In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.
‘It is easy to sit up and take notice. What is difficult is getting up and taking action.’ - Al Batt
A common misconception about vegan food is that it has to be bland and boring. After over two years of eating almost completely vegan food, I now find non-vegan food to be the boring option. Since switching my diet to plant-based alternatives, I’ve sought out much more varied choices and tried foods that I never would have bothered with before. And with all the fruits and vegetables, my plate is certainly a lot more colourful nowadays. If you don’t believe me, and you don’t normally eat vegan food, find your nearest vegetarian restaurant and give it a try. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in my hometown, Cardiff, then I’d definitely recommend Milgi, my favourite local restaurant. The internationally inspired, locally produced food they serve there is so popular that when they started offering meat dishes on the menu, the customers voted for it to remain a completely vegetarian restaurant.
Now seems the right time to raise the bacon/boiled ham argument. Omnivores often tell me that they couldn’t be vegetarian because they couldn’t give up bacon. I always ask them if they could give up boiled ham, because it’s the same meat from the same animal. The only difference is that bacon is smoked, and it’s that smokey flavour that they crave. You can smoke lots of things, including vegan options such as tofu, and still get the same ‘fix’. Tofu, or bean curd, is the richest and cheapest source of protein in the world. It’s made from soya beans and has been used in Oriental cooking for thousands of years. Although there are some health concerns related to eating soya, mainly because it increases levels of oestrogen in the body, it’s still better than eating animal protein. Tofu contains vitamins, including lots of calcium and folate, and is low in cholesterol and fat.
Eating plant-based also doesn’t mean that you have to give up treats. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, and I’m a self-confessed chocaholic. I used to love milk chocolate, but nowadays the thought of eating it makes me feel queasy. There are lots of yummy milk chocolate alternatives on the market such as Free From and Plamil. My personal favourite is the mint flavour Plamil. Plain or dark chocolate is often dairy-free, just check that it doesn’t contain butter fat. Green & Black’s 70%, Lindt 70%, Kinnerton and Divine Plain are popular options, although Divine isn’t suitable if you can’t eat gluten. After Eights, or the cheaper Tesco After Dinner Mints are also dairy-free.
If cake is your drug of choice, vegan baking is becoming more and more popular. Check out your local ‘raw food’ options (that means it’s vegan, and usually gluten-free as well). When I don’t have time to bake at home, I treat myself to raw cheesecake from our local farmers’ market. It’s to die for! When I do have my bake on, I make plant-based, gluten-free versions of all my (and my family and friends’) favourite goodies including brownies, date and walnut slices, cookies and shortbread. And if you’re thinking that all my friends and family must be plant-based and used to vegan food like me, you’re wrong. Most of the people around me are omnivore, and they are always begging me to bake for them. If you’ve no idea where to start when it comes to vegan and/or gluten-free baking, head over to Forks and Beans for some expert guidance from Cara, a fellow chocaholic with a gift for creating amazing recipes.