Vegetables are the New Black
When it comes to eating, I’m very passionate. I love food! Growing up in a mostly traditional British household I was a voracious meat-eater. I would look forward to our weekly Sunday Family Roasts (I had a particular obsession with my Dad’s roast beef with all the trimmings). This all changed when for some reason I was compelled to buy a few books from P.E.T.A. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The books squatted on my shelves for 2 years before I even cracked them open. When I finally did, my life abruptly changed forever. In 2007 I became vegetarian (or went to the dark side if you ask my carnivorous family and friends). I lasted about 18 months on a purely vegetarian diet until I realized that I was actually impairing my health because I wasn’t eating properly. My junk intake had doubled. I made the decision to add fish to my diet to try to balance my health requirements while I found my footing in this new lifestyle. Part of the problem was that I couldn’t find too many yummy but healthy vegetarian options in the Philippines.
Even before I fell pregnant I knew that I would be raising my children as vegetarians. The literature and studies that I have read just wouldn’t allow me to do otherwise. No way would or could I feed my children animals knowing what I know about the health issues of ingesting animal protein.
Right now I am in the process of transitioning back to being a vegetarian. My eventual objective is to become vegan. Who knows if I’ll actually be able to succeed. My son has been a vegetarian since birth and will continue to be until he makes his own choice. I myself have to be a vegetarian since I am raising my children to be vegetarians. I have to practice what I preach, set the example so to speak.
A few months ago I finally made it to Mercato Market which is a veritable jackpot of locally raised, organic veggies and products. This is where I met Marie Gonzalez. Actually to be accurate I first encountered her pinoy breakfast (tasty sausage, a divine tofu scramble and the softest brown rice) and then I had to meet the chef extraordinaire who concocted the unbelievable (VEGAN) dish.
I was besotted with that one meal and immediately got her details and emailed for lessons. Now, I’m halfway through my “vegan course” with Marie and thoroughly enjoying the sessions and playing around with food. Each dish is more delicious than the last. I’ve made cakes, cookies, and sausages. Things you think you can never have again once you go vegetarian or vegan.
Marie launched Kitchen Revolution as the Philippines’ first vegan baking business because she realized that if she was craving for cake, she’d have to bake it herself. She worked for the corporate world by day and frosted desserts by night. After a year and a half of this tango, she finally hiked up her pants, temporarily closed the business, and went to culinary school.
While living and studying in New York, she was amazed at how easy breezy it was to be vegan. The lifestyle was embraced and accepted by many. The plethora of produce and vegan options in restaurants amazed her. The city was teeming with vegetarian cafes, pizzerias, fine dining restaurants, fast food restaurants, and even vegan ice cream parlors — being enjoyed by both vegans and non-vegans alike! She finally found her calling in life.
I want to sing the praises of vegan dishes to the world and shed some light on this way of life. Most pinoys think one of 3 things about veganism. Either a) being a vegan means the end of fun, the end of delicious food, the end of chocolate or b) a vegan can only eat nuts and grass or c) they don’t even know what being a vegan means.
Through Kitchen Revolution, Marie hopes to inspire people to make healthier and compassionate food choices and to demystify plant-based cuisine in the Philippines.
An ardent advocate of eating a plant-based diet and a believer that vegetarianism = environmentalism, she has been a vegan for three years.
I asked Marie to help educate us on being vegan, why it is healthier for us and to dispel the rampant misconception that vegan cuisine is about as tasty as saw dust.
How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
I made the transition into veganism as a New Year’s resolution in 2008, so I’ve been vegan for 3 years now. Before that, I became vegetarian on the October 8, 2007 — the Monday after my birthday.
I’ve always been interested in food, whether cooking it, talking about it, reading about it, and watching cooking shows on TV. I used to be famous in my circle of family and friends for my roasted leg of lamb with gravy! In May 2007 I became a fan of boxing as a form of exercise. I then started to eat more healthfully — less refined food, less rice, more vegetables, but I still ate meat. I also started to read up on food politics — where our food comes from, organic vs. conventional, and of course, the animal agriculture industry. Watching PETA’s “Meet your Meat”, reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, and listening to vegetarian-themed podcasts such as “Vegan Freak” and “Vegetarian Food for Thought” convinced me that I had to do something about how my food choices impacted the lives of animals and the environment. I decided then that I couldn’t participate in the institutionalized animal cruelty and decided to boycott the meat, poultry, and seafood industry by becoming vegetarian in October. And let me tell you, it was so rewarding and empowering to make that simple choice.
I knew that immense suffering was also taking place in the dairy industry and egg industry, but I didn’t immediately become vegan because I wasn’t ready to give up desserts! And back then (October to December 2007), I knew nothing about baking without dairy and eggs. My best friend gave me a vegan cookbook for Christmas though, and that really pushed me to give veganism a go. I became vegan on New Year’s eve and never looked back.
