Gooey chocolate brownies!

At last!  A recipe for vegan chocolate brownies that actually works!  And proper sticky rich gooey ones too.  This recipe has been 2 years in the finding and along the way there have been a lot of charred chocolate casualties.  But this one is a keeper and totally idiot proof so get your chocolatey chops around this…

From The Vegan Society website:

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 oz / 75g margarine
  • 1 1/2 oz / 45g / 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 floz / 75ml soya milk
  • 7 oz / 200g caster sugar
  • 6 oz / 160g plain white flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 oz / 20g / 2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 oz / 115g caster sugar
  • 6 fl oz / 170 ml soya milk
  • 1 1/2 fl oz / 45ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C, Gas Mark 4.
  2. Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan and gently bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 minute, stirring well. Put saucepan into a bowl of cold water and beat sauce until it cools and thickens. Set aside.
  3. Sieve flour, baking powder, cocoa and sugar into a bowl. Mix soya milk, vegetable oil and vanilla essence together. Stir flours, soya milk mixture and sauce together – do not overmix.
  4. Place in a greased and lined tin roughly 10″ x 8″ and bake for 30 minutes.

I ate mine warm from the oven with Booja Booja’s vanilla ice cream.  Heaven!

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How to get enough protein on a vegan diet…

The following is an article from One Green Planet that explains very helpfully how you can get plenty of protein on a vegan diet, even if you don’t want to eat soy products such as tofu, seitan, tempeh etc.

So how much protein do we really need? According to Reed Mangels, Ph.D. and R.D., “The RDA recommends that we take in 0.36 grams of protein per pound that we weigh.” So, let’s say you weigh 175 pounds. You should then be aiming for around 63 grams of protein per day. Now, for some tips on how to achieve this feat, all the while staying plant-based, as well as gluten and soy-free.

Learn to love lentils.

Lentils are a protein powerhouse at around 18 grams of protein per cup. They’re also cheap and versatile. A triple win!

Hail the hemp seeds.

Hemp seeds weigh in at 16 grams of protein per 3-tablespoon serving. I like to add these seeds atop salads and throw them into smoothies whenever possible.

Beans are your friend.

Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, lima beans…all of them will give you, at minimum, 15 grams of protein per cup. Throw beans on or in to at least one of your meals, and you’ll get a good bit of protein. I like to sneak beans into my breakfasts to get a nice morning protein boost.

Pass the peas.

Other legumes, like chickpeas or black-eyed peas, are a great protein source that can be made into veggie burger patties or cooked in soups, placed on salads, and so much more! These will bring in from 13 – 15 grams of protein per cup.

Quick, eat quinoa!

The gluten-free eater’s go-to rice substitute, quinoa is a staple for me and so many other gluten-free vegans. I eat it probably once every day, either at lunch or dinner. Two cooked cups will add 16 grams of protein to your daily count.

Get those greens.

Even your greens can be a source of protein – especially if you eat them in abundance! Spinach totals at 5 grams per cooked cup, while broccoli will give you 4 grams of protein per cooked cup. If you’re a healthy vegan, you’re eating greens in copious amounts – so add these and other protein rich greens in throughout the day, and it’ll add up fast.

Now, let’s put some of this together to see how easy it can be. If you made a dinner of, for example, 2 cups quinoa (16 grams protein) + 1 cup of black beans (15 grams protein) + a sprinkling of 3 tablespoons hemp seeds (16 grams protein) + 2 cups each of spinach (10 grams protein) and broccoli (8 grams of protein), all stirred up with some delicious vegan stir-fry sauce, your lunch or dinner would be giving you 65 grams of protein – above what is recommended for one day for the average 175 pound person!

The week Giles and Esther went vegan (article from today’s Times magazine)

Here is an article published in today’s Times Magazine, written by the gorgeous Esther Walker.  I’ve scribbled my thoughts below it….

Giles Coren and Esther Walker photographed at home in London. Photographed by John Carey

Esther Walker loves a burger, and her husband, restaurant critic Giles Coren, eats anything and everything for a living. So how will they survive giving up meat and dairy?

Are you or aren’t you? Lily Cole is. So is Brad Pitt. Beyoncé and Jay-Z were  (for 22 days). Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow are (on and off). Jamie  Oliver is rumoured to have dabbled. And Jamie Hince was (until he walked in  on Kate Moss in her knickers making him a bacon sandwich).

