Our whole team tried Veganuary - here's what we learned

By Fiona Frawley

February 1, 2024 at 11:45am

Share:

8 galleons of oat milk and an industry-sized vat of lentils later, our dalliance with veganism is finally drawing to a close.

If you've grown weary at the sight of our disgruntled mugs cropping up multiple times a week, smashing avocados and pitting the various alt milks against each other, you'll probably be relieved to hear our vegan journey is almost over. We've laughed, we've cried, we've shared snacks, recipes and multivitamins and I think it's safe to say we've all grown as people.

If you happen to have enjoyed watching along as we ventured temporarily into the brave world of veganism, to round things off we've individually reflected on the lessons we learnt along the way. From the faux cheesy sauces coconut milk and nutritional yeast can yield to the benefits of adding miso paste to pretty much everything, here are some of our findings. Pull up a hemp-stuffed stool and let's get into it.

Vegans are sound, actually- Fiona

I once thought the Irish vegan cohort was a somewhat gatekeep-y community, ready and waiting to jump down the throat of anyone who mistook honey for maple syrup or didn't realise wine is filtered through fish guts, but this past month has shown me that's far from the truth. Aside from the odd snarky comment under my "what I eat in a day" videos, the vegans in my life and even strangers on the street have been generous and non-judgemental with advice, and patient as I tried to navigate my way through pressing tofu and figuring out what vitamins to take.

From the gal who informed me of the refreshingly reasonably priced vegan sausie rolls at Gay Spar to my best friend in Sweden who posted me special coconut tea leaves complete with a strainer to help overcome the withdrawals from regular ol' tea with cow's milk, I've felt comforted and encouraged to keep ploughing on with the challenge and been consistently delighted with the vegan offerings in Dublin. Obviously, the last couple of years have brought with them the sad closure of a number of vegan spots in town - Vegan Sandwich Co, Veginity and Woke Cup Café spring to mind - but some great businesses still remain and I've had the pleasure of trying some really top tier vegan dishes this month. The cinnamon scroll at It's A Trap, the vegan slice complete with garlic dip from Bambino and the Buckfast BBQ Burger at The Saucy Cow all spring to mind, and I look forward to returning to them again long after January has passed.

Oh, and for anyone who didn't know - Hobnobs are vegan. You're welcome x

Quality chow at The Saucy Cow. 

It takes a lot of f*ckin grit to be vegan- Emily

As veganuary comes to a sputtering end, I feel the urge to take my proverbial hat off to all vegans out there, because boy does it take a lot of work to be one. Before January commenced, armed with my forays into vegetarianism I felt I could easily breeze through the month without too much difficulty, but I grossly underestimated the work, planning and effort that it takes. Despite a strong start I quickly slipped into bad eating habits, which included unhealthy meat substitutes, scandalous rates of dish repeating, buckets of Aldi jellies and worst of all slip-ups. The slip-ups were never too severe, but severe enough to notice, absentmindedly pouring cow milk into my coffee cup in work, scarfing into a late-night 3in1 I knew full well wasn't vegan and grabbing a slice or two of my Granny's soda bread (she's 92 for christ's sake).

Advertisement

At home, I could cook my square meals, and snack on vegan treats to my heart's content, but I soon noticed that the majority of my slip-ups were happening when I was out and about, in places where I felt like I didn't have options or (conveniently) forgot that I did. As soon as I left the threshold things got tougher, I had to really plan, plan whether I was bringing food with me, plan whether I was staying out where I'd be going, leading friends to vegan-friendly places or risk eating a bowl of chips for a meal etc. Even the vegan-friendly options I was having out were pretty underwhelming (bar a few exceptions) making it increasingly more straightforward for me to cook at home and bring around a Tupperware with me.

Despite the challenges, I'm extremely proud as a team that we took on Veganuary, as representatives of a food and drink website in the middle of a climate crisis, we could all be doing more to promote a more sustainable diet. While I doubt any of us will become vegans, it has deepened our understanding of this way of living, which will hopefully impact the content that we produce for the better going forward.

No risk of scurvy here girls x

This wasn't my first time at the Veganuary rodeo, and much of what I learnt last year from doing it carried on into this month, the most important of which is vegan food tastes best when it's not trying to mimic animal products.

This is in no way shade to those who rely on substitutes - when I first embarked on this journey, I tried every fake meat under the sun, some that were even pretty good (Denny's meatfree sausies, you have my whole heart), and some were downright awful (a certain kind of vegan mince that resembled play doe had my digestive system at civil war with itself). Vegan cheese isn't my thing either, and while a sprinkling of it here and there can add to a pasta dish, it's never going to be the same real cheddar or gouda, so I found myself (semi) happily going without.

