Interview with long time vegan Olive!

Hi All!

Sorry for the hiatus. I was feeling a little uninspired and had lost my blogging mojo but after a weekend away at the Vegan Campout I am back and ready to roll!

I celebrated my 5th Vegananniversary in May. I was really happy to have met this milestone and have really seen the vegan landscape change in he UK over the last 5 years. It really is easier than ever to become vegan with all the information available on Youtube and the documentaries on Netflix (I’m sure someone high up there has a vegan agenda!) and chain restaurants falling over themselves it seems to provide vegan options and menus.

I wanted to get a perspective from a long term vegan who didn’t have the tools we have today when they decided to go vegan so I asked if I could interview my “twitter friend” Olive. Olive lives in the North of England and provides recipes and restaurant reviews on her blog http://veganolive1.blogspot.co.uk/. Olive also loves a good cruise, so if you ever wondered how to go about planning your cruise when you are vegan she is the lady to answer your questions! She also contacts lots of companies to find out their vegan products and to challenge them to provide more vegan options. I know coffee shops are one of her bugbears and she will be on at the big players to provide lunch and snack options suitable for vegans. She also loves a good glass of wine so any restaurant or bar with a dedicated vegan wine list will get the thumbs up from her! She is on twitter and instagram as veganolive1.

What made you decide to first go vegan?

 I did not go vegan initially but vegetarian in 1986 after watching a TV documentary about BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) also known as Mad Cow Disease which originated due to dead animals being used to make cow feed, which horrified me as cows are vegetarian.   I stopped eating red meat initially which gradually led to omitting all flesh including fish from my diet.   I then read about the milk and egg industry, which made me feel guilty and sitting one day eating a boiled egg, dipping in my toast soldier, nearly gagged and had to throw it away.   I have been vegan ever since. I was the biggest meat eater you could imagine.   I cringe thinking about what I used to eat.  My family was into meat and fish, so big Sunday roasts, lots of chicken, steaks, salmon, offal, tripe, black pudding, cow heel, my mum cooked her own tongues and made brawn, which I find quite revolting now.

What sort of information did you have access to at the time?

There was not much information about to be honest, especially where I lived at the time in a rural area, apart from The Vegan Society, who I signed up for as a life long vegan at the time such was my commitment.   There was no internet or social media, like there is today and I did not know any other vegans.   I would look forward to every new edition of The Vegan Society magazine coming through my letterbox.   Anyone interested can find backdated editions of the magazine here https://issuu.com/vegan_society/docs/  .   I remember when the Vegan Society published The Animal Free Shopper, it became my bible, it was a mine of information, like ingredients to avoid when shopping, places to dine out or buy vegan products in the UK and it listed hundreds of products suitable for vegans, such as cosmetics, food and household products etc.    I purchased every edition and it went everywhere with me and I would refer to it all the time and take it with me travelling on holiday.   I remember going somewhere (can’t remember where) and finding a vegetarian place catering for vegans and I was ecstatic.

What did your family think?

I’m afraid my veganism did not go down well with my family, in fact they thought I had gone completely mad, it was a phase, I was attention seeking, and that it would not last and my mum in particular found it very difficult to accept my decision or to invite me round for something to eat.

I know this is a question we vegans get all the time, but what did you actually eat back then?

There weren’t the products like now obviously. This question has made me really think, trying to think back so far and makes me realise how far things have come. I used to make sandwiches with vegetable pates, either Granose or Tartex if I recall, which came in a tube and were great for travelling or peanut butter and Marmite, or just Marmite.  I liked Realeat burgers and sausages, and Goodlife nut cutlets and Cauldron tofu.  I also loved tinned ratatouille, which I would eat on baked potatoes or rice. I did however make a lot of things from scratch, like curries, chillies and pasta dishes using Vecon vegetable stock. I found a small co-operative near where I lived who purchased from Suma Wholefoods so I would stock up on things I could not buy locally. The margarine I used was Vitaquell or Suma and there was a frozen dessert called Vive, though it cannot be a particularly memorable product, as that is as much as I can remember.   I would refer back to The Animal Free Shopper to find out which bread, cakes and biscuits etc were vegan, that little book really was a life saver. I used to eat a lot of baked beans and other beans and a lot of soya which I think has led to my allergies in later life.

