My Kefalonian Idyll

Being vegan and a hedonistic Taurean my memories of a place are often defined by the food I have eaten there. This pic sums up the simple fare I have enjoyed in Greece and describes my last supper and breakfast in Argostoli.

Tomorrow I will cycle the 70-odd kilometers to the ferry port of Fiskardo and sail to Nydri on Lefkada. From there I will ride to Igoumenitsa and then take the bus to Thessaloniki. My destination is Asprovalta and the Tree of Life Festival.

Argostoli has been beautiful and surprising – it is not an obvious tourist destination. We are just ahead of the summer season so it is still quiet, thankfully.  Besides giant beans, my abiding memories will be of people sitting about in the shade of dried palm fronds and grape vines, talking and yawning, drinking coffee in the day and raki at night.

Each time I cycle past a particular restaurant on the edge of the sea the waiter shouts, “beep, beep, beep” and waves. That’s because the first time I passed him I honked my horn; so now I have to do that every time I ride by.

When I think of the busy-ness in most people’s lives, and compare it to island life, it is hard to make sense of why we punish ourselves so in our daily grind. I gave all that up eight years ago and I haven’t looked back. I don’t own much. I don’t need much: just a good bike, my panniers, simple vegan food, love and friendship.

Greece is a really good place to be if your needs are simple and you want to opt out.


It’s all Greek to me… 

I’ve always wanted to be able to say that in context. And now I can. It is a language where some of the letters are not even recognisable and others are vaguely reminiscent of high school maths or science classes. Slowly, they begin to look familiar. 

I have been in Greece for a week and a few things have struck me. First impressions are so important… you forget what stands out after a while in a new place when the once-new becomes commonplace. 

Firstly, the Greeks: They are a strange mixture of really friendly and somewhat offhand. There is the grandmother who helps her son at the campsite where I am staying and greets everyone with outstretched arms and a big smile — even if she saw you just five minutes before. Sometimes she blows a series of kisses, flapping her hands to and from her lips in frantic butterfly movements. 

The son, who is the manager and in his early thirties, plied us with raki the first night. It didn’t end well… A few days later, after fixing me with his intense Mediterranean-blue eyes, he asked me, “How you stay so “feeet?” I laughed in that way where you feel flattered but don’t want to let on, lest you look middle-aged and needy. He then proceeded to proposition me – on behalf of his unmarried friend (of course) – so perhaps I did look marginally interested. No. I didn’t and wasn’t. He was just being Greek. And male. Male Greek.

Olives and olive trees:  There are many. They arch above the tent and shield us from the intensity of the full moon. 

Sun and boats: There are many of them, too. You could be forgiven for thinking that the entire world population lives on boats. 

The strange custom of putting dirty loo paper in the bin provided instead of down the loo, thereby protecting the aging sewers. By 5pm there’s a certain warm, unpleasant aroma radiating from the ablutions. 

The distinct scarcity of traffic accidents on the island, even though mopeds and bicycles commonly appear the wrong way down a one-way street. You know it’s a one-way because of the direction the cars are parked, I think…

Old men fingering their worry beads. 

Oleanders. 

Then there’s the naturally vegan food: stuffed vine leaves; huge, juicy red tomatoes; olives and capers; boiled greens; cherries; fava and, lastly, accidentally vegan rusks (an unexpected treat.)

Ubiquitous rosy-faced British tourists: They tend to waddle from side to side like ducks. Not sure why.

It’s a lovely place. So calm and peaceful. And warm. Until the afternoon wind picks up and tosses the washing off the line and makes the tent flap, interrupting your siesta.

Here are some pics.

The Parthenon at night. Viewed here from a rooftop cinema. 

Train graffiti in Athens.

Raw vegan sushi.

Ferry to Kefalonia.

Arriving Poros. 

Argostoli.

Vegan dinner by the beach.

Vegan dinner at the campsite.

Cycling the road to Lixouri.

Morning coffee with rice milk from “Bio” shop.

Indoctrinating children on a farm

One night during our recent Western Cape cycle tour we slept at a stunningly beautiful farm guest house in the Overberg. I am not going to mention the name because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or show ingratitude to our lovely host. But watching the activities there on a sublime Saturday morning helpes me to understand why our carnist culture prevails.

We were lazing in bed at about 8 o’clock when we heard a noise outside. A group of moms and dads and their young kids had gathered by a gate to the animal enclosure. The moms were wearing shiny new designer wellies and their kids had matching versions and the girls wore pretty little sunhats. They  were preparing to enter the pen where there were geese, ducks and some sheep. The kids had little baskets of seed and were going to feed these birds. As they entered the enclosure the sheep, who were sheltering from the sun under the only tree, fled. Some of the children chased after them and threw seed at them. The parents said nothing at first. Eventually, one adult called out to her son and told him to stop.

