How to Survive the Holidays as a Vegan

With the holidays upon us it can be a little overwhelming for vegans to navigate through all the festivities while trying to maintain their lifestyle. Whether you’re invited to parties you know will have limited food options or not sure how to broach the subject at social gatherings, here are a few tips to help:

Offer your help

In my experience when it comes to holiday parties, people don’t always know what is vegan friendly. The best way to counter this is to offer your help, either by offering to bring a yummy vegan dish, offering to help host or simply communicating your dietary needs. People are always happy to accommodate and by offering help, you take the pressure off others and put the focus back on the festivities. 

Need help veganizing holiday favourites? Check out this helpful blog by PETA. 

Stand your ground 

Whether it’s someone questioning your choices or peer pressure to give in and try something non-vegan, politely stand your ground. Save the debates and politics for another time. It’s the holidays and about celebrating and spending time with those you love. Simply state your beliefs, politely decline and move on. 

Indulge 

I’m always tempted by non-vegan goodies.  And feel serious guilt just thinking about taking a bite out of all those holiday treats. I have a major sweet tooth and vegan versions are not always available. But it’s the holidays. And if you’re really needing to indulge, go for it without guilt and without feeling the need to justify yourself to anyone. So next time you’re at a party and see a gingerbread cookie with your name on it or want to enjoy that drink with Bailey’s, go for it. Tomorrow is another day. 

Gratitude 

What better gift than to be thankful for all the food choices we have available. Not everyone has the ability to make food choices based on preferences. I’m grateful for my ability to live a lifestyle and make choices that I believe help alleviate the suffering of humans and animals. 

Happy holidays, everyone!

Featured image via vegnews.com.

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Shoes and handbags

9 Best Online Stores for Vegan Shoes and Handbags

No girl’s closet is complete without a collection of shoes and handbags. And while sourcing vegan fashion in Toronto can be a little tough, online offers some great options. Here is a list of some of the best online stores for vegans or those looking to support sustainable fashion:

1. Matt & Nat

Matt and Natt handbags

Photo via Mattandnat.com

Canadian owned, Matt & Nat, launched in 1995 in Montreal with the motto “live beautifully”. Matt & Nat, which stands for material and nature, is a line of handbags that features all man-made materials, which are eco-friendly and sustainable. But you would never know these bags are all non-leather. The brand also values social responsibility that includes full transparency of their manufacturing practices. Celebrities such as Charlize Theron and Natalie Portman have become patrons too.

Mattandnat.com

2. Melie Bianco

Melie Bianca lookbook

Photo via Meliebianco.com

Melie Bianco handbags are 100% vegan, affordable and use fair trade principles. These bags have been featured in Glamour, Instyle, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan to name a few. The brand prides itself on creating exciting silhouettes and trend driven looks without comprising on quality. Using all man-made materials that look and feel like real leather, the effect is a purse that looks luxurious but offers cruelty-free fashion.

Meliebianco.com

3. Wilby

Wilby collection

Photo via Wilbyclutch.com

Wilby launched in 2013 in London, England, specializing in vegan clutches. They have since expanded to totes and small handbags, shipping worldwide. The brand aims to be both ethical and fashionable and at the same time help the environment. All material is organic and eco-friendly, while upholding British craftsmanship.

Wilbyclutch.com

4. LaBante

LaBonte lookbook

Photo via Labante.co.uk

LaBante started in 2009 with the ethos “#FashionWithRespect”. All materials used in the creation of their bags are ethically sourced in a humane manner. The brand’s overall classic designs offer women a style for the day or evening. And they are PETA approved.

Labante.co.uk

5. Olsenhaus

Olsenhaus

Photo via Olsenhaus.com

Olsenhaus is a vegan shoe line, started in 2008 by Elizabeth Olsen, an animal rights advocate. Elizabeth not only wanted to bring attention to the inhumane practices of the leather industry but also to merge fashion with social responsibility. Her clientele includes Cameron Diaz, Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow, just to name a few.

