Some people decide to keep a record of what they eat throughout their lives – food diaries to document their three meals of the day and every snack in between. I’ve never been a self-confessed diarist in this respect – and until now I’ve never really written about my dietary habits. But I feel like I’ve undergone a journey in the past year and ¾, so decided to share that through this article.
Let us start off in September 2019 – I’d recently turned 21 and just moved into a house for my third year of University. Living with a vegan, I fancied cooking up a curry for us both one night. In comes the wonderfully versatile ingredient that is tofu – a texture somewhere between spongy and rubbery and essentially flavourless unless you marinade it. I come from a household where curries are a favourite dish of the week, and chicken often features as the main ingredient. Here was a substitute that could form just as a good a part as any meat in a curry. And so, on this evening where I was cooking for us both, my veggie journey began. I made mine from scratch, but click here to check out a good tofu curry recipe on BBC Good Food, where you can also substitute the butternut squash with diced pumpkin. A perfect hearty meal for any time of year, but my personal favourite in the chillier autumn months!
While I had not been converted to a full vegetarian at this point, like many people I had begun to start small, trying new vegetarian recipes a few times a week in the kitchen, and often experimenting with new ingredients. Then, around the end of 2019, I thought to myself – why do I want to become vegetarian? Of course, there’s a number of reasons, from dietary to ethical to environmental, and I didn’t want to be seen as following a ‘trend’. So, I set a New Year’s resolution to try out more veggie recipes – that was realistic and didn’t put too much pressure on myself to become entirely vegetarian. What helped me as I shopped was the increased availability of alternative foods at the supermarket, as well as working with familiar ingredients that I had grown up with and used before. One cookbook that I have lived by in my time at university, from first year through to my Master’s has been the NOSH For Students cookbook. Click here to buy the most recent copy, and the vegetarian edition available can be found here.
While I laugh to think about how I started my journey off, I feel like small steps were effective in their own way. My parents, both meat-eaters, were naturally concerned about me getting all the nutrients I needed, but as I’d survived at university fending for myself so far, I insisted I could manage. Before the pandemic, I started following a meat-free diet, then becoming pescatarian for six months. And you know what? It’s not that daunting, as I’ve learned not to let it define me and I’ll admit I’m not always strict about it. Flexibility really is key in easing your way into vegetarianism and one of the things I’ve loved about it is the amazing ingredients I’d never heard of before, like jackfruit and banana blossom, that will leave you amazed by their meat-like texture.
Another thing I’ve loved is the social aspect of it – sharing recipes and cooking along with Bangor Vegsoc this year has been a true highlight of my Monday evenings. For the record, they’re looking for a new committee for next year, so if you’re interested in joining give them a message on Facebook or Instagram @bangorveggievegan.
And finally, here is my list of recommendations of places to eat out in Bangor that offer delicious veggie food, as it’s important to support local!
Blue Sky Café (5/5)
This popular indie café is an all-rounder when it comes to food and drink. Located on the high street, you’ll need to keep an eye out for the signpost to find this hidden gem! Hearty and wholesome, each visit is filled with love and will leave you eager to come back for more.
Voltaire Vegan Restaurant (4/5)
Perfect for dining bistro-style, this vegan restaurant should have you sorted for your date night! A contender for those who like palter style food, check it out for innovative recipes and three course deals. And the great news is, they also do takeaway!
Viridian Restaurant (4/5)
If you fancy visiting another restaurant cafe with indie vibes, then this is well worth a visit. Although only dine in, expect a welcoming atmosphere and delicious food all for a decent price.
Trac5 (located near the entrance of Garth Pier) (4/5)
A recent addition to the pier, perfect for a coffee, ice cream or bite to eat on your daily stroll (They’re mainly open on weekends). The choice of dairy-free milk certainly made me a happy customer, but be careful- you may not be able to resist the Oreo tiffin, so grab it before it goes!
Unfortunately, the sad news has recently been announced as I write this that owner Dale Hibbert (former bassist of The Smiths) has decided to sell the veggie vegan café after being open for nearly three years. Although I’ve only been twice, this is great if you’re looking for a healthier option for your plant-based diet.