30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 1

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2feVegan is Not a Separate Food Group

“Recognise that “vegan food” is “normal food” you’re already familiar with: fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, lentils, mushrooms, grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.”

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

Finally! I am now starting into the challenge proper. I didn’t expect it to take me a month to get through the set up. Anyway, now I get to stop reflecting on my ‘journey’ so far, and to start learning the practical basics of how to stay vegan.

The lesson for day one is that even before you start, you are already part, or for some, most of the way there.  When I first started going vegan, over seven months ago now, removing animal products left holes in my habitual food repertoire, but it still left lots of things in place.

Vegan food is just food. A lot of what you eat every day is already vegan, or can be fairly easily made vegan.
Vegan food is just food. A lot of what you eat every day is already vegan, or can be fairly easily made vegan.

Vegan food is not a whole new category, it’s just food. It isn’t, apart from a handful of items, “different” or “alternative”; at least, it doesn’t have to be, if you don’t want it to be. There are things you have to change about your diet, obviously – but not as much as you think.

In the beginning, I thought the shift would be more monumental than it really turned out to be. Seven months in, and eating eggs and dairy products like cheese no longer seems essential to eating well and enjoying food.

I had to learn a few new trick for things like – when baking swap out ground flaxseed for eggs.

Flaxseed ground - 1 tablespoon mixed with 3 tablespoons of water and left to thicken for half a minute is excellent in everything from pancake batter to cakes and biscuits instead of eggs.
Flaxseed ground – 1 tablespoon mixed with 3 tablespoons of water and left to thicken for half a minute is excellent in everything from pancake batter to cakes and biscuits instead of eggs.

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Colleen is right about changing habits. What was, at first, weird, uncomfortable, or maybe even a little scary becomes your new ‘normal’. It is also about changing priorities. For me, when I focus on where the eggs come from and the lives of those who produced them instead of myself, eating eggs is no longer enjoyable; eggs are no longer food.

When I started transitioning to a fully plant-based diet I did it a little differently. I phased it in over a three to four week period, starting with lunch. I had planned for it to take longer, but once started I felt the foggy logic in my head start to clear. I became anxious to stop participating in the system of animal oppression as quickly as possible.

Real, quality bread is always vegan - flour, yeast and water.  However, you may need to check a label or just ask at the bakery (any good baker will be offended at the very idea of putting milk in their bread!)
Real, quality bread is always vegan – flour, yeast and water. However, you may need to check the label or just ask at the bakery (any good baker will be offended at the very idea of putting milk in their bread!)

Colleen’s suggestion is that people start with what is familiar. As well as all the fruits, vegetable and grains most of us eat, bread, pasta, and chocolate should all be vegan, at least the good stuff will be anyway. You do have to check labels. There are also plenty of plant-based ‘butters’ – it’s more about the fat than the dairy.

I wrote in an earlier post about chocolate. The Wellington Chocolate Factory make the most incredible bean-to-bar chocolates, with ethically sourced ingredients (especially their chocolate pods) and less common varieties of cocoa plants.

So, in celebration of what is familiar, last night for dinner I made a large green salad and spaghetti with marinara. I have always loved wholemeal spaghetti and tomato sauce.

The key to a truly great marinara is to use canned San Marzano tomatoes. These are similar to Roma, but a little bigger (longer?). In Hamilton, you can find them at Vetro.  Here is a great recipe from the New York Times – make it like this and you can’t go wrong.

The only thing I would add is to keep the heat down while you sweat the garlic slices and if you do use a dried herb like oregano (no more that 1/2 a teaspoon) sweat it with the garlic and a tiny sprinkle of sugar for a short time before adding the tomato.

Also, a few moments before the pasta is cooked, add a bit of the starchy water to the sauce and then toss the spaghetti in the sauce to finish cooking. This will help coat the sauce to the pasta. It will work much better than trying to plate the sauce on top of the pasta.

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