The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th January 2020

In some ways I was disappointed when Celia didn’t carry out her threat to scream. Maybe it was because we were pounding the streets, not in the field which was where she said she needed to be to make loud her frustration about being once more in lockdown. Is it the third or fourth lockdown? I’m losing count. It’s supposed to be like the first lockdown, except of course it’s not because now we are much more familiar with the whole thing; our habits established back in March have for many of us remained largely unchanged. The shops have got their one way systems, sanitiser gel, perspex shields in place; the lines on the pavement which began to disappear at the end of autumn reminding us to keep two metres apart have been renewed.

In anticipation of the news I began a jigsaw. Whatever gene those who felt the first lockdown was not only the perfect opportunity to sort out their cupboards but actually did sort them have, I am missing it. Lockdown induces a kind of paralysis in me. I can walk, shop for neighbours, do jigsaws, cook, take photographs, keep this online diary, but it has a time standing still quality I struggle to get over. I was relieved when Reinhild, who I met by chance today, said her cupboards have remained similarly unsorted, but Mark, aka Mr Reinhild, was busy disposing of their Christmas tree.

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Carry On Veganuarying

Heading into the final week of Veganuary, and like my compatriots doing dry January, this could be a watershed moment, to continue or not. I think I know the answer, which is I shall return to being a flexi-vegan. Once I have eaten the few things already stored in the freezer that contain dairy I don’t think I’ll be hurrying to replace them. Consciously eschewing dairy has been easy, though I haven’t been to the pizzeria yet, and it’ll be the end of M&S meal deals as they barely manage a vegetarian option, let alone vegan. I’ve not bought eggs from a supermarket in months, so until and unless I can get them from hens kept as pets, eggs will be off the menu too. I have quite a bit of honey at home, and that’ll gradually be consumed as well. Whether I replace it or not remains to be seen.

So no, I don’t think I’m going to be a full-time, banner-carrying vegan, but 90% of the time you wouldn’t be able to tell. I’m certainly going to be eating a lot of fritters. After the success of the beetroot and spilt pea fritters I decided to play with my recipe, swapping the split peas for lentils, adding broccoli to the beetroot, and putting the rice flour in the mix to bind everything rather than the tahini. There were more ingredients – tomato purée, garlic, onion, turmeric, soy sauce if I recall correctly. The rice flour didn’t work as well as the tahini, I had to dust them all with more flour after I’d shaped them, yet still they were crumbly. I decided to cook two and have them with mushrooms and kale. I admit my hopes weren’t that high. Continue reading

Veganuary, An Undisciplined Cook, and Delicious Fritters

Half way through January, aka Veganuary, and it’s going well. I still don’t know how to pronounce veganuary, but that’s a minor issue. A advert on television last night pronounced vaginal in a way that was wholly new to me and because of that caught my attention. Clever marketing or something else? For me vagina and vaginal are pronounced with a strong i so vaginal whereas the ad was more vadge-in-al. Bizarre.

Pronunciation aside, vaginal has little if anything to do with Veganuary. My twitter followers who are legion (not) will know I have been tweeting both pictures of some of my meals and my failures with split pea rissoles. While the flavour had me wanting more, the falling apartness was something of a failing. More frittata than rissole. that thought was a bit of a breakthrough. That and advice from Sabina via twitter. I know Sabina from our MyT days, which in blogosphere terms means we go back generations. She thought the mix was not fine enough. I intended to have a break and come back to the fray in a week or so. But a lone beetroot in the fridge got me thinking. So tonight I tried again, with a radical change in the recipe. Continue reading


I’ve signed up to Veganuary. If you’ve never heard of it, or even if you have, it’s a cousin of Dry January, Octsober, and so on. Something where you pledge yourself to do something dietary for a month. In this case, keep to a vegan diet. My diet is largely vegan, so I’m not anticipating big problems with that, but I am a bit taken aback by some of the vegan zealotry out there.

Today I got an email with a list of ingredients to avoid with a warning that veganuary will have you reading labels in supermarkets and shops. So much so normal. I’ve been vegetarian since I was twelve, Mother and Aunt had coeliac disease, and Mother’s Menière’s disease meant we scanned everything. When all three of us went to Sainsbury’s together we would look like keen readers in a library. So I looked at the list and didn’t expect to be surprised. I was wrong. Honey. The differences between vegetarianism and veganism are subtle and political.

Veganism is political. Read the definition of veganism from the Vegan Society website here. I go along with quite a lot of it, but my full conversion to veganism is a long way off, so long it may never happen. When January is over I shall be happy to eat eggs from hens kept as pets whose lives are not curtailed when they slow or cease laying. I number a couple or three beekeepers among my acquaintances, and their love for their bees and their concern for those bees’ wellbeing and welfare is notable.

My big problem is not with eating honey or eggs, but the farming industry; the way we as a society have enslaved animals, have seen them simply as a commodity and treat them as disposable and dispensable. It makes me ashamed and disgusted. If you have a hen and that hen lays eggs, to eat some of those eggs does not seem to me to damage the hen. To see the hen as an egg-laying machine, with no rights of reproduction, and a death sentence the moment laying slows down damages both the hen and me. The damage to the hen is obvious. The damage to me is because it brutalises me, it assumes I am compliant in the exploitation of the bird. So I have sympathies with veganism, but my hope would be to reform farming, so that those calves are not slaughtered so we can drink the milk that would have nourished them. That the cows are not constantly in calf so that they lactate. We don’t need to have milk all the time. If I kept a cow who had a calf, maybe she could spare some milk, and from that milk I might have butter or cheese. But it wouldn’t be a staple, it would be a treat. and industrial farming is not limited to animals. Vegetables and fruit are sprayed with pesticides so strong they damage the health of those workers who grow the crops; people who pick said fruit and vegetables are exploited, living in caravans in disgusting conditions, paid peanuts. I’m struggling to articulate what I think, but an analogy would be seasonal fruits and vegetables. We don’t expect to have runner beans in January in the UK. We can get them, they are flown in from other parts of the world. Personally, I don’t buy them. My father loved runner beans. We called him Bean Man. Every year he grew two rows, one to eat and one to freeze so he could eat his beans all winter. Continue reading