The veganic threat to society

As Veganuary begins the UK’s national media is in turmoil over veganism!

Are vegans weak “snowflakes” or dangerous militants? Maybe we’re both – maybe we’re militant snowflakes causing an avalanche of devastation om the heads of those involved in the meat industry – or maybe we’re just people who don’t eat animal products.

The truth is we’re all of these things – and more.

Today’s blog is brought to you by a Daily Mail headline – I’m not proud of it, but it comes in response to a programme about us on British television this week!

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6539063/Counter-terror-police-brought-help-tackle-militant-VEGANS.html?fbclid=IwAR0ITqlKis70HKKPI8zXM9rphAC1hAv_hp9bV9B-6iZ12Ygq5j_czD8b0TI

Yes, we’re such a threat with our “grass-eating” ways, that they’re dedicating whole television shows to how we could bring down meat-eating society as we know it.

Of course, the truth is we’re upsetting the status quo. Yep, we’re veganing all over the world – our products are filling supermarket shelves, our adverts are screaming loud and proud from billboards and celebrities are lining up to love us or hate us – we even have our own vegan band staring Moby, Miley Cyrus, a couple of Def Leppard, Brian Adams  and Rob Zombie – it sounds very odd indeed – but so does the concept of militant snowflakes bringing down consumerism as we know it, so it kind of fits.

The irony is that as one industry receives a captive bolt gun to the head, another rises from the organic soil of compassion – yes, consumerism is getting behind veganism as companies cling to the rolling meat-free bandwagon for fear of missing the ethical train in their bid to make their company as green as possible – or to make it look as green as possible.

Of course, vegans are passionate people – some of us even demonstrate – shock horror – and we express our opinions on social media too – some vegans are even militant enough to write a blog – imagine that!

Coincidentally, it’s the start of Veganuary this week – or is that a coincidence at all? I doubt it. As somebody signs up to go vegan for a month every eight seconds, the vegan success story is seriously worrying the meat and dairy lobbies it seems – how dare people lead a revolution based on compassion? How dare they change the way we think?

It’s easier for elements of the Media to concentrate on what they perceive as negative elements of veganism – while forgetting the scenes of animal abuse which come from the UK every day – scenes from inside slaughterhouses and dairy farms – you know, the status quo they are trying to protect….

This is just my way of saying happy Veganuary, and if you haven’t already, give an animal-free diet a go, it’s easier than you think….

https://veganuary.com/

A Christmas vigil

Look into the eyes of the dying.

The main picture was taken at a slaughterhouse vigil. The pigs in the truck were about to have their throats slashed.

This is just before Christmas – a season on joylessness for many, many animals slaughtered for the benefit of human over-indulgent. As half the world starve, the grain that could fill their bellies goes towards raising animals for the dinner table of the “first world”.

This is followed by Boxing Day – a day of pheasant shooting and pheasant shooting. Like the animals killed for meat, many of the pheasants’ bodies are simply thrown away – surplus to requirements – they died for nothing.

Of course, Christmas is followed by Veganuary  (https://veganuary.com/) – more people than ever are expected to take part next year (2019) (https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/veganuary-2019-biggest-year-300-000-taking-part?fbclid=IwAR2zaJ6AVMoLteL1MiVItEzNe3K5SrCDuG5yxzSpZk2IdMFEE02dPeBM3qY0) meaning that there are shining lessons of compassion breaking through the darkness of environmental destruction, animal pain and misery and dangers to human health.

There are even hints that more and more people are shunning meat for their Christmas dinner (https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/one-in-12-people-will-tuck-into-a-vegan-or-vegetarian-christmas-day-meal-in-the-uk-this-year/?fbclid=IwAR20R8-71GijVbvHaWzx5HysyYCKP12vkkYAND27P7naUHsfTxu_9HZQ8D4) – given the rise in veganism over the past few years, this should really come as no surprise. But it is easy to feel alienated by simply browsing the comments to posts about veganism from national media outlets. I know, I know, the first rule of social media is never read the comments!