I grabbed my Vegan is Love T-shirt and pulled it on and went outside. The next adventure for the curious humans was to visit the hen house and steal some eggs. Sven and I followed so we could watch what happened. About 12 kids and adults crowded inside the tiny hen house where some of the hens were still sitting on their eggs. The kids were encouraged to go and fetch 2 eggs each from the nests. The hens were panicked and began flying and flapping and squawking but two stubborn and protective hens stayed put, determined not to leave their eggs unguarded. 

Eventually each child had filled their basket with at least two eggs each, some of them snatched from underneath the hens. At the end of the raid they were all corralled for a proud group photo. “Say ‘eggs’ kids.”

After they left, one traumatised hen was still stubbornly sitting in her empty nest. Sven stroked her and comforted her. 

I often have conversations with people about veganism and many times they have said that they understand everything I believe in, but what is wrong with keeping hens and eating their eggs? Well just think about it for a minute. The eggs belong to the hens and taking their eggs is theft. Maybe it doesn’t seem like a grand crime compared to the horrors that are perpetrated daily on this planet. But just think about it from the hens’ perspective for just a moment… and you just might change your mind.

Ell 269 – a vegan eatery in Hermanus

We stumbled upon Norah Hudson’s vegan restaurant ELL 269 in Hermanus today. ELL stands for Eat Love Life and 269 refers to the 269 Life vegan activist movement. Norah offered me a homemade fruity rooibos iced tea and shared her incredible story.

Every vegan has been (and still is) on a journey from the traditional way we were taught to eat and live to becoming a compassionate eater who understands that animals should not have to suffer so that we can have pleasure – any kind of suffering and any kind of pleasure. For Norah it began when her daughter Kendra was 2 1/2 years old and her husband committed suicide. Suddenly she was a widow with a baby daughter.

Five years ago, Norah’s friends got a piglet for their guesthouse whom they named Ziggy the piggy. But they soon realised it wasn’t that easy to look after a piggy and Ziggy moved in with Norah and Kendra. Once they were sharing their home with this little piglet it forced them to realise that we are all in denial about the cruel realities of the meat industry. For Norah and Kendra they were getting to know – and starting to love – a little animal with the intelligence of a 5-year-old child who had become a member of their family.

Norah decided to start an ethical eatery helping people understand where meat actually comes from and opened ELL at Spookfontein. She was vegetarian at this stage and thought she could convince people to source their meat “ethically”. She tried to justify eating dairy from Camphill Farm and eggs because they came from a farmer whose hens ran free. But then she and Kendra watched a Youtube video by Martin Dingle Wall called Vegan is the New Black. He explains his journey in such a down to earth and unpatronising way and, when they were finished watching, Kendra, then 17 years old, said, “But mom, now we don’t have a choice.” She was even ready and willing to give up sushi, her favourite food. Norah says, “We could no longer eat bacon and eggs and go home and look Ziggy in the eyes. We then realised that lambs were also babies who were taken from their mothers. We were still eating fish but no meat and then we started to study what happens in the fishing industry.” From that point on there was no going back.

The restaurant was very successful but most people ate there for reasons other than the fact that the food was ethically sourced. Norah did a lot of the cooking but wouldn’t taste the food because it wasn’t vegetarian. Then she had a conflict of interest because she realised she was making money from the very thing she abhorred (animal farming and exploitation.) She also experienced some very stern criticism from staunch vegan activists. It was time to move on. So she sold ELL and waited for an opportunity to open a fully vegan eatery.

Eventually, a vacant shop presented itself and she was ready to open the first fully vegan restaurant in Hermanus. Norah brings to ELL 269 many years of experience as a chef and restauranteur, as well as the compassion of an authentic vegan activist. I just know this restaurant is going to be hugely successful and, more importantly, is going to change many human and animal lives for the better. The food is fantastic (try their signature burger) and all the servers are either vegan or vegetarian.

Strangely, ELL’s opening was the same night as Melanie Joy’s talk in Cape Town – she is one of Norah’s main inspirations – a wonderful coincidence. Be sure to go and support this passionate woman and her worthy cause next time you are in Hermanus.

 

 

 

A cycle ride to Hout Bay and some Soul Food

The wind was showing as an unusual westerly on YR, my weather app. The mist that had rolled in overnight appeared to be lifting and I knew that today was my opportunity to cycle over to Hout Bay and try out the new organic vegan restaurant Soul Foods.

You’ll find them in Shoreline Centre which is opposite Pakalolo in Hout Bay, just before the road winds up Chapman’s Peak.

This was the ginger, lemongrass, basil, sweet potato soup. So far, so delicious. That was the first time I’ve ever had a soup where ginger was the main flavour and texture; having just recovered from a shitty flu I was happy to be eating this. The flavours melded together well and I liked the german sourdough drizzled with a drop of olive oil.

