Foraging for samphire

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When I was a kid there was nothing I liked more than going samphire collecting.

Now I’m older, I recognise the health benefits of samphire as well as the value of something that tastes divine, is totally free and is a joy to forage. The health benefits of getting out in the natural world are legion, and the vast skies and calming bird song of the salt marshes are simply diving, exhilarating and relaxing.

There are two types of samphire, rock samphire is much more difficult to find, in fact, as its name implies, it involves rock climbing and putting yourself at risk. Marsh samphire is much easier to collect, as long as you know how far the tide comes in, when it comes in and look out for the creeks (natural sea dykes) as you walk – they can be several feet deep and are sometimes hidden by long grass. But they can be fun to jump over – and who doesn’t enjoy getting muddy?

Samphire is famous around Lincolnshire and Norfolk – further inland some people haven’t even heard of it, let alone tasted it. For those of us in the know, it is also referred to as the asparagus of the sea. It does resemble asparagus a little, but it’s smaller and bushier. It’s a rich green sea vegetable that grows on the marshes between June and August. Go out too early and the samphire isn’t big enough to harvest, too late and it doesn’t taste as nice.

To collect it, you simply cut the stalk near the bottom, leaving the roots in the marshland. If you pull it up by the roots, not only will you kill the existing plant, but it’ll be heavier to carry once you have a bag full and it’ll be harder to wash.

To eat samphire, you simply suck it off the stalk. It has a salty taste, but this should come as no surprise considering where it is found. As long as you wash it thoroughly, you can eat it raw – it’s nice with a salad. Stir-frying is another option, lightly toss it in some olive oil – I would add some sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper – and you have a tasty side dish, snack or sandwich filling.

I usually boil it for a while (around 10 to 15 minutes – until it slides easily off the stalk and has a tender texture), then eat it hot with dairy-free margarine and new potatoes. Restaurants often serve it as an accompaniment. I always cook far too much and leave the rest in the fridge for sandwiches over the next few days. There is also the option of pickling it in vinegar to preserve it over the coming months. I, personally am not too keen on the vinegary taste this produces, but many people seem do like it – and it means you can enjoy samphire out of season.

Samphire contains virtually no fat. It has 100 calories per 100 grams and it’s rich in minerals. It contains no saturated fat or cholesterol – which is surprising when something tastes so good. There is a small amount of sodium – 0.8 milligrams in 100 grams – something that is also surprising given its salty taste. It is rich in vitamins A, B and C and contains folic acid – all of which is good news, but there’s more. It can help cleanse the liver, aid digestion, relive flatulence and improve people’s moods and alertness.

You can in fact buy your own samphire seeds now, for sowing between February and May, and even your own samphire plants, you will, of course, need light, sandy soil, but it reseeds itself and so will grow year on year. I haven’t tried to grow my own, so I don’t know if it tastes as good as the foraged stuff. You can sometimes find it for sale at fish mongers and farmers’ markets – but why pay for something you can go and get for free yourself?

And where I go to collect it, the marsh is surrounded by blackberry bushes – so there’s free pudding as well for the excited foragers.

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The great plant-based ‘milk’ debate

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The rise and rise of plant-based dairy alternatives seems to be getting the farming community hot under the collar.

I guess it proves those who say “going vegan won’t change anything” wrong.

In June, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that vegan alternatives cannot use words like milk in product descriptions.

The case was brought by the German Competition Authority against TofuTown (sounds like my kind of place).

The EU Court ruled plant-based alternatives cannot be described using the terms ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’, as these are reserved by EU law for animal products. Finally, a reason for supporting Brexit (although there’s plenty of other reasons for being a ‘remoaner’).

Truth is, the dairy industry is panicking about the fact it’s losing sales to healthier, more ethical (not hard) to vegan-friendly alternatives. ( http://vegfestexpress.co.uk/tabs/blog/2017/02/dairy-free-plant-milks-market—the-future ).

In almond milk etc as “milk” on their websites – and to even stop stocking it next to dairy milks – maybe they’re scared dairy buyers will catch a conscience as they browse the shelves?

So, it seems as vegans up the ante in criticising the dairy industry, it is resorting to desperate measures to fight back. Remember, it is also pressure from the dairy industry that has led to the badger culls in the UK – despite the fact there is no evidence at all that badgers spread BOVINE TB ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/badger-cull-expansion-flies-in-face-of-scientific-evidence ). So, quite rightly, activists have drawn parallels with the dairy industry. Quite simply, buying dairy milk leads to dead badgers.

