To celebrate World Vegan Day- Anna Chapman kindly talked to us about her journey into the plant based lifestyle.
What prompted you to go vegan?
I love cooking and had fallen into a pattern of cooking all of the same routine meals. I saw an advert for a University Challenge to go vegan for the month of February. I had been reading about veganism and I was interested in it, I wanted to see what I could cook and what changes it would make in my life. The last animal product I ate was at dinner whilst on a dissertation research trip to Milan the night before I went vegan. I have not touched animal products since – that was Sunday January 31st 2016. It was during the first few weeks of that trial month that I really began to look into veganism and read about animal cruelty, our environmental impact and the health benefits, that is when I really felt the impact of veganism not just on me but on my surroundings. The literature available on the subject is extensive, interesting and well researched.
What were the biggest changes you noticed once making the switch?
Increased energy- in general I have felt a lot better and a lot less sluggish.
Was there anything you struggled with during the transition?
Initially I think I struggled with meal composition. Most of us are raised to believe that your plate needs a central meat/protein and then sides of vegetables and carbohydrates. Suddenly your meals become a variety of what before would have been side dishes. I did not struggle with this so much at home but in restaurants where fish/chicken/steak took a leading role in the menu and vegans are often condemned to a medley of vegetable side dishes. That is now no longer a problem and I am lucky enough to live in London where restaurants almost always have an option and, if not, I have become adept at asking for replacements/changes to the menu and restaurants are always so lovely about it! After about 6 months I was also feeling a bit weaker (my family have a predilection to anaemia and and B12 which prevents this is found mainly in animal foods). A friend of mine who had been vegan for a while recommended that I buy some B12 supplements and they work like magic.
You were at the University of Manchester until last year so how did you find student life while being a vegan?
I found student life as a vegan very easy. Buying vegetables and beans etc. is much cheaper than meats and cheeses! We are also lucky enough to live in a society where soya/almond/all manner of nut milks are available so necessary coffee at the library was never a problem. I would pack all of my lunches and snacks so had control over the variety of nutrients/foods in my life. That being said, supermarkets now provide a whole host of vegan products so buying breakfast/lunch/snacks is not hard. There are so many restaurants that either have vegan options or will happily change the menu for you.
You also moved to London in 2016 so how easy is it to be vegan in the capital?
There are so many places to eat in London! I actually feel like a bad vegan sometimes because I have not tried out all of the amazing looking places that I see featured in Time Out and on Instagram. I am lucky because my family and friends are all really up for trying out vegan places with me.
Where is your favourite place to eat out?
A friend of mine recently introduced me to Juice Baby which was amazing, I have also tried a Ms Cupcake cookie in Brixton and Yorica ice cream, both of which were delicious. My favourite place hands down though is a restaurant called Counter Culture in Clapham. It is not strictly vegan but the chef has twice adapted the menu for me with amazing results – served like tapas, the food there has most decadent and amazing flavours.
How big a role do animals play in your life?
My knowledge of the reality of animal food production has grown exponentially since becoming vegan. Documentaries such as Earthlings, Cowspiracy, What the Health, Forks over Knives and Foodmatters are well researched and really insightful. Whilst hard to watch, they reiterate the cruelty we inflict on farmed animals for the food they provide us with, our environmental impact and our health, all of which are the findings of researchers the world over.
Athough I live in London, and so have very little interaction with livestock and wild animals, I do have two cats, a dog and tank full of fish which bring me and my family a lot of joy.
What is your favourite vegan dish to eat at home?
I love Lebanese food and adore making foods like tabblouleh, falafel, hummus and babaganoush. I also really love making aubergine, sweet potato or chick pea curries.
What vegan and cruelty free products are staples in your home?
I love vegan products from lush like the ‘Feeling Younger’ skin illuminator and I am currently using the coconut body wash from Natural Source which smells incredible.
What is your advice for others who are thinking of going vegan?
Most people will occasionally have the odd vegan day without even realising it. If you want to, give it a go and see how you feel, you may find yourself feeling happier/sleeping better/feeling less sluggish. It is so much easier than you think and, if you think you are the kind of person who will struggle without cheese and meats and yogurts etc, there are so many delicious vegan alternatives, many of which taste better!