This Is The End

For the moment, I’m going to ignore the scary reality that I’ve just moved in to a house share in London with strangers and none of my housemates have spoken to me yet. Instead, I’m going to focus on Veganuary, and reflect on the last 29 days of cruelty-free life.

The truth is, I have not enjoyed it. I’ve felt angry at the few options in restaurants. I’ve felt sad when everyone else is eating biscuits that I’m not allowed to have. And I’ve felt hungry, more than I thought I would.

Last night I came very close to purposefully breaking my Veganuary resolution, and I even ordered a meal with halloumi on it. I told myself I would pick it off and give it to the omni/pescatarian/vegetarian people I was eating with, but I was tempted to just dig in. By the time the meal arrived, I had resolved that I was just going to eat it and fuck Veganuary because I’d done well and saved animals and I was hungry. But then, the meal did arrive. And it had a massive fuck-off dollop of yoghurt on it. It was almost like the fates were teasing me, saying “eat it, Kirsty! Screw those cows that gave their udders and possibly their lives so that you could eat! Dig in!”

In the end, I did give the halloumi away and scraped the yoghurt from my roasted vegetables – and I’m proud of myself for that. But I still bought a non-vegan meal, and did nothing to raise the profile of cruelty-free eating for that particular restaurant. Again, I’m forgetting why I started Veganuary in the first place.

Nevertheless, I’ve still got some reviews to do! I promised in my first Veganuary post that I would talk about the most pretentious-sounding treat in existence: London Maker’s raw stoneground chocolate, butterscotch flavour, free from dairy, gluten, refined sugar, and nuts.

At first glance, they don’t look like dark chocolate. They’re light in colour and look a bit like Rolos (side note: whatever happened to Rolos?!). And they don’t taste like dark chocolate, even rolling in at a considerable 70% cocao. I feel naughty eating them, like they’ve tricked me into dairy-filled milk chocolate. But damn are they good. The butterscotch flavour comes through nicely, but isn’t overpowering. I am hooked.

The downsides, however, are threefold: 1) when you bite into a chunk, it splinters off into smaller bits and makes you spill chocolate all down your top; 2) you only get three chunks in a packet; and 3) it is, apparently, absurdly expensive. So think of it more as an infrequent treat than your go-to chocolate bar. But do try it if you can – it’s worth it.

That’s all for today – expect another post in a few days about the end of Veganuary, and whether I’m going to keep going into Vegruary, Varch, Vapril, Vune…

Veganuary Day 24, Or ‘The Spooky Tale of the Sunday Roast’

I live in the semi-rural town of Merstham. Despite its (usually) excellent rail links to London, the local establishments are rarely vegan-friendly. On Sunday, I went for a lovely walk through the Surrey Hills with my boyfriend, mum, sister, and sister’s boyfriend, and we ended up in my local, The Feathers. We’d been there several times before and the food was surprisingly lovely for what seems like a standard drinking hole. I’d had the sweet potato and mozzarella burger, the roasted courgette bake, and the green vegetable risotto on previous visits, and all had been pretty great.

However, my luck with The Feathers ran out this Veganuary. Looking down the menu, I saw the familiar “V” without its “Vn” companion, a common sight outside of London. I was pretty hungry after my hearty stroll through the hills, and my disappointment when I couldn’t immediately see that there was anything I could eat was palpable. I was being grumpy, and I knew it. I’d already had to frantically google the beers they had whilst ordering, and the first one that I found was vegan just happened to be the most expensive one. Not a great start – but I’m very happy to know that Corona is vegan.

Then things got worse.

Then briefly better, then worse again.

When I sent my sister to ask if the nut roast was vegan, the chef apparently didn’t know what that meant. But, when she asked if it contained any cheese or eggs, he said no. At this point I was borderline ecstatic. Something I could eat, in this tiny semi-rural pub! Huzzah!

To be fair, the actual nut roast was lovely. It was some sort of spicy tomato one, and it didn’t seem to have any animal products in it. But it was served with creamy potato mash. The kind of mash you know is definitely made with lashings of butter. And, I’m ashamed to say, I ate it. My logic was “well, I was told it was vegan…” And also “mashed potato is fucking great.”

So, yes, I technically broke my Veganuary resolution – again. But I did (pretty much) the best I could, and is it really my fault if the chef is uneducated on his ingredients? The truth is, being vegan is hard. It takes a lot of pre-planning and a lot of knowledge about what might have animal product in it. It also takes a lot of balls. You have to ask every waiter, chef, and barman questions when you know they think you’re a prick. And I hate that. All I can say is hats off to the people who have been doing this for years, who know how to ask the right questions and order the right thing, and who have convinced all their friends to change their plans many times over to suit their needs.

