The Vegan Diaries
Hey there. I'm Jamie Delerict from JD & the FDCs. You might know me from either Panic, Teenage Casket Company or the Dangerfields. Or you might not know me at all. You can read an interview I did for Save A Scream a while ago HERE. I've been a vegetarian for close to twenty years now. Believe it or not, I've never tried to go vegan. It's crossed my mind half a dozen times, but I've always thought that cutting most of my favourite food from my diet would be too big a step to take. I use and eat a lot of dairy products and pizza is very probably my absolute favourite food. I live in South Yorkshire with my partner Gemma, our daughter Melody and our dog Gwen. Gemma is a meat eater (hey, you can't help who you fall in love with!) and Melody eats whatever we're eating. Hopefully, when she's old enough to make the decision herself, she'll become a vegetarian though. She loves Quorn, so that's a start!
A week or so ago, Shari essentially laid the gauntlet down for me to try and go Vegan for a week and to keep a diary of how I felt and what I ate. My first reaction was that of panic. Mainly because I never like backing down from a challenge and also because I simply don't like to fail. If I was going to do this properly, I had to go into it with the mindset of coming out of this a fully fledged vegan and I just wasn't sure if I was 100% on board mentally. Ethically? Absolutely. But from a selfish standpoint, I wasn't sure that I'd be able to commit fully. So I decided to think about it for a few days and realised that whether I succeeded or I failed, it would at least make for an interesting article and maybe help other people who are thinking about making that so-called "final leap". So here we go....
Day 1: Monday 30th August
I'd had 48 hours to prepare myself for this day. My fridge is filled with half a dozen cartons of soya milk. Unfortunately for me, I've always hated the taste, so I had to buy a few different brands and see which one tasted the least like soil to me! I drink a lot of milk, so this was going to be one of the biggest tests straightaway. For a few years now, (when I'm at home anyway) I have always had the same thing for breakfast. Porridge with raspberries, blueberries and apple, sweetened with honey and a couple of pints of coffee. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit. And so, the worry begins: The honey is out, I know that. Is it going to taste like mud? Is ground coffee vegan? Is sugar? What if my coffee tastes like crap? Since giving up alcohol in 2006, coffee has kind of taken the place of booze, so I'm actually starting to worry a little that my usual routine is going to be uprooted.
Mid afternoon, I start to get a bit peckish and head to the kitchen to see what I can snack on. There are some leftovers from the meal I cooked yesterday, but it has feta cheese in it. Doh! I contemplate being sneaky and just eating it, but quickly realise that if I'm going to do this, then I have to do it properly. There's also half a jar of pesto. No, I can't have that either. I have a look in the vegetarian compartment of my freezer and to my astonishment, I can't have my Quorn steak strips. Or my Quorn bacon rashers either. I'm stunned. It'd never really crossed my mind that Quorn products would be unsuitable for vegans. After the elation of breakfast time, I'm now thinking that this could all be a huge mistake. Cutting out milk, cheese and eggs was going to be hard enough without having to sacrifice all of my frozen vegetarian delights too. I'm not happy. Realising that I'm going to need some extra help, I follow up on Shari's advice and go online to order the Animal Free Shopper from the vegansociety.com. It won't arrive in time to save me this week, but I'm sure as hell going to need it if I'm going to keep this going. More rifling through the cupboards reveals that most of my vegetarian food contains something that I can't have. From tins of baked beans and vegetarian sausages to pasta and jars of sauces. I find a vegan product list for Tescos on my iPhone and decide on an emergency supermarket run for today's food. I need to snack before I go though, so I quickly make some falafel and pop it in some wholemeal pitta bread with some houmous, rocket and a tomato from my garden. It tastes pretty good, so I end up having three of them.
Not only do Tescos not have any vegan cheese in their never-ending cheese section, but while checking the ingredients on margarine tubs, I notice that even olive spreads have some kind of milk derivitive in them. I also realise that a lot of fruit smoothies are now off the menu too. I'm starting to get a bit down about it all now. My heart tells me that going vegan is the right thing to do, but is it going to be at the cost of making dinner times miserable?
Back home, I make myself a mushroom and onion curry using an oriental sauce and packet of rice from the "safe" list and settle down with a film. I realise that I'm going to be out for the whole day tomorrow, so I'll need to adjust my gameplan accordingly...
