The Vegan Diaries- a post script

A Beefeater dinner, ironically compiled of pork ribs and chicken.

<—–I ate this last night, and it was bloody marvellous. I don’t regret a single mouthful- I’ve been the to the gym four times this week and celebrated a relationship milestone so yeah, guilt free treats all round. But now I’m facing the start of another week and as I sit here in front of the TV enjoying a cheese on toast dinner I have to ask myself- what the hell is this Sinbad crap on Sky 1? Yeesh. I also have to ask myself if I feel as good as I did on Friday night. I don’t, but that’s no great surprise really as it’s been two days of yoghurt and cheese and omelette and chocolate and a fair amount of wine not to mention crappy cold wet weather and standard Sunday Night Slump. You know, that insidious depression that seeps into you as you realise that all you have left to do with the day is wait for it to be Monday. Horrors.
But taking all of this into account I’m still inclined to remember a previously mentioned clean feeling that was present towards the end of my vegan week. You know, after the headaches and intense tiredness and other moans and groans I had. My actual insides felt good. They don’t feel bad now, but they don’t feel as good as they did.
I enjoyed a meaty feast last night, but I didn’t miss it before. I’ve had a silly amount of cheddar for tea tonight but only because it was in the fridge and needed using up. I’ve had several opportunities for ice cream this weekend, and passed on all of them. No really I did.
I wont go on about my issues with milk, it takes too long and angers a lot of people. In short, I’m not an advocate of a high dairy diet. Meat is, essentially dead things and although I don’t feel an enormous moral compulsion that it is wrong to eat dead things, I can’t help thinking that maybe I don’t need to do so all the time. If I don’t really miss it, and possibly feel a bit better without it, then does avoiding it help everyone in a round about sort of way? I’m not going to deny myself, long term denial leads to shame spiral binges in my experience, but I’m going to cut down. More than I first thought. I might even eventually become a full weekday vegan.
It will start tomorrow morning, with a black coffee and go on to a chickpea salad lunch and a veggie stew dinner.

After that, well we shall have to see.


The Vegan Diaries- Day Seven: The Debunk

Yes, the end draws nigh. It’s been emotional. That was a lie, but I’ll get to that later, yet looking back on a week it’s not been so bad. It’s not been so great either but there have been many learning points on the way. I don’t know that I have any great insights to offer in reports but here goes.

Vegan Myth: It’s hard to go Vegan
Yeah, it’s not so bad you just have to think about everything you eat and be prepared to be shunned, especially by friends who fancy a pizza. I actually enjoyed my vegan Saturday, pottering around and trying different ways to use up the friendly stuff or fake the contraband substances with sunflower margarines and nut milk. It was interesting, and the results were palatable enough. But that was Saturday morning. Trying to find the time and energy to do all of that as well as go to work, do the washing, get to the gym, sort out the ironing, visit your nearest and dearest, ring your mum, paint your toes and pay your Barclaycard bill, well, ‘challenge’ doesn’t cover it. And that was just one day. There are days when I want to have quality time in my kitchen and days when I need to eat, quickly and efficiently and it was these days that made me hate this challenge. Because an instant vegan snack is fruit or crisps and when you only have a vending machine to provide, well, you get sick of Quavers pretty quickly let me tell you.

Yet another bag of quavers. More yawn than yum now.

Vegan Myth: Being Vegan Makes You Skinny
I weighed in every morning and it was not a happy experience. Maybe it was all the extra fibre moving slowly, but there was more of me every single day until this morning, when I came in a whole 100g lighter than I was a week ago. Net result? Bugger all.

Vegan Myth: Being Vegans Rids You Of Allergies
I have noticed how little I’ve used my asthma inhalers in the last week or so, especially when exercising. But I’ve been incredibly snotty. Some say detox affect, some say pollen. Who knows.

Vegan Myth: It will taste just as good if you substitute the ingredients
It wont. You might make it acceptable, or even tasty, but it’s not as good as the real thing.

