I recently returned from a wonderful two weeks in Southern Africa. I entered by and left from Johannesburg and saw snippets of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday, it was painful at times to see the levels of plastic waste produced, both on the part of the locals and the tourists. Obviously travel, especially flying, sucks for the environment so I am a complete hypocrite.
I bought one five-litre bottle of water when we went on a one night trip to the Okavango delta, where there wasn’t any running water. Aside from that, I drank tap water from my filter bottle. Of course it would have been nice to have a cool refreshing drink from the fridge every now and then, but it helped me get used to drinking warm water. I bought a WaterWell bottle from Amazon the week before I departed. There were only a couple of times that I drank unfiltered water, but I think having the bottle there was good for my peace of mind. It’s also something I can use again on future trips.
I don’t really consume soft drinks so I wasn’t responsible for much waste in this area. For me, camping and drinking are not compatible so I consumed far less alcohol than I normally would on holiday. I eschewed straws unless I had remembered my metal one (which I almost always managed to leave in my big rucksack). I brought my own plastic tub with me, which was very handy on days when we prepared sandwiches for ourselves.
Before departing for the trip, I fully intended to be flexitarian. But somehow, the first minute I stepped foot in a South African supermarket, I strongly felt that I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t sure how much awareness there would be of veganism, so I bought myself a survival kit.
Fortunately the guides were pretty understanding about different dietary requirements so I was generally provided with something I could eat each day.
However, the meals hit home that I don’t like eating in mixed company- especially when my meal is an impoverished version of what everyone else is having. This is what perpetuates the myth that vegan food is shit. Meat eaters see me looking miserable munching a salad while they’re cutting into a steak. I overheard one of the omnivores comment, “That’s just sad,” when looking at my vegan coleslaw (aka grated carrot and cabbage). Honestly, it was sad. But if I’d been provided with an alternative, it wouldn’t have been.
I’d noticed feeling unhappy in omnivore company a few times last year, but the holiday really put it into focus. I don’t like being given different food to others. It’s hard, because I end up feeling ungrateful when someone has gone to the effort of catering for me. I’ve managed to organise my life so that I mostly eat at veggie and vegan places and I will continue to phase out visits to establishments that serve meat.
Fortunately avocados were in season, so I was able to supplement the often-meagre vegan options with those, and lots of peanut butter (not together obvs). Otherwise I would have struggled. I felt annoyed at times because I’d paid the same amount of money as the meat-eaters but ended up having to top up my food when they didn’t.
I only broke my vegan vows a couple of times. I had three coffees with cow milk (all horrible- oat milk is vastly superior in my opinion), and one sandwich that I had already started spreading before realising I was using butter rather than margarine. I also had a slice of cake on the first night, and two eggs when there was a miscommunication with a restaurant about what I did/didn’t eat. Not bad considering that there was not a single meal of the trip where animal products were not served.
Being away has been a reminder that I’m pretty lucky to live in a place where it’s easy to be vegan, and you don’t spend your whole life feeling that you’re missing out.
I put my OddBox subscription on hold when I moved house and I haven’t felt ready to restart deliveries. In the end, I was lured back by a 50% discount code. I followed in the footsteps of my colleague (another vegan OddBoxer- am I a stereotype?) and ordered a large box to maximise value for money. I got all of this for £9.24.
Since I read some posts saying that the sweetcorn would quickly start to use its sweetness, I was keen to use that first. I made a vegan corn chowder and it’s absolutely delicious. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly since I was using the produce I had on hand. I had around 1.2kg of baby potatoes and three large ears of corn. I also used up some spring onions in place of the onion. And used orange carrots. I ended up with five large and filling servings.
I followed the recipe OddBox sent for stock using the corn cobs and husks. I used it in the risotto I made with the butternut squash. I veganised (aka subbed vegan parmesan for dairy) this recipe that I’ve had for years.
With the rest of the veg, I made a big stir fry/noodle type extravaganza. I stir-fried the spring onions, peppers, broccoli, beans and chard. I added various Asian sauces (soy/sweet chilli) and a couple of packets of cubed firm tofu. I also boiled two nests of the wheat noodles I get from the zero waste store and chucked that in. This is the sort of thing I make when I’m lacking in cooking time and want something easy, tasty and plentiful. I ended up with 8 servings that put me in excellent stead for the following week’s meals. I had to stick some in the freezer so I will have to keep my fingers crossed that it freezes well.
