According to The Telegraph, the number of vegans in the UK has increased by 360% over the last 10 years. This may seem like a lot, but this is still only 0.8% of the population. So despite the known health and environmental benefits of veganism, what is holding people back? Often it comes down to the sheer practicalities of becoming and maintaining a vegan diet. Bath Spa student Verity Annear challenged herself to a month of veganism in Bath, to experience and see the practicalities for herself.
I had three reactions when I told people I was doing the ‘30 Day Vegan Challenge’. Firstly, ‘Are you even vegetarian?’ ‘How will you cope living on bird food and tofu?’ I laughed as I mentioned I was indeed a hardcore meat eater, a lover of fried chicken and a tender piece of steak. The second, ‘You’re a student on a low income, why are you doing that?’ The horror of trying to save lives, reap health benefits and test my limits seemed alien to them. And the rest of the reactions were, ‘Surely that can’t be good for you, what about your calcium and protein intake?’ But my answer was always the same, this is a challenge for myself, to see if I could be a creative, colourful and cost effective chef like the ones I admired on my instagram feed. The smoothie bowls, falafel kings and quinoa queens soon took over my social media as I embraced the vegan laws. I quickly noticed that the multi-coloured yoga pants and mounds of exotic fruits may cost way more than I envisioned.
I then found Community Farm Bath’s organic farm boxes full of fruit and vegetables. For £7-£15 you could choose a box full of seasonal favourites. I decided to get a box delivered fortnightly, and I topped this up with fruit and veg from Moorland Road’s farm shop, they often had avocados ‘two for £1’ which was a steal.
I wanted to prove to my fellow students that all of the takeaway treats could be reinterpreted as vegan friendly. So let me share with you a couple of the vegan recipes I tried and loved. First off, I tried making vegan pizza with a gluten free, dairy free base, tomato paste and chopped tomatoes, heaps of spinach and vegan cheese from Holland And Barrett, caramelised onions and a dash of balsamic vinegar to finish. I was unsure of the vegan cheese, however when it was melted it tasted great.
I also joined the Bath Vegetarian and Vegan Society. Their monthly meal and meet at The Stable, £10 for a pizza and a drink and there were multiple options. It was so lovely to see lots of people uniting over food and the passion that went into making some top quality alternative pizzas.
The Stable’s Vegan Pizza ©Verity Annear
I also attempted my boyfriend’s favourite, satay curry and vegetable spring rolls. I used cauliflower instead of chicken in the curry, chickpeas, smooth organic peanut butter and coconut milk and brown rice which is full of protein. Luckily, a few treats like the spring rolls were already vegan from the Co-Operative.
As a treat, I visited The Green Rocket Cafe in Bath that specialises in vegan and vegetarian food. I was totally blown away by their mushroom, sundried tomato and basil rice burger served with a raw beetroot salad and vegan cashew ‘cheese.’ For under £10 it was a lovely meal out and I realised how much more flavoursome veggie packed burgers are.
My friend Lara picked up on my new diet and challenged me to make her a vegan, gluten free meal. I attempted a lasagne layered with aubergine, grated carrot, root mash and gluten free lasagne sheets, topped with vegan cheese. This homely treat turned out to be a vegan masterpiece and a favourite of mine.
A more difficult aspect of this challenge was saying no to the things I loved, but weren’t exactly vegan friendly. One such treat was a Shakeaway chocolate milkshake, which my boyfriend decided to get one night, and my vegan brain was about to cave in. But then, I realised they have soya ice cream and soya milk and a list of vegan friendly shakes! I tried a sweety love heart shake, but my favourite was definitely a maple syrup shake. I loved finding alternatives and foods stamped ‘vegan friendly’, I could eat as many sour patch kids and BBQ pringles as I wanted. However, I wanted to remind myself of one of the main reasons I decided to do this, to become more healthy. When I visited the farmer’s market in Green Park Station every other sunday, (here by the way is where you will find the brightest beetroots in the county) I also discovered Beyond The Kale, a healthy, upbeat and contemporary cafe. I tried one of their smoothies packed with green goodness and I soon found myself addicted to creating my own.
A few of my favourite blends were: strawberry raspberry, goji berry and chia seed; kiwi, kale and melon and mango, papaya, passionfruit.
Raspberry, kale, cucumber, chia seed and strawberry ©Verity Annear
The bursts of vitamin C turned me into a new person, I felt happy, more creative and I had the energy of my ten year old self. Though I brought many of my smoothies on the go with me using my Blend Active, I loved meeting my vegan friends for a smoothie in The Old Station Cafe near Bath Spa train station. Their falafel wraps are packed with spices, hummus and salad, and I would recommend their supreme carrot and orange juice as a cool refresher.
The moral side of veganism was enlightening, knowing that in that month I saved 30 animal lives, 33,000 gallons of water, 600 lbs of Co2, 900 sq ft of forest, and 1,200 lbs of grain. The stereotypical, protesting, pushy-moral vegan exists, however every vegan I met praised me, respected each other, and in return, I had respect for how they selflessly put the planet before their food choices. I did find the challenge difficult at times, but I found strength in Bath’s societies and clubs. Even at Bath Spa University they offer vegan options in every canteen and the Student Union now has ‘Meat-Free Mondays’.
After the challenge, I found out that I had lost a total of 1 stone and 4 lbs, I had a buzzing energy and a new outlook on food and creative culinary skills. Although, when the challenge finished I went and ate a sausage roll, I proved that living in Bath, on a low income, and as a raised meat-eater, veganism was definitely achievable.
My favourite vegan recipe is a Vegan Butternut Squash
And Coconut Stew
1 large butternut squash, cut into medium chunks
1 red pepper
1 onion, diced
A handful of tinned, soaked potatoes
A handful of coriander
1 tin of creamed coconut milk
1 tin of chickpeas
2 tbsp madras curry paste
1. Heat a large frying pan or wok, tip in the curry paste and fry for 1 min. Add the squash and red pepper, onion, chickpeas and potatoes and coriander, then toss well in the paste.
2. Pour in the coconut milk with 200ml water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 mins or until the butternut squash is very tender and the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.