Day Fifteen – Halfway there

21st January 2018

After a largely frustrating week of vegan eating which included a lowlight of my stomach grumbles violating East Coast Train’s quiet carriage policies due there being literally nothing on their menu that I could eat and 2 ‘walk outs’ from Pret A Manger, I was looking forward to proper meal last night. Celebrity chef and fellow silver fox, Marcus Wareing has jumped on the plant-based bandwagon by offering a vegan tasting menu and his restaurant Tredwell’s. The thought of some fine dining food has kept me going during a week where the smell of bacon from a newly opened cafe on my commuter route has been taunting me daily. It’s hard to describe the effect the smell of bacon has on a man starved of meat but when/if I start eating meat again a bacon and egg sandwich on thick, white bread drenched in real butter and ketchup (NOT brown sauce), will be one of the first things I feast on. Given I’m unlikely to get a book deal from this blog I could perhaps look at writing an erotic-style novel based around eating meat when I’m done with this ridiculous diet.

Anyway, back to my vegan tasting menu at Tredwell’s. The last time I ate a Marcus Wareing menu I tasted the finest lamb I’ve ever eaten, a cheese and truffle dish that I can still taste if I close my eyes and concentrate, and some mackerel thing that made me realise I actually like mackerel. I was therefore really excited to see what MW could do with a turnip. We opted for adding on the vegan wine pairing too – who wouldn’t?!

The menu kicked off with a parsnip and coconut soup. I’m not usually a fan of soup it has to be said. This was delicious though, all three spoonfuls of it. The wine was dry and surprisingly decent – something called Dao from Portugal.

After seeing steak after steak being fired out of the kitchen for ‘normal’ people to tuck into I was really looking forward to my salt baked carrots… really I was. Again a tiny dish and also had the benefit of looking like a perfectly cooked piece of beef. Despite my growing meat cravings this was really good, the carrots themselves were tasty and the pine nut crumb and aioli worked really well with it. The wine was ok at best – a German Riesling.

Tiny, tasty starters out of the way I was completely ready for a ‘proper’ plate of food. Artichoke, puy lentils, spiced prune and tempura calçots(?!) wouldn’t traditionally qualify as ‘proper’ food to me but being a millennial (much to my delight I am young enough to be considered in this category) my mind should be open to such things. Unfortunately this was one of the most disappointing plates of food I’ve eaten, possibly ever. It was so one dimensional, everything tasted earthy and nothing had texture, except the random tempura veg, clearly served on the side as it has no place with this dish and the grit/soil that was still present. This was perhaps a desperate effort to add the otherwise textureless meal. To top all that the Sangiovese it was served with was predictably crap. I’ve seen Mr Wareing enough on Masterchef to know he dishes out plenty of criticism so I won’t feel bad for saying how rubbish this was.

Not to be too deterred we thought we would add the vegan cheese board to our meal. We shouldn’t have. Each of the three cheese-but-not-cheeses were unpleasant in their own unique way. Vegan cheese is quickly becoming one of the least pleasant things in the world.

Next up was an apple meringue pie. No idea how they managed to make meringue without egg but they did and it was perfectly scoffable.

Lastly we had poached pear with ginger cake and pine nut cream. Poached pear – great, ginger cake – great, pine nut cream – offensively disgusting. Two out of three ain’t too bad I guess. The dessert wine, apparently Hungary’s finest, was real tasty too.

I really admire restaurants for putting in the effort to cater to emerging food trends, I think it’s hugely arrogant to ignore people’s eating preferences so fair play to a chef as successful a Marcus Wareing for embracing veganism. What I take from this though, is that it would be unlikely I’d be able to continue to enjoy eating out in the same way I used to if I were to continue with this diet. If Marcus can’t whip up a decent fine dining vegan meal I’m not sure who can. I love eating out, I like trying new food too, maybe that means I’m a foodie, I don’t know, mainly because I’m not sure how you define this. But if I were a foodie could I maintain this on a vegan diet? Excluding 90% of food available to me and limiting myself to, at best, one choice on a typical menu feels like the opposite of being a foodie. Could you consider yourself a film buff if you only ever watch Rom-Coms? Could I claim to be a sports fan if I only ever watch and play golf? Probably not I’d say.

As I said it’s been a tough week and I’ve been missing meat for the first time. With that an inspiring quote to remind me why people go vegan is much needed. There are clearly some really profound reasons why people go vegan, today I’ll hand over to Natalie Portman who said the following in an interview with Hello magazine:

“If I have dairy, I immediately break out.”

It’s hard for me to picture anything other than Natalie incarcerated and looking for a way out of prison. Desperate looking around for a way out Portman sees some cheddar, she’s takes a nibble and some kind of Popeye-esque transformation occurs allows her to bend the bars and wander out, freedom. Either that or she gets spots if she has milk. I think the former is more likely though.

Day Thirteen – Pret A Manger is dead to me.