My favourite meals from the last month were the ones that were just simples (Meerkat ad voice*). Curries and pasta sauces loaded with lentils, avocado and tomatoes on toast with a bitta balsamic, pizzas topped with a ton of sliced up veg, sans the vegan cheese. These meals taste the best, and they are also the most affordable when preparing meals at home - anyone who has ever tried the vegan diet can attest to the sometimes bonkers prices attached to the likes of seitan, or silken tofu, or other fake meat.

There is a time and a place for the substitutes, and some of them are great - vegan sausage rolls in particular can really get it - but for the plant-based meals I take into my day to day life once Veganuary is over, it's got to be the simple dishes full of fruit and veg that I'll opt for, and when I want meat, I'll simply have it. It's all about balance baby, and a month of going vegan and seeing what it takes to really embed yourself in this lifestyle has only paved the way for a flexitarian diet that is far better for the planet than having a hunk of meat at every meal time.

Katy and her world-famous breakfast bagel, revered by all at Lovin HQ. 
Advertisement

Respect if it's for you, but it's not for me - Marcus

Having grown up firmly in the grips of French cuisine, with lashings of thick cream, ample butter and a healthy amount of additional animal products taking regular starring roles on my dinner plates, I knew that Veganuary was always gonna pose a healthy challenge to both my palate and my lifestyle.

From day one, I tried to see the month as more of a cooking challenge than an eating challenge, to almost trick myself into doing the whole thing with a bit of passion, and to be honest, the first few weeks were almost exciting. I was cooking plant based meals, going to restaurants a few times a week and by and large tolerating the experience. It was about 6 days in when Emily commented that I was "rage peeling" a mandarin, that something clicked in my head, and my gradual decline into being miserable began.

I grew more and more lethargic and brain fogged day by day, I was bloated all the time, I was cooking meals with terrible meat substitutes that somehow sucked both the joy and the seasoning out of any meal they touched. I was irritable and frustrated.

What broke me was a wonderful roast lamb dinner cooked by my fiancees grandmother after 16 days of eating nothing but plant based meals. Who in their right mind would say no to a stunning roast dinner cooked by a charming, brilliant woman in her nineties, I may be doing veganuary, but I'm not rude. It was delicious and I wasn't able to look back after that point. I regret nothing.

If I had to take anything away from my experience, even though it was shorter than the rest of the teams, is that we need to focus more on getting our hands on the great produce that comes out of Ireland and looking to cook it well. Meat substitutes suck, fake cheese is even worse. Vegans don't have it easy, and I empathise with their move towards the reduction of cruelty, but if you want to take sustainable steps, eat local, eat less meat, but better meat, and learn to cook.

Get you a guy who looks at you like Marcus looks like Ballymaloe relish. 

Cooking plant-based meals is actually grand - Valerie

After a heavy Christmas full of eating and drinking almost everything I could get my hands on, I was actually looking forward to putting down the ferrero rochers (at least temporarily) and planning my meals around fruit and veggies. It can be easy to fall into the same routine when cooking, so it was great having an incentive to try out new recipes and ditch the typical weeknight bolognese and stir-fry - they've served me well over the years, but it was time to spice things up.  Not to toot my own horn, but I really enjoyed the vegan meals that I cooked for myself at home - I often rely on dairy and meat products to amp up the flavour, but having that taken away meant that I had to get more creative in the kitchen. Before, I would have balked at adding soy sauce and miso paste to a pasta dish, but genuinely don't knock it until you try it! I can genuinely say that I'll be keeping up a more plant-based diet when eating at home, because I really enjoyed the food I was eating - vegan food is tasty everyone!

Advertisement

The area that I mainly struggled with was eating away from home - be it grabbing something quick and convenient, or going for an impromptu bite to eat in a restaurant. I always knew going out to eat with friends would be a tricky one - it’s stressful deciding where to eat at the best of times, but with most restaurants offering few vegan options I knew at the start of the month that this would be a challenge. While we’re pretty blessed in the city centre to have loads of great options for vegans and veggies alike, the suburbs of Dublin don’t offer the same range of options. One unnamed restaurant in Dublin 9 didn’t have a single vegan option, and when I asked if there was any on the menu they offered up dishes laden with halloumi and cream cheese. For me, it wasn’t the end of the world as I opted for the pancakes (even if it did mean breaking veganuary a little), but if you were a staunch vegan then I could see how it would be frustrating. 

I do think it's just a matter of time before we're all eating primarily plant-based meals - sorry Marcus!

It's not your Terry's, it's Val's xox

Thanks for following along with our journey, all. Excuse us now while we tuck into a bag of deli sausages.

READ NEXT:

- Book Ahead: 13 events to check out in Dublin in February 2024

- 3 spots for pastéis de nata in Dublin, for those who've just watched Poor Things

- The 25 best pizza spots you have to try in Dublin

Advertisement
Share: