thursday update (v)

post it note good jobSporadic blog posting does not equal decline in everyday efforts at a plant-based life. Here’s a snapshot of latest progress.

1. Butter proves to be the agent-saboteur. I still buy proper butter for DD whose favourite food apparently is fresh white crusty bread with a good slather of soft golden creaminess. Have to say when I have a migraine, it is exactly the food I crave when I start to resurface. Anyway, I have to put my hand up, if there is a round of toast being prepared I still enjoy it best with butter. Will try better.

2. Juicing and Smoothing. I no longer have these once a day as I try to reduce sugar intake. I still love fruit but choose to crunch apples, chew bananas and chomp my way through a punnet of blueberries to get the fibre benefits, rather than blitz the lot to a mess. Then, on juicing days it’s about fruit-combos, green blends, and extra ingredients like cashew nuts, dates and coconut milk.

3. Dining out is not easy, but social networking groups are a great source of tips and scare stories.

4. Talking of social networking, receiving retweets and likes continue to be great in several ways not least of all because by following up on the tweeter or blogger I get to see what they and their followers are up to. This leads me on many informative trails and time-wasting opportunities.

5. Never buy any of those sachets of Chinese stir fry sauce from the supermarket with modified starch, colourings etc – i just made the MOST delicious sauce that I stirred into veg, noodles and tofu as they finished cooking and spinach leaves were wilting: blitzed up 2 cloves garlic, an inch of ginger, 2tsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp agave nectar (bit less next time) and 3tbsp soy sauce. Easy.


sugar blues (ii)

candy shop jarsUndeniably, chocolate is a beautiful thing. And, it is still a beautiful thing when made without dairy ingredients. There are numerous brands producing affordable high-cocoa content bars and gift boxes, and I’ve been making a heavenly hot chocolate drink throughout the winter with coconut milk which come to think of it might also make a great iced shake in the summer.

I accepted only recently that I had been ignoring a long-term habit for sugar convincing myself it was just a love of chocolate or nothing more than having a sweet tooth. I  continued to feed it regularly with each carefully purchased vegan biscuit that accompanied my cups of tea which could easily amount to 6 or 8 on working days at home. Then there was the weekly caving-in at the petrol station to a foil-wrapped hit and bathing in the false satisfaction of having resisted the 3 for 2 offers. Now, when I look at shelves of confection I see a drug all dressed up to tempt the young and the old alike, all given innocuous names just like other harmful and addictive substances: angel dust, snow, bubble, vanilla sky.

I love language and the way it is constantly evolving, how the English I speak is nothing like the English of Austen, Dickens, Shakespeare or Chaucer. I admit of course to wincing at certain new Americanisms like “alphapbetize” and “impactful” that nudge their way into the dictionary but to be fair these owe more to corporate-speak than everyday US. Why do I bring up the subject now? Because the Americans use the word “candy bar” to describe the kind of rubbish I have been eating for many a year and a candy/sugar bar is nothing like a piece of proper chocolate. And, that is the point chocolate is a beautiful thing; sugar is not.


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when only sweet chocolate will do

melted milk chocolateI am not sure if it was the early start, the four hour flight or just the pace of the last few days away from home but I found myself at Heathrow tired, with a headache and the prospect of a couple of hours driving (if I were lucky) to get home. I needed sustenance, something sweet, and I knew this was going to be tricky.

Looking round there were no surprises: a coffee bar chain with the usual brownies, muffins and oversized cookies, and a newsagents with an array of refined sugar fixes in bright foil wrappings. Zero chance of a vegan solution so I hit on the latter. They had the only thing that matched the physiological (and emotional?) need of the moment. It came in a purple wrapper, listed full cream milk as its prime ingredient and called itself chocolate, even though on investigation it has only 26% cocoa solids in it.

So there you have it, I chomped my way through a whole bar of sweet, fatty chocolate and enjoyed every bite for the way it soothed my depleted state. Question is how to prepare for this in a vegan way? Nutty, fruity kind of things just would not have done the job.