17th January 2018

Culinary peaks and troughs. That’s how I’d describe the last few days. Ive been to the vegan-friendly, and usually reliable, Pret and Crussh for lunch this week – on both occasions I was met with empty vegan shelves. Today I walked into Pret at around half three absolutely famished, I’d had an apple all day and been on the move all around West London doing food tasting (none of which I could eat) and looking at how biscuits are merchandised in supermarkets – torture for a hungry vegan. As is now commonplace in a food-life without impulse, I had already checked out the vegan offering online en route. Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese you say? Hello! I was practically skipping into Pret ready to gorge myself on a boxful of gooey carbs. When I arrive my smile quickly evaporated, the only thing vegan left was soup. Soup!! And tomato soup at that. Out I went, skip replaced with some kind of burly, angry march. If anyone went into Pret at Green Park at around 15:31 today and wondered what they slipped on IT WAS MY TEARS OK!!

Thankfully evenings have been better, prepare yourself for a little tour of some delicious vegan food.

1. Bean and lentil chilli with home baked tortilla chips (Homemade)

Iiiiiiiiin one – you won’t be missing the meat with this homemade chilli topped with Oatly’s oat fraiche, jalapeños and avocado and served with a side of tortilla chips. That was, for the avoidance of doubt, a reference to 80’s favourite game show Bullseye.

2. Fried mock chicken and sweet potato fries (Mildred’s, Camden)

Just like chicken tenders, but with no chicken. What’s not to like? I also avoided the sluggish service at Mildred’s by ordering from Deliveroo. Winner, winner, mock-chicken dinner. This seriously satisfied a craving and makes me rethink my whole ‘don’t-try-to-replace-meat’ approach to eating vegan.

3. Spaghetti with avocado pesto, garlic bread and broccoli (Homemade)

Hint: a sprinkling a vegan Parmesan is completely pointless as it tastes of absolutely nothing. That aside another delectable dinner that’s completely vegan.

4. Quorn fillet pitas with spinach and pumpkin seed salad and CHIPS! (Homemade)

Imagine receiving the worst Nando’s imaginable and you’re almost there. Actually delicious, I just live for Nando’s. The highlight was finding some vegan mayo that tastes just like mayo, well bowled Tesco, well bowled.

So that’s been my dinner for the last 4 days, who said I’d run out of things to write about by now? I should clear something up here, when I say homemade, whilst factually accurate this could be misleading as I didn’t actually cook any of this food myself. Behind every begrudging vegan there is a pissed off woman that wishes she never promised to cook for me all month if I committed to veganuary. She probably underestimated quite how stubborn I can be.

Food aside it’s all quiet when it comes to ethical debates and moral dilemmas. Feels like everyone is bored of veganuary already and I just couldn’t bare to follow those horrific Facebook groups any longer. All this means there’s very little vegan controversy at the moment. Don’t fret I’ve handed over responsibility of providing today’s quote over to a comedian that was once culpable for no fewer than 3 formal complaints being raised to my previous company’s HR team after he did an after dinner gig at our Christmas Party. Step forward Mr Jimmy Carr.

“Did you know the number of vegan’s has increased by over 300% in the last few years? I’m not sure how I missed that as it’s not like they go on about it all the fucking time”.

Funny and true. I do seem to have taken to the vegan role well in that sense as most of my first conversations of the year with friends and colleagues have begun with “so you’ve gone vegan?” or “how’s the vegan life treating you” or my personal favourite “you knob!”. That last one might not have anything to do with being vegan. I actually called myself that twice this week, both as a result of leaving my keys at work. Interesting I left my keys at work twice in my lifetime, both this week – I’m blaming veganism, it stupid makes you.

I’ll leave you with something mildly thought-provoking. Given that most of the CO2 output from an omnivorous diet comes from living animals, as opposed to the slaughter and production process, does that mean if everyone became vegan tomorrow we would negatively impact climate change?

BV out.

Day Ten – Run and a Bun

14th January 2018

Another day, another sound night sleep – over 7 hours again! The change in my sleep habits have been nothing short of incredible. I really believe I’ve slept more this week than during any other week of the last decade. This has included time during holidays, when I’ve had much less stressful jobs and when I’ve been healthier and fitter. As much as I try I can’t attribute any other factor for this sustained amenability to being unconscious. If nothing else is achieved this month at least it’s looks like I’ll get a long overdue catch up on my Z’s.

Although the improvement in sleep has not led to an increase in energy levels, I did manage to fight the urge to Netflix binge and get myself out for a run. After struggling around a 6.8km loop last weekend I was prepared for some more pain today. Given I’ve got 3 weeks to prepare for a 10km I signed up for, I thought I’d best aim to get at least 8km in today. I knew I’d have to be reasonable loose with this goal given last weekend so I planned on swinging reasonably close to home after around 6km to ensure I could back out if I wanted/needed to. Despite the lack of training and, even more blatant lack of self belief I eased to 10.2km and finished with plenty left in the tank. I was pretty perplexed by this, I’d planned on at least one short run this week but didn’t get around to it, I actually left my running trainers at work so I managed this is some old heavy kicks too – which makes hitting 10km today even more surprising.

