It is 3rd February and Veganuary is over. I have actually been a vegan for longer, I did not start it this month but back in the autumn and will be continuing it. However, I did think it was a good time to review how it was going.
Maybe I should start with why I am vegan. Like many people I did it for many various reason; mainly the animals, the environment and my health, not necessarily in that order. All of these were important but I chose to do it now, as I can.
I have wanted to be vegetarian for a long time. I did do it for a little while when 12 years old but was branded a ‘fussy eater’ and it singled me out when I was already being singled out through the scapegoating and bullying. Then was told it was the reason that I was anaemic. I listened and so I stopped and ate meat again.
Then as an adult, I felt due to my citrus allergy and lack of self-worth that I could not make the choice. This choice does affect the people around me; dinner parties, lunches and cafe visits, it just make things different. To be able to say ‘I choose this’ takes a voice, that I just did not have. Especially as this is a choice, unlike my citrus allergy and I still felt inconvenient for having that.
Over the last three years I have been gaining my voice and getting loudly. Then I have my sister-in-law who is also vegan and supported my decision. I opened my eyes to the very many reasons to be vegan; I watched Cowspiracy, What the Health and Earthlings. I have also looked at the other arguments that these are exaggerated and a load of rubbish. I am a historian after all, so I have to know both sides to each story. The problem is that both sides have motives to argue to their point. There seems to be no neutral ground on which to see both sides.
All I can say is what I know from my experience. I am not in a clinical study or creating one, but I can say that usually this time of year my Fibromyalgia is in flare up mode. The cold weather has usually increased my pain by now and that just hasn’t happened. I am on the lowest pain medication I have been on for years and although I have symptoms they are mild. I have no explanation for this except I have gone vegan. It could be I am getting better at managing the condition but I just do not think that is true. There are studies that state that dairy has inflammatory properties and some that say it doesn’t. Usually dairy versus non-dairy studies and I have no test results, just my experiences.
So what do I eat? This is the most common question I get, even though the ‘healthy plate’ we teach the students does not consist of just meat and dairy. However, it does take a change in the way I think about cooking. It means changing a few of the staples in my cupboard and swapping some items. I now have a lot more lentils and beans in my pantry. I have swapped to non-dairy cheese, butter and am also well-informed on ‘accidentally vegan’ products.
I bought several vegan recipe books and tried out a few new recipes. Although, I had lots of my own recipes. Before being vegan I was mostly vegetarian at home, so I could make a few switches and carry on as before. Often making pastas, risotto and rice dishes with a mixture of vegetables and sauces. I have also used The Vegan Kind Online Supermarket and followed lots of vegan social media groups. All these have been so useful to find out lots of tricks and tips.
The one thing I miss is pizza, but there are even alternatives for that. Due to this being Veganuary lots of restaurants have been making adjustments to their menus. I am able to order pizza from Zizzi’s or Pizza Express. I can even have them delivered with the help from Deliveroo.
Other cuisines have also adapted. Top of the media headlines has been Greggs, who introduced a vegan sausage roll. Which I found almost too strangely close to the real thing. I hope the availability of plant-based foods continues as Veganuary becomes a memory and the rest of the year takes form in this mental world.