Its that time of year. New Year’s Resolutions are being made. People vow to quit drinking, quit smoking, join a gym, and lose weight. They vow to treat their kids better or be nicer to their spouse/partner/so, to eat less meat, or no meat at all.
Every year these resolutions are broken, most often within the first six months. While there are support systems for no more drinking or smoking (fondly called the 12 Steps), there hasn’t been much support for no more eating meat. This has been proven to be one of the toughest resolutions to meet.
Everything about our society tells us to eat more beef, more pork, more chicken. Ad campaigns for fast food companies say they are all about the meat. Commercial food products for vegans were far and few between until a few years ago when the vegan food world exploded. Why this happened can be explained by the influence and power of the internet, support from major celebrities, health experts and some doctors vouching for a meatless diet. Books like the Engine 2 Diet, or the 30 day Vegan Challenge have made inroads into our daily lives.
Today you can walk into a grocery store (in America) and find substitutions for animal products. There are meatless burgers, cheese made from cashews or pea protein. And even a few of the big companies that produce margarine are advertising that they are vegan. Some companies are devoted to making food act like meat (Impossible Burger) by “bleeding.” All to help the carnivore become a plantarian (plant-based eater).
The latest addition to the world of veganism comes in the form of Veganuary. Started in 2014, this non-profit website and organization based in the U.K. dedicates itself to supporting people who pledge to go vegan for the month of January. They then provide yearlong support to those who decide to stay vegan. Their website has everything from an online store, to tips on how to be vegan. In the three years they’ve been in existence, their pledge numbers have tripled.
I’ve watched this movement grow over the last three years. I’ve stayed aside of it because I’ve seen vegan fads come and go. The best known vegan month (usually sometime in the fall) has been Vegan MoFo, or, Vegan Month of Food, started by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (author of Veganomicon and Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook), and kept alive by a team of dedicated behind the scenes folks who believe that vegan food bloggers should have a loud, noisy voice on the internet. But while vegan mofo is known in food blogging circles, it really never took off the way veganuary has.
The founders of Veganuary, Matt and Jane, are on a mission. They are serious enough to have created a non-profit foundation. Here is part of their mission statement:
“Veganuary is dedicated to changing public attitudes, while providing all the information and practical support required to make the transition to veganism as easy and enjoyable as possible.”
Easy and enjoyable as possible. This is the key phrase. It doesn’t promise that you will stay vegan, or even that you’ll make it through the month. But if you do, then Veganuary has your back. They will help you along your journey with not just encouragement, but with resources and information. And if that isn’t enough, they’ve paired with an app called Spoon Guru that will help you find the products you need for the type of diet you are on, including vegan food. All of this is free. No cost to you to join and participate.
Another appeal of Veganuary is that they don’t discriminate. Whether you’ve gone vegan for your health, nutrition, to help the animals, or to help impact the environment, that’s ok. Whatever brought you to their doorstep, they hope you stay.
Veganuary is a product of the U.K. I’ve joined their facebook group to get a feel for what it is like there. Some of the expressions are foreign to me, but I’ve had some experience with British food language. I don’t feel too lost in the group. They are kind enough to explain things if you need clarification. This also means most of the products in their online store are British. I saw a couple of familiar items, veganaise, and another Follow Your Heart product, cheese slices. They have a book section which carries only a few titles. Lets hope they add some more since I’ve run across a few good vegan cookbooks by U.K. authors. None of which are in the store.
Whether or not you are making the pledge to eat vegan during the month of January, this is important stuff. This website has been marketed globally and has the attention of some notable reviews. They’ve done an exceptional job at making it known that there is year-long support for your new vegan adventure.
The Trouble with Converting
Be ready to be challenged. Not everyone is ready to confront their food demons. Here is an example from my life.
In June 2000, I moved back into my parents house where I proceeded to cook for them. Not because they asked me to, but because I wanted to. And while I was not yet one hundred percent vegan, I was largely vegetarian. I tried to help my dad overcome his meat addiction by preparing fresh, whole plant based foods. All I got for it was a grumpy guy sitting in his chair with knife and fork yelling “I want meat!” Mind you I had placed a huge portobello mushroom burger, mashed potatoes (made with margarine and soy milk), and grilled asparagus in front of him. I don’t care what kind of eater you are, that was one amazing plate. And he rejected it. My dad rejected my food. My chef feelings were badly hurt, not to mention my kid feelings.
It took awhile before I cooked for my parents again. They were deeply entrenched in the American food way of life. Packages, cans, bottles, and a big hunk of animal flesh on the plate. I was even chided by a cousin for making pumpkin pie from the can…FROM THE CAN. I looked at her helplessly and shrugged. That’s how my mom wanted her pie. At least I made the pie crust from scratch.
The lesson I learned by cooking for family was that trying to change a person’s perspective on food, even just a little bit, can be incredibly challenging. Expect yourself to be challenged while sticking to your commitment. It’s a bit like quitting alcohol, people will say, “C’mon, just one won’t hurt you.” But that one hurt the animal, right? That last beer put me out on a binge that almost cost me my life.
Do it for Yourself!
Whether you’ve come to Veganuary on your own, or because of a New Year’s Resolution, or even a bet with a friend — “If you give up meat, I’ll quit drinking,” — remember to treat yourself gently. It isn’t easy swimming against the stream or combating a lifetime of values around food. You might be confronted by some startling discoveries, and find out that some things you thought were vegan, aren’t. The opposite is true as well. Oreos are accidently vegan. Its still a good idea to decide to eat vegan for yourself, not because of any bet.
The best thing you can do for yourself is become educated about what is in your food. Then, if you really want to go hardcore vegan, cook your own food. It’s better for you in the long run. It’s what I advocate and what this website is all about. That way you know what’s going into your food.
Make up your own mind. If you discover that veganism isn’t for you right now, that’s ok. It took me forty years to get here.
You can read some of my story here. Remember: Veganuary isn’t the only source of information. There is so much more.
Here is a small but powerful list of egan podcasters, authors, and Youtubers that you can follow online.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: Author of the 30 day vegan Challenge
Big Fat Vegan Radio : hosted by Laura Yaz and Honey LaBronx.
Our Henhouse One of the oldest ongoing vegan websites for helping the animals.
Looking for a podcast or youtube to listen to or watch? VeganFeed has you covered.
JL Fields: Vegan cookbook author and promoter of the lifestyle. Her podcasts are both informative and entertaining.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Creator of Post Punk Kitchen (now defunct), once one of the only places to go for vegan recipes and community. Now a superstar chef, Isa has a handful of amazing vegan books available, and owns two restaurants.
Fran Costigan, The Dairy Free Pastry Chef: Fran was and still is the Goddess of vegan chocolate. Yes she has several books out as well. And is an instructor with Main Street Vegan.
Miyoko Shinner: The Godmother of vegan cheeses, she has built an empire on flavorful and creative cashew cheeses.