We sometimes forget that vegans are still in a minority, and the constant advertising of meat and “traditional” Christmas meals rams this down our throats at every opportunity over the festive period. The fact that many feel like the “token vegan” at office parties or company meals out can make this an even more depressing time of year, but the sheer number of meat-free Christmas dishes now available should be cause for joy.

I think, this year, every major UK supermarket has their own version of the vegan Christmas dinner – the Guardian has even rated them for us – although, it has to be noted this is just one person’s point of view – https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/dec/15/vegan-taste-test-grace-dent-rates-supermarket-christmas-dishes

So, with rising numbers of vegans, one has to ask why the advertising industry is still stuffing images of meat down our throats over the festive season, families make light of the “ vegan option” and some people still feel alienated. Indeed, many of us do not like the thought of sharing a table with those consuming animal products – even the smell is intolerable for me.

This is why attending the vigil was important. Even those of us who have been vegan for a long time need reminders every now and then as to why we choose a compassionate lifestyle – and what could be more compassionate than being there before somebody dies?

It’s also important to make the connection between the living being and the slab of meat on somebody’s plate – need I elaborate any further?

A city’s first vegan festival – an insider’s view

 

We don’t know exactly how many people attended the Thrive Vegan Festival in Peterborough, all we know was it was an overwhelming success.

We put it together in a couple of months. Our small team, spearheaded by Kim Coley, of Soul Happy Well Being Centre in the city, booked the stalls, organised the workshops, the venue, the layout, the rules and regulations and managed to really put veganism on the map in our little UK city.

Kim hosts and I help with Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan Group’s monthly foodshare, it was this group which was the catalyst for the event. The Thrive Tribe formed with the sole aim of bringing a vegan Christmas fair to life. Peterborough had never held a vegan event. Smaller towns and cities like Boston, Louth and Lincoln had, so we wanted to get in on the action, and boy did we succeed!

We couldn’t have done it without a lovely band of volunteers, who manned the door, filled the goodie bags, served tea and coffee, helped at the video booth, manned the kids’ room and so much more.

Yes, there were issues, mainly because the event was so much more successful than we could ever have dreamed. There were animal rights groups, vegan food, vegan clothes, vegan chocolate, vegan cakes, vegan cheese, vegan cosmetics – you name it, we had it.

The workshops covered everything from vegan motherhood to making curry via Cath Kendall and John Curtin. And, yes it was heaving, busy, packed, a joy to behold for those of us who had worked so hard at pulling it off.

But it was also rewarding beyond belief. I wrote the terms and conditions, designed the receipts and checked people’s public liability insurance. I kept people up to date via email and also worked on some of the PR for the event. Informing the local press and radio and getting the message spread across social media helped enormously. We also conjured up the hashtag #thriveveganfestival in advance of the event to help people get the word out.

The help the people at the venue gave us on the day and in advance was invaluable – we actually called them because the toilets had run out of loo roll! We also had a minor issue with one of the electric points tripping – which was very annoying for the two food vendors affected. Luckily, it was sorted out and both stalls enjoyed a bumper trading day. Sadly, one outside food vendor didn’t make it due to breaking down on the way.

One of the best things for me about attending such events is actually talking to people. I get so inspired by other activists and vegans, it’s always brilliant to hear different perspectives and ideas, and there was plenty of that on Sunday. It’s also great to see the vegan community pull together to make things like this happen.

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It’s also amazing to see how many vegan small businesses there are now. There are many of these events up, down and around the UK now and there are different independent companies at each and every one! Isn’t it fantastic to see so many entrepreneurs putting ethics at the heart of their working lives?

Every event I go to adds new vegan delights to my kitchen cupboards. This time I was over the moon to buy vegan BBQ sauces from Callowfit (www.musclefinesse.com) – they have a brilliant range of dressings and sauces and they are based in Peterborough  too!

 

 

Has veganism become a middle-class fad?

Will veggie burgers now be called veggie discs?

Has veganism become a middle-class fad at the expense of animal rights?

It is true that the number of vegans is rising – fuelling capitalist companies’ money-lust into providing vegan options as they rake in more and more cash from the affluent vegans in Middle England.