Olsenhaus.com

6. Bourgeois Boheme

BoBo

Photo via Bboheme.com

BoBo was started after founder, Alice, was unhappy with the selection of vegan footwear. From there she decided to start her own line. Stylish and comfortable, these shoes merge the best of both worlds, fashion with a good cause. And who doesn’t want to support a good cause when spending money?

Bboheme.com

7. Noah

Noah

Photo via Noah-shop.com

Did you think it was possible to have good Italian handcrafted shoes minus the leather? Well that is inspiration behind Noah. Maintaining a traditional Italian craftsmanship with worker-friendly conditions and the use of 100% vegan materials. Wearing these shoes is definitely an expression of fashionable yet responsible lifestyle.

Noah-shop.com/en/

8. Beyond Skin

Beyond Skin

Photo via Beyondskin.co.uk

Beyond Skin identifies themselves as a luxury designer brand of shoes. And it’s easy to see why. They offer everything from flats to 5-inch heels in bright colors and unique designs, proving that ethical fashion doesn’t need to compromise on style.

Beyondskin.co.uk

9. Moo Shoes

Moo Shoes

Photo via Mooshoes.com

Probably one of the more mainstream stores for vegan fashion, Moo Shoes sells various cruelty-free shoes, bags and accessories brands. Started in 2001 in Manhattan, the store expanded online, shipping worldwide and a second store opening in LA in 2014. The brand also supports local vegan charities, including animal rescue efforts.

Mooshoes.com

To learn more about vegan shoes and design, watch this video of Elizabeth Olsen being interviewed on Designer Dish.

Featured image via www.nawo.com.

Closet

7 Best Places for Vegan Fashion

Who doesn’t love a good deal? And with Black Friday upon us many of us will be hitting the malls in search of the best doorbusters. But where does that leave those seeking vegan fashion? Here is a list of the best options:

1. Stella McCartney

Stella McCarthy Spring 15 Collection

Photo via Fashionisers.com

Stella McCartney, famously known as the daughter of former Beatles member, Paul McCartney, launched her own fashion line in 2001 after designing for Chloe for many years. One of the most famous haute couture vegan designers, her line ranges from high-end fashion clothing, handbags and shoes. While her designs are on the pricier side, these are definitely worth it if you can afford it.

Stellamccartney.com/ca

2. Alabama Chanin

Alabama Chanin fall collection

Photo via Alabamachanin.com

Alabama Chanin started in 2000 as a family business that incorporates sustainability with 100% organic cotton, hand-sewn designs. Their clothing feature simple designs, and range from basic to intricate embroideries, like corset dresses. They also offer DIY and workshops.

Alabamachanin.com

3. Vaute Couture

Vaute Couture gown collection

Photo via Vautecoutre.com

The “V” in Vaute stands for vegan, started in 2009 with the goal to be the first all-vegan fashion brand. Founder Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, wanted to create the perfect winter dress-coat warm enough for a Chicago winter. Immediately gaining notoriety for her designs at a New York Fashion Week, her designs expanded from dress-coats to ultra-chic functional dress clothes.

Vautecouture.com

4. Adolfo Dominguez

Adolfo Dominguez

Photo via Adolfodominguez.com

Adolfo Dominguez is a renowned Spanish designer dating back to the 70s, specializing in expert craftsmanship, and includes a PETA approved vegan label. From work clothing to faux leather jackets, this line has you covered.

Adolfodominguez.com

5. Dalia MacPhee

Dalia MacPhee Spring Collection

Photo via Daliaonline.com

Dalia MacPhee features elegant gowns with a majority being vegan-friendly, meaning no animals were harmed. This not only includes being free of leather and fur but also silk. Popular among celebrities these dresses feature soft, luxurious fabrics that also happen to be cruelty-free.

Daliaonline.com

6. Miakoda

Miakoda

Photo via Miakodanewyork.com

Miakoda’s mission is to provide clothing that protects and supports the rights of animals, humans and the environment. The line features neutral pallets of loungewear with loose and relaxed fits, from dresses to tees.

Miakodanewyork.com

7. Umasan

Umasan

Photo via Readthetrieb.com

Umasan is a vegan high-end fashion label from Berlin. They are committed to the importance of ecological and human production process, while maintaining a cruelty-free, avant-garde fashion line. One can describe their designs as edgy with striking silhouettes. While they keep things simple with the majority of their clothing in black, many of their pieces offer a unique look.