I’m talking about veganism, obviously. Along with the 5:2 diet, it’s the new  food mantra. The off-duty A-list accessory used to be a milky Starbucks to  go; now it’s a green juice.

Veganism was once just for crazy hippies or obsessive-compulsive Californians,  but now it’s busting into the mainstream. You can join in with Veganuary –  going vegan for January – the Movember of the dieting calendar. There are  even glossy vegan cookbooks. Once they were just cheap, picture-less  paperbacks. Now they have actual photos and shiny paper. Last year’s It’s  All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and the new The Vegan Pantry by Dunja  Gulin and Leon: Fast Vegetarian by Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter are  all glossy, all lifestyle.

And if vegan is just too hardcore, you can mix’n’match. The New  York Times food writer Mark Bittman wrote VB6, a book praising a  “flexitarian” diet – ie, eating only vegan food before 6pm and then whatever  you like.

The strict diet once based on an animal-loving ideology (no honey, no leather  shoes) has been hijacked by the A-list, and veganism is now well and truly a  fad.

So I decide to do it. One week as a vegan. How hard can it be? My husband,  Giles Coren, restaurant critic of The Times, is game for anything,  though he has always found vegans or vegetarians or any extreme dieter  sinister. Hitler, he always points out, was a vegetarian. “It’s a short step  from nut cutlets to Belsen,” he will say loudly to anyone who will listen.

But if he had his way he’d eat mostly plants at home. If I ever go out in the  evening, he will make himself a bowl of edamame beans or braised kale – and  nothing else – for dinner. He is fanatical about not getting fat, which as a  restaurant critic is a major occupational hazard. “Veganism isn’t about  eating sugar and bread in the place of meat,” he says. “It’s about just  eating lots and lots and lots of veg. And adding more salt. You just have to  think like a vegan. It’s like being kosher – it’s a diet that emerged from  working with what’s available. The trouble with being vegan here, now, is  that there’s too much available. Imagine you live in a forest surrounded by  mostly nuts and berries…”

I am a self-taught cook and one lesson I learnt early on was that almost  anything is delicious if you cover it in a lot of butter and salt and  cheese. I like eating meat but I think I could eat less and not miss it.  It’s butter, yoghurt, cheese and milk I will miss. Frothy coffees, bircher  muesli – farewell, dear friends.

It’s all right for Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who went vegan briefly towards the end  of last year: they don’t have to think about the practicalities of whatever  new diet they fancy. They can just skype their personal chef and say, “We’re  vegan now,” and then be presented with completely edible, thoughtful, vegan  food three times a day. If I’m going to be vegan, I can’t just do an  “instant shop” at my online grocery shop. I am going to have to make an  effort. Urgh.

So I know being vegan will be hard, but I don’t think it will be awful. I am a  good cook. I am creative. I can do this.

I didn’t think I would find myself, as I do, sitting at my kitchen table at  7.15pm on my first day of veganism, crying (just a tiny bit) and eating a  bagel covered in cream cheese, while drinking a (non-vegan) beer. Yes, there  are some non-vegan beers. Didn’t you know? There’s a fish oil, used in  beer’s clarification process, called isinglass, and so for the truly vegan,  these are out.

It all started out fine. The first morning I have muesli with soy milk and  then soy milk in my tea. Not terrific, but never mind. The rest of the day  was a lot like being on any old tedious weight-loss diet. Handfuls of nuts  here and there, fruit, chopped veg and miso soup for lunch.

“It’s going to be a long old week,” I think at about 4pm as I am cling to my  children’s tea: fish fingers in butter for Kitty, 3; sweet potato, spinach  and cheese purée for Sam, 6 months. Lucky them. It all smells amazing.  Normally, I fall on their leftovers like a fox on a bin. Not tonight.

Tonight, dinner for Giles and me is a seaweed salad with ponzu dressing and  then a vegetable broth of my own creation made with garlic, chilli and soy.  It will be plain, I tell myself, but delicious. I always order seaweed salad  in Japanese restaurants because it is my favourite thing.

But the seaweed that I have bought from my local health-food shop, and which  is now boiling in a pan on my stove, is just an evil, stinking, horrible  mess. It’s like alien intestine. Not food. Simply not for eating.

“Phew, what’s that smell?” says Giles, coming into the kitchen.