Main course: Oh my goodness – taste sensation! That’s raw lasagne made with a fresh cherry and sun dried tomato paste with a basil pesto, sandwiched between courgette slices and topped with macadamia nut parmesan-style vegan cheese; a thai veggie stir-fry with bulghur wheat and topped with lentil sprouts; a red cabbage slaw with slivered almonds and sesame seeds on top.

The menu changes according to availability of locally grown organic veggies. I loved the combination of raw and cooked, the exotic tastes and the very chilled music playing. 

My meal was a fitting tribute to Thanksgiving Day. I am thankful that two caring vegan women are willing to devote this part of their lives to feeding people healthy, organic and cruelty-free food. I hope the local Hout Bay crowd and the vegan community support them big time.

Vegan picnic in Cape Town & DJ’s Cheese Recipe

Sunday took us (the Velovegans) on a cycle ride from our temporary home in Milnerton to Arderne Gardens in Claremont to meet up with our vegan family for a picnic. I say vegan “family” because there’s something so warm and comfortable about hanging out with our vegan clan – like how family gatherings should feel.

Our picnics are a pot luck and the variety of great tasting food always amazes me. Looking at the photos I just realised I didn’t try all the dishes. Everyone is welcome at these events as long as you bring vegan food to share. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and exchange recipes. 


I made cashew cheese from a recipe given to me by my Dutch friend DJ whom I met on the vegan cruise up the Rhône this year. Lots of people asked me for the recipe and I know he won’t mind if I share it here:

  • 2 cups raw cashew nuts
  • 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3 Tbsp coconut butter
  • 4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt

Soak the cashews for at least 12 hours. Drain. Blend all ingredients together till smooth. Refrigerate for a couple of hours if you want a stiffer texture. That’s it! 

You can play around with adding different flavours like spices or herbs or garlic. If you do, I want to taste the results!

My Vegan River Cruise

Last week, as a finale to my 1537km cycle trip across France, I boarded the Scenic Sapphire for an all-vegan river cruise from Avignon in the south to Chalon-sur-Saône, via Lyon, sailing up the Rhône and Saône rivers. You could describe it as an eating fest with a bit of sightseeing thrown in. It was the last voyage of the cruising season (which began in April) and, before we boarded, the entire boat was “veganized” in preparation for 160 guests.

How do you veganize a boat? Get rid of any animal products in the kitchen, dining rooms, lounge, and other public spaces; remove any non-vegan cosmetics in the staterooms and replace them with vegan-friendly products; replace the alcohol with vegan alcohol and, last but not least, put Rapunzel chocolate in each cabin for every guest to drool over. When was the last time you had a bar of dairy-free milk chocolate praline? I can’t even begin to describe the scrumptiousness of this german product.

I am not sure how many of the 160 guests were actually vegan… at least half of them, I think, would call themselves “plant-based.” I would love to know the statistics because a lot of people I spoke to were, in fact, vegetarian but were either very interested (in veganism,) or their cruising partners were vegan.

A few small things that I especially appreciated: the hot drinks dispenser –available 24 hours – was filled up with almond milk and vegan hot chocolate powder; the breakfast buffet where I could eat everything, including a choice of almond milk, soy milk or oat milk; being part of “normal” instead of “weird;” and making wonderful new friends.

The other strange thing about this trip was that neither the staff nor the chef were vegan. I think this was a good thing in some ways because it opened up a whole new world of veganism to 50 people. The fantastic food was different to what I am used to in veggie restaurants. I would call it “veganized gourmet.” Most of the meals were out-of-this-world-delicious and a few were quite unusual. I highly recommend this experience and will go again if I get an opportunity.

A word of advice: if you do go, be prepared to feel like you are having too many meals in a day and make a plan to do lots of exercise in between so you can be hungry enough to enjoy the awesome food.

Our cruise was organised by the inimitable Dirk Bocklage, our passionate and comedic vegan German host. For more info on upcoming river cruises click here. If you think you might want to go on the first fully vegan ocean cruise from London to the Norwegian fjords click here.

.

Warm Showers and French Hospitality

 

wp-image-1406457112jpg.jpg

Who knew that the French are so kind and hospitable? All I have ever heard about the inhabitants of France is that they are unfriendly and even grumpy. Well, I am happy to say that that has not been my experience. I have just finished a cycle tour from Le Havre to Avignon, going via Fontainebleau, Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saône, Lyon, Vienne, Valence and other small villages in between. With the exception of a few days on a friend’s boat, I stayed with local Warm Showers hosts every night. They knew ahead of time that I was vegan. None of them were vegan. Perhaps I was expecting the derision that often comes from omnivores when they encounter a vegan: The sarcasm, the joking, the teasing or even belittling that seems to be uncontainable by many omnivores. When I wrote to each potential Warm Showers host I always made it clear that I did not expect to be fed because I know this can be complicated for someone eating a traditional diet and I didn’t want to make it difficult for them. And I always carried food with me so that I could feed myself if necessary. It was never used.

