For the second half of January, I (Tamara) took to my bed with the flu in a manner befitting Austen’s Jane Bennet. To my chagrin, this lingering lurgy put a dampener on my plans for a Veganuary Pompey Crawl.
Fortunately, as there’s a myriad of vegan food options in Portsmouth available all year round, I won’t have to wait until January 2020 to try some more vegan delicacies! I did manage a feeble outing to Two Doors Down where I gorged myself on their healing veggie and vegan Bao buns. A-bao-solutely delicious!!
My cunning plan is to force my Pompey vegan food crawl onto my friend when she next visits from Manchester. I have a restaurant or two or three in mind: Croxtons, The Southsea Village, Southsea Coffee and Paula’s Vegan Bakery in Gosport.
Meet Jessie, a vegan-ish
My Pompey vegan food crawl will be with the lovely Jessie, my friend and ex-housemate. Jessie tried out veganism last year, for Veganuary 2019, going straight from being a meat-eater to eating only plant-based meals.
A year after her Veganuary experiment, Jessie continues to eat plant-based and meat-free, as a vegan-ish. I am super impressed as when we were housemates, this was a girl whose dinners used to be the simple fare of grilled chicken or salmon with vegetables.
I spoke to her about this massive change in her eating, her holiday food caveat and why she considers herself to be a flexitarian.
Jessie, welcome! Introduce yourself to the People! How are you linked to Pompey?
Coming from London, I worked in a small dental practice in Drayton (I am a dentist) and lived close to the seafront just off Bransbury Park. I found Pompey to just be everything I wanted. There’s much going on; the seaside, eating, shopping, nights out, sporting events, nature …. recycling. (Who knew there was so much to know about recycling and being sustainable!)
(As we were housemates during your time in Portsmouth, I take full credit for your recycling revelations! )
I think it’s no exaggeration to say that living in Pompey has been one of the best years of my life so far. I miss it hugely now I am stationed up North and look forward to my next visit!
What were your reasons for doing Veganuary?
I have always been intrigued by the idea of Veganuary. Just to see what it would be like to live without meat, eggs or dairy, and as a personal challenge to see if I could. I feel I have quite a bland palate or maybe more of a tendency to see food as fuel only. My dinners tended be quite boring; chicken/salmon with steamed vegetables/salad was the bulk of my diet. Quick and easy to cook but balanced and healthy. Weekly Cod Squad fish and chips or sausage and chips also featured occasionally…
It’s no lie the potential health benefits were also a consideration – I read a lot about healthy skin and people feeling amazing. (BTW it is still possible to be a very unhealthy vegan). Last year, I decided I was definitely going to do it. I researched. I planned my meals and lunches. I had everything ready.
So ready, steady, go vegan! How did it go? What did you eat, both initially, and now a year later?
I researched vegan-friendly foods and brands for things such as popcorn for the cinema, or crisps for snack cravings – all very easy areas to trip up on otherwise. A lot of people find quitting dairy and for some reason, cheese, the hardest bit. I have never really been into dairy or cheese, so this was actually very simple for me. The hardest bit was actually giving up fish! I honestly miss my weekly slices of salmon more than any meat.
Now, I eat a real mix of things, cooking from scratch for most meals and trying to batch cook where possible to save time.
For lunches, I tend to have:
- Tofu cooked in different sauces with salad during summer.
- This winter I have been having more soups or dhals.
Semi-regular on the weekly dinner menu:
- Fajitas or burritos
- Vegetable stews with different spices or grains.
- Curries are a personal favourite. I love spicy food and a lot of recipes are already vegetarian so it’s easy to veganise.
I feel that preparing vegan dinners does take longer, but this may be because previously I didn’t really go in for fancy meal prep. There’s no easy, tasty, exciting option that can just be stuck in the oven for 20 minutes. I don’t mind the food taking longer to make because it’s generally more satisfying to eat at the end.
Tip: For vegetarian and vegan recipes to try, check out Emma’s post of 22 meat-free recipes.
It sounds like you’ve got cooking from scratch down, but what about when you eat out? Do you feel like you are missing out?
I’m lucky now that being vegan is in vogue. More diners and chains are catching onto this and there are generally vegan options in most places.
I have been really impressed with the rise of veganism in Pompey. I think the Victorious Festival 2018 was amazing and had a huge selection of vegan-friendly chow. Then there are the vegan Sunday dinners at Merchant House and a few other eateries on Palmerston Road.
I agree Southsea has such a variety of vegan-friendly places to eat. But what about when you go away out of the UK? How have you found that?
It is true that the big issue I have found is going on holidays. Some areas are great for vegan options – I have recently returned from Mexico and was quite surprised about how easy vegetarian and vegan options were to find.
But I also feel that food is a massive part of other cultures and by restricting your diet, you miss out on this. So my one caveat I openly have (I am sure stricter vegans will disapprove) is when on holiday I will allow myself fish options as well as vegetarian and vegan. I have still managed to avoid meat.
I’m aware that by the end of my year as a vegan I’m probably now on the dietary spectrum seen as more ‘flexitarian’ but I do still make a lot of effort to stick to a vegan diet. I honestly don’t see myself going back to eating meat on a regular basis, however, I think I could very happily stay as vegetarian with occasional fish dishes. Although this may seem a poor compromise to some more strict proponents of veganism, I think that is, for me,a realistic and sustainable state.
How has it impacted your life?
I have found it slightly odd that going vegan has opened me up to a lot more thoughts regarding the environment and sustainability. Its likely a hangover from Pompey where I had quite a bit of exposure to green living, but I still make a lot of effort with recycling, avoiding single-use plastics e.g. straws and swapping to moon cups, where I can and trying to reuse things more or donating to charity shops rather than throwing items away.
And finally, any tips for people interested in eating vegan?
Plan your meals. Really think about what you eat and when. Little things like a trip out to the cinema, brunch or ending up at work lunchless can really pose a challenge if you are determined to be vegan in your choices (and don’t want to be left hungry).
Thank you Jessie for chatting to us about your vegan-ish journey! Come join me soon for our vegan-crawl!
Follow Jessie’s vegan and dentistry journey on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/teethingpains/.
And let us know, in the Comments section, your recommendations of vegan dishes/ restaurants in Pompey for Tamara’s vegan crawl