Now vegan month is all done and dusted I wanted to wrap it all up and talk through a few things that stood out, from the bad to the good. I want to talk through a few things I experienced and chat about generally how easy it can actually be to live vegan in 2017. It’s worth noting that I am usually a meat eater, and the idea of even being vegetarian as recently as a couple of years ago was something completely alien for me that I couldn’t even fathom, but now I eat veggie about 80% of the time. So without further ado lets start with a few points:
Going vegan will not make you into a wellness god/goddess…
… and that’s a good thing. The preconception with a vegan diet (or plantbased as they like to call it), of late at least, is that it goes hand in hand with clean eating. Sure, it can be extremely healthy, but in reality vegan junk food exists and it’s one of the main things a lot of restaurants stick on their menu as the vegan option. Something that annoys me is how a lot of vegan places also lump all of their items in with sugar free and gluten free, as if deciding to cut out dairy means you also want to shun everything else in the quest to get yourself some form of completely fake wholesome glow; like one of those white people laughing at a salad on the cover of a diet book. One of the main questions I kept being asked, other than ‘do you miss cheese yet?’, was ‘have you lost weight, and are you feeling healthier?’ and the simple answer is no. It’s very easy to replace the bad things with others, but it did stop me from snacking anywhere near as much (although oreos are vegan and I ate far too many…). Basically, if you think going vegan is the answer to all your problems, maybe think twice.
A vegan month made me significantly more prepared with my meals
I generally try and take lunch in to work every day, but during a month where I had to more careful about what I was eating, I was much better at being ready. This meant cooking enough every night in the week to make enough for lunch the next day too. It also meant making sure there’s a good variety of recipes to hand so you aren’t eating a chick pea curry for the 5th time that week. It’s worth noting that a huge number of quorn products aren’t actually vegan.
I wouldn’t rush straight into being vegan without spending time veggie first
I see this as a particularly key fact. If you’re desperate to jump into being vegan, then do give it a go, but one of the reasons it went well is because I had already done a number of completely veggie months and my girlfriend is completely veggie. I eat almost entirely veggie in the week. If I’d jumped straight in without any of the above I think I’d have found it significantly more difficult.
Everyone has a different opinion on the best dairy free milk
Before the month started this was the big one for me, ahead of anything to do with cheese. I have several cups of tea a day and start most weekdays with cereal. Every single person I talked to suggested a different form of milk for each use. What I landed on from personal preference was unsweetened almond milk for both tea and cereal, then either almond or soy for a coffee. Maddie preferred oat milk for her tea; blood was almost shed over this dispute.
London is a very good place to live vegan
It’s such a huge and diverse city that you can find unusual ingredients, substitutes if you want them, and vegan options at a huge variety of places. There’s a thriving vegan scene across the city from ice cream through to pie & mash. That does mean that my experience was particularly easy in comparison to what some people will find. For instance, if you’re living in a small town then you may not find such variety, and some of the vegan options and some of the chain restaurants just aren’t any good yet.
Now I’m going to round up the best and worst of the places I ate out, followed by my favourite recipes from a few key books and sites.
There’s a lot of very bad vegan burgers out there, Nandos (their veggie can be made vegan without the mayo) do a wonderfully flavourless and textureless patty, The Diner do a particularly dry and forgettable patty of something non-specific. These were the two worst things I ate out over the month. A lot of places just think that adding beans, or simply adding more beans is ok. Baked beans are forgettable – stop it. Anyway on to the good stuff:
- Grain Store KX – for a place that puts veg at the center of what they do they actually only have a couple of vegan options, but the Brambletye farm oyster mushrooms in vegan XO sauce, wasabi pea coulis, herb tofu (£17) was something pretty special.
- Chin Chin Labs Ice Cream – they do a different vegan special every few weeks. I got to eat the 2 of them; Raspberry & Rose Jam and something with Passionfruit atop Tres Leches Cake. They also do a completely vegan version of their infamous hot chocolate, topped with coconut cream.
- Black Mylk – A new vegan ice cream company who only got going recently. Try their black sesame.
- Club Mexicana – Entirely vegan mexican food going about everything the right way. Their branding is spot on and the food is some of my favourite street food in London. Favourites are: Cheeze Fries (£4), Jackfruit Burrito (£7) and To-Fish Tacos (£6). They are at a number of street food locations and have a slightly different menu at each one.
- Young Vegans – Pie and mash, try the seitan & ale pie.
- SoDo Pizza Cafe – They do a vegan version of their Lorena where they sub the cheese for artichokes and it’s wonderful.
- Peanut Butter Bakery – Vegan doughnuts, you can find them as desserts in a few locations or at markets.
- Mildreds – Stalwarts of the London veggie & vegan scene most of their menu is vegan. If you’re ever at a loss and stuck for some inspiration then they’re a very good option.
- Fat Gay Vegan’s Hackney Down’s Vegan Market – On the 3rd Saturday of every month this is where you’ll find stalls from the likes of club mexicana, black mylk, peanut butter bakery, young vegans, temple of seitan, battered and a bunch of others.
Favourite Meal Recipes
As I mentioned above, having a strong backbone of recipes is essential so you don’t just end up eating the same thing every day. The main books I used were Fresh India (Meera Sodha), Vegan Street Food (Jackie Kearney), A Modern Way To Cook (Anna Jones) and Thug Kitchen; Eat Like You Give a Fuck. The top picks from these are:
- Butternut Squash and Black Eyed Bean Curry – Fresh India (and I’ve blogged it on here)
- Nasi Goreng – Vegan Street Food
- Dal Makhani – Vegan Street Food
- Crispy Avocado Tacos – Here
- Peanut Sriracha Soup – Here
- Burritos – Thug Kitchen (and a bit of winging)
- Jackfruit Pulled ‘Pork’ – Here
- Cornmeal Waffles – Thug Kitchen
- Coconut & Pea Soup – A Modern Way To Cook
Basically, there’s a whole host of great recipes kicking about and a lot of very inspiring people making new and inventive vegan recipes that aren’t all raw/sugar free/some form of fad. While I am not planning on going vegan full time I’m likely going to sub out my milk for something dairy free permanently and continue to eat veggie as often as I currently do.