So you may be wondering what Warm Showers actually is. It is a network of people around the world who have signed up either to host cycle tourists in their homes or are cycle tourists looking for accommodation in locals’ homes. It is completely free and is based on a sharing of ideas, cultures and language. This is not an easy concept for most non-cycling capitalists to understand. I have encountered friends who have even criticised me for using Warm Showers and have suggested I am just out there looking for free meals and a free bed. These are people who rent out spare rooms in their houses on airbnb and couldn’t imagine hosting a stranger for free. It’s a sad sign of the capitalist mindset that we can only value money as worthwhile, and not peoples’ stories and other gifts.

Some people cannot seem to understand that the person hosting a cyclist in their home is often gifted with an experience that money could not buy. They learn about you and your travels, your culture and home country. They ask lot of questions. You are tired when you arrive, and often just want to have a hot shower and go to bed, but your responsibility as a guest is to share your stories. In the case of France the hosts have been eager to practise their English with me and very interested to learn all about my journey. We have had some of the most fascinating conversations I have ever had with anyone, me speaking bad French and them either speaking English or French. Their generosity goes way beyond anything you might expect and for me has been unbelievable.

But I still am a product of my upbringing and have felt it was important to bring some kind of physical gift. So I travel with bars of (accidentally vegan) chocolate which I can share with my hosts after a meal. I also thought it might be fun to send them all a postcard with a sketch or photo of their houses. I have done this a few times so far. In fact, the giving back may only take place when the cyclist eventually stops traveling and invites other Warm Showers cyclists into their home to receive their hospitality.

So thank you, France, your beautiful country, your incredibly friendly and generous hosts, your wonderful food, and your drivers who didn’t kill me!

 

 

 

 

 

Découverte Shop and Organic Vegan Café

I cycled into Colchester from East Bergholt to try this tiny little organic vegan restaurant. I’ve been a bit disappointed with the food I’ve tasted in English vegan establishments but this place was an exception. Truly the best vegan meal I’ve had so far in England (except for the awesome food my friends cook.)

It is run by a family team of Joan the mum, her daughter Johannah who is the owner of the quaint gift shop upstairs, and Roderick who is Joan’s son. They are all vegan and eat and serve only organic food. They sure have their work cut out for them! We whiled away the afternoon chatting and eating and I made some new friends.

Decouverte is at 6 Sir Isaacs Walk in a 400-year-old Grade 2 listed building. It is tiny and that’s part of its appeal; I felt like I had dropped in at their home for lunch. My quinoa burger was the best burger I’ve had in ages and wasn’t heavy like so many vegan burgers are. They served Booja-Booja ice cream with the homemade crumble and I was a happy girl.

Upstairs is a gift shop selling all kinds of stuff: clothing, ornaments, jewellery, etc. I also bought some organic soy milk and a stem ginger cake. Piling on the pounds here… lucky it’s back on the bike again tomorrow.

I highly recommend this cool little find in Colchester. Here’s the Facebook link.

(Note: they are closed for a week and will re-open on Saturday 1st October 2016.)

Laughing out loud on the bike

I just rode my first 10km after injuring my knee. Every time I take to the road there is a reward waiting for me. Yesterday, it was the flight of a green woodpecker passing right in front of my eyes as I slowly and gingerly cycled down a country lane near Flatford Mill.

Other rewards are the feeling of the sun on my face, the smiles and sometimes comments from passers-by when they see my fancy dress, the scents from the flowers and trees, the breeze on my skin, the anticipation of what is around the next bend, the honesty farm stall where I buy my dinner, the gratitude I feel when I see so many others who can barely walk. Cycling, like many outdoor pursuits (not sports–what I do is not sport) brings you into the moment. No past or future. Just the experience of now. 

I look inside the cars next to me and feel elated that I am not imprisoned. No matter that their occupants probably feel sorry for me.  And then, I laugh out loud with joy.

Vegan girl not cycling…

 

Me with bike at Jane's

Just a little update to those of you expecting an adventure.  My over-enthusiastic 120km first day back on a fully-loaded bike after being a lazy, working, sedentary person without a bike has resulted in me injuring my knee.  So instead of vegan girl cycling to Europe it is vegan girl recovering and gingerly repairing said knee in East Anglia.  Hah!  Shit happens.  These things are sent to try us and to teach us (I suppose… not sure from whom or where they are sent but anyway) so stay tuned for more exciting stories about Colchester and surrounds (hint of irony.)

Gypsies… Tramps and Thieves? I think not.