The above shows this week’s run, with last week’s effort below. Anyone familiar with Strava might notice the prolonged uphill stints today too (kilometre’s 3-8) – something that usually saps my energy and slows me down dramatically as you can clearly see from kilometre 5 last weekend on the below stats.

I felt lighter and fitter this week and it feels like I’ve had a few weeks of training under my belt since last weekend. The reality is that I’ve done nothing over the last 7 days that would typically lead to me being able to run so much faster, longer and easier. As much as this cynical vegan has tried to find a reason other than my diet, I’m going to have to concede. True, this may be an oddity, there has been the occasional time I’ve pulled out a particularly decent trot from, seemingly nowhere, this improvement felt somehow more pronounced though. I’m looking forward to seeing if this is an actual improvement in my fitness due to this diet or just a particularly good day.

There are a handful of athletes (not putting myself in the athlete bracket) that are on vegan diets, some notable inclusions here are Venus Williams, Lewis Hamilton, David Haye and Jermaine Defoe. The latter two on this list have credited plant-based eating with allowing comebacks late in their careers. If there is benefit to a vegan diet when it comes to sport and fitness then I’d really like to understand the science behind it. I get that increased sleep aids recovery so that maybe has something to do with it, especially given the generally older age of vegan athletes. It’s clearly possibly to get the right level of proteins, albeit not easy, and with top athletes having nutritionalists and chefs they can hit their protein target without issue. But protein intake and sleep can be achieved without being vegan, as can the nutritional benefits of eating more vegetables. I’ve searched for some science to validate why a vegan diet can be beneficial to athletes but I can’t find anything other than articles which claim it doesn’t necessarily hinder performance as opposed to aiding it – if anyone does find some compelling research please do share.

I celebrated the 10km run and accompanying expelling of 1k of calories with a massive burger, life is about balance after all.

I can understand why if anyone thinking of the Miliband-bacon-sandwich moment when seeing that photo. The burger came curtesy of a trip to ‘Arancini Brothers’ on the border of Camden and Kentish Town. This is another restaurant that’s offering an enhanced vegan selection for January – smart move. Unsurprising rice was the replacement for the beef patty which, although tasty, led to standard lack of texture in a veggie burger. I’m not sure how healthy it is to replace protein with more carbs either, I’m assuming I made an unhealthy meal even unhealthier. The effect of this kind of meal appears to be hunger creeping up on me much faster than with a high protein meal as 2 hours after my chow down my stomach is growling for something – maybe it’s missing tofu?

Today’s inspiring quote needs to come from an vegan athlete. For anyone questioning how a vegan could compete at the top level in sports, ex-world heavyweight champion, David Haye has the answer, kind of.

“What’s the closest relative to a human? The ape. They’re 20 times stronger than man bite they’re predominantly vegan.”

It’s probably worth remembering that Haye chalked up only his third loss in 10 years the year after he became vegan. Just saying.

Day Nine – Food, inglorious food

Saturday 13th January

Having tried my hand at discussing non-food matters a bit over the last few days I’ll get back to the important stuff – Food!

I had a cracking vegan breakfast this morning. I was up in Sheffield and my veggie brother recommended a place for us to meet in. Scrambled tofu was the reason this place was the one for us. It wasn’t completely disgusting which, is seemingly as good as it gets for me with bean curd. What was excellent though were the veggie sausage patties – I actually found these more than just edible. This vegan fry up still had to me bulked out with some carb-tastic hash browns so nutritional value is likely to be worse than a proper fry up.

Lunch was decent too, some homemade burgers done with quinoa and carrot. After going to see the rather excellent Darkest Hour we had a hankering for a curry. Off we went to our local curry house, this was the only time I’ve really hated my decision to become vegan. I hesitantly explained to our cheery waiter that we were vegan. His smile dropped and he initially showed us a couple couple of sides that were suitable. One of the two choices was pilau rice. Clearly the table next to us were taking part in veganuary and had the same issue as they pointed out the biryani was ok – not in my opinion. Who even bothers with a biryani at a curry house? It’s as pointless as a korma. Not to be deterred we persevered and asked if the paneer jalfrezi could be done without paneer. He said it would be pointless. Game over, we left, devastated that our local curry house is off limits.

Thankfully we found a little Nepalese curry house around the corner from home that had a vegan menu. This was a belter of a ruby regardless of whether it was vegan or not. Evening saved!

Daal, curry, bhaji, samosa, roti – the full whack and I felt as full as I have in nine days.

All this food (and a couple of beers) meant I shovelled down a hefty 2,800 calories today, the running shoes are being prepared as I type. Too many carbs and not enough protein – the usual story. I tried to find a decent vegan protein bar to help combat my dietary shortcomings. All of them were high in carbs and relatively low in protein – fail.