The number of people taking part in specific animal rights actions is on the decline. Protests which used to attract thousands (such as the World Day events) now only attract hundreds – I don’t count the Official Animal Rights March as its aims are general rather than targeted.

Today’s veganism seems to revolve around products, capitalism and purchase power.

I would love to review every new vegan product on the market and become the biggest vegan blogger in the world!!

I could give up my day job, do what I love doing and get very, very fat.

Alas, I can’t afford to buy most of the new vegan products because, like it or not, the cost of being vegan can be very, very high if you consume a lot of processed nonsense.

I watched a YouTube video earlier today while researching a vegan social media star (when did being famous for appearing on social media become a thing?), where somebody was criticising said social media star in an unflattering manner – I am still mastering the art of criticising people in a flattering way! Anyway, said critic was talking about how this person was putting lots of chemicals in their body – if you stick to processed food – vegan or not – then he does actually have a point.

My point is that most of this stuff is also very, very expensive, taking veganism into the middle-class Waitrose aisles and away from the perfectly acceptable Farm Foods, local market and Aldi shopping experiences.

One of the most patronising things vegans say on social media is “what price is a life?” – not exactly the best thing to tell somebody using a food bank or counting every penny of their supermarket shop! This is why I love to heap praise on Jack Monroe’s Cooking on a Bootstrap page – the vegan section (https://cookingonabootstrap.com/category/vegan-recipes/) is by far the best plant-based resource on the internet – it uses ingredients most people can afford and not “exotic” spices which cost three quid a jar!

Many of the so-called vegan “superfoods” like avocados are vastly over-priced (as well as being tasteless mush) and new fads described as “traditional” are not traditional in price – if it’s “natural” it should be cheap – it makes no sense for something which grows to cost extortionate prices – natural food which is good for you is either cheap or a con as far as I’m concerned. Superfoods seems to mean super high prices, so us working class folk are left eating veggie sausages and beans – although I personally prefer veggie sausages and beans to a slice of avocado surrounded by a posh swirl of sauce costing five quid and forcing you to buy a bag of chips on the way home following your meal.

A while ago, I saw a meme which stuck with me. IT said something like “Supermarkets have always had vegan aisles” above a picture of the fruit and veg section. I like this, I like the idea of buying ingredients and not products, I also want veganism to appeal to everybody – not just those with plenty of disposable income.

Veganism is seen as a middle-class fad by many and it is much more than that – Jack Monroe’s website proves how easy it is to cook basic, healthy vegan meals on a shoestring – you don’t have to pay two quid for a carton of plant milk or tiny block of tasteless “vegan cheese”.

My issue is, these expensive fads are making veganism inaccessible, they’re turning people off it. Sometimes vegans want a glass of lemonade and not a super smoothie that costs two quid a cup when you can get the same effect by eating an apple. As for “detoxing” – we used to have a liver for that – many of us still do! This very point was made by a doctor on my local radio while rubbishing all products which claim to do what the liver does naturally. But, hey, the liver doesn’t make money for products from quack nutritionists and their related companies.

Of course, we need processed food sometimes – most people work long hours – so some oven chips and chip Farm Foods vegan sausages and some own brand baked beans is just the tonic – and a more filling one than a Super Green Detox Energy-Boosting £25 smoothie from that shop which is closing down tomorrow due to having zero customers.

 

How dare you call a vegan burger a vegan burger?

Non-vegans have a strange obsession with what we call vegan food.

Maybe it’s part of the “outrage culture”, maybe it’s because vegans have to be attacked on social media for, well, being vegan really, or is it because the rise and rise of veganism is considered a threat to those who profit from animal products? Equally, those who don’t wish to give up their carnist habit feel uncomfortable at the status quo tree being shaken by the relentless production of new plant-based foods.

In October 2018, news of a vegan fish and chip shop opening in Hackney, London provoked love from vegans and the predictable “you can’t call it fish” comments on social media. (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/vegan-fish-chips-london-daniel-sutton-a8569006.html)

Predictable because we’ve heard it all before. But, let’s be honest, “fish and chip shops” sell sausages, beef burgers and mushy peas – none of which are made from fish. Vegan fish and chips often use battered banana blossom (https://www.finedininglovers.com/blog/food-drinks/banana-blossom/) as the “fish” – much better for you, the ocean and fish in general. At a time where everybody is shouting loudly “stop using plastic to save fish”, vegans yell back “stop eating fish to save fish”. So maybe, just maybe, we should applaud a vegan fish and chip shop very loudly indeed!

