Interview: to happy vegans

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Some of you may remember the Vegan Bake Sale held this summer in South End Green where a group of dedicated vegans went all out to bring you fabulous, tasty vegan cakes, cookies, muffins and more. I was very lucky to have the help of two lovely people that day - Mitsuko and Sasha of To Happy Vegans. These ladies really know how to bake! Here they share a little of their own vegan journeys and give some sage advice on veg living.

How long have you been vegan/vegetarian and what prompted you to make the switch to a plant based lifestyle?

MC: I have been vegetarian on and off since I was about 10.  In 2007 after reading Skinny Bitch I started reading up further on where my food was actually coming from and became vegan (I was not even vegetarian at the time).

SH: I was a veggie for 17 years before turning vegan 2 years ago after reading the skinny bitch.  The information in that book changed my life and adopting the vegan lifestyle was the best thing I could do for the environment, animal welfare and health.

Many people are vegan/vegetarian for health, environmental, ethical and spiritual reasons. What are your main reasons for being vegan/vegetarian? Have these changed over time?

MC: For me, it was primarily ethical, environmental and I guess emotional, I don’t see why anything should have to suffer for me. If I can live without meat, cheese, leather etc why would I want to consume it?

SH: For the environment, animal welfare and health reasons initially.  More recently I have learned more about raw vegan living which really an appeal to me, there is a spiritual side which would work well with the meditation work that I do.

How have your friends, family, and colleagues reacted to you going vegetarian/vegan?

MC: All my friends have been totally accepting and never questioned my decision. Of course you get the odd person winding you up, but in the end, it’s harder for them to justify what they are doing when you explain why you aren’t doing it.

It’s probably been the hardest for my husband who is a big meat eater. Whilst he has vastly improved from when I first met him over 12 years ago (he wouldn’t even look at a vegetable), he has said sometimes he wishes I was ‘normal’. Unfortunately, as I point out to him, people may not very well have the choice in the future and being vegan will be the norm. Conversely whilst he does not enjoy the benefits my diet provides to him, he is glad that I will keep our son on the quote: ’straight and narrow’.

SH: At first no one really understood beyond not eating dairy.  There is a lot to being a vegan, it is a lifestyle choice.

Where do you find most support for your vegan / vegetarian lifestyle? (online, a particular site/forum, societies, veg friends/family, email buddy etc)

MC: Sasha and I both went vegan at the same time, initially we supported each other, it definitely made it easier having someone to do it with. As we were also working together we would take it in turns to make lunch for each other.

We noticed that whilst there were good websites on certain aspects of vegan living, there wasn’t really a one stop website. We decided to make our own To Happy Vegans, and it is basically everything that we have learned, and are still learning along the way.

SH: Mitsuko was the best support, we became vegan at the same time, researched it together and fed each other.  We knew we were doing a good thing and have always wanted others to join in….  So tohappyvegans.com was created.

 

Has going vegan/vegetarian had an impact on your life in other, less obvious ways? (ie; learning to cook, improvement in health, involvement in activism, career change etc)

MC: I had enjoyed baking occasional in my pre vegan days, but it’s now reached new heights! I must bake (mainly cupcakes) at least once a week and become vegan has also made me a lot more adventurous when it comes to cooking meals. I’m always scribbling down recipes that I happen to come across, I have a very big to do list!

The website itself has been a major catalyst; we decided to start doing some festivals and booked ourselves in at the London Vegan Festival which was in September, and Animal Aid which is in December. Our stall primarily sold home baked goods but also provided information about other vegan websites and products. We really enjoyed it and are now looking to get a permanent pitch somewhere.

SH: My cooking has improved so much in the last couple of years.  I still LOVE food and want to eat tasty, textured and delicious food and why shouldn’t I?!!  I can cook a fine muffin now.

What are some of your favorite vegan foods?

MC: Luckily for me, all the foods I loved before I was vegan were or are easily veganised. My idea of heaven is having a meal with lots of little dishes, I love dim sum, mezze, tapas, basically, I like to have a little bit of everything! I also had a lot of Japanese food growing up, so these have a real comfort factor for me, nothing tastes more like home than some rice and pickles or a bowl of ramen. Ooh and I love a good curry, the spicier the better!

SH: I like all foods, fresh fruits and veggies picked from my garden as well as sprouts (as in beans, not Brussels)

Is there anything you’ve found difficult since going vegan/vegetarian?

MC: I wouldn’t say it’s ever been difficult, annoying sometimes, but living in London I am lucky to have a lot of options and anything I can’t find I can do without! I think the key thing is to be prepared, it’s not so easy to be spontaneous when you are eating out.

SH: Nothing would stop me being a vegan; it is a completely accessible and easy lifestyle.  I think everyone should be one.

What is the best thing about being vegan/vegetarian?

MC: Being vegan is another part of my quest to try to reduce my impact on the planet and a number of resources my life uses up. It would be nice to think that the way I strive to live might in some small way influence the people around me and help them to make decisions that are beneficial not only to themselves but every living thing we share this world with. If that were true, that would definitely be the best thing about being vegan.

SH: A vegan lifestyle means a lower carbon footprint; it is good for your health and helping animals.  It is all good.

Do you have any advice to share with others who would like to go vegan/vegetarian?

MC: There are lots of other lovely vegans out there who want to help you! For specifics we have a ‘Getting Started’ section on our website with information and tips on eating out, stocking up your vegan kitchen and more.

SH: I would direct them to our website www.tohappyvegans.com - a complete guide to vegan living.  Anyone can obtain all the info they want from their on nutrition, vegan fashion, chocolate, recipes and our day to day blog which covers any vegan undertaking that we are undertaking!

Everything and anything else you’d like to add:

SH: Becoming vegan is simply one of the best things that I have ever done.  It is a lifestyle choice that really increases your product awareness and cooking!  There is more to food shopping than the 4 big supermarkets.  As you learn more about being a vegan share the information with friends and family.  Help break down the perception.

Also - why isn’t everyone vegan?  Being vegan is misconceived.  A non-vegan thinks we live on lettuce leaves and lentils and has no idea of the vegan products available.  Most people have no idea their toothpaste, shampoo & soap contains animal by products.  If they did would more people make better purchasing choices?

Thanks, guys! If you would like to learn more about Mitsuko & Sasha visit To Happy Vegans. They have loads of brilliant information available, including tips on health and fitness, fashion, beauty and more. Some amazing recipes too.

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