins “cream of”, that’s a very big hint. Baxter’s, why do you put honey in all my favourites, though? Very disappointing. It won’t always be so laborious, hopefully, as I get to know what’s what. I have a relative with a severe dairy allergy so I know that milk powder, for example, lurks in some unexpected places. Though I am lucky enough to also know that it doesn’t really matter if I accidentally eat some, which is not the case for him.

Now I am all stocked up, I feel as if I may as well start straight away, but perhaps a last-hurrah supper on NYE will be a suitably solemn farewell. It is time to start planning my final meal of this year, and also the first of 2017. This afternoon, I am going to try some vegan baking, too.

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Why worry about veganism?

No one wants animal cruelty on their plate, or their conscience. Vegan food is delicious, and healthy. I’m only trying it out for a month, 93 little meals.

So why am I worried? I have a few reservations, but writing these things down always makes them less alarming …

  • My health – I have a sensitive digestive system and I am worried that a vegan diet will cause it to flare up. Then again, maybe the opposite will happen and I’ll never touch dairy again …
  • More than vegetarianism, veganism seems very all-or-nothing. I’ll be much more worried about slipping up than I am currently as a chilled-out non-meat-eater.
  • Hungriness – all that salad and not a single fried egg.
  • Boredom – tofu, tofu, tofu …
  • Expense – a lot of vegan alternatives such as mayonnaise and cheese, are far pricer than the “originals”. And some useful fruit and veg might be imported from far and wide.
  • Eating more junk food and processed crap. Lots of ready-made vegan food seems to be versions of fast food that has never appealed to me. Apparently there’s a vegan fried chicken shop opening in London – I’ve never felt the need to eat fried chicken before!
  • Eating out or at friends’ houses – I’m going to become a fussy person, which doesn’t appeal. And then there’s the risk of plate envy when I’m picking my way through a cheeseless pizza on a Saturday night.
  • Clean eating is a load of balls, and I don’t want to be associated with that.
  • Terminal smugness.

Anyway, I hope these qualms will prove unfounded. Ninety-three times.

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Veganuary balance sheet

Once I start Veganuary, there are a few things I am going to be giving up. I’ll be gaining some new habits too. So I thought I would write them down to see how they balance out.

Giving up

  • Cheeseboards.
  • Indian takeaways (ghee).
  • Saturday morning scrambled eggs.
  • Salmon risotto.
  • Cauldron vegetarian sausages – they’ve got ruddy milk in them. And my favourite veggie tinned soups have honey in them.
  • Milk in my tea (and occasionally coffee).
  • Eating out so much, I think.
  • A dress size – you never know!

For lunch, a delicious obstacle course

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Cheese party

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Guess I am a real #e17 freelancer now

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Picking up

  • A feeling of ease and wellbeing – I love the idea of a cruelty-free diet.
  • Reading labels – it seems like I’ll be doing a lot of that.
  • Learning how to make tofu scramble and almond butter.
  • Experimenting with alterna-milks (or drinking a lot of green tea) and fake cheese.
  • Even more guilt about food miles – all those avocados.
  • A thick skin when people make those tired vegan jokes.
  • Becoming a regular at my local vegan cafe.
  • Possible Marmite addiction.

Popping Padron peppers in Madrid

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23 signs you work for the Gdn

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Time to vegan up

It has been more than two decades since I last ate a sausage. Around 246 months since I sat down to a roast chicken dinner. Over a thousand weeks since I last tasted a ham sandwich. I gave up eating meat when I was a teenager after reading about the environment, and working on the meat counter at the local Co-op. Full disclosure: the final straw was watching the movie Se7en on video. Ugh.

It was the right decision. I felt better about the impact I was making on the environment (ie it was a lot, lot smaller) and finally I really began to enjoy my food. I ate more heartily, rather than pushing my food around the plate. Vegetables were my friends. As a student I embraced the lentil and ate frugally; when I started working in London I expanded my culinary repertoire, and even visited fancy vegetarian restaurants.

Big whoop. I’m not vegetarian. Not really. I am a pescetarian, I guess. When I announced my plan to go veggie, my mum, understandably worried about my vitamin and protein intake, asked me to keep eating fish. I was happy to agree – after all, I didn’t know whether a vegetarian diet was healthy either. And while I was a student, it was largely irrelevant, because fish was too pricey for my shopping basket, but after graduating, once I moved in with my omnivorous other half , who swoons with delight at a fishmonger’s window, I began to eat more and fish – not just anchovies in my puttanesca sauce, but tuna sarnies, roast salmon, prawn curry …

Searching my heart, and my tastebuds, I reckon I could give up the fish just like that. [fingersnap] I should have done so years ago, although it would have been a shame not to be able to share those meals with my partner, and it does make dinner parties easier … Heck, there’s always an excuse.

That’s not the thing that’s worrying me. It’s all those articles about the dairy industry, and the problems with poultry farming, that I push to one side. Forget the fish, I have a niggling feeling that I need to give up eating all animal products entirely.

In short it’s time to give veganism a whirl. So I have signed up for Veganuary.

As of 1 January 2017 I will be going vegan for a month. Thirty-one days without cheese, eggs, milk, butter, honey, fish and yeah, meat.

I have reservations. A lot of reservations. But there are also lots of things I am looking forward to, lots. And I want to give it a proper go.

So if I falter I am going to set myself a forfeit. If I crack and eat a slice of Welsh rarebit, I will do something I have never done before. I’ll eat a Big Mac.


The thought of eating this makes me feel genuinely sick. I really don’t want to do that. I mean no way on this green earth would I ever want to taste that muck. So this is my insurance policy – steer clear of the dairy and eggs and I don’t have to contemplate the putrid patty punishment.

How hard can it be? It’s just breakfast, lunch and dinner for 31 days. Ninety-three vegan meals. Starting … soon.