Viva the vegans
by Eileen Leahy | 11th January 2019
‘Veganuary’ is now officially a thing thanks to the ever increasing amount of people who have decided to try out turning vegan for the month of January. Eileen Leahy finds out more about this month long culinary commitment and chats to local vegan restaurateur Geff Stone to get some tips
Veganuary is a movement which inspires people all over the world to try a vegan diet for a month – usually during January. It was started in 2013 by co-founders Matthew Glover and Jane Land, a couple from Yorkshire who wanted to reduce animal suffering ‘as effectively as possible’. Since the Veganuary movement began six years ago it has seen the number of people taking the vegan ‘pledge’ double year upon year and now has over 193 countries involved. It has also become a registered charity.
During the month of January the aim is to follow a meat and dairy free plant-based diet. Those who take the Veganuary pledge are supported through a series of emails, social media content, including a Facebook support group, and also plenty of resourceful recipes, nutritional advice and meal plans.
A spokesperson for Veganuary says: “Some participants choose to use the month to raise money for good causes. By the end of their month trying vegan, participants know much more about eating a vegan diet, how easy and tasty it can be, and about the many positive impacts it has on animals, the environment, and our health. Many people choose to go vegan permanently after taking part.”
According to the Guardian the start of this year saw 14,000 people sign up in just one day to the Veganuary pledge – that’s an impressive rate of one every six seconds.
A key reason many more are adopting a plant based diet is thanks to its wealth of health benefits but an increasing number are also going vegan due to scientists’ stern warnings about the environmental cost of meat.
In May last year Jospeh Poore, a scientist at Oxford University, revealed the most comprehensive analysis to date regarding the damage farming does to the planet. He went on to outline how giving up eating meat and dairy was the single biggest thing an individual could do to help protect the environment. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth,” he said.
“Not just greenhouse gases but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”
According to the supermarket chain Waitrose, one in eight Britons is now vegetarian or vegan, and a further 21% say they are ‘flexitarian’ – which basically means they will now and again include a small amount of meat or fish in a predominantly vegetable-based diet. Over the past few years the vegan movement in general has seen a colossal rise of 260% according to The Vegan Society.
Geff Stone who runs The Plant Base in Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells agrees that adopting a vegan diet is definitely on the rise.
“Veganism's huge news now and if you're not one, you probably know one. One of us may have even graced your dinner parties over the festive season to field your many questions and to watch really closely which gravy's in which jug!”
Geff goes on to say that if you do decide to go vegan it’s important ‘not to panic’. “We still get caught out by hidden and entirely pointless milk powder in an ingredients list, and so will you.” And an event such as Veganuary will certainly help you to do your research – whether that’s for yourself following a vegan diet or catering for someone who is.
Geff offers a couple of great winter meat-free meal ideas for the colder months which include Portobello mushroom and chard wellington and roast beetroot and red onion tart with mulled wine.
And when it comes to perfecting the perfect roast potatoes (without goose fat or butter obviously) he offers the following advice: “Par boil them just enough so the outsides have started to cook, but not all the way through. While you're doing this, put a good knob of coconut oil in your roasting dish and pop it in the preheated oven. When the potatoes are ready, drain them and give them a good shake in the pan. They should go fluffy on the outsides without falling apart. Now get your hot roasting dish out and get your potatoes in it, get them nice and coated with the oil and season with some good quality sea salt flakes, then straight into the oven until they are crispy and golden. Give them a couple of shakes along the way so they don't stick.”