Day 2: Tuesday 31st August
Breakfast consists of porridge with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and an apple. I'm still genuinely amazed that it tastes so good. My coffee on the other hand, not so much. I'm going to have to do something about this. I need to either find a different brand of soya milk completely, or try and negate the bitter taste with a flavoured syrup of some description. Have I seen vanilla flavoured Alpro somewhere? That might work. My bad back is playing merry hell with me, so I do a quick five minutes of yoga before I take Gwen for a walk in the park. Then it's into the car and off down the M1 to Nottingham. I've recently started going back to my old rehab centre every week for some one-on-one counselling. I may have been sober for almost four years, but that doesn't mean that I don't have to keep putting a lot of hard work in to keep those damn demons at bay! After a tough (but enlightening) session, I need a bit of escapism, so I head straight to my favourite place to wind down. The cinema. I decide against buying anything other than a bottle of water from the kiosk, because I have no idea what sneaky ingredients I have to be on the lookout for just yet. Afterwards, I head to Holland and Barrett to see what goodies I can find. I find some vegan bacon strips made by Redwood. Relief! That just means a brand change for me from Quorn to Redwoods. I can do that. I also get a pack of Cheezly vegan cheese. I've never tried it before, so this should be interesting. I also pick up a tub of Pure soya margarine. It's a little pricey, but I don't mind because both the bacon and the cheese are similarly priced to my usual purchases anyway. I grab a vegan sausage roll for the walk back to the car too. It's not a bad selection in H&B to be fair and it's good to see a jar of vegan mayonnaise too. I'll get that next time. No flavoured soya milk in stock though. I head over to Tescos to see if they have any and there's no luck there either. Looks like another day of unsatisfying coffee again tomorrow then! The music of choice on the journey home was 'Crash Love' by AFI and 'The People Or The Gun' by Anti-Flag. Now did I just quickly grab a couple of CDs from the "A" section of my collection on the way out the house, or are the vegan gods closely watching over me? Hmmmm....
Back home, it's BLT time. Can't beat it, can you? I'm now kicking myself for not buying the vegan mayo though. Brown sauce will have to do. Although a completely different texture to the Quorn ones, the Redwood bacon strips are great. No complaints here. After taking care of some emails and other band business, I take Gwen out for another walk and upon returning home, veg out on the couch with yesterday's mushroom curry leftovers and a pint of herbal tea. I catch up on some of the week's wrestling action and within the first half hour two of my favourite grapplers have both seen action. CM Punk who's a preachy straight-edge character and also Daniel Bryan. One of the commentators is ridiculing for his 'vegan lifestyle'. This is all pretty surreal. It's like the day that I found out that I was going to become a Father, everywhere I turned there seemed to be pregnant ladies and babies! Well, if someone's sending me little 'signs' to tell me that I'm on the right path, I'm receiving them loud and clear.
Day 3: Wednesday 1st September
Surprise, surprise. Porridge with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, apple and wait for it... A banana. Yeah boy, I'm feeling kinda crazy this morning! My coffee once again tastes like crap and I still can't locate any vanilla flavoured soya milk anywhere. Bad tasting coffee is definitely starting to make me feel a bit on the grumpy side in the morning.
With a full belly, I head off to Leeds where I pick up a rather expensive new toy. During a recent studio session with JD & the FDCs, I fell in love with a Marshall guitar head from 1978. It made my guitar sound like Allison Robertson from The Donnas which is the tone I've been trying to achieve for years. So earlier this week, I sold both my Marshall JCM2000 head and my Markbass bass head so that I could afford my dream amp. Once home, I supress the urge to crank her up to "11" and decide to cook myself something a little different for my tea. I downloaded a really cool app for my iPhone 4 called Vegan Yum Yum. It's got recipes for dozens of really great sounding vegan dishes, with easy to follow instructions and mouth watering pictures. I rustled up a sweet potato meal using various spices, some cous-cous with courgette and side of salad with balsamic dressing. Not too shabby. If you have an iPhone, download the app. It's free! After an hour or so messing around with my new amp, I realise that my guitar strap is going to have to go if I'm going to succeed with this new regime. A quick google of 'vegan guitar straps', a few taps on my iPhone and I settle for couchguitarstraps.com. They seem like a really cool company to me. This leads my thoughts onto clothing. In my case, jackets, belts and shoes. Most of my shoes are either Converse, Vans or Vision Street Wear. I know that the VSW ones are vegan friendly, because I remember the tags that came with them, but some more research is needed on the others. I also have three leather jackets. For some reason, leather jackets have always kind of gone hand-in-hand with punk rock. Even amongst the vegetarians. Did we justify wearing them because we bought them second hand? I don't know. But I do know that it's time to let them go and I never want to wear any of them again. Now, do I sell them, give them away, take them to a charity shop or bin them?