Joe and Mary Gypsies (1)

Joe and Mary are gypsies.  I met them today, parked by the side of the road, while I was out cycling the back roads of Oxfordshire.  Turns out Joe was born in Chelmsford – the town of my birth too – in St. John’s Hospital.

I am curious about people living slightly outside of the delineated borders of society.  I spent an informative half hour with this lovely couple interrogating them about their lives.  They were very patient and forthcoming and gave me some fascinating insights into their culture and life experiences.  Although they own a house, they take to the road every summer and get back to their gypsy roots, parking on their favourite grass verges and freely enjoying nature.

But, sadly, they are abused by passers-by in their cars who roll down their car windows and cry, “pikies”or “stinky gypsies” and various other rude comments.  And the cowards only do it from the safety of their cars as they drive by.  Joe said that people generally don’t give them the time of day, appreciating that I stopped by to chat and get to know them.  I asked him if he thought people were afraid of them.  He thought they probably were.  He thinks people just assume that because they are travellers they are criminals.  He acknowledged that some of them are, but he also pointed out that some people who live normal lives in houses are criminals.  Just like you get all types of people in the world you get all types of gypsies.  Good and bad.  Social and antisocial.

So gypsies are classified based on them owning a transit van towing a caravan.  If they wanted to, they couldn’t just pull up into a normal caravan park; they would most likely be turned away.  Sad, really.

They are also defined by their language or dialect.  They don’t readily share this language with non-gypsies but I did learn one or two words: they call a horse a gigi, for example.  And they have their own names for non-gypsies too: we are called gorgers or country people.  It was fascinating.

Why do people abuse gypsies?  Fear, I guess.  I suppose it is no different from any other kind of racism or discrimination; that which we don’t understand we tend to fear.

All the more reason to get out there in the world and experience how the other half live.

 

Stratton Audley Barn, Oxfordshire

I discovered a delightful coffee shop / tearoom / gift shop while out riding with Concordia and Juma today.  It is called Stratton Audley Barn and they were able to serve me vegan hot chocolate made with almond milk.  It has inside and outside seating – the outside area looks out onto farmland.  Inside is a gift shop with all the gifty-type things you would expect in a country store.  Nice place to go for tea or coffee.  Now all they need is a vegan cake to complete the offering…

S Audley Barn Cropped

Cakes at Kind Food at Norwich Market

Paul Dacre at Kind Food

This post is very late… sorry Paul.  I encountered Paul Dacre and his Kind Food stall, at Norwich market, way back in May.  He very kindly gave me a chocolate brownie to try.  I went to Norwich for the Vegan Festival which was a bit of a disappointment.  While I was standing around at Paul’s scrumptious market stall, vegans kept coming up and asking for cake.  No doubt this was because they couldn’t get much cake at the Vegan Festival; lots of T-shirts and other paraphernalia but not enough cake.

Kind Food specialises in gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free cakes as well as other food. Paul’s mum is a vegetarian and he has never eaten meat or dairy in his life!  Lucky man.  He has been baking for over two years and has been at the market since September 2015.  Another point in his favour, apart from great cakes, is that his containers are all compostable and recyclable.

On the subject of containers, a young vegan couple pitched up with a little stainless steel cake tin and asked him to put their cake in there.  Awesome idea.  Really thoughtful of them.

Keep up the good work, Paul.  Hungry vegans need people like you.  Sorry for the rubbish photos.  I’ll do better next time… now I have a new phone.

Cranberry and Orange and Brownies

 

 

 

Star Anise Café in Stroud, Gloucestershire

Star Anis Cafe

Star Anise Café seems to be a meeting place for Stroud’s alternative set –– and it is quite an alternative town to begin with. I felt very comfortable there because there are lots of people on the streets who remind me of me. In other words, they wear tie-dyed clothes and their hair no longer resembles its original colour. The restaurant has a noticeboard outside that lists everything from yoga classes to rooms to let –– everything any self-respecting new-ager of a certain age would need to know about.

Star Anise Café is not a vegan restaurant but it’s one of those places where they don’t pull a face when you ask for plant-based milk instead of baby cow growth formula. Indeed, they offer a wide selection of plant milks including soy, rice, almond, coconut rice and even oat.

My meal at Anis

This was not my first visit. I was attracted by the range of vegan cakes available but I had never actually eaten a meal there. It was a very busy lunchtime and, as a guest of the restaurant, I asked the server to bring me their signature vegan meal. They served me a plate with hummus, a big fresh salad and their freshly baked, amazing sourdough bread.  The salad included leaves, beetroot, olives, spiralised zucchini with a pesto sauce, chopped parsely, pickled fennel with lemon juice and preserved lemons, sliced carrots, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, artichokes, fresh radish and tahini dressing. I particularly appreciated the homemade bread.

