Why does that sound dirty!! My first interview in my vegan series is with one of my best friends, Jenna Matthews. Jenna has been a huge inspiration to me on my quest to switch to a more plant-based diet. What I love about her (among many other things) is that while she is very committed to her choices, she never judges anyone else for theirs and never forces her views on anyone. As I’ve come to realise just through exploring vegan blogs and FB groups, this is quite a feat. There’s a section of the vegan population who are as judgy and finger-pointy as your most self-righteous religious enthusiasts. Aanyway, moving swiftly on…
Here’s Jenna’s story on her journey into veganism.
1. How do you define your food choices? (vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, transitioning, etc)
A transitioning pescatarian into veganism.
2. How long have you been eating this way?
I’ve been pescatarian for approximately 5 years, transitioning to veganism for the past 4 months.
3. What inspired your choice?
I tried out Vegan October, a social media initiative by Vegilicious and joined 2 groups on Facebook for tips and assistance. Here I started reading up on all the absolutely horrible things happening to animals (even the kind that are “organically grown”) as well as watching shows such as What the Health. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. Vegan October gave me that push to at least start trying. Being an animal lover, I just cannot ignore the mistreatment they receive anymore.
4. How long did it take you to fully embrace your choice and did you do any research beforehand?
It’s been a few months coming from about mid-2017 and Vegan October gave me that push. I’m constantly doing research and although I am not quite a complete vegan yet, I feel happy with my food choices so far. I’ve given up milk, eggs, cheese (mostly – I eat cheese possibly once every 2 weeks and usually just on pizza). Fish, I’m still working on – I try to keep it to only sushi evenings with the girls, which are once a month, and the odd braai at home. Only sustainable fish too.
5. Describe a typical day in meals.
I intermittently fast, so I do not eat breakfast. My first meal of the day will be lunch which is usually leftovers from the night before – if no leftovers, it’s a sandwich with vegan mayonnaise, tomatoes, rocket, onion and avocado. Snacks in the afternoon include easy to munch vegetables (sugar snap peas, pickled onions, pickled beetroot, baby corns). Dinners – I’ve been playing around a lot with vegan dinners. As I’m still transitioning, sometimes the meals are just vegetarian. Some examples of dishes I make include vegan mushroom bourguignonne, vegan mac & cheese, black bean, pepper & mushroom quesadillas, mushroom wellington with roast potatoes, sesame noodles with tofu stirfry (stirfries are a favourite) and Fry’s selection of vegan food, although I try not eat too much of this as it’s quite processed, which I do not like.
6. What, if anything, do you find difficult about your lifestyle? Was there anything especially hard to give up or to find?
If I were to go completely vegan I discovered that, much to my horror, a lot of wine (and beer and hard liquor, for that matter) is not considered vegan, as wine can be processed using animal products such as isinglass, egg whites or gelatin. More often than not they do not disclose their ingredients on the bottles. So I would have to give up something I truly do enjoy. I also really love fish so when I give that up completely, it’s going to be hard. Luckily veganism is taking off around the world, so it is much easier to source ingredients either online or in shops.
7. What do you love about it?
I’ve been feeling amazing; my body is healthy and happy and most of all my conscience is feeling a lot lighter. As I have not completely given up meat products yet, with just fish to go, I do still feel that I have more to do, but I also believe that going completely vegan in one shot is not the way to do it. It’s a process where you need to do the proper research to make the best decision for yourself.
8. What’s the one question you get about your lifestyle that really annoys you – and what’s your answer?
Question: “But where do you get your protein from?” (insert roll of eyes here) Answer: Nowhere in the history of the world have you ever heard of a vegan (or anyone for that matter) getting a “protein deficiency”. Almost every type of vegetable/grain/legume we eat has some protein in it and by most research, a person only needs about 2.2g of protein per kg of body weight – and this is a bodybuilders guide. By my research, a normal person only needs about 0.8g/kg and guess what? A potato has about 2.5g of protein in it, brown rice has about 2g in it, etc. So, in short, you will find protein in just about everything we eat.
9. Any advice for anyone wanting to switch to a plant-based diet?
Do your research properly first, arm yourself with answers to the (sometimes random) questions you’ll get from people and start a recipe guide! Pinterest is my go to for vegan recipes. Above all – do it for yourself and do it the way you want to do it. I call myself a part-time vegan (thanks La!) as I am still transitioning and who knows – maybe I’ll be transitioning for the next 3 years! No one can tell you what to do, it is up to you on how you go about becoming a vegan. You are choosing to be a more compassionate person and that is something you should be proud of.