Yep, it’s another Veganuary post (I’m just assuming there’s going to be a few at this time).
In summary…nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be…
…I mean, full disclosure, I’m already vegetarian (is that cheating?) so in some ways I feel like it was bound to be easier than a hard core carnivore ditching meat and dairy in one go. My biggest issue was not giving up cheese like I thought it would be (I actually didn’t even think about it once…so now I’m questioning my whole life…I lived without cheese, didn’t think about it, didn’t miss it in any way shape or form…but just the week before I couldn’t go more than two days without it?! How does that work?). My biggest issue was that I didn’t realise just how much dairy there was in the most random places. I had many a this-can’t-possibly-contain-dairy-oh-crap-it-does moment, but otherwise, I didn’t really struggle.
Here’s what being vegan for 31 days taught me:
It’s probably going to be easier than you think: The hardest part was fielding obligatory questions from a couple of colleagues and family members – you know ‘why…for the love of God woman, why?!!’ and ‘aren’t you worried about your protein?’ oh, and my personal favourite, those three words. I know you know the lyrics by now plant-based family, sing it with me! Whaaaaat about baaaacccccooooon?!?! Aside from that…it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. There’s actually a lot of foods and snacks out there – especially if like me you live in central London and tend to cook your foods from scratch. Also…there’s a surprising number of foods and snacks that are ‘accidentally vegan’ which I wasn’t expecting (e.g. beef & tomato pot noodle – didn’t expect that to be vegan…but it is!)
There’s almost always a vegan substitute: Want a lasagne? Mac ‘n’ cheese? Pizza? There’s vegan versions of that. (I found a falafel pizza…I think it was by Goodfellas…it was…interesting with a butter-free buffalo sauce) Milkshake? Steak? Pies? There’s vegan versions of that too. Fried chicken sandwich? Kebab? Steak? Coleslaw? Mayo? Seriously, there’s vegan versions of that…and they’re pretty damn good!
There’s animal products in the most random things: I say animal products. I mean milk. There’s milk in loaves of bread, there’s milk in crisps (BTW, why is there milk in paprika flavoured crisps?). And for those of us who like a glass of wine or five, there’s fish and sometimes eggs to consider. That one was a shock. Even as a vegetarian I didn’t know that. I’m used to reading labels, but just assumed alcohol was fermented grapes, or hops and grains…but turns out there’s isinglass (from fish bladders…I think that’s right?) or albumen (from eggs) used to clarify wines.
Restaurants have come a long damn way: There was a point when I’d gone veggie back in 2001, when the only veggie option was a dry and mealy bean burger (I’m so over bean burgers as a result of this), or pasta with the nastiest tomato sauce you could ever have. And if you asked for something else, you’d get a ‘salad’ of badly sliced tomatoes and onions (they really couldn’t be bothered). Now, a lot of the restaurants have dedicated veggie/vegan menu’s (thank you Wagamama). Even pizza places have vegan cheese pizza’s.
You’re not going to be automatically healthy: Vegan Junk food is amazing! If you’re in the Camden area, check out What the Pitta. or Temple of Seitan, and…even Pizza Express. And also vegan chocolate is lush – if you’re feeling fancy (cos it’s definitely not an everyday chocolate), Hotel Chocolat has awesome vegan options. I found a dark-chocolate covered mango thing which was heaven in a tub. Subway has a vegan meatball marinara…and as far as I’m concerned, if you get it with a piece of lettuce or two it’s healthy.
Vegan cheese has come a long damn way!! There was a time when that puke inducing rubber infused mess not only cost the same as my rent…but I’d have to travel 10 miles to get it, and then need a bottle of Pepto-Bismol to chase it with. Now…it is…so much better. I cannot stress that enough! There’s even spreadable cheese. Camembert, cheddar, mozzarella. Don’t get me wrong it’s not quite like the real thing, however it’s pretty damn tasty.
So… honestly, this was probably easier for me than going veggie. That could be because there’s more awareness, and social acceptance than there was back in 2001. Restaurants and food manufacturers are actively making more vegan options, they’re tastier, and way cheaper than they used to be, and best of all widely available (at least if you live in the city).
I don’t actually know yet if I’ll be able to keep this up, but for the moment, I think I’m going to be sticking to it. We’ll see if my cake cravings will make me cave (I’m still shocked it wasn’t cheese cravings). If anyone has a good vegan carrot cake recipe…it would be much appreciated!