For the last instalment of this year’s 31 Vegans’ First 31 days we’re chatting to Pig Out contributor Callam Fox, a 29-year-old freelance designer. He tells us about his pre-vegan fascination with bacon-everything, inspiring his mum to go plant-based and hopefully bringing more vegan food to Doncaster.
What was your lifestyle like before you turned to veganism?
I was a pure omnivore, but was also really into cooking and trying out all the crazy recipes on the internet. I loved epicmealtime. Me and my house mates at the time would always be looking to make our meals extravagant and bigger. One Christmas we cooked the standard dinner with all them trimmings and whacked each persons’ serving into personal giant Yorkshire puddings – then wrapped each one in bacon. In fact, most things ended up wrapped in bacon. So yeah a little over the top, but a few years ago I started to tone down the madness and think more about my ingredients. I’ve been vegan for 15 months now.
Why’d you give up the bacon-wrapped lifestyle and go vegan?
The tipping point for me was when I realised that vegan food can taste just as good as anything with meat or dairy in it. It seemed like a challenge and a new project, perfect for the sort of person I am. I like to be as good as I can be at anything I try.
Did you research or dive straight in?
All my research was pretty much hands on. A few of my close friends have been vegan for some time, I’d say about 2/3 years before me, and I would often cook for or with them. So I had quite a decent understanding. I also went on a road trip round Europe a few years ago in a van with 8 other people, 5 of which were vegan and 1 veggie. We were wild camping most nights but none of them seemed to be hungry or remotely bothered about lack of snacks and treats and that’s camping, just saying.
What did people say when you made the transition?
The main reason I had not taken the leap to go FULL VEGAN (shouted in my best cheesy macho man advert style voice) was because I had moved back in to my parents’ house which made it hard to cook. But when I moved out again just before the christmas season I decided to make going vegan my new year’s resolution. I actually met up with my mum for a coffee in my first month of going vegan and explained to her how great it was and she was so proud and inspired by her once fussy eating child that she has now also been plant-based for nearly as long I have on, the basis of if I can do it she can make a change also.
The following christmas we had a full vegan xmas dinner which was really nice and, to be honest the best christmas we have had in a long time,.My girlfriend has also made a big change to her diet probably because I’m the one who cooks ever night!
What did you think you’d miss?
I thought I would really miss cheese – shocker – but I don’t. If I really think about I guess I miss the parson’s nose from the chicken, if you don’t know what that is you probably shouldn’t look it up!
Any slip-ups in your first month?
Oh yeaaaahhhh – never mind in the first month, I still have them now. The one incident I remember very well was being at a house party where food was being made for the party goers, me being bit of a chef head strolled into the kitchen to lend a hand with the vegan dish that was going to be on offer. Anyway, a few drinks down I’m chatting to one of the lads who was making the omni dish about cooking and the problems he had come across while cooking it, next thing you know I’ve got a spoon and I’m having a taste to give him my opinion.
I had been vegan close to 4 months at this point, so when this guy’s chicken curry hit my lips I was like, “Wow mate! Honestly that is banging, really nice man,” still not clicking on in my head why I thought it tasted so good. Yeah it was the chicken bit that tasted good, it was a flavour/texture had completely forgot about! We all had a good laugh and so did I, mistakes are always going to happen, best to take them on the chin.
What was your fall-back dish during the first month?
My girlfriend bought me The New Vegan by Áine Carlin when I moved in to her house, and I made the Aduki bean casserole, but switched out the Aduki’s for kidneys beans. It’s an Asian spiced dish with ginger and coconut, topped with thinly sliced sweet potato! It became our favourite instantly and something I make for introducing people to vegan food as it packs so much flavour you don’t have time to think about missing meat.
Did you notice any changes during your first 31 days?
My first month was a great eye opener, full of positive changes throughout. I had an abundance of energy, my skin felt good my self confidence went up –it was great. Shopping became more intimate, my first shop was so different to any I had previously done because I had to read the ingredients of everything I dropped in my basket, which in turn forced me to see what crap and nonsense everything has added to it. This then escalates to anger and confusion, slowly followed by enlightenment and understanding that what you’re doing is good and is making a difference no matter what knuckle-head tells you that you’re not.
What’s the vegan scene like near you?
I personally know around 15 vegans. I didn’t think anything of this number until seeing people post the question ‘how many vegans do you know?’ on social media and noticing some people have hardly any support or mutual beliefs other than with people on social media. Doncaster is such a small town you almost feel like you know everyone. We have a burger bar that serves a number vegan burgers, and also a big restaurant where the staff are very helpful and always willing to veganise meals for you. So we do ok, but just ok!
I’m actually looking into setting up a place for vegan food and I’m getting a lot of good feedback, the council are interested so hopefully something could happen in the near future.
What do you wish you’d known at the start that you know now?
How to cook and prepare vegetables as good as I do know. I would probably have entered Master Chef! I would smash the fuck out of that scraps table now, that’s for sure!
What would your advice to new vegans be?
Stay away from militants on both sides of the table.You just concentrate on doing the best that you can do in your own time, don’t be scared or put off by making mistakes or not understanding what you going to eat from day to day. Any change you make is having an impact, just have respect for other people – even if it doesn’t mean anything to you, it might mean everything to them.
Or dive into the back catalogue of our 31 Vegans’ First 31 Days stories.
Or learn about the benefits of saving peelings.