INTERVIEW WITH JEN OF SOMETHING BRIGHTER BLOG

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Name: Jen

Location: Sheffield, UK

Website: Something Brighter

Twitter/Instagram name: @jentidders

About Me: I’m a 33-year-old Southerner-turned-Northerner who studied journalism then psychology, who works as a PA, and who still doesn’t know what she want to be when she grows up. I’ve been in a band, put on gigs/club nights and been a DJ. I’ve always been a keen foodie and I love going out for meals, browsing recipes for inspiration and cooking. As well as being an animal lover, I’m also into books and comics, films, TV, most forms of geekery, knitting and cross-stitching. I don’t like celery, the sound of brushes (it’s a form of misophonia), or being too cold.

Favourite Animal: I can only choose one? Err… dachshunds! Their stubby little legs make me squeee! I’ve always loved dogs, but can’t have one of my own at the moment. Luckily, through Borrow My Doggy  I’ve found a lovely canine pal called Boy and I have him regularly for walks and cuddles. I’ve also grown rather fond of cats (my partner has a super cute lady cat called Ziggy). I’ve also got a bit of a thing for most British wildlife – foxes, badgers, otters, and so on.

 

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Recipe: https://somethingbrighter.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/mexican-vegan-chilli-quinoa-bowl/

 

When did you go vegan?

1st November 2015 (World Vegan Day).

Why did you go vegan?

I couldn’t find a good reason not to anymore. I’d gradually transitioned to being mainly vegetarian, ‘treating’ (cringe!) myself to meat and fish occasionally at restaurants. After a while, I realised that I wasn’t even enjoying these supposed ‘treats’ and that I just felt uncomfortable about eating meat. Also, I’ve been lactose intolerant since I was 21, and it started to dawn on me that my body was clearly pointing out that baby cow/goat/sheep growth fluid wasn’t meant for me as a human! I know a few vegans and I’d seen how delicious their food looked and how easy it seemed, so the idea of giving up animal products had kind of been brewing in the back of my mind for a while.

In October I went to Celluloid Screams (Sheffield’s annual horror festival) and saw an incredibly powerful short horror film called The Herd, by the amazing vegan feminist, Melanie Light (watch in full here), which added to the nagging doubts in my mind about using animal products, equality and speciesism.

One morning I woke up, looked on Facebook and saw it was World Vegan Day. On the spur of the moment I decided to have a vegan month and see where it went. Over the next 30 days, I felt more excited about cooking than I had done in ages, ate loads of tasty food, and felt a lot more positive about myself. Once I learned more about the cruelty of the meat and dairy industries and the environmental impact of animal agriculture (things I’d previously had no clue about) there was no way I was going back.

 

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Vego Food World, Berlin

 

What have you found challenging/difficult?

Actually it’s been a lot easier than I thought. Obviously the first month is a bit challenging when you’re getting used to label reading and finding which restaurants will cater for you, but thanks to the ‘Vegan for Life’ book and some great guides on the Internet, I felt I got to grips with things quite quickly. I did miss cheese for a bit, but I think I’m over the casein withdrawal now and after experimenting I’ve found some nice-tasting substitutes. To be honest, my biggest difficulty has probably been me making assumptions about others! I was worried what friends and family would think, especially if they were cooking for me, as I didn’t want to appear demanding or be an imposition. Also, I hate conflict, so I was concerned about people trying to start arguments about veganism (have a Google for “Defensive Omnivore Bingo”!) In reality, most people have been great – really open-minded, accepting, and accommodating. Of course there will always be the odd person who wants a debate, but I think I’ve handled those quite well!

What product most surprised you when you found out it wasn’t Vegan/Cruelty free?

Obviously eggs aren’t vegan, but it really shocked me when I learned the truth about ‘free range’ chickens and what happens to male chicks. Similarly, I previously naively assumed that cows produce a constant supply of milk naturally, rather than them getting forcibly and repeatedly impregnated. In terms of things you’d think would be free of animal products, it’s crazy that you have to watch out for fishes’ swim bladders in beer and wine. It’s also amazing how often milk sneaks its way onto ingredients lists.

