food & drink: Why I'm a VEGAN.MOST restaurants now cater for vegetarians, but take away eggs, butter, milk and cheese and many chefs are left quaking in their boots.
A vegan diet vegan diet (vē´gn),
n the strictest form of vegetarian diet, which prohibits the consumption of all animal products, including can present problems when eating out, but, Scouseveg, a networking group for Merseyside vegetarians and vegans, aims to change all that.
Founder Niki O'Leary, 35, from Aintree, set up the group with her sister Jane five years ago, and membership is booming.
"It's a social group for vegetarians and vegans, to bring people together and share advice on recipes, eating out and give cookery demonstrations in the community," explains Niki.
"We meet once a month and offer advice on the website to fellow vegans and chefs looking to improve their menus."
Niki became a vegan vegan /veg·an/ (ve´gan) (vej´an) a vegetarian whose diet excludes all food of animal origin.
n. six years ago.
"I went veggie first about 15 years ago and then my sister and dad followed," says Niki. "Then, when I looked into the dairy industry I couldn't justify being just a vegetarian. The way cattle are treated is appalling, so I went vegan. Jane and my dad followed suit.
"It can be hard eating out as a family. In Liverpool, the Egg cafe (in Newington, off Renshaw Street) is probably the best vegan choice. After that, there is the Green Fish (Upper Newington), these are only two vegetarian places at the moment.
"The Basement, which is on Bold Street, will be a community centre with a veggie and vegan cafe but will be run on a voluntary basis.
"Other than that, the best seem to be Indian, Chinese or Italian restaurants, who will often adapt the menu if you ask nicely. Pizza Express do a great non-cheese pizza, and you just have to ask.
"Mostly, it's about explaining to the chef what a vegan diet is, and bit by bit people are becoming more familiar with it."
Much of this is down to the list of celebrity vegans, which seems to grow by the day - Paul McCartney Noun 1. Paul McCartney - English rock star and bass guitarist and songwriter who with John Lennon wrote most of the music for the Beatles (born in 1942)
McCartney, Sir James Paul McCartney , Prince, Pamela Anderson, Sean Connery, Woody Harrelson and Gwyneth Paltrow all swear by a vegan diet. And, it seems, the rest of us are following suit.
"It is something which seems to be on the increase in Merseyside," says Niki. "We get a lot of people coming to Scouseveg on their own, people who might have been feeling a bit isolated.
"We meet at the Egg cafe. It's nice to meet likeminded people, and the food is good. I like their breakfasts, and they do great puddings."
Niki found an unusual way to promote the vegan message by appearing on Channel 4's Come Dine With Me Come Dine With Me is a Channel 4 afternoon television programme shown in the United Kingdom, first broadcast in March 2005. The show has five amateur chefs competing against each other hosting a dinner party for the other contestants. .
"I wanted to show people that vegans are normal people and not strange creatures from another planet," she laughs.
"I'm constantly amazed when I reveal to people that I'm a vegan and they say 'you don't look like one'. I wonder what I am supposed to look like?
"I wanted to prove that you can I still eat many things and it's not something to be afraid of. In a few years' time, people will look on being vegan as completely normal, like being vegetarian is now."
For further information on Scouseveg, log on to www.scouseveg.co.uk.
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