So this just leaves me to find a suitable quote to end with. Keen to point out that there are some normal vegans in the world I turn today to Uri Geller who said:

“The best part of being vegan is the purity and peace of mind one experiences and the strong connection I feel to the animal kingdom.”

Surely all that cutlery he gets through ends up landfill? Priorities Geller, priorities!

Day Eight – A breakthrough!

12th January 2018

I need to start with doing something I don’t do very often. You’re about to witness me admit I made a mistake. You may be thinking I’m about say I now totally buy into veganism, but this is bigger. A few days ago I mentioned on this very blog that I will not accept the term ‘veganuary’ and that it was stupid. Well I whole-heartedly rescind that view and I’m now a stout supporter of this term and wonder how we can all participate in creating more of these amazing events.

The reason is also worthy of becoming my daily quote such is the significance of it. I can’t describe this quite as well as an image from Twitter can:

Regardless of whether this experiment enlightens me in any way, I can finish VEGANUARY safe in the knowledge that I’ve contributed in a small way to pissing off Piers Morgan. Vegans rejoice!

I’m sure it went without being noticed but I will make the admission that I couldn’t be arsed to write a post yesterday. My dreams of this someday becoming a thirty-chapter work of literary art appears to be over. If anyone has seen Sinners on Netflix you’ll forgive me. If you’ve not seen this and don’t forgive me, then I don’t care, I’m an almighty vegan so I need not apologise to a mere omnivore.

This brings me onto my subject today; Vegan Facebook groups. I joined a couple of these thinking I might learn more about veganism, find some decent recipes and even gain some insightful perspective.

At best I read some mildly irritating things such as people discussing the best way to ‘transition’ to a vegan diet. I mean, come on, transition? This isn’t Brexit, you don’t need David bloody Davis negotiating a part tofu part bacon salad for two years, you’re eating stuff for **** sake! Stop eating one perfectly edible thing you don’t want to eat and start eating another perfectly edible thing you do want to eat! Perhaps I should have excluded the word ‘mildly’ from the first line of this paragraph.

The stuff that is really disheartening though is when people post questions containing fair concerns being raised by their friends such as this:

“Hi guys! So I’m new trying to transition to vegan, but I’m hearing a lot of criticism. What do I say to people who say I won’t get enough “vitamins and protein, fiber, etc” by going vegan?”

Let’s not dwell on the ‘T’ word again here. Let’s even forget the fact that this is an actual adult asking a random Facebook group what they should say to people they know (deep breaths). Once we get past this it seems like some perfectly legitimate concerns that this person’s friends have raised, and actually a perfectly legitimate question to post on a vegan Facebook group wall.

The responses from the enlightened members of this group ranged from the defensive:

“It’s literally non of their business what you’re doing, ignore them the best you can that’s just what I did and they came around eventually or just left me alone”

To the rude and aggressive:

“Tell them to fuck off”

And my personal favourite

Since when is a cheeseburger or a pork chop a multivitamin?!”

Are these reasonable responses to reasonable comments? It’s sad to think that the vegans in this group have had such criticism from their omnivorous friends and colleagues that their natural reaction is so defensive/aggressive/weird. That’s one point of view anyway. The other might be why do these people not feel that somebody who isn’t on an extreme diet plan warrants being treated with such disdain. Whichever it is it’s depressing!

My omnivorous friends and colleagues have been incredible supportive and genuinely interested in my rationale behind my choice. For that my friends, I thank you.

In other news I sampled vegan cheese on a pizza from a popular high-street chain and is was pretty terrible. It coats your mouth in some very, very odd way, it’s absolutely indescribable and seriously unpleasant. Hoping this effect was unique to this particular cheese I took some tasty smoked vegan cheese I’d had before and melted this on some bread, same result. Lesson – vegan cheese is no good for melting. Hope – somebody proves me wrong and recommends a suitable alternative. I also had some tofu noodles – no love for tofu yet.

Sleep is still great, protein is still lacking, iron tablets have been consumed. I’m sure you’ll all sleep better knowing that.

BV out.

Day Six – Vegans with Benefits

10th January 2018

I’m almost a week in to my leafy hell so I thought I’d consider if the purported benefits of a vegan diet are becoming a reality. I’ve even added a rating out of 10 for each category which marks veganism’s impact vs. the anticipated benefit – all my opinion of course.

Environment 2/10

My biggest expectations in embarking on veganism was that I’d be contributing to a better environment and help reduce climate change. Naturally with this being the overwhelming pro-vegan point for me I’ve done more homework on this point than others. What I’ve found has been really disappointing. It seems that cutting out meat and dairy leads to a much smaller reduction in my carbon footprint than I was expecting (See day 4 of my blog). I was also sent a link to an incredibly interesting article highlighting the limitations of a vegan diet when it comes to delivering a lower carbon future. The Guardian article suggests veganism is a sticking plaster as opposed to the stitches for healing the wound opened up by our general wastefulness and greed.