Day 4: Thursday 2nd September
Shall I bore you with my breakfast routine again? No, I didn't think so. I thought about trying something else just for the sake of this experiment, but I'm a creature of habit and if something ain't broke, then I'm not gonna fix it. And yes. My coffee still sucked too.
I finally plucked up the courage to check the ingredients on my favourite frozen meat substitute. Morrisons do their own brand of 'chicken style pieces' and they are just plain awesome. Trust me, I've tried them all and they are the best. My favourite meal to cook when I'm at home is the Morrisons pieces (marinaded overnight in Paul Newmans barbecue sauce) fried in a wok and then served on a bed of Rocket salad with vine tomatoes and feta cheese. Well, my worst fears came true. Obviously the feta cheese had to go but unfortunately, the Paul Newmans BBQ sauce contains honey and the Morrisons pieces contain egg white powder. I am GUTTED! Down, but not out, I decide to try out something using the Cheezly garlic and herb vegan cheese I found in Holland and Barrett. I throw a couple of baking potatoes in the oven and hunt around for something else to add to them. Whilst checking through my cupboard of tinned stuff, I notice that the tin of baked beans and vegetarian sausages contain egg white powder too. I'm really baffled by this. If these companies are going to go to the trouble of making food especially for vegetarians, surely they can also make it vegan friendly too, right? I don't understand how the Linda McCartney country pies can be suitable for vegans, but the sausages and burgers cannot. Seriously, it's just insane to me. I manage to find a tin of Heinz smokey barbecue beans that seem to be milk and egg free, so I butter the spuds with Pure spread, grate some Cheezly cheese onto them and then add the beans. It's ok. The cheese is pretty tasty in all honesty and I'm definitely going to try the other flavours they make. I'm hoping that they do a feta substitute. Another observation is that the cheese doesn't seem to melt all that well. That might make homemade vegan pizzas a little challenging, but it's early days, so we shall see...
After walking off that heavy meal by taking Gwen around the local lake, I almost forgot that I was supposed to be driving to Skegness to pick up Gemma and Melody. They've had a few days away in a caravan on the coast with a couple of friends and their kids. It's a three hour drive, so I figure that a packed lunch of some description is in order. I use the rest of the garlic and cheese and make a few sandwiches with tomato, lettuce and a few squirts of Marmite. Yes, I said 'squirts'. The plastic squeezy version of Marmite in a jar is one of the greatest inventions of the last decade. I even carry one in the door of my tour-van at all times as it can brighten up even the dullest of sandwiches from a roadside services!
All is well in Skegness and it's fantastic to see Melody again. I really miss her when I'm away for a few days at a time and longer tours are sometimes torture for me when things maybe aren't going so well and my mind wanders to thoughts of her. She's almost three now and she's really starting to develop an awesome little character. She may be a handful sometimes, but I'm proud to say that she's a little rebel just like her Daddy! So, the car is packed with three adults, three kids and a load of luggage. And it's getting dark. I'd rather not have to report this next story, but this is my week long diary and I have to include everything. The roads back to South Yorkshire are pitch black, winding country type roads and there's wildlife everywhere. Unfortunately, about 30 miles from home, a badger races out in front of my car and although I brake as quickly (and as safely) as I can, it runs into the front drivers side bumper/wheel area. I check my mirrors to see if I can see anything behind me, but it's total darkness. I pull over as soon as I'm safely able to, make a U-turn and head back up to the scene of the accident. My heart is pounding and I feel sick. Gemma's quite upset too. Thankfully, all the kids are asleep. We try to find the exact spot where it happened, but we can't see anything on the road anywhere. That's a good sign I guess and I try to convince myself that the poor thing ran off and is somehow ok, but I can't shake the feeling that it didn't end well. The rest of the drive home is pretty quiet and I'm a bit shaken and feeling altogether pretty sick about the whole thing. I drive an insane amount of miles every year and have done for well over a decade now. As far as I'm aware, I've never hit a bird, a rabbit or anything larger than a big fly, so it's a pretty awful 'first' for me. I suppose I have to just be content with the knowledge that I did all I could do to avoid the collision and also tried to do the right thing by going back to look for him. It doesn't make me feel any better about it though...
