New Year, New Plans

Happy New Year to you all! I hope you all had a fantastic festive break with lots of wonderful food, good company and fun times. We certainly did. Ade managed to grow all our Christmas dinner veg once again, with a total of eight homegrown goodies gracing our dinner plates (potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, sprouts, swede, cauliflower – the boy did good!) and now we’re back, settling into our routines and eager for spring!

The allotment continues to provide us with plenty of winter veg, mainly brassicas, leeks, carrots and parsnips to accompany the potatoes, squash, onions and garlic we have in storage; perfect ingredients for the hearty soups and stews I like to cook up at this time of year.

cauliflowers

Anyway, first we wanted to share some news. We’re glad so many of you enjoyed our 12 Days of Christmas – Greenfingers Style video that we released last month. Our intention was  to raise some awareness for Greenfingers, the excellent charity that creates gardens for children in hospices, providing them with some restorative space away from the bedside, and with all your help, we think we managed it. So thanks again to all involved and those who helped spread the word. Greenfingers have since invited us to be Ambassadors for their charity, something we were only too happy to accept, and we look forward to working with them more this year.

Secondly, we have been shortlisted in the Green & Eco category for the UK Blog Awards 2018! We’re chuffed to bits and again, thanks go to all you lovely people who voted for us. It’s now over to the judges for the next round of voting, and the final decision will be made next month. Cross everything for us!

Christmas Books

Aside from that, we’re busy cooking up new plans for the garden, the veg plot and the blog, we’re enjoying all the wonderful garden books we received for Christmas, Ade’s started sowing his pepper seeds already, and as for me… I’ve gone vegan!

I signed up to do Veganuary a while ago. It’s not something I’ve taken part in previously, but I was keen to give it a go. Veganuary, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a charity that challenges people to go vegan for the month of January and, as someone who is interested in animal welfare and always keen to find new ways to help the planet, it sounded an excellent idea. And anyway, how hard would it be for me of all people – who is fortunate enough to have an almost limitless supply of delicious fresh vegetables from the allotment, and who goes weeks without eating meat anyway – to go vegan for a month? Easy, right?

https://veganuary.com

I woke up on January 1st having done NO preparation. I mean, none. I’d read a little bit about Veganuary, but that was it. I hadn’t really planned what I was going to eat, I hadn’t done a preparatory shop to stock up on vegan alternatives that might help me, and I clearly hadn’t made a big enough noise to everyone around me that for the month of January, I was going to be vegan.

‘Have you eaten all the lovely ham we gave you?’ Asked my mum over the phone on New Year’s Eve, referring to the generous supply of delicious farm-shop ham she had packed us off with, after our Boxing Day visit.

‘We plan to have most of it tonight,’ I replied, ‘I can’t touch it from tomorrow as I’m going vegan.’

‘Oh, you’re not!’ She replied, with a note of parental disappointment one might have expected had I admitted to a secret nicotine habit or confessed to a covert career as a table dancer.

This was followed, on new year’s day, with sweet Ade, getting up to make me a cup of tea just how I always like it (PG tips, strong, splash of milk) to bring to me in bed. Hm. I wrestled with the animal welfare issues versus food wastage conundrum for a moment, but the animals won and the tea went down the sink. (I mean can you imagine, failing my Veganuary challenge a mere few hours into Day 1 with cup of tea? The shame!)

Lunch was going to be easy enough though. We still had plenty of  root veg from the allotment that we hadn’t used for the Christmas dinner which I could roast and turn into soup. My teaspoon of vegetable stock powder was hovering over the jug when it occurred to me that just maybe, the vegetable stock contained dairy, and I should probably read the ingredients on the back of the tub. Sure enough, it contained lactose. No veg stock allowed.

The next day, I did a supermarket shop and stocked up on supplies to make my life a little easier, such vegan veg stock, nut milk, tofu and houmous, plus extra nuts and pulses! But it took me an age as I tried to locate items I’ve never previously bought, and studiously scanned the ingredients of anything I was unsure of.

leeks.jpg

Things have been, I’m glad to say, easier since I stocked up at the supermarket. As I said, I hardly ever eat meat so that’s not a problem, I usually have fish 2-3 times a week, so I’ll be missing that more, but dairy is the big one for me: butter, mayonnaise, cheese. The Brie and Camembert left over from Christmas wink at me every time I open the fridge. It’s a real challenge. But I’m finding new ways of cooking things (cauliflower always used to get the standard cheese sauce treatment, not any more!) I’m discovering new ingredients and, most importantly, I’m doing my bit for animal welfare and helping the planet.