I think I flew a little bit too close to the sun with the vegetable stir-fry. Because I had so much veg in the pan, it started to stew. The noodles still taste fine, I just think it would have been better if I hadn’t cooked quite so much in one go.
I also made some porridge using some of the apples and pears. It wasn’t as delicious as normal because I’d run out of ground cinnamon. I did chuck in a cinnamon stick but I don’t think I left it to infuse for long enough to impart much flavour.
Having the large box was kind of a game-changer. The problem with the small box I normally get is that the smaller quantities are not conducive to batch cooking (aka meal prepping). As you may have noticed, I love to batch cook. It means that I can eat almost exclusively home-cooked food while only needing to cook a few times a week. Although I love cooking, time is a very precious commodity for me.
The only slight problem with the large box is that it includes a lot of fruit. While I love fruit, I generally try not to eat more than 2-3 servings a day since it is quite high in sugar. I use OddBox to support their efforts to prevent food waste, so I would be heartbroken if I had to compost any of it. I might try out different boxes over the next few months- trying a vegetable-only box would mean that I am not overloaded with fruit. Or perhaps a medium-sized box would be more manageable (I cooked more than usual this week to ensure that all the produce would get used). In any case, I’m so pleased I tried out the large box using the half-price code. I got so many delicious, fresh meals for a very reasonable price.
Hit me up if you want to give them a try! I can even give you a sweet £5 referral code. Not a sponsored post (I wish), I just think they are great.
I didn’t post about my twelfth OddBox because I didn’t make anything that interesting. Here is what I received in my most recent instalment.
My flatmate brought me some curry mix back from Singapore. I used some onions, the squash and potatoes in a vegan curry. It was really tasty!
I added a block of Tofoo brand extra-firm tofu to increase the protein content. The curry paste is pretty spicy so it’s nice to have something bland in there too.
I used the beetroot, an apple and the remaining onions in this vegan galette.
I found the recipe on Pinterest. I have to say the galette is amazing. The vegetables all have the right texture (this was on me, I roasted them for different amounts of time until I was happy) and their natural taste is enhanced by the dressing. The pastry is lovely and crisp. I used chunky sea salt that adds an extra crunch too. I was worried that it would be horribly dry. Like the vegan patties I made, the galette is on the dry side but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment.
You can easily adjust the recipe according to what you have. I used quite a bit more veg than stated in the recipe (due to what I had on hand). I just rolled the pastry extra-thin and piled the veg high. It worked well.
I made soup with the cabbage.
Last week, I returned from Lapland to my latest OddBox delivery.
I must say that I was baffled by the item in the bottom left corner. I thought it was a beetroot but there was no indication on the website or letter that we would get beetroot this week. I then thought it might be a really big potato. It smelled like a potato.
It was indeed a yellow beetroot, though I wasn’t entirely certain until I had cooked and tasted it 🙈
I stir-fried the cavolo nero and purple broccoli.
I followed the recipe that came in the box for a roasted carrot and lentil salad. I don’t really like roasted carrot (I prefer sweet potato) but I liked the lentils and dressing, and it was pretty filling.
I also followed the vegetable soup recipe from the box. The soup is serviceable but it looks repulsive.
I also managed to have zero waste vegan quidditch tournament! When I realised that the only available food would be from a burger van, I took some time to food prep. I had shopped in the Source and Lemons & Limes, a lovely greengrocer in Chiswick. I made the satay noodle dish I’ve done a few times before.
I packed two servings and warmed them up each morning before transferring to my vacuum flask.
Since I was volunteering, I got a £5 food voucher. I got some (black) coffee in my keep cup and the lid of my food container saved a couple of polystyrene trays from landfill. Its so nice to be able to eat hot food when you’re standing around outside in Manchester all day.
The team I was coaching came third and my club’s second team (London Unstoppables) took silver, so all in all a successful weekend.
My most recent Oddbox arrived during the busy final week of Veganuary.
I made some sticky sesame cauliflower. Since I didn’t have any sesame seeds, I added in some cashews. It was pretty nice- possibly some of the enjoyment was lowered because I didn’t reduce the sauce enough. I’m not sure if I would make this again because it really was not filling. I still struggle to remember that just because something looks like a decent amount of food, vegetables simply do not fill me up.