 Also until The Animal Free Shopper became available (can’t remember when the first edition was published) I would ring companies to ask about ingredients but also wrote loads of letters, as there was no email.   I remember writing to Andrew Whitley who started the Village Bakery in Melmerby to ask which of their breads were vegan, I used to eat a lot of their bread or make my own.

 I did of course eat masses of vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, as I still do today.

What were the first specially vegan produced products you tried and what did you think of them?

To be honest I actually did not like soya milk at first, or soya desserts, I had to persevere especially with the soya milk.

I also found vegan cheese (made by Plamil called Veeze) not to my taste, however I had never been a big cheese lover, so that is maybe why. 

In the early days of the Internet was there much of a vegan community online or has that only been since the onset of social media?

I was not aware of any online vegan community in the early days and my first interaction with other vegans was when I joined Twitter in 2014.   Even now I have no vegan family members, friends or acquaintances, only those online.

What is your reaction to the recent increase in vegan exposure and promotion? I think it’s changed massively in the five years I have been vegan so I can’t imagine what it would be like for you!

Overjoyed as the increase in both has been HUGE…veganism was slowly creeping along for years, we were still considered radical, but small things started happening, which are growing into what I believe will be a wrecking ball in the future. The birth of the internet opened the gates for people to access information and social media has been a real driving force, its where I find out so much information. Veganism is now accepted as a way of life, to be respected as one’s religious beliefs are and is accelerating fast. Who knows what will happen in the future.

and lastly, what advice would you give to anyone thinking of going vegan?

Today it is has never been easier, lots of resources to find out information, The Vegan Society, documentaries like Cowspiracy and Earthlings. Social media which has been a mine of information, even for myself, I have learned so much since joining Twitter.   Don’t think of the negatives, like how can I manage without cheese, there are lots of alternatives or worry about dining out, restaurants are changing at a fast pace as to vegan offerings. You may have issues within your family unit and in your social group, who may not understand your decision, I found this particularly difficult, but you have to do what you believe in. The world is changing regarding animal welfare, food production, environmental issues, climate change, a vegan lifestyle is the only way to alleviate and stop the cruelty of animals and destruction of our planet. You may be one person on your own, but you are part of a bigger movement, that will change the future.   As the recent documentary Carnage depicted, future generations will look back in horror at the meat eating generations before them.

 

A huge thanks to Olive to taking part in this interview!

Plumes x

 

Interview with long time vegan Olive!

Ruby and Pickles 1st Birthday

On Saturday I attended Ruby and Pickles 1st Birthday Supperclub with my Sister-in-law. I first attended one of their supperclubs last June which I wrote about here.

Ruby and Pickles have had supperclubs all over London, for their birthday celebration they had chosen to host at Blank 100 in Dalston which was great for us East London vegans!

We had a little trouble finding the industrial style unit and could have done with a board outside or a balloon! The space was gorgeous inside and there were a few benches to sit on. 

We started with a rajma masala (kidney beam curry) taco with pickled cabbage and cashew cream. This was mildly spiced and really tasty. Everything was homemade including the tacos themselves and the cream. This definitely added to the experience. I had read about this family recipe on Sareta’s blog and I’d definitely like to recreate this at home.

Our next dish was biryani another family recipe, this time from Jasel’s family. This was again nicely spiced for my mild palette. We had this with carrot and chilli pickle (which was too hot for me!) and a raita with pomegranate seeds. There was a vegetarian raita and a vegan raita but I’m not sure if any vegetarian would object to a vegan version and I would of thought it would have made sense to make just one.