Day 5: Friday 3rd September
So far, it's been fairly plain sailing for the vegan experiment, but all that is about to change today. Cooking at home is one thing, but taking my veganism out 'on the road' is going to be a whole new ballgame. You see, if I'm not out and about with my own band, I'm usually either driving or tour managing other bands. That's what I do for a living. And I'm just about to take a metal band from Derbyshire called NG26 on the road for three days. After my usual porridge/fruit combo, I decide to give up on my crappy coffee until I can find some different soya milk. I have a pint of tea instead and unfortunately, it ends up tasting even worse than my coffee. Please, will somebody help me out here? I desperately need tips for making vegan tea and coffee.
After spending some quality time with Melody in the park, it's time to head to a little place called Heanor in the East Midlands to pick the band up. The first gig is in Hull, but thanks to a bad accident on the M18, a two and a half hour journey ended up taking five. Needless to say that by the time we got to the venue, I was famished. Once we'd loaded in, I made my way to a local Tesco store that we'd passed on the way. I assumed that I'd have plenty of options to choose from, but it was 9pm and their stocks were running low. I went around the entire shop at least three times looking for something vegan. There were no sandwiches, nothing instant to eat and the bananas were green and unripe. Sadly, I only managed to find some crisps, a plain flapjack and a little tub of fresh pineapple. I even accidently bought a tub of cheese and tomato pasta. What was I thinking? I think that I must have looked at the ingredients and thought that I had the all clear. Completely oblivious to the fact that it was CHEESE and tomato pasta. Habit I guess. I of course considered cheating for a split second, but my conscience wouldn't allow me to, so I sold it to the guitarist of the band for a profit of 30p instead!
After the gig, we had the pleasure of crashing at the venue for the night. I mistakenly thought that they'd have guest bedrooms above the club, but no, we were shown to the store room which smelled of glue and had bars on the windows. Hey, it could've been worse. After all, I was in the Dangerfields for four years up until recently and we stopped in some horrendous places over the years. I cleared the tools, poker tables and beer mats to one side and made myself comfortable on the floor for the night. It wasn't all that bad to be fair. If it was, I would have slept in the bunk of my van instead. At least it was warm. But damn, was I hungry!
Day 6: Saturday 4th September
After an adequate nights kip in the cupboard, I cleaned my teeth in the Ladies toilets and had one thing on my mind: Breakfast! The rest of the guys had a full English breakfast at the Wetherspoons pub next door to the venue, but I decided to head back to Tescos and see what the morning deliveries had to offer. To my dismay, there was nothing new on offer. In fact, there was even less than the day before. Luckily for me, the bananas had now turned yellow, so I grabbed four of them, a bottle of water and a packet of pumpkin seeds. I went back to sit with the other fellas and was VERY jealous of their fry-ups. Not of their bacon and sausages of course, but just looking at the vegetarian versions I could have had... Egg, beans, tomatoes, hash browns, mushrooms, toast... Instead, I sat there eating my seeds, feeling quite dejected. There was one thing that I had to look forward to though. On tour, my morning ritual is to find the nearest Costa coffee and order a large gingerbread latte. And to double the excitement, I was going to try one with soya milk for the first time. (I'd already done my homework, I knew they had soya milk on offer). Well, I don't know what the hell I'm doing wrong at home, but their gingerbread latte was as awesome as they've always been. I watched them put the Alpro soya milk in and it tasted just as good as the hundred I'd had before with cows milk. Result! So with my crappy breakfast behind me and a quality coffee in hand, we hit the road once again and start heading to Newcastle for the next show.
The North East is where I was born and bred, so with plenty of time to kill before the gig, I decide to take the lads to one of my old haunts. The beach in South Shields. It's a beautiful day at the seaside and I have a million memories flooding back to me as we walk through the skatepark, onto the beach and have a paddle in the sea looking like a bunch of heavy metal/punk rock Englishman abroad. All that sea air must've made us hungry though as the general consensus was to swing by (yet another) Tesco on the way to the venue in Newcastle. I find the nearest big store on my iPhone (yet another handy app!) and convince myself that I'll find something nice to eat other than fresh fruit. Well, unfortunately not. I don't know if I'm missing out on something obvious here or what, but yet again, all I could find were those little tubs of fresh fruit salads. I love them, I really do, but my body was starting to crave something different. I had melon, pineapple and mango slices which were fine, but just not enough for a big lad like me. Unsatisfied once again, I kept my fingers crossed for a decent selection on the rider of food courtesy of the promoter... I hadn't been to Legends since the Misfits tour of 2007 rolled into town. It's a fine establishment. Thankfully, the rider tonight was chosen from a Greek menu and I had the option of pitta bread and houmous. Not the most exciting dish in the world, but better than yet more fruit anyway! I'd had a migraine for the whole day and it was only getting worse, so I went for a lie down in my bunk until the lads hit the stage. It was a pretty good gig, but I felt really ropey. It may just have been a coincidence, but I'm sure that my recent diet might have at least been a contributing factor. Thankfully, it was an early show to make way for the venue's club night, so amazingly, we were all loaded up and back at the promoters house by midnight. A rare treat!