Sleep 9/10

Being a long-term, casual insomniac who has tried all manner of pills, remedies and techniques to combat this problem, I was sceptical about how a simple change in diet could help my cause. My scepticism was clearly misplaced as I haven’t had a bad night sleep since going vegan. The change has been unbelievable dramatic. I have to be mindful that an extended break from work has helped me to drop off a lot of psychological baggage over the last few weeks. This may also have played a part but at present I am amazed by the difference veganism has had in such a short space of time.

Weight loss 0/10

Simply put there hasn’t been any. It’s early days yet, of course, but the high levels of sugar and calories I’ve taken on lead me to believe this won’t come easily. No noticeable difference at present but I’ll jump on the scales in another week when I replace the sent I threw against the wall today.

Energy Levels 3/10

I was expecting a reasonably big improvement in my energy levels. Despite my head finding my pillow ever-more amenable I have been pretty tired for the last 3 days. I’m told this could be due to a lack of iron as opposed to reduced protein. I’ll start popping some iron pills to see if this does make a difference. Surely more sleep should led to more energy.

Meat Cravings 10/10

I thought by now I’d be struggling to think of anything other than bacon, bacon-wrapped chorizo and bacon-wrapped chorizo on a bed of steak. I haven’t missed meat, or dairy as it happens, at all. The food I’ve eaten has generally been delish and I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all. Shock!

Skin 0/10

Not a huge priority but I stuck it on the list as I’ve heard so much about one of the first signs of veganism being a youthful glow to ones skin. I present I still look like a knackered old man so nil pwa.

Overall it’s a bit of a mixed bag, some good results and some bad. The improvement in sleep has been incredibly noticeable, long may this continue, and the lack of meat cravings is a real surprise. The environmental benefits are a bit of a disaster though. It’s early days and anything can change.

As a mid-week pick-me-up I look to evolutionary extraordinaire, Charles Darwin who profoundly claimed:

“There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.”

Until I see an animal sit through a winter Ashes series or own an Arsenal season ticket I don’t believe they can experience pain and misery like us.

Day Five – Seitan’s Breath

9th January 2018

I just love hearing what prompts people to become vegan or vegetarian. The reasoning can sometimes be rational and logical, sometimes less so. I ate roast puffin when I was recently in Iceland and a friend tucking into steak asked how I could eat something so cute, I sighed and realised I could drink scotch whilst simultaneously biting my tongue. I searched high and low for somebody’s inspirational trigger for cutting out the meat, after looking to Ghandi for yesterday’s profound words it only seemed fitting to turn to Miley Cyrus to follow one of history’s truly great people. According to Miley rationalised:

“The reason that I started this was because I had a fish that was highly intelligent. He really knew who I was, he really got excited when I was home. One day I went to a sushi restaurant with a few of my friends and they were serving blowfish. And I thought, this is an intelligent animal.”

Today was a good day for vegan-friendly scoffing. Not only did I manage to have a normal lunch when I visited a training centre for a course but I finally managed to get a decent amount of protein without the need for a supplement. Knowing that lunch was out of my control was justifiable cause for apprehension. Whilst restaurants largely seem to have embraced the need for vegan options and supermarkets are clearly on board with catering to the fussiest of eaters, food provided by event space caterers was likely to be a different proposition. Thankfully the chaps and chapettes at Wallacespace in Covent Garden are on the ‘veganuary’ ball. I popped up to see the guys in the cafe in the morning to ask if anything on the menu was vegan friendly and was cheerfully informed I’d be treated to spicy black beans, rice and a choice of 3 salads. Not too shabby. Given my recent attention to protein intake I went for hefty portion of quinoa and radish – all this gave me a big old chunk of protein which was much needed as it’s taken me noticeably longer than usual to shake the tight quads from my weekend run, something a colleague claimed could be down to my inability to get a decent amount of protein down me – I shall monitor this as I step up my mileage in the coming weeks.

Dinner called for a trip to everyone’s favourite Japanese high street chain – Wagamama. They have a tasty little concept called Noodle Lab in Soho where they experiment with emerging food trends. For January they’ve gone to town on vegan dishes. I sampled the standard starters of veggie gyoza’s, aubergine bao and a bowl of edamame – I can’t afford to miss the opportunity for high protein greens at the moment. My go-to at Waga’s is a chicken katsu curry – I’m sure I’m not alone with this and the prospect of a katsu-less trip was a little depressing. Thankfully the clever chefs here used Seitan to recreate my favourite dish. This was my first foray into ‘wheat meat’ – and it is the closest thing to a real meat substitute I’ve tried (learn more about Seitan here). Seitan is gaining popularity as a method of giving vegetarians and vegans a high protein alternative to flesh, House of Seitan in Hackney use this wheaty wonder to create a load of meat free fast food for the less health conscious plant eater. Although extremely high in protein it’s not all good news as reported here, the high salt and massive gluten content mean it’s not really suitable for everyday consumption, shame as it’s incredibly tasty and versatile.

