Chris Carra

My Veganuary: Oat Lattes, Discipline and Harrods (2023 Update!)

UPDATE: I first wrote this article in 2019 after finishing my first ever Veganuary. Now, it’s 2023 and I have been vegan for more than four years, so I have updated the article a little. I have also added a new section at the bottom to reflect. Enjoy!

Happy New Yea… hang on, I’m a few weeks late.

If you are slow to the party, for the first three weeks of 2019, I have been living as a vegan, after committing to participate in Veganuary. I wrote a short post about it back in December.

In this follow-up post, I am going to summarize my experiences with Veganuary – the good and the bad – as I approach my final week. Here goes.

Trying to Adapt to Veganism

Before the month began, I didn’t look up the ins and outs of Veganuary.

There is an organization / charity / something that spearheads the movement, and I’m sure they had their own rules, but I didn’t sign up to do it officially. The thought of another unread email sitting in my inbox was enough to put me off.

No, I went about things my own way.

One of the many vegan dishes I made. This was the Mexican bean, tofu, quinoa dish I mention below.

I decided I would not be eating meat (…obviously), fish, eggs, cheese, milk or honey, or any products containing those items. No milk chocolate, no brioche buns, no flatbreads and so on.

And I am pleased to say that I have succeeded. I have eaten a purely plant-based diet for the last three weeks.

Completely free of animal products? Well…

As I mentioned in my initial post, I take a daily grapeseed extract tablet as a natural assistance to slightly high blood pressure (family history) – the shell of that is made with gelatin. Of course that isn’t vegan, although I wasn’t going to stop taking it for the month.

I have also been a little flexible with alcoholic drinks. Not that I have drunk much alcohol in January, yet I turned a blind eye to a few beers which may or may not have contained isinglass (a fish by-product used in the beer refining process).

So I potentially drank some dried fish bladder, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

Enough About Restriction… What DID You Eat?

As many people know, even before Veganuary, I wasn’t a big meat eater – maybe a burger once every few weeks or some fish if I ate out. Oh yeah, and my dad’s Bolognese sauce. But it wasn’t like it hit January 1st and I suddenly had to replace ALL my meals with meat-free alternatives.

Chickpea salsa and vegan feta on my jacket potato at Bluebell, Tycoch.

Aside from not eating much meat, I was already eating many vegan dishes. For example, three-bean chilli, bean stews, a LOT of oats, and that kind of thing. My regular protein powder is vegan too (I prefer the taste).

But to this list I added some new recipes. One was a high-protein Mexican dish made with tofu, quinoa and beans (as pictured at the top of this page).

The other was a warming paprika-spiced bean, courgette and vegan sausage casserole, which was a particular favourite. I also made a one-pot cajun bean and rice… thing. Nice.

The main meal I found tricky was lunch.

The dishes I mention above were usually reserved for evening meals, and a few times I found myself lost at lunchtime. My pre-Veganuary staple was egg and avocado with toast, but that was obviously off the cards.

So I did what any freelance writer would do – worked from cafes and let somebody else make lunch for me.

What About Eating Out During Veganuary?

It’s fair to say that, in Swansea, we are not spoiled for choice when it comes to decent vegan places. Greasy spoon cafes, sure. Vegan restaurants? Not really.

However, there are some decent vegan-friendly places in Swansea, if you know where to look.

The Big Vegan from Crumbs, Uplands – I had this a few times!

In no particular order, I found that the best places for me – which offered a decent choice – were Crumbs Kitchen (Uplands), Bluebell (Tycoch), 1825 Coffee Shop (Dylan Thomas Center), and Arthur Neave (Walter Road).

(2023 update: Sadly the latter two cafes no longer exist, although places like No. 18 is a great vegan place).

Others that I dined in at least once and had a good vegan selection include the Croeso Lounge and Boo’s Kitchen, both in Mumbles. While the food was good, these two in particular were pretty expensive for what you were actually served.

I am a quantity over quality guy…

A Veganuary Trip to London

‘Bollocks,’ I said to myself, ‘I forgot I was going to London.’

I realised that, on the second weekend of Veganuary, I would indeed be staying in London for three nights.

Vegan fish and chips! Basically battered lemon tofu… and chips (which are vegan anyway)

Thankfully London is a hip, happening city (hipper and more happening than Swansea at least) and there was plenty of vegan fare to keep me full.

On the first night I was treated to a home-cooked vegan meal, which I was originally scared wouldn’t fill me up (people tend to underestimate how much I eat). Yet it was delicious and very filling. A cauliflower curry of sorts…

Me enjoying my burger and beer with friends in the upmarket Islington restaurant.

The next night we visited a suave new all-vegan restaurant that had newly opened up around the corner (I was staying in upmarket Islington). I can’t remember the name, but this was a winner. I had a plant-based burger which came with kale crisps. It was not very photogenic for the slightly-steep £15 price tag (which explains the absence of a photo), but it tasted nice at least.

We also visited The Coach and Horses in Soho, which claims to be London’s first vegetarian pub. Upstairs sat a hidden tea-room, which served a good selection of vegan food (as well as veggie dishes). This is where I had the good old tofish and chips, as pictured above.

