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Horn for horn

Eating meat can require a very flexible mind. Many omnivores will tell you how much they love animals. Ditto, a medium rare steak. And it’s a rare meat-eater who doesn’t draw up some apparently arbitrary guidelines for what they will and won’t put on their plate. Pigs, cows, chicken and sheep are all acceptable, but not dogs, horses or goats, for example. Muscles and skin are the height of good taste, but internal organs are not quite the thing. Which is why the humble haggis, national dish of Scotland, is an especially divisive dish – sure to horrify as many palates as it delights.

I used to flex my brain muscles this way, justifying some dodgy decisions, and ignoring some unpleasant realities: happily eschewing meat, but equally cheerfully consuming dairy and eggs. In my feeble defence, I ate fish under sufferance, and I always felt guilty about it … oh go on I was just as bad as anyone in the previous paragraph.

So, in honour of my newfound veganism, my lighter conscience and my less agitated brain, I celebrated Burns night for the first time in my life, with a delicious guilt-free supper of vegetarian haggis, mash, sprouts and mushroom gravy. Meal number 75 was delicious, and so much easier to swallow than the carnivorous alternative – “Sae let the Lord be thankit.”

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Kale queen

Today is my 23rd day of eating vegan, and I am just about to tuck into meal number 69. There’s nothing too special about 23 days of animal-cruelty-free eating, except that it is 24 hours  longer than Beyoncè’s much-publicised 22-day  “vegan cleanse”. Which was presumably followed by a “vegan tone” and a “vegan moisturise”.


Cleanse is mostly a silly word, sometimes a dangerous one, and really never a word to use in the context of food. 

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Halfway through and hitting my vegan stride

I hit the official halfway mark – vegan meal number 47 – happily yesterday. Cauliflower curry, brown rice and mint tea in Leon, while catching up with two good friends. The weekend felt like more of a halfway mark though, and on Saturday night we treated ourselves and ate meal number 42 at Manna in Primrose Hill – a fantastic vegan restaurant I have been visiting since it was merely vegetarian. I highly recommend the cashew cheese croquettes, and the vice-cream and cookie pudding my partner had looked amazing. Just like Manna, I think I have converted to veganism for good now.

Eating out is going very well so far – on Tuesday night, meal number 30 was the vegan ramen at Shoryu in Soho.

Two bowls of vegan ramen please. Slurp! #veganuary

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Meal number 39 was experimental, by many standards: I BBQ-sauced the tin of jackfruit I bought at Vegan Life Live last week.

Further adventures in vegan cookery – BBQ jackfruit

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God knows what pulled pork is meant to taste like. This tasted mostly like BBQ sauce to be fair, but it was tasty. And I ate it with the last of the cashew-tahini dressing that I made to drizzle on Buddha bowls the night before (meal number 36). Neat!

For most of the meals in between, may I refer you to the image at the top of the post? Still addicted.

Vegan meal number 54 should be pretty special too – there’s a cocktail bar in east London called Pamela. Which is the best name. And it has just brought in an entirely vegan menu courtesy of Club Mexicana. So we are heading there tomorrow night with veggie/vegan pals to sample its wares. And I’ll be celebrating, cos I am so pleased I made this change. I feel better physically, and my conscience is lighter too. It’s just a small change to make, but if enough of us do it, it will make a big difference.

And in case I ever were to waver, I have been collecting some alternative Veganuary motivation to keep me on track.

choc

  • Vegan chocolate – so good.
  • Despite the above, I’ve lost a few pounds, all of which needed shifting, and there are more where they came from.
  • Watching footage of 19th-century livestock auctions as part of my job.
  • Watching vegan documentaries on Netflix in my lunchbreak. Yikes.
  • I’ve booked a trip to the US and I want to save some pennies to offset the cost.
  • I’ve booked a trip to the US and I want to reduce my carbon footprint to offset the cost to the environment.
  • You can’t really argue with this statistic. For those of us who have a choice, eating meat really is unsustainable. And with meat, goes everything else …

vegan.png

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One week in – green for go

I am one week into Veganuary, which means I have had 21 vegan meals, with no dairy, meat, fish, eggs or honey. In fact I have had 22 as I just ate breakfast on the eighth day – you can’t blog on an empty stomach.