Hats off to you, but I don’t think I’ll be joining you.

Veganuary Day 19, Or “I Am Running Out Of Clever Blog Titles”

It’s two-thirds of the way through Veganuary, and I have eaten more dark chocolate in the last three weeks than ever before.

 

I am going to be very positive in this post – partly to balance out the pessimism in the last one, but also because I’m proud of myself! All my friends who have tried Veganuary have already given up, and aside from a slip-up with caramel biscuits, I’ve stuck by it. I’ve lost weight, which wasn’t my aim at all and didn’t even enter into the reasons I was trying it, but is fun nonetheless. And I’ve tried some new recipes, like “cheat’s moussaka” and those pancakes I was raving about last time.

I am still finding it hard. But in the interests of optimism, I’m going to try something I’ve seen going around on the Veganuary Facebook page. So, here goes…

Things I’m glad are vegan:

  • Oreos! Like any good vegan, these biscuits have become my number one treat. Although they are only accidentally cruelty free, and probably have palm oil in them, buying a pack of these bad boys for the office on January 3rd has saved me a lot of elevensies’ tummy rumbling.
  • Black coffee. I wouldn’t last without this. I feel very tired all the time, and I’m putting it down to January blues and early trains rather than lack of nutrition, but either way I’m glad I can guzzle down my four cups a day guilt-free. If there’s anyone out there who loves a milky coffee, I recommend trying good filter coffee for a bit. That’s what I did when I became lactose intolerant, and I haven’t looked back.
  • (Most) cereal. Now, anyone who knows me will know that I fucking love cereal. From standard Cornflakes to jazzy Ricicles, there is no better breakfast or any-time snack. And they’re generally fortified with vitamins , including that elusive B12. So I don’t feel bad eating three bowls of Shreddies a day any more.
  • Baked potatoes with beans. You have to love this if you’re vegan – if you go for lunch with your grandma, it’s likely to be the only thing on the menu you can eat. But it’s also a great dinner for when you can’t be bothered to cook on a weekday evening.
  • Bourbons. Who’d have thunk it? Special shout out to my sister for realising their lack of animal products, and also for feeding me them when I crashed at her flat for a week.
  • DRIED PASTA. Who doesn’t love pasta?! Well, my grandpa, but that’s just because he inherently distrusts non-English foods. But whipping up a quick bowl of pasta with veg and a sauce has saved me from many a hungry evening.

This is a very short list compared to the vast amount of wonderful vegan food I’ve had this month and before. But thinking back to my favourite treats has made me excited to complete the last twelve days of Veganuary. I also want to recommend some vegan treats that my boss gave me after realising I couldn’t eat the creme egg he’d bought me. They are ‘rose & violet soft fondant cremes’ from Hotel Chocolate, and they’re delicious. Probably not an everyday kinda snack, but they’re worth it if you want to treat yo’ self. Thanks boss!

Half-way to Chocolate Land

It’s half way through Veganuary!! And I’m struggling.

Well, not struggling so much as wondering why I’m doing it. I don’t like avoiding chocolate and naan breads and crunchy nut cornflakes, and I didn’t even eat that much of those foods normally. I don’t like having to ask the barman which wine is vegan, or surreptitiously google it whilst my friends are ordering. I don’t like that my boss bought creme eggs for everyone in the office and then realised that I couldn’t have one.

do like looking up new recipes (I will attach an incredible vegan pancake recipe below), and flicking through new cookbooks. I do like having interesting conversations with fellow Veganuary-ers and finding out how they’ve adapted their life. I do like knowing that I’m contributing to a little less animal suffering in the world.

Veganuary is a challenge, and I knew that. But I didn’t think it would be that different to my old diet. I haven’t had meat in around two years and haven’t bought milk, cheese, or eggs for over a year. Sure, I had non-vegan meals at restaurants if there was nothing else, and would eat biscuits whenever I wanted, but am I doing much more to help combat animal cruelty now?

What I’m saying is, I’m flagging. I need motivation, and reasons as to why Veganuary is helping the world. I need your help, people! And hopefully the second half of the month will fly by.

So, whilst you come up with your brilliant replies, let me give you that pancake recipe. I just found it on google but it was far better than any other vegan pancake recipe I’ve tried.

Ingredients

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar (you can adapt this based on how sweet you like your pancakes)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 300ml water
  • 1 tablespoon of the oil of your choice (I used vegetable oil)

Chuck all the dry stuff in a bowl, and make a well in the middle. Whisk dat oil with the water (the fun part) and pour it in the well. Mix it all together until just combined. Pour a dollop in a lightly oiled pan (my first one was DRIPPING in oil and it wasn’t gr8) and fry!