For dessert we had chocolate and chilli truffles which were coated in crushed pistachios. This were very decadent and fudgey and little bit of heat at the end was nice. 


We were also lucky enough to receive a goody bag which included this cute ceramic and mango burfi. I couldn’t resist eating the burfi straight away and it delicious.

As always the hosts were very attentive, I couldn’t believe Jasel remembered that it had been my Mum’s birthday when we had been a year previously. 

I think this meal was great value for money at £12.50 and I look forward to seeing what Ruby and Pickles have in store for the future and recommend you try it out!

Plumes x

Ruby and Pickles 1st Birthday

April Round Up

How have I been feeling? 

My medication and herbs have really kicked in and this last week I’ve been able to up my running, so I’m running during the week now as well as weekends. At parkrun this weekend I was 15 seconds above my pb so I think I should be able to beat it this coming weekend.

Look at the effort in that tomato face!

What new foods have I been trying?

I went to Temple of Seitan at the beginning of the month which I reviewed here.

I ordered some wild garlic in my veg box and made a lovely risotto with it.

I bought my Mum 15 Minute Vegan and she’s made me a couple of delicious meals from it, butternut and sage macaroni and butterbean mash topped root veg pie.

For Easter my boss got me a Sainsburys white chocolate egg that went down very well!

I picked up a chocolate and coconut bar from Coco Di Mama which was rather tasty.

I went to Ask with my Mum to try out their new vegan menu which I reviewed here.

I tried the Suma beans and sausages which were really nice but a bit pricey so I think I’ll just chop up sausages into beans in future!

I bought the Quorn fishless fingers which are a new vegan addition. I had had the vegetarian version in years gone by and these were just as good. I made me own tartar sauce too!

I made some tempeh from scratch and I wrote about the process here.

I made this gorgeous banana bread from Sweet Simple Vegan.

I tried the new Cauldron vegan burgers but I wasn’t particularly impressed so I don’t think I’ll get them again.

I had one of my favourites smashed chickpeas but this time on purple potatoes that I bought from Ocado. They taste the same as white potatoes but have more antioxidants and look pretty!

What have I been enjoying?

This month has been much more low key than March. We went down to visit my cousin and his wife who is pregnant so this was our last visit as the four of us. We just hung out and played cards and board games and was all pretty chilled. Over Easter I spent a lot of time at church, attending Thursday, Friday and to the vigil on Saturday. We spent the following weekend at my in-laws and this past weekend was chilled at home, I did some sewing on my handmade dress at my Mum’s and did a couple of runs.

What am I looking forward to next month?

I am going to Ruby and Pickles supperclub on Saturday with my Sister-in-law and to a kilo vintage sale on Sunday. 

I’ve just booked to see the play The Philanthropist with a friend next week, I haven’t seen a play in a while so I’m really looking forward to it especially as it’s directed by Simon Callow.

I am taking part in Bubble Rush a 5k run at the Olympic Park in Stratford where there are foam bubble stations pumping out bubbles at various stages of the run. This is in aid of four hospices in East London including the hospice my Dad passed away at in December 2015.

How was your April? Let me know in the comments below.

Plumes x

April Round Up

Planet Organic Vegan Market

This week the organic supermarket Planet Organic held vegan markets at their various stores around London showcasing some of the products they sell with the opportunity to meet the product company owners and trying loads of samples!

I attended the market at Devonshire Square with my vegan pal Mitsu yesterday.

I have used clearspring products for a long time but I’ve never tried their soya mince/chunks. I’ve been reducing my processed soy consumption but for those once in a while times this looks like a good option as they use organic European soya beans.

I love the spiralina bounce balls and they’ve just had a revamp of their packaging. These are great as a snack or to have pre or post exercise.

This was a company I haven’t heard of, they make falafel and wraps which contain 5 different vegetables. The falafel a are baked and come with a dip.