The furore follows last year’s great Gary Facebook debate, when Sainsbury’s launched their own brand of vegan cheese ( https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/10/02/the-great-gary-review/ )

Sainsbury’s had some free marketing over that one – somebody thought that it was wrong to call the product “cheese”. It seems the desperation goes on and one…

So, why can’t market forces just accept that ethical living is on the rise? Big supermarkets are getting in on the act, major multi-nationals are making money out of veganism and the “middle class” vegan has a huge part to play in the economy? Or, are those of us who are anti-capitalist just too prominent in the vegan movement? Revolution cannot be allowed to happen – remember!

Personally, I think there are too many rich and powerful players in the animal agriculture industry for politicians to allow it to fail – despite the fact we could feed the world many times over if we all went vegan tomorrow. So, while veganism was “allowed” to exist as a niche product line, the fact the number of vegans has exploded beyond even our wildest hopes as kicked the meat and dairy industry (it is one combined industry if we’re honest) into attack mode.

I’ve read posts on Facebook in the past about reserving the words burgers and sausages for meat products – but they’re just shapes! You get different meat varieties of sausages and burgers, so why not meat-free versions?

I have noticed in the numerous stories about veganism on national news sites that non-vegans in society as a whole now feel it necessary to go into attack mode in the dreaded comment sections. Does this come from a sense of guilt or a fear that their cosy lifestyle (of pain and suffering) is under threat?

 

The only vegan in the office

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Being a vegan at work can be hard, well, work.

Even with the 4 billion per cent rise in veganism (figures curtesy of the Leave Campaign and Diane Abbott), many people just don’t “get it”.

“But what do you eat.” Food mainly.

“You can’t even eat eggs?” Even eggs? Most people don’t actually die from a lack of egg consumption.

“Don’t you miss bacon?” No I don’t miss a fried slice of pig skin too much.

And so on.

To be fair, many people do try hard.

My former employers used to ask about vegan options on the menu for Christmas meals out. One restaurant forgot to get vegan cheese in and offered me a vegan alternative – and a free round of drinks for my table! Everyone wanted to be friends with the vegan that night.

But I did once go to an Italian restaurant whose vegan option was a pizza without cheese – that actually turned out to be a base with tomato sauce on it and two bits of asparagus. I like asparagus, but two pieces a pizza topping do not make.

But people do forget that it goes beyond diet sometimes. We won’t bet on the Grand National, go dog racing, give to Cancer Research etc etc.

Sometimes explaining these things can get a little bit tiresome – but when that happens, remember that it gives you an opportunity to explain your stance. In effect, you are being asked to be a “preachy vegan” – so go for it. You never know, you might open someone’s eyes.

I asked people on social media for their experiences. One Facebook friend mentioned how friends were raising their child vegan and said this on the ill-informed response she received: “Apparently, it’s ‘borderline child cruelty to impose veganism on someone who can’t think for themselves.’ Like animals can think for themselves, yeah?”

Somebody else had slightly more positive experiences: “People at my office are generally pretty good – and interested in talking about veganism. My boss is ace and has sourced me Vego bars for Easter and vegan cider for Xmas. However, I wasn’t able to go to the Xmas meal as they had a really rubbish vegan option – so it’s not always at the forefront of people’s minds. Also, people always bring in cake for their birthday and I can never eat it.”

Personally, I like the response from one office worker, who said: “My boss’s response “well there must be other normal vegans out there because you’re quite normal”.”

You see, we are normal!

Canteens were another issue, with many vegans bringing in packed lunches even when this facility is available in a workplace. One worker had this to say about company-provided food: “For the last company event I asked in advance if a vegan option could be possible. They ordered me 6 dry bread rolls. Compare that to the treatment I got when I recently visited our sister company in Sweden – they had informed the hotel in advance, arranged a vegan lunch for me every day and had informed the restaurant where we had an evening function that a member of the party was vegan and planned a menu for me.”

To be fair, the first time I ever encountered avocado was at a training event where a vegan meal was provided for me.

Several vegans I asked on Facebook said they were known as “the vegan” at work – something I find a bit laced with prejudice, although it can be done affectionately.

The most blunt response I received was from a builder friend: “Try telling someone you are vegetarian or vegan on a building site it’s almost as bad as telling them you sh***ed their granny the night before.” Quite!