Vegan Myth: Being Vegan Will Make You Healthier
Yeah, well, I’ve only done a week so I can’t really answer this definitively however I  felt crap a lot more than I’ve felt good this week and I’ve slept a clear nine hours every night (ten and a bit the last two nights) because I was bone tired. I’ve had some nagging headaches and some moments of intensely short temper. I mean, worse than usual. I certainly don’t smell healthy as my natural gas supply seems to have been escaping at every opportunity, I had no idea there was so much. I will go out on a limb and say that yes, without doubt, being vegan makes you fart. Long term I guess it would also reduce your cholesterol if it’s a problem and maybe the weight loss will come in with more time.

So there you have it, it’s not so bad and I can absolutely confirm one of my founding theories that yes, going vegan has made me a better cook and will go on doing so. Or at least I hope it will as to be perfectly honest, I don’t care so much about cooking or eating at the moment.

Yeah. Me. Not bothered about dinner.

Another chilli dinner.

Or breakfast for that matter. Lunch, tea, elevenses? Yeah, you can keep em. It’s not easy to be passionate about preparing a plate of beans and couscous again. Maybe it’s the cold tofurkey style I have done this in, perhaps by ditching it all at once I am cleansed of my foodstuff addiction. We’ll see. It is generally suggested that you go vegan in little bits, giving up red meat for a week, then chicken the next then so on until two months later you lunch on chickpeas and carrots without even thinking about it. I don’t know. But despite the alarming lack of interest I have in eating like this long term, a bit of me wonders if I could or indeed should because I have to admit that I do feel sort of, clean. I don’t know how else to put it and it’s not just in a puritanical yeah, no animals were harmed in the production of my day kind of way. I also believe, and always have, that an honest to goodness craving means that you are missing out on something nutritionally. I don’t mean that fancying a Mars Bar means you have a  low blood nougat count that needs addressing, but real cravings, by design, are there to make you top up on what you need. I’ve not craved any meat, hardly missed it to be honest. So, do I not really need it? Is it messing me up to be processing so much of it all the time? Questions, questions, too many questions.

I’m not going to go full time, I love omelettes too much and my father would disinherit me. But I’m going to lay off the dairy as much as possible, especially products that deploy stealth milk tactics (I’m looking at you, Tesco Value). I may do another week again one day but I think it’s more likely I’ll do an odd day here and there, maybe to de-bulge a little Christmas or even for Lent. We’ll see, we’ll see.

I need to go now and eat some ratatouille and (more) couscous because yes, I’m seeing this through to the bitter midnight end.  I shall sign off saying try it for yourself, it’s the only way to know, and it’s not that bad really.

The Vegan Diaries: Day Six- Sorry, I’m Vegan.

Way back in the day when I first decided to take on this vegan thing (about a week ago) one of my reasons for picking this time period was that I could be sure for a whole week that I was neither going to have nor be a dinner guest. This ended up not being strictly true over the weekend due to an impromptu visit from a thankfully vegan friendly individual on Sunday but oh, crap. I forgot about that training course (lunch provided) I was doing this week. Bugger.
I’ve been with these lovely sellers of learning before and knew that lunch would be a catered affair of doorstep sandwiches, deep fried cheese balls, pastry samosas and some evil creamy cheesecakes. Yum! Dammit! Quite clearly, I was only going to be able to eat the frisso leave garnish. Not a lunch conducive to expanding my knowledge.

The only Training Day refreshments I partook in today.

The solution is simple right? My employers have paid for a course that includes lunch. I should be fed. There is a clear note in the joining literature asking me to email Pam if I have any special dietary requirements. So email Pam I did. And told her in no uncertain terms that I would be bringing my own lunch this time, so don’t make too many sandwiches, ok thanks lovely bye. Gah. I blame a good deal of this on my being British and not wanting a fuss, especially when my own demands are in themselves ‘ a fuss’. A tiny proportion of people are vegans, maybe 4% I think, and if you’re not in the 4% you’re 99.9% likely to find that catering for one is a pain in the arse.
I know, I’ve been a pain in my own arse all week.
A vegan diet is restricted and somewhat demanding but it’s rarity makes it so mysterious. How many of the 96% actually know what’s ok for a vegan and what’s not? Less that you might imagine I think. It’s like the classic Gran comment of Vegetarian? I’ll do you some chicken…..people just don’t know. And as I have alluded to previously, animal products are everywhere and challenging to avoid when you know what you are looking for, and actively do so. What if you only have a vague idea about it that doesn’t really bother you?
Much as I didn’t want to appear rude and send over a long list of exactly what they could and could not provide for my refreshment, I doubly didn’t want to sit there and question the origin of bread in the hummus sandwich or request to see the ingredients label from a cereal bar. No. I’m not going to be that pain in someone else’s arse. I’m British, I wont have a fuss and I own a lunch box. The really ridiculous thing is that I didn’t just say hey, I’m vegan this week, I’ll bring a salad. Nor did I even just say I’ll bring a salad for fear of being seen as another fat girl on a fad diet. Which I sort of am, but not in the usual way. Instead I half fabricated something about having allergies and being on a restricted diet which was a pain the previously mentioned arse to cater for so, this time, I would bring my own lunch. Thank you very much.  I do have allergies you know. Ridiculous!!!!!