These Be Mindfuel soups are high in protein and are the thickest powdered soups I’ve ever come across. I like to make my own soup so I don’t think I would use these but they are great to have in your cupboard or drawer at work.

I’ve tried cheese from Nutcrafter Creamery before but I was really excited to try their new alternative to Halloumi that I had seen on their instagram feed. It didn’t disappoint! All their cheeses are cashew based and they also have a cashew based “butter”.

I’ve seen these pastas made with beans in various location but it was mainly the price that put me off. We tried the soya beans spaghetti in a tomato sauce and it was really filling. You definitely would need to put a lot with this so it like having a complete meal which definitely makes it more attractive to me.

Coconut Collaborative make gorgeous yogurts, frozen yogurts and desserts. My Mum is a new convert to their little chocolate pots and they’ve just released some some little lemon pots which I’m really excited to try. 

Lastly we have Themptation with their hemp based houmous and pesto. These were really tasty and an easy way to get some hemp into your diet with all those omega 3’s.

It was really great to see Planet Organic promoting these vegan products and suppliers. It’s so nice to meet the people that make these products and get a real sense of their ethos and trying before you buy is always good!

Have you tried any of these products? What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.

Plumes x

Planet Organic Vegan Market

Fashion Revolution Week

On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history.

There were five garment factories in Rana Plaza all manufacturing clothing for big global brands. The victims were mostly young women.

From BBC –

This week has dubbed Fashion Revolution Week to challenge how we think about buying clothes and what impact the fashion industry has on people and the planet.

www.fashionrevolution.org has tons of information, advice and how to get involved with the movement. 

Fashion has changed so much in the last 20 years and fast fashion has now become the norm.

How many items have you bought in the last month? How much did you pay for them? Did you think about the people who made them or what materials they are made from?

Lauren Bravo makes a good point in this article about her own fashion diet, that we often spends lots of money on meals out, takeaways and coffees in a month but we have a set limit in our head about the price we’d pay for a single item of clothing and then spend more by buying multiple cheaper items.

For many years now I have tried to be more conscious of the ethics of the shops I buy clothes in and there are certain shops I won’t buy from because of practices I know about or simply by thinking if that item is that cheap to me the consumer how much is the person that made that garment earning. 

Since the beginning of 2016 I have been “No New Clothes” sourcing as much as I can second hand from charity shops, vintage shops and on eBay. Even though I am buying my clothes second hand I don’t try to buy a lot of clothes. This is not a habit I have had to change as I’ve never really been into retail therapy and tend to just buy something when I need it.

As a vegan I don’t wear clothes from fabrics made from animal products (fur, leather, wool, silk) some of which involve quite complex processing methods using chemicals which aren’t good for the workers or the planet. This means I wear either synthetic fabrics or plant based ones such as cotton and linen. This Fashion Revolution Week I’ve been thinking about the fabric I wear. As I only buy second hand does it matter that I wear synthetics? These products are already in existence and I am reusing them and preventing them from ending up in landfill. On the other hand (and I use this argument against wearing fur, real or faux) am I perpetuating the view that these fabrics are fine and we should be making use of them? I think it’s something I’m really going to consider when making future purchases.

When buying plant based you can also seek out organic options which means chemical pesticides haven’t been used on the plants and are healthier for the workers and the planet.

You can search the hashtags #whomademyclothes and #imadeyourclothes on social media to find more stories on this issue. 

Craftivist Collective have started a new campaign in support of Fashion Revolution, Mini Fashion Statements are thought provoking messages that you write on scrolls, tie with ribbons and pop into the pockets of clothes in shops for customers to find.

Bourgeois Boheme currently have a pop-up in The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane showcasing their line of shoes which are made from pinatex, a newly engineered fabric that replicates leather but is made from fibres from the leaves of pineapple plants.

From their instagram feed –

What do you think about your own shopping habits? Do you think you should make some changes or would you like to? Let me know in the comments below.