It was also pointed out that “Case law has shown that veganism is a protected belief.” Something that is worth remembering if you get bullied or singled out in the workplace.

One respondent in charge of tea and coffee had been using soya milk instead of cows’ milk for months before anybody noticed… It’s worth checking that nobody has a soya allergy before doing this, however, the same applies to nut milks.

It is a bit difficult when someone brings a smelly McDonalds into work, the same applies to Tuna or egg, all of them smell like hot death to a vegan’s sensitive nostrils. To the death eater, we are a bit weird. Being a bit weird is generally OK you know – especially considering the alternative.

Vegans and the dating game

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Vegans are people too.

We have, you know, the same issues as everyone else – and we also like to fall in love.

Hereth begineth the debate… To say there’s a lot written about vegan dating on social media is like saying “vegans like to argue on Facebook”, but the truth is, there is one simple rule – there are no rules!

The first law of Vegan Fight Club is that “vegan shall talk about it to everyone, everywhere – ever!”

There are so many vegan groups on Facebook, and dating is a subject that comes up again and again and again and again…

Should vegans only date vegans? Should people who become vegan while in a relationship finish that relationship? Should vegans banish meat-eating partners to the shed to eat their dinner? And so on and so on and on and on…

Again, I say, there are no rules. The human brain is a complex thing, it falls in and out of love more often than a Bon Jovi song called “In And Out Of Love” and it doesn’t always adhere to the rules of the vegan heart.

In other words, it’s up to you.

The dating game has changed beyond all recognition over the last 10 years. Now, people are just as likely to meet online as they are over a vodka and orange in the local pub. But, this means that people are able to stipulate specifically the type of person they are looking for in a partner – short, tall, fat, thin, athletic, lazy, geeky, funny, serious, vegan….

Obviously, this can mean that a huge number of potential partners are thrown into the bin of “nah” automatically!

I, personally, use Plenty Of Fish and message someone every six months or so – such are the restrictions of veganism (and being too tight to pay to find love) and I have recently signed up to Grazer.

There was a lot of excitement in vegan forums around the launch of Grazer – it’s free and it’s pretty much the vegan version of Tinder – although there are vegans on Tinder too – I know, I’ve been on there too!

The whole “swipe left” thing seems a bit cold to me – but such is the fame of Tinder that the phrase “swipe left” has become part of modern language. The main problem is that if you don’t live in London, there might be relatively few local vegans on the site. However, it is relatively new, so give it time. I also found that a lot of people don’t actually tell you anything about themselves on their profile – so you are solely judging them on a picture.

So, basically, Grazer has the same advantages and disadvantages as Tinder, but it is growing and so it’s worth joining and if there’s no one there for you, check back in a few weeks.

The likes of Plenty of Fish also have vegan profiles – but finding them can be a bit like finding a vegan in your local pub – although you can search for “vegan” and find the nearest one to have used that description lives 75 miles away – not all vegans call themselves vegans on their profile.

Then there’s Facebook. Other than having to sell your soul to Satan to sign up, this is also free – and there are plenty of vegan singles groups and pages on there – there’s even one for Vegan Singles in their 40’s (I dislike the rogue apostrophe, but otherwise it’s an excellent group) and there’s naughtier ones for vegans who like to talk about sex – A LOT. Shock, horror, vegans are interested in sex – and not just which brands of condoms are vegan-friendly.

Let’s be honest, most people are on Facebook, so joining a dating group on there is just as likely to bring you success as any “paid for” or “traditional” online dating site. I have met former partners, new friends and dates just by chatting to new friends on Facebook in the past – just the act of interacting online can bring people together.

Then there’s “real life dating”. Yes, people still meet in the pub, club, at gigs, in the gym, at work and while out bird watching (not so much). And, if you’re a vegan singleton, there are local vegan groups, food shares, animal rights meetings, vegan fairs etc etc. You can meet potential partners at all of these (vegan fairs often have speed dating events these days), but, more importantly, you can make new friends, share ideas and enjoy a social life with like-minded folks. You could always run into a sexy vegan by the “meat-free” section of your local supermarket – although I don’t recommend spending a day there on the off-chance – people might think you’re weird…And you could be asked to leave, doing your “street cred” no favours at all.

