It's okay to be a vegan

21:07, Nov 07 2012

One of the nice things to come out of the Boomshack Band playing at the Hobbit wrap party this year was that I met some interesting people from outside my regular Cuba Street/Petone/music-world circles. One of them was Ruby Higgins, a lot of people's favourite from series one of New Zealand's Next Top Model.

I started watching it when my friend Duncan Greive started writing about it on his blog - each week, he would review the girls' performances and grade them accordingly. Ruby always came across as different from the others - a bit of a spark, lively, smart and personable. You sort of had to watch the show in order to read it - kind of a value-added situation...

So, it turned out she was a friend of a friend - my ratbag chum Matt Benton, who plays saxophone in the Boomshack. He told me that she was actually vegan, and, to boot, an excellent cook who really cared about and loved food. He suggested I ask her some questions about what she eats, and why, and how, and where.

Having just learnt that November is World Vegan Month, I did just that - and this is what she came back with:

"I had no idea it was even vegan month! What does that even mean? I hope we all get a prize of some sort...or a pat on the back...

"I do know a couple of things for sure...


1) People love to hate vegans. Heck. Even I hate them sometimes - I guess there are certain types of vegans who have ruined it for all of us! Stop being so fussy! Why do you lecture everyone on the benefits of eating legumes three times a week?!  

2) People hate people talking about vegans.

"I have been vegan for almost two years now (my veganversary is December 13, 2010) and it has been pretty good to me. Pre-veganism I was vegetarian, but that only lasted two months - it was OK but not that great. So I reverted to my meat-eating ways for about a year until one weekend I just decided it was time to change. I didn't tell anyone about it -no Facebook declarations, no group texts and no family meetings - I wanted to keep it private just in case things didn't pan out. I told my boyfriend and my flatmates and left it at that.

"I'd say I chose a pretty bad time to try to go vegan - only a week and a half before Christmas. What was I going to do for Christmas dinner? Turkey wasn't an option and roast pork with crackling definitely wasn't an option. Let's just say it was a pretty sh***y Christmas dinner that year.

"Anyway that's beside the point of WHY I went vegan. There's not really much to the story, I basically just felt really miserable when I was in the supermarket (buying mince - GROSS!) I thought, 'this is s**t'. And that was it, really. I guess I just wanted a change. I wasn't feeling that great at the time - not sleeping that well, lack of energy, brittle nails etc. That's not to say it had anything to do with my diet, but I did notice I slept better when I went vegan (probably because of the lack of calories and nutrient intake making me tired-er or something, ha ha! Who knows?!).

"Aside from all that, I, like, totally love animals and want World Peace and all that. I really don't like the idea of slaughterhouses. I've kind of got this idea that when I can kill an animal myself, I can start eating meat again. I'm all about hunter-gatherer - I think I've watched way too much River Cottage.

"But in all seriousness, it was one of the reasons I stopped eating meat - I felt a bit disconnected from my food (my god that sounds stupid!). I'm also in the predicament of travelling next year - I know it can be done vegan but do I really want to miss out on that whole cultural side of it? I don't know if I could do it - in fact I'm pretty sure I couldn't!

There are endless eateries in Wellington that cater for vegans. My regulars are:

Maranui - amazing salads, tofu scramble, big breakfasts.

Deluxe - vegan sandwiches and rolls, sushi and treats.

Midnight Espresso - pretty much everything.

Monterey - BBQ tofu burger!

Scopa - they can pretty much do anything!

"I guess I eat out a lot but I also cook a lot and I also eat a lot in general. I love food! Typical weekly meals include: lentils in some form - generally a curry/dahl type dish with some veges or rice, black beans and rice sort of Mexican vibe with quark and veges or tortillas, soba noodles and tofu with veges - you can buy edamame from Thorndon New World (YUM!), tempeh burgers - those are sort of dinner lunch/meals. Breakfast is either a banana, toast, cereal, porridge, quinoa, smoothie, fruit salad and so on - nothing that ground-breaking, really.

"My mum is a pretty amazing cook and I've been 'helping' my parents in the kitchen since I was four or five, so that's where my love of food comes from. I also grew up going to a Steiner School and our canteen sold things like spicy lentil pies, samosas, and vegetarian pies. It was run by this husband and wife who had kids at the school, it was one of the best things about the school.

"I like to bake. I treat myself a lot! Chocolate fudge brownie, baked 'cheesecakes', cupcakes, carrot cake, Belgian biscuits, lemon coconut cake. All things I've 'invented' or borrowed ideas/techniques for from cookbooks and websites. The best thing about these treats is that there isn't any egg replacer or fake butter or any of that stuff in them... okay, maybe a bit of Olivani to make butter cream icing - but that's it! 

"I should also point out that I hate the following: Tofurky, Tofeta, Vegan sausages, Facon (Fake Bacon) and so on. You can even get fake chicken breasts! SO wrong!

"I have had one experience with vego sausages and it was pretty horrid: it was like soft cardboard that tasted mildly of herbs encased in chewy plastic wrap. Although if I was going to choose one thing to 'veganise' it would have to be the sausage - there are so many possibilities!

"PS: I already know what my first meal would be if I was to stop being vegan. It would be smoked trout..."


So there you go - no preaching, just a whole lot of ideas as to how and why to choose a different sort of diet. I am impressed by how well conceptualised and rationalised and realistic Ruby's veganism is, and I applaud her commitment to still eating well, and I thank her for sharing her ideas - turns out I chose well for my NZNTM fave.

You can read more about Ruby's food ideas/recipes at her excellent blog site, here.

World Vegan Month - what do you reckon? Time to give dairy-free a try? Who was your favourite NZNTM?!

Photos are from Ruby's blog site, Meow Momma

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