Typically, the first month of the new year is the time we look towards making positive changes in our lives, discarding unhealthy habits and replacing them with those which are beneficial to our bodies and minds.
Veganuary is the new January, which encourages us to embrace vegan eating.
Veganism is not as new as you might think; the term was coined way back in 1944 by Donald Watson when he co-founded the Vegan Society in the UK. It means, on its simplest level, a diet which excludes all animal products – meat, eggs and dairy.
Veganuary is a more modern, global movement which began in the UK in 2014 that encourages people to take the pledge to be vegan for 31 days in January. More than a million people in 192 countries have signed up, and in 2020, the number of South Africans adopting Veganuary was the eighth highest in the world, and 80% up from 2019.
Statistics aside, the trend towards eating plant-based meals is impossible to miss, as attention is focused on environmental sustainability and the impact of farming and agriculture on the planet. People are increasingly attracted to ethical options when it comes to what’s on their plates, and the restaurant industry is following suit with many more vegan options on their menus than in the past.
Gone are the days of vegetarian platters with creamed spinach, butternut, crumbed mushrooms and a baked potato. Not only are dishes now tasty, creative and nutritious, but they are more readily available, making it easier than ever to maintain a vegan lifestyle.
Gaming video creator and radio personality Grant Hinds went vegan about seven years ago purely because he was grappling with ethical questions.
Hinds’s first move was therefore to cut out meat immediately and completely. “But not everyone can do that,” he allows. “I cut out animal products gradually, like cheese and stuff. There are amazing meat replacement products now that are pretty similar to meat and can scratch that itch, so it’s a lot easier than before.”
We conducted an experiment in which Hinds and I – as the established very much non-vegan – were presented with a feast created by Jay Mac of The Kind Kitchen in Woodstock, featuring aforementioned meat replacement products made by Fry’s.
Hinds advises movement in the direction of veganism is good. “Don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes along the way or if you can’t transition immediately. My suggestion would be to consider going vegetarian first, then cut out from there.”
My opinion is that you try out the meat replacements to find your favourite, and doing it at The Kind Kitchen is a great way to discover just how delicious vegan food can be.
Mac’s menu included sticky Korean bao buns with kimchi, pineapple salsa and baby greens. “We used a plum sauce to enhance the smoky chipolata sausages,” he says.
Rice paper rolls were filled with Fry’s crispy nuggets (which mimic chicken), julienned vegetables, micro greens and edible flowers served with peanut-butter mango satay; and nachos were served with pea protein mince in The Kind Kitchen’s homemade jalapeño tomato salsa.
“We layered it on oven baked gluten free salsa chips and topped it off with our homemade coconut based cheese sauce and finished it off with house guacamole and chunky onion tomato salsa,” explains Mac.
“One of my favourite meat replacements is the Fry’s Big Fry Burger – it is incredible! I love that I can take it to a braai or baste it at home, add a soft roll and a bunch of condiments like raw onion and some sauces like mustard,” says Hinds.
Mac’s grand finale was his smoky BBQ Big Fry “bacon and cheese” burger with kale slaw and shredded lettuce on turmeric and charcoal buns. “We make the bacon from carrots which are steamed, baked and smoked and then slightly crisped when frying with soya sauce,” he says.
As an initial foray into veganism, I can’t say the replacements fooled me into thinking I was eating meat, but every dish was delicious and packed with flavour that didn’t have me feel like I was missing out on anything…baby steps.
“Go for it! Veganism is a lot easier than people realise and makes such a huge difference for your health, wallet and the planet,” says Hinds.