My Month as a Vegan

So January came and went, and I fulfilled my commitment to eating vegan for the month as part of Veganuary. Aside from my shaky start, when I hadn’t done any preparation and was alarmed to discover dairy could be found in all sorts of unsuspecting foods, like vegetable stock, it really wasn’t too hard at all.

As I mentioned before, I rarely eat meat and stick to a predominantly plant-based diet, thanks to our allotment, so my meals were not so very different to how they’ve been over the last few years, which was why I didn’t really expect to lose any weight. To my amazement, however, I lost 3 1/2 lbs. While that was a happy bonus, on the flip-side, I did experience a little twinge of joint pain towards the end of the month, and I did wonder if this was due to the lack of fish oils in my diet.

I did miss fish, and the homemade pizzas I throw together every so often (I’ve yet to be convinced by vegan cheese!), but on the whole, I enjoyed it. A couple of favourite dishes that I cook regularly, turned out to be vegan anyway, which was a nice surprise. As this was a solo challenge (I didn’t rope Ade into taking part), I occasionally had to cook separate dinners for us, but then I did that beforehand, as Ade has always been more of a meat-eater than me. And there were vegan treats which scored highly with both of us, such as the amazing Jamie Oliver Chocolate Brownies I baked a couple of weeks into the challenge.

I tried to educate myself on meat and dairy farming as much as I could, but, I’ll be honest, some of the documentaries I watched were so upsetting, I couldn’t finish them. But I did read a fair bit about it, and I intend to make some permanent changes to my diet as a result of what I now know. I’m going to, by and large, stick to a vegan diet as much as I can. But if I eat out, or if someone’s cooking for me, I’ll be flexible. At home, I’ve switched permanently to nut/soya milk. I’m avoiding butter and cheese most of the time. Meat? I didn’t miss it at all. But I did learn that there’s one animal product I really struggle to live without: honey. Yep, I had no idea that was going to be off-limits when I started this challenge.

For now, I aim to be about 80% vegan. Who knows, I might switch to full-on vegan in the future, but for the moment, if I occasionally eat fish or cheese, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’ll enjoy it. Maybe this is part of the problem; we’re so used to having all these foods available to us all of the time, we’ve stopped appreciating them. We can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and perhaps moderation is the lesson to be learned here.

Veganuary has certainly made me appreciate food more. I used to get up every day, put the kettle on, and splash milk into my tea without a thought. I didn’t see it as anything other than something the milkman delivered that lived in my fridge! I mean, obviously, I knew it came from cows, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I didn’t think about what had gone into producing that milk. Back in the day when we were running across the frozen plains in our fetching loincloths and spearing bison, food was understood and valued in the way it should be, and nothing was wasted. Now the hard work is done for us, we just don’t think about it. We are more disconnected than ever to the food we eat, and, for the most part, oblivious of the cruelties inflicted on animals in order to produce it.

Having said that, I don’t think a vegan diet is the guilt-free ethical choice some would have you believe. Soybean production is now the second biggest contributor to deforestation after cattle production (although interestingly enough, most of it actually feeds the cattle that then feeds us). Not long ago, we heard how quinoa, the protein-rich super-grain beloved by vegans, had become so expensive in Peru and Bolivia, that the locals who had depended on this staple for generations could no longer afford to eat it.  Then there’s our insatiable appetite for avocados, a popular vegan alternative to dairy, which has indirectly resulted in illegal deforestation in Mexico as farmers seek more land to grow the the lucrative crop, while the local population becomes increasingly ill due to the heavy use of pesticides. You really have to think about what you’re eating and how it has arrived on your dinner plate, because seriously, food can be an ethical minefield.

February Veg

Which is why growing your own food is just about one of the best things you can do. You know exactly what has gone into it and it has zero food miles. But not only is it the kindest way of eating, it also re-educates you in all the wisdom that’s been lost along the way. It takes us back to our primal impulses. When Ade walked into the kitchen a few days ago with a bag of swede, cabbage and cauliflower, it wasn’t with the tired air of someone who had just spent an hour mechanically picking the items off a supermarket shelf, but with the pride and excitement of someone who nurtured these plants from seed and harvested them himself. We appreciate this food, because we know how much effort has gone into producing it.

As well as being the most ethical way of feeding ourselves, growing our own food reconnects us to all the very basic instincts we have somehow forgotten in the name of progress, and that’s the food I like to cook and eat the most. So for now, I may occasionally eat fish or eggs, and I’ll certainly be more appreciative of them when I do, but I’m stepping up my diet to include even more delicious, homegrown vegetables than before.

It’s time to get planting! 💚

 

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12 thoughts on “My Month as a Vegan

  1. Although I do not like veganism, there are many things to learn from it, such as the appreciation for non vegan products. I think that most of us would eat a healthier volume of meat products if we needed to hunt, kill and process the meat just a few times. It really would cut down on waste. My neighbor gets all of the turkey so I do not need to, but after getting acquainted with the turkeys (I really dislike them tearing into my garden), I do not waste much. Every scrap of meat gets taken, and the carcasses get used for broth. The same applies to the venison (which I will write about later) and the trout, as well as beef and pork whom I had never met before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I second that! One of my colleagues was trying to persuade me that going vegan was the best option, which in some ways it is (particularly with regard to animals). However, I am concerned about food miles, which at first she discounted because she is a ‘citizen of the world’. I think she might have felt I was being xenophobic/a little Englander. But then she realised that eating out of packets flown in from around the globe has its ethical difficulties, too….

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So true! And in the U.S. there’s lot of concern about almond milk, which primarily comes from California, a state that struggles with water shortages. And almond trees apparently require a lot of water. But Sophie makes an excellent point about eating vegetables that she and Ade grow. A great solution to food miles and all sorts of issues.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good post thanks! I didn’t do veganuary as was totally unorganized, but am attempting a meat free, and mainly dairy free lent. Not religious at all but it seemed like a good time to start.
    I’m a meat eater but I don’t find meat so delicious that it was worth an animal dying for, so I am hopeful that I can give it up ok. Other half loves his meat though so it might be a little tricky now and again.
    I have no cheese and crackers for my lunch today, but have a bit of organic butter on my crackers as I need something with them, and have just eaten a small chocolate bar but we have loads of chocolate in the house at the moment that we were bought for Christmas, and I don’t see the point in wasting good food!
    I think 80% vegan is a good call personally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Suzanne, thanks so much for your message. I’m with you re. the leftover Christmas chocolate – am slowly getting through our stash now Veganuary is over, but once it’s gone, I’ll occasionally treat myself to dairy-free dark chocolate which is better for you anyway. I’ve replaced the cheese and crackers with rice cakes and houmous which I’m loving. Best of luck with the new regime! 👊🏻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah houmous! Had some yesterday as went to a friends for tea and both her and her daughter are vegetarian, thought then that I might have to either make/buy some. At the end of the day all the things I am looking to give up aren’t that good for you anyway! Processed and fatty!

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