Growing Up Vegetarian in the UK – My Kitchen Is My New Found Lab
“The kitchen’s a laboratory, and everything that happens there has to do with science. It’s biology, chemistry, physics. Yes, there’s history. Yes there’s artistry. Yes, to all of that. But what happened there, what actually happens to the food is all science.” – Alton Brown.
I was never much of a scientist at school. Nestled in the English countryside in a large old schoolhouse, I used to spend most of my chemistry lessons buried under layers of wooly jumpers in a freezing laboratory during the cold British winter. Think Harry Potter. The teacher is speaking with a clear English accent, rain beating at the window, and students sitting behind glass jugs containing mixtures of various elements, exploding and giving the room a warm glow.
I was much more interested in trying different accents with my friend PJ, a brilliant actress. We sat behind our Bunsen burner, wittering away in various dialects. What great fun! We hadn’t a care in the world, while our teacher, seemingly desperate to teach, implored us to learn. I remember thinking, “What is the use of learning the periodic table?” or “Why would I want to turn gum into liquid?” It really was beyond me.
My Laboratory aka My Kitchen
Fast forward 12 years, and I have done a total 180. I now spend most of my day in a laboratory known as my kitchen, cooking up various mouth-watering vegan dishes, from spicy peanut butter noodle dishes to experimenting with what herbs really do go best in a spaghetti bolognese. I’m doing my own little chemistry experiments at home and I couldn’t be more excited!
These little tasty gems of knowledge transformed my outlook on flavour, nutrition and health.
I have to credit this excitement and joy to Dr. T. Colin Campbell. I loved doing Dr. Campbell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate program through the Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell. He has truly inspired me. My enthusiasm for my newfound laboratory opened me up the world of “biology, chemistry and physics” and, without realising, I have become quite the scientist. And the amount of joy I feel in preparing meals leads me to actually research chef techniques. I have learned to infuse my cooking with little flavor-enhancing nuances, such as how the use of turmeric adds colour, creating a feast for the eyes; cayenne pepper has more heat than chilli flakes; and, to properly season food, it is necessary to taste the dish at every step.
These little tasty gems of knowledge transformed my outlook on flavour, nutrition and health. My idea of a treat now is to eat a bagel with a luscious layer of avocado, seasoned with sundried tomatoes, chipotle chilli flakes, pepper, a few leafy greens, and a generous spray of lime juice. If I’m honest, I usually end up having 2 or 3!
I began following a plant-based diet in January 2019. In as quickly as a week or two, I realised that I already felt much healthier and happier. While I wasn’t eating much meat before I started, the main difference was removing dairy and fish.
I had been a vegetarian from ages 7 – 19, but became omnivorous again at 19, wanting to get along with my housemates at University. It’s now very easy for me now to be plant-based as London has been voted the No. 1 city in which to be a vegan – there are heaps of vegan cafes, restaurants with completely separate vegan menus and vegan pop up stalls. It’s very inclusive thanks to the growing plant-based movement.
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