All this scoffing led to me to getting a hefty 125g of protein down me today while keeping fat intake down to an acceptable level. Sugar is still proving a challenge despite me cutting it out of tea and coffee. Ultimately I consumed a hefty 2,600 calories which is still not great so I need to solve my sugar dilemma if I’m going to shed some weight during this trial.

When I pictured a vegan diet I imagined finding tasty, fulfilling food would be much more difficult than eating healthy, surprising I’m having the opposite problem. The food I’ve eaten (egg-free mayo aside) has been generally immense. Whether it be dishes cooked at home or by friends or when grabbing lunch on the go or visiting a restaurant I have eaten some delicious food over the last 5 days.

In my final piece of good news today an unintended consequence of a vegan diet seems to be a clear reduction in the amount of morning breath I’m inhaling. My girlfriend is adamant that her usual AM death breath has gone since cutting out the dairy. I just know she’ll be thrilled with me sharing her success story so I’m going to sign off now and wait patiently for the undoubted rewards coming my way for using this platform to celebrate her success.

Day Four – Enveganmental

8th January 2018

Conscious that this is in danger of becoming a food blog I’ve opted for a different approach today. You may want to tune out now as this isn’t going to light-hearted and funny (some may say I should have started my first blog with that disclaimer!). Today I’m going to blog about the environment, Mother Nature, planet Earth, and so on. I warn you – there are charts, and calculations! So buckle up and let me begin with some inspiring words from a man who’s virtue knew no boundaries, excuse the obvious sexism too, they were different times back then.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed”

Mahatma Gandhi

One of the most powerful pro-vegan messages I’ve noticed over the last year has been how much more CO2 is expelled by producing red meat for consumption in contrast to other forms of food. I’ve stuck a chart in below that shows this impact and it looks pretty severe. I’ve been carrying the image of this chart with me for a while, the guilt proving to be a bit of unshakeable baggage for somebody that has an above average consideration for environment issues.

I’ve always been pretty contentious with understanding my own carbon footprint. This is the third time in my adult life that I’ve been car-less, admittedly living in London it’s pretty easy to go without owning a car, much easier than when I was living on the border of Manchester and Salford where public transport was much more limited, this was unfortunately before the days of health apps, I’d have definitely been hitting 15,000 20,000 steps on most days back then. I’ve also been massively aware of the negative impact of the flights I take to enable me to fulfil my passion for travel – this has always been a huge source of guilt for me, ever since I first measured my CO2 footprint online (you can do this here if you’re so inclined).

My excitement over the positive impact of replacing meat and dairy with plants led to me try to quantify the environmental impact of this change in diet. The previous chart shows eating vegetables produces only a fifth of the CO2 emissions than that of red meat. When looking at this as part of a typical diet this apparently this translates to a 40% reduction versus a average omnivorous diet according to the rainbow coloured stacks below. Not quite as profound a change as I’d hoped for but still a pretty hefty reduction that should help me to counteract the sins of air travel.

I completed the footprint calculator based on my present vegan diet and lifestyle, unsurprisingly, it turns out my footprint is too high, annual carbon emissions relating to me are 16.9 tonnes which is 169% of my share, turns out that 60% of my emissions come from travel, given that I don’t own a car the bulk of this clearly comes from flying. I looked at the following scenarios to see what change each would have on my emissions:

  • Omnivore – 17.3 tonnes
  • Omnivore doing 1 less short flight per year – 16.8 tonnes
  • Vegan travelling by a medium car – 19.9 tonnes

There are countless other scenarios I could do but the quick conclusions to draw from this calculator (which gives different results that the stripes bars) are that being (probably) hipster vegan versus eating some meat meal saves about 0.4 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is slightly less than a flight to Western Europe, so I’d seemingly be doing more good for the environment by taking the Eurostar to Amsterdam next month as opposed to flying, than I would be by being vegan for a year. Even more surprising is that it seems it would take 6 and a half people switching from omnivorous eating to vegan eating just to counteract the damage done by a medium sized petrol or diesel car being driven for around 20 hours a week. This has clearly not been calculated particularly accurately and the difference in numbers between two sources I’ve referred to clearly show the varying estimations being made but, nonetheless, it’s (plant-based) food for thought.

Despite this vegan being obviously begrudging I am genuinely disappointed by these results. I care about the damage we do to the environment and I had hoped that one of the benefits to being vegan would be a significantly reduced negative impact on the environment. Given my rational is largely based on undoing some of the wrong caused by my overuse of air travel I can only hope that I’ll find enough other benefits from veganism to help redress my moral misdemeanours.

On a slightly more chirpy note, today I was asked if my diet had caused an increase in flatulance – it has not! I also discovered that Alpro custard tastes amazing (actually better when cold than hot). I was also sent a link by a friend which reported that Tesco has launched it’s own-brand vegan range – seems to be incredibly generous to do such a thing to cater for a group that makes up just 0.8% of the UK population – filling a consumer need or clever PR? You decide.