Maybe this is a true sign that I’m not a proper vegan and I know that I will be back on the animal products by the weekend without regret or hesitation. It seems that Real Vegans will tell anyone who wants to listen, and a good deal who don’t, all about why they are Vegans and why said listener should also be. Us Lipstick Vegans, if you will, know it’s all a bit much really and will be a happily left alone in the corner with a bowl of legumes and no questions asked .

Potential lunchtime minefields aside, it was a good day and I’m feeling a bazillion times better than yesterday. I’ve been headache free other than for about twenty minutes but I think that was more to do with walking home in the cool evening with very sweaty hair than any nutritional issues. Sitting here now, I feel good. I’m looking forwards to a dinner of pittas, my own hummus and roasted tomatoes. I could keep this up you know. Until I flash back once more to that moment at lunchtime when I was chowing down on my chickpea and avocado salad and a big tray of fresh sandwiches was put down next to me- fluffy white fragrant bread oozing chopped eggs and mayo.

I really, REALLY want an egg sandwich.

Two more sleeps, as the cool kids say.

The Vegan Diaries. Day Five- The Veganator

All fruit and no flesh makes Boomboom a sleepy grump.

If Vegan was an actual person, rather than a whole lifestyle thing, and that actual person walked into my living room right now, I think I would punch Vegan in the face.
If I had the strength to lift my arms that is. And then Vegan would no doubt kick my arse into next friday then go off in search of Sarah Connor as Vegan is clearly bigger and stronger than me, and I don’t think that I can beat it.
The general fatigue and fluey feeling was gone this morning but after a gym session this morning I have been ravenous all day. I’ve felt thirsty again all day putting away bottle after bottle of water and having that no fun fuzzy headache since about ten am. I’m again prone to blame this on sugar crashes and peaks despite my best efforts to up the protein and even the fat content of the day as I’ve either felt oddly bloated or suddenly starved. It’s the first day I can say I’ve had honest to goodness cravings too- mostly for creamy stuff which is most unlike me. I spent a good seven minutes at work this afternoon visualising a nice cup of tea with some semi skimmed and the inevitable biscuit. Still not missing meat that much though.

After completing my usual walk home from work today I was so exhausted and starving that I ate peanut butter with a spoon from the jar whilst waiting for the bath to fill up. Talk about shame spiral. Actually, I don’t want to talk about it any more.

I’m knackered and although I’m blaming the diet at the moment I will see it through to the end of the week. I hope to have better things to say tomorrow.

The Vegan Diaries: Day Four- Veganitis.

Light sensitive.
Lack of appetite.
Sore throat.

Having studied the symptoms carefully I can conclude that either:

A: I have contracted some hideous, debilitating vegan borne disease that will doubtless destroy me before the week is out.

B: I’m getting a cold.

Option A might be more likely than you think, though maybe less severe. Bloggers, cranks and health hacks galore claim that many of the above issues (plus a couple of others that are also present but I don’t know you well enough to discuss) could be down to detox effect. That is the gradual cleansing of my poor abused body making me feel worse for a little while in some kind of immuno-endurance test that I must pass in order to claim my super healthy powers.
To be honest, it sounds like a load of guff to me.
But it’s not a theory without precedent- giving up booze or smokes or even caffeine cold tofurkey can cause a lot of physical symptoms. And according to several self proclaimed experts, so can giving up eating meat. Something to do with re-alkalinising your insides. Hmm. Oddly enough, the best cure for this is to carry on not eating meat, and the people who came up with this theory and subsequent cure? Yup, you got it. People who want you to stop eating meat. Call me a cynic but this is where I stop trusting these apparent experts who will gladly charge you a fiver for some advice and ‘evidence’ that isn’t exactly provable one way or another. Could this vast lake of information based cleansing instruction just be so much lifestyle snake oil?