In April, this article caused widespread shock in the vegan world: https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/66326/france-meat-labelling/

The French law claims to protect consumers by doing away with misleading labels by banning calling veggie sausages veggie sausages. Personally, I thought sausages, burgers etc were a description of a shape – after all, you get beef, pork and veal sausages and burgers too. Oh, and vegan cheese is no longer vegan cheese and plant milk is no longer milk,

What does all this say to me? It tells me that the meat and dairy industry are worried by the rise in veganism – but trying to (and succeeding here and in Missouri) lawmakers to follow their biased business-influenced thinking is rather sinister.

The French move means food producers and retailers will face a €300,000 fine for attempting to market the likes of vegetarian sausage or vegan burgers. It was spearheaded by Jean-Baptiste Moreau, an MP and a farmer. Tweeting after the vote on April 19, Mr Moreau said: “It is important to fight against false claims: our products must be designated correctly. Terms like cheese or steak will be reserved for products of animal origin.” He’s not biased at all then!

In Missouri, a similar law has also been passed (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/in-missouri-you-can-now-go-to-jail-for-calling-tofu-meat-2018-08-29)  – so the threat is real. But is it a threat? Will this really stop people consuming plant-based products?

I doubt it. Nobody is really confused into thinking that oat milk comes from a cow or that vegan chicken burgers have any chicken in them – it’s a nonsensical distraction from the belief we vegans hold – meat and dairy production is cruel and unnecessary. But society likes to cook up irrelevant diversions to steer people away from the real issues. Social media is particularly good at this – as are politicians!

I like nuggets and meatless balls and some vegan sausages, and in this throwaway society, having vegan processed foods and meals available is essential in meeting consumer demand.

I do remember the days when veganism meant soya or black when it came to coffee and “vegan” cheese was a concept dreamt up somewhere over the rainbow. I love living over the rainbow now – and I do get a secret thrill from laughing at meat eaters “lose it” over stories such as the vegan fish and chip shop opening.

The other point is that we are moving beyond soya. It isn’t so long since newspapers were proclaiming how great jackfruit is as a pulled pork substitute (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/08/10/id-rather-jack-the-meat-substitute-thats-actually-a-fruit/) and seitan is getting a really good reputation as a versatile and tasty meat substitute – although gluten isn’t gluten-free – since stating the obvious seems to be the whole reasoning behind my need to write this post.

 

Suma wrestle with our taste buds again

Suma’s Baked Beans and Vegan Sausages (reviewed here: https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/09/11/review-suma-baked-beans-with-lincolnshire-style-meat-free-sausages/) in a tin received a lot of publicity when they first went on sale, their new Meatballs in a Bolognese Sauce and Baked Beans with Vegan Burgers were released quietly on to the market – but they have been noticed by vegans lucky enough to have an independent health food shop nearby. I am such a vegan

Suma is one of the biggest ethical companies in the UK, so I’m always pleased to sample their products and support their business.

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The meatballs excited me most as I love vegan meatballs and often have them with pasta.

These make it quick and easy to cook such a dinner. You simply heat through and throw it on the pasta – taking care not to splash it all over your white shirt of course.

They do have that food in a tin taste – it’s hard to explain, but I swear it is a thing. The meatballs are nothing spectacular, but they are nice – just not overly spiced. You can solve that by throwing a few chilli flakes into the sauce yourself – I added some veg to bulk it out because you can’t have pasta without mushrooms. But those who dislike spicy food will be pleased with them as they are.

The Bolognese sauce has hints of tomato – which shouldn’t really come as a surprise, and it works. The meatballs are small – but they come trapped in a tin, so what do you expect until they invent Tardis tins?

