Below is the feature I wrote for the paper I work for on my vegan week… it’s very long so I’ll completely understand if no one reads it! But if you do, I’d be interested to hear anyone’s opinion :-)
THIS newspaper reported last week that Jessie Danquah was to eat only raw food for a month to raise money for charity.
But the 27-year-old was already a vegan – and feeds her two-year-old son on the same diet – a fact which sparked heated debate in the newsroom.
The upshot was reporter Eleanor Jones agreeing to become a vegan herself
for a week.
“AREN’T you going to starve?”
My dad’s reaction to the news of my vegan week was slight concern. He even glanced (momentarily) away from Scotland’s Six Nations demolition at the hands of France as he asked.
I explained in detail that this was exactly the view I was intending to challenge but, as his next question was: “Did you see that pass?!” I don’t know how much of my impassioned rant had sunk in.
Certainly, there has never been any lack of “discussion” in the newsroom but the news of Jessie Danquah, her two-year-old son and their vegan diet provoked a more heated debate than most.
One instant reaction was that the youngster’s health would be affected in a negative way by the lack of animal products and that he could not be getting the nutrients children need.
But is any diet by definition healthier than another because of the rules that govern it? Who is to say that a vegan two-year-old is any less well-off than his omnivorous counterpart, happily clutching a Happy Meal?
Yes, meat, fish and dairy products provide protein, calcium, essential fats and other vital nutrients, but so do beans, nuts, fruit and vegetables – and their derivatives.
Many people assume that a vegan diet consists of nothing but fruit and vegetables and although it is true that all vegan foods originate from plants, it does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that a plate of broccoli is the only choice for dinner.
And as I had been so vocally expressing that opinion, I could hardly then refuse the challenge of putting my money – or perhaps my mushrooms – where my mouth was.
There were dire warnings concerning my addictions to milk chocolate-covered raisins and yoghurt and comments such as “you’d never do it” which, of course, had the desired effect.
I stocked up at the weekend, on “essentials” such as soya milk and yoghurt, peanut butter and dark chocolate and was ready to go.
And, by the end of the week, was triumphant. One surprise was the variety of food products available, from vegan “cheese” to sausages to “roasts”. Supermarkets sell dairy-free chocolate and fudge, spreads and slices, biscuits and cakes.
All grains are in, including rice, pasta, many brands of bread, oats and, of course, sugar and cocoa powder are both derived from plants (phew).
During the week, I ate a lentil loaf, a tofu “quiche” and a vegetable risotto, as well as porridge, beans on toast and a mushroom stroganoff.
All were simple and inexpensive to make – and delicious. I did not at any time feel hungry, (or more so than usual) tired (ditto) or that I was functioning at any lower level than normal (enough said).
I wasn’t glowing with vibrant good health and boundless energy either, but then it was a working week at the start of February and no diet can work miracles.
I won’t be converting to full-time veganism or vegetarianism, I did miss milk chocolate and I did miss my normal yoghurt – but I will be eating much of what I had this week along with them in the future, as there is so much to be enjoyed that isn’t animal in origin.
What was interesting to note was people’s reactions to my saying I was enjoying the vegan food. Disbelieving expressions, and comments such as “you’ll be coming in on a stretcher on Friday”, spoke volumes (although my efforts to convince the editor I would be too ill to come to work fell on deaf ears).
So there was only one way to prove that “vegan” and “boring” do not necessarily go hand-in-hand and that was cake.
Substituting butter for a non-animal fat, and using foxlike cunning to get round the lack of eggs took some time and I wasn’t hopeful. But I was surprised that my first attempt was actually cakelike, chocolatey and not bad at all.
The vegan icing was a doddle in comparison and despite the fact my colleagues’ faces fell several feet when they realised the pile of sweet treats was entirely vegan, within minutes of the box being opened, not a crumb was left and people admitted they had enjoyed them.
I didn’t tell them the cakes contained avocado – or that the “buttercream” was made from tofu… sometimes, I feel, blissful ignorance is best.