Daniel Ellenberg has made it to the finals of the UK's Hottest Vegan 2016 contest run by PETA. We talked to him about how being a vegan has improved his life and how it fits in with his job as a musician.
You went vegan to protect animals and the planet, so can you tell us a little bit more about this?
I was obsessed with Leonardo da Vinci growing up, and after discovering he turned vegetarian later on in his life, I decided to give that a try. A few years later I was diagnosed 'lactose intolerant' so decided to go the whole hog (excuse the pun) and become vegan. It's common knowledge that animals are farmed to eat, but the discussion doesn't often mention intensive animal agriculture and the amount of natural resources that demands to keep turning. In the future sustainability has to become a topic, and eating vegan is my contribution right now to that effort.
You have experienced many health benefits of a vegan diet, so please can you expand on this for us?
I used to suffer with bad skin, so that was the first thing to change on this fantastic diet. Other benefits have been consistent energy throughout the days (it also helps that I avoid sugar and caffeine as much as possible), I get very few illnesses like colds and flu, and a clear mind.
Your favourite food is frijoles negros so what are they for those who have never tried them?
I first tried this dish out in Cuba. It's essentially black beans and rice, but the intensity of the flavours in the sofrito (sauce) and richness of the beans is incredible!
I love to cook and often make this recipe in a big batch at home, and although it takes a while to make from scratch I'm never short of family and friends to help finish it off. I'm currently in the process of setting up a family-run veggie/vegan eatery in Liverpool, and this is sure to be a definite winner on the menu.
You are musician, so how do you find eating while you are on tour? Do you have to prepare what you are going to eat beforehand?
Touring as a vegan has its challenges, depending of which country you are in of course. It swings from having entire restaurants dedicated to the diet, to having to perch on a bench with a baguette, tomatoes and olives in hand. But I do love to try local foods as well, I just have to make sure I know exactly what it is, which keeps your language skills on their toes.
How did the rest of the band react to you being vegan?
Luckily the band were quite open minded and the bassist was actually vegetarian, so we would often split up at festivals - meat eaters going one way, us another in search of the spiciest plant-based dish we could find. As I work as a solo artist now, I actually miss the banter about this.
You are also a keen surfer so what sort of things do you eat to keep your strength up while riding the waves?
For me, it's as much about the lifestyle as the diet, and being exposed to nature, on the tip of a wave definitely fits that criteria. I always make sure I prepare snacks for trips to keep energy at the peak. My favourite is probably protein pancakes made with bananas, and a dollop of nut butter, but hummus, homemade guacamole and some bread to dip, is always close to hand.