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Felicity Cloake: my week as a vegan | Life and style | The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/18/felicity-cl...

Felicity Cloake: my week as a vegan


Can a food writer survive on dairy-free mylk, substitute sausages and tofu
cheese? We asked our columnist to keep a diary of her meat-free week, from
the highs (vegan pizza) to the lows (a vegan barbecue)
Felicity Cloake
Wednesday 18 May 2016 16.31BST

hen I say Im omnivorous, I mean Im the kind of person who


once ate an eyeball for a dare. The annoying holiday companion
who wants to try the crispy silkworms in a Vietnamese market,
and that sucker who will pay the hefty supplement for a plate of smelly
cheese. But even I cant ignore the mounting evidence that most of us
need to cut down our meat consumption if the world is to avoid
environmental catastrophe research published in March suggests
that widespread adoption of a vegan diet could cut global food-related
emissions by about 70%.
And, although veganism has certainly improved its image in the last
couple of years, it is still a largely unknown quantity so when my
editor asks me to cut out animal products for a week, I almost bite her
hand o. Im interested to nd out how Ill cope, particularly without
my daily dose of dairy. Will I feel better without butter? Will my skin
glow like a ripe apricot? Will the dog still love me after seven days of
meat-free leftovers?

Sunday
Fresh o the plane from Tipperary, Ireland, my blood 80% full-cream
milk, I kick o vegan week with a run, while Ive still got the strength.
(En route, I listen to a podcast about super-successful ultramarathon
runners who thrive on a diet of bean burritos. Turns out Ill be ne.)
Back home, I make a pot of coee and survey my dazzling array of
mylks. Almond milk and coee sounds a happy avour combination,
but I return to my cup after polishing o avocado on toast and nd it
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Felicity Cloake: my week as a vegan | Life and style | The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/18/felicity-cl...

no longer resembles anything I want to put near my mouth. This turns


out to be one of the toughest aspects of veganism: relearning how to
make decent coee (and, even harder, tea). On a side-by-side test of
coconut, brown rice, hemp, soy, almond and two types of oat milk, the
last, with its similar fat content to semi-skimmed cows milk and fairly
neutral avour, proves the best option, with hemp a surprising
runner-up. But I suspect, like all things related to the perfect cuppa,
this is a very personal preference, so experiment and if its prone to
curdling (Im looking at you, soya), heat it gently before adding slowly.
Im really looking forward to pigging out on south Indian curries and
Middle Eastern vegetables for the week, but it seems fair to give the
vegan products on the market a whirl as well, given that in the real
world, few of us have time to cook every single meal from scratch.
There is no shame in buying a sausage, whether it is made from meat
or wheat, such as the Swiss vegan banger laced with red peppers I
cook for dinner with olive-oil mash and peas. After working out rather
too late that the shiny casing isnt edible, I am pleased to nd the
inside is. It tastes well, it tastes like something from my childhood I
cant put my nger on, but which, though not unpleasant, denitely
isnt a sausage. At least I dont have to worry about how it has been
treated, though, and I can always smother it with mustard.

Monday
I head out with friends for a bank holiday walk and take an emergency
packet of almonds, in case Im unable to nd anything to eat in rural
Essex. This proves a comfort when someone produces homemade
apjacks, though the dog votes with its paws and shuns me for the rest
of the afternoon. Come lunchtime, the smell of charred meat from the
pub barbecue makes my mouth water, unlike my sad baked potato
with beans (oh, for cheese or butter). My friend Ian, standing beside
me at the bar as I quiz the sta, is puzzled by my embarrassment. I was
brought up not to make a fuss asking busy barmen to check whether
their beer is stabilised using egg whites or milk proteins is surely the
working denition of this. Thank God a quick internet search on
someones phone reveals I can drink the cider, which is a relief,
because I sure as hell cant have any pudding.
I go home, make a big pot of delicious peanut and dill dal and a clever
take on sag paneer with tofu cheese from Jackie Kearneys excellent
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Felicity Cloake: my week as a vegan | Life and style | The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/18/felicity-cl...

Vegan Street Food book, and inhale the lot.

Tuesday
Back to work and the early-morning dog walk, today with the added
bonus of a cup of curdled coee. You want more soya milk? the
barista enquires, noticing my face. Her second attempt is better, but it
still tastes bitter. I dont usually take sugar in my coee, but this stu
needs all the help it can get. Lunch involves more product testing
today, vegan charcuterie and cheese. Though Im curious to nd out
what these substitutes taste like, ironically, I nd Im eating less fruit
and veg this week than normal usually Id have a salad, not a hunk of
heavily seasoned wheat gluten. If I went vegan long-term, Id make
most of my food from scratch, rather than relying on these highly
processed substitutes, many of which taste worryingly salty. It is a
reminder that vegan doesnt always mean healthy.
Tonight Ive been invited to dinner and the hosts are big natural wine
fans, so Im delighted to get a bottle of funky, unltered zz to myself.
Emma has really gone to town on the menu too, catering for me by
cooking a deeply savoury ramen with three types of miso, and
homemade coconut ice-cream. Tip of the day: if youre considering
going vegan, choose your friends carefully.