The answer to everything, yours for just three easy payments……

I’m struggling to believe that increasing my fruit and veg intake by this much is making me poorly. Let’s be honest, there are more Ultimate Health Tips out there that you can shake a nutritional stick at and hardly any of them agree. Be clean, go vegan, it’s the only way. Be natural, go animalistic and eat loads of meat and healthy fats, it’s the only way. Cow’s milk is allergenic to people, go dairy free, it’s the only way. Eat what the hell you want but fast once a week, it’s the only way.
But still, the listed complaints are uncannily close. But then again, a bazillion conditions present with ‘flu like symptoms’ including, you know, colds and flu. For every action there’s a reaction and for every detox ‘bad breath’ symptom there is the counter fact that I ate a crap load of garlic at lunchtime.

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet kids, the internet will also tell you that peanut butter is 10% made of grubs, Brett Michaels is dead and Justin Bieber is human. For now, I’m going with the cold theory and I’m pitching down to snuggle up with some vegetable soup and hope that an early night makes it all go away.

What’s the betting there’s lactose in lemsips?


The Vegan Diaries- Day Three and no clever tag line.

Last night’s bean feast.

Day three and all is well. Bought the sugars back into balance with some liberal addition of chickpeas and cut down on the fruit. Having said that I’m sitting here with a big old glass of apple juice. D’oh.

If there is a pain threshold associated with these things I must have passed it. I’m not craving steaks and eggs or milky tea or a big chunk of dairy milk but that’s not to say they wouldn’t be nice. Actually I’ve not been that hungry for anything at all. I’ve taken advantage of some time today to stock pile a little for the coming week by making a small vat of hummus and some scones. I know myself, and on a school day it’s convenience calories that could potentially be my downfall so having snackable stuff on hand will be a big help.

I don’t feel any different really although am noticeably thirstier than usual. I’ve also spent some time musing on various animal rights/health/evolutionary issues as to exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing or if indeed it is going to make any difference to any one or anything. Jury still out on that one.

Anyway it’s Sunday night and I’ve spent enough time infront of this screen today, I’m off for a cup of (black) tea and some Indiana Jones. More to come.

Almond & Chocolate Square Scones (yes, they’re vegan)

Square is the new round.

I love a scone and I’ve been missing a baked treat since beginning this vegan challenge so I rustled these up this afternoon and I’m pretty pleased. Quick to mix, baked in 10 minutes and as doughy and satisfying as I could have hoped for. Plus significantly lower fat than your average scone, so there! I’ve never been one to enjoy hours of cutting and re-rolling and cutting out little shapes from dough and I firmly believe that much like pastry- the more you work this kind of dough the heavier your end result will be. The delectable Valentine Warner made some square scones on telly the other weekend, and I am fully converted to his method for the rustic look to the end result as well as the reduced faffing in preparation.

Makes 6

330g self raising flour
20g ground almonds
80g vegan friendly margarine (or butter if you prefer)
3-4 tablespoons of cocoa solids (hotel chocolat macho is perfect) or dark chocolate chips
1 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
150ml almond milk

Set your oven to 200 degrees C and prepare a baking sheet. Mix your flour, ground almonds and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the margarine and rub into the dry ingredients throughly until you have a breadcrumb consistency. Stir in your chocolate chips or cocoa solids and sugar then make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add the almond milk a little at a time, stirring in the dry ingredients until you have a firm dough that is not sticky. Add more flour if you over do the wetness.
Turn out onto a floured board and roll roughly to about an inch thick. Cut into six and put on a baking sheet. Cook for about 8 minutes, to tell if your scone is cooked when you pick it up from the baking sheet (watch those fingers it’s hot) and tap the bottom of the scone- it should sound hollow.

Serve immediately with lots of fake vegan friendly (or not) butter or allow to cool and serve with some jam or for the non vegans clotted cream or nuttella.

Hot from the oven, they wont last long.