Tough Times and Potential Slip-ups

Oh Harrods, you tempting bastard…

Things weren’t always easy in Veganuary – there were a couple of tough times.

And, when I say ‘tough times’, this is in relation to my usual day-to-day life. I’m not comparing my frustration over not being able to find an oat latte to, say, living in a war-torn country or something equally distressing. Just low points for me during the month.

The first came in London.

After visiting the Churchill War Rooms in the morning, it dawned on me that is was 1pm and I was starving. Now, when I’m hungry I get angry (traditional ‘hangry’ behaviour) and it became an immediate rush to feed Chris before he said or did something he’d regret.

We marched down Birdcage Walk towards Buckingham Palace, where I knew restaurants and cafes were located. Irritatingly, none of them seemed to offer vegan options, apart from one, but it was around £20 for a bowl of pasta.

Not happening.

I eventually found some hipster place just down the road serving plenty of reasonably-priced (for London…) vegan food. Disaster averted… just.

However, that spell was the first time all month where I was a bit pissed off that I was doing Veganuary. I was that close to just caving and eating a cheese pizza. But no – if I commit to something, I commit to it.

About an hour later I was having second-thoughts again though. We had popped into Harrods – I love browsing the food hall there. To my delight, they were offering a range of free samples. Cheese… no! Meat… no! Dammit, none were vegan. I love food and I really love free food.

Lovely vegetarian (but annoyingly not vegan) tasters in Harrods…

I eventually stumbled across some little balls of nut-coated Vegetarian Indian somethings… I picked one up, then asked the assistant ‘these are vegan too… right?’

She checked a pad of paper… ‘Sorry, no – there’s a little bit of milk in the mixture.’

I hurled the little ball of food across the room and headbutted the glass counter until the police arrived and escor… No I just put it back, thanked her and cursed Veganuary once again.

The Conclusion

Despite a handful of frustrating moments, Veganuary has been pretty simple. It’s not over yet, but I doubt there will be many problems in my final week.

Before I conclude, I can’t say it’s had a dramatic impact on my health. But remember that I was eating vegan around 75% of the time before anyway. My energy levels are the same and I’ve made good GAINZ in the gym. No problems here.

Will I continue being a vegan? Yes and no.

Firstly, meat. I have no great desire to eat it. Of course, there will be a time where I do – whether I end up in at a social event where they didn’t cater for vegans, or attend a BBQ, or somebody gives me a free burger.

However, I will not be rushing to the butcher on February 1 for one of everything. It’s not really something I am craving and the health, environmental and ethical benefits of not eating meat outweigh it.

I will also definitely be cutting down on eggs and products containing eggs. Reading about the egg industry angered me (I won’t go into detail here, but it’s pretty horrific) and it has made me reconsider the several eggs I ate every day before Veganuary. Again, I may have one now and again, but it’s not something I am craving.

An oat cappuccino. Well worth a try.

Milk-wise, I have really enjoyed drinking oat lattes and putting oat milk in my coffee. It tastes much nicer than regular milk. It’s much creamier! If I end up in a scenario where there is no oat or soy milk, then yes – I’ll have a splash of cow’s milk in my coffee, otherwise I am happy to keep drinking vegan.

What this all boils down to is that I will be incorporating more of the vegan lifestyle into my already relatively vegan lifestyle – just with a little flexibility (in case the Harrods scenario presents itself again).

Part-time vegan? Yeah, let’s go with that.

Veganuary Reflections: 2023 Update!

I can’t believe I first wrote this article in 2019! It was great to take a nostalgic look back at a time of transition.

I can’t believe that I ended it saying I would be a part-time vegan. That didn’t happen!

Instead, I became fully vegan and remain plant-based over four years later. I started reading more about veganism and realized that it aligned with my ethics more than eating animal products. The health negatives of eating meat and dairy were also on my mind.

Then, as the months went by, more vegan alternatives seemed to be released and veganism became even easier.

So I stuck with it.

I have still had my frustrations and slip-ups over the last four years. For example, eating out in non-vegan places is always irritating when the establishment only has one vegan choice. Often something uninspired like bean burger or stuffed beetroot. 🙄

I still haven’t eaten meat and I don’t plan to. However, I have sometimes eaten a product that contains milk or eggs, due to being a little lax with my label reading. As I said in the original post, I am not going to beat myself up about it.

As for health, I am still making good gains in the gym (I deadlifted 200kg in 2022) and participating in competitions like Turf Games. I feel strong and athletic, and veganism is certainly no hindrance to my goals.

On the subject of health, one thing I mentioned in the original article was that I was taking a grapeseed extract tablet for my high blood pressure. I no longer take this as my blood pressure is considerably lower thanks to following a vegan diet for the last four years!

Yep, there are health benefits of doing Veganuary as well just ethical peace of mind.

As for Harrod’s, I am heading to London in July 2023, so I will write another update on whether Harrod’s offers vegan chocolates, treats and drinks. Stay tuned for that.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed!

In the meantime, if you did enjoy, you may enjoy content from my other website, Planet Health. For example, in a recent post I discuss bird shit in brandy, bull’s penis, and an array of other unusual hangover cures from around the world!

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