People become vegan at many stages of life – some are already in relationships with omnivores, some have been vegetarian first and some are now vegan from birth. Also, everybody’s life story is different, so the important thing is not to judge. Some people are comfortable with dating meat-eaters, some with dating vegetarians, some with only dating vegans, we all have our own preferences.

It is also worth adding that there’s a lot of advice and support available in social media forums when it comes to vegan dating, vegan love and vegan sex – vegan squirty cream wasn’t invented without sex in mind you know!

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Vegan on a desert Island

I wrote this about a year ago for a news site that vanished without getting in touch with me! Seeing as this page shares a title with the blog, I thought I’d revamp it very slightly and publish it here – because I can!

 

There are many things that can happen unexpectedly in our daily lives – lottery win, car crash, puncture, TV going wrong – but we vegans have an extra peril to face every day – we might end up alone on a desert island!

To be fair, sending vegans to desert islands isn’t merely a social media phenomenon; people in pubs, work mates and even family members all suddenly become curious about our survival options should we be stranded on one of the few uninhabited desert islands left in the world. Not only that, but there will be no phone signal, no 3 or 4G and no radar tracking the area in which we vanished.

I really was totally unaware of how dangerous being a vegan could be when I ditched the dairy. If you’re not vegan, never get on a plane or boat with us, it will sink or crash and everybody else will die leaving the sole vegan stranded in the middle of nowhere. It happens all the time.

But a vegan can’t be stranded on just any remote, unpopulated desert island, oh no! In order to be a vegan stranding-friendly desert island, it can have no edible plants or vegetables and be populated only by animals – edible animals of course, or the scenario won’t work.

You see, if there is the option of eating vegetation, then we can’t be forced to hunt animals in order to survive on said desert island. The fact that there needs to be some kind of food chain in place so that carnivores survive goes out of the boat window when it comes to random vegan strandings. You see, carnivores have to prey on animals that are, in general herbivores and herbivores need vegetation to survive, so the whole desert island eco system needs to be totally messed up in order to accommodate vegan strandings.

There will be fresh water on the island of course – the carnivorous beasts need it to survive too, and there will be trees – there has to be something with which to make fire, so said carnivores’ flesh is edible. However, these trees cannot be the type of trees that produce fruit, oh no, or else stranded vegan will become fruitarian and mess up the whole hypothetical stranding horror.

Another issue for the stranded vegan is that, generally humans don’t eat carnivores. Why this is so is down to speculation really – the smell, evolution meaning we haven’t developed a taste for them and the fact that they are harder to catch could all be reasons. Also, said carnivores are often dangerous, so our poor stranded vegan would probably die while trying to break his or her moral code. Don’t forget, most people are stranded without a gun (especially if they’re vegan), so they will probably be hunting with a home-made bow and arrow. Most people that go on cruises or fly abroad don’t carry weapons you see, customs aren’t usually very friendly towards people packing high-powered rifles!

I used to make bows and arrows as a kid, and I wasn’t very good at hitting my brother with them, so I’m sure I’d be useless when it came down to trying to kill a mountain lion. And I’m not sure there’d be enough string or sharp flint kicking about on the island to make the bow and arrows either!

But, fish are carnivores. So, it seems, the desolated desert island would have to be surrounded by an abundance of sea life – no edible seaweed though – to give our hapless, soon to be lapsed vegan any chance of survival. Of course, there will be a tree (without edible fruit) to provide the necessary weapon for catching the poor fish which will provide 100 per cent of your balanced diet – you see, wooden speared fish are the solution to all castaways’ problems!

The message to all vegans is, unless you want to become a seal, avoid getting stranded on desert islands at all costs. When going to work, to the pub, to a vegan fair, or down the shops, take a route that avoids any desert islands on which you can become accidentally stranded.

 

Vegan Choices at Easter

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Choices is a very apt name for vegan Easter eggs these days – there really is a huge variety to choose from.

That said, Choices is seen by many as the vegan Easter egg God – which means they can be a little more difficult to track down in the last week before chocoholics everywhere get an excuse to indulge without feeling guilty.

I chose the old favourite – a Choices egg with Caramel flavoured Choices – sweets that battle Vego bars for the kings of vegan chocolate. There are Choices white chocolate eggs and an egg with Rondellos also available. My favourite. It costs £4.60 from http://www.alternativestores.com – I got mine from Sainsbury’s, however.

The main problem here is that with three caramel-flavoured chocs, it isn’t going to last very long.