“Seaweed. It’s disgusting,” I say, carrying the still steaming pan out into  the garden, dumping it on the compost and returning to the stinking kitchen.

The broth is no better. It tastes of nothing, like spicy hot water with some  veg floating in it. The rice noodles I add at the last minute taste like  very fine shoelaces. Giles covers the whole lot with salt and declares it  “perfectly OK. It’s just underseasoned, that’s all.”

But Giles, as discussed, will eat pretty much anything as long as it is hot  and he can cover it in salt.

I can’t finish mine; I still have the death stench of the revolting seaweed in  my nostrils. “I look forward to my dinner all day long,” I whine to no one  in particular. “I am tired. I’ve got two children. Having a nice dinner and  a glass of wine is pretty much what keeps me going during the 800th  rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider and bloody bathtime.”

I feel cheated and upset. So I gobble down a huge onion bagel, covered in  cream cheese, and wash it down with the beer. As soon as Giles is out of the  room I let out a few tears of disappointment and frustration. Then I chase  the feeling away with a bar of Dairy Milk. Then I hate myself for the rest  of the night.

It’s just an emotional attachment to animal fat, I think next morning as I  spread Flora on a piece of rye toast. It’s like trying to give up smoking.  You think cigarettes are your friends. Cheese and cream are not my friends!

Just as elevenses rolls around I happen to be eating an apple and wheeling Sam  past a Pret A Manger; from inside I can hear a flat white and a pot of  bircher muesli jumping up and down and screaming, “Drink me! Eat me! Yummy  yummy!” I resist. But only just. Giles often looks horrified at how much  dairy I consume – he would turn green at the thought of drinking a huge  frothy coffee followed by a pot of yoghurt. “All that sloshing around in  you. No wonder you’re knackered all the time. And, you know…” He pats his  hips. Maybe he’s right.

I feel trapped without animal fat to fall back on. It’s a simple, essential  building block of taste, of flavour. I didn’t think I cared much about food.  I didn’t think I had an emotional relationship with it. I pride myself on  being unfussy, on eating anything from a cold jellyfish salad in an obscure  Chinese restaurant to a McDonald’s cheeseburger, and finding merits in both.

When I’m on a diet I can tune out the world and snack on hazelnuts, apples and  carrot juice. But not all day long. Not for ever. At some point I will go  insane and shoot up the high street in search of a cheese sandwich.

“Just make a big salad,” nags Giles. “A big crunchy salad. Your salads are  delicious.” Yes, I want to reply (but don’t, because I value my life), my  salads are delicious because I make the dressing with about a pint of  mayonnaise and snip in bits of bacon or chicken – or, at the very least,  some cheese.

Giles has become competitive about all this. I explained at the start that he  didn’t have to be vegan all day, just that he would have to eat vegan  dinners with me. But now he is coming home declaring, “Well, I had a fully  vegan day today. I feel great.” I don’t want to say that I had a fully vegan  day, too, and I just feel empty and bored. Maybe he is a natural fanatic,  like Hitler. (I don’t say this, either.)

We are having some friends round for dinner, who are warned that it will be  vegan.

I was going to wing it again with tofu curry but I have lost my nerve. I ring  up a friend and beg for his two best vegan curry recipes.

Both use, in the place of animal fat, a lot of nuts; both use curry pastes of  the usual garlic, chilli, ginger and spices with additional sesame seeds,  cashew nuts or peanuts. I am so down on veganism by now that I am convinced  both will be disgusting and that I will have to run out for pizza. But they  are both absolutely terrific. We all clean our plates and drink some strong  red wine and talk about how, actually, this vegan thing is OK. “This is  great stuff,” declares Giles. “We should eat like this all the time.”

But, later, I find him eating a ham and peanut butter sandwich by the light of  the fridge. “Look,” he says, licking something off a greasy finger, “you  can’t possibly be a vegan if you’re pissed.” He burps richly and then heads  towards Match of the Day.

After the successful vegan curries, I make vegan tortillas. I am pleased as  punch with these, which use a fresh tomato, cucumber, avocado and sweetcorn  salsa. I make a batch of Gwyneth Paltrow’s famous “Mexican green goddess”  dressing – an entire herbaceous border put in a blender with some vegan  mayonnaise, which is not as nasty as it sounds. Giles is not as crazy about  these because he is an even bigger carb-dodger than me. After four flour  tortillas he boings his hands off his tummy and says, “I feel like I’ve been  blown up with a bicycle pump.”

