Being a vegan is becoming easier than ever before, and more and more people are turning to this healthy way of life. Lucy Macieira tells her story about becoming a vegan and her favourite vegan restaurants in Camden Town.
This year, it’ll be 14 years since I’ve been waving the vegan flag, the plant-based diet that has been growing much attraction over recent years. I have encountered much resistance in my vegan-lifetime from strangers, friends, and sometimes family as to why I have to be ‘so different’, ‘so difficult’, to which I would always reply ‘the world should stop being so difficult then, and re-evaluate the need for cruelty-free foods’. This conversation would happen again, and again, and again.
But my attachment to a plant-based living draws back further than that, I turned vegetarian at the impressionable age of 7, thanks to a collaboration between three of my biggest sources of vegan inspiration, Linda McCartney, Paul McCartney and Matt Groening. What changed it all for me was Season 7, Episode 5 of The Simpsons, the episode where Lisa Simpson befriended a lamb. After befriending a lamb, Lisa’s mother fed her a dinner of lamb chops that night, and a striking visualisation happened, one I had never paid attention to before, Lisa saw the lamb chops merge into the image of her little lamb friend, life was never the same again.
Days of pondering that cartoon lamb, and then my eldest brother Alex came home from school some days later to tell me he had a visitor that day, a man who was to give a talk on factory farming, and this was it for me. Just as little Lisa Simpson refused her lamb chops, I refused my sausages that night, when i asked my mother, ‘Mum, is this a pig, the same kind as the little pink ones’, she honestly replied, ‘Yes, it is. Just eat your mashed potatoes if you don’t want to eat the pig’, and a living animal never crossed my lips again.
It was hard to explain to others, but this diet needed no justification, it was what came natural to me, sometimes I would sit and think about the animals I’d eaten before I had discovered the ‘truth’ and I would sit and cry. I even wrote a letter to God about why the world should be vegetarian at the age of 8 and read it out in a school assembly, I didn’t leave a dry eye in the house of the school faculty. Fast forward to 14 year old me, and dawn the age of the internet, all the knowledge I could want at my fingertips, maybe too much in some cases, and I soon discovered and actively followed PETA UK and Viva, two established, but very different animal rights lobbying organisations.
At the age of 18, I even decided to volunteer at the PETA UK offices, this concluded in a direct-action act, which is the same reason I am no longer allowed in any Burberry store, globally. But with the modern-age of plant based living, it is easier than ever to understand why this diet isn’t just ethically sound, it’s great the body, pro-athletes are turning vegan, it drastically reduces world pollution, and encourages us to be creative with food, which i think is a gift, and a blessing.
13 years of being vegan, and 13 years of not looking back. At first, making the transition from vegetarian to vegan at the age of 18, felt like the hardest thing to do, there were not many vegan products on the market back then, I lived on flapjacks and chips. I was what you would have called a ‘junk food vegan’ (and still am at heart). This went on for some years, as I exited adolescent and entered the era of being a young adult, i began to educate myself world-cuisine, learning to cook Indian, Thai, Malaysian, to make food more interesting, my palette had opened, and was exploding with vegetable goodness. I would even attend vegan-punk charity concerts, and make vegan pizza and cookies for the bands, it was a sense of community I had never felt, there wasn’t many of us then.
Veganism fundamentally made me feel better because i knew that at the foreground of every consumerist decision i ever made, i would take into account the moral and ethical impact of that product, of how my hard-earned money was spent, this made me an ethical consumer, and other time changed my relationship to capitalism and the immediacy of the culture we live in. But veganism now has a counter culture to this, with supermarket giants, fast-food chain restaurants, and your local street-food fair now seeing profit in plant-based products, many of the population can now enjoy the pleasures of indulging in a ‘guilt-free’ meal at the click of a Uber Eats app button. Being ethical has never been so fabulous, or delicious.
Being a vegan, and taking a leap of faith into this diet is easier now than ever, blogs, cookery books, classes, health food stores, conscious supermarkets and the internet have all made a transition to this diet the easiest it has ever been. I have outlined a list of my recommended go-to’s at the bottom of this article, to help you along your way, if you’re considering taking the same leap I did 13 years ago.
Changing your lifestyle in this way, you start to appreciate things you never knew you could, like the good taste and simplicity of some well simmered chickpeas, or the joys of making a curry paste from scratch. Some of my favourite foods have become the simplest, like tofu stir fries with seasonal vegetables, a lentil dhal, courgette pasta. Some of the new mock-meat alternatives are also incredible now! I love ‘This Isn’t Chicken’ pieces, and ‘Tofurky sausages’, they make for some delicious treats, if ever you are missing the meaty flavour.
Also, being vegan in London 2020 means eating out has never been easier, being a Camden resident myself, I highly recommend some of the incredible eateries north of the river (some deliver too!). My top 5 are:
Purezza – Pizza restaurant with sourdough pizzas and the best vegan cheese one could hope for, even my pescy Italian boyfriend says he does not miss the taste of the real thing at all with these! The homemade pesto and mac n’ cheese is also a must.
Temple Of Camden – if you like burgers, look no further. This is the big brother to Temple of Seitan in Hackney, big (and i mean BIG) seitan burgers filled with all the trimmings.
Young Vegans – make the best damn vegan pies, if you like a traditional pie. They also make the only vegan pastel de nata’s in all of London, so really worth the trip.
What The Pitta – this place offers the best vegan doner kebabs in London, and have just launched a falafel wrap that matches for deliciousness.
Loving Hut – Asian-accented food, with a menu of nearly 100 items, and the best vegan satay sticks I’ve ever tried! They also open at lunchtimes for a buffet, all you can eat for less than £10, delicious.
My final thoughts for anyone considering this diet, and considering making a transition to more of a plant-based living is, it is a very simple, easy and effective way to make a positive imprint on the world, quickly and relatively effortlessly. There are so many resources out there, from vegan pledges to free vegan recipe PDFs, the support and network is growing, and I genuinely feel the more it grows, the more the world will never look back. Below you can find some of my favourite go-to blogs and websites for more literature, recipe ideas, and eating out ideas, and remember, your body, your world and your impact, as Ghandi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated”.
Eating Out: https://www.happycow.net/
Junk Food Fans: https://fatgayvegan.com/
Vegan athletes: https://gamechangersmovie.com/
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