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October is the month to go vegetarian ... or vegan

Neha Mahamood
Filed on October 1, 2018 | Last updated on October 1, 2018 at 08.21 am


(Alamy Stock Photo)

Eric Jacob with wife Anushka. Eric transitioned from a heavy meat eater to a complete plant-based lifestyle

Jacqui Nightscales has been a vegan for 10 months now

Both Joumana Saber and her 1 year old daughter Tara are vegans

Vegetarian Awareness Month kicks off today and we can't help delving into the green side of things.

The world is divided into two types of people: Vegans and meat eaters. Or so we're led to believe. In our quest to speak to vegetarians in honour of World Vegetarian Day today, we scoured the nooks and crannies of social media and came across many happy vegans more than willing to share their green story. And how many vegetarians? Zero. Maybe we were looking in all the wrong places or maybe they're all on vacation and have thrown their mobile phones into the Arctic. Either way the world will not stop turning and neither will we be dissuaded.

First up, are we clear on what veganism is? Vegan diet exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and all dairy products - and any food that contain these products.

Veganism used to be on the fringe and was at one point seen as a fad. Identifying as one until even a few years ago was often viewed as weird or extreme - more the domain of hippies than of a large number of everyday people. Now people turning to a more plant-based diet are on the rise and the world, including Dubai, seems to be embracing it.

Mind you, there are still those judgmental aunts out there who give you the evil eye when you politely decline their toiled-over mutton biryani. But nevertheless, we spoke to some Dubai residents about their journey into a plant-based lifestyle and here's how they embarked on it.

 

Jacqui Nightscales
Age: 37
Nationality: South African
Profession: Food and Portrait Photographer, Creator of The Whole Movement @foodstories_dubai 
Vegan since: 2017

Why I turned vegan
A friend of mine was casually telling me about the vegan burgers that he made at a barbecue we were at, while I was grilling my meat! He asked me to watch the documentary What the Health. After which I started searching within myself. I've always loved animals and I foster and help stray animals around Dubai. I realised that no matter how many I rescue, it doesn't make up for the steak that I would sit down to eat at night. A cow is the same as a dog. They are both beings, capable of love and feelings, and we need to treat both equally with compassion. Once the penny dropped for me, it became clear what I needed to do.

Is Dubai vegan friendly?
We are so lucky here. Vegan options are popping up everywhere, making it easier than ever to choose delicious plant-based meals.

Social constraints
Some of my family members and closest friends are becoming vegan now which thrills me to bits. But most of my friends aren't. So, I take my own food with me to all barbecues and get-togethers. And if we're dining out I check the restaurant first to see if they will prepare a vegan meal for me. Otherwise I don't go.

Advice for new vegans
Be patient and kind with yourself. You will make mistakes. Remember why you are doing this and let it motivate you every day.

 

Joumana Saber
Age: 30
Nationality: Greek/Lebanese
Profession: Yoga Teacher, Project Manager, Digital Content Creator
Vegan since: 2016

Why I turned vegan
My biggest motivation was finding out that I was going to become a mother. I discovered vegan activists James Aspey, Earthling Ed, and Joey Carbstrong and I watched a few videos that exposed the truth about the dairy industry. The first thought that came to mind was that the milk my body produced was to nourish my child. It got me thinking about cow's milk, and how calves are separated from their moms shortly after birth so they don't latch on to begin feeding. Not only does this cause a lot of emotional trauma for the mother cow and the calf, they both live short lives in agony to serve an industry that we could all do without. As a mother, I could not support this. I then did some research and I simply did not want to be a part of the process anymore.

Is Dubai vegan friendly?
Dubai is becoming so much more vegan friendly now. We have a few vegan-only food brands to enjoy (my favourite being Hippy Deli). Hypermarkets all around the city are stocking up on vegan products. While the city has come a long way with its vegan offerings, there's still room for improvement. For example, restaurants that offer vegan options should ensure the staff is brought up to speed on what vegan means in order to avoid any unfortunate incidents.

Social constraints
Although most of my loved ones are not vegan, it's still possible for me to enjoy a meal with them. Vegan food is very easy to prepare, and more options are readily available in restaurants here. My friends and family do not share the same ideology as I do, but that encourages me to show them how accessible and simple it is to be vegan.