Umasan-berlin.com

And if it’s more mainstream brands you’re after, H&M, Mango, Forever 21 and Topshop do offer many cruelty-free options for shoes, bags and clothing.

To learn more about ethical fashion, watch this video by Vaute Couture founder, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart talk about why she felt compelled to merge the two.

VAUTE- New York Fashion Week Solo Debut from Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart on Vimeo.

Featured image via stylecaster.com.

live food bar

Live Food Bar Review

Live is located in Toronto’s Annex and is one of a handful of raw food vegan restaurants in the city. Raw food is defined as uncooked, unprocessed food. Dehydrators and blenders are typically used to “cook” food and while some raw food vegan restaurants will serve “cooked” food, it will not be heated past 49C.

Personally, I find raw food to be an acquired taste and not for the finicky eater. Prices may seem extraordinary, however all the ingredients used are organic and some not as readily available and rare.  Live tries to keep their prices relatively low compared to other raw food places and do an amazing job with their menu, have a great philosophy and a very low-key atmosphere.

tacos   sunshine wrap

The raw tacos are one of the most popular items on their menu and they are bursting with flavour and are better than some other tacos I’ve had raw or not. Another favourite of mine is the sunshine wrap. The wrap is made from sprouted flax seeds, sun-dried tomatoes and carrots and is perfect in texture.  Thin enough to hold the abundance of veggies (sunflower seed hummus, cucumbers, kale, tomatoes, red onions, avocado and sprouts), hearty enough to keep the contents together and give the wrap some substance.

kale salas   big bowl

The kale Caesar, another favourite, is mixed greens, sundried tomatoes, coconut bacon, cashew hemp parmesan, and Caesar dressing.  A very healthy alternative to the traditional version. Live Food Bar’s Big Bowl is a mix of field greens, kale, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, mixed seeds, avocado, micro greens, and sunflower sesame hummus, with carrot-ginger dressing. This salad is simple, yet really, really delicious and refreshing.

chickpea burger

The chickpea burger is topped with arugula, tomato, pickles, BBQ sauce, chipotle mayo on aide’s gluten-free bun.  The best part is the bun – so chewy and soft, you almost can’t believe it’s gluten free.

Live juices

Their juices are energizing, fresh and detoxifying. No wonder they’re so popular. The restaurant has an extensive organic beer and wine menu as well.

live-raw-bar-dessert

The desserts are also worth trying if you have room for it.

Raw tacos $10
Sunshine wrap $10
Kale Caesar Salad $8
Big bowl $13
Chickpea burger $11
Juices $10
Dessert prices vary

Overall, I enjoy the food at Live. The service is a little hit or miss and could do with some improvement. Some might feel that the portions are on the small side however, when you factor in the ingredients, each meal is pretty dense and filling.

As a side note, if you visit Live during TIFF, you might just run into Woody Harrelson, apparently one of his favourite restaurants in the city and a loyal customer.

kensington market

Best Toronto Neighbourhoods to be Vegan

Let me tell you, not all areas of Toronto are created equal. And some neighbourhoods in Toronto, just downright suck for vegans. I work up close to the Markham area and if I don’t preplan my lunches, I am eating a bag of potato chips from a vending machine. There’s nothing around and it’s horrible. Sorry to anyone who lives up there and absolutely loves it. So, what are some of the best neighbourhoods for being vegan in Toronto?

Kensington Market

Hands down this is a vegan’s mecca. Kensington Market houses a mix of eclectic independent stores from waterholes, restaurants, cafes, fresh produce, independent variety stores to name a few. Of note, Urban Herbivore and King’s Café are two of the biggest vegan eateries in the neighbourhood. Watch out for the no fur sign on Urban Herbivore’s window. Hibiscous, a small café, offers not only good fare but also an array of vegan desserts, such as crepes and ice cream (all made in-house). And if it’s vegan friendly beauty, cosmetics, clothing and so on you’re after, you’ll find it here in one of the many independent stores.

