Nutrition

July 1, 2019
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It’s not you. It’s a lifetime of conditioning. Most cultures throughout history have eaten animals. Some may take this to insinuate that it’s the only way, but here at the Vancouver Vegetarian Society, we’re not afraid to think for ourselves. Changing times called for changed behaviours. After all, if there is a way to simultaneously help animals, save the environment, and heal ourselves, what are we waiting for?

For those new to vegetarianism, the world of plant-based food may seem daunting. Your responsibility manifests as rewriting all the rules and habits that you’ve grown accustomed to. It’s no small feat, so give yourself a pat on the back for taking the leap. Not everyone is brave enough to do so.

There are a few cultural food staples that some people defend as the only reason they could never go vegetarian. For the stubborn or uninspired, we offer a few suggestions!

Burgers

Are you even in North America if you don’t enjoy a burger on the BBQ in the summer? There is no denying that a succulent patty on a toasted bun with fresh veggies and condiments is one of life’s simple pleasures. However, just because we want to enjoy our meal, does not mean that any animal lives must be sacrificed!

Throughout Vancouver, the “Beyond Burger” is taking the fast food world by storm. And for good reason! This 100% plant-based patty delivers all the satisfaction of a meat burger without killing any cows. It is the perfect option for those swayed by the ethical or environmental ramifications of meat consumption, but reluctant to give up the taste of a favourite meal. Lucky for us, the burger is featured in menus from A&W to Tim Hortons to Meet (and everything in between), and available at many grocery stores.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling inspired in the kitchen, veggie burgers are a fun and functional way to get all the nutrition your body needs to thrive. Rather than confining vegetables as toppings, incorporating legumes, root vegetables, nuts and seeds into the burger itself is a great way to add essential antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to your favourite comfort food.

Milk 

Despite the abundant array of plant mylks available in stores and cafes these days, many people are still reluctant to eschew cow’s milk. This makes sense. Milk is firmly embedded in the culinary culture of most cultures, and given our mammalian sensibilities, it invokes a sense of comfort and well-being that only a mother could provide. However, at the end of the day, cow’s milk is intended for calves, not adult humans. The cruelty of the dairy industry should be enough to push us away from continued consumption of this stolen beverage.

Soy milk is one of the most ubiquitous dairy substitutes. It is accessible in most grocery stores and cafes for a convenient switch. Fortunately, more and more locations are catching on to providing more non-dairy mylks. Whether it be almond, coconut, or oat, rest assured that you will get accustomed to the different taste and take comfort in knowing that your enjoyment is cruelty-free!

Wings

The much sought-after game day appetizer, the Wednesday night hors d’oeuvres of choice, wings are undeniably an omnivore favourite. At first thought, wings might be considered impossible to make out of plants, but this is a conclusion for those who lack imagination.

Vegetarians can finally rejoice with the plethora of plant-based restaurants that cater to every whim, healthy or indulgent. In Vancouver, cauliflower wings have become the star feature of starter menus. To indulge in this kinder, lower cholesterol treat, visit restaurants like Meet, the food truck Rolling Cashew, or What’s Up? Hot Dog!. You could even try prepping the recipe at home yourself with an easy recipe like this one: https://www.noracooks.com/vegan-cauliflower-buffalo-wings/.

Cheese

The last stronghold of many omnivores, cheese is an understandably difficult product to replicate. Millennia of experimentation and craftsmanship have contributed to transforming a humble bovine secretion into one of the most ubiquitous guilty pleasures around. When people think they must give up this integral part of their diets, they are typically defensive and reluctant. Let it then be our responsibility, fellow vegetarians, to prove that we can be inspired by the best of cheesemaking artisanship without abusing any cows!

At first glance, a cashew, coconut, or soybean may not seem like the right choice for making plant-based cheese, but in the hands of an expert, the transformation is astounding. The beauty of dairy-free cheese is that it can be a nutritious, low-cholesterol addition to the diet, rather than an indulgent diversion. To enjoy the best of both worlds, try Blue Heron’s famous cheeses. We promise you won’t miss the dairy.

Fish

Given the diversity of Vancouver and our position as a port city, fish has been a staple in most Vancouverites’ diets for centuries (including the culinary traditions of the first peoples). While fish may have been a nutritious and practical food in the past, this is not the case today. The fishing industry is notoriously unsustainable and cruel. Fishing trawlers scrape the ocean floor to maximize catch numbers, destroying fragile coral reefs and polluting the waters. Fishing nets frequently ensnare animals like dolphins, sea turtles and seabirds, casually disregarded as “bycatch”.