The restaurant’s three founders met at the Concord Institute School of Culinary Arts in London and it has its roots in macrobiotic cooking –– I notice they use wonderful Japanese ingredients like umeboshi paste, tamari, rice vinegar and sesame oil.

Here is a link to their online menu. I see that I could have substituted the hummus for a butterbean pâté. There are loads of other vegan dishes and, as I mentioned, a great selection of vegan and gluten-free cakes and desserts.

Choc Banana Cake Anis

Cakes at Anis

Next time I am in Stroud I will return for the sweet potato and spinach pakoras with turmeric rice and spiced lentil dhal.  What is so exciting about vegan food, to me, is how easily it can be incorporated into ethnic dishes. In fact, many ethnic dishes are already vegan. Thank you, Star Anise Café, for treating me to an awesome lunch.

 

Eating Vegan in London: Loving Hut and Kabaret at Karamel

Me on Primrose Hill (1)

Back in England again on a 4 degree C spring day on Primrose Hill. That’s London behind me–– you can just about make out the London Eye on the horizon. Sadly, I am without Tittie, my beloved magenta mountain bike. I would have had to buy extra baggage allowance from Emirates to bring her with me and at $50 per kg I decided it would be cheaper to buy a new bike. So Tittie and Puff (my fluffy companion animal) are taking a vacation from traveling and are going into hibernation through the Cape Town winter. Watch this space and see my new set of wheels in the coming weeks.

I have decided to eat my way around England and Europe this year like any self-respecting vegan would, and I haven’t wasted any time. Last night, an old school friend and I went to Loving Hut in Edgware and picked up way more Chinese take-out than we could possibly eat. We had crispy duck, stir-fried chicken, and steak, along with noodles, rice and spring rolls. Whew! I always go a bit mad when I get to a 100% vegan restaurant. I find myself wanting to eat everything on the menu. Including carrot cake. We’ve got so many leftovers in the fridge I’m getting bored with eating the same thing over and over.

Loving Hut is an interesting restaurant chain. Apparently, they have 200 restaurants worldwide and each branch is able to choose its own menu –– as long as it is vegan, of course. So my experience at LH in Edgware was very different to the LH in Norwich, for example. The branch in Edgware has an enormous Chinese menu including dim sum. So the very impressive selection of “fake” meat was quite overwhelming. Not something I would want to eat every day but it is quite fun to have now and again. Verdict? It was okay but I thought the flavours could have been spicier and more exciting.

Verdict? It was okay but I thought the flavours could have been spicier and more exciting. Maybe it has to be bland to suit the average English taste buds? How are we going to persuade non-vegans to eat more plant foods if they are just not exciting to eat?

So what about a vegan Sunday roast, then? Here’s one in the photo below. This is the version on offer from Kabaret @ Karamel in Wood Green, North London. Open for Sunday lunch from 1pm till 9pm, this unpretentious, fully vegan restaurant is a delight. Owned by Louise Wallis –– ex-President of the Vegan Society –– and her partner Frank, it has been open since September 2014.  Thankfully, the vegan crowd is a loyal bunch and they come to this out-of-the-way venue for meals and vegan meet-ups, or to have a drink at the fully-vegan bar and watch live music performances. Once a month they have Geek Sunday, run by Antonio, where you can play board games and meet new people. If you’re looking for a vegan mate, on the 2nd Sunday of the month they have a London vegan dating event called the Single Mingle.  It’s not easy to be plant-based with a carnist partner, so I think this is a great initiative.

Karamel's Sunday Roast with lager (1)

I ordered the traditional English roast which comprised cabbage, peas, parsnips, butternut, roast potatoes and onions with a nut roast as the centrepiece and gravy on the top. Because I started with the creamy cauliflower soup, I couldn’t do justice to the roast and took most of it home for later. It was a very generous portion, fresh and well cooked. Like Loving Hut, I would have liked it to be a bit spicier and saltier but I am not your average British diner and we probably have different tastes. I took a non-vegan friend with me and she seemed to really enjoy the food. I followed the main with a vegan hot chocolate –– they offered a choice of soymilk or almond milk.

Because of its location near office buildings, Karamel has many omnivorous patrons during the weekdays and doesn’t shout about veganism. It’s a really pleasant, casual place to hang out and have a latté or a craft beer. The staff were very friendly, especially Jim, with whom I chatted about the history of the restaurant. It’s really worth searching out if you haven’t been there yet. Check out their facebook page for more information.

After lunch, we drove to Primrose Hill to walk off our lunch. It was a beautiful, chilly, Sunday afternoon and everyone was out strolling around. I can’t wait to get riding again. Sitting in a tin can on a Sunday afternoon in a London traffic jam sure makes you miss the bike. Well, actually, it was a Jag and it was really comfortable but I would still rather be riding Tittie.

