Thursday, 22 October 2009


My attitudes, to be exact! In case anyone was speculating about the posting gap, I have neither vanished nor quit veganism. I am less of an activist than I was, although I was going that way when I set this blog up.

My commitment to veganism hasn't changed, but my circumstances have and hence the ways in which I relate to veganism have adapted.

Until a little over a year ago, I was in a relationship with a person who was what might be called a professional vegan, as in he was employed by an organisation which exists to promote veganism. So in addition to my own vegan friends I also spent a lot of time with the vegans he worked with. As a person who was just re-stablising as a vegan, this was a mixed blessing. On the one hand I had it affirmed to me time and again that I was right to be vegan, and this was good in that it strengthened my resolve, especially at times when I did have to argue my case. It also meant that most of the cafes I ended up in would at least be vegetarian and have some sort of vegan selection, that if we went to the pub someone would always know which beers were ok, and generally that the people around me had some level of vegan intuition without being prompted. On the other hand, it meant being around people whose definitions of what a vegan did beyond the very basics and what got prioritised varied wildly. There was also a bit of point-scoring from some (although by no means all! or even most...) quarters. At any rate, 'vegan' was part of my identity there as a sort of default setting, and sometimes the grounds on which people communicated with me.

For a few months after that relationship ended, I was single and became a bit of a health fanatic. I don't mean in any way to make this sound like a bad thing - I needed something to focus on, and had been very ill for a long time that time the year before, so trying to up the percentage of raw food and learn about proper nutrition was useful. This was the best time for promoting veganism, due to a combination of factors. I was affirming my own belief, unrelated to who I may have been going out with, which meant that people took me a bit more seriously. I was working long days, which mean *always* taking at least one meal to work with me. As a result I was often whipping tasty food out of my bag in a crowded break room, which obviously led to questions about what I was eating. I would discuss the 'whys' of my veganism if it came up, but the 'hows' (ie the practicality of having a tasty, healthy varied and yet reasonably cheap diet while working long hours at multiple jobs!) tended to be seen by most people as the main issue.

For a little under a year I've been in my current relationship. The person in question may well be 'the one'. However, he is 'just' a vegetarian and not with any moral basis to his decision, so I have had to explain veganism. He has one vegan friend other than me, and that person lives in America. My personal life involves a lot more outreach than it used to, just to make sure he and I can eat together! So far it seems to be working. He respects me for sticking to my principles even though he doesn't share them. It does mean, however, that the outward face of my veganism is a lot more orientated to showing how a vegan can live a 'normal' life, whatever the baseline might be there. Again, I will give the whys if anyone asks, but often people are more interested in the 'hows'.

My life is not a constant round of vegan advocacy as it may have been a few years ago. My time and energy is limited - I am finishing a PhD and working multiple part-time jobs at any given time, and am too knackered to do much some days. But I think that merely being vegan - and doing it 'properly' rather than giving in and eating something non-vegan to avoid being an 'inconvenience', preferring to make suggestions about what you can eat, how you will make up for it later and alternative places to go for food next time - leads to some extent to a certain base level of advocacy being necessary.

Dark chocolate is good for you!

I has chocolate cravings! My best friend initially triggered this last night by blogging about her cravings - after all the shops I can see from my window had shut! Then a glance at Activeg compounded this, with a link to a news story that dark chocolate is good for you! So I may yet stop at the newsagents on my way to work...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Product review - Amy's non-dairy burritos

I've been feeling a bit less than great lately, so thought that since I was in Holland and Barrett I would get something quick for an early dinner. I seem to remember that the vegan Amy's products were only recently released in the UK (correct me if I got that wrong!), so this seemed like a good moment to try it.

