A gift certificate for a plant based cooking class makes a great father's day gift!

What a Full English Breakfast Taught Me About Plant Based Diet

1 April 2024

I travelled to England last week, visiting my son in the North and extended in-law family in the South. I had been looking forward to seeing relatives and friends, enjoying the sights and outdoor adventures…but not really the food. I just never really thought of the United Kingdom as a foodie destination. I admit I was wrong! Yes, there are a lot of pubs and the stereotypical (frequently fried and pork-related) British food is always available, but things have changed.

Well, maybe they have or maybe I've changed since I lived there; at the time, I was less mindful about food's impact on health and climate, and too busy raising two little boys and making most of our own meals at home to notice!

For starters (no pun intended), let's talk about breakfast…so many plant based options! Baked beans (the tomato sauce type, not the mostly sugar version we serve in the US) were served with every meal. Could breakfast beans be the reason that life expectancy in the UK is higher than that in the US?  Each day, beans provided protein, fiber and slow-release carbs to keep us satisfied and energized for our morning excursions.

Also included in any self-respecting English breakfast: roasted tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and some type of hash brown potato. You could opt for egg, bacon and sausage (with plant-based meats frequently on offer) - or not - but even if you selected a link of real pork sausage or a rasher of bacon, your plate would still be plant based. As I always say: Make half your plate [or more] vegetables! My prejudice against the stodgy English breakfast I had envisioned…converted by enlightened menus!

Meals in general were unexpectedly [to me] varied and veggie-centric. If you follow my instagram, you know I sought out a few vegan restaurants (thanks, Happy Cow app), which I enjoyed immensely. But most restaurants offered vegetarian* or vegan options. With only 4% of the population identifying as vegan, this might seem surprising.  But consider: at least a quarter of Britains say they are reducing their intake of meat and/or dairy. While most people are not plant based for every meal, many would want vegan options at some of their meals (flexitarian). Why hasn't this very practical concept caught on in the US yet?

I expected vegan options to be available at the local curry house, and an evening of Thai Street food offered plenty of plant based options, but I did not expect one pub's burger list to include two vegan options (I had the "chick-con" burger) and one vegetarian. In fact, my favorite vegan meal of the week was actually served in a historic British Pub: Maple Glazed Celeriac served with white bean purée, wild mushrooms, spinach and mushroom & hazelnut salsa (pictured here). I can't wait to try to re-enact this masterpiece in my own kitchen.

*In the UK, the vegetarian option is often cheese-based and/or contains egg/mayo (!), and the dairy & egg industries don't get a pass on animal cruelty, but, per a recent analysis in Canada, avoiding meat has a much greater net positive for health and the environment.

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