Emily: Challenge Reflections

I decided to take part in the Sustainable Food Challenge this last week. I am a flexitarian – almost vegetarian but with about 10% meat/fish diet – based on the knowledge that if everyone lived on a 10% meat diet there would theoretically be enough food to feed everyone in the world. However I am very conscious that since reducing my meat consumption, my dairy intake has increased. Recently I realised that dairy products are really not any better than eating meat, since – particularly in relation to products deriving from cows – the climate change impact is about the same, and the inefficiencies of animal production for human consumption (rather than high proportions of cereals) still exist.

This week gave me the motivation I needed to think about how to reduce my dairy intake – my challenge was in the “no or less meat, dairy and eggs” category.

On Monday, I went out and bought ‘free-from’ spreadable butter – derived from sunflower oil – and rice milk – I later thought I should have got oat milk since the methane emissions from rice are possibly problematic?! Having done a week of veganism a couple of years ago I knew what to expect – you do have to adjust to the different tastes. I could get used to the butter but my issue with non-dairy milk is how often it curdles in tea! On porridge it’s good though. I made a sweet potato and tomato pasta bake that evening, which turned out okay but like Blue Peter creations, didn’t look as good as the original.

On Tuesday, I went out for lunch with friends to Nord, discovering with a sinking feeling that nothing on the menu was vegan. However, I was then pleasantly surprised when I spoke to the waitress, she commented that her boss was vegan and then suggested an alternative (removing the cheese from one of the options and replacing it with walnuts). I think mine was the tastiest looking lunch of the three AND I ended up paying £1.50 for it! Double bonus!

On Wednesday, I went out for lunch again to Indigo. There’s a wider variety of things on the menu there so I was hopeful I’d have a couple of options to choose from, which I did. It certainly made choosing easier than normal! I opted for a chickpea and spicy veg soup which was very tasty. In the evening, my boyfriend had spent ages scouring Nigel Slater recipes looking for something suitably vegan and eventually found a mushroom-based pasta dish. It was a bit of a faff to make, tasted okay but both of us felt it was a bit of a disappointment and in all honesty would have been far nicer with a cream-based sauce!

On Thursday, I have to admit that in the evening I bowed out of veganism due to going for a formal dinner in one of the Cambridge colleges which had been scheduled for ages and I just couldn’t bring myself to ask for an 8 course dinner to be made vegan for me… I did however give all of the ‘cheese-y’ bits to my next-door neighbour who was delighted to be of assistance! The vegetarian options were definitely tastier looking than the meat options in my opinion, and actually a couple of the courses did seem to be vegan.

Finally on Friday, I went home and my lovely Mum made a dish suitable for me to resume my eating vegan, while she and Dad had halloumi cheese added to theirs (which dad hmphed at for not having meat!). It was good for generating a conversation around not only the impact of meat but also that of dairy . Whilst Mum now cooks more vegetarian stuff I don’t think I’m going to progress further than that.

Following on from that week, I have since then kept my dairy consumption lower than it used to be. I have only bought one small amount of cheddar cheese since then, and bought some feta for a salad. I have resumed drinking cow’s milk but now switch between Lurpak and the free-from option on my toast. I have just gone out and bought lots more dried beans, nuts, pulses and lentils, and my next plan is to find some core wholesome vegan recipes (lasagne or shepherds pie type dishes) that I can add to my repertoire and are as tasty and filling as my current vegetarian ones. If anyone has any good ones, then I’m all ears!



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