Saturday, 14 November 2015

30 Day Vegan Challenge: The Verdict

Post Challenge Breakfast
I had every intention of posting my reflections on my 30 Day Vegan Challenge weeks ago, while it was still fresh in my mind.  However best laid plans ...

Anyway, here goes:

To begin with, it wasn't nearly as difficult as I'd imagined (feared?).  Or at least not for most of the time.

It took me a week or so to find an acceptable substitute for milk in my tea.  I experimented with almond (which curdled!) and oat (which was too watery), before settling on soya, which didn't separate and gave a good colour.  It had a slightly chalky taste which I almost, but not quite, got used to.

I bought a tub of industrial looking vegan sunflower spread which was alright if I spread it thinly and and topped it generously with jam or avocado.  I reluctantly succumbed to a tub of sheeze(!) but had reason to be grateful for it on more than one occasion when I returned home hungry and needed something to keep me going until tea time.

Apart from that it was relatively plain sailing.  I did need to think ahead, but even on days when I failed to do so, I always came up with something perfectly edible.

It helped that I love soup, and virtually anything with rice, pasta, rice noodles or couscous.  As a base for lentils, vegetables or tofu in a tomato or coconut sauce, livened with herbs or spices, the possibilities were endless.

Entertaining at home wasn't a problem.  When my younger daughter arrived with a gaggle of her university friends (one of them a vegan) I was able to offer tasty alternatives to cottage pie, cake and a Sunday morning fry up.  Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Eat was a valuable resource.  Her mushroom biryani which I cooked for for a couple of our friends is bookmarked for future use.

Eating out was almost as easy, with one notable exception.  Bristol is well served with restaurants and cafes offering vegan alternatives which don't leave you feeling you've missed out.  A day trip to Salisbury was trickier.  We stumbled on a brasserie with a fixed price menu offering one vegan sounding dish per course.  I have to admit to not having asked any probing questions for fear of having to go hungry.  The notable exception was a local pub whose only vegan options were a soup and a sharing platter, neither of which constituted a proper meal.

There were a couple of shared meals during the course of the month, both of which offered enough choice to keep me happy.  A friend's kitchen warming party was not so successful, with plates laden with the most gorgeous dairy rich cakes I've seen in a long time.  If it hadn't been for a bowlful of pakoras I'd have wept with frustration.

I lost 2 kg.  Whether this was as a result of cutting out cheese and butter, or being unable to partake of the omnipresent selection of cakes and biscuits in the staffroom, I don't know, but I wasn't complaining.

Having decided to steer clear of meat substitutes and ready made meals (though I discovered a tasty felafel mix and Aldi do excellent burgers), the challenge forced me to cook from scratch, to eat more vegetables (though strangely not more fruit), to rediscover tofu, to introduce nuts and seeds into my diet and to play with colour and texture.

Breakfast on the day after my challenge ended was a bacon and egg fry up washed down with a cup of tea made with cow's milk.  Never did they taste so good.  But it's not been back to business as usual.  Having discovered that I can manage without any meat I'm going to try and live on less, restricting it to the weekend and special occasions and, ideally, as a flavouring rather than the centrepiece of the meal.  I'm back to using milk and butter, but will go easier on the cheese.  There will be more grains and nuts and seeds, and fish from our new fishmonger on Thursdays and Fridays.  And I've got to find space for more (any!) fruit.

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