I love Choices caramel-flavoured chocolates, and you can buy boxes for £3.89 from Holland and Barrett online – http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/choices-dairy-free-caramel-flavoured-choices-60006419?&utm_medium=cpc&&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=bing&utm_adgID58700001086330938 – or get them when you’re out shopping.

They are devastatingly moreish – incredibly sweet chocolate, with a thick fondant caramel centre that takes you to heaven on the back on a unicorn with butterflies circling your head every time you take a bite. I warn you, that devouring a whole box in one go is highly likely once you’ve eaten one…

 

The egg itself is also a joy to munch – for that too is flavoured with the divine elixir of caramel flavour. Sweet and creamy, it’s like a fairy’s embrace and offers a total escape from the trash on TV over the holidays. If it rains, you will forget your disappointment within a second of tasting this wonderful egg-shaped chocolate taste of wonderment.

It’s nice, OK?

I really did save the best until last in my brief series of vegan Easer egg reviews.

There are far too many available now – if I reviewed them all I would be unable to move for a month and would have kept the tooth fairy in overtime for a month.

This is great news people – veganism has gone mainstream, and it’s only going to grow.

Happy Easter.

Moo-ve over for the Vegans at Easter

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You can’t move for vegan-friendly Easter Eggs these days, if I were to attempt to review them all on here, I’d need an overdraft and a new wardrobe of clothes.

However, after my first blog on Easter eggs, I felt duty-bound to buy and, more importantly, eat more for your benefit.

This time, I went for the Moo Free Cheeky Orange Egg with Buttons (http://moofreechocolates.com/) and, as before, the buttons were in the packaging, not inside the egg as Easter tradition dictates.

However, I’m a big fan of chocolate orange, so I was also disappointed to learn that this does not count as one of my five a day – it’s got orange in it, so why not?

Moo Free have been one of the standard bearers for vegan confectionary for several years. They set the bar high before the supermarkets began to smell the money in veganism. While the choice is very, very welcome, please do check out the full Moo-Free range – I’m a big fan of supporting vegan businesses where possible.

Anyway, time to start on the egg. It tastes like chocolate with orange in it.

Is that enough, or do you want more? OK, well, the orange is actually infused into the chocolate through orange crystals, so as well as a subtle burst of sweet orange, you also get a satisfying crunch – lovely. I think “cheeky” is the right word, as the chocolate has a light texture and taste and a substantial sugar-hit, but the orange is not over-powering at all. It’s a nice understated addition to the taste that renders the egg very moorish.

While the buttons are small, and there aren’t a huge number of them, they are a nice, rich, chocolatey after treat – they don’t have the orange crystals, but this adds a nice balance to the whole package in my view.

It’s nice to have a milk chocolate alternative which is so tasty and the packaging and sweetness are both very child-friendly.

But while we’re on chocolate treats, I’m going to throw in something for the adults – the Vego Bar.

If you’re vegan and not familiar with these, where have you been? These beasts are available all year round, but Easter gives you a good excuse (should you need one) to tuck into a Vego.

They are thick hunks of chocolate filled with yummy hazelnuts. The nuts add bite and flavour, but, really, the chocolate chunks are so thick and creamy, they are an utter delight full-stop. Most vegan fairs, online vegan shops and many independent health food shops stock them. Go try.

 

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Egg-citing times for vegans

The One problem I have with modern Easter Eggs  – vegan or not – is probably age-related, but when I was a kid, the sweets or chocolates that came with the egg were actually inside it – not in a little bag at the bottom of the package.

I feel this new modern way of selling Easter Eggs steals the magic from the Easter Bunny’s basket – for me anyway.

However, one thing that has changed for the better is the number of vegan-friendly Easter Eggs crammed on to shelves up and down the land.

I have decided I should review some, and I’m going to start with a Sainsbury’s one today (http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/sainsburys-price-comparison/Boxed_Chocolates/Sainsburys_freefrom_White_Chocolate_Egg_65g.html).

The Free From White Choc Egg and Buttons instantaneously made me regress to my childhood and dance with unicorns in my head. The 65g one is quite small, but only costs £2.50.

It contains Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Inulin, Maltodextrin, Maize Flour, Coconut Oil, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins) and Flavourings and has 12 or so buttons – so a pretty good buy really.

It smells nice too – but I love the smell of vegan white chocolate in the morning anyway.

I also love the taste. It delivers a powerful sugar-kick which dances nicely with the inviting sweet smell that lures unsuspecting non-vegans in for the ride.