 

 

Waiting for Will…

Will and Madeleine

“I feel short-changed,” a family member said to me yesterday. At first, I didn’t understand what she meant. Then I realised it was because we haven’t got any further north than Johannesburg since we set off on our bikes from Cape Town on November 1st last year. Not only that, but in a few weeks time we will be boarding a bus, with bikes and panniers, and returning to our starting point… albeit temporarily.

Cape Town. This time, it is not your magnetic attraction, your mountain or beaches, our families or our friends, or even the active and compassionate vegan community that is pulling us back to you. It is one incredible man and his amazing wife: Will and Madeleine Tuttle.

Will Tuttle is the author of the The World Peace Diet, an Amazon best-seller. It is probably the most important and all-encompassing book about peace and its link with veganism. You only have to read these reviews to begin to get an idea of the power of this book. I would recommend that anyone who cares about the state of our planet, the sad plight of our farmed animals, and the continuation of the human race, read this book. It is written with such intelligence, such love, and with compassion for all beings, animal and human, vegan and non-vegan.

So, if you fall into any of the above categories, don’t miss Will’s lecture tour. He will be giving presentations in Greyton, Western Cape from the 1st January 2016 to the 3rd. In Cape Town from the 4th January to the 8th. In Durban on the 9th and in Johannesburg on the 13th. We will publish the details of this tour on our Facebook page when we have them.

This also ties in with the Veganuary initiative. “Veganuary aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring and supporting people across the globe to go vegan for the month of January.” Their website explains how it all works and offers an amazing support package for anyone whose new year’s resolution is to go vegan.

We will continue our PEACE cycle to Ethiopia in the new year.

See you on the road.

 

 

 

world vegan day

World Vegan Day logo

Did you know that the 1st November is World Vegan Day? And November is World Vegan Month. Here is the official definition of veganism, coined by Donald Watson in 1944:

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.

So, on this day, every year, we commemorate the foundation of the vegan movement. Yesterday, 1st November, Sven and I celebrated with a group of passionate vegans and activists from Durban. We had a pot luck with delicious and varied food, which was clearly prepared with love.

The 1st November is also the anniversary of the start of a new life for Sven and me. One year ago we began a cycle trip that will eventually take us to Ethiopia. We have cycled 0ver 2,000 kilometres together so far, from Cape Town up to Port St Johns on the East Coast. Next Friday, we will put our luggage on the train to Johannesburg where we will begin the second leg, cycling up to Zimbabwe.

Our goal for this trip is to spread the message that peace begins on our plates. We cannot have peace in our lives while continuing to support a meat-and-dairy-based diet and lifestyle. Our audience is threefold: our followers on social media; the vegans we encounter along the way; and the people we meet who are not yet vegan but are inspired by our message.

If you’d like to follow us you can do so here:

Facebook

Instagram

Website

If you’d like to offer even the smallest amount of financial support, you can do so here.

World Vegan Day 2015

The verb: to uber

images

While I have been away–about a year–Cape Town has embraced a new word: Uber. Like google, it is both noun and verb, but it is the latter form that has found its home in South Africa’s lexicon. I have concluded this because of three Uber encounters in as many days:

I met with a girlfriend who has two kids, each with competing after-school activities. That afternoon we drove to their school to fetch them. The older child had a ballet class that was 5km from school, and the younger one had homework to do. She sent the older one off to ballet in an “uber”, and took the younger one home to do her homework. Problem solved for the price of a fare.

Then, on Saturday afternoon I met my friends at a restaurant to watch the rugby. One of the husbands had arrived ahead of his wife.  When I asked him where she was, he told me he had “ubered’ there; she was arriving later with the car, and they would ride home together. Problem of two cars at one venue solved.

My third encounter with Uber-consciousness was early the next morning outside my apartment. Frustrated residents one block over, unable to find parking the night before due to an influx of cars (it was the World Cup Rugby quarter final between the Springboks and the All Blacks), had parked their car outside the pedestrian gate of my building. Checking that the gate would open and no one’s exit or entry would be blocked, they locked their car and went home. At 5h30 the next morning my neighbour, who was rushing off to an appointment, couldn’t get his moped out of the gate. He sat on his hooter, probably waking the entire block, hoping this would alert the owner of the offending car. When no one showed up, he knocked on almost every door of my building checking to see if anyone had a guest who had parked him in. This is not the way to make yourself popular the morning after a dispiriting rugby defeat by the All Blacks. Desperately frustrated and angry, he went to his flat and fetched a jar of peanut butter. Then he went downstairs and smothered the greasy paste over every window of the errant car. Later that morning I was packing away my possessions in the garage, when the couple came out to their car. Their dismay and anger at having their vehicle vandalised was understandable. Spotting me in my garage, they asked if I knew who had done this dastardly deed. I told them who it was and explained why my neighbour had got so upset. The female of the couple said, “But we would have paid for him to uber to his appointment if we had known!” I just smiled, thinking that if she had left her phone number on the car it might have prevented an entire building from being awoken at dawn and a frustrated moped driver missing his appointment. But there it was again… that uber word.