Overconfident now, for the next dinner I make a different nut-based curry (as  a vegan, without nuts or curry you are a bit lost), but something goes  wrong. Although it works well and is more than edible, I feel bloated and  perfectly sick for the first half of the next day. I can barely face my  falafel lunch until about 2.30pm.

At the end of the week I don’t feel better and I’ve put on weight. Before I  started I was 9st 9½lb; now I am 9st 10lb. Cheers for that.

Veganism is, if you ask me, just not necessary. We should all be more mindful  of what we consume, eat more plants and less meat. And, if you do feel  non-specifically ropey all the time, then an exclusion diet such as veganism  can locate gluten or dairy as the culprit.

But the faddism and freakiness (real or invented) of celebrities and their  diets knows no bounds; it is just an externalisation of their rampant  solipsism. This kind of craziness is simply not meant for the likes of you  and me. The key to a healthy life, as everyone knows, is everything in  moderation. And that’s the hardest thing of all.

Besides being very amusing – this article is really frustrating!  There is absolutely no reference as to the many very important reasons why someone might choose to go vegan – Esther’s only reason for trying it seems to be because some celebs are doing it and that she seems to eat a lot of dairy and worries that it might be sticking to her thighs….  If these are your only motivations for going vegan then no wonder she was buried in a cream cheese slathered bagel by the end of day one – I’m surprised she got that far actually.  I know how little resolve I’ve had in the past for half-hearted fad diets in an attempt to shift my semi-resident love handles.  I rarely got past eleven I clock without leaping into the biscuit tin.  But I managed to go vegan over night and haven’t looked back once. 

How?  What’s the difference?  Well just about everything.  You can’t compare veganism with a faddy weight-loss diet in any way shape or form! Veganism is about soooo much more than trying to shift a few pounds (although weight loss is a lovely bonus!).  But to change your entire eating habits over night on a momentary whim is of course going to end up in failure and tears!  Veganism is about eating in the most compassionate, sustainable, environmentally-friendly way that you can, and if done properly and carefully, it is also an incredibly healthy way to live.  But I would happily admit that one of the biggest downsides by far of veganism is having to give up many of your favourite foods but the thing that makes it all worthwhile and enables you to carry on, is knowing that you are no longer a part of something which is having such a devastating effect on the environment in so many different ways; that you are no longer part of the evil hideousness that is factory farming; that you are no longer a tiny cog in the cruel, pointless and wasteful wheel of the dairy industry; that you are no longer contributing to the mindless slaughter of millions and millions of innocent animals every day.  Now that’s what makes people persevere with tofu over tuna, lentils over lamb and mushrooms over mince!   

Do vegans care less about taste, flavour and food?  Of course not!  Usually the exact opposite in fact – most vegans I know are huge foodies.  I certainly use a far bigger variety of flavours, spices, pickles, sauces, marinades, herbs and oils now than I ever did before.  My pestle and mortar has never been so battered and bruised, or my chopping knives needed sharpening so often!     

Do I miss croissants, nutella and slow roast belly of pork?  Sometimes.  Enough that it tempts me to give in occasionally? No. Am I now used to vegan mayonnaise and veggie bugers?  Yes.  Have I grown to actually love them even?  Yes.  Have I now got a plentiful supply of really delicious vegan meals up my sleeve? Absolutely.  Do I have as much choice on the average restaurant menu?  Hell no.  Over all is it worth it?  100% yes. 

But maybe that’s just me. 

 

My stuff!

So what have I replaced my old items with?

After a fair bit of trial and error (and the assistance of the most wonderful and patient man in the world in Wholefoods who painstakingly took me through the relative merits and demerits of each shampoo, deodorant and dishwasher tablet…!) this is what we’ve switched to mostly… there’s a huge variety of products available so you really don’t feel you’re compromising or missing out.  We’ve come a long way since the days of hemp shoes and nut loaf 12 ways….!

nakdbio d  bodywash boojabooja  carrots percy  docorganicveganaise  ecover washing up   front       lorica macbeth   mooncup  salt  soyabutter soyacream soyamilk   toothpastevegan veganboots vegfish vegsausagesImage       argan blusher-peachesandcream-BL7_thumb boldwaterproofeyeliner-black-BWE1_thumb classicmattenailpaint-lightbrowncaramel-MNP3_thumb  cooking essentialoilcandle-geraniumteatree_thumb images6UCN2TNJ images91HM8XTT  touchofroses_mainsmoothie untitled   body shopagave confettinaileffects-bubblegum-CNP4_thumbalmond cheese  choco coyo derit divine maple mooncup oreo raw silken stock tofu vegemite vegusto yoghurt

Why Vegan?

