I first heard about Veganuary at this year’s VegFest UK. VegFest is a food festival aimed at vegans, vegetarians and people who’d like to be inspired to try new, healthy food and lifestyles. There are talks and music, but mainly stalls. Rows and rows of stalls around the room. Maybe “room” isn’t the best word for such a big space. It was more like a very large, two-story warehouse. I was there with my family and a couple of friends. We stopped at a signing-in stall to (surprise, surprise) sign in. The woman behind the counter then asked us whether we wanted to sign up for “Veganuary.” What is that? I wondered. She explained that it was a challenge to become vegan – for one month – in January. Let me just clarify what being vegan means. It’s like vegetarianism, but on top of not being able to eat meat, you can’t eat any products that come from animals. That means nothing that contains milk, cheese, butter, eggs etc. No honey either because it comes from bees. I briefly considered the challenge, and I was in a very receptive mood, so I don’t think I thought about it too hard. It was a perfect yes opportunity. I signed my name. Luckily the other members of my family agreed to do the diet, so I wasn’t alone. I tried to convince my friend as well, but alas, she has chosen to stick to her carnivorous ways. At the time I signed up, Veganuary was about three months away so I didn’t have to worry about it then .
Now, though, I’m hungry. I’m on Day 12 of the challenge and I’ve just had a vegan pancake for brunch. The recipe required TWO TABLESPOONS of baking powder to make up for the lack of egg. Well, I wasn’t about to use up our supply of baking powder – which BTW comes in a tiny container that looks like it could barely contain two tablespoons itself – so my mum blenderised some flaxseeds and added water to them as an egg substitute. Within fifteen minutes the mixture became gelatinous, with a texture resembling egg white. I added this to the pancake mixture, along with two teaspoons (NOT tablespoons) of baking powder. The batter became lumpy and thick. I became doubtful. My mum became resourceful. She added, like a ton of rice milk to the batter. A bit too much, I began to worry. We tried stirring it, but it was lumpy. At this point I was ravenous, since last night’s vegan curry and red rice – although delicious – hadn’t done much to fill me up.
I got a whisk out and started beating the batter. It resisted my “violent” intentions by becoming lumpier. I beat it harder. The batter responded by forming smaller lumps that were harder to vanquish. I then resolved to beating even harder and more consistently. It countered my attack for as long as possible, and I started to worry whether my attempts were futile. I needed stamina. The batter was a strong fighter, but I was a better soldier. I summoned my inner Kenwood chef. The batter gave in and smoothed out.
It was a good fight.
Victorious, I lit the stove and proceeded to fry the pancake mix. The pancakes came out a bit on the sticky side, but they were fluffy and bubbly. I had mine with margarine and maple syrup.
The thing is, I’m still hungry. Ever since I’ve been vegan – for twelve days, that is – I’ve been hungrier than usual. I’m almost never full, and it isn’t a nice feeling. I really miss big hearty meals like steak and chips, even though I didn’t have steak often before. Right now I could REALLY do with a big, juicy Argentinian steak, soaked in a strong, tangy marinade, served with fat chips and tartar sauce and ketchup. I’ve also been craving tagliatelle with cream and salmon. Oh yeah, I also feel like eating a proper roast chicken with crispy, fluffy potatoes, roasted parsnips and carrots, Yorkshire puddings, and thick gravy. I can smell it and taste it already. Oh gosh, I just thought of a butter chicken curry with pilau rice and chutney.
As well as missing filling, meaty meals like the ones I’ve described, I’ve also been hungry for the more everyday food that I’m used to, like milk chocolate, cheese and ice-cream. In regards to those things, my willpower isn’t as big a problem as is my forgetfulness. A few times I’ve reached for something and then remembered just in time that it’s out-of-bounds. Surprisingly, milk hasn’t been too much of a problem for me. Even before I was vegan, I preferred soya milk in my tea, and I didn’t really drink milk much. Also, now we have an excuse to buy delicious drinks like coconut milk, almond milk and rice milk, which I’ve always loved.
Lately I’ve been having a lot more cold food like salads with couscous and quinoa. They’re taste good, but really not satisfying. The other day my dad took us to a vegetarian Indian restaurant to have dinner. Before we started eating, he said “Shall we order Indian tea?”
My thoughts: I love Indian tea. It’s so sweet. Ye-
Wait, doesn’t it have milk in it?
I voiced my concerns and my dad smiled conspiratorially… Hmm. I really, really felt like having the tea. The Gollum in me wanted to say yes but the Smeagol wanted the opposite.
I said no.
I had puri (a kinda flat bread) and curry, which was absolutely delicious, and also filling. It was a weird kind of filling, though; I felt like I wanted to carry on eating, but I was too… full. The worst thing about eating at that restaurant was that I couldn’t have paneer on the menu. Paneer is one of my favourite Indian dishes, so that was disappointing.
19 days to go. That doesn’t sound too bad. I keep wondering whether maybe my family has special super powers that we didn’t know about because the meat and dairy products in our diets counteracted them. Maybe in a few days’ time when all the animal products are out of our system, we’ll start noticing our powers. Or perhaps not. I hope that after this diet, even if I don’t go totally vegetarian, at least I’ll be eating less meat. Basically, torturing and killing fewer animals.