Have a vegan New Year

Sean O'Callaghan

Sean O'Callaghan - Credit: Archant

You cannot escape that the big new food “trend” for 2018 is going to be vegan eating. It has now become mainstream, with vegan options in many restaurants and the bookshops full of guides on how to eat vegan. Are you going to be one of the tens of thousands who take part in Veganuary, where you aim to eat non-animal foods for the month?

The Juice Pharm

The Juice Pharm - Credit: Archant

I have been reading Fat Gay Vegan: Eat, Drink and Live like you give a Sh!t, by Sean O’Callaghan, published this month.

Sean is well-known for his blog of the same name, where he lists new vegan food discoveries in supermarkets and when eating out. He also organises the weekly Hackney Downs Vegan market.

It is a very interesting book, explaining why people eat vegan food, the myths, and is packed with practical tips about eating out including when travelling.

His focus is on animal cruelty and the more I read about egg and milk production, the more uncomfortable I feel about it.

Did you know that thousands of male chicks are killed each year as we only use the female chicks for egg-laying and there is no use for them? And that cows need to be kept ‘pregnant’ to keep producing milk – I think we are so used to eating these foods in the UK that we don’t even really think about how they appear.

Sean explains that now vegan food is becoming popular, many restaurants, cafes and food manufacturers are catching on, and eating vegan has never been easier.

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As we eat more internationally we are learning how to cook and eat vegan food, as lots of Indian, Moroccan, Turkish and Italian food is plant-based.

Sean is a great down-to-earth alternative to the ‘wellness’ food writers of the past few years; he is not about eating vegan to look a certain way, and I think his focus on great burgers and everyday streetfood will help broaden the appeal of vegan food, especially to people (men?) who think all meals need meat.

What is going on locally? You might already know about The Green Kitchen on Hatfield Road who sell vegan breakfasts and lunches, as well as host monthly vegan and vegetarian suppers. Vine Leaves in Harpenden also does delicious vegan food such as falafel, mutabel and hummus-based dishes. Parker & Vine often have vegan salads.

I spoke to Marianne Jordan, who is part of The St Albans Vegetarian and Vegan Families group who meet once a month for potluck suppers. I had dinner at Marianne’s home, which was delicious, and she recommended some good places to eat locally, including The Juice Pharm, Tabure and Bar Meze. Most of the chains do vegan options including Pizza Express, Zizzis and Wagamamas.

She did say that we could do with more choice locally and that “restaurant owners should get with the trend - you are missing out on big bucks”. Email Marianne Jordan via vegparents@stalbans-nct.co.uk for more info on the group. North Herts Vegans also arrange meet-ups.

The veganuary.com website is full of practical tips on how to shop, cook and eat vegan food, including a list of all the chains who now serve vegan food, and it is a long list.

With chains like Pret now opening vegetarian-only branches, and Peyton and Byrne who run cafés in the London galleries and museums saying that people are no longer buying meat dishes, it is clear that people are choosing to eat less meat. These companies exist to make money, and are following the trend rather than leading it.

In Brighton and Bristol there are now many vegan restaurants; will St Albans and Harpenden follow this year? The new year is a great time to think about the choices we make; are they conscious choices or just habit? Before choosing the meat option, why not look at what other choices are available? You might feel better for it.