Your meating has been cancelled: my July as a vegan

So this month, as a test of willpower and an insight into the sorry, meat-free lives of others, I have become a vegan. Pardon my enthusiasm.

The rules of this lifestyle choice mean I can’t eat meat, and I can’t eat fish, eggs, dairy products of any sort, or honey.

“What about chocolate?” you might ask.

Well, it has dairy. So no.

“How about chicken?”

No.

“What about wine gums?”

They contain gelatine, so no.

The vegan diet is one I have successfully avoided for two decades. It is not something you could stumble into by chance. It is hard work, as I have discovered.

I’m a week into this diet and it’s forced my back into cooking again. I’ve so far made up a very nice tagine, a vegetable curry, a thick sweet potato soup and some strange lemon chargrilled pepper dish with quinoa (which is a bit like chewy cous cous).

But my dad thinks I’m nuts, I’m already clueless as to what to eat tomorrow and I am starting to dream about barbecued salmon.

I’ve begun to crave things I’m not normally even that bothered about. Hot chocolate, mussels, tabasco sauce. Last night I decided what I really wanted was stroganoff – a cream based dish I haven’t eaten in about ten years. So either I’m pregnant or this is my body telling me that something fundamental is missing from my culinary vocabulary.

Main courses are difficult to construct if you are used to the meat-and-three-veg paradigm. Desserts are even more difficult.

I asked the kind looking lady in Marks and Spencers if they sold dairy-free yoghurts and she looked completely thrown by the question. At one point I wondered if she was going to fall into the refrigerator section.

Convenience meals that don’t have eggs or cheese in them are almost impossible to find and, worse still, eating out does not work. Every single dish you will find on a standard restaurant menu fails the vegan test. Waiters and waitresses, almost without exception, will eye you up with anything from mild confusion to fire and brimstone derision.

So why bother? Well, I’ve been reading up. Most vegans argue that by buying and eating animal products you support, even if indirectly, animal suffering and dodgy mass farming for the sake of business.

Another reason they stick to the chick peas is that animal-related food production requires more energy and land than arable farming. Thirty cows in a field can sustain fewer Cumbrians than that same field filled with barley and, on a larger scale, meat-eating is considered less efficient and therefore less helpful in feeding the world population.

That’s all well and good but it does not solve my yoghurt deficiency and my newfound obsession with Russian stews, and while you can get vegan things from vegan shops in vegan towns, they are hard to come by, more expensive and they vary wildly on the taste scale.

One exception to this is vegan ice cream, which I do solemnly testify is amazing and should be eaten everywhere, by everyone, everyday. Pass me a spoon please.

This month is going to go one of two ways:

1) My body will get over its craving for rum and raisin ice cream and I will grow to like this purer diet. My energy levels will soar and my skin will glow like that of a flawless Blake-inspired newborn baby.

2) I will become absolutely sick of pasta, my vitamin D levels will deplete, my skin will fall off and I’ll sack the whole thing off and never want to hear the dreaded V word every again.

Wish me luck.

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3 Responses to “Your meating has been cancelled: my July as a vegan”

  1. Wow! That’s very impressive. Good luck. I’ve been a vegetarian for, erm, 26 years now but think I’d struggle with trying to go vegan.
    Do follow up on how you get on. What next? Ramadan is coming up soon, you know.

  2. Ross Cooke Says:

    Hi Helen, Long time reader, first timer commentor, Maybe you can help?…
    I am an unashamed meat eater, in the wild I would hunt my own food, even though I’m pretty sure a floppy little bunny could take me in a fight.
    I believe in the food chain and that we (in our natural environment) should be proud to be on top.
    Can you help me understand how people can feel such affinity with animals besides from humans? Does it stem from anthropomophised characters in film and television, is from their parents, or is it all original, honest to goodness ideals?

    Also, keep up the good work, I’m a massive fan.

  3. livinglearningeating Says:

    It’s not about restriction – I’m not vegan, but as my vegan dinner last night shows (http://livinglearningeating.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/vegan-dinner/) you can get some yum-o vegan food 🙂
    And there are plenty of vegan chocolates, nut butters, pastries, meat replacements, etc. that you can find online (for relatively low cost) to round out your diet. Good luck!

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