While seafood may seem like a harmless and tasty choice on the surface, there are many ethical and environmental reasons to abstain. If you frequent sushi restaurants, try ordering the cucumber, tofu, avocado, or yam rolls. Even most poke restaurants should have vegetarian options that sub fish for tofu. If you prefer to cook, try marinating tomato or carrot in soy sauce and seaweed for that perfect umami flavour.


May 25, 2019
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They have found their niche in the city of green, glass, and endless rain. Vancouver is undeniably home to vegetarians and vegans aplenty, yet where do they go to eat and be merry? Once upon a time, dining out plant-based meant a depressing fate of ordering fries and a side salad. This unfortunate scenario no longer has to be your reality, not with so many cutting-edge individuals paving the way to a new lifestyle: one that’s sustainable, compassionate, and delectably delicious.

Erin Ireland, To Die For

The entrepreneurs, activists, and community members that have contributed to making Vancouver a plant-based heaven could not be contained in a single blog article. For a relatively small city of 600,000 residents, this city certainly punches above its weight when it comes to veggie options.

In celebration of our city that embraces sustainable, ethical, and innovative living, let’s recognize some of the pioneers that make this lifestyle possible and even exciting.

Your world will never be the same after you try Erin Ireland’s banana bread. Maybe that’s why her company is aptly named “To Die For”. We’d surely consider trading our souls for an endless supply of that chocolate-y, decadent quick bread. Existential dessert crises aside, Ireland’s origins may surprise the most avid proponent of these plant based pastries. Before going vegan, Ireland worked as a full-time food reporter who strictly followed every food trend, whether it be “bacon everything” or Epic Mealtime style feasts.

After she watched some life-changing documentaries, the lens with which she looked at the food industry was completely shattered. She yearned for the broken system to improve, and so she shifted her professional focus to businesses that were making positive changes. Ireland believes it is her personal mission to spread sustainable and healthy living through the community, whether that be by baking banana and lemon loaves with love, or highlighting superstar local businesses who are making a positive impact on the world.

Zack Berman and Ryan Slater, The Juice Truck

The adventure travel buddies stumbled into the juice business in quite the unusual way. While trekking through Nepal, Berman and Slater happened upon a village that thrived off sea buckthorn berry juice. This inspired their joint idea of superfood juices, and they spent the rest of their trip collecting unique juice blends to bring home to Vancouver.

Their plan to open Canada’s first mobile juice business has been wildly successful. One need only ask the loyal customers what an impact the juices and smoothies have had on their health. Berman and Slater aim to “push the boundaries of what can be juiced or blended” to have a positive impact on the health of their community. Stress seems like an unavoidable peril of our modern lives. When we can’t make time for healthy meal prep, we can take comfort in the fact that all the nutrition we need is in a humble truck of juice.

Jim Vesal, Virtuous Pie

The founder of the legendary Chinatown hotspot, Virtuous Pie, had an unlikely entrance into the culinary world. Jim Vesal spent 6 years pursuing a law career before resolving that cooking was his greatest passion. Formerly the executive chef of Cocktails and Canapes, Vesal is now blazing his own path towards affordable, sustainable, ethical and delicious food.

Many guests are surprised to learn that the menu is entirely plant-based, but carnivore and vegan alike have difficulty tearing themselves away from the indulgently delicious pizzas and ice creams of Virtuous Pie. Vesal is dedicated to providing options that excite the least flexible of diners, while supporting local food ventures. Virtuous Pie features local craft beer and kombucha, and sources as many recipe components as possible from community partners. Any diner with a hardworking sweet tooth ought to try the cookie sandwich for dessert. The homemade chocolate chip cookies stuffed with a generous amount of the customer’s choice of ice cream flavour absolutely steal the show.

Karen McAthy, Blue Heron Creamery

Venture down the fork of Kingsway and Main on a Saturday afternoon, and you’re sure to spot the lineup of dedicated Blue Heron customers, patiently waiting for their weekly fix of artesanal plant-based cheese. Karen McAthy is a long-time vegan, and knew that it had to be possible to make better cheese alternatives than what was already on the market. She had worked as Graze Vegetarian’s executive chef for several years, and found herself wishing for tastier additions to vegan charcuterie or antipasti platters.