Day Three – Moob Watch

7th January 2018

Warning – today’s blog contains some delicious looking food.

For those of you that read yesterday’s blog you’ll know that I went for dinner at a friend’s house last night, little did he know went he invited me that I had just embarked on this month of Veganism. Credit where it’s due he didn’t suddenly make his excuses or, indeed, erase all trace of our friendship, something I’d be quite tempted to do if I was in his position, instead he saw this as a culinary challenge to take on.

I had my own challenge in finding some vegan friendly wine, little did I know that eager winemakers uses fining agents to speed up the production process, fining is the removal of the little molecules of, erm, stuff, that build up in the wine during production. Given time this stuff separates from the wine naturally but fining agents act like magnets and bring all the little stuff together to make a fewer big bits of stuff that can be removed more easily, evidently I’m not exactly an expert on this subject but hopefully this makes sense. These fining agents tend to be casein (milk protein), gelatin (animal protein), albumin (egg whites) and isinglass (fish bladder protein) so all a no-go for a dedicated vegan such as myself. Right before beginning a debate on whether vegans can eat plancentas and, brace yourself, bogies, a friend of mine suggested a website (Barnivore) to check if the wine was vegan, very useful and surprising to come from this particular friend, feel free to weigh in on the rather profound subject matter he’s provided. Eventually we found a red and a white that were labelled as vegan-friendly, unfortunately they were terrible.

Crap wine in hand we headed over to our friends. Given the challenge he had on his hands, I admit I was keeping my eyes peeled for a suitable takeaway establishment should he have fluffed his lines or be so pissed off with me for making him cook vegan that he wouldn’t even answer the door. On the contrary I was greeted with an enthusiastic welcome and was hastily ushered into the kitchen to be talked through how he created a mean-looking vegan friendly cottage pie. There was genuine pride over his creation, and rightly so as vegan or not this was an awesome meal. Substituting the meat for chickpeas and lentils meant there was loads of texture and meant that I was suitably stuffed, albeit after a second helping. One thing I have noticed is that feeling stuffed after eating vegan food isn’t nearly as uncomfortable as feeling stuffed with dairy and meat. Said friend’s partner had been slightly less enthusiastic about the prospect of cooking, and eating, a vegan meal. Nevertheless she still whipped up an awesome apple and hazelnut cake which looked, and tasted, awesome. This was served with some seriously tasty vegan ice-cream (Swedish Glace was the brand FYI – highly recommended!). I was genuinely impressed, not only with the considerable effort our friends put into catering for our very limiting dietary requirements, but with the quality of the food.

Over dinner, naturally, the conversation came around to why I’d made the decision to try veganism, a particularly valid question from this friend as last time we dined together was at Hawksmoor where we consumed what must have been close to our combined body weight in juicy, tender, rare fillet steaks. I explained how it was essentially a requirement given my abnormal annoyance to all things vegan, and, if I wanted to be able to argue about the sheer stupidity of such a diet I at least needed to try it. With that my omnivorous friends were suddenly much less sceptical of my motivation, they clearly know how committed and passionate (stubborn) I am about a good debate. A few other topics that came up were ‘soy protein will give me tits’ and ‘tomatoes are grown using jet engines’. Both subjects are worthy of further research given their relevance to this experiment, plus I definitely don’t want to grow tits! We finished the evening with a game of Pass the Pigs, I’m wondering if there is money to be made from creating a vegan version that may cause less offence. Pass the Aubergine anyone?

Despite getting into bed at 2:30am I woke up at around 7am, dehydrated and a little fuzzy-headed. This is my usual post-night-on-the-booze ritual and means I tend to spend the rest of the day doing little else but laying on the couch looking to Netflix for comfort. Today, however, something unusual happened, I fell back to sleep. I can’t remember the last time I managed to do this, the extra 3 hours sleep meant than I’ve been feeling surprisingly sprightly today, I actually suggested a walk up to Primrose Hill, very unlike me! I’m certainly not claiming that this is anything but coincidence or perhaps an extended bout of tiredness from my recent, rather active, holiday, but this is certainly noteworthy.

On the way to Primmy Hill we stopped at a vegan restaurant named Manna. My handful of experiences of vegetarian/vegan restaurants have been overwhelming negative. I’ve generally found the basics of service, efficiency and friendliness lacking, despite that absence of fundamental hospitality the people I’ve dined with have tended to overlooked these flaws and gush at how great everything is which is incredibly irritating. It feels like protectionism over ‘their’ community and any hint of negativity, or even objectivity, is met with instant disdain. Thankfully this restaurant was excellent, I scoffed a cannellini bean burger, vegetable tempura and vegan semi-fredo, all very good, moving up to awesome was the spicy cauliflower tostada, absolutely delish. Not so good was the tofu, I’ve always found tofu to be pretty grim and it’s going to be a challenge for me to find a way of cooking it to make it anything more than barely edible! On the whole the meal was excellent, so much so that a moment of panic set it after eating the semi-fredo – we genuinely thought that this was a vegetarian restaurant as opposed to vegan, thankfully we were wrong.