Image via An Edible Mosaic


no, thank you

espressoLast year I would have called myself a coffee snob. I was in the habit of one, no more than two, cups of freshly ground, freshly brewed espresso a day. The whole process was a sensory delight, the dark, bitter aroma of the opened jar, the big clattering noise of the machine, the warmth of the first sips. I was the most surprised of all when I found myself saying no thank you to coffee. I had suffered a huge atmospheric headache over two days when I could neither face the ritual nor the intensity of a cup of coffee. This lead to a further three days of excruciating cranial pain as my body recalibrated from zero caffeine. I always say that I didn’t give up coffee; coffee gave me up.

Saying no thank you to animal foods also seems far easier than I expected. It is happening without any particular effort, admittedly because I was already vegetarian but also because every cell of my body is on side. There is no resistance and the only lapses are when I am not thinking and an old habit gets the better of me e.g. helping to finish the Christmas tub of Quality Street. I find I am not emotionally missing any item, and as far as i can tell I am not missing anything nutritionally, although I am taking a B vitamin complex supplement. This time I put the recalibration of my cells down to the shriek and the Te of one small Piglet (see also Benjamin Hoff’s book), for which my conscience, if not my memory, is grateful.


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thursday update (iii)

post it note remember1. New word: carnism, and how eating animals is a social conditioning.

2. You can very easily get caught out when you are rushing around town, with no time for lunch and need a quick bite. A healthy looking fruit and nut bar and a green juice? Sounds good, until half way through the bar you turn over the packaging and discover skimmed milk powder in the list of ingredients. Why? What does milk powder have to do with dried fruits and nuts?

3.Ginger Nut biscuits are vegan – hurrah. They were my late mum’s favourite, so I think about mum now when I rip open the orange wrapping (her favourite colour) and tip them in the biscuit tin. I like to dip them in Red Bush tea at various times of the day. They do contain palm oil, though – that’s a nasty I would like to be avoiding.

4. I am not very good at making hummus. I thought it would be easy but I didn’t get the texture right nor the balance of lemon and garlic. Better luck next week.

5. Best soup of the week: Roasted carrots from the veg box, with cumin seeds and lemon. Blitz with stock. Delicious.

thursday update (ii)

post it note good job1. Most common question from curious friends: “Don’t you get hungry?” I suspect when I say plant-based diet they think I am chewing the cud from dawn till dusk  in an effort to keep up my calorie intake. I need to invite them to dinner.

2. Carbs, fats and sweet things can be vegan – so when nerves are raw and comfort eating is needed there is no need to feel stranded with a bag of leaves (see above). Vegans do eat cake.

3. Planning. Not just being sure of the basics in the cupboard, fridge and freezer, but browsing recipes in advance of shopping rather than half an hour before cooking, and getting ahead of myself with baking, sprouting and soaking cashews (more on that in another post).

4. Lapses are not the end of the world. They’re just old habits sitting in the exit lounge waiting for their plane out of here. They probably have a lot to tell me if I take a moment to sit down and enquire.

5. Best soup of the week: a sort of spicy parsnip combo. Basically, sweat till sweet some onion, add a teaspoon of curry paste, add chopped parsnips, stir to coat. Add stock and coconut milk. Simmer till parsnips are soft. Cool. Blitz. Bon appetit.


janusJanuary is named after the Roman god Janus who is depicted with two heads, being able to simultaneously look into the past and into the future. Janus presides over transitions, over beginnings and endings, so it seems appropriate that it is at this time we make resolutions for change. However, I have found that when making enthusiastic statements of intent caution needs to be exercised if I am not to come unstuck by week two of a brand new year.

This is why I made my exploration into veganism an “enquiry” rather than a resolution. If I had signed up for one of the popular new year challenges I know for sure my inner critic would be giving me a hard time for lapsing at the cafe this afternoon. I caved in and ordered a steamy mug of hot chocolate rather than tea when I felt overcome by the gusty winter wind and a wave of grief. I could have asked for soy milk, I know, but I really dislike it. The barista, who according to the back of her t-shirt serves the best coffee this side of Milan, came up trumps with a beverage that was hot, thick, sweet and frothy. It was just the balm for frozen fingertips and tumbling emotions.

Sitting and spooning out the last sips, I reflected  on the watchwords I had chosen to bouy me forward into the year, instead of resolutions on which to impale my year, and the world felt a much more connected and creative place to be in.


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