Don't worry. This wasn't some elaborate bet that I lost. It wasn't something that I had planned to do, just to see if I could. In fact, I'm not sure it's even something I would have ever done if I hadn't been in a situation where, if I didn't eat vegan, I would have starved.
What on earth is she talking about, you wonder? Well this past weekend I went on a Yoga Retreat. And I've got to say it was absolutely fabulous. A weekend packed with yoga, meditation, walking, massages and lots of reading - it was right up my street. The sun even managed to make an appearance (shocking I know). The catch, which I wasn't actually aware of until I got there, was that I would be a vegan for the weekend.
Given the vast array of dietary requirements of everyone who attended, my own no-gluten diet included, the best way for the cook to accommodate all of us was to prepare a gluten free, dairy free, meat free, vegan diet. Now you would be forgiven for thinking that the menu would also be taste free, but we had this fantastic lady, Nadia, cooking for us and she has worked in the industry for many years. So she was totally able to weave her magic with the limited ingredients available to us.
We tried dishes such as Fainting Priest (a delicious Turkish stuffed aubergine recipe), celeriac and lentil salad, lemony curried lentil soup, oat pancakes, chickpea and spinach stew thickened with butter beans, gluten free flapjacks and beetroot brownies. All the food was delicious, except I'm still not a fan of whole chickpeas. Something about the texture makes me shudder (blitzed up in hummus is a different story!).
I left feeling so zen, though I can't say that it cured my road rage on the way home. And I can't say it has convinced me to turn vegan. Sure, it was all delicious and has given me loads of inspiration for what to cook next. But I don't think I could give up meat, dairy and eggs for good.
Not once, after any of the meals, did I feel full or completely satisfied. I felt like Oliver, always asking: Please Nadia, can I have some more? Give me some meat or cheese any day of the week! And in my meat eating family, who have raised their own pigs for the legendary 'Barningham Pork', there would be mutiny if I suddenly declared I was a vegan.
The bottom line is, I love my meat, dairy and cheese. But I learnt a lot from Nadia about cooking vegan, and using ingredients in new and interesting ways. Like whizzing up butter beans and using them as a thickener instead of corn flour or flour. I'd rather take interesting vegan dishes, such as the Fainting Priest, and give them a meaty twist. And at least that way, there's more of a chance my boyfriend might actually eat the dish!