In Stephanie Jane’s first published memoir, Finally a Vegan: My journey to Veganuary and beyond, she recounts her experience during the annual, month-long vegan challenge and its impact. Jane shares her triumphs, failures, and some great recipes.
What do you find most fulfilling about being vegan?
Stephanie Jane: For me, the knowledge that I am genuinely making a positive difference in the world is the most fulfilling part. I used to often feel insignificant and overlooked, but now I start each day from a much higher baseline which is wonderfully empowering. For example, average global statistics suggest that, per person, for each day of vegan living, one animal is saved from an unnaturally short, unpleasant life. So before I even get out of bed, my choice means I can say ‘I did that today’. I saved a chick today, tomorrow a piglet, the next day maybe a duckling. I might then also sign a successful petition, bake vegan cake for a doubting friend, or connect with a stranger who’s enjoyed my book. I’m motivated to put myself out more, thanks to my veganism. It’s given me my voice and the confidence to speak out.
Is your significant other, mentioned several times in your book, currently practicing veganism? If not, do you find it difficult to grocery shop or plan meals together?
SJ: Dave was – and still is – wonderfully supportive of my vegan journey, but it’s not a path he’s ready to follow himself so we have rearranged some of our shopping and cooking routines. I suppose he would best identify as flexitarian. He’s by no means adverse to vegan meals and counts a good Mushroom Curry and a Moroccan-inspired Lentil Soup in his own cooking repertoire, so we’ll share a vegan main meal once or twice each week. Breakfast is also always a shared vegan meal, but he’ll usually have a vegetarian soup-and-toast lunch while I rustle up a tofu scramble or pita breads with dips and hummus for myself.
On evenings where we’re not eating the same or a similar meal – a veggie burger for me and a meat burger for Dave, for example – we’ve found dinner cooking works best if we alternate making our own two-portion meals. So, say, on a Monday I’ll make a Sweet And Sour, eat one portion fresh and spoon the other into a jam jar to just reheat on the Tuesday. This leaves the stovetop free on Tuesday for Dave to cook up whatever he is eating. We also use my slow cooker a lot for stews and curries and that’s great because it bubbles away, unattended, in a corner of the kitchen leaving the other person plenty of space for their own culinary creations.
The system does require a bit of planning, but we like to schedule our meals a few days ahead anyway to minimise potential food waste. When practically all shopping trips are done by bicycle or on foot, it’s even more important to eat everything we’ve carried home!
What sort of research did you do while writing this book?
SJ: Most of my research was wandering down memory lane which was good fun to do. The final book is somewhat different to how I originally envisaged it because I found, as I started writing my ideas down, many more came tumbling out to join them. I re-read my Veganuary diary several times and was grateful to myself for having blogged so extensively in the few years preceding the challenge because my idea of the timescales involved turned out to be seriously skewed! My transformation, once it started in earnest, was far swifter than I had thought.
You share several great, simple recipes throughout your book. Which one is your favorite?
SJ: This is a trickier question than it looks! There’s a great lyric in a Rory McLeod song where he sings ‘My favourite drink is the next one’ and that pretty much sums up how I feel about meals. I do love my food! I guess, if pressed though, I would choose the Lentil Daal recipe. It’s reliable, cheap, easy to cook and also wonderfully versatile. Even when I find myself ‘eating daal again’ I don’t feel bored because I can switch up the spice blends and stir in different veggies to ring the changes, or I can serve it in different ways. A jacket potato topped with a generous spoonful of daal is a perfect winter comfort meal.
Any other books in the works?
SJ: I don’t have plans for another book at the moment although I have definitely been nibbled by the writing bug. I hadn’t previously realised quite how much is involved in the publishing and marketing side of being an author so right now I’m enjoying learning all about this. I’m a person who most successfully learns things by actually doing them. I’m also pondering the idea of an audio version of Finally a Vegan with the essays available as a spoken word album.
Any advice for fellow vegan writers?
SJ: I’m going to answer this question with my Reader Hat on and say please do mention your veganism on your website and social media bio! Even (especially!) if your book isn’t a vegan cookbook, there’s a rapidly growing number vegan readers out here and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is specifically searching for vegan-authored novels, poetry and memoirs. Actively supporting other vegan enterprises is something I discuss in the ‘How vegan do I want to be?’ chapter of Finally a Vegan and vegan writers are an important part of this for me. I think our distinct worldview informs the tone and atmosphere of our writing across every genre and we can help to subtly spread the message by bringing more vegan writers, characters and storylines into the mainstream.