The formula is simple. Eat food that looks tasty and you’re guaranteed to get people’s interest.
Vegan food has made huge advances over the past year – even since the beginning of 2018 – and it’s never been so exciting to live the lifestyle. With more products coming onto the market from major companies like Cornetto and Goodfellas pizza, and supermarkets creating their own vegetarian and vegan lines, plant-based living is creeping closer into the mainstream. Even vegan influencers are making it onto prime-time TV.
For most people, diet is the first step towards making the change to veganism. With that come questions like – what would I actually eat? Would I get enough protein? Will I even like vegan food? But what if you’re not Bosh! TV or James Aspey? How do you help to change perceptions of those around you in your day-to-day life?
In my experience, food has been the key to educating other people about a vegan lifestyle. I honestly believe that flaunting your tasty plant-based meals is one of the most powerful things you can do. Show them how easy, how delicious and how cheap it can be!
Here are my top tips on how to use food as activism:
1. Educate yourself on the basics of nutrition
Understanding the key nutrients in common vegan foods is helpful for your own knowledge, but it’s also pretty helpful to be armed with. As tasty as your food looks, you’re bound to get questions about how nutritious it is. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go out of my way to find out the nutritional value of every meal I eat, but understanding that you can get iron and calcium from dark leafy greens and tonnes of protein from beans, tofu and quinoa comes in very handy.
2. Bake for your co-workers
People love a mid-morning break for a hot drink and cake. Making something sweet and indulgent to help your team get through a difficult Monday is THE best way to get vegan food into omni mouths. Once people know that vegan cakes and treats taste just as good as – or better than – the ‘normal’ (sigh) ones, you’ll just have to crack their cheese addiction and you’re onto a winner. Try our easy chocolate banana bread for starters.
3. Host dinner parties
Inviting your friends and family around for an evening of tasty food and drinks is a great way to take control of other people’s perceptions of veganism. Our friends and family often think we eat healthy salad-based foods but we’re suckers for British comfort food – pies, sausage and mash, shepherd’s pie and casserole. Pick recipes that show what being vegan means to you, or try themed nights to give people a flavour of the variety of food vegans eat.
We also recommend going the extra mile with dessert. Not everyone will eat it if you’ve prepared a feast, but to reiterate point 2 – people worry about missing out on sweet treats and your bread and butter pudding or brownies and ice cream will show that we can pretty much veganise anything.
4. Share your food with the world
We hope that Pig Out Zine can help people on their plant-based journeys, regardless of what stage you’re at. We’ve found that there’s such a great vegan community online that it’s easy to find people who can relate to your life and your circumstances, and support you through that. You can feed back into that community by sharing your own journey; the food you make, restaurants you eat at, products you buy. It’s an easy way to reach those already thinking about veganism, or at least what it means.
5. Always ask for vegan options
A wise vegan once told me that I should always ask for a vegan menu if I can’t see anything available at a restaurant – because how will they know there’s demand if nobody ever voices it? That’s always stuck in my mind. Sheffield is getting better and better at providing for the growing vegan community and I often wonder how many people voiced their needs in order for change to happen.
On that note, try and support your local eateries when vegan options do pop up, to show that it’s appreciated and it’s a worthwhile investment. Tag those places in photos on social media to share what they’re doing for the community.
6. Take home-cooked lunches to work
I don’t know about you, but a lot of my colleagues buy lunch from local shops each day. It surprises me how impressed people can be at the effort I go to to make my lunches. Actually, I just make extra food for dinner and take it to work as leftovers. Regardless, it always smells delicious and reigns over the boring old shop-bought sandwiches. I get asked what I’ve got for lunch every day at work and if someone takes a real interest, I’ll sometimes bring in an extra portion for them to try. Check out our pineapple fried rice recipe – it’s great to put in the middle of the table at a dinner party and even better for lunch the next day.
You can be an advocate for whatever kind of vegan you want to be, whether that’s sharing your healthy whole food meals, or showing how much junk food we can have. And of course food isn’t the only form of activism. There are lots of different ways to help spread the vegan message. Do some reading online. Chat to different vegan activists on social media or in person if you can and you’ll find your own way.
What other ideas do you have for using food as activism? Let us know in the comments. We’d also love to hear what your go-to dish is when feeding your omni friends. Come and chat to us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.