Connecting with where my food came from
In my normal February to December life, I am not a calorie counter or a food label observer. I am also fortunate to not have allergies and neither do the majority of my friends. This means that I don’t often check what ingredients are in most of the foods that I eat day-to-day. Veganuary is a huge contrast to this. Every label must be scanned carefully for forbidden ingredients (it’s sometimes surprising to see how many different ingredients go into producing one type of food). I’ve also been cooking from scratch a lot, as I find it’s the easiest way to make sure my food is fully vegan.
Being mindful of what I’m eating has increased my awareness and appreciation of the journey my food has made from soil to table. And in that journey I’m also reminded of the people who are involved. One of my favourite social justice quotes is by Martin Luther King Jr:
Before you’ve finished eating breakfast in the mornings you’ve depended on more than half the world.
If you’re serious about social justice, connecting with what you eat is a great place to start.
Connecting with God
Just for starters, the Bible is clear – God loves us no matter what (and regardless of what we eat). So you may be wondering why going vegan in January has helped me to connect with God. In the Bible it talks a lot about fasting – this is traditionally giving up food and drink for a period of time in order to focus on God. It helps us look to God for true satisfaction, rather than looking for satisfaction in things of the world (food, parties, netflix etc – not that any of these things are bad in their own right).
Fasting can also help us to be disciplined in setting aside periods of time to spend with God. For me going vegan is a type of (although less hardcore) fast – giving up some stuff i really like, e.g. scrambled egg, Lindt chocolate and cheese toasties to name a few. It has helped remind me that my overall satisfaction does not come from the momentary pleasure of these tasty foods, but from God.
Connecting with the people around me
If you read my first article, you’ll know that one of the challenges I set myself was to veganuary ‘well’ and on a budget. That means not popping to the shop and buying a convenient (but expensive) vegan pie, pizza or a seitan steak that I could pop in the oven and consume within half an hour. Cooking meals from scratch takes its toll on your free time, and means cutting back the amount of commitments I make. It’s great for reminding myself that it’s not possible to be in three places at once. I’m usually somebody who’s rushing around, left, right and centre, but I have found real joy in slowing things right down.
Cramming less things into a day has helped me to enjoy the moment, and spend real time connecting with myself, with God, and to be fully present with the people around me. Western society does not encourage us to do this (because, capitalism), but if you’re in a position to drop non-essential tasks from your week every now and then in order to reconnect, I would totally recommend it.
Connecting with a thankful heart
I know I am incredibly privileged – I live in a home which is safe and I have running water and heating. On top of that I have a job which I enjoy and own a bike and a car. I don’t worry about being able to put food on the table. This is more than can be said for a large percentage of the global population, and even here in the UK where poverty levels are rising. But it is still so easy (for me, anyway) to be ungrateful or to dismiss these privileges.
By taking some time to really focus on what I’m eating, where my food is coming from and who has made it, I find that I am so much more grateful for the food that’s on my plate. I never thought I could be so excited about the versatility of a tomato or butternut squash. The psychology of this is really interesting – that by consuming less, you can feel more grateful. I guess there is truth in the saying ‘less is more’.
Recipe of the week:
One pot squash, spinach and rosemary spaghetti (by Abel and Cole)
Takes 45 minutes
- 1 Butternut Squash
- 2 red onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- A handful of rosemary
- 400g of vine tomatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Sea salt and ground pepper
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 500g spaghetti
- 200g baby lead spinach
- 1 lemon
Peel the butternut squash. Halve it lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Chop the squash into 1cm cubes. Peel the onions and thinly slice them. Peel and crush the garlic. Pick the rosemary leaves and finely chop them. Chop the tomatoes into small chunks.
Slide all the ingredients into a large, heavy based pan (a wide, shallow casserole dish is perfect). Sprinkle in a good pinch of salt and pepper and drizzle in 2 tbsp oil. Crumble in the stock cube, pour in 1 ltr boiling water and stir well. Slide in the spaghetti and return to the boil. Reduce to a low heat, cover with a lid and cook for 20 mins, stirring every so often.
After 20 mins, the pasta should be tender and the cooking liquid thickened. If not, cook for a few mins longer. Tip in the spinach and squeeze in the juice from half a lemon. Stir everything together till the spinach leaves are just wilted. Taste and add a pinch more salt and pepper if needed.
Top tip: sprinkle some vegan cheese on the top (I particularly like Violife, and you can buy it pre-grated)