DSC_0154

The same goes for the burgers – they’re more like baby birds with awesome baked beans. In fact, the baby burgers’ ingredients don’t differ greatly from the meatball ingredients, but I preferred the Bolognese sauce to compliment them over the baked beans. The beans come in a rich sauce and the burger bites are meaty and not overly spiced, but they’re nice – just not as enjoyable as the Vegan Sausages and Baked Beans – but nothing in a tin comes close to that!

What this does do is give students, those in a hurry and vegan campers a choice of three different meals in a tin and that has to be a good thing.

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Baked Beans with Vegan Burgers ingredients
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Vegan Meatballs in Bolognese Sauce ingredients

http://www.suma.coop/

Peterborough’s Vegan Christmas Fair

Thrive pic

If writing a blog isn’t self-indulgent enough, I am now going to blog about something I’m helping to organise – the ultimate in self-indulgent blogging – and I’m not sorry.

Peterborough (UK) has a thriving vegan scene and, come November, it’s going to have a thriving Vegan Christmas Festival. Not only is this the city’s first Christmas Vegan Festival, but it’s also the city’s first vegan Festival or fair full stop.

In short, this is the biggest vegan event in Peterborough so far – and I’m helping to organise it – so, of course, I’m going to shout about it.

It will be held at the Fleet – a community centre in Fletton, one of Peterborough’s townships – on Sunday, November 25, 2018, from 10am until 5pm and, hopefully thereafter.

There will be stalls – lots of stalls, from independent traders to larger, more established vegan companies, workshops and speakers. You can register to book a stall by emailing Peterboroughvegans@gmail.com with the subject line Vegan Fair Stalls detailing the type of business (independent, a sole trader, or an established firm), what you will sell and a contact name and phone number.

The idea was put together by Kim Coley, who runs the city’s Soul Happy Wellness Centre (soulhappy.org.uk) which hosts the Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan Group’s (https://www.facebook.com/PeterboroughVeg) monthly Food share (despite the name, all the food is vegan) – Kim and I run the group – or help to run it, all the members have a say in what we do and how we do it.

We decided that towns much smaller than our (albeit baby) city were hosting vegan events, so we should too. After all, Peterborough is very central, has fantastic transport links and the venue itself has a large car park.

Peterborough already has Resist Vegan Kitchen (https://www.facebook.com/resistvegankitchen/) serving vegan street food from its base at the Ostrich Pub (https://www.facebook.com/ostrichinn/) a very vegan-friendly bar. Resist also cater at many events in the area. I’ve blogged about them before (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2017/10/29/vegan-pop-up-kitchen-with-punk-ethics/ )

There is also a new jazz bar/vegan restaurant in the city ( https://www.facebook.com/WhenPollyMetFergie/ ) and a new stall providing vegan street food is heading for the city market ( https://www.facebook.com/bekindkitchenvegan/ ) and let’s not forget Backyard Food (https://www.facebook.com/backyardfoodpeterborough/ ) a small shop at the Green Backyard community garden selling eco-friendly stuff for the house, body and belly. I bought vegan cookies from there today.

Cookies 2
Cookies and crisps from Backyard Food

Anyway, a small group of us from the vegan group is helping to organise this vegan extravaganza and as we put it together we will be on the lookout for volunteers, suggestions and any help in publicising the event.

Jodie has already designed the awesome event poster/banner.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Iceland’s vegan gamechanger

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Iceland has launched its extended range of vegan products in the UK.

What’s more, most of them are a pocket-friendly £2 a pack. Couple this with the chains pledge to eliminate plastic packaging from all its own products (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/15/iceland-vows-to-eliminate-plastic-on-all-own-branded-products) and Iceland is probably the most vegan of all the supermarket chains right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I personally still champion independent shops over big chains – Backyard food in Peterborough (https://www.facebook.com/backyardfoodpeterborough) and Holbeach Wholefoods (https://www.facebook.com/Holbeach-Wholefoods-129572517136021/) being the two which spring to mind for me – but many vegans still like convenience and use supermarkets – and I’d be lying if I said I was supermarket-free. Plus, actually, these new products excite my taste buds in wonderful and exciting ways.

 

Yes, vegans are everywhere, the big brands are taking notice – the rest of you might as well give in and join us.

