Week Three: What’s the Fuss?

I started this journey into plant-based eating (I still don’t call it vegan because of the honey) because I wanted to know what people were raving about. I wanted to know if I’d feel healthier (not that I felt unhealthy) or more energetic (I’m naturally lazy).

Three weeks later, I still don’t know what the fuss is about and I’m no longer avoiding meat. And I feel much better for putting it back. I might not be more energetic than I was previously, but it gives me more energy than simply plants, and really what I need to work on is becoming a do-er, not a dreamer, and to work with my lazy inclinations rather than against them.

Yes, plants are tasty and meat doesn’t have to be the main component of every meal. But I need it in my diet in order for me to feel healthy and to function properly. So I’m going to spend the rest of Lent working out the optimal balance of plants and meats.

I will continue to avoid dairy and eggs, because I think that I do feel better without them (or at least without the dairy, which I know has an adverse affect on me, without being intolerant or allergic to it), and I shall be monitoring that side of it.

But meat returns.

Week Two: Plant-based Eating

I think the one word to use to describe this second full week of plant-based eating is this: Exhausting.

Not, tiring having to remember or making complicated recipes (when do I ever?!), but tiring as in no energy and just wanting to sleep. Fortunately there’s been no over-riding craving for anything, otherwise I might well have given in.

Oh, and irritating. But that might just be the exhaustion and/or hormones.

Exhaustion doesn’t continue, does it? Because if it continues much longer, I’m probably going to chuck in the towel early.

Week One: Plant-based Eating

I won’t lie. This week was harder. More than once as I walked home from work I dreamed of cheese-on-toast. I could taste the melting cheddar, the dripping butter, the fresh bread…I know, I don’t tend to eat much dairy normally, but cheese-on-toast! My mother always says that that’s what she brought me and my siblings up on and it is my go-to comfort food. Not ice cream or chocolate, but cheese-on-toast.

Honestly, an adequate substitute for cheese-on-toast...

Honestly, an adequate substitute for cheese-on-toast…

I resisted, though. I had those fairy-cakes (although not for very long). And I’ve started making banana berry smoothies for breakfast (with frozen berries to make for a nice cool drink). And avocado and bread makes for a very satisfactory snack.

I still don’t feel like I’m missing out (except for when we go to coffee shops and I realise that all they offer without eggs or dairy is a fruit salad if I’m lucky and dried fruit and nuts if I’m not. They so need to branch out into vegan baked goods!) or that I’m starving myself. I like food, I like eating, and I like that I can eat lots without feeling like I absolutely must go for a very long run to burn it all off (not that that happens very often. Lazy, remember?).

It gets easier, right?

The Beginning is the Easy Bit

I don’t know about you, but I always find the first few days of a shiny new project to be the easiest. Those are the days when I have the most energy and enthusiasm for whatever it is I’m excited about, even when I don’t know much about it. Actually, that’s the fun part: the finding out and researching.

So these first few days of Lent have been quite easy. I haven’t craved anything; my food is still tasty and filling; there’s a plethora of yummy-sounding recipes out there, just waiting to be discovered.

Two Potato and Leek Soup, with a fresh bread roll

Two Potato and Leek Soup, with a fresh bread roll

I feel hungry sometimes, of course I do. Usually about four or five hours after a meal, which is about right and the same as before. I don’t really trust all those diets which claim to make you never feel hungry again. Hunger isn’t something to be afraid of. You won’t starve by waiting an extra hour or so before your next meal. In fact, you should feel hungry at meal-times, otherwise you won’t enjoy your food.

And the wonderful thing about this plant-based eating is: I get to eat lots because it’s mostly all vegetables. Fruit for breakfast, veg for supper.

It’ll be interesting to see if it continues to be as easy…

Lenten Fast 2015

It’s that time of year again when I make a crazy decision to give up something that’s pretty integral to my day-to-day diet, all in the name of Lent. The last couple of years I’ve given up sugar in various forms.

This year, though, I’m going for a more traditional sort of Lent. One in which I give up meat, dairy and eggs. I won’t lie: it will be tricky, especially when it comes to baking.

Now, I’m not doing this because I’ve seen the error of my ways as regards the meat-industry (although I do think our attitude towards meat and dairy could do with a great deal of reform); I don’t plan for this to become my permanent way of life, although I’m hoping it will be what I need to really kick out the dairy. I don’t really like the dairy-industry, and I do think there’s a good argument to be made for dairy-consuming “ethical” vegetarians to be eating veal.

