If you’re still burping stuffed goose, jamón serrano, pigs in blankets, shellfish galore including a whole lobster thermidor, salmon en croûte, polvorones and mantecados, perhaps it is time to go cold turkey and embrace the fad of Veganuary, a breath of fresh hair for your arteries and the environment.
“Veganuary, whaddat?” The pre-Millennial reader may quip. “Ain’t no fan of no fads,” you may add for good measure, if you fancy butchering grammar as much as livestock. Well, first of all, Veganuary has already been around a number of years, so it has passed the fad test with flying colours (and flavours) and is being established as a tradition. If more and more health professionals recommend it as the potential antidote to the animal-protein bombardment that the Twelve Days of Christmas tend to be, Veganuary is however easier said than done, because it calls for meat, fish, honey and lacto-ovo restraint – and, as added bonus, alcohol-free nights out – although this is not strictly required, since most wines, beers and spirits are indeed vegan, except for some isinglass-filtered beers and carmine-coloured spirits.
As its portmanteau name suggests, Veganuary demands you stick to at least 31 days of vegan meals throughout the month of January to get a taste of the lifestyle, while also counterbalancing the animal-protein overload, detox your system and discover that veganism is all but ruminating on bitter herbs or dining on rye crackers slathered in avocado mousse. Perhaps you’ll take it a step further and abide to it all year round, if not every single day, at least once or twice a week, acknowledging its bearing on personal wellbeing and carbon footprint.
While the mental picture of veganism is still associated with neo-hippy cattle-hugging types in woven-hemp apparel and cork-oak bark sandals, or linen-suited neo-yuppies tottering ahead, cardamom rooibos soy latte’s recycled-paper cup perennially in hand, the philosophy of ditching animal protein and introducing more pulses, nuts, avocado, and chia in one’s diet is gathering proselytes from all walks of life.
Strict veganism undoubtedly requires sacrifice, consistency, willpower, unfaltering determination and major adjustments, but one can compromise by introducing it in a checkerboard fashion in one’s dietary planning, whether by adhering to ‘Meatless Mondays’, ‘Fruity Fridays’ (do you remember when it used to be ‘Fishy Fridays’ at pious Grandma’s table?), or by regularly banishing meat, or animal produce altogether, from a significant number of meals.
Given that many people make meat the centerpiece of all their three square meals (sometimes five, including elevenses and teatime snacks), going vegan for a month may feel more traumatic than going celibate, yet benefits will be reaped soon. While a vegan diet can indeed help to manage diabetes hypercholesterolemia, it is a common misconception that it will make you shed the extra pounds in a heartbeat, as if you were peeling off a ‘fat suit’: its recipes are still hearty and rich, so you must count the spoonfuls of hummus on your pumpernickel bread or complement lentil soup with a generous serving of rocket salad – and go easy with snacking on goji berries, bitter chocolate and nuts, all green-light supplements to any diet only if consumed in moderation.
Another stereotype is that veganism is a recent invention, and hence unnatural to human’s alimentation: a quick research into Mediterranean, Middle and Far Eastern, Mesoamerican cuisines will return a plethora of tasty recipes than can indeed boast how ‘no animal was harmed in the making of this dish’. Radical veganism is virtually as old as civilisation, as preached and practised by Jainism for instance, with its strict policy of non-violence against all living beings, seen as the path of victory to elevate one’s soul above the cycle of metempsychosis.
To a lesser extent, most temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climates countries liberally exploit veganism in their everyday diet, saving meaty dishes for high holidays and festivities: Mexico enjoys its frijoles and guacamole, Thai hotpots are coconut-milk based, Indian curries bank on the richness of vegetables and spices, Middle-Eastern and Greek feasts are renowned for their selection of starters and salads – falafel, taboulé and dolmas being perhaps the most recognisable – and most Italian pasta recipes are strictly vegetarian if not vegan altogether, with Sicily’s finest export being salted capers, a tiny bud with grand nutritional content when happily sprinkled on pizza, forsaking the gooey mozzarella for extra tomato and oily black olives.
Good news for the sweet-toothed vegan-to-be: Moroccan confectionery is animal-produce free, and so are its sister’s sospiri from Sardinia. British classics like carrot or red velvet cake can be effortlessly converted to veganism by substituting butter with margarine and milk with almond drink.
Speaking of vegan alternatives to butter, a debate is raging over palm oil: not at all toxic per se, its intensive cultivation in insular South-East Asia is detrimental to the orangutans’ natural habitat with the unsustainable current rhythm of jungle deforestation – that’s why several countries have already banned palm oil importation.
And if PETA took political correctness a step too far into wise-cracking territory with their Christmas campaign to ban cruelty towards animals even from idioms, suggesting alternatives likes ‘taking the rose by its thorns’ or ‘bringing home the bagel’, in 2019 Malibu and Tarifa surfers alike may be required to yell ‘soyabunga!’ when riding the waves.
Vegan meal options are available at most restaurant and takeaway establishments on the Rock, with a few consecrated to the most orthodox standards – and for anti-speciesism’s sake, honey is replaced by maple syrup.