Were you a traditional chef before becoming a vegan chef? How is it different?
Officially, I started my cheffing career as a vegan — I don’t have a professional background as a conventional chef. I was an omnivore all my life until I became vegetarian a few months after I graduated from university. While working for a corporation for 2 years, I opened Kitchen Revolution as a home-based vegan bakery.
There really is a learning curve when it comes to learning something new, whether it’s becoming vegetarian / vegan, exploring an unknown country, or learning yoga for the first time. So in terms of becoming vegan and starting a vegan company, I did a lot of research because I knew failure wasn’t an option. The internet is full of resources on adopting a plant-based diet. I built a library of vegan cookbooks, food literature, and books on nutrition. I experimented in the kitchen a lot. I learned on my own because there weren’t any vegetarian-centric cooking classes available locally.
I guess you can say that learning how to cook vegan is more fulfilling because I had to learn on my own plus it is a skill quite unique from what other chefs have in this country. My cooking philosophy isn’t only plant-based, it’s whole foods-based. I can rhapsodize about quinoa, lentils, cashews, and cilantro all day. I know how to make dishes creamy without dairy and how to bake without eggs. I know how to make meatless sausages and egg-less scrambles. I know how to make vegetables taste good in a country where meat is king.
Why is vegan the way to go?
Vegan is the way to go for so many reasons:
 A whole foods, plant-based diet will do miracles for your health.
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, people who eat a plant-based diet have much lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure than meat eaters. Many studies show that replacing animal protein with plant protein lowers blood cholesterol levels — even if the amount and type of fat in the diet stays the same. A vegetarian diet has a clear advantage over other diets — it can help prevent cancer, control diabetes, and lower the risk of osteoporosis. A vegan diet is naturally cholesterol-free, as it is free from animal products — the only source of dietary cholesterol.
 Becoming vegan shows that you care about the planet.
The United Nations has declared that a global shift away from animal-based foods is necessary to save the world from the most devastating impacts of climate change. The livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation locally and worldwide. Modern practices of raising animals for food contribute, on a massive scale, to: deforestation, air and water pollution, land degradation, loss of topsoil, climate change, the overuse of resources including oil and water, and loss of biodiversity. The inefficiencies of meat, milk, and egg production range from a 4:1 energy input to protein output ratio up to 54:1. A person existing chiefly on animal protein requires 10 times more land to provide adequate food than someone living on vegetable sources of protein.
One of the best ways to conserve resources and protect the environment is to eat lower in the food chain.
 Not eating meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, and eggs shows that you truly care about animals and that you don’t want to cause harm to them.
Peter Singer, one of the founders of the animal liberation movement, said it best: if alternative means of survival exist, one ought to choose the option that does not cause unnecessary harm to animals. Many atrocities occur in the raising and slaughtering of animals for food.
For example, in egg production, hens are confined in cages so small that they cannot stretch their wings or legs and cannot fulfill normal behavioral patterns or social needs.
In dairy production, cows are given high energy feeds which cause metabolic disorders including ketosis and laminitis (which causes lameness). The veal industry is a direct by-product of the dairy industry, wherein male calves live their lives in wooden crates and are fed a diet deficient in iron and fiber, designed to make them anemic.
In pork production, sows are treated like piglet-making machines and confined in gestation crates that prevent them from turning around or lying down comfortably.
In beef production, it is not uncommon for cattle to be hung upside down still conscious, where they either bleed to death that way or are cut up to death.
In poultry production, chickens are genetically altered to grow twice as fast and as large as their ancestors; as a result, their hearts and lungs are not developed well enough which can result to congestive heart failure. It is not uncommon for them to experience crippling leg disorders due to their abnormally heavy bodies.
In seafood production, farm-raised fish are crowded in excrement-laden waters and are susceptible to disease and suffocation.
What are some misconceptions about vegan cuisine and the difficulties of maintaining a vegan diet
Some misconceptions: vegan food is bland. We eat twigs and leaves. Or, what exactly do we eat?
I can honestly say that since becoming vegan, I have eaten the most interesting and the most flavorful food. Vegan cuisine is full of color and flavor. We get color from fruits and vegetables. Meat dishes are usually brown, black, or tan. Vegetarian? Reds, oranges, yellows, greens, purples.
When you cook vegetarian, you learn early on to coax flavor using nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and mushrooms. We get creaminess using nuts, soy, and coconut milk. We get umami-ness from miso, mushrooms, garlic, and tomatoes.
What do we eat? Everything else! Beans, grains, soy products, nuts, herbs, seeds, spices, mushrooms, fruit, vegetables and sea vegetables.
Some difficulties of maintaining a vegan diet: convenience food, restaurant food, reading food labels.
