My soy latte was not so bad, a little dryer than usual but with enough of a hint of fatty creaminess for it to become a welcome staple in the month to come.Confidence returning, I bought a packet of mixed, dried pulses from another health shop and, that evening, soaked them and made myself some bean burgers with a side salad.A more exciting fridge full prompted better cooking and I made hot tofu salad, succulent spiced stir fries and antipasti to be eaten with ciabbata.I also got into fake bacon (should that be 'fakon'?Less successful was the ready-made quinoa and pear pudding - like licking a rather slimy carpet - and the Cheezly, a pale, puck-shaped, vacuumpacked 'un'cheese that sat in the fridge uneaten.The alternative, Soya Slices - cheddarstyle square rubbery fellows - met with general disapproval except from my baby, who enjoyed waving them.The tumbling disappointment of denial lasted a week, accompanied by a searing detox headache as regular levels of meat, chicken, dairy, saturated fats and excess salt stopped being topped up and my stomach got used to feeling hungrier.
One surprising thing I discovered on this first day was that Starbucks would make any coffee with a soymilk alternative, so the arms of the corporate chains had not completely cast me adrift.Opposite was a bookshop which had a vegan section but, incredibly, had 'just had a rush on vegan cookbooks'.I bought a couple of the remaining books and noted that they shared shelf space with literature on nudist beaches.Vegan food often does itself no favours with naming.I found a Tofurkey in the freezer and a strange yogurt alternative called Soyage, which conjures up several images, none of which verge on palatable.The shelves heaved with all the things I would normally eschew - lentils, grains and beans - and had that dreary pall which is endemic to health shops."I'm a vegan," I said pathetically as if announcing botulism, but they kindly sold me a small bolus of cooked grains and pulses that was incredibly dense and dry, like reconstituted sawdust, and a vegetable samosa, which was delicious.The taste was very pleasant - admittedly by now I could have eaten a horse - but it gradually became apparent that I hadn't quite followed the instructions carefully enough, as the beans were undersoaked; by bedtime I was bloating badly and spent a very sleepless night swearing that if God had meant for burgers to be made of bean he would not have invented the cow. I would open the fridge to find nothing worth picking at, nothing to give you that little lift.There is little of sweetness open to the strict vegan; while maple syrup seems to pass the grade, some vegans believe refined sugar is still filtered through the bone-ash of dead cattle to make it white, and even honey (a by-product of 'farmed' bees) is out. Their production involves finishing and clarifying; to do this they use 'fining' agents, commonly made of fish bladder or egg albumen.) sandes which, once you overcome their arity to insoles, and provided they're eaten piping from the grill, are actually very edible.What they offer and some vegans seem to sniff at is fat, that deeply tasty glutinous substance that is so conspicuously absent from vegetables and grains.Soya has been of some concern recently due to its phytoestrogens (aka feminising plant qualities) but frankly I was too hungry to care.I brought enough bell peppers butternut sqaush, rocket and beetroot, fennel and red peppers and enough sprouting stuff to leave a carnivore begging for mercy.Sandwiches which could have been vegan had been sabotaged with butter or lashings of mayonnaise.