Plumes x

Fashion Revolution Week

How faux is your faux?

In recent weeks there have been reports of products being sold as faux fur are in fact the real deal (BBC NewsMetroTelegraph). Some of these products have been sold from retailers who have no fur policies such as Debenhams and House of Fraser. 

Part of the issue is that where the furry element makes up a small proportion of the item the materials do not have to be declared, such as a trim on a coat or the Pom Pom on a hat, so without very close monitoring of suppliers and producers retailers may be caught out. Of course this is completely the responsibility of the retailer and they need to have stringent controls in place to make sure they are selling products correctly so consumers have an informed choice.  

Producing fur in the UK was banned in 2003 and whereas in years gone by you could tell the authenticity of a fur product by the price tag this is no longer the case with China flooding the market with cheap fur far from “ethically” produced.

There have been calls to boycott certain stores like those above along with Misguided and Forever 21 for selling fur as faux. As I don’t buy new clothes this isn’t an issue for me as I’m already boycotting the whole High Street! (Minus the charity shops of course).

There have also been calls to boycott Harvey Nichols (not difficult as I’ve never bought anything from there!) as they have recently withdrawn their no fur policy (Peta). They claim they can now source “ethical fur”. I think it’s a real shame as it appears their 9 year policy was just a publicity stunt when it was trendy to be fur free but now there is a resurgence in fur they have dropped their ethical stance.

One area I do come across fur and other clothing containing animal materials is the good old vintage trade. Some would argue that vegans can use vintage products containing animal materials as these things are already in existence. I agree with this for products I already own as throwing them out would be a waste but I’d much someone who does wear leather/wool/silk or indeed fur get use out of these items rather than buying new. (I overheard a horrible conversation in a vintage shop once where they were discussing how many fox/mink were used to make various items. Heave!)

They are also arguments that if you do not believe in wearing fur you shouldn’t wear faux fur as this perpetuates the view that animal fur looks good on people. This is something I subscribe to. Whenever I see someone wearing something furry I’m always wondering whether it’s real or not and whether the person wearing it actually knows whether it is and cares either way. 

What are your views on the issue? Let me know in the comments below.

Plumes x

How faux is your faux?

Homemade Tempeh

This post is at the request of my twitter/instagram friend Liz!

Tempeh is a meat substitute originating in the far east made from fermented soya beans. Fermented foods are trendy at the moment and are helpful in improving digestion and gut health.

Photo from Wikipedia

Tempeh has a slightly nutty taste and can be marinated and used in a variety of dishes. A few weeks ago I made some tempeh bacon with shop bought tempeh.


Tempeh is made by soaking dried soya beans, cooking them, mixing them with a mould and then fermenting in a warm place for a couple of days.

This is the second time I have made my own tempeh. The first time I received a free sample from www.tempeh.info so I went back to them to buy my starter/mould this time.

This website has all the information about tempeh you need and step by step instructions on how to make it. 

I bought my dried soya beans from Tesco for £1.60 for 500g and I bought 25g of starter for about £12 (website is based in Germany so all prices there are in euros). 600g of dried beans and a teaspoon of starter makes 1kg of tempeh so it’s a lot cheaper than store bought.

They recommend you split and remove the skins of the beans which I found a bit time consuming so I wasn’t too conscientious about this.

After they were cooked I let the beans cool down then I mixed them with the starter and put them in a sealed sandwich bag and put a few holes in it. I put the bag in the cupboard next to my oven which was still warm from cooking dinner. The next day I went to my in-laws for the weekend with my fingers crossed. On my return today I was glad to see it had worked and my tempeh was done. I only made a small batch this time as I wasn’t sure how warm it would be in my absence and I didn’t want to ruin a big batch.

I’m interested to try out different versions which they have on the website and perfect my technique.

Have you tried tempeh? Did you like it? Would you consider making your own? Let me know in the comments below.

Plumes x

Homemade Tempeh