Day 7: Sunday 5th September
The promoter had laid on a big meaty breakfast for our crew, but had also remembered my vegan-ness. Very sweet of her. I had peanut butter and sliced banana on toast. Pretty damn good! I've never been a big peanut butter fan, but needs must and I was pleasantly surprised. I had to wash it down with a black coffee, but an hour or so down the motorway and heading back to Heanor to drop the NG26 boys home, I of course stopped at a Costa Coffee and ordered the traditional large gingerbread latte with soya milk. I had plenty of food for thought to occupy my thoughts on the long drive southward and in all honesty, I wasn't feeling all that positive towards being able to maintain this strict diet. Not within the realms of my current personal lifestyle anyway. I definitely think that I can live without dairy milk. Cheese and eggs? Very probably. But with two more longer tours fast approaching, I'm pretty much at a loss as to how I'm going to stay healthy and happy on the road.
Upon my arrival at home, Gemma had cooked a fantastic vegan meal for me from scratch. Courgette, sweetcorn, tomatoes and that tinned oriental mock duck stuff with rice. She'd also made garlic bread ciabattas using my pure soya spread. I was incredibly grateful for a home-cooked hot meal and it was gone in minutes. I spent lots of quality time with Melody and by the time I'd got her bathed, in bed and read her a story, I was hungry again. I searched high and low for something quick, easy and vegan and could only find one thing in our cupboards. A tin of Del Monte fruit cocktail. Honestly ladies and gentlemen, I couldn't make this stuff up. Of course though, I ate it. Ugh.
Day 8: Monday 6th September/FINAL THOUGHTS
Well, after dropping off Melody at her nursery and Gemma at college and without even thinking, I set to work on my porridge using soya milk. Running low on fruit supplies, I opted for the blueberry/apple/banana combo washed down with (you've guessed it) two pints of disgusting coffee! It's interesting to note that even in my early morning 'auto pilot mode' I didn't choose to use cows milk in at the very least my coffee. I think that speaks volumes no?! After breakfast, I headed off to my weekly counselling session at the Nottingham rehab centre and discovered that I was two hours early, so I decided to head into the city centre for a mooch around. I stumbled across a shop called the Natural Food Company. (It's on Mansfield Road just up from the entrance to the Victoria Centre). What a treasure trove it is. Not only did I at long last find vanilla flavoured Alpro soya milk, but I picked up a bottle of vegan worcester sauce, a tub of vegan cheese powder for cooking and another pack of Cheezly cheese, this time with bacon bits in it. Whilst I was paying for my goodies, I noticed that they had about 20 different wraps, pasties and rolls. ALL VEGAN! Smoked tofu, chargrilled vegetables, Mexican burritos, you name it. And they were all hand made. Rest assured, that I'll be paying a visit there each time I'm back in Nottingham. I then headed over to Holland and Barrett to get more Redwoods bacon rashers. And as I should have done last week, I bought a jar of egg free garlic mayonnaise.
As you can see, before I'd even made my decision as to whether I was going to continue being a vegan or go back to being 'simply' a vegetarian, I seemed to have already subconsciously made a choice to at least try and continue. I think that going into this experiment, the worst case scenario in my mind was at the very least to stop drinking dairy milk. I figured that anything else would be a bonus. As it turns out, it looks as though I'm going to give it a serious go at making a vegan diet work for me. It's going to take a lot more research and it's going to be a constant learning curve for me, but if I can get through my next couple of tours eating a healthy and balanced vegan diet, then I'll be home free.
NB. Whilst editing this article, my Animal Free Shopper book arrived and I can't recommend it enough. My vegan guitar strap from Couch arrived too. It's easily the best strap I've ever owned. It was hand-made in downtown LA from recycled vehicle seat-belts and as an extra bonus, it goes even lower than normal guitar straps!
I hope you've enjoyed reading about this experiment as much as I have documenting it. If anyone has any tips, words of wisdom or advice, PLEASE email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on www.facebook.com/jamiedelerict