Being vegan in a not-so-vegan country means that more planning is required when it comes to your meals. For example, it’s not easy to find readily available breakfast options. We can’t pop by Starbucks and have a muffin, or have pancakes at Pancake House. Filipino food isn’t quite vegan friendly either — vegetables are, more often than not, cooked with bits of chicken, or pork, or shrimp. Unfortunately, vegans will have to exert more effort to make sure that meals served to them are really vegan. We need to ask our servers to please make sure our meals aren’t made with meat, seafood, dairy, or egg.
When you become vegan, you discover that animal products are sneaked into a lot of pre-packaged food. Some candy are made with carmine (food coloring made from ground up beetles) and gelatin (made from animal bones). Junk bread like Gardenia is made with whey and casein (milk products). Salt-and-vinegar flavored chips are made with lactic acid from milk.
We are lucky though that more healthful, vegetarian alternatives are popping up. For example, in terms of junk food, I love Marty’s veggie chicharon (and their salt-and-vinegar variant is made with lactic acid sourced from corn) and Holy Kettle Corn (original flavor). Oreos are actually vegan!
Aside from these minor inconveniences, veganism is a breeze. When you learn to replace animal protein with vegetable protein (beans, grains, soy, seitan or meat alternatives), get your calcium and iron from leafy greens and beans instead of milk and meat, it’s a snap.
Where did you train and learn vegan cooking?
I pursued my culinary studies at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. It isn’t a vegan cooking school per se, but a classical culinary school with emphasis on whole foods. The curriculum was largely vegan with organic dairy and egg options, and a few classes on free range poultry and seafood.
After graduating from cooking school I trained at Pure Food and Wine, this amazing raw vegan restaurant near Union Square. Working in a professional vegan kitchen, raw at that, was an eye opener to me. The quality and variety of produce available to New York kitchens is amazing. The restaurant used coconut meat, nuts, and herbs differently from what I had originally been familiar with. I learned how to make raw ravioli using coconut meat and flax, “cheese” using nuts, and “bacon” using portobello mushrooms and lapsang souchong (smoked black tea).
I also trained at Dirt Candy, a quaint vegetarian restaurant in the East Village. The kitchen was tiny and the staff was made up of the executive chef / owner, 1 sous chef, 1 prep cook, and 1 dishwasher. I learned how to refine my knife skills (try slicing celery so paper-thin that the slices are translucent) and make fancy carrot buns (siopao) at $13 a pop!
Tell us about Kitchen Revolution
I started Kitchen Revolution in 2008 when an officemate of mine wanted to buy cupcakes from me for her boyfriend’s niece who was visiting from Australia. The niece had dairy and egg allergies and there were no vegan desserts locally and commercially available.
For 2 years I operated my baking business, baking and frosting at night while working at my real job during the day. Business grew through word of mouth. I then decided that I wanted to work full time in the food industry, so I resigned from my job and went to cooking school.
I came back from New York 5 months ago and reopened Kitchen Revolution, this time expanding to catering and cooking classes. I think the Philippines is ready for plant-based cuisine and I plan to take part in it.
Tips for people out there wanted to eat less meat
If you want to eat less meat or transition into a vegetarian diet, I say get creative in the kitchen. Replace your meat with tofu. Cook more with beans. My favorite thing to make is a bean salad — cooked beans (black beans, chickpeas, cannelinni beans, or lima beans), chopped garlic, chopped onion, chopped tomato, a squeeze of lemon or lime, a splash of extra virgin olive oil, and a ton of your favorite herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme, or tarragon). Add that to a bed of salad greens and fresh veggies, or in a sandwich, or with brown rice, or with pasta.
Try to forgo meat (including seafood!) once a week. Try vegetarian options in restaurants in the metro — Mediterranean / Greek has falafels and hummus, Japanese has agedashi tofu, Chinese has salt and pepper tofu, Thai has spring rolls and curries, Indian has curries and chana masala.
Make an “omelette” or a scramble using tofu instead of egg, and sprinkle some turmeric in there for color. Use soymilk or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.
Check out more ideas on adopting a plant-based diet or including more vegetarian food into your diet here: http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/vsk/
Tell us about your classes
My cooking classes demystify myths that vegetarian food is bland and boring. It’s a great way to learn how to incorporate more healthful food into your diet, whether you’re an omnivore who wants to eat more vegetables or a vegetarian who wants to learn new tricks. Currently I conduct private cooking lessons in the comfort of your own home so you can learn using your own kitchen equipment and I can give tips on how to “detoxify” your kitchen. Come summer time I plan to conduct cooking classes for 9 to 14-year old kids because I believe that kids will make healthful food choices if they learn how to make healthful food themselves. I’m gonna teach fun things like how to make pizza using wholewheat flour, tacos with heart-healthy beans, cholesterol-free sausages, and cookies using alternative sweeteners. You certainly need not be vegetarian or vegan to have fun in my classes!
For more information, you can check my website at kitchenrevolution.wordpress.com or send me an email at email@example.com
March 13, 2011 by Amanda Griffin-Jacob