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Sunday, 28 April 2013

My Vegan Diary

I'm the first to admit that I have my fair share of food quirks. For example, I really hate sweetcorn. Why must people insist on adding these devil's testicles to everything? One finds them lurking in otherwise innocuous sandwiches, salads, stews, pies, all sorts. Finding little yellow nuggets of doom in my food really winds me up. This is, perhaps, the one subject on which my dear Julia and I do not agree. In fact, I believe my hatred of sweetcorn has caused her to question my suitability as a friend more than once.

I'd gladly elaborate further, but this isn't a blog about sweetcorn. I might write a blog about sweetcorn one day. It would be relatively niche, but would undoubtedly secure me a dedicated and fanatical following.

Anyway. As you have probably guessed from the title, this is actually a blog abut going vegan. I'd been wondering about having a crack at being a veggie for a while, but it felt too easy. I've been eating a lot less red meat lately anyway. I have, however, replaced this with potentially worrying quantities of eggs and cheese. Lotsa cheese. Mmmmmm cheese. So when another awesome friend, Alex, suggested going vegan, I figured I had a real challenge on my hands. Especially when it came to giving up Nutella. As you can see, I was cultivating my chocolate habit from an early age.

Chocolate? What chocolate?

The first important step, obviously, was to scour Google for vegan recipes. The first link I found was for the Oprah website. Oprah has a 'vegan starter kit'. This sounded promising. Oprah is a guru, right? Oprah can totally tell me how to be a vegan, yes? Actually, Oprah's vegan shopping list is a masterclass in how to pretend you're not actually vegan at all. In includes such delights as Veganaise; Meatless Meatballs; Replacement Cheese; and Ener-G Egg Replacer. I don't even want to contemplate what could be in an egg replacer.

I'm sorry to confess that I became terribly snooty about all this fakery. If I was going to be a vegan for a week, I was going to be a good, old-fashioned, mung-bean-eating, lentil-fancying, tofu-tastic PROPER VEGAN. Then my new boss asked me what I was going to do about my leather shoes. And my leather handbag. I got down of my high horse relatively swiftly at that stage. I don't have any vegan shoes. Well, not ones that are suitable for the office, anyway.

In the end, I tracked down a few relatively appealing vegan recipes and proceeded with an online shop. As it happens, I had never done an online grocery shop before, but I decided it might make for the world's most boring blog-post, so I'll spare you too many details. I will, instead, delight you with a screen shot of a small portion of my shopping list. Don't say I don't spoil you.

A few days later a mountain of shopping arrived. The lemons were significantly below my usual standard, but otherwise I was pretty impressed. As you can probably tell, however, I had rather over catered. Classic rookie error.

But, over catered or not, I was all set for a virtuous week sans animal products. Let us proceed then, without further ado, to Jojo's Vegan Diary. I'm not saying it's going to outsell Bridget Jones.  I'm not even saying it's going to prove more popular than Sadistic Sweetcorn: My Fight Against Satan's BonBons. But  I hope you enjoy it, nevertheless.

Friday, April 19th
I was planning to start my vegan diet on Monday, but Julia made something vegan from Scott Jureck's Eat and Run, and invited me round. Figured I may as well get on with it. Just before I left the house, I ate a large spoonful of Nutella. I love Nutella.

Supper was tempeh and brown rice with an almond curry sauce and stir-fried onions, carrots and pepper. Tempeh is an extra firm form of tofu. It looks like the frontal lobe Anthony Hopkins sautées in Hannibal. It was delicious.

Julia had also bought some vegan ginger snaps. They were seriously addictive. So far, I am rocking at being vegan. Turns out it's really easy when someone else does all the hard work for you.

Now you see it.

Now you don't.

Saturday, April 20th
Breakfast. Hmm. I haven't entirely thought about this. I have vegan-friendly bread, but what do I have with it? You can't have Marmite without butter underneath it. That's just a rule. Peanut butter and jam is a thing, right? Yep, turns out it's totally a thing. A VEGAN thing. It's kind of strange, but I think I like it.

