If you are a proper vegan this article is probably not for you; this is for those who are curious about eating more vegan food but think it is loads of hassle and maybe a bit earnest. Everyone else, look away.
I wrote pieces for the Herts Ad and Welwyn Hatfield Times about eating vegan food for January (veganuary), so I thought I’d report back on how it went for me.
January was lonngggg and included my birthday. I’ve eaten fish, eggs and meat for 47 years, yet reading about the egg and meat industry and watching the film Carnage, that a friend was in, started to make me feel uncomfortable (the egg industry kills all boy chicks as they are not needed etc etc). I really like eating vegetables and pulses so thought it was worth a go. A few bullet points on what I found:
1. Veg and pulse-based curries, soups and chillis are very easy to make and this was the easiest swap. I did not miss meat at all in these meals and used lots of black beans, red lentils, butterbeans, chickpeas etc this month. Our meals were more interesting for it. One big success was a mexican meal with black beans, tacos, avocados, salsas etc – easy, affordable and everyone enjoyed it.
2. Some things are easier to substitute than others. Eggs – I tried scrambled tofu which was really easy to cook and tasted a lot better than I expected. But the girls made me a cake with eggs and butter for my birthday and I wasn’t turning it down, and it was delicious. I had a nut roast for the first time in years and it was lovely – Artisan grain cashew and cranberry nut roast mix; far more flavour and texture than a piece of meat so well worth trying. Also tried Goodlife green bean and spinach and sausages – I didn’t realise they had cheese in them until they were home, so not vegan, but they were really delicious, so a good option for a meat-free easy dinner. Grated vegan cheese was very good on pizzas and the kids didn’t notice. The hard cheeses in sandwiches were not popular.
scrambled tofu – nicer than you think!
3. Eating out is easier than I expected. Eating in Thai and Indian restaurants is easy for vegan food (and cheaper). It’s tricky if you don’t choose the restaurant/cafe; I ate out a few times in Jan for work and the vegan options were pretty dull – couscous salad anyone? In one place I reviewed the only vegan choice was a mushroom burger which I did not fancy at all, so I reverted to chicken. But I did find that everywhere I went did at least offer vegan/veggie options, so times are changing.
4. It made me think about how we eat foods out of habit – it is well worth reading Bee Wilson’s First Bite on this. We use so much cows milk in the UK and I wonder how many of us really really like it? Would you drink a glassful? We have been having hemp milk instead of cow’s milk and I prefer it. It tastes lighter and fresher, weirdly, for something from a carton. In the UK we are raised on cow’s milk but there is no massive reason to carry on drinking it when there are so many other sources of calcium out there now – most of us aren’t countryside dwellers with a cow in the backyard so there’s no logic to choosing cows over any other milk.
5. I don’t like sunflower spreads so preferred to just drop butter – not tricky when eating tomatoes, mushrooms etc on toast, or jacket potatoes etc but really tough on toast so I definitely cheated there. Out of about 90 meals I ate fish/meat/egg- based meals about 5 times, which is a big reduction for me. I didn’t pass the veganuary challenge, but I might be a good example of what many people could do – cut back a lot. We don’t need to eat meat every day and eating loads of pulses and vegetables can only be good for us.
a vegan curry using a ready-made sauce – the naans had milk powder in them though
To sum up: eating vegan food is now not that difficult. But changing the cooking and eating habits of a lifetime is. I don’t like making a big fuss in restaurants and at relatives homes, so that meant a few slips. For many of us I think cutting back is a start. Whether you eat more vegan food because of animal welfare or to vary your diet, or for health reasons, it is definitely easier than you might think. Did you try? Let me know how you got on.