“Wake up and smell the tofu”
Posted by James Fell on
In 2016 the Vegan Society commissioned a survey which asked nearly 10,000 people for their views on veganism – the reply came back that 1.05% of Britons followed a vegan diet and the trend was upwards, that means there are 542,000 vegans in the UK
The term vegan was coined by Donald Watson in 1944 with support from such notables as George Bernard Shaw. To begin with they saw themselves as “strict vegetarians” but in short order there were “dietary vegans” – no meat; eggs; dairy or anything derived from animals. Then “ethical vegans” – opposing all exploitation of animals, plus “environmental vegans”. The statistics may lag behind the current marketplace but veganism is growing fast and starting to make a significant impression.
April 2018 sees the publication of Cook Share Eat Vegan, a new book from Áine Carlin, the best-selling author of Keep it Vegan. This new cookbook is published by Mitchel Beazley and is a handy source of inspiration for any carnivore faced with entertaining vegan guests. The dishes all read well and are refreshingly unfaddy: “Spicy mushroom stuffed calzone”, “polenta pizza”, “falafel shakshuka”, “chip shop vegetable curry”, “puy lentil ragu”, “sweet potato and walnut koftas” and “celeriac steaks with a mushroom stroganoff sauce.” Cook Share Eat Vegan is an elegant book and does a good job of bringing the vegan diet into the mainstream.
A restaurant called By Chloe. (with a full stop as part of its branding) has just opened in London’s Covent Garden. This is a vegan establishment and flies the flag for the “plant-based diet” as By Chloe. styles itself as “New York’s hippest, plant-based, fast casual restaurant”. Time Out New York went so far as to award By Chloe. the title of best veggie burgers in NYC. The strategy behind the menu at the new establishment (a second London branch is opening immediately) is to offer plant-based, meat-free, versions of mainstream favourites. So classic fish 'n’ chips is re-worked as crispy tofu served with the classic accompaniments of chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce. Shepherd’s Pie is made from ground seitan, vegetables and mashed potato then served with By Chloe.’s famous Beet Ketchup. There’s a “Guac” burger; or noodles made from matcha kelp; or a quinoa taco salad; or a vegan mac ’n’ cheese – said to be one of the dishes sorely missed by the dairy-intolerant. Other vegan takes on the classics include sticky toffee pudding – in this instance topped with coconut whipped cream. Or perhaps you would prefer to round off your meal with a dairy-free ice cream? As the blurb would have it. “By Chloe. aims to share delicious, wholesome, plant-based food that fuels and energizes without compromising flavour, taste or satisfaction”.
The path from eccentric minority to alternative mainstream is not an easy one, but there are enough signs to encourage the committed vegan. Perhaps the plant-based gospel will find more followers this year. Although you have to wonder what George Bernard Shaw would have made of a Guac burger…