Going vegan: Taking the 30-day challenge

Dominique McMullan is turning away from her farmyard friends for a month

Veganism, up until about two months ago, wasn’t a diet that appealed to me. I enjoy cooking and I love eating.

While I frequently cook vegetarian meals I also frequently cook chickens and cows. I believe that human beings are meant to eat meat. However, I also believe that we eat far, far too much of it. So while I considered a vegan diet rather limiting I certainly didn’t imagine vegans as unshaven hemp-wearing warriors, nibbling on tofu.

Then four things happened: a yoga retreat, Christmas, a film and a sore tummy. On the yoga retreat I learned about the potential benefits of an Ayurvedic diet and met a woman who was just finishing a vegan month.

It was here the seed was planted, and then quickly forgotten as Christmas came rolling around and with it lots of meaty excess.

In early January I watched a documentary called Cowspiracy and became aware of the impact of our meat-eating habits on the environment. As a result, my partner and I decided to cut down on meat. Finally, I was having intermittent stomach pains, especially after heavy meals.

So when someone mentioned if I’d try a month of veganism I jumped at the idea. I love a challenge and, honestly, I didn’t feel like it would be that difficult.

Before I go any further I think it is important to clarify the difference between vegetarianism and veganism. As a vegetarian you eat no meat and no fish. So no burgers, no chicken curry, no smoked salmon. As a vegan your diet is more limited. As I understand it, you can’t eat anything that has come from an animal. So that includes eggs, milk, honey, chocolate, butter and (sigh) cheese.

After six days sans animal, I both under- and over-estimated how difficult it would be.

First though, a guilty confession. I was staying in my partner’s parents’ house and as I entered the kitchen this morning there was a slice of carrot cake on the counter. Without thinking I scooped up a lonesome bit of icing and popped it in my mouth. Carrot cake icing has cow’s butter in it.

This was the first time animal passed my lips in six days . . . and it tasted like heaven. I realised what I had done but I admit that I let myself enjoy the morsel while it lasted.

Despite this slip-up, the past six days haven’t been too challenging. Things I miss? Cheese and butter. Coconut oil on toast just doesn’t cut it and vegan cheese resembles mini-sheets of sweet, orange laminate. Generally vegan food replacements are sweeter than their animal alternatives. Soya milk, for example, needs no sugar when in tea.

Soups, baked potatoes, salads, falafel and beans have been my saviours but eating out is challenging. Brunch is especially difficult – plain toast and soya tea. I couldn’t have mushrooms or tomatoes because they had all been fried in lovely, lovely butter.

Planning and cooking meals seems to be key, and next week I have an arsenal of recipes to try, from the Happy Pear chilli to Ella Woodword chickpea and turmeric curry.

Next week: Okay, it's not that easy.

For more info on vegan food and to order your free Vegan Starter Kit, visit PETA.org.uk