Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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This is Day 28 of Veganuary, a 30-day pledge to eat vegan to save the planet. Today, I’m trialing Marks & Spencer’s ready lunches and cooking French savory buckwheat crepes, also known as galettes, with vegan fillings.
After a restful night at the YHA Castleton Losehill Hall, my girls and I get down for breakfast in the dining area.
The previous day had been such a pleasant surprise that I knew what to do: 2 tomatoes, 1 Linda McCartney sausage (still dry – are they always this dry?), 2 hash browns (yummy) and toast. I over-indulge by adding a bowl of corn flakes with a banana. Plentiful times!
After that, it is time to get back to London, to wait for a bus, hop on a bus, wait for a train, hop on a train, wait for another bus, hop on another bus, wait for a train, hop on another train, and then the tube. Door to door, that’s six hours of public transport to cover 177 miles, so on average, a speed of 29.5 mph, almost 30 mph. It feels very quaint. That was the car speed limit in 1934.
I’ll never understand why Sundays have to be the worst days to catch a train ride in the UK. Just when you think that you deserve a break and a nice day out, the rail system takes a day off too. Go figure. Can’t wait for smart trains that don’t need their Sundays and do railway maintenance at night.
Eating on a bus makes for the most glamour experience of Veganuary thus far.
For a quick meal that’s reasonably healthy and always reliable, I head to the train station’s Marks & Spencer’s and start scanning the sandwich selection. My usual pick would be BLT or Coronation chicken but these are extraordinary vegan times. Sadly, someone in M&S’s product development department is convinced that all vegans love spicy food. I check all the sandwiches and all the wraps with a vegan label in the refrigerated section. Not a single one comes without heat. When it’s not chipotle or chili, it’s harissa. M&S, have pity on us, poor souls, who don’t want to eat spicy food.
Salad bowls? I settle on a Mexican corn/avocado rice bowl that has a chili sauce but I decide to eat it without seasoning. Yay.
The only interesting item of that lunch on the highway is a couple of coconut energy balls from Laura’s Idea, a sweet treat that I bought at WholeFoods on Day 26. Browsing through their website, I realize that it’s probably the first vegan food company whose sweet selection makes me hungry. I’ll have to remember their name.
Fortunately, dinner reconciles me with vegan food. As much as the pseudo-Mexican bowl was forgettable, this dinner is one for future reference. Remember how February 2 is Groundhog Day and French people celebrate with crepes? I had managed to make sweet vegan pancakes for breakfast on Day 26 and they were delicious, but something was missing.
Buckwheat savory crêpes! No self-respecting French person would celebrate La Chandeleur without savory buckwheat crêpes called galettes. I use the Minimalist Baker’s recipe but find that the dough is too thick, so I water it down. Twice. After doubling the proportions, I make six large galettes, anticipating that my girls and I will each eat two.
As far as vegan fillings, I get my inspiration from this French website recommended by swimming friend Marie-Pierre, and prep:
I decide to eat the first galette with fake cheese and mushrooms, the second with fake cheese and spinach. Come to think of it, this fake cheese has a strange texture, once melted. Gah, I knew it was too good to be true. It tasted OK cold, though, and it had a nice orange color.
As for my girls, they don’t trust fake vegan cheese (for good reason) and look at my creamed spinach with suspicion. Where’s the spirit? The mushroom filling is the only one that really meets their seal of approval, but I can sense that it’s not a real Chandeleur for them. They’re used to eating la complète, a cheese + egg + ham galette, washed down with very low- or no-alcohol apple cider. Tonight, it’s a very subdued Chandeleur. No eggs. No ham. No cheese (worthy of that name). No apple cider.
It’s healthy, though. Do they care?