What I believe to be vegan flapjack; recipe next week

What I believe to be vegan flapjack; recipe next week

Mostly, I’m doing this because I think it will be interesting to see what happens when a hard-core carnivore (trust me, I’m something of a vulture when it comes stripping a chicken carcass: it’s not done until I’ve had a go at it. Waste not, want not is my motto, as I peel out any organs left inside) becomes an herbivore. I’m not much of a one for dairy anyway, except for butter and baking, and eggs I tend to use mostly in baking, so with any luck, those two restrictions won’t be too difficult. Except for finding alternatives to use in the cakes…

But the meat will be quite a sacrifice. Although, really, I’m not sure the Church would agree. It’s not like I’m doing this because I think it will help me get closer to God or because it will make me more penitent for any sins committed.

I’m doing this because it is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while – to see if it will make me any healthier or give me some actual drive to exercise more properly, like aficionados seem to insist – and because Lent gives me an acceptable reason for giving things up. I want to know: Will eating just plants make me a healthier, happier, more balanced sort of a person who just loves to exercise? (Not, you understand, that I feel I’m particularly unhealthy or unhappy or unbalanced.)

And it’s only six or seven weeks. A suitable length of time to notice changes, and a finite period. I know the start date and the end date. And so does Mark. Less than two months. Not long at all.

An Exercise in Self-Control

“I can resist all things,” said Oscar Wilde, “except temptation.”  Or something like that.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, since the end of temptations are nigh. Or, in the case of Catholics, already at an end. The Vatican apparently allows for Lent to end at sundown on Maundy Thursday.

There’s something about a Christian festival, in previously Christian countries, to get all the anti-Church people leaping up and down about the non-Christian nature of said festival. Now, I’m not going to deny that the early Church had a habit of appropriating local festivals to win over the people. The birth of Jesus, for instance, probably wasn’t in December. To be honest, though, cheer and party in September (when we/early Christians are all busy with harvests) or in the middle of winter when it’s cold and dark and there’s not much else to do? Which would you prefer?

The thing that’s annoying me at the moment, and which annoys me every year because it pops up every Easter, is that thing which says that Easter was originally the celebration of an Assyrian/Babylonian goddess of love called Ishtar. As a goddess of love, and therefore probably also fertility, it makes sense for such a goddess to be celebrated in the Spring. The Assyrians and Babylonians weren’t the only ones to think so. The Norse had a sacrifice combined with a market at the end of winter called Dísablót, meaning a sacifice to the ladies, to the goddesses.

There’s another idea that Easter comes from Eostre, a Germanic goddess whom Bede says gave her month to that which became April. There’s not much else about Eostre, and Bede was an 8th century Christian. Since the word Easter is derived from the same roots as Eostre, it would be lovely to say that Easter is Eostre’s festival.

Except that Easter is only Easter in a few languages, notably English and German. In most other languages, the name for the festival is derived from the Latin name: the Paschal Sacrifice, which derives from the Hebrew Pesach. Which is the festival of Passover. 

The reason that Easter is at this time of the year is this: Jesus was crucified at Passover. And Passover is a Spring festival.

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Mark and I (mostly me) decided that this year we’d make us an Easter egg, since I have various egg-moulds.We picked the big one. It’s going to be the better part of a kilo of chocolate. 🙂

Have you noticed how Easter eggs have changed? I remember when I was little (oh so many years ago!) the treats were inside the eggs.

I was thinking earlier that, if the companies really were keen on reducing packaging, then they’d go back to putting sweets or mini eggs or whatever inside. Because that’s just sensible space economy. Reduces waste-packaging and makes the egg more exciting.

So that’s what we’re going to do with our, what you might call, family-sized egg…

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I went to the Chocolate Festival and I bought…

…Not as much, nor tasted as much, as I would have liked. Sadly. I know, it’s my own fault, nobody forced me to give up sugar/added sweeteners for Lent. That and it was frankly far too cold to be standing around for long periods of time. Those poor people at the stalls! Although, at least the chocolate wasn’t melting, I suppose!

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There’s a chocolate festival twice a year at London’s Southbank Centre: one on Palm Sunday weekend (so this one just gone: yes! Only a week left of Lent!) and one at the beginning of Advent. I try to go to both. Not because I really expect it to change so much, but because I like chocolate. I like seeing what other people are doing with it and seeing if there are any new ideas I can take away to test with chocolate myself. I try to experiment with chocolate as much as I can. There’ll be more chocolate experiments after Easter. Promise.

Anyway, I decided that this year I was going to reward myself for managing my Lenten fast (without even any noticeable cravings either! I’m quite impressed!), so I bought an Easter egg. I know, so original of me, an egg at Easter…

This egg was made in Kent, by a company called STAS chocolatier. Quite honestly, I’m looking forward to Easter!