Sunday, 19 August 2012

Grasshoppers go to uni

I am fully aware that the start of term is creeping up on us. I look forward to seeing all the excited freshers and attempting to keep that excitement going once classes start. I could say more about that, but this isn't the forum for it. Instead, this post is for those firsties who are vegan or going vegan, and indeed anyone trying to maintain vegan life on campus. I have to admit, I fell at that hurdle, and it was harder to go vegan a second time later in life. Hence my interest in helping others avoid the pitfalls and sharing the advice I wish I'd had all those years ago.

1: Make the best use of what you have. Chances are the facilities won't be great in halls or a student house, but if you are in a self-catering hall (usually the best if you have a choice) there should at least be a stove, a fridge and some cupboard space. Assess what sort of storage you have most of. A freezer will give you more scope for variety, and also for cooking when you have time and stockpiling for when you don't. If you have a decent amount of fridge space, you have scope to make leftovers and put portions aside. If you have a cupboard and not much else, your diet may need to focus around dried and tinned food with only as much fresh veg as you are going to use in the short time it keeps out in the open. If it is at all possible to cook large batches when your housemates are out, I'd suggest doing that to minimise friction over the stove. (This will be, no pun intended, hotly contested - however many functional rings/burners a stove has there is a limit to how many people can crowd around it!)

2: Equip yourself. You can probably get by with one (sharp) knife and chopping board.You should ideally have a wooden spoon for hot stuff (where a plastic one would melt) and a plastic one for wet stuff like pasta (where a wooden one would get saturated). You can treat new, cheap wooden utensils by exposing them to as much oil as possible in the first couple of weeks you have them. You could do with two saucepans - one to cook large batches in and one to heat up small quantities. You're also going to need some containers. The best in my experience are glass jars for the fridge and margarine/ice'cream' pots for the freezer - if you buy these you get free food with them! A casserole or pie dish would be useful.

3: Packed lunch! Uni canteens seem to do the vegan thing better than they did when I was a student - however, it is still difficult to rely on being able to get something decent each day. You could eat a peanut butter sandwich every day - with a different sort of salad vegetable for each day of the week if you're feeling adventurous - but a salad with fat (olive oil, avocados, nuts) and protein (chickpeas, beans, nuts, quinoa or tofu) and a small amount of added carbs (potato, couscous, pasta) if you find yourself getting hungry is way better for staying awake in afternoon classes. If a vegetable can be eaten raw it can be used for this purpose. Salad can keep for a couple of days in the fridge so you can make a double batch to save some time. It's also worth having some dried fruit or nuts to graze on.

4: If you're not used to cooking for yourself, get some recipes. <a href=>Increasing Veganicity</a> has some to be going on with. At this time of year there will be a range of cookbooks explicitly targeted at students, it would be worth getting a specific vegetarian one if you can find it. These books acknowledge that you aren't always cooking in optimum conditions or with a huge budget!

5: Stay true to yourself. You'll be facing a different set of pressures and challenges from the ones you're used to. You'll get questions and the odd bit of piss-taking, although hopefully nothing worse. (although you won't be alone if that *does* happen) You may even encounter the <a href=>drunk around pizza</a> problem for the first time. Just remember - and I know this is easier said than done - that if people object to you being vegan or 'need' you to eat animal products to 'blend in', they are not worth hanging out with. Unless you are at an agricultural college in the middle of nowhere, there is probably scope for making better friends. (if you are a vegan having a good experience at an ag college in the middle of nowhere, feel free to share your survival tips!) Preaching won't help you make friends. Going against your beliefs won't get you respect. Being open and having integrity will hopefully achieve both. Answering questions is good, unless the person is clearly spoiling for a fight - then you're within your rights to change the subject to something less charged.

I know this blog is read by people who have been through the student experience more recently than me, so feel free to chime in in the comments if you have any tips that I haven't dealt with!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Speaking vegan

I encountered I Speak Vegan for the first time today. Laura is a mother of three whose two oldest daughters are vegan. The blog details how she tackles feeding both factions in the household.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Because everything tastes better burned around the edges

So the UK is FINALLY seeing some nice weather - hard to believe I had thermal socks on indoors until last week! - and the question on everyone's lips is 'what do you barbecue?' Ok, it isn't on everyone's lips, but it was asked of my partner a few days ago by one of his family members, and I'm guessing there will be a few new vegans out there wondering what their first non-animal sacrificial victim should be. This is far from an exhaustive list, it is based on my own experience of what has worked and inspired by the fact that we had a test run on our own new barbecue this evening. (do not ask me for advice on lighting the bloody thing, it took two of us four attempts, I burned my thumb in the process and my face looks a bit like a Minstrel...) Burgers - Fry's and Redwoods are the best for this. A lot of the vegan burgers that work well in an oven fall apart when being grilled outdoors. Sausages - Frys, Redwoods and Linda McCartney's Aubergine slices (thin and splashed with olive oil. I might try salting the next batch) Skewers made with various combinations of mushrooms, courgettes, peppers, onions and marinated tofu Corn on the cob Any of the above vegetables sliced thinly Falafels Any more suggestions?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Help a Grasshopper out!

You might have noticed things have been a bit slow around here. To an extent I'm fine with that - the information that's already here (including the blogroll) is useful to newbie vegans regardless of whether I add anything else, so there's no point adding extra froth unless I think of something good. However, I'm also aware that this blog is largely reliant on my perspective on going vegan. So I'm opening up the floor a bit and asking readers to share their new vegan stories - anyone up for it?

It doesn't matter if you are a current grasshopper or a seasoned old lag - your vegan wisdom can still be useful to a newcomer. One of my favourite vegan/animal rights role models has personal memories of the vegetarian rationing provisions in World War 2, but I have still learned a lot from her. Don't worry if you didn't have the smoothest transition to veganism - you could be helping other people in a similar position.

Some questions that might help (not a prescriptive list/structure!):
What inspired you to go vegetarian? What inspired you to go vegan? Was there a gap between the two?
What was the hardest part of going vegan? How did you get around it?
What stage of life were you at when you went vegan?
How did the people around you react?
What are the main features of your life, other than veganism?
What are your favourite foods as a vegan?

Stories can be emailed to I'll come up with a posting schedule when I see how many I get. I reserve the right to edit for spelling and so on if necessary, because I'm a pedantic git. Longer stories may be divided into more than one installment. I'm happy to link to your own blog if you include the URL. I can't currently upload photos - I'll let you know when that changes. Stories shouldn't advocate illegal activity - I take no issue with what you do elsewhere, but this isn't the space for it. Insulting people who are less far along the vegan path than you is also a no-no for this blog.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Another useful post for newbies

JL's tips for new vegans JL is a fitness enthusiast who went vegan and stopped chasing skinny. She blogs here.