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Late one night, I was thinking about food. This was not particularly unusual as almost all of my thoughts are about food. It was a night of stress, as I balanced and re-balanced my mental budget for the upcoming month. After all the unbending commitments of debit orders and utility bills, there really wasn’t very much left over. Suddenly, sparked by an anger over the ever increasing price of butter, I decided that I should try a month of veganism.
Those closest to me were immediately shook with a deep panic. Should they intervene? Had I lost my mind? Did I fully understand the gravity of this statement? My sister, and housemate (also a qualified chef) felt a deep personal responsibility for the shame I was bringing upon the family name. What had she done wrong, she asked herself in despair?
The goals were quite simple – shop, cook and eat vegan at home for one month with the goal of saving money. Reviews and eating for work would remain unchanged, I assured my Editor.
Day 1: I forgot I was supposed to be vegan until after I had had a cup of milky tea, and toast with butter and cheese for breakfast. It didn’tcross my mind to think twice about such simple ingredients. I made a shopping list, because I realised that I had not prepared very well for this experiment.
Day 2: I’m learning to enjoy black tea (bye bye flat whites). The urge to tell everyone that I am vegan is overwhelming. For now, I am keeping it to myself until I’m more confident in my resolve to maintain this new way of life.
Also, I don’t want people to think less of me.
Day 3: I tried vegan cheese today, and I’m not angry about it. I mean, it’s definitely not cheese, but it’s not disgusting either. The mock Cheddar tasted peculiarly like Niknaks, which is not the worst flavour in the world. I also sampled some delicious vegan coconut yoghurt but at R97 a litre… I think I will pass.
Day 4: Dinner was at a restaurant (a review for work), and I recklessly ordered a sirloin steak. It was delicious, but by the time I got home I felt really sick.
Day 6: Vegan mayo is giving me life right now! I also realise that it is basically a sauce made of vegetable oils and stabilisers but it’s really delicious and I don’t care what other people think.
Day 8: Are anchovies a vegetable? I think they are. Luckily avos are cheap at the moment, so it’s avo on everything for the next few days. I am sleeping the best in ages.
Day 9: I had a dream last night about cheese. I really miss cheese. I love cheese.
Day 11: I went shopping and bought a bunch of grains, spices and other tasty bits. I bought whole grain rye and I have no idea how to cook it. At this stage, 2 out of 3 meals a day are strictly vegan.
Day 14: I considered buying some almond milk for my coffee, but it is more expensive than eyelash extensions! I’m here to save money, for goodness sake, not spend R40 per litre on plant milk!
Day 15: I cooked a hake fillet on purpose for dinner. I made an excuse that it doesn’t count because I bought it in last month’s budget.
Day 18: I want to eat the whole world today and I can’t figure out why.
Day 19: Hello PMS! My uterus didn’t get the memo about us going vegan. Dinner is fully loaded Steers cheesy chips with extra cheese, gherkins and Prego sauce.
Day 20: Despite eating chips last night, I am having chips again for lunch. Welcome to PMS Land.
Day 25: The closer Pay Day gets, the less resolved I am to maintain this vegan facade. Mac and cheese for dinner was heavenly, and I wondered how I ever lived without dairy as all.
Day 27: I went out for an ice cream and it was the most amazing ice cream I have tasted in ages. I suspect this is because my brain was overwhelmed by the combination of full cream, eggs and sugar.
Cooking at home became simpler: with less options, cooking became much easier. I didn’t attempt any mock-omnivore meals (I can’t stand that approach to vege-eating!), and fortunately for me I really like chickpeas, lentils, barley and green vegetables.
I wasted less: vegetables, both cooked and raw, lasted longer in the fridge and I found that I was throwing away less spoiled food. Meat and dairy also comes with so much plastic packaging, which is not always easy to recycle.
I was less stressed: keeping milk, yoghurt, eggs and meat in my fridge was a constant cycle of stress and anxiety. The pressure of buying fresh every few days, and using it before it went bad just disappeared!
Eating vegan is not cheaper, nor healthier: anything processed will be more expensive, whether it is a frozen chicken meal or a pack of vegan sausages. It is very easy to fall into the carb trap when trying to eat vegan – chips and (vegan) mayo is not a healthy meal!
I craved the umami of animal protein: I found myself cooking with more salt, oil and spices than ever before. I craved cheese, and I think it was mostly the saltiness that I missed.
Every meal does not need a slice of protein: having been without it for a short time, I have begun to notice it more, and appreciate it when I do eat it.
I think I will mostly cook and eat vegan at home, perhaps with the odd addition of some cheese, and chicken or fish. I have quite a lot of grains and beans left over, so I think I will be living off of those for quite some time! I’m loathe to admit this, but it’s really not as bad as us meat-lovers like to believe – no one died, the universe didn’t implode, and vegan food really can be delicious. Trust me, I’m an expert.
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