If you follow my Instagram, you might be aware that I am taking on the challenge of being vegan for the month of August. Normally, I follow a dairy-free pescetarian lifestyle. The next hurdle along seemed straight-forward enough: along with my usual dairy-free requirements, I will avoid anything made with eggs or fish; I will not be consuming anything with honey; I will not be purchasing leather goods.
So why am I going vegan for August?
My recent trip to South Africa involved living in a primarily vegan, eco-friendly lifestyle. I cooked up two- and three-course vegan meals for paying guests, made my first raw vegan dessert, had my first taste of vegan ‘cheese’, and ate in an exclusively vegan restaurant. During the three-week period, I became curious of the vegan lifestyle; I ate primarily plant-based months before the trip in a bid to save money, and improve my health, so it did not seem to be a huge transition as such.
I researched further regarding the ethics involved within the agriculture industry, shedding light on the (lack of) animal welfare often deemed acceptable. I binge-watched food documentaries (Forks Over Knives, Vegucated and Supersize Me), read through many blogs and articles, and bought books regarding the health benefits of being a vegan. Unsurprisingly, I was disgusted by the videos and facts laid before me: the torture of animals, the impact of dairy on our health, and the damaging effects on the oceans through unsustainable fishing.
During the trip, I also became more aware of the ethics and sustainability of my lifestyle. Concerns over the current farming methods, environmental waste, GM crops and the palm oil industry were high. The trip became a turning point, which gave rise to lifestyle changes I was willing to implement when I got back home. I returned a conscious, self- and environmentally-aware individual. I started using a BPA-free water bottle; I became a serious advocate for zero food waste at home. Thus, I saw veganism as the next logical step to take.
31 days, what’s the harm? Just the two trips abroad, and gatherings I have planned on attending.
I bit the bullet, and just like that, my first week of veganism was over.
In week 1, I failed twice: accidentally eating honey from a nut butter which advertised itself as ‘100% nuts’, and also through a miscommunication with an Italian waiter regarding the ingredients of their gelato; my upset stomach a few hours later indicated I must have consumed dairy during the day.
However, I will not let these set-backs prevent me from completing a month of veganism. Striving for perfection should not be a daily ritual, and understanding that from the beginning helped. A constant reminder of my good intentions for being vegan, as well as promoting a sustainable lifestyle by example, kept my confidence high.
Here is a list of things I have learnt living and travelling on my first week as a ‘vegan’:
- Request to leave ingredients out of a meal in a restaurant or kindly ask if the chef is willing to accommodate your eating requirements – chances are, they will happily conjure up something for you.
- You can easily experiment with flavours using purely plant-based produce: I made a kick-ass pasta sauce using strawberries (recipe coming soon!)
- I may have been dairy-free previously, but being vegan can be difficult. Careful inspection of ingredients will save you a lot of trouble. If in doubt, do not eat.
- You’re mostly in control if you prepare food to take. I brought a batch of my chewy cookies to take with me for a week’s holiday in Florence, along with some NAKD goodies; they have been lifesavers for when there were no vegan-friendly establishments nearby.
- People will give you odd looks if you ask for a cheese-less pizza. Accept it, and move on. (Marinara pizza, I love you!)
To conclude: week 2, I am ready for you.
Peace and love, Julia | themorningbowl.