The meat free eater who set herself the task of cooking all the recipes in The Meat Free Monday Cookbook in a year has achieved her delicious aim.
Janaina Fernandes Favato started the challenge in December 2014 in her home city of São Paulo, Brazil, and completed it last month. While it was difficult, she says organising her life and meals around the cookbook – a present from her husband – “opened a new horizon in my life [and] there wasn’t a week that I completely disliked”.
As well as developing her culinary skills, she has become far more creative in the kitchen and receptive to flavour combinations she might otherwise not have encountered. She says working through the 312 meat free recipes one by one has been life-changing in terms of how she and her husband eat.
“Now we buy our groceries according to the season, all organic, and eat less dairy. We don’t need it in big quantities. It isn’t so healthy for you and your body can find the nutrients it provides in other foods,” she says. The challenge inspired thousands of people in their own bid to cut down on their meat intake and eat more healthily: 100,000 people made contact with Janaina on Facebook, almost 2,500 viewed the weekly posts on her blog and many others joined MFM as a result.
“We loved to discover dishes from all around the world, to make recipes that we weren’t used to,” she says of the challenge. “It was a learning experience, fun and delicious, but hard sometimes. I kept my purpose, though, and completed the challenge.” Her ten favourite recipes, she says, were so delicious “we still remember the flavours”.
According to season, they were: Fried Bananas with Pecans and Maple Syrup; Raspberry and Almond Traybake (spring); Mexican Bean Salad; Warm Halloumi, Apple and Radish Salad (summer); Roasted Butternut Squash and Marrow; Split Pea Dhal and Cauliflower Curry; Penne with Broccoli, Mascarpone and Dolcelatte; Sauteed Aubergines and Mozzarella; Carrot Cake (autumn); and Pappardelle with Cavalo Nero (winter).
The award-winning MFM Cookbook is divided according to the seasons and contains 312 recipes covering every Monday mealtime of the year: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Janaina served up her dishes on Sundays to friends and family, blogging about her efforts – successful and otherwise! – on Mondays.
Spring proved to be the best season, with plenty of fresh produce available and some delicious salads to complement the hot Brazilian days. Janaina, who bought her food from an organic street market, says cooking with so many vegetables was an education in itself, in terms of learning about food systems and how the world could be eating.
“You start to think about where vegetables come from, how difficult it was to bring the food to your table. It gives you a special feeling, eating so many vegetables, the combinations, the flavours … We felt more alive as well as more responsible.”
The purpose of the challenge was to inspire other people to work towards a future where less meat is eaten, she says, “where the animals, planet and people are respected and live in balance. I cooked 312 recipes but there are infinite possibilities – you just have to look at the world in a new way.”
“When you see how disciplined you become; how creatively you can cook; how much you open your mind to using different ingredients; the abundant offerings of nature, you realise you do not need as much meat as you think.”