Today we chat to Lisa, a Russian born woman living in San Francisco, CA. She’s a self-taught plant-based chef, recipe creator and vegan lifestyle coach. We chat about her staggered transition to veganism, hosting plant-based BBQs and how you can veganise anything.
How long have you been vegan?
It’s been about 2 years since both me and my partner (who ‘couldn’t live without cheese’) went fully plant-based. It’s hard to mark a specific date as our transition was very smooth. We literally started by cutting all the crap out of our diets little by little.
What was your diet like before veganism?
My journey towards plant-based lifestyle started over 7 years ago. I used to live in a place that would stock a huge communal kitchen with all sorts of food items, vegetarian and vegan ones among them. When you have all the food readily laying around it can spoil you a little. I found my diet started shifting towards unhealthy things like gross frozen burritos and canned soups. And one morning I decided to swap a nasty beef burrito for a sandwich with veggie slices from Fieldroast. Fieldroast definitely won. That gross half-defrosted bland thing flew right into the trash. Quitting meat was easy.
Then I met my life partner who ate meat but otherwise was trying to eat healthy and was very adventurous when it comes to food, so we shared our passion for cooking. At first I gave in and went back to eating meat because the dishes he was making for me then were amazing.
Then slowly but surely within 2 years, we quit meat but were pescatarian for another couple years. But even then we’d stop using milk and butter and try to move towards healthier options. I guess it would help to mention that we’ve lost 40+ pounds each during the transition.
When you have all the food readily laying around it can spoil you a little.
What was the tipping point that made you go vegan?
My real tipping point was when I quit eating fish and seafood. That day I remember well. I am a very sensitive and emotional person. So one day we went to our regular grocery store and passed a live seafood section. Among regular crabs, mussels and lobsters there was a box of live frogs. Which of course looked pretty odd already but one of them was also missing an eye and that view just broke my heart and made me cry.
There’s no difference when you are eating living creatures. Life is life, they all suffer and struggle the same. It felt like that little bit of meat you get on the legs wasn’t worth killing a whole frog, you know? I have also been against food waste pretty much all my life and eating seafood always felt terrible for the fact that only little parts of the animal get eaten and the rest is simply discarded. What a waste of an innocent life!
Did you have a supportive network of family and friends around you? Are any of them vegan?
I guess this one is already partially answered. I am feeling pretty blessed on this part. Me and my partner are vegan, also all of my friends love our cooking. Some are vegan, some are vegetarian and others are starting to change their diets because they see all the wonderful alternatives. We often host all plant-based BBQs and parties, and about half the people are omnis/flexitarians. It is truly inspiring.
What did you think you’d miss the most, if anything?
Cheese and seafood. But it can all be veganised.
Did you have any slip ups in the first month?
I’ve had a lengthy transition so I don’t call them slip ups, it’s all part of a journey and if there were no other options, or if I had a craving, I would eat ‘forbidden’ foods.
I only fully quit things when I’m ready with all my heart and know exactly why I’m doing it. And to tell you the truth I can’t even say that anything is forbidden anymore. It’s just truly unnecessary and easily replaceable. And veganising dishes from all over the world has been a fun challenge that feeds my creativity. Basically there’s a secret to trick somebody like me into going vegan – tell them they can’t do something and they will.
Basically there’s a secret to trick somebody like me into going vegan – tell them they can’t do something and they will.
Did you notice any changes as a result of your new lifestyle?
Since my transition was slow, probably nothing in the first month. But over time my skin got a lot better. I’ve been struggling with that all my life and it was part of my motivation to quit dairy. Weight loss too but I gained a lot of it back having to sit at work all day. And yeah, blame vegan junk food. It’s just so damn tasty! Well whatever, at least all my fat is good kind of fat. *chuckles* Anyways, getting more active and healthy is on my agenda.
What do you wish you’d known then that you know now?
It’s not much about knowing I guess as about having time and ability to try new recipes. I feel like I’ve learned everything at an appropriate time and finally I am at the point of my life when I can turn my passion into a source of income. Of course I wish I became vegan earlier, but we all move at our own pace so I regret nothing.
What are your plans for the future?
Vegan cooking is definitely something I want to start doing for a living, so more people can find out that plant-based food is not only good for you, but also super delicious. Me and my partner have been coming up with crazy ideas on how to veganise this and that for many years. So now we’re making our own vegan cheeses, seafood replacements, seitan etc., and we want to start a business. Ideally a vegan deli/sandwich shop.
Check out Lisa’s Instagram for ever more amazing food pictures to make you drool.
And while you’re here, why not read the rest of our 31 Vegans’ First 31 Days stories?