Friday, 15 June 2012

Finding My Vegan Feet

By Laura, Vegan Pledge Participant 2012

I’ve been interested in the vegan lifestyle for around 10 years, but I haven’t had the courage to properly test the vegan waters. For me, choosing a vegan diet has been mostly motivated by ethics. The way our society treats animals is just unbearable to me. I cannot keep willingly contributing to an industry that keeps animals as lifeless commodities that can be skinned, killed or milked at will, without any consideration for their well being. 

This year I decided that it would be time to walk the walk, and took the Vegan Pledge on the 19th of May. As with many people switching to veganism, my biggest hurdle has been giving up milk products. I have been a vegetarian for a very long time and used milk products as my primary source of protein. I suspect that I’ve developed a bit of an addiction to cheese. Three weeks into the pledge, I am doing just fine without any cheese. Yes, sometimes I have thought that some cheese on my pizza would be nice, but I don’t crave it the way I thought I would. As far as other milk products go, I couldn’t care less. In fact, I really enjoy making my own milk alternatives at home and using them in my cooking. 

The most amazing part of switching to a vegan diet has been noticing the changes in my body. I find I have a lot more energy, I feel much better after eating (never bloated or stuffed), my skin complexion has improved and my clothes are looser. I have also been positively surprised by how easy it is to find vegan food, and how understanding people are. Even when I go out with my non-vegan friends, I manage to find something to nibble on. I can’t say that the average restaurant has more than a very limited menu for vegans, but it’s good to have at least a couple of options for people who choose not to eat animal products. 

Another thing that I have learned to appreciate about my vegan diet is an increased awareness of what’s really in my food. Since there aren’t a lot of ready-made vegan meals out there, I have been cooking at home much more often. Most vegan food is incredibly easy to make and takes minutes to prepare. My favourite recipe finds so far have been Rhubarb and Peach Crumble with Banana Ice Cream and Vegetable Tagine

Now that the vegan pledge month is almost done, I am certain that I will stick to the vegan mindset. I might not be as firm about milk traces or an accidental vegetarian dish at a party where no other options are available, but I will keep cooking vegan at home and sharing the joy of good food with my friends. And to people who are doubting whether to try the vegan diet or not, I would definitely recommend it, even if you only have have one vegan day per week. It will make a huge difference to the world around us and to your own well being.  ..............................................................................
You can read more from Laura on her website: 

Dealing with Friends and Family

By Caitlin, Vegan Pledge Buddy 2011 & 2012

One of the trickiest things about going vegan, once you’ve more or less got eating down, can be dealing with family and friends. It can be very difficult, especially at first; however, things do tend to get better over time, as people come to accept your decision to be vegan. Partners, friends, and family can sometimes take going vegan as a personal attack (food is closely interwoven with culture and identity), so it’s important to make it clear that you’re rejecting animal products, NOT your friends and family. 

I've found it's generally best to tell people you’ve gone vegan at a ‘neutral’ time (if you can avoid it, don’t do it over a meal, or during a party or holiday like Christmas), and to just casually mention it rather than making a big deal of it. It’s also usually better to avoid discussing the whys of being vegan over meal; if someone does bring it up I usually tell them I’d prefer to discuss it after the meal (people can get defensive if you tell them why you feel eating meat is ethically wrong whilst they chomp down on a burger).

It’s definitely best to tell someone well in advance of going to stay with them or going to their place for a meal. If going to a dinner party, I’ve usually found it’s best to mention it well in advance, and then to offer to bring something vegan that everyone can share (if you think they won’t be offended by you offering to bring food), or to offer to give them a few recipes or point them to a good cookbook (if you know they want to make all the food themselves). 

I also think it helps to have some vegan friends, so you don’t feel like you’re the only one! I’ve found it helpful to get involved in some vegan groups (like London Vegan Meetup). Generally I’ve also found the best way to convince people that veganism is cool and fun is to feed them lots of good vegan food, so if you can cook or buy some really nice vegan food to feed to friends and family, they will eventually realize it’s not so weird after all.

Be prepared for lots of questions, especially at first. It may be helpful to think through your answers to some common questions about veganism before you broach the subject with friends and family who you know will ask a lot of questions. 
Sometimes when people get defensive (because they may see veganism as a criticism of their own habits), their questions may come across as an attack, but usually people are just genuinely curious. Try to remain calm when being questioned, and don't be afraid to say you'd rather discuss it at another time. Also prepare to be asked the same questions many times by many different people. And if, after telling most of your family and friends, you get bored of being asked the same questions, you can always play defensive omnivore bingo!