Danforth

Yes, when one thinks Danforth, vegan usually doesn’t come to mind. More like welcoming Greeks with meat on skewers. But the Chester area does appeal to the eco-loving, vegan-friendly crowd. From the Carrot Commons to the multitude of yoga studios and eco goods stores. The Big Carrot (and adjacent juice bar) offer many options for vegans, from food to household products to beauty. Grassroots is one of Toronto’s longest running eco-goods stores, supplying Torontonians with environmentally friendly products for the last 20 years.

Little India

In general I find the Indian cuisine easy to accommodate a vegan diet. While mainly vegetarian options, it’s quite easy to determine which dishes are best for vegans. Two of the bigger vegetarian places in Little India are Siddartha and Udupi Palace, both extremely good and quite reasonably priced. And while in the neighbourhood, you have the option of many local grocery stores offering exotic fruits and spices (a must in any vegan’s diet).

The Junction Triangle

Here are just a few vegan options you can find in the Junction Triangle:

  • Rawlicious
  • Lunch Box
  • Soup n’ Such Café
  • Bunner’s Bake Shop
  • The Sweet Potato
  • The Best Organic Cafe + Market
  • Magic Oven
  • Gourmet Vegan Pizza
  • The Thai Cuisine
  • Mersin Mediterranean Cuisine
  • Foods For Life
  • Max’s Market
  • Cafe Novo
  • Pho Huong

Enough said.

Bloor (Yorkville to Annex)

Ok, maybe I’m cheating a little by lumping in two Toronto neighbourhoods into one. But how can I not? From Bloor/Yonge all the way to Spadina you have Whole Foods, two Noah’s (Toronto biggest independent health store), and several options of fully vegan restaurants (Camros, Fresh, Rawlicious and One Love to name a few) and all within walking distance.

Now downtown is definitely more convenient for a vegan, given the shear volume of options and all relatively within walking distance or a short subway ride away. That said, I’m not knocking other parts of Toronto as unvegan friendly (I mean there is a Rawlicious in Markham). But when one doesn’t drive and you add in the distance between such places, it certainly makes it challenging.

Fresh on Bloor

Fresh Review

Fresh is one of my favourite restaurants to take people who are hesitant to try vegan food.

There is such a wide variety of modern American-style food that surely the most finicky eater can find something that appeals to their taste buds. From tofu burgers, wraps, rice bowls, appetizers… Just to name a few. They’re also known for their juice bar with an endless list of juices. Don’t believe me? Go at anytime during peak meal hours and you’ll be waiting anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for a table.

o burger  rice

Fresh is part of a chain with four locations in Toronto: Bloor and Spadina, Queen and Spadina, Trinity Bellwoods and Yonge and Eglinton (newest location).

What I particularly enjoy is their brunch menu. Given that a typical brunch consists of bacon and eggs, it’s always a challenge trying to take a vegan to brunch.

The brunch menu at Fresh is served on the weekends (and holidays) between 10am-3pm. And they do offer dairy alternatives to most dishes. So yay (for those too afraid to try a fully vegan breakfast)!

The entree brunch menu starts at $13 and there is a choice of a pancake platter, full breakfast, brunch burrito or tex mex tortilla scramble.

My favorite dish is the pancake platter, which comes with two thick and fluffy pancakes (gluten free, of course), scrambled tofu, and a choice of vegan sausage or tempeh bacon. You do have a few choices for the pancakes, from bananas to blueberries to almonds and other nuts to combo of the above; they’re all really good with plenty of fruits and nuts (depending on your choice) inside. I know the idea of scrambled tofu might not sound appealing but they do a good job making it quite flavorful and seasoned.

pancake platter

I’ve also tried the brunch burrito: scrambled tofu lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, grated carrot, tomato & fresh ‘cheese’ sauce; and the tex mex tortilla scramble: crispy corn tortillas, brown basmati rice and spicy black beans, with scrambled tofu, avocado, cilantro, tomato, lettuce, green, onion, Valentina hot sauce & fresh ‘cheese’ sauce. The tex mex is definitely the more flavorful of the two and quite spicy (for my liking, but as mentioned, I am quite a wuss when it comes to spice). And you can substitute the “cheese” sauce with real cheese.

