Saturday, 13 February 2016

Veganuary: Dee’s Evaluation

It’s been nearly two weeks since Veganuary officially ended, and I think enough time has now passed to enable me to write a summary of how it went and how we’ve been getting on since.

First though, I’d like to share a Q&A that we took part in with fellow food blogger Cate, who was also taking part in Veganuary and hosted an online chat about it with the food blogging community.  The chat took place on 28th January, towards the end of Week Four, and covers a number of Veganuary related issues.  I’ve listed the responses I gave at the time, together with updates where appropriate. 

What is the best Vegan eat you’ve discovered on your Veganuary adventure?  This could be a restaurant meal, a recipe or a new snack
The best at the time of the chat was the amazing salad of Apple, celeriac, quinoa and coriander in a vinaigrette dressing, but my favourite was the red pepper Pisaladiere that we made over the final weekend.  Both dishes are pictured in the blog entry covering weeks three and four.

Did you cheat? No fibbing.  As readers of my blog already know, I had a big lapse this weekend…
Nope; we erred on the side of caution if we were unsure about anything. We also did dry January.

Vegans get a rough ride on the internet.  How do you feel about the way plant based eaters are portrayed now that you’ve been one temporarily?
I've not mentioned it much in case I got bombarded with scientific questions that I wouldn't have been able to answer.  I did write ups about the food for the blog but kept away from on-line discussions.

At some point this month you’ve looked at your plate and thought ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ Tell us what was on that plate
Our scrambled tofu was a complete disaster and looked so bad we couldn't photograph it out of pure shame.  It tasted ok though.  This was part of the Vegan fry-up that we made in Week Two.  Looking back at the blog entry, I’d described it as being ‘not the most photogenic of meals’, which was a bit of an understatement to be fair, but the taste was more important, and we have made it a few times and certainly will do again.  I think the problem with the tofu was that we’d overcooked it and overstirred it, turning it into a puree.  Anyway, that’s enough about that.

Will you be doing Veganuary again next year?  What might you do differently?
We may do, but we may also do a vegan week or two during the year, probably with some Summer salads.

We also posed some questions of our own at the start of Veganuary, so it is now time to revisit them;

Would we start craving meat and dairy products, and no doubt alcohol, as the month proceeded? 
This was one of my biggest concerns at the outset, but proved to be less of a struggle than I thought.  I occasionally missed many of the simple non-vegan things like a cup of breakfast tea with milk in it, fish and chips, a bacon sandwich, and a slice of cake.  I’m sure that vegan alternatives for all of these exist, but I didn’t set enough time aside to research them.

Would we feel hungry all the time?
No.  There was plenty of bread and other carbs included in our diet that kept us happily full.

Was it all about expensive, esoteric ingredients requiring complex preparations?
The cost of the weekly shop ended up being about the same, but we still have plenty of meals in the freezer, so what we bought and made has gone a lot further.
Many of the ingredients were new to us but once we’d started using them there was nothing that we felt intimidated by.  In terms of availability, Holland and Barrett and the Vegan Store outside Birmingham were both a big help.
A few of the recipes had long lists of ingredients, but as Yotam Ottolenghi fans, that didn’t put us off, and none of the processes were complex.  In fact I enjoyed making the larger scale recipes stage by stage.

How did we proceed if we used something that we later learned was not vegan?
As mentioned previously, we were extremely careful to ensure that this didn’t happen.  If we were in any doubt about something, we assumed that it was not vegan.  A good example of this was truffle oil.  I treated it in the same way as honey; that is to say it wouldn’t be possible to produce it without the use of animals, so I decided to class it as a non-vegan product.

What did we enjoy most about Veganuary?
It was like learning a whole new approach to cooking, with a change of focus that I found refreshing.  Also, I enjoy making sauces, relishes and other condiments, and vegan cooking seemed full of these.  In the end they became pretty much essential for me.  With the help of some great recipe books, we were able to prepare some tasty and filling meals without the need for either meat or dairy products.

What did we enjoy least about Veganuary?
The checking of everything, to make sure that it was vegan was stressful, especially in the early stages.
Sometimes the limited options regarding eating out, and especially nipping up the road to the chippy or ordering a takeaway was frustrating.  Yes, it would probably have been possible to sort out something that was vegan, but we decided in the end that we would be better off preparing our meals at home.  That said, on the Monday after the end of Veganuary, I called in to an Indian takeaway and ordered a couple of vegetable based dishes cooked in oil rather than ghee and they were able to do that without any problems.

What were the biggest challenges?
Undoubtedly the biggest challenge was the constant checking of what food and drink was vegan and what wasn’t gave us both a real headache, especially at the outset, though it got easier after the first shopping trip.  We found Sainsbury’s to be particularly good at labelling of their vegan products.  Holland and Barrett and of course the Vegan Store just outside Birmingham City Centre were best for the lesser known ingredients.

What is our diet like now?
I’ve had some non-vegan food and drink in the past couple of weeks, but have not felt any great urge to return to eating meat or dairy products.  Our freezer has enough vegan food to keep us going for a while, and there are lots more recipes that I want to try out.
I still need to find vegan replacements to most meats and fish, followed by the veganising of non-vegan recipes, but I now have the flexibility to do this at my own pace.
Dining out remains a challenge, as I knew it would, but there are plenty of specialist eateries that I haven’t visited yet so I am looking forward to that.
Plant milk has almost completely replaced dairy milk, though we’re still looking for the best non-dairy milk to use in a good old cup of tea.  We’ve been having problems with it separating, but Almond milk seems to be working best at the moment.
I’d like to be able to give a more conclusive answer as to what my diet will be like in the future, but I still feel as though I am in transition.  There are places still to visit and recipes still to try.

Veganuary may be over but my involvement with vegan cooking isn’t.

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