Discover more from Off The Shelf
Off The Shelf #30: Planet-Based Eating
Read time: 3.5 minutes. Could 2023 be the year of the plant?
I’m back. Did you miss me?
…that’s awkward. Well I’m back anyway. I took a break for a few weeks, which did wonders. I hope you all had a good Christmas.
My festive hiatus meant I didn’t ruffle your feathers with the bird flu epidemic, which hit free range turkey supplies, or rant about about christmas food waste. I also didn’t manage to compare Christmas sandwiches - but thankfully, the West Wales Chronicle stepped up to the plate.
But now it’s January. A time for new year pledges. And for more than half a million of us this time last year, some of our pledges were plant-based.
Veganism and plant-based eating are on the up. Online search trends reflect this, and plant-based products are more abundant than ever on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus.
Note: vegan and plant-based aren’t the same thing. But for today, to keep things concise, they are.
Traditionally, most people seemed to go vegan for animal welfare reasons, and to improve their own health. But the recent growth in interest clearly correlates with heightened awareness of the climate emergency, and the part animal-based foods play in it. Food from animals causes 10-15% of global emissions, and livestock farming leads to massive deforestation. Our insatiable appetite for chicken is ultimately polluting our rivers. This is all bad news.
Social media is also playing its part in boosting vegan interest. Instagram is crawling with plant-based influencers. Looking at my own feed, I’ve noticed that these guys tend to get more attention than the meaty barbecue crowd. Admittedly, this is likely because there are more young, trendy, wellness-minded people on the platform compared to - ahem - meat-smoking men approaching middle age, but it still suggests to me that plants are in vogue.
What’s crucial to continued growth is vegan food losing the bland ‘nut roast’ reputation. Thankfully, a transformation is already happening, with creative cooks and enterprising eaters showing that this kind of diet can be just as enticing as ‘normal’ food:
Have a look at some of these highlights from Instagram’s nomeatdisco and tell me they don’t tempt you.
If you’re in London, go to Tendril - you’ll be amazed (try the beetroot bao).
And here are three plant-based recipes I love. You really don’t notice the absence of animals - and remember, I was the obsessive who started a beef-based barbecue business:
*(the hawks here will see this isn’t strictly vegan. But you can just leave out the parmesan or try this alternative)
For those not quite ready to jump into a fully plant-based diet (I count myself among you), it’s not a zero-sum game. You can pretty easily reduce consumption of animal products without detracting from your lifestyle. Trust me, I’ve done it: I used to think it inconceivable not to have a meat offering at every meal. Now, I’ll go for days without it and hardly notice.
And if a permanent reduction isn’t yet your thing, you can always try it for a set time: enter Veganuary. This is the first year I’ve seriously paid any attention to it (I’m typically late to fashionable trends and have an allergy to bandwagons). But I was surprised at how well developed the concept is.
Firstly, I didn’t realise that Veganuary is actually a registered charity. It’s not just a hashtag or a buzzword. It started in 2013 and 3,000 people signed up to its first campaign in January 2014. In 2022, there were more than 620,000 signups.
Veganuary isn’t just an empty pledge to go meatless: it’s also a support network. When you sign up, you get a meal plan and a free e-cookbook, as well as 31 ‘coaching’ emails throughout the month. And if January doesn’t suit you, they’ve got it covered: you can set your emails to start on any date you want. I quite like this idea of not following the herd, and doing it some other time. The problem then becomes finding another pun along the lines of vegan + month. Any ideas?
As well as acting as a resource to help people introduce more plants into their diet, Veganuary also has a corporate partnerships pillar, working with big brands to promote plant-based product launches: like it or hate it, everyone knows about the Greggs Vegan sausage roll, which Veganuary promoted. As an aside, that one’s OK, but if you’re lucky enough to live in or around north west London, try the Wenzels version for some real magic.
Sign up to Veganuary here. Or don’t. But it can’t hurt to ask whether it’s possible to give plants more love in 2023. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Data as of 1 January 2023. Just to keep my senior politician readership out of hot water on Sunday morning TV. Price of milk represented by the average price of comparable 2-pint bottles at 5 major retailers in the United Kingdom (Tesco, Aldi, Sainsbury’s Waitrose and Marks & Spencer). Index is equally weighted and based on online prices. Methodology is purely proprietary and utterly unscientific. For actual price data that might be remotely useful for economic analysis, try the Office for National Statistics.
HOW CAN WE STAY IN TOUCH?
📸 I’m on Instagram where I chronicle my cooking @slothychef
👤 Same deal for Facebook Slothy Chef
📧 Drop me a note by replying to this email.