I have to say that if I hadn't got these on special offer I would have been a bit disappointed. The wrapping is somewhere between tortilla and very heavy pastry, and it was difficult to hack into even though I soaked it in salsa and tofutti sour supreme. The filling was ok, although basically it was just jazzed up refried beans. There is nothing in this that I couldn't make from scratch (well, if using pre-bought wraps counts as scratch...) in a way that I would prefer. Having said that, there is nothing really *wrong* with these and I may get more at some point (while H&B are still selling everything at buy one get one half price) as they'd be a useful thing for a packed lunch on a long day at work.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Curried carrot soup

3 carrots per person
2 cloves garlic per person
Enough margarine to coat the bottom of a saucepan
Spices - I used nutmeg, tumeric and cumin
About a (British, if there's a difference) tablespoon of tomato puree
About two tablespoons (same proviso) of grated creamed coconut
Warm water

Putting it together:
Grate the carrots
Melt the margarine in the pan
Cook the garlic and grated carrot in the margarine for a few minutes
Stir in the spices followed by the coconut
Add the tomato puree
Add water (stirring it in) and simmer until the water takes on a carrot-y flavour!

I am eating a *lot* of garlic right now, to try to stop freshers' flu taking any more of my time than it has over the past week!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

On a less fun note...

Something really weird happened the other day. I found myself being grossed out by fake meat. That does not normally happen. I've been a vegetarian for about 18 years now and a vegan on and off for what adds up to about half of that. I've eaten fake meat whenever I could afford it in any context where I'm confident no-one will try to sneak the real thing into my food.

But the other day, my boyfriend was visiting and I made us a cooked breakfast, involving tofu scrambler, Wicken Fen sausages and Redwoods rashers. The sausages and scrambler went down fine, as the latter should have since it was the only part of the whole meal to take any effort on my part. The rashers? Not so much. The boy had never tasted them before. He avoids eating meat due to being grossed out by it. I knew he may not like them. That isn't the issue. The problem came when he gave me his rasher, minus the bit cut off the end that he'd tasted. I took a bit and for some reason started thinking about pigs, pig farms, pig shit - all the most off-putting things to have on your mind when eating, even if the food contains no actual pig! And by that point, I was feeling too bad to even finish the last of my baked beans or toast.

I don't mind so much going off fake meat (provided I don't have the same reaction to the tempeh burgers at the Alley Cafe!). It isn't a huge part of my diet. I've been without actual meat for so long that I don't intrinsically need a direct replacement. There are no nutrients in these products that can't be found anywhere else, often in more natural foods. The problem is that it happened so suddenly, in the space of one Saturday breakfast! On the Thursday I was happily picking the wretched things up in the shop and feeling excited about making cooked breakfast, which I really cannot stir myself to do on the full scale when alone, and two days later I was pondering throwing up the two bites I had managed from one of them.

What sucks even more is that I have the rest of the pack in my fridge! I would offer to put it in the post to one of you, but I doubt the things would keep...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Sweetcorn chowder!

Yes, in true vegan style I am apologising for a long absence by giving you the know-how to make one of my favourite meals! This is actually pretty quick to make, and also useful if you have a cupboard full of tins and no time to shop for fresh stuff. (Obviously only if at least one tin contains sweetcorn, haha)

1 small tin sweetcorn per person (large tin if you're hungry!)
2 cloves garlic per person
Enough margarine to melt over the base of a saucepan
Enough cornflour to absorb all the margarine
Spices - last night I used nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika and cayenne pepper; another version involves mustard powder.
Enough soymilk to turn the paste into soup

Putting the ingredients together:
Melt the margarine in a saucepan. It should cover the bottom but doesn't need to be too deep. If using Marks and Spencer margarine, get the non-dairy one that *isn't* low-fat as the other is crap for cooking and smells a bit like wax when melted.
Add the sweetcorn and garlic to the margarine, stir frequently, get the corn warmed through
Add spices to taste
Remove the pan from the heat, add the cornflour and stir in well to avoid lumps.
SLOWLY add soymilk, stirring often. Note that the mixture will thicken when back on the heat, so make it a bit more liquidy than you will eventually want.
Put the pan back on the heat (this isn't one to eat cold!). Keep stirring until the mixture warms up and thickens.
Serve with bread, croutons, or if you're me this week crumbled tortilla chips. Don't ask.