You can find more from Caitlin on her blog at

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Vegan holiday in Rome

By Kari, Vegan Pledge Buddy 2012

When acquaintances hear I’m going abroad they will often take a sharp intake of breath – “What will you eat? You’ll find it really hard!” Well, I’ve holidayed in many countries, and not had a problem. A bit of pre-holiday research, a well chosen B&B, or proximity to a metropolis, and in European countries that’s sufficient to have a great, well-catered for holiday (France has loads of places, Spain quite a few - Fuego Blanco near Malaga is a particular favourite).

However I must admit that when Sally suggested Rome, I had my reservations. I had holidayed in Italy as a child and gorged on pizza and ice-cream, but didn’t imagine a vegan would fare so well. Nonetheless, Sally had found an organic vegetarian B&B in the city, Bed and Breakfast Bio, and after a bit of googling found that Rome boasted several vegetarian eateries, many more that were veggie-friendly, and most exciting of all, multiple flavours of soya ice-cream sold in gelateries across the city. 

Well that was it; I was sold. Vegan ice-cream was taking me to Rome!

The B&B was in the suburbs to the north of the city, in a well-proportioned apartment complex surrounded by trees. The rooms were spacious, full of character as well as having mod cons (kettle, TV, fridge) and en-suite toilet and shower facilities. Our hosts provided us with delicious and thoughtful vegan breakfasts – several types of fruit, muesli, bread, various spreads (including almond butter), biscuits, pastries, and fresh homemade vegan crepes filled with a jam of our choice, fruit juice, and a huge choice of teas. The products we encountered at breakfast were sourced from the health food store (or Erboristeria) that the owners run. They took us there on our first day, and we were excited to discover it packed with all vegan products – some familiar brands (e.g. Taifun tofu) and many Italian brands too. 

With the famous saying "when in Rome …" in mind, we were determined to enjoy the culinary delights that Italy is most famous for: pizza, pasta and ice-cream. Our first meal out was at a local pizzeria close to our B&B. We ate at many pizza places, perfecting our ordering as we went, and the waiters were never fazed by us ordering pizza with no cheese. We only ever had one waiter look at us strangely and ask if we were on diets!

It was on the very last day of our perfect pizza odyssey that we struck gold! We had just got off the bus at Piazza del Popolo which is behind the northern gate to the city, and saw a little pizzeria called Pizza e Natura. The pizza was cheap at 7 Euros, was on the Rosso side of the menu (these are the pizzas that have tomato/herb sauce topping; ‘Blanco’ ones don’t) and was called Verdure Miste. When the pizza arrived it looked amazing – it was huge and piled high with generous amounts of mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, courgette and aubergine and was utterly delicious. Too much to eat in one sitting!

Our next indulgence was to find the vegan gelati that we had read about online. There are several gelateries around the centre of Rome that stock at least a couple of vegan ice-cream options and some that have a multitude of flavours to choose from. We found at least four that stocked a wide variety of flavours such as vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, walnut, hazelnut, strawberry, coconut, cappuccino and many more!

There are also a number of purely vegetarian restaurants in Rome which of course we had to try. Armed with information from the Happy Cow website, Sally highlighted all the recommended eateries on the city map. We ate at a longstanding upmarket restaurant called La Margutta where vegan options were highlighted on the menu and dishes were marked where they could be made vegan on request. The food was tasty, made with fresh ingredients and was beautifully presented.

We visited another vegetarian restaurant at lunchtime called Bibliothe. There were many vegan options and it was possible to ask for the vegetarian dishes to be made vegan as well. We ordered the set menu for the day which was an aubergine stew with pulses, a beautifully spiced rice and mixed vegetables dish, and a delicious salad with strawberries in it.

Another option for lunch or dinner was a chain of restaurants called L’Insalata Ricca which were dotted all over Rome which although not vegetarian had a lots of vegan salad and pizza options.

All in all, as well as being an amazing city rich in history and culture, Rome had a lot to offer to vegan tourists and we would certainly recommend it as a destination that is surprisingly vegan friendly. I even came home with a lovely new pair of vegan sandals :)

For full Rome listings see

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

French toast recipe

By Caitlin, Vegan Pledge Buddy 2011 & 2012

Vegan French toast is really easy to make (perhaps easier than traditional French toast!).  Rather than messing around with eggs, all you need for vegan French toast is bread, soya milk, sugar, flour and any spices you like (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.). Mix the ingredients together (apart from the bread) and then soak your bread in the mixture and you’re good to go. But if you're up for something a little different, this twist on traditional French toast is delicious and easy to make! 

Chai concentrate makes 3 cups

  • 7 chai tea bags*
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 cups sugar

Put the water and tea bags in a saucepan on medium high heat, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Remove from the heat, remove the tea bags, add sugar and mix.  Now you have chai tea concentrate. You can mix this with equal parts soya milk to make chai.

