January: the month of new beginnings. As you wake up, slightly very hungover, on January 1st and promise yourself that you will never drink again, you also usually start the new year with many plans to become a better version of yourself. Aaaah, the new year’s resolutions! If you are like me, your list of good resolutions is as long as your list of series-recommendations on Netflix. And let’s be honest, we both know which one I will complete first.
But then, this year is different. It’s 2020, after all. And as someone who lets herself be influenced by healing rocks and horoscopes, 2020 sounds like I need to make drastic and dramatic changes to my life. So I started thinking: what’s going to be my fresh start? There’s Dry-January, aka the art of not drinking for a month. Mmmh ok… but as a bartender and a G&T lover, I felt like I was gonna fail very hard, very fast. What about Veganuray? One month entirely plant-based and animal-product free. Oh…that sounds like something for me. First of all, it involves food, yes! Second of all, it gives me a reason to overshare all of my meals on social media while flattering my environmental consciousness… I am sold: let’s go cold turkey (pun intended) and be vegan for a month (and who knows, maybe it will last?).
What does it mean to be vegan? And is it that hard?
Vegan, in its purest sense, means that you do not use, buy, or consume anything that comes from animals. Of course, it means no meat and no fish, but also animal derivates such as milk, cheese, butter, eggs, and even honey. But also leather, wool, make-up, and hairbrushes made with animal hair – vegan can be many things. There is a spectrum of veganism on which one places themselves and some “vegans” do still wear wool and leather and only apply the term to their dietary restrictions. But if you really want to go full-vegan, anything that has used an animal is a no-go. I decided to try to go full vegan (spoiler alert: I unknowingly failed on day 1), thinking that using my synthetic make-up brushes and vegan Dr.Martens was going to be enough. I soon realised that some of my make-up contained whale fat, and my warmest sweater is cashmere, which comes from some “special goats” necks (you’re allowed to laugh).
All in all, in order to be vegan and still have a very diverse diet, you might get yourself into the kitchen and experiment with new recipes.
Aside from non-food products, there are many other things that, logically, aren’t vegan, but that I hadn’t thought about before. Including chocolate (unless fully dark, most chocolate contains milk), most cakes and cookies (contains butter), some candies (contains gelatin), most pre-made sandwiches and salads in the supermarket. Even most pre-made soups with names that could be mistaken as vegan, like “broccoli, courgette,” have added cream in them, making them non-vegan. All in all, to be vegan and still have a very diverse diet, you might get yourself into the kitchen and experiment with new recipes.
My vegan revelation
I took my journalistic role very seriously and decided to try as many home-made dinners as well as vegan restaurants in Amsterdam.
The vegan journey started in my pantry. I scrolled through Pinterest for a while, which lead me to try seven new recipes, that I rated for you:
- Vegan spicy peanut ramen: My kind of comfort food, 9/10
- Kung Pao Cauliflower: A bit sticky but nice and filling with some rice, 6.5/10
- Vegan Keto mini quiche: A perfect health-bomb-on-the-go snack, easily frozen, 7/10
- Raw Pad Thai: So fresh and healthy, 8/10
- Spinach and mushroom pasta: Keto, vegan and paleo, that one was also a winner in the comfort food category, 7.5/10
- Vegan tacos with crispy cauliflower: HOLY GUACAMOLE, this is FIRE… A spicy but fresh combination, 10/10
- Chocolate chia pudding: Perfect for those chocolate cravings moments, super easy to make and to store, and delicious, 9/10
- The Vegan Junk Food Bar: A bit on the expensive side, but if you want to try the latest vegan experiments, such as their vegan sashimi, you’re at the right place! I’ve also been a big fan of their coconut curry bitterballen and the vegan kapsalon, lekker!
- Mr. & Mrs. Watson: A fully vegan restaurant, very close to university. Their home-made vegan cheese platter was not bad at all!
- Çigköftem: Çigköftem is a fully vegan Turkish dish sold all around Amsterdam. A super cheap and fast alternative to your traditional sandwich and so much tastier. Make sure to try their special sauce. You can even buy some to keep at home!
- The vegan cheese from Rosie and Riffy: Vegan cheeses could not fool my french palate until I tried theirs. An explosion of flavour, so close to the taste of dairy cheese. My favourite: the ash and pepper camembert.
- The vegan “pulled pork” sandwich from D’Juice House: Right by the Singel library, this sandwich is an absolute winner. Full of flavour and perfect as a study-break lunch.
- The oat milk Oatly – Barista Edition in my coffee (with a splash of vanilla syrup and half a teaspoon of cinnamon) and the Alpro Cashew milk in my morning muesli bowl: the tastiest milk alternative in my opinion!
My final word: overall, I was happily surprised by the vegan diet. I discovered new products and tastes that have entirely changed my perspective on vegans. I never felt like I lacked nutrients, my hair and skin looked healthy, and I even dropped a pound without really trying. I might have allocated a little more budget to my grocery shopping, but this also reflected in the quality of the products I had on my plate. The vegan diet is increasingly popular, which means that supermarkets and restaurants now often offer different vegan products, making the transition from meat-lover to plant-based much easier. So, will you also try the vegan challenge?
Cover: Miika Laaksonen on Unsplash