Vegan Week experience: the mother of all challenges

In honour of vegan day, November 1st, two meat and dairy fanatics try the ultimate challenge… to go vegan for a week.

By: Melissa Manzone and Didrik Ottesen

When two carnivores try going vegan for a week things can get ugly. While both of us are meat-eating enthusiasts, devoting a significant portion of each and every plate to juicy cuts of protein, we were inspired to pay tribute to World Vegan Day, on November 1, and jumped on the vegan bandwagon for a week. 

Eliminating meat and dairy from our diets would be a humorous test of will since we both firmly believe that a meal just isn’t complete without a dead animal in it.

Apparently vegans are just as keen on food as the rest of us, just as long there is no trace of animal products in the ingredients.  Vegans swear that their recipes are just as enticing and succulent as normal food, such as chilli, curries and cupcakes. We sampled several dishes the lovely staff at Lush Cosmetics in Kingston offered to the public on World Vegan Day, even vegan sausages, which, surprisingly, were quite tasty. 

Our initial attitudes about our experiment were different.

Didrik, 24, seemed to believe he was doomed from the start. For a man whose meals are about the meat itself and the vegetables are used for decorative purposes only. This will probably be as difficult as pretending to enjoy the process itself.”

Melissa, 26, graciously accepted the challenge. I can do it! It’s only one week. How hard can a vegan diet be for a week? Bring it on!”

We kept a food diary wherein we recorded what we ate and how we felt about the food and diet in general. While our experiment yielded many opportunities to try new recipes, the experience was not always easy enough to swallow.

Melissa   At the outset, I didn’t think a diet consisting of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains was going to be that great. Despite my overtly optimistic attitude, I thought I would undergo mood swings from having to ingest disappointing food. I came to find, though, that the instances I cooked at home were the most satisfying and best tasting meals of the week. On the other hand, if I wanted to buy a snack or go out to eat with friends, my options were quite underwhelming.   At times, especially after having a peanut butter and jam sandwich for lunch, I was grumpy and morose.  I also did not appreciate watching my friends snack on candy and popcorn at the movies.   The best part of the week, which had nothing to do with food, was the way I felt after mealtimes. By the end of the week I felt leaner; it didn’t matter whether I had lost any actual weight, just that I continuously felt energetic from eating so many fruits and vegetables. It is amazing how fast our bodies can adapt to such drastic dietary alterations. If it weren’t for the fact that I just love cheese and I really love stir fries with meat; or creamy macaroni and cheese; or steak; or seafood; or prosciutto on my pizza smothered in buffalo mozzarella, maybe I could turn vegan permanently.   Best meal – Cauliflower puree with mushroom compote topped with grilled oyster mushrooms. This was by far the best tasting recipe I had all week.The creamy cauliflower smothered in mushroom sauce was downright mouth watering. You can find the recipe here Vegangela.  Didrik   The best experience came when I, in pure Jamie Oliver style, cooked my own meal in the form of a vegetable casserole. In other words; I chopped up loads of different vegetables mixed it all together and claimed it as my own recipe. It was something like THIS only without cheese.     My worst experience, however, is like choosing a favourite Beatles tune – merely impossible, as there are too many choices.   However what springs to mind in hindsight is the vegan curry, which was like licking an Indian forest. It was day one of the challenge and I found out that not even a vegetarian restaurant could cook tasty vegan food. My already decreasing optimism plummeted faster than it takes to cook lentils – whatever they are.    Looking back, being vegan for a week was no walk in the park. Unless the walk includes not being able to wear my belt, shoes or jacket (as they are leather). I survived on beans on toast, lentils, cereal with soymilk and battled with a constant hunger for a fry-up or a steak-  done rare please. I would be tempted to compare quitting meat and dairy with quitting tobacco. It made me ‘a tad’ grumpy as well as I found myself seriously questioning the reason to enjoy life if I cannot do (read: eat) what I want.    And what I want is a steak with cheese while wearing my leather shoes and then happily enjoying tobacco as a celebratory reward after the meal.  

Even though jumping on the vegan bandwagon yielded some frustrating experiences, we made it through each day without cheating. We give ourselves a pat on the back and a congratulatory nod as we endeavour to find the nearest steakhouse.  

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