I haven’t eaten a turnip (to my knowledge) in years so I decided to roast it. The roasted turnip was okay. I wasn’t sure if I like turnip but I think that it’s swede that I really hate. I don’t tend to like bitter vegetables. The leftover roast swede was slimy and inedible so I stuck that in with the remaining cauliflower when I made some meatless balls. I’ve made this recipe before. It’s quite easy, filling and a good way to get rid of cauliflower.
The kale, cucumber and fruit went into either smoothies or lassis. I decided to go with a lassi as a non-vegan treat but I made the regrettable decision to try kefir rather than using Greek yoghurt. I will certainly not be doing that again. I juiced the carrots as I did with the beets last week. I am going to stop juicing until I have found a responsible way of disposing of my food waste. Even though I am ‘using’ the veg, in reality most of it is going in the bin.
Overall not the most interesting week but things have been so busy and hectic that I’m just pleased to have managed not to waste much food.
I stayed in a hotel at the weekend and remembered anew that sachets of instant coffee and individually wrapped tea bags are the status quo at most chains. I need to start travelling with my own sustainable solution. At home, I have vegan flat whites made from package-free beans and oat milk (tetra pak but not much alternative at present).
I have managed to convince my aunt to stop wrapping presents for me in foil gift wrap (it’s my birthday on Thursday). Even though there is still tape, at least I know that it’s reused paper rather than virgin material.
Our Finnish friend brought us some rye bread that she recommended for avocado toast.
It was very nice indeed. I had the last serving of white chilli for lunch. I was still hungry after eating my energy bar when I was finished with my school visit. I got a Crosstown doughnut.
I had some of the pea soup I made last week for dinner. It was quite spicy! Maybe I added too much pepper.
Had avocado toast first thing, then some leftover hummus and oatcakes after the gym. I had an early lunch of pea soup before heading to a meeting. We went for a couple of drinks after the meeting and I ate a lot of the crisps on offer. I had a patty on the tube home and then some (more) oatcakes with almond butter because I was still hungry.
I also figured out how the use the juicer because I wanted to get rid of the last giant beetroot I had. I made beetroot, apple and celery juice with some turmeric and ginger. It was pretty nice, but I am just not that crazy about beetroot.
I had the rest of the juice and a banana and almond butter toastie for breakfast. I didn’t have any chocolate to add, but it was still tasty.
I was already peckish on my way back to the office at 11.30 so I decided to try the Gregg’s vegan sausage roll. Overall the experience was pretty identical to eating a normal sausage roll, i.e. initially pleasurable but overall regrettable.
I had the last of the satay-style noodles for my proper lunch. For dinner, I went to BoxPark with some friends to see Veganuary out in style. I had my first experience of seitan courtesy of the Athenian. My flatmate and I split a doner kebab.
And some jackfruit ‘wings’ from Biff’s Jack Shack.
I wasn’t that keen on all of the flavours. I liked the sweetest one (I think it had bourbon in it. If I go back to BoxPark (and I’m sure I will at some point), I would like to try their burger.
Overall Veganuary was a positive experience after a difficult start. As hoped, it has opened my eyes to the amazing array of vegan options on offer in London.
My friend Emma used the term freegan, which I prefer to flexitarian. Overall my intention is to remain mostly plant-based, especially at home. However, it’s important for me to give myself permission to occasionally choose animal products if that’s what makes sense or what I want in a particular situation.
I was a little bit concerned that I would gain weight because I have been eating so much more than normal. In fact, I have lost about 1-2kg over the course of the month. While our society normally celebrates women taking up as little space as possible, I’m not sure if this is a good thing. I was already a healthy weight so I hope this does not mean that I have lost muscle mass.
Had some more of the porridge I made yesterday morning for breakfast. Again I was severely lacking in time in the morning so I heated the porridge and took it with me in my vacuum flask. I ended up eating it on the bus after midday. I had my two beetroot brownies at lunchtime.
I took the final serving of the vegan stew I made a couple of weeks ago for lunch. Since I had breakfast so late, I didn’t eat that until around 4pm. Just as well because it ended up being one of those days and I got booted out of the office at 8pm.
Popped into M&S on the way home. They had some vegan items heavily discounted, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to try their meatless balls. I also got some extra firm tofu and some vegan coleslaw. The slaw was delicious!
