The second interview of the new My Favourite Vegan series is the first vegan I ever met: Nicole, who has been vegan for around 10 years now! In fact, I’m pretty sure I never even heard the word “vegan” until I stumbled across her Livejournal back in ye olden days when LJ was still sexily Russian-spam-free and cool…
I always admired vegetarians, and intended to go veg as soon as I could figure out how, and Nicole went a looooong way to helping me figure that out! Although I never really did until I went vegan. There were too many ethical compromises as a vegetarian, whereas veganism was consistent, healthier, and actually turned out to be easier…
Nicole has been travelling for many years, and currently resides in Canada! A long way from ye olde home…
Okay let’s get this mofo on the road!!
How long have you been vegan?
Since February 2002! (And I went vegetarian before that in mid-1999.)
Who/what inspired you to go vegan? And stay vegan!
I went vegetarian because of a boy, and when he went vegan I eventually followed suit. I always cringe when I see people taking up veg*nism for such a shallow reason, or because it’s fashionable or what have you – but in my instance the initial snap decision because of emotion was more than made up for by finding a genuine interest in the cause, and reason to read further into it. The boy I turned veg for was also a huge part of my life, and still my best friend to this day – needless to say he’s an influence on me & the information he would filter my way about the reasons behind veg*nism were invaluable. As I read more and experience more and thought more about it all myself, then I felt it was the right thing to do. The last straw that made me snap and finally take the vegan plunge was getting home from a 12 day vacation in Mexico and basically having a cheese hangover from it all. I could take it no longer!
As far as staying vegan goes, it’s a pretty good self-perpetuating personal code for me – I will not compromise how I feel about it, it’s an important part of my WHOLE life, not just what I eat, and I make it work. It’s as easy as that, for me.
You work in museums where exhibits sometimes include animal and human artefacts. Does this conflict with being vegan?
As far as human remains go, most are extremely old – many collected in the colonial era – and there are often genuine attempts to repatriate them to their cultures. Those that are not are (hopefully!) displayed with respect so as not to belittle the fact this was once a person.
Animals is a difficult one. Again, MANY of the specimens in natural history museums are those that were collected in the early days of their existence, or are donations of animals found dead in the wild. (We had more of those at the Queensland Museum than you’d think!) Most of the departments of natural history museums I’ve had experience with don’t actively collect specimens these days, but one exception are entomologists. I remember work colleagues going out on collecting trips and feeling sad as they came back to preserve and pin things for their collections. It’s a hard compromise to see this going on, yet see the educational value of already-existing collection specimens.
My area of interest is anthropology/ethnography so if possible I try to work in cultural museums, but sometimes there are the bigger, mixed discipline ones where you can’t avoid sharing space with disciplines whose current research practises you don’t agree with. But this is why I’ll never actively work in these areas, as a vegan.
Travelling as a vegan – you’ve been on an epic journey around the world! How awesome is it to be a travelling vegan?
There are so many tasty things all over the place to find and try – travelling to try food is second only to my excitement regarding travelling to see museums! If you are at all savvy on the internet you can be a well-prepared travelling vegan. My go-to resources for general searching for vegan eats are Happy Cow and Yelp (using location-based browse for the former, and a keyword search for the latter). If I know that the place I’m going to is a pretty vegan-friendly area, i’ll try and seek out specific blogs or websites that are a more comprehensive collation of info for those areas (for instance, SuperVegan was amazingly helpful for NYC, and Veg.ca has a great veg eating guide for Toronto). If all else fails, I hit up the Googles. (And I always note down one or two health food stores in addition to restaurants, in case I need snacks/supplies).
How difficult is it to travel vegan?
In general, I find it easy to be vegan while travelling. I’ll always make sure I have a granola bar on me, and there’s always the stop-gap of finding a market for fruit/veg or even a 7-11 to grab a bag of mixed nuts. There’s never a reason to go hungry, even if you’re in an unfamiliar place. You won’t have to live on trail mix for the whole time you’re away, but sometimes you’ll need it til you find somewhere that has a vegan option to give you the sustenance you need. My current squeeze is a gluten-free vegan, and if he can manage doing that in China for almost 2 weeks, I think we can all be okay if we just prepare (Ed. note: So many delicious super-basic super-cheap rice & vegetable dishes around Asia! Soy replaces gluten in a lot, too. And then there’s ridiculously cheap/fresh fruit in local markets… Mmm, travel bug… ♥)
Where are the hardest and easiest places to be vegan in your experience?
