Happy Friday, everyone!!! Before we dive into this wonderful interview, I feel the need to explain (again) why I’m running these features. I have met some amazing human beings who are spreading awareness and opening the eyes to those unsure about the vegan lifestyle. I’d say close to 90% of the people I’m featuring had once suffered in some way, whether from an illness or ailment, but making the switch to a plant-based diet helped improve their health and well-being. I was drawn to these lovely people by their creativity, talent and kindness to all. My decision to run this series is my way of giving them a giant hug and to let them know that I appreciate what they do and who they are. Sharing their stories and journeys may help someone who is curious about this way of life.
Ok, back to why we’re here today! I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura from The Whole Ingredient. She is easily one of the biggest sweethearts I know and has been nothing but supportive and encouraging since the day our paths crossed on Instagram. I wish she didn’t live all the way in London, but thanks to social media and technology, we’ve been able to build a wonderful friendship. So, without further ado, let’s learn more about Laura!
Interview with Laura
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I live in East London with my husband Dan and our gorgeous senior cat, Humphrey, who we adopted from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in 2007. We tend to spend our weekends exploring and walking, which often means walking between vegan places to eat and pubs and seeing what undiscovered history and nature we find along the way. One of my favourite things about living in London is to always be able to walk somewhere different and learn something new, from historic graveyards to pirate hangouts. But I would really love to live by the sea somewhere quiet – I can’t think of anything better than to be able to walk along a beach every day.
Having worked in the media and for charities after university I became a secondary school (11-19) teacher in Humanities and English, and I have to say, I didn’t love it, so I now work full-time in educational publishing and write books for teachers. But my real passion and enjoyment comes from writing my blog The Whole Ingredient – and of course all of the recipe testing that goes with it! I love writing and reading of all genres, and I have a special love for history, from ancient to modern. A little trivia for you: during my degree in Egyptology I learned to read and write hieroglyphics!
When did you go vegan? What was your “Aha” moment?
I’m not certain what finally prompted me to embark on a vegan life, but having been a vegetarian on and off since my teenage years it came to me as a self-styled ‘seven day vegan trial’. Encouraged by my husband, who had adopted a vegan diet for health reasons a year earlier, I soon realised how becoming vegan was so right for me and my beliefs. I absolutely loved it. Despite my initial hesitation over what I was going to eat (cheese had become somewhat of a feature of my diet) I really started to enjoy the new adventures in cooking; the new shops and types of food that I had never even heard of (let alone tasted), and the stone in weight I lost after four weeks.
Aside from the food, I also experienced a genuine buzz and sense of contentment from actually doing something positive for the animals I professed to care so much about. I have always been fascinated by nature; as a child when out on a walk with my parents I used to run after sheep to try to hug them. I created a museum in my bedroom to raise money for a local animal rescue centre. I was that kid in school sitting in the corner, writing top tips sheets for my classmates on how to care for their hamsters. And so, as I grew older, it felt natural to try out vegetarianism, and although I always felt there was something more I could be doing, something scared me about becoming vegan. I took my time, but once I embraced it, I realised just how satisfying and rewarding it could be!
What is the hardest part about being vegan?
Let me start with the positives, which far outweigh any difficulty that I have had. I love the food I eat! I love knowing that I’m not doing anything to cause harm to another living being, and that I’m actually taking positive action in so many ways to change the world for the better. I no longer feel guilty. I have lost a LOT of weight, feel great from the inside out and am so much happier! Eating out is great. But other people, and usually those who don’t really know you, can have an unfortunate habit of assuming that because you have made this choice that you are somehow judging them, and that they need to defend themselves.
For the first few months, people in my would walk past my desk at lunchtime and comment on my food choices – as if this was suddenly socially acceptable because I chose to eat plants! “Why are you eating that? You must be deficient in vitamins. Where is your protein? (!!!!)” This would be followed up by: “Well, I try to eat healthily but…” “Well, I would eat less meat, but…” Quite frankly, I believe change has to come from you. I don’t ever assume I can tell people about their diet, their choices, or their lunch. Before I became a vegan I know for certain I wouldn’t have liked someone giving me ‘advice’ about my food or lifestyle choices, so this grated with me; that people felt they could just express whatever they wanted because I had chosen a different way. But I don’t pay any attention now – I just give honest answers and move along. I’m happy in the knowledge my lunch is delicious, healthy and kind!
What does natural health mean to you?