Uber Technologies Inc. is an American company headquartered in San Francisco. They market the Uber smartphone app which enables users to order an Uber driver to transport them, rather like a taxi service but using the driver’s own car. The company, which launched in 2009, is now said to be worth US$50 billion. The service is available in 58 countries and 300 cities.

Public transport in South Africa has a sorry history. In the early seventies, as a young teenager, the only public transport on offer was the train which I rode home from school.  Appended to both ends of the journey was a long hot trudge to and from the station. Things have vastly improved since then, with the MyCiti bus system, for example. But for a chaotic city like Cape Town, where everyone is rushing about trying to fit too much into one day, especially for busy children who are confronted with so many activities it surely makes them dizzy, the bus is not the solution. And mothers would be very unlikely to put their children into metered taxis in South Africa due to the uncertainty of the fare, and fear for their safety. Enter Uber.

When the infrastructure is found wanting, clever entrepreneurs invent solutions using the advancements of technology. By 2013 there were 59 million cell phones in South Africa, being used by a population of 50 million. The lack of land lines in the country, especially in rural areas, led to an unprecedented uptake of mobile phones, leapfrogging the traditional, inefficient telephone service being mismanaged by the parastatal Telkom.

Cape Town is quite a small city, and Uber is the obvious solution for this public-transport-challenged and traffic-congested place. But, more importantly, it is a very trendy city; Capetonians love to glance up from their iPhones and Samsungs and proudly state “Oh, I ubered here… didn’t you?”.

Why dentist Walter James Palmer is not the enemy.

I am Cecil pic

If you are outraged about James Palmer killing a lion, and you have just eaten bacon for breakfast, or had a bleeding steak for dinner last night, or poured cow’s milk into your coffee this morning, you are a victim of a culture that condones speciesism. You are now experiencing what is called cognitive dissonance. Which is: the anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes (www.dictionary.reference.com).

Or maybe not. Maybe you’re not anxious yet. But you will be.

Yesterday I changed my Facebook profile photo to that of this pig. A living, breathing, feeling being imprisoned behind bars, in a factory farm building, probably somewhere in the United States, but she could just as easily be in South Africa, or Australia, or the UK. It doesn’t matter where she is. What matters is that she has been sentenced to an end at least as excruciating as that of Cecil the lion’s. Unlike Cecil, however, her life has been a living hell since the day she was bred into captivity. Note that she is locked inside a cage, and not outside in the veld running around enjoying her life and loving her piglets. Cecil, at least, has been able to live out his authentic life for 13 lucky years. Lucky because it took that long for a human to come along and ruin his life (barring the time he was darted and collared by Oxford University for research). She is going to have a death just as excruciating as Cecil’s. That’s the truth. So that you can eat bacon. Pork chops. Pork rinds. Pork sausages. Pigs-in-a-blanket. Toad-in-the-hole. Ugh!

Cecil was sacrificed at the altar of human ego. The pig in this photo will be (or was already) sacrificed for the dinner table. Some, in fact most, humans have an illogical and bloodthirsty desire for dead animals on their plates.

Yes, Walter Palmer shot, injured and (eventually) killed a king of the Jungle. An animal we revere, partially because of his predatory prowess. After all, one of the highlights of a successful African safari is seeing a “kill”

A close friend of mine told me yesterday he might have to convert to veganism because of my “evangelism”. Really? I suspect he was winding me up. The dictionary definition of evangelism is preaching or promulgation of the gospel; the work of an evangelist. I am not sure that is an entirely accurate description of me, but I think it was his way of telling me my vegan activism smacks of missionary zeal. Yes, it probably does. And yet, it still isn’t powerful enough to make him stop dead in his tracks (if you’ll pardon the pun) and give up paying other people to exploit and murder animals on his behalf.

James Palmer is not the enemy. Yes, he is the enemy of endangered lions and bears (he was indicted and then fined for shooting and killing a bear). But the carnivorous populations of the world are a much greater enemy to the animals on this planet, and, therefore, indirectly to us all. We think canned lion hunting is a disgrace. How can you raise an animal in a confined space simply for it to be shot by someone, and even make a profit out of it? Erm… hello? Isn’t that what we do every day, to cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys and even horses, dogs and cats in other parts of the world?

You can make an enormous difference. You can be part of the solution, instead of being part of the problem. Right now, if you ingest animals and/or their secretions, YOU are the enemy. Yes, that includes vegetarians.

Go vegan. Please. For the animals, the planet, your health, and to permanently free yourself from the pain of cognitive dissonance. Because I know, and you know, that somewhere inside you lurks a loving and compassionate being.