I think, food in general is an interesting topic. When I was younger, people got looked at funny for declaring themselves a vegetarian. Now there are a multitude of dietary preferences. Living with an abundance of possibilities for what to put on your plate is apparently not something humans feel comfortable with for too long. I am fascinated with the vegan diet, at the same time I have a great amount of respect for the decision to change your way of life in such a drastic way. I love all the creativity and innovation though vegan food bloggers put into re-imagining vegan versions of tried and trusted dishes. I think it’s amazing to discover foods that haven’t really been on our menu before. Coconut milk for example, which I would buy at an Asian supermarket maybe once or twice a year to cook a more authentic Thai curry. It has become something I use quite often for my breakfast porridge.
Andi’s wonderful blog Cheap And Cheerful Cooking is full of appetizing and beautifully photographed recipes without meat, or dairy, or eggs, or anything involving animals.
I am so very happy being able to welcome a friend and one of the little bloggers I know IRL on my blog today. I was lucky enough to have been served a couple of delicious meals prepared by him that taught me that cooking without meat and even any animal products at all doesn’t have to taste like something is missing. Quite the opposite.
How did you come to be a food blogger?
In fact this was quite a long way. My passion for cooking and eating goes back to my childhood. I took part in voluntary cooking classes after school and sometimes prepared meals or even small menus with friends for my mum, like when she came home from work. I watched Jamie Oliver and Tim Mälzer a lot on television, got my first cookbooks for my birthday and when I finally moved into my own flat, I sometimes even cooked 3 or 4 times a day. I was able do that because I was a student, had no mandatory attendance and lived right next to the uni.
I took photos of the stuff I cooked and shared some of them on Facebook. As more and more people got annoyed by my food postings (because they got hungry and had nothing in their fridge ;) ) I started a Facebook site dedicated to all food related stuff. I tried to keep food postings away from my private profile as much as I could, so my friends could decide themselves, if they wanted to see that or not. That was in 2012. The site was called Cheap & Cheerful Cooking because I wanted to show people that cooking at home is much cheaper than eating out or ordering food. Just think of delivery food: something as simple as pizza or a curry will cost you at least 10 euros. You can also cook a three-course menu with premium organic ingredients for 10 euros. I already uploaded my own recipes back then but two years later I decided to start a real blog to be more user-friendly. So in 2014, cheapandcheerfulcooking.wordpress.com went online and I became a food blogger.
Did you transition into being vegan gradually or was it a sudden decision? Did you just realize one day, I can go without animal products no problem, or was it a deliberate choice to give up meat and dairy etc.?
It was kind of a long process ending with a sudden decision. In the past, I literally ate anything. I used to love stuff like blue cheese, lamb and sea food. I was also trying horse meat or reindeer. In Indonesia, I ordered cobra snake for dinner and even swallowed the cobra’s whole gall bladder with some rice wine. I was trying scorpions, cockroaches and grasshoppers in Thailand. At 22, I still ate meat on a daily basis. But a couple of years later, I started cooking vegetarian or even vegan dishes more and more often, out of curiosity, for the environment and for my own health. I tried to cut down on meat and dairy products because I began to realise that they are in fact luxury products. In 2014, I went on a plant-based diet for the whole fasting season and after that went back to allow myself to eat meat 2 or 3 times a week.
What helped me a lot to finally go vegan was watching the documentary Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret on Netflix. It clearly shows that animal agriculture is the most destructive industry facing the planet today. Not planes, cars, trains, ships and factories are the main reason for climate change, but animal farming is. To produce one single hamburger you need more than 2000 litres of water. You could grow like 80 potatoes with that amount of water or shower yourself for 2 months. It’s totally crazy and I didn’t want to be part of this waste of resources any longer even though I still like the taste of meat or cheese. So me and my girlfriend spontaneously decided to go vegan with the beginning of 2016.
What has been the biggest challenge for you, is there something you're missing?
I think living vegan isn’t a big challenge in today’s world anymore. You can go to the market and buy fresh vegetables and fruits. You can get tons of fancy vegan stuff in supermarkets and online shops. There are even hundreds and thousands of blogs and websites like happycow.net that help you to find vegan restaurants and shops in almost every corner of the earth within just a couple of seconds. What do you want more?
Going vegan is all about knowledge and breaking with your habits. Start reading tables of contents, start to inform yourself about how much fat and sugar is in all the processed food, learn how to google for recipes or how to subtitute products. Care about where your food is coming from! People have shitloads of information about their car, their new mobile phone, football or their favourite actor/actress on their minds, but don’t care about the fuel for their own bodies.
Apart from animal welfare and climate protection in your opinion are there additional benefits? Did you discover dishes or foods you didn't eat before at all or rarely?
Of course health is another big point. You will not only help the planet by going vegan but you will also help your body. Even Kaiser Permanente – one of the biggest health insurance companies in the USA – recommends a plant-based diet for good health. Furthermore you will save money by going vegan if you try to avoid expensive processed foods. Oats with fresh berries is a much cheaper breakfast than eggs with bacon. Beans, lentils and chickpeas are a cheaper source of protein than meat. And I’m not even talking about organic meat here! And if you are into mock meat and faux cheese, just make them yourself and save some quid.
Going vegan also helped me to broaden my horizons. One of my latest discoveries is nicecream (or nana ice cream). It’s a quick and simple ice cream made from frozen bananas. Because of the sweetness of the bananas you don’t even have to add any sugar to it. So in fact it is a super healthy version of ice cream and if you ever dreamt of starting your day with ice cream, you now can do that without feeling bad about it.
Did you find a new favorite dish, or did you just make up a vegan version for the one you had before?
I don’t really have a favourite dish because I always liked variation. I’ll even change recipes that have been perfect for me the last time I tried them. Maybe I’m kind of a „new is always better“-guy regarding food, haha. For every non-vegan dish, you can find at least 5 vegan alternatives, so I certainly didn’t run out of ideas what to cook. In fact, it made me even more creative.
Sometimes, the vegan versions are even easier and faster to prepare. For example, I never did pulled pork sandwiches at home because you need to slow cook the pork shoulder for hours. But you can recreate that dish using canned jackfruit, oyster mushrooms or even some soya products and it’s ready to serve within 30 minutes. I’ve certainly added new types of dishes to my meal plan, but I still eat the same stuff I liked before: Asian cuisine, pizza, pasta, burgers, sandwiches and so on. I even created an authentic plant-based version of Spaghetti Carbonara.
And last but not least, what are your plans, dreams, ideas for the future of Cheap And Cheerful Cooking?
That’s a tough one. I just did my first blog redesign and started to write in English (instead of just German) only this year. I’m adding new recipes on a weekly basis and when I find some spare time, I’ll also translate older recipes. I’m using Instagram now as well. So in fact, a lot has already changed in the last couple of months. I must admit, I don’t really have a plan yet where to go with the blog because I’m not a full-time blogger. I just started a new job, I am deejaying and organising my own clubnights and I also want to have enough time for my private life and my relationship. Of course, I have some rough ideas that I can share with you. Besides just uploading single recipes, I would like to do my own meal plans. I want to show people that they can live on a budget while eating healthy, balanced and tasty meals.
Photography: Andreas Mulzer