Food Sense

Meet Kimanh: “I call myself a ‘freegan’...”

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Kimanh grew up loving chicken. Then, at age 15, she had an experience (interestingly, with chicken) that pushed her towards eating less meat - in essence, becoming an accidental vegetarian. Today, she’s adopted a diet that is 90 - 95% vegan. She shares her love for plant-based cooking, and her brilliant food photos, on her blog, Scissors Paper Wok. Here, she talks about eating veg in the UK and Australia, how she’s dealt with the challenges of a vegan diet, and her recipe for Vietnamese Wraps (complete with a fun video on how to roll them!).

You’re our first Monologues interviewee from overseas. Tell us a little bit about your life.

I’ve just moved from the UK back to Brisbane, Australia - my home after being away for four years. I work as a graphic designer, and hope to become a part-time blogger, part-time designer. I have been itching to get back to Australia to enjoy the outdoors lifestyle.

How would you describe or define your diet today?

I call myself a “freegan” meaning I’m free with my veganism - but I’m mostly vegan. I make occasional exceptions for some sweet treats, every now and then. I would say I’m 90-95% vegan.

Tell us about the evolution of your diet. How has what you eat changed over the years?

As a child I grew up eating and loving meat – especially chicken satay. Ironically, chicken is what changed it all for me.

I was 15 years old and helping my mum clean some chickens for dinner one evening. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that. These were not the cleanly packaged chickens that most people purchase from the supermarket. These were chickens that still had their internal organs. I remember being repulsed and feeling sick as I pulled all the guts and veins out of the chicken. As a 15 year old, I thought that was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen. So, I decided I wanted to cut down on eating meat.

I didn’t call myself a vegetarian. But, after months of declining meat, I realized that I was indeed an accidental vegetarian. I had no desire to eat meat anymore.

What was difficult about becoming vegetarian?

Being a vegetarian hasn’t been hard for me. But, I cringe a little when someone is stressing about what to feed me because I don’t eat meat… and I don’t like creating a hassle!

Luckily, my mum is a wonderful cook. Thinking back on it now, she must have just accepted my decision and accommodated it, because I don’t remember ever struggling to be a vegetarian as a teenager at home. (Thanks mum!)

What encouraged you to move towards veganism?

Becoming vegan has been an evolving process for 10 years. To start off, I believed it was healthier for me. Now, almost more than any other reason, I believe it is ethically wrong to consume meat because of how animals are treated.

What continues to be difficult about maintaining a veg lifestyle?

It’s challenging sometimes to be a ‘healthy’ vegetarian. It sometimes feels like vegetarians are automatically branded as having a healthier diet, but this isn’t always true. It’s also easy to be a vegetarian and consume an abundance of processed, refined, fatty and sugary foods. So, being a good vegetarian is about being smart about how one eats. This is my constant challenge when I just want some convenience food.

How is it living in Australia as a vegan?

I’ve lived in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. These three countries must be the easiest countries to be a vegan. I don’t think many here realize the convenience and access we have to a huge range of fresh fruit and veggies. 

What about dining out?

After living in the UK for a few years, and now being back in Australia, I would say that restaurants here are pretty considerate of vegetarians. It’s a bit harder for vegans though.

It’s so disappointing when a restaurant can only offer a salad for a vegan. I don’t think restaurants realize how much damage they do themselves [when they don’t offer veg options]. Word gets out fast if there is a restaurant where vegetarians and vegans can happily dine with a great selection.

What do you think is the easiest aspect of your current lifestyle?

It’s easy to be a vegetarian when, for so many reasons, I believe it’s the right way for me to eat. The quality of my food is in no way inferior to dishes with meat - I’m honestly a very happy vegetarian!

What advice would you offer to people who are considering adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Start with what you’re comfortable with, but push yourself to be smart about how and what you eat. I’m convinced that if people find delicious, filling, easy-to-cook food, they’ll be surprised as to how easy it is.

Could you share a favorite recipe?

Ah… my favorite dish… hands down it’s a Vietnamese Wrap, (also known as fresh spring rolls or summer rolls).

I love this dish because it’s the signature dish of our family. Everyone loves it. I mean, they go crazy about it and always remember it. It’s healthy. It’s delicious. (You cannot imagine until you’ve had it). It’s fun. It’s not the kind of dish that you can just snack on in front of the TV – it involves a spread of ingredients on the table, and making it is very interactive, as well.

To see how Kimanh rolls her Vietnamese Wraps, check out the video below. Then, get the full recipe on Kimanh’s blog here!

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