I found that they were best with something really sweet like maple syrup, rather than lemon and sugar. But generally, I was really impressed! The texture was slightly different to real pancakes, but not distractingly so.

So you can eat like shit and be vegan! Go forth and pig out!

 

P.S. Quick shout out to my sister, who phoned me late last night to drunkenly tell me she’d broken her Veganuary with a fillet o’ fish from McDonalds. Strong.

A Cruelty-Free Week… Or Was It?

I nearly didn’t write about this. I nearly decided that I was going to be really optimistic about Veganuary, and ignore the bad bits. I nearly lied to you all. But I’m not going to do that – because what is a blog if not self-aggrandising and painfully truthful?

Because the truth is, I slipped up. I ate some stuff that was probably not vegan, and decided not to look it up so that I didn’t have to know whether I’d eaten animal products or not. I visited some old friends on Friday, and accepted some wine without even thinking to ask if I could see the label. And, at another friends’ house, after not having had dinner, I ate some biscuits which I thought could perhaps be dairy-free, just because I was hungry.

And, last night, I had a dream that I was at a massive Christmas buffet (seasonal, I know) with multiple vegan options, but I still mourned over the chocolates and other dairy products. In the dream, I made my friend chop off the end of her dessert and discreetly give it to me. I also wept over the mulled wine, which apparently has melted butter in it in Dreamland. The fact that my subconscious was telling me that I was hating the Veganuary lifestyle made me even more embarrassed, and even less willing to write about it here.

Who cares, right? In none of these cases did I actually buy animal products, so I haven’t supported the industry. And it’s only a small amount – probably a drop in the ocean compared to what most people eat. And what does a dream tell you, really? But still, I wasn’t going to write about it. I thought, ‘if I just ignore that that happened, I can pretend that I’m still fully vegan, and that I haven’t broken my Veganuary resolution. The internet doesn’t have to know.’

What changed my mind was seeing the lovely, encouraging, and truthful posts on Facebook by fellow Veganuary-ers, telling like-minded people about their slip-ups. Some hadn’t realised that the crisps they’d bought had animal product in them, and some just had a bad day and ate some chocolate. All received positive responses of “don’t beat yourself up!” and “you’re trying your best!” It made me realise that it’s fine to mess up a little, to make mistakes or ‘cheat’. I’m still helping the environment, animals, and my own health by choosing to eat mainly vegan, and changing your lifestyle is always going to be hard.

So this post has no recipes or reviews, just an update on my life. I hope this resonates with some other Veganuary-ers, and maybe even provides some comfort to other people who have slipped up. Keep going guys, we’re doing the best we can!

Day Three, Or ‘Why Is Everything So Expensive?!’

It’s January 3rd, and I’ve had two brushes with animal products. One was the infamous Quorn Scotch egg incident, and one was about two hours ago when I very nearly ate a big bowl of pasta with truffle pesto sauce. Never again will I trust my mother to read the labels!

But this evening, whilst chillin out watching Paul O’Grady’s For The Love of Dogs, I experienced something which made me want to stay vegan forever. Suprisingly, it wasn’t the adorable Lurcher named Twinkle who WAS ABANDONED AND TIED TO AN ELECTRIC FENCE BUT JUST GOT ADOPTED I’M CRYIN. It was a handful of Freedom Confectionery Mallows.

These sweets are better than any gelatine-filled marshmallows I’ve ever had, and better than the vast majority of sweets I’ve eaten. They are light and sweet without being unbearably so, and generally delicious. And, somehow, they are everything-free. That’s egg, dairy, gluten, gelatine, artificial flavouring, soy, GMO, artificial colour, and nut free. I highly recommend them, to my veggie/vegan and omnivore friends.

So, these mallows have made my day. But by no means has it been a struggle staying vegan. I started the day with some orange juice and Weetabix with soya milk, had carrot and coriander soup (made with soya cream) for lunch, snacked on fruit and Oreos, and, after abandoning the truffle sauce, had pasta with Free From pesto and veg for dinner. I haven’t felt like I’m missing out on anything, and I’m enjoying thinking about my food more.

But there’s a downside – it’s all so damn expensive! A bag of vegan marshmallows is £2.50 whilst a much bigger bag of meaty mallows would be about a quid. A tiny jar of Free From pesto is also £2.50, whilst rennet-filled stuff would be at least half the price. I recognise that I’m in a very good position where I can buy these things – or at least, get my mum to add them to the shopping list – and I know that many people can’t do that. But as Veganuary gets more popular and more people go for a cruelty-free lifestyle, there will be more demand for vegan products, and they will get cheaper. I’m looking forward to that day.