Tex Mex at Fresh

And if java is part your breakfast routine, they do serve espresso, americanos, lattes and cappuccinos (prices range from $3-$5). And yes, there are tea options for our non-coffee lovers (freaks!). And yes, you can get real milk. The espresso beans are a local organic brand (I believe Dark Horse). It’s quite flavorful and rich.

coffee

So, if you’ve ever been curious to try vegan food, I highly recommend Fresh. You really can’t go wrong.

cosmetics

Beautopia: Why the search for cruelty-free is so hard | Part II

If you live in Toronto and are vegan or a health-nut (or just love to overpay for organic vegetables), you’ll likely be familiar with the Big Carrot, Noah’s or Whole Food. These three stores are probably your best bet for vegan friendly anything, really. If it’s specifically vegan friendly cosmetics or toiletries you’re after, these stores stock the most options. The brands are usually small and independent and for the most part unknown.

The makeup selection isn’t huge and I will be honest have never been enticed to try it because of how limited it is. I currently do use one of the skin care lines, Earth Science and I love it. Pacifica is probably one of the better-known brands, since it is even sold in Sephora, same with: Kiss my Face, Jason Naturals and Burt’s Bees. But like most products, you need to try out several brands to see what works for you. Despite having tried several of the shampoos, none have seemed to work with my hair. I colour treat it (and yes, the color I use is vegan), which limits me even further what I can use in my hair.

As a side note, currently, there are only two salon hair color brands that do not test on animals. One is Paul Mitchel but I haven’t found a salon in Toronto that uses their color and the other is Aveda, which is owned by Estee Lauder. There is definitely a chance that down the road Aveda may be required to test on animals if their parent company decides to sell in China. You can’t imagine how sad this makes me, as Aveda was started in the 70’s by Horst Rechelbacher, who’s vision for the company was to sell all plant-based organic products that were in harmony with the planet. It is so contradictory that a company like Estee Lauder purchased them and even worse that they may have to start testing on animals.

There are far better companies to support, like Lush, who not only lobby against animal testing but also have openly stated they would not do business with any company that conducts animal testing. They have also funded and recognized scientists who look for alternative methods.

But I digress.

While Noah’s, the Big Carrot, and Whole Foods are great options for those willing to take a risk on small independent companies, what happens if you’re looking for big name brands?

Luckily there are few options out there that can be purchased at stores like Sephora or The Bay. What I like about Sephora is that if you’re unsure if a brand is vegan friendly the staff will happily check for you.

Below is a list of animal friendly cosmetic companies:

List of cruelty free cosmetics

I recognize that some of these brands can be on the pricier side (an ever present unfortunate negative to the vegan lifestyle) and I don’t know too much about drug store brands, except that the majority of the big names are tested on animals, such as: Cover Girl, Rimmel, Revlon, Maybelline, L’Oreal and so on. But I did find this helpful resource: Cruelty-free Drug Store Brands.

I would love to hear from you if you have a reasonable online alternative, which is cruelty free and vegan friendly, or even if you know of any bigger name more easily accessible brands which I have overlooked or have recently become vegan friendly available in Toronto.

Featured image via en.wikipedia.org.

cosmetics

Beautopia: Why the search for cruelty-free is so hard | Part I

leapingbunnyIt seems like it would be pretty easy to determine if a beauty product was vegan friendly. You check the back label for a leaping bunny logo that declares a company cruelty-free, no animal testing or animal ingredients. Unfortunately, it’s not quite so clear-cut.

In 2012 numerous big name cosmetic companies were forced to remove the leaping bunny logo from their labels as a result of entering the Chinese market [1]. China is one of few countries that have legal requirements to test all consumer products before they can be sold in their market. As a result, many of these companies wanting to sell in China, once again began animal testing. Not all have been upfront about it either, making such claims as “we only conduct animal testing when regulatory authorities require it for safety or regulatory purposes” [2]. Then in 2014, China passed a law no longer requiring animal testing on “ordinary” cosmetics, however, this law doesn’t apply to imported cosmetics [3], which means these companies continue to test on animals.