Vegan or not I’ve been treated to some delicious food over the last 24 hours, I genuinely thought I’d be on a diet of little more than lettuce and lentils but, so far, so good. Admittedly a lot of time and effort has gone into ensuring I’ve been eating good food, it will be much tougher next week once work starts consuming me again. I’m also yet to get to get my nutritional intake under control. Yesterday was another day of too many calories, carbs and sugars and not enough protein, I’m told black beans are somewhat of a game changer, fingers crossed.

Lastly my vegan quote of the day comes from Ricky Gervais:

“Animals don’t have a voice, but I do. A loud one. A big fucking mouth. My voice is for them. And I’ll never shut up while they suffer.”

He’s a good bloke isn’t he.

Day Two – Playing Devils Avocado

6th January 2018

Disaster! My granola has honey in it. I bought the posh stuff too, you know the kind that has a slightly higher ratio of fruit and nuts versus the boring stuff and costs twice the price. I’ve had one bowl of it (prior to starting this blog) and now it’s been rendered obsolete because honey isn’t vegan. I was previously told by my girlfriend to put honey on everything as it’s natural and good, this week, however, it’s bad. I think she felt bad so she made a vegan fry up for me.

The ‘fry-up’ was ok but I missed the meat. I don’t think having meat meals with vegan replacements is the way to go. Apparently the Cauldron Vegan Sausage is one of the better options out there, it was pretty crap. In contrast to the delicious veggie curry we had last night this was more like what I expected from a vegan meal. I might be making my own breakfast more often if I berate it any further so I’ll refrain. It’s worth noting that again the nutrition qualities were worse with the meaty counterparts. 175 more calories with the vegan breakfast largely due to the addition of hash browns – the below shows 58g more carbs, slightly less fat and again lower protein.

I had an average night sleep and woke up feeling instantly hungry so nothing groundbreaking to report here. I had another hour in bed after waking up too so I’ve not been hit with this boundless energy I was promised just yet either but I did struggle around Regents Park to do my first run in a month, that didn’t go too well so hopefully I’ll see the purported benefits of ‘plant power’ on my energy levels over the next few weeks.

For lunch I had a vegan pizza type thing on a tortilla wrap – it had vegan mozzarella on which, actually, tasted just like milky mozzarella, just a little tangier. Not quite successful was egg free mayo, my pro-vegan girlfriend, who generally struggles to see any negatives with anything remotely vegan related, uttered the apt words “vegan mayo can go fuck itself”, enough said. I decided that I needed to up the protein intake so I also had a smoothie with a scoop of soya protein in.

I’ve been invited over to a friends’ place for dinner tonight, minutes after he invited us the poor guy found out we’d just gone vegan, surprisingly he declined the chance to rescind his offer and saw it as a challenge, let’s hope he doesn’t do a Laura Goodman on us. One of my friends also advised caution when selecting the wine to take as fish scales or bones are used to filter some vinos?! Quite a minefield to navigate here. Given that I have every intention of sampling as much vegan wine as possible, you know, for research, I’ll report on how said friend copes tomorrow.

I realised today that what I’ve actually embarked on is what many are referring to as ‘veganuary’. Given my disdain for both vegan terminology and ‘movember’, I would probably have refused to do this had I known I’d be part of something so stupidly titled! I will not be referring to this experiment in this way. I also decided to ‘come out’ of the vegan closet to friends and family today, which was met with varying reactions. Interestingly I was made to feel empowered by non-vegan people and a bit ashamed by vegans, I think this sceptical approach to plant eating along with my annoyingly provocative method of debate tends to be like a match to a carefully prepared Molotov cocktail.

What is apparent is that people seem to be more passionate with their views on veganism than any other type of diet. I understand that it’s about more than just what vegan’s choose to eat but why are we so adverse to the thought of cows being cramped up and milked constantly for our benefit while being fine wearing H&M or Primark clothes that are made in human versions of dairy farms where children, with much more complex feelings and emotions than cattle, are being forced to make t-shirts of questionable quality (and style) in the most appalling conditions imaginable? Should veganism then also be about what we wear, how we travel, who we work for, if there is a true claim for this being more than just food that we choose to eat? Despite the cynicism with which I approach this diet I genuinely am interested in people’s motivations to embark on such a huge dietary change and particularly on how the moral line is drawn for vegans, do they wear leather? Have they given up their cars? Or is it, in fact, just a dietary choice?

Quote of the day from that shiny-headed electro music pioneer Moby who apparently said:

“Could you look an animal in the eyes and say to it, ‘My appetite is more important than your suffering’?”

Replace animal with ‘Taiwanese child’ and appetite with ‘style’ for another thought designed to provoke feelings of guilt.