If I had to sum Veganuary up in one word, I’d pick “doddle”. Seriously it has been incredibly easy to eat healthy, tasty vegan food all week. It hasn’t all been avocado on toast either … I’ve eaten stirfry, pizza, sausage’n’mash and heaps of salads. Seven-nil to the green team. I haven’t fallen head-over-heels for vegan cheese, but I haven’t missed the real thing either. In fact I have had zero cravings for food on the banned list, and I am feeling much healthier and bouncier. Definitely less bloated and sleepy. I may even have lost a pound or two.

pizza.jpg

Maybe this is the honeymoon (agavemoon?) period, but so far I am hooked. It’s simpler for me than for others doing Veganuary as I work from home so I can cook what I like, but also I don’t have to have tedious conversations with colleagues and strangers about why I have changed my diet. I honestly think most people I know would be very supportive (my omni husband has been amazing) but I know other people have had some tricky conversations.

How do I know? Because the downside of working from home is that I have found it very easy to get sucked into reading Facebook posts and blogs on veganism when I should have been working. I’ve long said that if reading burned calories I would be wearing Kate Moss’s cast-offs by now, but that’s been especially true this week. I have found the vegan Facebook groups I joined full of wisdom, advice and useful information, as well as cheery supportive chit-chat. So I have devoured everything I can find.

The daily emails from Veganuary are very helpful, but I am reading around the subject so much that by the time they drop I’m all: “Oh, yeah, I know about that. Next.” This means I am perhaps thinking about Veganuary a little more than necessary, so no wonder it has been a breeze so far.

By far the most important thing I have learned from the online vegan brigade is that the militant, all-or-nothing approach I expected is far from universal, especially during this month devoted to welcome, recruitment and public education. Yes you can be vegan if you are still wearing your old leather belt, or if you accidentally eat something with milk in. One line has resonated with me, though I am afraid I can’t remember who first posted it: “Veganism is about doing your best in an imperfect world.” So I guess that means you can spend a five-pound note on tofu and almond butter after all!

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It is so nice in my little web bubble that I was almost dreading having to drop the “V word” at a dinner table or restaurant in future. Luckily I broke my duck last night when a friend and I popped into a local Italian restaurant for dinner. This place used to do a fantastic arrabbiata so I was distraught to see it had been discontinued, but still, there was one vegan pasta dish on the menu so I ordered that, refused the parmesan (who even am I?) and tucked in. It was a yummy courgette and tomato tagliatelle, which I suspect I enjoyed all the more because it wasn’t smothered with salty cheese. Win. I get the impression that  eating out can sometimes be a bit more awkward than that, so I was very grateful for the experience.

My task for next week is to try some recipes from the vegan cookbook I ordered online. And hopefully I will pick up some tips at the Vegan Life Live event I am visiting today. Obsessed? Me?

Here’s to many more vegan meals – 71, at the very, very least.

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V Day

Veganuary starts … now.

Or rather it started a few hours ago. I saw out 2016 (good riddance) with a vegan lasagne and few glasses of champers. Yes I made “cheese sauce” out of cashews (pictured above) and all that game. It was, well actually rather tasty, but hideously unphotogenic. Could do better.

In fact I started Veganuary in semi-earnest a few days ago. I’ve already ditched cow’s milk for almond in my tea and have been exploring a little vegan cookery. Cauliflower curry, avocado toast, and several similarly non-adventurous dishes … but also these delicious vegan Brazilian cheese balls, which fooled several party guests into thinking they had yer actual cheese-cheese in them.

As far as my vegan support system goes, I am enjoying the daily emails from the lovely Veganuary people and I have signed up to many, many Facebook groups. I have also recruited a veggie pal to go the full Kevin (Keegan) with me. She’s a great veggie cook, and a fellow cheese addict so I am in fine company. We’re Whatsapping recipes back and forth and sharing sources of vitamins and vegan merlot. It’s going to be easy, right?

Meal number one of 93 was scrambled tofu with avocado. Genuinely delicious. Here goes …