With the help of consumer backlash in the late 80s and 90s, animal rights groups made headway in persuading cosmetic companies to abandon animal testing. Huge brands, like Revlon, MAC, and Estee Lauder were at the forefront of committing to the elimination of these practices. And in recent years, with the help of in vetro testing and advanced computer modeling it almost became unnecessary. Many countries, such as the European Union, India, Israel, U.K. to name a few, banned the selling of any cosmetics tested on animals [4]. But legal loopholes exist, allowing these companies to hide their practices, often sourcing third parties to conduct testing on their behalf or even conducting these tests abroad.

When you add in foreign market legal requirements, companies being bought and sold and third-party testing, the lines get blurred and hard for a caring consumer to determine if a brand they support is genuinely cruelty-free.

So what can a caring consumer do? Luckily there are some good resources. Groups such as PETA, the Leaping Bunny Program, Beautypedia and Humane Society International all offer searchable databases. PETA in particular breaks up companies between those that conduct testing (internationally, domestically or otherwise), companies that do not test but their parent companies do, and companies that do not test. Making it easy for a consumer to decide whom they want to support.

In the end, it’s up to us as consumers to determine who we support with our purchasing power. The good news is that there are many companies, like Lush, Urban Decay, Paul Mitchell, to name a few who are committed to being cruelty-free and being upfront with their consumers. My next post will highlight just a few of these brands.

Featured image via en.wikipedia.org.

References
1. Suzannah Hills, “L’Occitane and Yves Rocher: The big-name beauty brands among those ditching cruelty-free animal testing policies to sell their products to China”, The Daily Mail, 31 July 2012.
2. Martin Hickman, “Beauty companies return to animal testing to exploit Chinese demand”, The Independent, 31 July 2012.
3. Alicia Graef, “It’s Official! China Ends Mandatory Animal Testing for Cosmetics”, Care2, 3 July 2014.
4. Michelle Kretzer, “Countries Around the World Work to Ban Cosmetics Testing on Animals”, PETA Blog, 21 July 2015.

Hogtown Vegan

Hogtown Vegan

Toronto boasts some exceptional vegan restaurants and for a foodie like myself (and horrible cook), I am grateful for it. Whether it’s raw food you’re looking for to Asian fusion, or a simple vegan-friendly option, you have some great choices in this city. Hogtown Vegan is no exception.

Located in Toronto’s Junction, this little hole in the wall, boasts a fully vegan (100% animal product free) menu, inspired by Deep South comfort food. The atmosphere is very casual and up until recently accepted only cash. Overall a very simple establishment, with dark wood tables, plastic black chairs and old-school record covers the only décor on their turquoise walls. But don’t let that detract you from trying their savory food.

They serve brunch (weekends only), lunch and dinner. And most recently I stopped by for their dinner menu.

Hogtown-wings

We started with their BBQ “wings” as the appetizer ($9). These lightly battered tofu triangles coated with a sweet BBQ sauce and served in a basket with dill and hot sauce dip was the perfect start to our meal. For those looking for an extra kick, the wings coated in the buffalo sauce are quite spicy. (What can I say? I’m a wuss when it comes to spice… sadly, enough).

southerncombo

From there, we ordered the Southern Combo dish [$14], a combination of mac ‘n “cheese”, collard greens and soy “unckicken” strips served with a side of BBQ sauce. The collard greens were very savory, sautéed in garlic. The mac and “cheese’ was the obvious winner in this dish, which for non-dairy cheese proved to be very creamy.

bacon cheeseburger

The other dish we ordered was the “Bacon Cheeseburger” [$13], a soy patty served with Daiya cheese, tofu “bacon”, pickles, onions, ketchup, mustard and shredded lettuce on a sesame bun. The dish comes with a side of fries or coleslaw. I have to say the “cheeseburger” at Hogtown is my favorite dish and have never been disappointed with it. The “bacon” topping wasn’t anything exceptional and I would have been okay with just the Hogotwn Burger (which is the same just minus the “bacon”).