In fact, the new range is so extensive I couldn’t buy everything in one go – so, if you wish to review any of the missing products, feel free to comment below.

I reviewed the original No Bull Burgers when they were introduced (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/04/09/no-bull-its-a-bloody-vegan-burger/) – and they have become more popular than cat pictures on Facebook.

So, what does Iceland have to offer?

No Bull Tofu Burgers (£2)

No Porkies Sausages (£2)

No Bull Asian Burgers (£2)

No Chick Fillets (£2)

No Bull ‘Meat’ Balls (£2)

No Porkies Chorizo Slices (£2)

Not reviewed here:

No Chick Vegan Paella (£2)

No Bull Vegan Mince (£3.50)

No Bull Jalapeno Burgers (£2)

No Bull Green Vegetable Balls (£2)

No Bull Vegan Chilli and Rice (£2)

No Chick Vegan Strips (£3.50)

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Wow – that’s some choice, right?

Of those I’ve bought, the sausages and meatballs are both wheat-free and all can be pan-fried in less than 10 minutes – so they’re brilliant for a quick meal. You can oven cook any of them as a healthier alternative – but I didn’t become vegan for my health.

So, what do they taste like?

The No Porkies Chorizo Slices have a nice texture, they crisp up very quickly in the frying pan and have a pleasant taste and texture – they’re a little crunchy if you fry them well! The taste is very distinctive, but not overly spicy – they don’t pack a strong punch, more of a child-like jab – but that means the aftertaste is surprisingly pleasant too. I think they work well cold as a sandwich filling too – especially with Vegenaise. The spicy kick is actually more prevalent when they’re eaten cold and Vegenaise counters that perfectly. They would also work perfectly as a vegan pizza topping.

Onto the bangers, No Porkies Sausages are smaller than many vegan sausages, but they cook more quickly and do taste better than many brands. Taste-wise, they’re not a million miles away from Linda McCartney’s classic sausages. They’re mildly spiced and don’t leave an aftertaste. Linda McCartney’s sausages are often seen as the go-to vegan product, so the fact these are in the same ballpark is no mean feat.

The No Bull ‘Meat’ Balls are divine! Yes, they are smaller than some other balls, but size isn’t everything! Like the little sausages, they cook very quickly and these have a very meaty taste to them, again they are not over spiced and so have no strong aftertaste. They are very moreish and their size means they’d work perfectly in pasta sauce with spaghetti.

But, the No Bull Asian Burgers are glorious. The chewy texture, the spicy – but not too hot taste and the not too evasive aftertaste all combine to make these utterly delightful. There isn’t much more I can say really – just try them, they will make your taste buds thank you.

Just as delicious are the No Chick Fillets. These totally wowed me and I wasn’t prepared for how nice they are. I believe they do taste like chicken – although I can’t actually remember what chicken tastes like. Again, they have a taste all of their own – and what a wonderful taste it is. Unlike the Asian burgers, they are not spicy, but the crunchy coating works brilliantly with the delectable, chewy body of the fillet.

No Bull’s Tofu Burgers are, like all of the burgers in that range, bulky and filling. However, tofu can be a bit bland, and these are no exception, despite the presence of a few vegetables. The exterior tastes nice and means all is not lost. They are not horrible, they are just not as memorable as the other offerings from Iceland.
They don’t fall apart like some tofu products, but they are still my least favourite of the products reviewed.

One thing to note is that, as with the original No Bull Burgers, it’s advisable to cook them for the maximum time mentioned – at least.

https://groceries.iceland.co.uk/frozen/vegetarian/c/FRZVGT?q=:relevance

 

My vegan journey – a blogger’s story

It’s quite an egotistical thing to write about yourself I guess.

But writing a blog in itself is a bit self-indulgent, so I thought I’d explain a bit about how I came to be a vegan on a desert island.

My journey began before the internet – yes, people did exist before social networking, and people were actually able to think for themselves – although networking, marketing and sharing news and ideas took a bit longer, there was more actual talking to people face to face.

You see, not all vegans hate people. It’s true that some people do indeed suck, but not all of them. I like to shy away from huge generalisations, social media has been awesome in that it helps to spread the message, but the online bullying of vegans (sometimes by other vegans) has been very demoralising.