I ate it with another vegan patty. Juici beef is a well-known patty brand in Jamaica so I got a good wave of nostalgia from this one. The stew peas (which I believe in Patois is pronounced ‘stroo-pea’) is a change from the other brands, which basically contain mixed frozen veg.
The reason I went to M&S was to get the few bits and bobs I needed to make this ‘white chilli’. It contains quite a bit of nutritional yeast, an ingredient I have mixed feelings about. However, it does give the dish a rich umami flavour.
Apple pie porridge for breakfast again and then I had the ‘white chilli’ for lunch. I find the term white chilli dumb. It’s stew. It probably doesn’t help that the chilli peppers I used turned out to be super mild. Also the squash, though beautiful, isn’t as sweet as a butternut. Some tomato would actually liven it up.
Overall I rate the dish 3/5. It tasted fine, I didn’t dislike eating it, and it filled me up. I bulked it out with some brown basmati rice. I only got about 1kg of food from the recipe and the rice stretched it to three 500g servings, which was a decent amount. I also ate two of my beetroot brownies.
I needed to eat some snacks so had this protein/granola bar and a packet of crisps. Dinner was another patty with the remaining coleslaw and a big bar of dark chocolate.
Felt rough all day (unrelated to veganism). Ate my remaining porridge with fresh blueberries.
I also had half a vegan yoghurt. It was horrible compared to the other brand I had the other week (bright yellow lid).
Lunch was a tiny bit of white chilli and two of my beetroot brownies. After going to the gym, I had a protein shake and a tofu steak. I used the extra firm tofu I picked up for cheap at M&S the other day. I followed this recipe and used some Panko that I’ve had for years. I love Panko, I just don’t use it at home much.
It was crazy good. It was definitely more akin to fried chicken than steak but I was surprised by how much I loved the texture. Worth pressing the tofu. This was my first time ever cooking it! I ate it with some of this blueberry bbq sauce that came in my first ever OddBox. It’s been a blueberry-heavy day!
I got invited to a blogger event in the evening and they put on a spread with lots of vegan options.
I was also more tempted to break my Veganuarian vows than I have been all month.
I held firm.
Had some of my flatmate’s pancakes for breakfast. I had white chilli for lunch and a protein shake as a snack. I ate the other tofu steak when I got home, then prepped some pea and potato soup for next week. The potatoes from my OddBox were starting to sprout. I also cooked satay-style noodles for some friends.
We were going to make apple crumble but ran out of time! We did have some ice cream, though, which was very nice.
This weekend was the European qualifying tournament with my quidditch team. I woke up very early to prepare a protein shake and coffee to take with me. I also had a vacuum flask with some of yesterday’s noodles.
It was a tough day and we went to Westfield for a team meal afterwards. The vegan options in the ‘world food court’ were surprisingly sparse. I ended up having the vegan pizza from Franco Manca, which was very tasty. If a little painful to eat due to having a cut lip.
I bought some fresh turmeric when I visited a greengrocer on Friday. I tried making golden milk. I shout a lot at tournaments and my throat is normally really painful in the evenings. I think it’s a nice evening drink with no caffeine.
I took this pic to show the difference before and after steaming. I left the other half of what I made in the jar overnight and the colour had developed by Sunday.
Day 2 of EQT. Prepped another protein shake and coffee. I had some coconut yoghurt with granola on the way to the venue.
I find it very hard to eat on tournament days. We have games at times we don’t always know in advance- roughly every two hours so you can’t eat anything too heavy. The combination of adrenaline, emotions and tiredness mean I don’t feel hungry. I had no appetite all day. I’m purely fuelling my body.
We went to the Markethall in Fulham on the way home. I had half of this different vegan pizza (the place has dough in the name). It was delicious too. Also had some guac and chips. I was disappointed because the menu offered vegan churros but they weren’t actually on sale for another week. That’s the concession’s loss since they will miss Veganuary.
Had some more vegan ice cream and the rest of my golden milk when we got back.
I had planned to work from home in the morning because I am always exhausted after a tournament.
I had a toastie with banana, almond butter and chocolate for breakfast. It was so nice to feel hungry again after being a bit ill last week and then the tournament.
I had another serving of the noodles I made on Friday and enjoyed them a lot more. I find cooking for others very stressful.
I ate both of these during the day because I realised they were out of date. They were fine, nothing special. I had yet another patty for dinner.
Few reflections this week. I essentially have accepted veganism as a part of my life.