A couple of months ago, my youngest sister decided to go vegan for a year. I was appalled. Vegetarianism i have no problem with. I cook a lot of vegetarian meals, however our red meat consumption has increased since we started 'growing our own beef'.
And just this year we got our first sheep, which i admit to being quite excited about eating, as i enjoy lamb and mutton a great deal more than beef. We also average one seafood meal each week, but we probably eat vegetarian meals about four times a week. I'm a confident vegetarian cook and will ad lib happily; when it comes to meat, not so. If a meal requires cooking a lump of meat - roast or steak, for instance, i try to hand cooking duties to the husband. I'm a bit happier when it comes to 'doing' something with meat - for instance a casserole or curry or something involving mince, although i prefer to have a recipe to follow.
Which brings me back to veganism. My little sister's announcement similarly dismayed my husband, and for the first couple of weeks he took to dissecting each meal, saying 'could Janet eat THIS? or THIS? I guess she could eat this bit', to which i would reply "No, that's got eggs in it..." and he would say "I suppose she could have some of the salad". He took to calling her the 'Pagan Vegan' - i'm pretty sure he was confusing paganism with puritanism, but his general drift was that she was ruling all the fun out of her life by becoming vegan, and 'next she'll be giving up alcohol'.
With veganism on my mind, i took a closer look at the meals i cook, and it made me realise how many eggs and dairy products we use. We use a lot of eggs because we can - i keep chickens, and we have a steady supply of eggs throughout the year; we sell a few, and eat the rest. I don't drink milk (i've never liked the taste), but use it in cooking and baking when required (we keep a supply of milk powder in the pantry for this purpose). However we get through quite a lot of butter (i like to bake), and a reasonable amount of cheese. We also get through a bit of cream, but seldom have ice cream, partly due to the logistics of getting a punnet of frozen ice cream home un-melted. Occasionally i take the chilly bin with slicka pads to town and pick up some ice cream along with a bag of frozen peas, and sometimes i make my own ice cream at home.
So a little less of the dairy products and eggs probably wouldn't go amiss. I suggested, half jokingly, to the husband that maybe we should 'go vegan' for a while, and his response was definite. "Over my dead body" were his exact words. So i let the idea drop; i wasn't that keen to have my culinary world so limited.
Then we watched "What the Health?", a documentary about diet and disease on Netflix. Now i am well aware that the situation in America is vastly different from that in New Zealand - our beef is not raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO's), and i know for sure that our own cows and sheep have healthy, happy lives. And i felt there was some slightly misleading information presented, such "processed meats are a Group 1 Carcinogen - that puts them in the same group as smoking and asbestos". This sounds appalling, and is factual. However the presenter failed to mention that what this actually means is that while the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is completely confident that processed meats cause cancer (as do smoking and asbestos), they are not saying anything about how MUCH cancer is caused by processed meats. The IARC classification system is about hazard identification, not risk assessment. (For the record, sunlight is also a Group 1 Carcinogen, something the presenters failed to mention). Red meat is a 'Group 2A carcinogen' - i.e. 'probably causes cancer', but once again, this does not indicate the level of risk posed by eating red meat. However both of these groupings do suggest that one should limit one's red meat intake, and certainly one's processed meat intake. Taking some salami when you go tramping is not going to significantly increase your risk of colon cancer, but you should certainly think twice if you regularly eat salami, bacon, sausages, ham and other deli meats.
Anyway, at the end of the documentary i turned to the husband and said, not very seriously "do you want to go vegan?", and to my surprise he said "yes"! I was a little shocked to tell the truth, but i'm always up for a challenge, so i said "okay, lets try it for 6 weeks". Then i said "and lets start at the end of the week" - given that we had half a litre of yoghurt and some cheese and some non-vegan dinner leftovers in the fridge, not to mention the butter and egg-laced baking in the tin. And i HATE wasting food, so i figured 5 days' lead-in would allow us to use this food. We started our vegan adventure 6 days ago, and so far i am enjoying it. Hopefully i'll have a few tasty vegan offerings for you over the next 6 weeks. Although i should mention that my 'brand' of veganism allows me to eat honey. I have a beehive, and honey, and i'm going to eat it.
What do i hope to achieve from 6 weeks of veganism? A greater thoughtfulness and awareness of my food when i return to 'omnivory' and a greater repertoire of vegan meals to include in our diet. I'll be interested to see if i note any changes in my health which may (or may not) encourage me to continue to minimise the consumption of red meat and other animal products.
So... no recipe for you today; it's my blog, so i'm allowed to do that. I think it's covered by the 'Thoughts on Food' part of the title.