I know that being vegan on a budget can be difficult, but I also know that it is far from impossible. When I move out into my own flat (hopefully by the end of Veganuary), I will use natural ingredients and stop using meat/dairy replacements, and it will be a different kind of challenge. But I’m so up for it.

Honey, I Shrunk The Number Of People Interested In My Blog

So, this post is gonna be a little ~controversial~. It’s on a topic that gets people rather passionate, and I’m gonna be honest, I don’t want to get on the wrong side of that passion. It’s something that around 1% of the population cares deeply about, whilst the other 99% has no idea that it’s even a debate.

It’s about honey. Yup, that delicious, healthy, natural shit that everyone loves (especially if you’ve got a cold). Why is it such a debate, you ask? Bees make it, right? So then it’s not vegan? Right?!?! Wrong, some would say. And I’m confused. I’ve read tonnes of articles (and tumblr posts) about how bees make too much honey which makes them swarm, and how without beekeeping all flowers would die, and how they love making food for us.

The reason I’m writing about honey is because I just can’t decide whether to avoid it during Veganuary. In the interest of not having people shout at me, I think I’ll try as much as possible to choose agave syrup. But, let’s be honest, that shit is expensive and I have to put a deposit down on a flat, so I’m not sure how long my agave days will last.

So, fellow Veganuers (?) and full-on vegans, what should I do? What’s your opinion on the big honey debate? Should I suck it up and buy agave, or reach for the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes? What’s so bad about honey? Is it better to only get local stuff and hope that they keep bees more ‘ethically’? Or is the idea of ‘keeping’ animals vegan at all?

 

P.S. I nearly broke my Veganuary resolution at about ten past midnight by reaching for the Quorn Scotch eggs. Shout out to Genna for reminding me that there are eggs in Scotch eggs.

Here’s Another Self-important Blog About New Year’s Resolutions

So, 2016 is nearly over (thank fuck), and everyone is turning all introspective and thoughtful – myself included. Aside from all of the depressing world news stories, celebrity deaths, and potential end of the world itself, this year has been shit for me personally. One of my best friends died, my mum’s cancer came back, and I left my favourite place in the world, the first place in which I felt a real sense of comfort and peace, forever. I got a new job but not without experiencing large bouts of anxiety, panic, and low self-worth. So fuck 2016.

But we all want the future to be better and brighter, and this often stems from our new year’s resolutions. Mine are all quite wishy-washy (“get comfortable in job,” “try new sport,” “read more books” etc), except for one. I’m going to properly try veganism. I’ve been vegetarian for about a year and a half and have never looked back. I’m also lactose intolerant so tend to avoid dairy, unless I want to take a gross-tasting lactase pill to stop me from being sick. So it seems like a natural progression.

I was quasi-vegan at uni, as we didn’t really have any milk or eggs in the house and I could cook what I want. But now that I’m back at home with my mum, my food-based morals have fallen slightly by the wayside. She eats some meat and fish, and although I tried a bite of a pig-in-a-blanket at Christmas dinner (I did not miss it), I haven’t gone so far as to start eating meat again. But I have had some eggs (I made a great bibimbap-inspired stir fry the other week), and got used to lactofree milk instead of soya. And I’ve eaten all the chocolate in the world over Christmas, obviously. Oh, and I’m digging into a bag of cheese savouries as I write…

So I’m trying to cut all that out, and I’m going to write about it all the while. I’m hoping to do Veganuary, and then see how long I last after that. I plan to blog about how difficult (or easy!) it is, interesting recipes I’ve come across, and some thoughts about why I’m doing it. I’m going to start it off with a little review of one of the vegan treats I got from my lovely family this Christmas! So here goes…

Prepping for veganuary #boojabooja

A photo posted by Kirsty Harrod (@harroddd) on Dec 26, 2016 at 4:27am PST

 

This Norfolk-based company are the guiltless pleasure of every vegan, and can be found sprinkled over the #vegan hashtag on Instagram. Not only do they come with the promise of being organic and dairy-free, these chocolates also come in a beautiful gift box, making them perfect for your hippy cousin’s birthday. The almond and sea salt caramel may seem like a mish-mash of all the flavours that are currently in fashion, but it doesn’t feel like overkill. The chocolates are light and don’t feel claggy, which is often the downfall of truffles. They feel indulgent yet almost healthy, and are certainly moreish. I give them a 9/10 – they dropped a point for being (apparently) absurdly expensive.

Still to come: vegan marshmallows (!!), London Maker raw ‘stoneground’ chocolate (??), and Thug Kitchen – The Official Cookbook. Stay tuned!