Raising a vegan infant
Raising Tara vegan has been a lot of fun and a great learning experience. I am convinced that a plant-based whole foods diet is the healthiest choice for her. I cook all her meals and make sure she eats a balanced diet of grains, greens, healthy fats and plant-source proteins. Occasionally, I'll feed her vegan cheese and treats. She also gets to enjoy a lot of the meals I grew up eating (Lebanese stews, often cooked with meat) as my mother veganizes these dishes. We also have a dog-son named Eddie, who we adopted before our daughter was born. Watching her grow up around Eddie has strengthened my belief that children do not differentiate between a dog, a cow, a chicken, or a sheep. Therefore, I never want to be in a situation where I have to explain why we don't eat Eddie, but eat other animals. Raising our children vegan goes beyond what you feed them. It's very important to me that she knows we're all trying to make the right choices in life, but our choices are not always based on the same beliefs. I'm also aware that she could choose to not be vegan one day. She will always have a choice, and I will respect that she is free to make her own decisions when she is older. I just want to make sure that compassion, love, and respect for all living things are her core values and that is why I choose to raise her vegan.

 

Eric Jacob
Age: 32
Nationality: Indian
Vegan since: 2017

Why I turned vegan
My at the time fiancé and now wife Anushka got me to watch the highly published documentary What the Health. It wasn't a sob story on animal cruelty; if that's what worked on people we all would be vegans. It was research based and shows us a different take on how meat and animal products effect our health. It left me with questions.

I was having a beef burger watching another documentary, Forks over Knives, when half way through the documentary the actual taste of the burger changed. Something had triggered and well that was that.

Is Dubai vegan friendly?
In the last year it has gotten a little better, and when I say 'little' I'm being generous but I've been at this only for a year. Having grown up here I know that Dubai is a city where people aren't starved for choice but when it comes to being vegan, it is limiting. There aren't many vegan friendly places around and while the number is growing they aren't accessible to all. And of course places knowing what 'Vegan' food is; restaurants and food places have to at least be made aware of the concept. 

Social Constraints
My friends and family do taunt me. Some see the benefits to it and how things have changed for me - health, fitness, body weight, etc and are in their own way exploring the idea. It's not really an issue going out per se, just that choice and variety is limiting. More often than not we have to ask the staff at the place we are at if they can make something special. Some places are accommodating but majority aren't - again going back to not knowing what Veganism is, having pre-prepped food, etc.

Advice for new vegans
The best advice I guess would be "Know why you are doing it."

 

Where you can enjoy vegan/vegetarian fare in Dubai

Super Natural Kitchen: Dubai's only 100% Raw, Vegan, Gluten Free restaurant, this had to be the first place on our list. Whether it's the smoked 'salmon' made of papaya, or the traditional Italian lasagna made with spirals of beetroot and zucchini, they all sounds delicious.
At Galleries Lafayette, Dubai Mall

Roti Rollers: Indian street food with a twist: Get your dose of greens, beans and everything in between at Roti Rollers. Whether you're a committed veggie, the occasional dabbler, or just looking to hit your daily food groups, they offer some delicious veg-friendly signature rolls.
At Box Park, Al Wasl Road

Wild and the Moon: This gorgeous café and juice bar is strictly vegan, all their food is local, plant-based, ethically-sourced and raw, with no processed ingredients, no dairy, no gluten and no chemicals. And they have the best vegan ice cream ever!
At Alserkal Avenue

TGIF: Did you know this American franchise has introduced a whole menu dedicated to vegetarians?! From cottage cheese pasta and burgers to Chimichangas and Tostados, it's all green!
At Dubai Festival City

Freedom Pizza: We didn't believe it until we tried it. But vegan cheese, people! They have one vegan pizza on their menu, The Free Gan and it will make all your plant-based dreams come true. We were sceptical about the vegan sausage at first, but made entirely of soy we're going in for seconds. Also on their menu are vegan ice cream sandwiches and cheesecake.
At Sheikh Zayed Road

 

neha@khaleejtimes.com


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