I digress.

I don’t know when I turned vegan. This is a shocking revelation in itself in the days of Veganversaries, but it’s true. I know I was somewhere between 28 and 30 at the time, but that’s as near as I can get,

Sorry. It just happened and so I didn’t really think about it. I’m 46 as I write this though, I do remember that.

I also remember turning vegetarian. I was 16, so it was the September of 1988. I know this because I had just started college in Boston. I was shy (I’m still very shy and get crippling anxiety in social situations – if I have to walk in a pub/party alone, I sometimes don’t turn up), quiet, unpolitical and not at all punk rock – although I did like Napalm Death.

Anyway, one of my new friends was vegetarian. He took us into the college library and put on a video tape (ask your mum) about the ALF (Animal Liberation Front). I went home and said I was vegetarian. That simple.

Friday was chppy tea night, so that night I had a big bag of chips instead of fish and chips.

And that was it. There was, and still is, a health food shop in Holbeach (the rural town in which I grew up), but supermarkets, in general, sold very little in the way of vegetarian food. I remember dried packets of Vegetarian Casseroles and Stroganoff and Lind McCartney did veggie pasties as well as pies. Dried soya chunks were the only real meat substitute.

I tried the one brand of soya milk available in the shop – it was horrible and that put me off veganism for the time being. Although, I do remember one of my father’s non-veggie friends asking me why I ate eggs when they contained baby chickens. I didn’t have an answer.

As a kid, we used to play games around being shipwrecked on a desert island – I think Robinson Crusoe type films were popular at the time. We made bows and arrows out of sticks. I remember only wanting to pretend to kill old and infirm animals to eat while “surviving”. Now I’d probably live off nuts, berries, roots and plants.

Also, the pioneering animal rights film The Animals Film (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Animals_Film) was shown around this time. Not only is this film better than all other animal rights films in my view, it included the Animal Liberation Front and hunt saboteurs in it as well as scenes of animal abuse, it was actually shown on mainstream television. Yes, it was part of Channel 4’s third night of transmission in 1982. So, this could have been the film (or part of it) I saw in the library – I may have taken it out on loan, or I may have seen a repeat – I can’t quite remember – obviously, I was only 10 when it was broadcast.

So how did I make the transition from vegetarian to vegan?

I just thought about it.

I remember I was living in Louth, in Lincolnshire at the time. There was a health food co-operative nearby and vegan food was becoming more readily available – although I started buying punk vegan recipe books. I loved anarcho-punk, and bands like Conflict and Subhumans had strong animal rights messages in their lyrics so that helped. But there was no social media. However, I know that part of my thought process centred around how it was unnatural to drink the milk of another species.

People kept saying to me “it’s natural to meat”, yet how could nicking milk from a calf be natural? So, in a way, meat-eaters turned me vegan.

And that was it. Did I stray? Yes, a couple of times by accident, and in New York when I struggled to find vegan food – but I wouldn’t now, and I am glad it’s so easy to spread the message and help people go vegan. Outreach is very important.

The title of my blog, while referring to the old cliché vegans often hear, “what would you do if you were stranded on a desert island?”, is also relevant in that my change and transition was a solo journey – as if my mind was on a desert island.

 

I’d rather jack – the meat substitute that’s actually a fruit

Pulled jackfruit sandwhich

Jackfruit has been heralded as the king of vegan meat substitutes for a while now.

But, more recently, I’ve noticed that the humble tin named “Jack” has gone mainstream. Yes, no longer is this delight solely found hiding in the corner of your local Asian food shop, but now it’s found its way on to the shelves of the supermarket giants too.

But what exactly is it?

Well, Jackfruit is a relative of the fig and it grows in the tropical bits of Southeast Asia, Brazil and Africa. It also holds the honour as the national fruit of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and the state fruit (whatever that means) of the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The flesh of the fruit is a starchy source of dietary fibre. Its pulp is composed of 74% water, 23% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and 1% fat. So now you know! According to Wiki (so it must be true), a 100-g portion of raw jackfruit gives you 400 kJ (95 kcal) and it’s a rich source of vitamin B6. It also contains moderate levels (10-19% DV) of vitamin C and potassium.