A ‘vegan’ is someone who chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products.  So no meat, dairy or eggs.  Vegans try and avoid buying any animal fur, real leather, wool, angora, alpaca, silk and down.  They will try and avoid any cosmetics, beauty and cleaning products that have any animal derivatives in them or which have been tested on animals.

So the big question – Why?

question

My biggest fear about ‘coming out’ as a vegan was how my mother was going to take it.  I was desperately worried that she would take it as a personal insult and a rejection of her values and the way in which she raised us, which it absolutely is not.  So to soften the blow, I decided to write her a letter.

Here’s what I wrote…

Dearest Mother,

I am writing to you because I am too scared to tell you what I am about to tell you in person!  I don’t think you will agree or understand why I’m doing it but I do want and need you to respect and support it if you can. 

I’m not gay, I’m not pregnant, I’m not joining the labour party (but will probably vote for them…), I’m not joining a cult, I’m not starting a revolution, I’m not getting a divorce, I’m not converting to Islam, I’m not getting my nipples pierced or my knuckles tattooed… but……………….. I am…………… going to try and adopt a vegan lifestyle. 

This came about first of all through talking to a vegan friend of mine who spoke very passionately and articulately about it and made me want to go and find out more for myself.  Secondly, the horse burger furore recently made me realise how ridiculously arbitrary it is that we happily eat pork, lamb, beef and salmon but are horrified by the thought of eating horse, dog, rhino or goldfish!  And then Lent is coming up and I wanted to eat more healthily.  So all of these things led me to do lots of reading around farming practices around the world, climate change, meat production and consumption, dietary needs etc and I was horrified by what I learned.

Below I have tried to cover most of the reasons why I’m doing it without blabbering on too much.  But the biggest, overriding point I think is that we don’t need to include any animal products in our diet whatsoever.  We can get a perfectly healthy, nutritionally balanced diet from plants alone.  So even if you’re not totally convinced by the arguments below, you don’t need to even risk being wrong so why do we? 

I really hope that you don’t take this as a personal attack on everything that you bought me up to believe in.  This is not a rejection of your values.  This is not remotely personal.  This is not an attack on farming and farmers!  This is an ideology which seems to make sense to me and black and white numbers which don’t.   

So please don’t be disappointed in me or embarrassed of me but try and be proud of me for having the guts to try to do the responsible, compassionate and decent thing (even if you don’t think that it is). 

I love you and I feel sick with fear at how hard this will be both physically and socially but also quite sure that this it’s the right thing to do.        

  1. Farming livestock is incredibly wasteful of natural resources:

–          Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) uses 30 per cent of the Earth’s land mass. 

–          More than 260 million acres of U.S. forests have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals, and the equivalent of seven football fields of land is bulldozed worldwide every minute to create more room for farmed animals.

–          Raising animals for food is grossly inefficient, because while animals eat large quantities of grain, soybeans, oats, and corn, they only produce comparatively small amounts of meat, dairy products, or eggs in return. This is why more than 70 percent of the grain and cereals grown in the US are fed to farmed animals.

–          7kg of grain will feed 10 people for 1 day. Or it can be used to produce 650 calories of meat.

–          It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat, while growing 1 pound of wheat only requires 25 gallons – so you save more water by not eating a pound of beef than not showering for 6 months!

–          Between watering the crops that farmed animals eat, providing drinking water for billions of animals each year, and cleaning away the filth in factory farms, transport trucks, and slaughterhouses, the farmed animal industry uses half of the entire water used by the US each year.

 It’s a massive contributor to Global Warming and climate change.

–          raising animals for food is the second most significant contributor to global warming.  (Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming. Raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions).

–          The meat, fish and dairy industries directly contribute to all the major environmental catastrophes facing our planet. The number of farmed animals in the world has quadrupled in the last 50 years, putting an incredible strain on the environment. Food production no longer nurtures land; instead both animals and soil are pushed to their limits and beyond in an effort to satisfy the voracious appetite of the Western world.