After my first week as a vegan, I’ve learnt these things:

  1. In terms of animal cruelty, the dairy industry is arguably worse than the meat production industry; I’d urge everyone to read this article from The Guardian last year, just to understand what goes into producing the milk we buy.
  2. Buying vegan food products can be difficult as labelling is, on the whole, quite poor. Very few products feature the vegan logo even when they are vegan, such as (thank the Lord!) Vegemite.
  3. Vegan ‘parmesan’ is a very strange thing indeed. It doesn’t melt well in an oven. I tried grating it on top of some stuffed mushrooms and it didn’t go gooey so much as provide the mushrooms with a sort of… sturdy thatch! I’m hoping it will fare better in risotto.

I’d love to hear what your new year plans are, what you’re up to on the veg plot, and if anyone else is taking part in Veganuary, I want to hear about it!

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15 thoughts on “New Year, New Plans

  1. Good luck with Veganuary! I am vegetarian and am really trying hard to reduce dairy after visiting a dairy farm to find out how it all works. It is so hard but I recommend blending almond milk, a banana and some maple syrup for a tasty treat. As for what I can put on toast to replace butter… I think I’ll just have to give up toast!

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  2. I am totally NOT vegan. However, I do consume less meat than most do just for health reasons. Also, I prefer hunted or humanely produced animal products. There is no excuse for the cruelty that animals are subjected to. I really dislike turkey, both because of how it is raised, but mainly because I dislike how it tastes. However, the turkey that my neighbor gets from my garden are pretty good, and are taken out humanely and quickly. Consuming them is better than wasting their meat when they get shot for tearing into the garden.

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  3. Phew! Hats off to you. After January is done, are there are farmers in your area, or nearby, who treat their animals well? In central Maine, there are a fair number of small farms where cows get to graze and lead good cow lives. Anyway, just a thought.

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    1. In the last few years, Ade and I have chosen to pay more for organic meat from farms where the animals are cared for, than for cheaper meat from the supermarket, which is much more likely to have come from intensive farming methods. The dairy issue is more complex though. As I am learning, the whole industry is built on the systematic abuse of cows: forcing them into repeated pregnancies, removing their calves from them after a couple of days so we can take their milk… it’s really ugly when you look into it. I had no idea.

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      1. So true. Hard to give up dairy, though. Especially butter and cheese. Also, nut milks have their own environmental problems. Not easy being green, is it?

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    1. Yes indeed, and he brewed up a cup of ginger tea for me immediately afterwards! He was just on autopilot that morning, and got up to make me tea as I usually like it, before I’d had a chance to remind him of my January resolution!

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  4. I think you could be right about dairy being arguably worse than meat. I do buy organic dairy but there are still questions about how far it is better and if it underpins the meat ‘industry’ anyway. I could probably be vegan but I doubt my daughter could.

    Good luck to you in your quest to eat vegan this month. And enjoy!

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  5. You could always make your own veg stock with plot produce and herb teas are delicious. Is honey vegan? I’m not sure but I have hot water, lemon slice and honey in the morning instead of a builder’s brew. I almost prefer eating veg rather than meat but cheese is my downfall, I love it. Would cheese bought from small independent farmers at a local market be any more considerately produced do you think?

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    1. Hi Caro, thanks for your thoughts. Yes, homemade veg stock is always an option… it wasn’t on new year’s day though as I’d already half made the soup and didn’t have time! But I sort of compensated with extra herbs and veg and it turned out fine. Strictly speaking, honey is not vegan – and I’m really missing it at the moment! But the tea issue has been solved since I switched to green tea. Yep – cheese is probably the trickiest thing! Although I’d like to think that cheese from smaller, independent farmers is a better option, it’s still the product of a very cruel process, and I don’t think there’s any way around that, unfortunately.

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