 

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Pure on Raw, Sheffield

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If you could say anything to your previous non-Vegan-self what would it be?

I’d try to be gentle and compassionate with myself – personally I don’t think you can force anyone to make the transition before they’re ready to, as humans are very stubborn and like to feel they’ve made a choice freely. I prefer to just show people how delicious, varied, easy and non-restrictive vegan food is, so I’d probably offer ‘become permanent chef’ to my previous non-vegan-self, then wait for them to become intrigued and start asking me for more information. This approach has worked with my office mate who has now drastically reduced her meat intake, watched Cowspiracy of her own accord, and is considering becoming vegetarian and reducing dairy consumption!

What are your favourite Vegan restaurants/cafes/shops?

Sheffield has one 100% vegan café, Pure on Raw, which concentrates on raw foods – salads, juices, pizzas, pasta, burgers, and desserts – as well as soups and wraps. The vegetarian Blue Moon Café  is a bit of a Sheffield institution, serving tasty, homemade, daily specials (always vegan options) accompanied by heaps of pasta, rice and vegetable salads. Lots of Sheffield eateries seem to have vegan dishes on their menus now, and are accommodating if you ask them to leave something out. We have a totally vegan shop, in the form of The Incredible Nutshell which has a huge range of products, and is fantastic because you know you can just pick anything up and buy it without having to read the label. They also stock lots of vegan products at Beanies Wholefoods alongside their organic fruit and veg.

What is your favourite/best Vegan documentary/book/Instagram account/blog/YouTuber?

I watched Cowspiracy and Vegucated after I’d already turned vegan and they were huge eye-openers. The aforementioned book “Vegan For Life” by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina is a really helpful read, outlining all you need to know to be healthy on a vegan diet. On Twitter I get loads of great recipe ideas from @VeganRecipeHour and @FindingVegan, and the tweets from @VeganLifeAssoc, @TheVeganSociety, @YourDailyVegan and @AboutVeganFood are always interesting. On Instagram @accidentallyveganuk is really helpful and @figsontoast always posts photos that make me drool! Am I allowed to mention my own blog, Something Brighter?

 

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Annie’s Burger Shack, Nottingham. Eaten on the day Jen went vegan!

 

Which well-known vegans would you have at your fantasy dinner party and what 3 course meal would you serve?

Kristen Bell, Ellen Page, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, Joan Jett, Saul Williams and Thom Yorke. I love Thai food, so I’d probably make –

Starter: Tom Yum Hed (hot and sour mushroom soup)

Main: Tofu and vegetable Kaeng Phet (red curry) with jasmine rice and Som Tam (spicy papaya salad)

Dessert: Coconut sorbet with a lime and mango coulis

 

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What advice would you give someone who was thinking about going vegan?

I think some people feel overwhelmed at the start, but you don’t have to go fully vegan all at once – just start making small changes one at a time (swap your dairy milk for almond milk, your chicken for beans and pulses, your beef mince for soy mince, your scrambled eggs for scrambled tofu, and so on) – it doesn’t matter if it takes a year or more to transition or if you make occasional mistakes. There’s a quote I love by John Steinbeck: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” Being vegan isn’t about being perfect, it’s about doing what you can to try to reduce suffering in the world. Just give it a go!

Please can you show us a picture of the inside of your fridge/cupboards?

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Any further comments or anecdotes to share:

I have four tattoos. On my left calf I have a hand holding a solar system (by @bootattoo89 on IG), which reminds me simultaneously of how significant/insignificant we are; I find it really inspiring and grounding – although I’m just one person, I can make a big difference, but I’m one of many and I don’t have to be perfect. Another is a big nature piece on my right thigh (by @charlotte_eleanor88 on IG), which is an homage to my favourite band (Sleater-Kinney) and a trip I took across the Pacific Northwest to see them play live. It features a coyote (from the S-K song, ‘Light Rail Coyote’) and the official State birds and flowers for Oregon, Washington and British Colombia. I’d like to get more animal tattoos – I’m currently thinking of getting a British wildlife design on my other thigh.

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