Because life’s not complicated enough, I’ve decided to go vegan for Lent. Those readers that follow my blog will know that I’m a fanatical purveyor of cheap, good food, and eat a vegetarian diet out of frugality and necessity a lot of the time anyway. I gave up cows milk in favour of soya milk some years ago now, much to the disgust of my friends when I make them a cup of tea in my flat these days, so I figured that this would be pretty easy. Forty days of vegetable-based diet. How hard can it be?
For those not in the know, people who choose to follow a vegan diet refrain from eating animal products, or products derived from animals. As well as the obvious meat and fish, which I don’t consume much of anyway, vegans also don’t eat eggs, or milk products, cheese, yoghurt, animal fats or any other derivatives.
I’ve tried to follow a vegan diet before now, and it’s definitely harder than it looks. Locally, finding vegan food to eat out is difficult, as most restaurants smother their vegetarian dishes in cheese, or label their fish dishes as ‘suitable for vegetarians’. I’ve found The Railway Hotel is a fab place for vegan food, and I have taken vegan friends there for lunch on occasion and been delighted by chocolate orange cake, falafels, curries, burgers and other creative culinary delights. Other than that, I’m scratching my head trying to think of anywhere I can eat a vegan lunch that isn’t just chips or carrot sticks.
So far, I’ve been living on home made soups, breads and pasta, pretty much the same as usual but without the £1.09 bacon and 65p natural yoghurt staples. I made a huge chocolate cake from an adapted bread recipe the other night to console myself and ate the lot in bed in a self-pitying period pain sitting. Too much information? Small Boy has had the last of the mozzarella from the fridge and I’ve sat across the table from him as he chews it with a grin on his two year old face, while i’m poking a fork around my peas and pasta.
However it’s not all bad. With a bit of careful planning, I treated myself last night to a Mushroom Chateaubriand (like steak chateaubriand but just without the steak!) with mashed potatoes and greens, and currently have two different soups bubbling away on the hob. (Tomato and basil, and carrot and coriander, if you’re curious!)
Famous vegans include Portia di Rossi, Peter Tatchell, Pamela Anderson and the girl who plays Rachel in Glee. They all look pretty good to me, which is encouraging. My vegan friends tell me that their diet is not only a way of life without exploiting animals, but also rich in health benefits. They all look pretty good too. I’ll report back in forty days and let you know how I’m doing, but for now, a week in, I’m doing okay. Small Boy is energetic and a loveable menace as ever, so he appears to be doing okay as well. And I’ve lost a pound, but that’s not really the point. There’s a sliver of Sainsburys Basics Brie left in the inside of my fridge door that I should have had on Tuesday. Oh well. Small Boy can have it stirred into a risotto. Waste not, want not…
I’ll check back in a week and let you all know how I’m doing! At least I didn’t give up chocolate…
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe