The Reluctant Vegan: Say hello to a plant-based diet just like Emily Martin did
To mark veganuary - which saw a cool quarter of a million people adopt a plant-based diet in January last year - Velvet’s Emily Martin ate vegan for a week. Warning: may contain jokes
When I told my friends I was doing this, they literally all did that little draw of breath thing through their teeth and went, “Ooh, be careful”. And I knew what they meant.
My modus operandi is to make fun of things. That’s just my style. Hey, that’s why I’m your favourite guy, right?
So, I’d imagine the thought of me making 800-1,000 words of jokes about vegans in a popular local magazine was alarming for my loved ones, who basically don’t want to have to lend me any more money when I’m ultimately sacked.
But actually, if all the documentaries I’ve watched are to be believed (I’ve watched two documentaries), then not only is being vegan the best diet for a human being to thrive on, it’s also the most effective choice an individual can make in the accelerating panic over climate change.
I believe that those who’ve made veganism their diet choice are to be commended, I just can’t imagine a life without grated cheese. I’m weak.
I go shopping, steeling myself for a week of vegetables and alternative milk and I’m already struggling to see what could possibly be funny about that.
My mother said she was going to do vegan week with me but she’s texted at 7.25am saying she’d made a “small cheese sandwich”.
My boyfriend also said he was doing it but had cow’s milk in his coffee because, he says, “the oat milk tastes like cardboard”.
I’m learning fast that a vegan life is a lonely one, full of broken promises and watching people you used to trust eat things.
I actually don’t mind the oat milk and also, I discover with glee, that Bourbon biscuits are vegan, so it’s coffee and biscuits for breakfast, avocado and hummus on toast for lunch, tofu stir fry for dinner, for which I’d give myself a four out of ten due to not having any idea how to cook tofu.
Woke up feeling really pleased with myself. Didn’t even drink wine last night, so this is probably the healthiest I’ve been since 1997.
I feel super motivated to keep going, smash up an avocado on toast for lunch (things on toast are a big thing in my vegan diet I decide) and then try really hard to make myself look forward to having dhal and rice for dinner.
When it comes though, it takes all my strength not to cover it in grated cheese. Don’t think about cheese.
My boyfriend ate six sausages after I’d gone to bed last night. Another betrayal. And I had wine so I was unable to rise at 6am and do yoga, which was how I’d imagined vegan life.
Today though I do possibly feel slightly less fat and also less greasy. Anyway, Bourbons for breakfast again. Absolutely loving that loophole.
Going supermarket shopping is both easier (in that you can only shop in two sections and skip huge swathes) and harder because you have to peer really hard at labels to see if items are vegan.
Sometimes they just mysteriously say “vegetarian” and leave you to wonder what terrible animal-based atrocity must have befallen this tin of tomatoes.
I’ve seen pictures of something called jackfruit looking like pulled pork and flaking apart like chicken, so I get some and make stir fry, drenching it in sugar and soy sauce.
And it’s OK, but it ain’t chicken. A wise vegan friend reminds me I have to embrace the lifestyle and not try to replace things. Embrace don’t replace. Got it. Don’t think about cheese.
I tried vegan cheese on some pasta and can confirm that the rumours are true. It’s entirely foul.
I have the most appalling cold. I sneezed 15 times in a row. The haters are saying it’s because I’m a vegan, but I wonder if I wasn’t such a healthy vegan this cold might actually finish me off for good.
Normally I swipe the kids’ dinners when they can’t finish them. Sometimes, if they’re being slow, I will eat their jacket potatoes with cheese believing firmly that ‘you snooze, you lose’ is a valuable lesson to teach a child.
It’s very hard not to swipe as I see them dithering over their spaghetti Bolognese covered in grated cheese. I’ve probably had upwards of 25 Bourbons today.
Also, confession: at work someone made me two cups of tea and I drank them before we all went, “oh MILK!”
I’m quite good at cooking in real life. I know how to sizzle some garlic, add some stuff and some cream and make something delicious out of just whatever is in the cupboard. But being a vegan is like having a cooking mental block.
I don’t know how to cook this week. I see photos on Instagram of absolutely mouthwatering-looking vegan food and have absolutely no idea how to recreate it.
So, to have a proper experience, I visit a vegan restaurant and try cauliflower “wings”, jackfruit burger and lasagne made not only without meat, or cheese, but also without pasta.
It’s all quite tasty, but at almost £50 I’m beginning to feel slightly fed up. Forking through my lasagne I felt sad. Why no pasta even? As if this isn’t all bad enough.
I weighed myself at the start of the week on one of those humiliating shopping centre scales where everyone can see you. So today I return there, sure that after a week of what’s felt like pretty stark deprivation, I’d have lost at least seven pounds.
I’d lost one pound.
I know losing weight wasn’t the point of this week, but I had hoped it’d be a side effect.
My digestion is sparkling, yes. My skin is dewy. I also feel like I can breathe more easily, but ONE TINY POUND off after all that sadness?
I buy some extra mature cheddar cheese and drive home. I’m not going to be a vegan I’ve decided, but I do accept I probably should be and will now eat meat and dairy with 100 per cent more shame than before.
Reader, I ate a whole pan of cauliflower cheese that night, while my family looked on in amazement. They’d never seen a person eat so much cauliflower cheese.
A registered charity, Veganuary works to inspire people to follow a vegan diet throughout January - and beyond. For more information, from reasons why to recipe ideas, visit veganuary.com
Read moreFood and Drink
More by this authorVelvet Magazine contributor