I believe natural health is all about being considered in what you’re putting in (and on) your body. For me that means eating as few refined products as possible, as many fresh vegetable as possible and creating ways to have the maximum enjoyment from it. Don’t get me wrong – I love coffee, red wine and the occasional bowl of chips (fries) – but the balance is tipped in favour of fresh whole foods. Now that I’ve brought this approach to my diet I’m also changing my beauty regime too by considering what other options are out there besides what we can just pick up in the shops. To start, I’ve just been experimenting with my own hand balms, which I love! It’s really satisfying to make something like that and realize you don’t need to buy commercial.
Tell us about your blog!
The Whole Ingredient is a place to find healthy, delicious, whole food-centric recipes that can easily fit straight into your lifestyle. All of my recipes are naturally vegan and are intended to be as nutritious and delicious as possible while still being accessible for ‘every day’ cooking. Most of the recipes can be made in under an hour and don’t rely on the cook having specialist equipment or skills. I want to demonstrate that eating a whole foods vegan diet is easy! I really enjoy the process and look forward to seeing where it takes me in the future – I hope you enjoy it too!
What is your favorite cruelty-free product (cleaning, beauty, etc.) and why?
I don’t wear much makeup, but I love the B. vegan makeup brand that you can buy in Superdrug, a UK high street chain. Not only is the range vegan and of a really high quality, but it’s affordable and not tested on animals. It’s fantastic to see this becoming more and more common as people demand it from retailers. Oh, and I LOVE Nicora Johns shoes!
Who or what inspires you?
I remember being asked at a job interview the question “who is your role model?” and I was actually floored. I couldn’t answer! No one had ever actually asked me this question before and it’s not a concept that had ever come up in my own education or family life – it’s just not something I’d ever thought about. But I am inspired by so many things; nature, for a start. I suppose it is the inspiration I take from the natural world that drives my actions – to act in a positive and constructive way, and to protect, rather than detract from, what we have here on Earth. In case you were wondering what I ended up answering in that interview, it was Homer (which is, in fact, my answer to a different question: who is your favourite author).
A kitchen gadget you cannot live without?
Well, since my incredibly wonderful husband gave me a Vitamix, I’d have to say that! The ability to make raw desserts makes me so happy. But other than that, I say a really sharp knife can make all the difference.
What is your favorite meal?
These questions are getting tough… I love pizza, especially experimenting with healthy and tasty ways to make it at home, but I think my favourite meal is mezze, which is probably cheating! Hummus, falafel, tabbouleh, fattoush and baba ghanoush all together on a plate – I really love Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food!
Three of your favorite cooking ingredients.
Only three! Now this is a challenge. Ok, off the top of my head: smoked paprika, maple syrup, garlic.
Favorite resources regarding a plant-based lifestyle? Can be cookbooks, documentaries, nutrition or health books, etc.
Twitter and Instagram can be great resources for seeing new ingredients and how other people are using them – before I started following you on Instagram I had no idea people put frozen bananas in smoothies, let alone then covered them in Blackstrap Molasses! Just having a quick view of new products on social media is often enough for me to go off and research it, whether online or in a shop, and to start dreaming up ways to make it work for my recipes.
There are lots of really informative and interesting (without being preachy) documentaries on Netflix; Vegucated, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, Simply Raw and Blackfish to name a few. These are all great entry point documentaries for anyone to watch – they’ll all plant a seed in someone’s mind.
I don’t have any ‘vegan’ cookbooks, because my goal in creating recipes for The Whole Ingredient is to make them original (and to suit our tastes at home, of course!). I do however have some great cookbooks that I love to take inspiration from and then adapt to suit a whole foods plant-based diet, such as Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jersusalem – can you tell I love Mediterranean food? I’m also starting my journey to be more informed on nutrition by reading Colin T Campbell’s Whole.
Any tips or words of advice to anyone considering a plant-based lifestyle?
Don’t just listen to what one person tells you, and make it your own. When I hear something about a new superfood, or an environmental issue, or a policy issue that affects diet, animal rights or anything related, I make sure I do my own research. Be informed. Join in with something like Vegan Hour on Twitter (it’s international – lots of Americans and Canadians pitch up for the chat every week!). Don’t be disheartened by other people’s opinion on what you are doing, and don’t be afraid to ask people in restaurants what’s on the menu!
I’ll be honest, I’m not really one for quotes as such – which you may have guessed from my ‘inspiration’ answer – but I do try to live by the following principles: always learn, be active in thought, be nice to yourself and others and try not to worry.
Three words to describe you.
Quiet, (has) integrity, compassionate.
Where can we find you via social media? IG, FB, blog address, etc.
I look forward to connecting with you!
Thank you so much, Laura!! It was so much fun getting to know you more and if you ever make it to Bend, Oregon, I’m taking you to our favorite place to get mezze – amazing hummus and falafel 🙂
Thank you for stopping by!