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Veganuary? It may well be binary!

In one sense it’s exciting that Veganuary is becoming a part of our new year’s annual reappraisal of our diets. Giving up meat for at least a month is the closest many people will get to a fast, post-Christmas. Eating less, changing dietary reliance on certain foods, and managing our post indulgence bodies sounds like a great start to another year. Although it does seem strange that during November and December we are encouraged to buy, indulge, eat, eat, and eat some more. Whereas in January, dieting kicks in and everything we love is consigned to the ‘sin’ bin.

There’s a binary opposition waiting in the wings

However, Veganuary sounds like a great solution but of course there is a binary opposition waiting in the wings. Frustratingly there are some significant problems about the Veganuary rhetoric: one of them is food miles. Think about it, historically, there would be few fresh vegetables available to us at this time of year. Our meals would most probably be comprised of cured meats slaughtered in the autumn and plenty of root vegetables. In the past our reliance would be on preserved food, some fish and plenty of stodgy food like pastry, dumplings, baked potatoes and bread in an attempt to get through the cold months ahead.

Time to raid our stores

According to Penny Golightly January really is the time for robust dishes like pies and casseroles. I might suggest that it’s time to root about in the freezer and cook with what we have already hoarded. Supplemented by what we can buy locally we could use barley, lentils, split peas, oats and a wide range of pulses to knock up a Red Dragon pie (made with Aduki beans and a mashed potato topping if you’re interested).

If we are going to participate in Veganuary then we have to buy local wherever possible.

With some planning and thought and an adventurous mind we can create dishes that will actually be more appealing that relying on our usual habits. Brussels sprouts can be roasted and their tops can be steamed. cabbages (Savoy and other winter types can be stuffed or transformed into ‘seaweed with Chinese five spice, oil and a quick oven bake’) celeriac chips or mash, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, parsnips, salsify, scorzonera and swedes will contribute massively to a varied Veganuary diet. Locally produced mushrooms will also help ring in the changes. If there was ever a time to eat Ramen I would say January is one of the best.

Try something different and experiment through the dark January days

You can also source leafy crops grown under glass or in polytunnels (endive, lamb’s lettuce, mustards and other winter salad leaves have a brightness of flavour that goes down well), pumpkins and winter squashes that have been stored can be mashed, roasted, whizzed up and fried. Crops that can happily live underground or in sand for protection such as beetroot, turnip and winter radish are also brilliant standbys. You might even find very early varieties of purple sprouting broccoli appearing in the shops, alongside Kalettes. There is also a wealth of oriental greens that can help make a zingy winter salad or be used in a stir fry. Don’t forget the humble cauliflower that can be riced, roasted, made into a vegan cauliflower cheese, battered or steamed. Red lentil dhal with roasted cauliflower & butternut squash is a brilliant seasonal option from taste magazine

Carrots, cauliflower, maincrop potatoes, onions, rocket, Chervil (grown under cover), winter savory, chives, coriander, parsley grown under cover; older leaves of hardy perennials like bay, rosemary, sage, thyme can take a starring role in a vegan stuffing for example.

What we need to avoid are avocados and exotics

Many are being imported from countries such as Peru. That means this fruit travels over 6000 miles to get here and is often wasted, ripens badly or ends up being inedible and streaked with brown. This is not a surprise because not only does it spend time travelling cross continent it’s also likely to wind up on UK roads being trucked from one location to another. If you care about the planet it’s worth giving them a miss and being more creative with a more local option.

Veganuary is a marvellous marketing campaign

Yet those giving up meat for environmental reasons may well reconsider buying local meat with virtually no food miles under its belt. If its grass fed it’s also a benefit. Veganuary flies the flag for vegetarian and vegan foods, but a British vegetable is for life not just for guilty January. By eating seasonally, cutting back on consumption, experimenting, using things we’ve already bought it is likely we can probably make far more of an impact on the local economy, our health, our pockets, and the planet. What’s your opinion?

Meyrick Consulting works exclusively with the food and ingredient sector and search for talented executives to overcome the complex conundrums that exist in R&D, logistics, supply chain and beyond. If you think we can help you find the right key staff members to transform your business or organisation please do give us a call. Happy New Year!


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