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.

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.

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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.