The delightful buttons are more of the same really – neither the egg nor buttons lasted very long with me – always a good sign.

I am, naturally, a big fan of the creamy white chocolate from Tesco, so this egg seems a natural place for me to start my Vegan Easter Egg review journey.

I have asked people in vegan groups on Facebook to offer up their own views on various eggs – I suggest you do the same, and I’ll use them in forthcoming blogs.

But, for a start, on Facebook, Leanne Bisson stated: “I’ve had the Tesco finest caramel one and the uh can’t remember plain one from Holland and Barrett so far.. Tesco wins for taste.”

Aldi bunny

While Sam Robinson commented: “I had a chocolate bunny from Aldi it was soo good didn’t even taste like dark choc.”

Eleanore Duggan, said she makes her own and shared her recipe with me….

  • 50g cocoa/cacao butter
  • 3tbsp Cocoa/cacao powder (the taste will vary slightly depending on if you use cacao or cocoa)
  • 1 and a half tbsp liquid sweetener e.g agave, maple etc.

Melt the butter, add the other two ingredients, pour into mould (silicone ones are easiest to use) and chill in freezer or fridge straight away. I’ve never tempered my chocolate during making as chocolatiers do and the texture is still fab. Double or triple up the amounts as necessary and add essences like hazelnut, mint, orange or vanilla or nuts, dried fruit etc for variations.

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The seasoned vegan

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Eating seasonally should go hand-in-hand with veganism.

Eating vegan is the ultimate commitment to sustainability and, therefore, low-impact living should be high on every vegan’s agenda.

Of course, animal welfare is the primary driving force for many (including myself) vegans, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about our planet too.

Following a vegan diet is the greenest thing you can do. Animal agriculture is, in short, war on the environment. Think about it, we feed grain – that humans can eat – to animals so we can kill them and eat them, when all that grain would feed a vegetarian planet many times over. But that shouldn’t stop vegans from doing even more to preserve the planet’s future – and eating local is another way you can do this. Eating local, means eating seasonally.

Much has been written and talked about the weather decimating vegetable crops in Spain. People are running scared because they can’t get aubergines, courgettes and iceberg lettuce in the middle of the British winter. Less is written about what you can get.

My local market has plenty of purple sprouting broccoli – a more than adequate replacement for the green broccoli everyone is suddenly missing… the purple variety is in season too! In fact, purple sprouting broccoli will be sprouting on to our dinner plates for several months yet, so why not make the most of it? It’s even better if you buy it in a paper bag from your local market, or farmers’ market as most supermarkets seem to bury it in a coffin of plastic – gripping the poor veg tight enough to choke all the life and flavour out of it.

Muddy veg that comes from up the road is obviously tastier than veg that is tired out from a trip halfway around the world, and it lasts longer too. In other words, why should what the weather’s doing to this year’s veg crop in Spain impact on our dinners in the UK?

This isn’t some anti-foreign veg, pro-Brexit rant, it’s quite simply a matter of being kinder to the environment, taking veganism to its logical conclusion and, hopefully, eating more cheaply too.

Squashes are in season – what could be more warming than a winter squash stew? You could turn the leftovers into a delicious soup – wasting veg is another big no-no when it comes to sustainable living.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Brussel sprouts. I know one can feel very lonely when making such an admission – but, if cooked right, they really are a delight to devour.

I don’t boil them. I shop them up into little bits and stir fry them with onions, black pepper and garlic for about three minutes – the perfect sprout.

Eating seasonally shouldn’t be scary, it just adds a new dimension to your cooking; it means that you vary your meals to fit in with what’s available – how exciting’s that?

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Veganism through community living

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Vegan Hills

The ideas of veganism and sustainable living are interlinked. The Vegoa co-operative has taken this idea to bring like-minded people together in what will, ultimately be, a community living experience with minimal impact on the wider world. The growing group already has worldwide ambitions and has already completed the acquisition of Vegan Hills in Algarve, southern Portugal. Tanya Weghofer very kindly answered my questions in order to gain further insights in a project which combines veganism, entrepreneurship and creativity.

Who are the Vegoans?
We are an ever-increasing number of people who, apart from being committed to a vegan lifestyle, are very diverse in age, nationality, hobbies, backgrounds and beliefs. The members include singles, families, students, and entrepreneurs. What we all have in common is the desire to create an example for ethical, sustainable and cruelty-free living.