Unlike animal sources of protein, jackfruit contains no saturated fat or cholesterol, it’s light in sodium, and is also low in calories – so, in short, it’s better for you than meat!

Despite looking like a giant testicle and being a “fruit”, it is an amazing meat substitute – and a natural one at that, mainly because, while relatively tasteless, it is awesome at absorbing other flavours – so marinade and spice it up until your heart’s content.

Recently, our mate Jack the Fruit has become available at more and more takeaways and restaurants as the vegan option – and this is great news for those of us bored with veggie burgers and chips.

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You can even buy pre-prepared jackfruit as a processed vegan food at Sainsbury’s now if you prefer the lazy, over-packaged option. But, hey, I guess it’s offering up more options to the vegans out there who struggle with the recipe for beans on toast.

However, sweet and savoury don’t mix – ask those who hate pineapple on a pizza – so make sure you get the young green jackfruit in brine, not the one in syrup – although, I’m told jackfruit does work well as a dessert – I guess most fruits do (except tomatoes – tomatoes and custard is just wrong). I shouldn’t be too harsh on supermarkets though, jackfruit, to me, deserves its tasty reputation, whereas that other vegan darling – the avocado is a tad overrated (the thing is 40% skin and 30% stone for crying out loud).

Gareth, from Peterborough-based Resist! Vegan Kitchen told me: “We use Jackfruit in our menu as most of our alternatives and items are gluten-based so this allows us a gluten-free option that does the job perfectly.”

This is a valid point in a world (including my world, it has to be said) that’s gone seitan crazy, the humble jackfruit flies to the rescue of the gluten intolerant.

So, what do you do with it?

Well, I drain it, wash it, boil it for 45 minutes, boil it again in fresh water for another 30 minutes and leave it to marinate in a mixture of spices and barbecue sauce and then fry it with onions and mushrooms in a little more barbecue sauce for a few minutes and then eat it in a roll.

However, there are a number of recipes out there, but I like Resist!’s BBQ Jackfruit, and now Gareth has exclusively revealed the secret to how to cook jackfruit to perfection to the readers of veganonadesertisland.

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Resist! Slow cooked BBQ Jackfruit

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of green or young Jackfruit (rinsed and roughly chopped)
  • 2 tsp olive oil (and extra for the frying)
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves (crushed and pulled apart only)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (gluten-free if required)
  • 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 60ml apple cider vinegar
  • A couple drops of liquid smoke
  • 170ml of your choice beer/lager (gluten-free if required)
  • 240ml of your favourite bought BBQ sauce (we use homemade)

Method

Toss the Jackfruit, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, brown sugar and olive oil in a bowl and leave for 5 minutes.

Heat the extra oil in a large pan, wok or whatever large metal thing you want to cook in.

Add the Jackfruit mix, garlic and onion. Cook the jackfruit on one side for 5 minutes until it’s lightly brown and then repeat on the other side.

Pour in the liquids (Vegetable stock, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, liquid smoke and beer).

Cover and simmer on a medium heat for 90 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Using a fork or wooden spoon, break up the Jackfruit to appear ‘pulled’, or roughly mashed as we say in the ghetto.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees.

Spread the jackfruit mixture across a lightly oiled (or non-stick) oven tray and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove and cover the jackfruit with half the BBQ sauce, mix in and spread out again and cook for a further 20mins until the edges start to become blackened.

Give it another mix and cook for a further 10 minutes.

While waiting, think to yourself how the letter ‘A’ doesn’t appear in any number until one hundred and one.

Remove from the oven (the jackfruit, not the letter “A”).

Pour the cooked jackfruit into a bowl and cover with the remaining BBQ sauce (add more if required).

Add slaw or whatever topping you require.

Now throw some of the cooked mix into a fresh sub or baguette and toss it into your gaping jaws!

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Resist! Vegan Kitchen at The Ostrich Pub, in Peterborough, UK. Photo by Gareth Ellison of Resist! Vegan Kitchen