by Annabel Lunskey
The day was January 1st, 2020, I awoke and felt a grumble in my belly, last night’s Five Guys food baby having finally gone down. I plodded downstairs in search of breakfast, no hangover in sight as I had spent my New Year’s Eve bidding a fond farewell to the food I loved. Dishes that always contained meat, milk, and eggs. But there would be none of that this morning, nor any morning for the next 31 days as I was taking part in Veganuary – a British campaign that aims to raise awareness for the vegan lifestyle by encouraging people to follow a plant-based diet for the first month of the year. A combination of real guilt about the environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industries as well as a series of targeted Facebook ads had led me to attempt to give up all meat, dairy, and eggs for an entire month.
My numerous previous attempts at a vegetarian diet had all failed miserably, each concluding suddenly with a teary phone call home and plate full of my favourite meaty comfort food. I was brought up on a very British diet of meat, potatoes and veg; my family were (and still are) firm believers that a diet must contain meat and animal products to really be healthy. They were not happy about my New Year’s resolution and spent the whole of Christmas ideally speculating about how long it would take for me to give up and roast a chicken.
“to my genuine surprise, it really wasn’t that bad”
I mainly prepared for my plant-based diet by complaining loudly about how hard it would be and how much I would miss cheese. But I did manage to spend a small amount of time researching recipes and had gone to the shops to pick up a few essentials. The main barrier I anticipated was my very fussy eating. I don’t often try new foods and am particularly against eating things which are unknown to me, the most offensive food stuffs being anything squishy, slimy, or otherwise suspiciously structured. However, on a vegan diet chickpeas, mushrooms and ‘meat alternatives’ of various textures were on the menu and I knew I would at least have to try them if I was to survive. Carrying my first vegan shop home from Tesco I wondered if I was really committing myself to an entire month of expensive vegan cereal bars, easy peelers, and peanut butter straight from the jar.
However, to my genuine surprise, it really wasn’t that bad. With my housemates and boyfriend by my side I found myself getting excited about cooking plant-based meals. I made many I enjoyed and some that I even preferred to the meaty originals from which they were derived. I became swept up in vegan hysteria, excitedly updating the group chat every time I tried a new vegan-friendly snack, giving long and detailed reviews of the Greggs vegan steak bake, and telling everyone I saw about the struggles and victories of my new diet. I felt kind of proud, I was doing something, taking charge and making a difference! Sacrificing my love for mozzarella sticks for the good of the world. It was nice to be vegan for a month, it was nice to feel like I was taking responsibility and doing something about climate change.
The day was February 1st, 2020, and at around 2am I entered McDonalds and left with a box of twenty chicken nuggets. They were pretty nice too.