–          The current buzz word is ‘sustainable’ and yet modern agriculture is anything but sustainable. Rainforests are still being chopped down at an alarming rate either for grazing or to grow crops to feed to animals. Oceans are being destroyed by overfishing, which is devastating entire marine ecosystems, while coastal fish farms are causing extensive pollution and wildlife decline.

–          The most powerful step that we can take as individuals to avert global warming is to stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy products.

  1. I am doing this for animal welfare reasons.   Factory farming methods and standards around the world are sadly not what they are in Herefordshire and most of the UK!  I imagine if most of us spent a day inside an abattoir we would be vegetarians before we could get out.  And I don’t think sadly it matters whether you buy locally farmed, organic, free range or not – all meat consumption is increasing demand for meat and I don’t want to be a part of it any longer.  If animal welfare was my only concern, then I could certainly ensure that I only buy responsibly farmed meat and dairy produce but unfortunately this is just an aside to the far greater and more urgent environmental reasons listed above, and so is not a solution.  

And there are other things I hadn’t ever realised which I suppose are incredibly obvious when you think about it – I just never really had:

–          Most dairy cows are forced to have a calf every year (which in itself seems rather cruel considering their calves are taken away within a day of being born so that we can have the milk). 100,000 male dairy calves (in the UK alone – so don’t even think about US stats!) are killed shortly after birth each year as there’s not enough demand for veal.

–          30 to 40 million male chicks (UK alone) are minced alive or gassed every year (this is completely legal and approved by both the Humane Slaughter Association and the RSPCA).  I’ve seen the videos and it’s unbelievable! 

The effects of livestock farming on global poverty I also hadn’t understood previously:

–          There is more than enough food in the world to feed the entire human population yet there are more than billion people starving to death. Obviously there are various other factors at play here, including political corruption, farming subsidies, grain stores etc but our overwhelming demand for meat is largely responsible also. We funnel huge amounts of grain, soybeans, and corn through all the animals we use for food.   If we stopped intensively breeding farmed animals and grew crops to feed humans instead, we could easily feed everyone on the planet with healthy and affordable vegetarian foods.

–          If this trend continues, the developing world will never be able to produce enough food to feed itself, and hunger will continue to plague hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Author George Monbiot, writing in the U.K.’s The Guardian, explains that there’s only one solution: “It now seems plain that a vegan diet is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue”.

–          This trend will contribute to continuing malnourishment in the developing world, global warming, widespread pollution, deforestation, land degradation, water scarcity and species extinction because more animals mean more crops are needed to feed them: the planet cannot feed both increasing human and farmed animal populations.

–          So if we are trying to reduce our car use, limit the amount of water we waste, become more ‘energy-efficient’ and generally lessen our environmental impact, we must also examine the most important factor of our personal ecological footprint: what we eat.

Loads of love,

Me xxx

So that was nearly a year ago and those were my main reasons for making the change.  I can now add several other points to that list, including;

Habit…

I’ve come to see that our attitudes towards different animals are completely arbitrary and nonsensical and are merely a product of our upbringing and what we become used to – habit!  We are used to seeing dogs, cats and horses as pets and wouldn’t dream of eating them and yet we look at cattle, sheep, pigs and chicken as food because we have been bought up to view them that way.  When my girls (aged 4 and 3) are around animals they don’t make this distinction because it’s not a human instinct – it’s something that we learn.  They don’t look at a pig and see food any more than they do when they look at a puppy – and quite rightly they would be horrified if I said “right poppet, pass me that knife would you, mama wants some bacon!”.  Of course over time we become used to this process and we accept that animals need to die in order for us to thrive because we are told that we need milk and cheese for calcium and strong bones (not true), that we need meat for protein (not true).  The only reasons we eat meat are that it tastes good, everyone does it and we’ve always done it.  That’s it!  And they are not justification for doing something that we instinctually know is wrong!  We have just become so desensitised and switched off to the fact that millions of animals are being slaughtered behind closed doors so that we can have pepperoni on our pizza and steak frites.  Yet there are very few people I know who are entirely comfortable with the idea of killing an animal – everyone would like it to be as painless and humane as possible and some are happy to do this themselves to ensure that it is, but it’s still not something anyone enjoys doing and if you did you would be referred to a psychiatrist to be looked at.  So once you step outside of what you have grown to understand and know and look at it with fresh eyes, it is startlingly clear that the only reason we are able to be part of something so cruel and unnecessary is because we have been taught it from a young age by those we respect and admire.  This is how the horrific events in history came about and I just don’t see how we can say in one breath that gassing people alive is evil beyond words and in the next say that it’s ok to gas millions more baby male chicks alive just so that we can eat chicken and eggs.  I’m sorry to draw the comparison but I think its worth making.  When you are brainwashed into thinking that doing something utterly unthinkable is necessary and acceptable then we are capable of behaving in a way we wouldn’t imagine possible otherwise.  Slaughtering animals for no good reason is no different as far as I can see.  Just because you’re not the one doing it does not make you any more unaccountable – if you’re consuming the products then you are merely paying someone else to do it for you.

Health

About 3 weeks in I noticed my energy levels improving.  I hadn’t had low energy levels before but suddenly I had buckets of energy and didn’t have those peaks and troughs throughout the day (which I’d always contributed to coffee, carbs etc).  My bowel movements changed dramatically – without wanting to paint too full a picture, I became much more regular (same number as number of meals) and they were what Dr Gillian Mckeith would describe as “marvellous in every way!”.  I’ve got clearer skin, I sleep better, I have a higher libido, think more clearly, feel more positive and I feel much happier in general.  I also lost a stone quite quickly (within about 3 months) and haven’t lost a pound since so my weight stabilised very quickly.  And I’ve never eaten more food or more carbs so all those potatoes and rice I’d been avoiding previously to stave off those extra pounds seems to be twaddle when it comes to me.  I’m 5ft 10″ and did weigh between 10.5 and 11 stone (BMI of around 22) and now I’m between 9.5 and 10 stone (BMI of around 19).  How much of this is psychosomatic and how much is real I have no idea – but the bowel movements and the weighing scales don’t lie!

Finances

Our weekly food shopping is much cheaper also as meat and cheese are jolly expensive (especially if you’re trying to buy organic, grass fed, free range etc).  Replacing those items with more pulses, grains, fruit and veg is much better for you and much cheaper.

Mindfulness

Because being vegan is something you’re aware of regularly throughout the day – every time you have a drink, a snack, a meal etc – I’ve found that the constant reminder of your principles and values and the constant opportunity to exercise personal choice has made me much more mindful in other aspects of my life.  I feel much more aware of the effects that our choices make and have found myself being much more proactive than I ever used to be – buying local and organic as much as possible, camping holidays instead of a flight abroad, switching to a mooncup, installing a composting bin, taking the bus instead of driving places more often, being more inventive with leftovers than I used to be, having less baths and quicker showers, supporting an independent coffee stall instead of Starbucks, buying second hand as much as possible, supporting ethically minded companies more etc.  The list goes on and of course I’m not saying I always make these decisions – but certainly a lot more than I used to and I think of the impact of my decisions every time I set out to buy something.

Social debate

The social side of veganism I have found by far the hardest challenge.  I’ll talk about in more detail in another post but there have been lots of tricky situations – many of which I’ve handled terribly!  I had not foreseen what a hugely contentious issue it would be for so many people and I certainly hadn’t accounted for how many people would take my being vegan as some sort of personal attack on their lifestyles and choices (which it certainly is not!).  More of that later… but on the plus side, I have had so many engaging, fascinating, heated, passionate, enlightening conversations over the past year that even if I were to give it all up tomorrow, it would have been a really worthwhile experiment in that regard alone.

Marriage strengthening!

I don’t think I would have got through the first year if it wasn’t for Ed doing this too.  I would have crumbled at the first dinner invitation or disapproving gaze from an aged aunt…!  Thank goodness we both felt exactly the same way about it.  We’ve debated it endlessly and continue to do so and it’s been a really fun and engaging project for us to share together.  We’ve changed our style of cooking entirely and our cupboards are completely unrecognisable from what they were a year ago.  We’ve spent weekends experimenting with recipes and evenings scouring out the best vegan food in London.  We now spend less money on food (both at home and out) but more time planning and experimenting and more time in the kitchen together chopping, preparing, cooking and chatting.  So I’m really grateful for having the perfect teammate and also very aware of how much harder and less enjoyable it would have been on my own.    So thank you – I love you so much and am so bloody relieved we seem to be leaning in the same direction! x

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