I have friends coming round for supper, so I make a delicious-looking vegetarian Thai green curry. I've just stirred in some water chestnuts when an ominous thought enters my head. Doesn't Thai green curry paste contain fish? Yep. Fail. I hope my non-vegetarian guests don't mind being vegetarian for no apparent reason. I have toast with hummus, avocado and sundried tomatoes for supper. This is delicious, but I suspect not as delicious as the curry. D'oh!

Oh, and one of my guests brings cakes. Homemade, beautiful, miniature Victoria sponges. I've remembered why I wasn't planning to go vegan until Monday, now. Double d'oh! I really want one of those cakes.

Jane eats a delicious mini Victoria sponge.

Jojo does not eat a delicious mini Victoria sponge.

Sunday, April 21st
PB&J on toast for breakfast. I suspect I may end up eating a lot of peanut butter and jam. Which is probably not all that healthy.

The Nutella is giving me the eye. It keeps looking at me and whispering sweet nothings. Eat me, Jojo. Eat me with a spoooooon.

Julia, Tom and I go on a 33 mile cycle ride. Fortunately, the energy sweets I usually have turn out to be vegan. Hooray!

On the way back, we stop for ice cream. This is my first encounter with asking someone in a shop if one of their products is vegan-friendly. I feel massively conspicuous and embarrassed. But that's mostly because I'm wearing padded lycra shorts. They have vegan chocolate and raspberry sorbets, and I have half a scoop of each. RIDICULOUSLY delicious. I will totally have that again. And again.

When I get home, the Nutella looks accusatory. It can tell I've found an alternative chocolate fix.

For supper, I roast a butternut squash with fresh chili and garlic, which I eat with wholewheat pasta. I've made this meal many times, and I absolutely love it. It only requires a tiny adjustment to make it vegan. Turns out, that adjustment is the undoing of the dish. Roast butternut squash pasta is just boring without the bacon.

At the same time as roasting the squash I put together one of the vegan recipes I found online. Sweet potato, tomato, peanut and chard curry. During the initial stages, this looks extremely appealing. With every ingredient I add, however, it becomes less so. I'm sure it will taste fine. But it really looks gross.

Monday, April 22nd
First day of being a vegan at the office. PB&J on toast for breakfast.

During the morning, I eat two apples and have a Lady Grey tea, black. I feel fine.

For lunch, I go to Hummus Bros with two of my new colleagues. I have hummus with guacamole, having first checked that the pitta is vegan. I'm thinking avocados and hummus may become a theme this week.

As the day draws onwards, I find myself dreading the sweet potato curry. It really didn't look appealing. I eat some grapes. I like grapes.

Tonight is the fortnightly meeting of my writers group. I usually eat a lot of biscuits during this meeting. Instead, I eat crisps. Being vegan clearly doesn't automatically mean being healthy. However, I eat enough crisps, and get home late enough, to make eating sweet potato curry unreasonable. Reprieve. I eat two kiwis instead.

Tuesday, April 23rd
I eat some grapes for breakfast. Turns out this is not enough breakfast, and by about 10.15 I am feeling a bit weak and wobbly. But none of the cereal bars available in the office are vegan. They are all packed with butter. Delicious, delicious, buttery butter.

Then, awesomely, my new boss shows up with a tupperware of homemade granola. She made it with her daughter and they jointly decided to send me a sample. I eat it dry, straight from the tupperware. Oh my lord. This might be one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten. It rescues my morning.

My granola. Mine.
For lunch I have a lentil energy pot from Pod. Let's be honest, it does not look very nice.

It's not bad though. A bit heavy, perhaps, and definitely lacking in salt, but not at all bad. I also grab some vegan ginger biscuits from the health food shop. These are a lot like eating cardboard, but they provide a much needed sugar boost in the afternoon. Am I going to brave the sweet potato curry tonight?