For those unfamiliar with Daiya, it’s a non-soy based, fully dairy-free cheese, which comes as close to the real thing as I’ve tried. Most “vegan” cheeses are made from soy or contain casein, an animal by-product, which gives it a creamy consistency. Adding the Daiya cheese to the burger gives it that little bit of extra something to feel as close to a real cheeseburger (minus the cholesterol and trans fats).


This photo of Hogtown Vegan is courtesy of TripAdvisor

At that point, we were a little too full for dessert but couldn’t say no either. We ordered the Deep-fried Banana Split [$7], deep fried banana, served with coconut ice cream and dark chocolate sauce. Who could say no to that? And yes, I had to pull in an image from TripAdvisor because we were so eager to dig in, I forgot to take a photo.

While not my first choice to take a non-vegan because the menu does contain a lot of alternative options that may confuse those unfamiliar, like TVP, seitan, etc. And may be a little too experimental for someone not quite used to the food. Sort of like taking that person who thinks Jimmy the Greek is exotic for sushi, only to have them stare at the menu in horror. It is a good option for those curious to try to a creative vegan-take on otherwise traditionally meat-heavy dishes.

Lisa Simpson

What DOES a vegan eat?

‘So what does a vegan eat anyway?’ is usually the first question I get when I tell people I’m vegan. That and a blank stare… usually filled with the fear of ‘oh God, is this girl gonna go into a diatribe about how meat is murder, I will PETA-spray-paint your fur coat and go through ALL the environmental reasons you must give up meat now’. If I’ve lost you… stay with me. Just for a few sentences more. I promise you this blog is not about that.

When I first became vegan 15 years ago, I struggled with the lifestyle. Genuinely asking myself and others, so what and where do I eat now? What do I do in social situations regarding eating? What does a vegan wear, where can I shop? Can I still eat honey; but what about the honeybees? The frenzy of questions was endless.

My blog is going to attempt to help answer some of those questions. It’s really a look at the vegan lifestyle, specifically, here in Toronto. From where to eat and places to shop, to which parts of the city are vegan friendly. Ultimately it is to help those interested, and living in Toronto to easier work our city into this lifestyle, to make it an easier transition as you benefit from my years of practical experience.

Recently even Jay Z and Beyonce were curious and tried a 22-day vegan challenge. (Although likely chomping down on their tofu and beans while wearing chinchilla fur). Just kidding Jay Z and Queen Bey!

But that raises the question, what is veganism? Some people treat it as a diet, simply for the nutritional benefits. For others it’s a lifestyle, forgoing any form of animal exploitation, a la Alicia Silverstone, who would masticate her baby’s food and spit it back into his mouth for the purist form of… Ok, I’m not sure why she was doing that.

Veganism has gained increasing interest with more options becoming available in recent years, as people have become more aware of animal cruelty within the mass farming industry, the nutritional benefits of a meat free diet as well as the massive ecological footprint it leaves on the planet as our meat eating population grows. – too preachy? I dunno, I wanted to elaborate on why it’s gained interest.

It’s a great time to be a vegan. When I first became vegan back in 2000 I remember visiting a raw food place (another post for another time). I remember ordering a “carrot cake”, which was literally grated carrot with icing sugar. At the time I thought, ‘f%&*ck, if this is what I have to eat I’m not gonna be able to do this’. But the food (including dessert) has gotten better over time. Now most vegans in Toronto can enjoy a “cheese and salami” platter paired with a slice of “tiramisu” cake, while wearing haute couture fashion from Stella McCartney and the latest animal friendly beauty regiment from such places as Lush.

Whether you are considering trying the diet but don’t know where to start, or you are vegan looking for camaraderie and support or you are like super couple Jay Z and Beyonce and want to dabble in it for 5 min…err, 22 days, I hope to provide some insights into the vegan life based on my own personal experiences. And hey, if you’re wondering “but how do you know plants don’t feel?” I don’t know but assume the fact that they don’t have a central nervous system means they probably don’t… but full disclosure… I don’t have a science background.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? All are welcome, even from meat-loving individuals!

Featured image via simpsons.wikia.com.