In an effort to understand why people read my blog I went through some of my most popular blog posts of 2016 and the top two posts of the year were about the vegan experiment I decided to undertake last year. This came as no surprise because 90% of the posts I wrote last year were about the experiment. As I read through the 2nd most popular post, an update on the vegan journey during months 6 and 7, I noticed that I promised you a few post experiment, vegan life updates this year. So this is me trying to keep that promise.
On the 25th of January 2017, I had been vegan for a total of 366 days (2016 was a leap year) and I was so damn proud of myself. However, I knew that in a few weeks I would be off to the wonderful city of Cape Town to study the culinary arts. I knew my cooking school wouldn’t be vegan because I googled it and there are virtually no vegan culinary schools in the world. I mean, there are a few courses but no legitimate, City and Guilds approved schools. I had been asked countless times by various people during the course of last year what I would do as a vegan at culinary school. I told them I didn’t know because I truly did not and that was stressing me out.
Once it was time for me to leave Namibia and start the new chapter in my life, I finally decided what I was going to do. I decided to be a vegan at all times except at school. Sorted right? Not really… Something inside me… something moral… felt a bit iffy about it. I thought it would be disrespectful to the vegans outchea trying to spread an important message about health, the environment and the poor animals to call myself one of them but still eat the very same beings they’re trying to protect when I found it convenient. It felt wrong. So I decided to not be vegan at all because then I wouldn’t be a hypocrite, right? Right. But it wasn’t that simple.
My body did not agree with me. Granted I wasn’t eating healthy non-vegan food. I ate Burger King, KFC and doughnuts. But even food considered normal and “healthy” in an omnivorous human diet made me feel like shit. Then one day I spent the Saturday in town with friends and we happened to be within walking distance of a raw vegan restaurant that I’d been wanting to visit for the longest time. Because I was with non-vegans I ordered my food to go; a green smoothie, raw zucchini pasta, and a chocolate mint, coconut date dessert thing. When I got home and had the time to eat all that food (which was hella expensive by the way but completely worth it) I felt… reborn! This was also the first time I had raw vegan food like that and was amazed by how much flavour they could pack into food that isn’t cooked. It was incredible. If you ever find yourself in Cape Town CBD visit Raw and Roxy. Their food is phenomenal. After that meal, I said, “Screw it, I’m gonna be a vegan chef and if anyone has a problem with that, well, they just gotta deal because being vegan is better than anything else I can do.”
Being vegan at school turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. I just don’t eat the food I cook- I give it to my lecturer. During the cooking process, I make the food and ask a classmate to taste it and check for seasoning. When I serve my food to my lecturer, he eats it and tells me ways I can improve. It’s a system that’s working really well and I haven’t run into any complications. Once I enter the workforce things will be different and I will have to see what happens because I won’t always be able to work at a vegan restaurant but I’ll make a plan when the time comes.
With regards to my health, it really took a dive once I started eating meat and dairy again. I physically felt like garbage, was constipated, and my immune system was significantly weaker. Not fun. Like I said I ate a lot of junk food so that definitely contributed to the general shitty feeling but honestly, once I started eating meat and dairy I realised I was never missing out on anything. I can live without it and I enjoy living without it. Once I reverted back to a plant based diet my body returned to looking and feeling its best.
Fruit and vegetables are much cheaper in South Africa than they are in Namibia and I am honestly having a wonderful time. There are vegan options almost everywhere I go and countless vegan food and social events to attend. All large supermarkets are full of vegan-friendly products, even food like cheese, ice cream, and yoghurt! They’re expensive as hell but at least they’re there. One day, when I’m feeling rich, I’ll buy myself some artisanal vegan ice cream but in the meantime, I’ll stick to my cheap, seasonal fruit and veg and the occasional splurge on fancy ingredients like tahini and cacao nibs.