Covering Climate Now: The Spinoff crew who took on climate change with a vegan diet for the week reflect on the highs, the lows, the pies and the fries. Check out the introductory post and midweek update for the full story.
The Spinoff’s participation in Covering Climate Now is made possible thanks to Spinoff Members. Join us here!
As I write, I’m tucking into a veritable vegan feast delivered to our office by our plant-based fairy godmother, Philippa from Tart Bakery in Auckland’s Grey Lynn. Pies! Sausage rolls! Doughnuts! All delicious. It follows a lovely vegan cheesecake sent over by the good folk at Angel Food that we ate for morning tea.
I’m not sure why I was expecting to get hated on by the vegan community – as a journalist you get used to much of what you do being met with vitriol, I suppose – but it’s been quite the opposite. In addition to the edible contributions, we’ve had messages of support galore, which really, truly do mean a lot to us. Thanks for the encouragement, vegan friends!
So as our plant-based challenge draws to a close, let us reflect on our journey. The final few days have been mostly successful, although a few of us succumbed, albeit in a minor manner, to the lure of animal products.
As predicted in the midweek update, the opening of the circus-themed bar on Wednesday night presented us with temptation aplenty. I whooped with joy when the first tray of food that came my way was laden with vegan pizza, but one piece of vegan pizza does not a dinner make. I tried to delve to the bottom of the aioli-drizzled waffle fries to find some sans aioli but I was hungry, dammit, so small amounts of the fancy mayo may have entered my gob. I also ate some popcorn because FTV Josie told me she reckoned it was vegan, but it sure as heck tasted buttery to me.
I left hungry, but got a vege burger without mayo from a downtown burger joint. I missed the mayo, I really did (so drrryyyyy), but it did the trick (and for $7 was a bloody bargain).
My vegan comrade Tina also got a burger that night – she went for a McDonald’s cheeseburger, swapping the meat patty for a hash brown (genius), but forgot about the cheese…
Speaking of cheese, Thursday presented multiple challenges, including a delivery of a shit ton of the stuff from the good folk from NZ Cheese Month (it’s happening in October, don’t worry). I wailed in despair but then pulled myself together, swiftly hiding it from my colleagues so I could consume it next week.
That morning, only mildly hungover, I’d whipped up a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies, the recipe for which a reader kindly alerted me to following a cry for help in our last update. They were not in the slightest bit healthy, and therefore delicious.
We braved the wrath of our poultry-loving colleagues and opted for a full vegan Nando’s delivery, enjoying their disbelief turn to seething resentment as we munched on peri-peri fries. I did miss the cheesy bread, I admit, but I coped.
After lunch we recorded our food podcast Dietary Requirements and readers, I ate something non-vegan – but something so weird and so damn climate-friendly that I didn’t feel bad. Crickets. Crispy, crunchy, covered in salt and vinegar, they hit the spot with a beer. Keep an eye out for the new episode of Dietary Requirements this weekend to hear all about it.
So in sum, I’m not sure a strict vegan diet is something I’ll be following any time soon, but it’s been good to wean myself off my dairy addiction for a little while. My job (and, to be fair, my generally hedonistic approach to life) means I like to be able to throw caution to the wind and smash a free bowl of waffle fries smothered in aioli if I so desire. I think I’m pretty mindful of where my food comes from already, and when I buy dairy products I opt for independent New Zealand brands over the big boys, which kinda means something, right? I think I’ll be returning to my one small flat white with cow juice per day though – never quite got used to the oat.
Some final thoughts from the other vegan week participants to round things up:
I feel great! I feel like a skinny minnie even though I haven’t lost any weight, haha. I think the hardest thing was to look out for dairy products but low-key I’m gonna start eating less meat and more veges.
I did have a few slip-ups and ended up eating cheese but I haven’t had any red meat or chicken so I pretty much won, so someone give me a damn award! Though I’m gonna have a cheeseboard tomorrow while I drink in the sun, so don’t hate cause ima be living my best life.
I’d love to be able to embrace a vegan diet full-time, but the truth is, I have a) a tendency to forget (see: my midweek pancake slip-up), and b) very little self-control and an intense loathing of steadfast “rules”. So a whole week of trying to consciously consume exclusively vegan products was, frankly, annoying. As with any “diet”, you’re immediately set up to fail, which I guess backs up my existing philosophy when it comes to veganism, which is: try to eat plant-based where and when you can. But if you can’t, it’s fine, chill! Embracing the plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to embrace the ‘vegan’ label.
I’m mad about this but my week of eating vegan has taught me how to be bloody mindful. I realised that I used to eat by unhinging my jaw like a snake and slithering at speed towards whatever home-cooked meal, PR cake or Nando’s delivery was placed within a two-metre radius of me. Being forced to slow down and not just read all the ingredients, but actively consider he real-world impact of every meal, has genuinely changed how this bad snake approaches food.
For example, on Wednesday night we had some bog-standard basic tomato pasta. I was crushed to find that we had garlic bread in the freezer but then just as quickly elated to find that Mamma Fiorelli’s is made with classy marge and therefore absolutely vegan and healthy and fine in every single way possible. My partner had fresh parmesan on his pasta which made me jealous, but when we got to the end of the meal he had some left.
I weighed up my options, realised that food waste was probably worse than me enjoying a cheeky dusting of parm, and polished off his plate.
Ooh and there was the vegan Nando’s. Simon Day looked real angry about it, but I thought the warm pita stuffed with delicious roast vegetables, peri-peri chips, spicy vegan patty, salad and allll slathered in hummus was actually just as yum as any chicken burger.
Will I stay vegan? Unfortunately I just cracked open a pack of Friday kettle chips (milk powder, who knew?) so probably not. But I hope to continue to be a mindful snake.
The Spinoff’s participation in Covering Climate Now is made possible thanks to the contributions of Spinoff Members. Join The Spinoff Members to help us do more important journalism.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the day's best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.