*Natco brand chai tea bags can be purchased fairly cheaply in bulk from Asian supermarkets.

Chai French toast

  • Bread, preferably stale (your favourite kind of bread – white or wholemeal – will work)
  • 1/2 cup chai concentrate
  • 1/2 cup soya milk
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Vegetable oil or vegan margarine

Heat your oil or margarine in a frying pan on medium heat. Mix the chai concentrate, soya milk, and flour together in a large bowl. Dip the bread in the mixture and then put one or two pieces of dipped bread in the frying pan (depending on how big your frying pan is). Cook until browned slightly on the bottom and then flip over and cook until the other side is browned. Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar and/or fruit.  

Is veganism extreme reasoning?

By Mike, Vegan Pledge Volunteer & longterm vegan

Tell a friend or colleague you are vegetarian, and the response may well consist of a knowing or admiring nod of the head. Inform them of your vegan lifestyle, and quizzical puzzled looks may be the response. In mainstream culture in Britain 2012, the word veganism is still often linked to the word extremism.

When people hear of my vegan lifestyle, their immediate puzzlement is habitually framed by questions wanting to know why I don’t drink cow’s milk or why I don’t eat cheese. Of course the reason I don’t drink cows milk is because my mother isn’t a cow. Similarly, the reason I don’t eat cheese is also because my mother isn’t a cow... or a goat, or a sheep. In fact even calves or kids or lambs don’t eat cheese. 

Image from One Green Planet

Veganism is a lifestyle choice whose essence is compassionThose who wish to see the destruction and cruelty continue still hold the megaphone of public discourse. However, the tide is visibly turning as more and more people embrace veganism as a way to manifest their deep commitment to a more kind and just world.

Loving Hut, Camden

Restaurant review by Emily, Vegan Pledge Buddy 2012

The Camden branch of LovingHut is tiny and only seats around 12 people but don’t let that put you off! As with all Loving Hut restaurants, the menu is purely vegan so you can relax and order whatever you wish with a completely cruelty-free menu. There is a range of burgers, salads and desserts to choose from as well as an all-you-can-eat lunchtime buffet which is very reasonably priced at £5.50 per person. 

My favourite item on the set menu is the Ocean Burger, which is served with crispy chips, carrot fingers and a dipping sauce of egg-free mayo and ketchup. As well as soups and a selection of side dishes, the cheesecakes are to die for. As an added bonus, they have a loyalty card scheme where you can collect stamps for each visit. These can later be redeemed for free drinks or cake. Lastly, as a stockist of Vegusto cheese you can pick up some shopping to take home with you after a quick bite! 

For details, see:

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Vegan Holidaying in the UK

By Asa, Vegan Pledge Buddy 2012

I have stayed in many veggie B&Bs in the UK, often to go walking. It is always a treat to stay in veggie B&Bs and get a full breakfast so you hardly have to eat until dinner time! The Vegetarian Guides cover all or most veggie, and even veggie friendly B&Bs so I use that as a starting point. Further ones can be found googling, there are local guides in some areas (e.g.,

Unfortunately there are not veggie places everywhere. In a way it is good to stay in non-veggie ones too, to spread the word that there is such a thing as a vegan, and to make people aware that it is actually not that difficult to cater for vegans.

It can be difficult to find places that know what vegan food means. Generally I've found small B&Bs better at catering for vegans than hotel - maybe they're more interested in getting the business!

I try to read their web sites to see if they list "happy to cater for vegans", "caters for vegetarians" or at least "we cater for special diets". But if staying in small places, there may not even be that option. It is good to give them a ring to ask, in most cases I find that they are friendly and open to help, with some guidance of what to arrange for the cooked part of the meal – soya/rice/oat milk for cereal is normally easy for them to find and toast and jam are vegan items anyway (I've never encountered non-vegan bread in a B&B but I guess it is a possibility). 

For the cooked breakfast, Linda McCartney sausages are often a good thing to suggest for breakfast since it is a known brand; Frys and Redwood are quite widely available too, although less common. If they find even that difficult, I suggest alternative things for breakfast, such as porridge, avocado and hummus or a fruit salad. They should be able to manage one of them! 

It can be worth pointing out that most margarines are not vegan, but Pure seems to available even in obscure places. Sometimes I do not worry about that though – I can eat toast without margarine and I can understand if they’d be reluctant to buy a big packet for a one night stay only.

I have a few vegetarian B&B favourites, the Barn in the New Forest being one of them: It’s a two hour train journey from London and is great for a weekend away.
I just came back from Cornwall where I spent a couple of nights at Michael House near Tintagel – also a treat!
The pictures are from another great veggie B&B in Dorset:
So why not treat yourself to a veggie B&B weekend this summer to celebrate your new vegan status...?