January is often a time for people making resolutions centred around food, usually related to a healthier diet or reducing the amount of processed junk eaten in the upcoming year. I’ve done this myself in the past too, although most are broken within the first month!
One year I decided to become vegetarian after an experience with a particularly bloody steak on New Year’s Eve in a restaurant in Rome. I have never been a hugely enthusiastic meat eater so didn’t struggle with this resolve, but found the difficulty arose from those around me and their attitudes towards my choice. My friends and partner weren’t supportive, especially when dining out. I also found Newcastle’s restaurants at the time to be limited in choices for those who avoided meat. I lasted a lot longer than the initial month anticipated, but it didn’t ‘stick’ in the way I hoped it would.
I wrote a blog post at the time of Mr. Canny’s transition to veganism last year about my initial reservations and – rather selfishly – how it could impact on what I wrote about (which you can read here). While everything covered over the last year has been focused on vegetarian and vegan food, I don’t feel it has been too ‘preachy’ or has alienated those who still choose to eat meat.
I recently enlisted the help of contributors to write reviews where the veggie dining options have been scant or where I have been unable to visit myself due to childcare. The idea behind this was to push forward Canny Food as a platform for dining out in Newcastle in general, as opposed to our specific dietary requirements. That said, the positive feedback we get, especially from the vegetarian and vegan communities, regarding our reviews and the work we’ve tried to do in raising awareness of dining out while shunning animal products – for whatever reasons – has kept us going. We’ve gained so many new followers on social media and the page views per month are fantastic. I’ve even started to feature a recipe a week after people asked what a vegan family (which we all are at home) eat on a day to day basis. If it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?!
At first, I told Mr. Canny I would continue to eat meat while dining out. It became quite difficult based on how I felt he ‘judged me’ if I chose a steak, for example, but that was in my own head. The more I read up and watched documentaries, the harder it became. I couldn’t put my own tastebuds aged of the life of an animal. In the summer I stopped eating meat altogether and switched to vegetarianism. While I ate vegan the majority of the time at home anyway since his switch, when we dined out for the blog I would gravitate towards the dishes that contained the most dairy to ‘get my fix’. Your palate evolves in time, however, and I started to find I wasn’t so keen on doing this. It led me to consider whether I could make the permanent transition over myself, and I signed up for Veganuary 2017 for a trial run.
Veganuary aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring and supporting people across the globe to go vegan for the month of January. While some may scoff at the concept, the notion of a plant-based diet is one that is gaining traction thanks to surprising celebrity endorsements. Even Arnie Schwarzenegger has discussed the environmental and health benefits of cutting down on meat consumption! The argument regarding a lack of protein in a veggie diet has been circulated for many years, it is one that has been debunked time and time again. Some high profile athletes have become vegan and gone on to incredible success in the last few years. David Hayes is one notable example. There has been a 1500% increase in sales of plant-based goods in the UK alone in 2016, which is surely a sign of its mainstream appeal.
This made me consider how difficult it would be for me to make the switch. I have noticed benefits already in terms of my own health since cutting down my dairy consumption. As someone who suffered terribly with digestive issues I know they have eased in the last year. Following a plant-based diet also cuts the cholesterol consumed, as well as reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. There is the added bonus of knowing that no animal has suffered to make its way onto your plate, which is reason enough for many. Vegetarianism is widely accepted and accommodated now, but the dairy industry it inadvertently supports is far from being cruelty free. I don’t know if I can reconcile my love of cheese agsinst the knowledge I have now.
It saddens me the way animals are treated, and the impact industrialised meat production has on the environment is frightening. Watching Cowspiracy – available on Netflix – is a must for anyone interested in the environment. For those who haven’t watched it for fear it may be graphic, don’t worry. There is nothing used for ‘shock value’ and the statistics about the amount of water alone used to produce one burger should make everyone think twice about grabbing a Big Mac. Having tried an Impossible Burger in New York, pictured below, I’ve seen the future of vegan food.. and it certainly isn’t all hummus and salad!
There’ll be recipes over the next month on the blog, as well as updates on how I am finding life without ‘normal’ cheese. Over on Twitter and Facebook I’ll be posting foodie products which we think are great alternatives, and I am organising a Newcastle-based event that I will be sharing in due course. It would also be great to hear about others participating in Veganuary, whether it is your first time or something you do every year as a way of ‘kick starting’ a healthy eating diet. If you haven’t heard about it already, why not take a look at the website and get signed up too? 🙂
Thanks for reading,