Wednesday
People are genuinely interested in the challenge. Last nights crowd
were particularly concerned about my protein intake something I
dont usually give much thought. Worried I might waste away, I swap
my usual breakfast fruit and yoghurt for scrambled silken tofu (not bad
at all when you add tomatoes and herbs) and toast. Dry toast
because, although vegan spreads are widely available, I was scarred by
margarine as a child, so I attempt my own coconut butter and fail
miserably.
Ive got appointments in town today a good excuse to treat myself to
lunch out. One thing Im quickly learning about being vegan is that it
pays to plan ahead. This being London, a quick search reveals a veganfriendly cafe just round the corner, where I eat something claiming to
be a pizza with a cauliower base. Although it doesnt remind me
much of a pizza, its pretty tasty (but so heavy I can barely speak in
either meeting). Afterwards, I head to a vegan ice-cream joint in Soho
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Felicity Cloake: my week as a vegan | Life and style | The Guardian

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where I can make a pig of myself in the name of research. I eat so much
of Yoricas refreshingly light coconut and rice-based soft serve that I
dont need dinner. It strikes me that Im unlikely to lose much weight
on this regime at least until I get a handle on sensible portion control
for these new foodstus.

Thursday
I pop into the local vegan shop (naturally, there is a vegan shop within
mung-bean-spitting distance of the Guardian) and a fellow customer
recommends the powdered eggs, made from nutrient-dense
microalgae. They certainly look the part, fooling several people on
social media, and even have a certain, slightly o-putting, sulphurous
smell, but they taste of absolutely nothing better for an omelette,
perhaps, than plain scrambling. Ill draw a veil over the maple-smoke
bacon that accompanies them at breakfast, except to say that its
edible, but there its resemblance to bacon ends.
Later, I have friends round for my own vegan pizza. It is better than I
expect, given that all vegan salami seems to taste largely of celery
seeds and salt, and most of the cheese has challenging top notes of
baby vomit. That said, they do melt well, giving the pizzas a
satisfyingly familiar appearance and a bland creaminess that osets
the richness of my homemade tomato sauce nicely. Not everyone is so
impressed, though: the fact one of them goes for a curry on the way
home suggests I may be going native.

Friday
Discovery of the day: oat milk makes utterly gorgeous porridge. (Duh.)
I go for Campari spritzes with a friend after work and we stu our faces
with olives, hummus and other vegan-friendly bounty from the
Turkish grocers round the corner. I decide to assume a hastily
purchased bottle of prosecco is vegan-friendly. Ignorance, though no
defence, is denitely bliss on a sunny evening.

Saturday
A morning market trip nearly causes a fall at the last hurdle, as we
happen upon the most delicious-looking doughnuts Ive ever seen,
right next to a man casually grilling cheese sandwiches with scant
regard for my vegan nostrils. Someone oers me a sample of wine, and
Im so grateful its vegan that I buy an entire box. This evenings dinner
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Felicity Cloake: my week as a vegan | Life and style | The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/18/felicity-cl...

with friends revives my spirits: a veritable Ottolenghi feast, followed


by a Campari and orange sorbet. For the second time in two days, I
thank God the vivid red Italian aperitif is no longer coloured with
beetle extract.

Sunday
My editor rings before Ive had time to buy any semi-skimmed in
celebration at the end: she has got a nal few vegan products to test,
and suggests a barbecue on her boat. Still high on last nights dinner, I
agree only to nd myself chewing miserably on a green spelt and
hazelnut cutlet while other guests abandon their bean burgers along
with their imsy principles and grab chorizo rolls instead. When a
seagull swoops down and snatches a duckling from the water next to
us, I cant help seeing it as a sign. Its a dog-eat-dog world and Im
denitely no duckling.

The aftermath
The challenge hasnt been as hard as Id feared; I reckon I could go a
good few weeks, if perhaps not a lifetime, cooking vegan without
missing animal products. I felt just ne neither weak nor positively
glowing with health. Perhaps most surprisingly, a week later, Im still
eating a largely vegan diet at home. But, Im sorry Ive gone back to a
proper cuppa. Some things are just too sacred to mess with.

Top tips
1 Think ahead if youre eating out do your research (most places have
menus online these days) and always pack snacks, just in case.
2 You can nd a list of vegan-friendly products on most supermarket
websites (and if you dont have time to check ahead, the Co-op is
particularly good at vegan labelling, especially for own-brand wine.)
3 Dont assume that something is healthy just because its vegan; check
the label, as with any other food.
4 Make sure youre not just eating carbs, fruit and veg; you need fat
and protein, too. Nuts and oils are a good source of the former, while
the top vegan-friendly proteins are seitan mock-meat, made from
wheat gluten, tofu and tempeh.

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Felicity Cloake: my week as a vegan | Life and style | The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/18/felicity-cl...

5 Dont feel you can only eat special vegan foods or cook from veganspecic books, although there are some good ones out there, such as
Kirsten Rodgers V is for Vegan, Aine Carlins The New Vegan and Marie
Laforts Vegan Bible. I still have lots of recipes Im dying to try from
popular mainstream books, too: Italian, Middle Eastern and Indian
ones should all have a good selection.
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Topics
Veganism Vegan food and drink Nutrition Food & drink
Health & wellbeing
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