Unlike most good ideas, I decided to go vegan overnight. Over lunch, actually, 1:00 p.m. fast approaching my office desk, realizing I was on the verge of making a huge change to what could be my entire life. No more croissants with my best friend over pseudo-ironic skinny lattes? No more grilled cheese sandwiches late back from gigs? No more éclairs? EVER?!!
The more I started thinking about a whole life without all the things that bought me, I’m not afraid to say, a lot of happiness, the more my mind started to question what on earth I thought I was doing.
I had been researching animal rights, farming conditions and industry standards for months, wrangling with my conscience over the best way I could live a sustainable, caring life alongside the rest of the planet. Crunch time at lunch time arrived on Jan. 4, and it was a change that had been a long time coming, but instead of planning for a gradual shift, I was following my instincts. I didn’t want to eat milk or eggs or cheese any more, so phasing it out just felt even weirder for me. But on the flip side, the idea that I’d had my last ever ice cream or birthday cake felt like an impossible watershed to maintain.
I decided to take it day by day, and not tell anyone for as long as it felt comfortable. That way, I reasoned, it would only be me that knew about my failure.
A failure in the first few weeks felt imminent: despite all my research, going vegan I.R.L. meant adopting a whole new set of skills: speed-reading Google search results in supermarket aisles before putting any item of shopping in my basket that didn’t come with a clear enough label. Trying to memorize every vegan-friendly beer online so I could order without eliciting suspicion in bars with my friends. At first I felt totally overwhelmed.
There were days when peanut butter on toast was the highlight of dinner, hummus evolved in to a major food group, and one client lunch that somehow became three courses of melons sliced in an increasingly elaborate manner. It wasn’t the restaurant’s fault; I was too shy to explain properly that I was a vegan and too scared to ask for something else. I ate the melon in silence as everyone else tucked in and realised I had to start believing I could do this.
With each meal it got easier. As the days stacked up I worked out I had been vegan for a month. I knew which coffee houses wouldn’t charge extra for soy milk, where to find the best vegan fry-up in town and which Turkish takeaway could make me a vegan falafel extravaganza of a midnight feast for the way home.
I made so many mistakes, but you don’t have to be perfect. Vegans, vegetarians and anyone that makes a decision to alter their lifestyle through a diet choice are all human, after all. I guarantee every one of those people will tell you they’ve messed up or not quite stuck to their ethos. But by being open about this, it becomes less of a taboo. I felt like I had to keep it a secret from my friends so they didn’t spot me messing up, or stop inviting me round for dinner. When I did finally tell them why I had become a vegan, their support helped me stick to my guns; they respected what I was trying to do and could see how much it meant to me.
Changing years or even decades of a lifestyle habit is never going to be easy, but if you believe it’s for the best, I can’t think of anything that could be more rewarding. You just have to keep at what you decide to do. Which is where these killer chocolate brownies come in: I don’t have a sweet tooth but when I found out on a drizzly Monday afternoon in that first January that a lot of dark, high cocoa content chocolate is also vegan, I spent the last of my paycheck making two batches of these beauties. I hadn’t tasted anything so sweet or gooey or GOOD in nearly a month, and it was then, that first bite, that I realised I could do this vegan thing.
Makes 16 brownies
- 1 1/2 cups of plain flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup fresh brewed coffee
- 3/4 cup soy milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup plain, dark, vegan chocolate broken in to chunks
Preheat oven to 320°F /160°C and grease and line one or two baking trays. These will cook and rise better if they are poured out thinner, so if in doubt, favor two trays over one.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then in a separate bowl, pour and mix in the coffee, soy milk and oil. Add the liquid to the dry mix, stirring in the chocolate chunks.
Pour the brownie mix into your trays. It will be quite runny at this point, but they do get firmer after baking.
Leave in the oven for at least 25 minutes, checking back after that point to see if a tooth pick will come clean when inserted in the middle of the brownies. Once cooked, leave to stand for five minutes if you can bare it, before digging in.
These will keep in an airtight container for at least three days, but I’d be surprised if they last that long before being devoured!