Turns out the sweet potato curry is absolutely fine, as long as you eat in with equal parts mango chutney and lime pickle. 

Wednesday, April 24th
When the alarm goes off this morning I am almost instantly awake. Which never happens. PB&J on toast for breakfast.

Mid-morning, I am feeling quite tired. That energy boost didn't last long. I make myself a tomato, avocado and basil salad for lunch, which I eat with oat cakes and hummus. Pretty sure I'm starting to look like a chickpea.

My ginger biscuits are also oat based. I feel a bit like a horse, munching away on my oats all day.

Even though I now know from experience that the sweet potato curry is absolutely fine, I still can't bring myself to eat any more of it. It's clearly going to sit in the fridge until I give in and throw it away. I don't feel good about this, but I just don't want it. More toast, with hummus, avocado and sundried tomatoes it is.

Yum. But, seriously, more hummus?

Thursday, April 25th
Can you guess what I had for breakfast?

For lunch I also had the same as yesterday. And then some dried mango, an apple and a few ginger biscuits. I'm thinking I would have to be a lot more creative if I were to take up veganism full time.

Dad offers to take me out for supper. The funky, salady place in Crouch End is fully booked, so we wander around a bit, somewhat at a loss. We eventually settle on a Mediterranean café, where I have, erm, falafel with HUMMUS. Someone save me from hummus. I mean, I love the stuff, but there are limits. 

I'm glad there's only one day to go. I'm getting a bit tired of having to look up the ingredients on everything.

Friday, April 26th
Last day!! Skipped breakfast, had coffee instead. It felt really naughty for some reason, but was very tasty. I went out for lunch with my boss and another colleague. We went to a restaurant called Haz, where two weeks ago I ate an obscenely tasty chicken dish. This is the first time I have badly craved meat. I ate couscous with roasted vegetables, which was nice, but, you know...

Julia, Tom and I ate at a favourite Vietnamese restaurant, Khoai. I had tofu, rice noodles and salad. I had to have an alternative sauce because the proper sauce had fish in it. Notwithstanding this small alteration, this was the most delicious thing I ate all week. 

DONE! Friday supper to Friday supper. In serious celebration, I have sticky toffee pudding and custard for desert. Oh sweet, sweet buttery sponge. Oh lovely, gooey, creamy custard. HAPPY JOJO.

Celebratory sticky toffee. Bliss.
And that was that. Vegan for a week. All in all, it wasn't as difficult as I'd imagined. But it was a little bit boring. Save a few highlight flavours, I ended up eating a lot of the same things. This says more about me than it does about veganism itself, of course, but it goes to show that in order to have a varied, exciting vegan diet you have to be creative with your cooking. I'd need a lot more practice before I could come home late and whip up a vegan delight from the bits and bobs in my fridge. However, following my dramatic over catering, I do still have quite a few vegan bits and bobs in my fridge.

I had a couple of moments of craving certain things, but in general my body didn't miss animal products. I didn't feel weak or sick, I didn't get bad skin, I didn't turn into a mad, hammer-wielding psychopath. Well, actually, I did, but that's another story entirely, and probably not related to my diet.

Being a fine, upstanding English lady, well-versed in the rules of discretion and etiquette, I shall say no more about veganisim's effects on my digestion than that my digestive system knew perfectly well that there'd been a change of regime. This was acknowledged between us and we came to an understanding. Least said, soonest mended.

In terms of any lasting impact, I'm going to try and keep up with the sheer volumes of fruit I ate during the week, and I'll definitely be eating less dairy in general. And, interestingly, I still haven't had any meat. I just don't feel the need. It might take a while before I want it again. You'll be happy to hear, however, that the Nutella and I had a somewhat joyful reunion.

Chocolate? What chocolate?
Twenty-seven down, three to go...


  1. Ha ha! Pretty much what I think. I grew up, for a time, as a vegan, but then, grew out of it again. It did make me more aware about farming and other issues, but I think the subject's way too complex to solve with chick peas. Great blog.