Easiest place to be vegan – probably the larger cities in North America. I found middle-America to be a little bit of a challenge when I road tripped from Toronto-San Diego and back in 2009 – but again, there’s always supermarkets (pre-packed salads, bagels/peanut butter, fruit, nuts, etc). I’ve never had a devastatingly hard time being vegan anywhere, but some of the places I had to subsist on stop-gaps more than i’d have liked include the Scottish Highlands, Cairo (that was more the fault of our hotel’s location than anything), pretty much 99.9% of British pubs.. I dunno, nowhere is really popping out for me as how terrible it is!
Language can be a wee bit intimidating – there’s always the Vegan Passport as an option (Ed. note: there’s an app for that!) or just hit up Google translate before you go to make sure you can get together some key phrases/words and their pronunciation.
How annoying was I when I was a vegan n00b? I remember complaining at you about available skincare products once, because my skin still hadn’t improved early on… And David was trying to use up honey in chai when you came around for cake once… SORRY. (You didn’t drink it. It’s ok.)
Ha! I don’t remember you being particularly terrible at all. There were lots of questions, of course, and a couple of slip-ups, but that’s what everyone does! I have a pretty endless amount of patience with people I know who are genuinely interested in vegetarianism/veganism because I would rather them have my support than me just get fed up with them
Any other “converts” in the past 10 years?
I don’t think I can think of anyone among my friends who’s been an omni->vegan convert since I’ve been vegan. I have had a few friends who’ve made the move from vegetarian to vegan since I’ve known them though, and I hope that I’ve been at least a small influence in that! Recently a casual acquaintance here in Toronto saw a doco about Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson and she’s been asking me and the mister a lot about vegetarianism and veganism, so I’m hopeful she’ll take the plunge soon!
I’m not much of a hardcore ‘recruiter’ though, so I suppose all these things happen slowly and organically – and I never know who I might’ve had an influence on!
How has veganism influenced your other interests?
Veganism’s definitely influenced my interest in cooking – I’ve made more interesting and tasty things as a vegan than I ever did as a vegetarian or omnivore! Veganism can still be a bit of a pickle in social situations, mostly in regards to making plans that are inclusive – but on the whole I do okay & generally keep company who are vegan-friendly people. I don’t make a point of wasting time with douchebag friends
I think I’ve met a lot of people I wouldn’t have normally thanks to the vegan thing, including my lovely man. I think Toronto’s especially been great for that, such a wonderfully vegan-friendly & enthusiastic city.
One of your favourite recipes?
Oooh. Well, recently I helped test out some sandwich recipes, a couple of which ended up going on the menu at my mister’s cafe. This is the recipe for the chickpea salad that goes in one of them (as a sort of a mock tuna, but actually extremely delicious and not grody and tuna-ish!).
(makes a few cups, maybe?)
1 15oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons of vegan mayo (I use Veganaise)
4 tablespoons dijon mustard
4 small dill pickles, finely diced
1 tablespoon of juice from the pickle jar
1½ celery stalks, finely diced
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Get yo salad on! Mash (or pulse in a food processor) the chick peas until there’s only a few rogue whole ones left – you want a nice consistency that’s starting to hold together. Once that’s done mix all the other ingredients in very well – give it a taste for seasoning (and maybe you’re into more mayo, more mustard, or something?), but otherwise you’re good to go. Spread a bunch on a nice baguette, throw some lettuce & tomato on there, and you’re golden!
Your favourite blogs & junk!
These are the two fave times I’ve veganised food:
♥ Hungarian – a big feast cooked up with a (then) vegan friend and an omni friend.
♥ and Australian – cooked by a vegan friend here in Toronto with my consultation.
Thanks! Check out Nicole’s daily photo blog: Brain Jumble. There are some SUPER excellent photos to be seen. Natural composition skills FTW.