What are the driving principles behind the project?
A shared set of ethics centered around veganism and the desire for sustainability is what brought the members of the project together.
We want to show the world that we can all lessen our impact on the environment and turn it around by actively contributing to the positive change we want to see in the world. Our goal is to be an example for others and show that you can not only live but strive in an ethical and sustainable way.

How many people are currently involved?
At the moment, the association counts for 34 members but our numbers are constantly growing, with some families set to join us in the coming months.

Why was it important to form a community of people and not just remain individuals doing separate projects?
Firstly, we are stronger together and many hands make light work!
The whole idea of our Vegan Hills project is to do exactly that, to create a platform and a safe space where our individualities can thrive. In practical terms that might mean interesting projects of your neighbors you might want to get involved in and vice versa.

There are many alternative/sustainable communities that start out with good intentions but that fall apart over time. What are some of the main reasons for this and how will Vegoa be different?
A large proportion of communities fail due to lack of funding, finding the right land, and of course, structural conflict. We have had some blessings in disguise that have equipped us to deal with these challenges early on, and have shown us where to adjust our sails in order to move in the right direction. As a result of our learnings we are practicing Sociocracy which has proven a valuable tool in paving our way forward.
What we believe differentiates us from other communities is the fact that we are humble enough to realize that there are many things we don’t know and we recognize the lack of a perfect system. Therefore, we created a very flexible structure so that people might shape the structure and not everything around it.

You’ve recently acquired land in Portugal to start the Vegan Hills community. What can you tell us about that?
The land of Vegan Hills is 103ha of a lush green, hilly landscape that offers both hilltops and valleys, forests and open spaces and most definitely lots of space to realize projects. It lies in the South of Portugal, in the Algarve region, and has two beaches in the surrounding area, the closest one being only 8km distance away.
The soil is very fertile and healthy and in recent years has only been used as grazing ground for cattle which is one of the reasons why we plan to reforest the whole area. Another fortunate aspect is its richness in clay which can be used for building shelters and various other things.

What challenges do you/have you faced with setting this project up and making it sustainable?
Indeed there were quite a few initial challenges we had to overcome. One of them being the changes in members and trying to find the right blend of personalities to make Vegan Hills the place we all want it to be, and of course raising the money to purchase the land. Each one has been a learning experience and has helped us hone our processes and procedures into the cohesive team we are today.

What would the average day of a Vegoan look like?
This is quite hard to say as one of our core values is freedom, so nobody is obligated to do anything. However, we are fortunately a very diverse group of people with very different hobbies and practices. So, some might then want to incorporate an early morning yoga or meditation session, others head out to the beach for a surf at midday and again other members might make a routine out of a lengthy walk through endless nature in the evening, while others will be tending to the land and will help moving us towards self-sustainability. Every skill is welcomed and each person can contribute to the community in the way they want to.

What obligations do Vegoans have to the rest of their community?
In order to find a common ground that everyone agrees to live by, we created a manifest for both the Vegoa association and the Vegan Hills village.
Both state as their first principle that each member has to live a vegan lifestyle, according to the definition of the Vegan Society, and that every member is obligated to respect the rights and freedom of other Vegoans which, of course, includes the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Concerning the land, we strive to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible, whilst making every effort to achieve self-sustainability wherever it’s attainable.
All in all, however, we want to promote freedom instead of implementing obligations and restrictions.

What can others do if they want to get involved?
If anyone wants to know more about the project, please visit our website at https://vegoa.org/
If any questions are left unanswered or if people want to get in touch or join one of our regular open hikes, please contact hello@vegoa.org
In addition, you can find regular updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

Anything else you’d like to share?
As you read this, our land is taking shape, as a friendly group of committed vegans are making the necessary adjustments to create a new way of life, away from the fast-paced consumerist society that many of us have become accustomed to, into a slower paced, more ethically minded lifestyle.
At the moment, we are still looking for members who are willing to create this world with us. Until the 15th March, Vegan Hills is open for everyone, no matter if you have experience with off-grid living or not. We can share the knowledge we have and support each other!
After this day, however, we will specifically focus our search for members on vegans with particular skills that are needed to achieve our goals.
In order to assist those who are interested, we organize open guided hikes, group Skype calls and occasional Meet-Ups in various cities. The information is available on our Facebook page.

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Vegans Hills.
beach
One of the beaches near to Vegan Hills.

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