My not-so-triumphant vegantics

Veganuary, Vegebruary (I just made that one up), call it what you want – veganism is taking over in a big way

Vicky Morrison

Its not all about greens...

For a while now, I’ve been curious about the phenomenon of veganism which has revolutionised the diet of so many, in particular over the past few years. What’s more, not all of those affected are Instagram addicts or food fashion-following millennials. Over 120,000 people have now signed up to join the Veganuary movement, which has gone up considerably from 50,000 in January 2017 and a tiny 1,500 in 2014. The mixed bunch of ambassadors for the charity which started the movement includes public figures such as Anthony Mullally, a professional rugby player, and the actress who played Luna in Harry Potter. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Aldi have all released a new Vegan range – as has Wagamama’s, and Waitrose announced that in the days leading up to New Year’s the searches for vegan food on their website increased five fold. So, as self-righteous as certain avid vegan individuals may appear, and as much as veganism has been known to receive some considerable criticism from meat-eaters everywhere, the movement is clearly catching on at an impressive rate.

So, why go vegan? The Veganuary website lists the three primary reasons: for the benefit of your health, the environment and animals. Evidently, there can be little wrong with aiming to better your health, and I, like many people I am sure, am aware of the detrimental impact that the meat industry has on the environment and animals. You don’t need to watch Cowspiracy to understand that (to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend watching it at all). I am aware of all this, and it does make me feel bad when I’m not stuffing my face with a burger and have time to think about it all properly. The problem is, it’s way too easy to eat meat, and according to common opinion, far too difficult to maintain a vegan diet with the busy schedules that most of people lead.

"Evidently, there can be little wrong with aiming to better your health, and I, like many people I am sure, am aware of the detrimental impact that the meat industry has on the environment and animals"

With all that in mind, the thought of Veganuary still remained both a daunting and fascinating one for me. The weeks during and following the Christmas period, as I’m sure is the case for most of us, were a non-stop colossal and decidedly non-vegan-friendly feast. But after the meat and food-induced coma, January suddenly arrives and confronts you with the reality of the aftermath of all this overeating and overindulgence. The New Year is seen as a time for making changes and setting yourself resolutions. Hence the emergence of Veganuary.

About a week and a half into January (cheating a bit) I decided I would try it out too, even just so I could write an article about it and bore everyone. In truth, the ‘new year new me’ did not last long at all. About three days in, I was back to eating eggs, cheese and meat at least once a day. Changing your own diet is easy enough, but whilst I’m at home with my carnivorous family in the holidays it is far too difficult to be a full-time vegan. However, I did give it a go; for three days in a row I cooked my family vegan meals which all went down very well indeed. They too were surprised that veganism doesn’t equate to eating plain vegetables for every meal. A lot of the time, when you’re not eating meat, you’re probably eating vegan without even realising (pasta + tomato sauce?).

Vicky Morrison

There’s a huge range of things you can cook to make a satisfying, filling and tasty vegetarian or vegan meal. Pulses are versatile, rice is always there, and to be honest, vegetables can be cooked in interesting ways, whether they’re fried, roasted, or really simply put into a curry. All of this just takes a little extra thought, preparation and planning, which is fun if you dedicate enough time to it. In countries such as Sri Lanka, the majority of their diet is based on vegetables and incorporated into ridiculously delicious curries, sauces and much more, so it’s not an impossible task. I’m not saying everyone should immediately ditch the cheese or the Sunday roast beef, because they are some of life’s biggest enjoyments, but it would be a good idea to attempt to eat at least a few vegetarian or vegan meals a week. Another thing is that it could cut the cost of your weekly shop in half.

At the end of the day, even though Veganuary wasn’t a particular success for me, New Year’s resolutions aren’t and shouldn’t be just for one month, and they can start at any point in the year. I’m going to make an effort to incorporate more veggie/vegan dishes into my week, not only for the above listed reasons, but also because it’s become so easy and inexpensive. So, bring on Vegebruary, and aim to make it to Vapril… that doesn’t quite work…

If you’re looking for a delicious and affordable introduction to vegan food in Cambridge, I would 100% recommend heading down to Stem + Glory, which have just opened up a second branch on King Street (in addition to their Chesterton Road one). For £8.50 you can get a take away box filled with your selection of 5 of their very, very tasty and filling vegan dishes all freshly made that day. It might well be the kookier 2018 answer to Urban Shed...

I’ve posted my favourite vegan/vegetarian recipe below, which is becoming something of a favourite dish among my family. Enjoy!

Sweet potato and black bean chilli

Serves 4. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Olive oil

1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp chilli powder

4 tsp ground cumin

Sprinkling of chilli fakes

¼ tsp salt

1 - 2 cups water

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes

4 tbsp lime juice

½ cup chopped fresh coriander

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato and onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is beginning to soften, about 4 mins. Add garlic, chilli powder, cumin, chilli flakes (+ any other spices you fancy) and salt and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the sweet potato is tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Add beans, tomatoes and lime juice; increase heat to high and return to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in coriander.
  3. Enjoy!