McAthy takes a leap ahead of the pack by mixing conventional dairy knowledge with responsible ingredient sourcing, along with professional expertise and plant-based values. She tested the fermentation and culturing process on her unique cheese blends that incorporate cashews, coconut milk, herbs and spices, and eventually ended up with several star recipes that are now more than capable of stealing the show at any charcuterie board.

Linda Antony, MeeT Restaurants

It’s the one restaurant that every vegetarian in Vancouver has been to. They’re running out of awards to win. The restaurant industry veterans’ project employs a humble strategy for dazzling results. Linda Antony is a French culinary school-trained chef, but her education was hardly employed in the development for MeeT’s menu. Rather, Antony credits 12 years of cooking for a vegan husband, Jason Antony (along with business partner Ibo Staiano the three founded the restaurant in 2014), as her inspiration.

Although everything on MeeT’s menu is plant-based, 70% of its guests are not. This is a bit of an anomaly in the world of vegetarian restaurants, but it’s a great sign for the future of the movement. MeeT caters to the indulgent, comfort-food driven, burger connoisseur in all of us. For the typical meat eater that sees vegetarian food as nothing more than wheatgrass shots and kale salads, plant-based spins on pub classics throw a wrench in the system. Sometimes it’s even difficult to distinguish plant from animal, as with MeeT’s introduction of the Beyond Burger. Rather than guilt people towards vegetarianism, the owners of the restaurant hope to tempt them into it, making healthy and compassionate food more accessible to everyone.


September 12, 2018
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Whether you’re planning for a vacation, moving, or simply to meet like-minded people from around the world, it is great to be aware of the vegetarian havens across the globe. In addition to the well-known cities like Los Angeles, Portland, or London, some places may surprise you for their delicious vegetarian food selection.

The most populous and innovative Israeli city, Tel-Aviv, is a surprising destination for vegetarians. Tel-Aviv’s international reputation has only recently been associated with veganism, thanks in large part to the controversial influence of Gary Yourofsky, a Jewish-American animal activist. Yourofsky’s viral videos that are as informative as they are heart-wrenching, have drawn parallels between the experience of Holocaust victims in concentration camps with animals in slaughterhouses. This analogy was especially potent for Israelis, and Yourofsky’s influence has been connected with almost a 10% uptake in veganism in Israel. Beyond staple Israeli foods like hummus, falafel, and tabouleh, vegetarian cuisine centres around fresh produce and bold, layered flavours of spice and herbs. Tel-Aviv alone is home to 400 vegan restaurants and kitchens that cater to and delight residents and tourists alike.

Berlin, historically best known for bratwurst, beer, and Cold War political tension, has now gained recognition as one of the most vegan friendly cities in the world. Home to ever-expanding supermarket chain Veganz and a plethora of vegetarian restaurants, shops, and events, plant-based travellers are sure to feel more than welcome in the German capital. Given the city’s renowned affordability, Berlin has attracted global immigration, and has the restaurant scene to show for it. In tandem with the rise of international cuisine is the increased popularity of the vegan lifestyle. Berlin is home to approximately 80,000 self-identifying vegans (not including additional vegetarians) who are keen to make the city as accommodating as possible of a cruelty-free way of life.

As more Western backpackers flock to Southeast Asia for coming-of-age expeditions and Instagram-worthy beach trips, tourist destinations are bending to meet the demand for plant foods. Vegetables, tropical fruit, and rice are already popular staples in Thai, Malay, Lao and Vietnamese cuisine, so the adjustments for vegetarian meals are not difficult. Additionally, this region is home to many followers of Buddhism, which in a strict adoption of its principle of ahimsa, precludes violence towards any life. As long as travellers take care to avoid fish sauce (often included inconspicuously with otherwise vegetarian dishes) and are considerate of local culinary traditions, they are sure to have a rewarding and delicious experience.

Beyond any cities or geographical areas highlighted for their extraordinary catering to vegetarian diets, it is possible to avoid animal products anywhere in the world with some careful planning and awareness. Local customs may be different than what travellers are accustomed to, so it is important to research, learn helpful phrases in the country’s language, or find similar-minded locals to avoid uncomfortable dining experiences and seamlessly enjoy the trip of a lifetime.