“I am happiest when I’m writing”
– My Affirmation
Dear intermittent readers! I have been away for two weeks celebrating Christmas and New Year down southways. Christmas is a time catching up with family. Oh and of course, shopping! But yeah, family!
Last Christmas (I gave you my heeeart – R.I.P George Michael) I had spent the day around Mum’s side of the family. This time I would visit Dad’s side.
Big difference. Like half of Mum’s family is vegan or plant-based, so Christmas with them is as easy as pie. No. Easier. Pie is not easy. Unless you’re getting it from the bakery. But if you’re vegan you can’t just go into any bakery and get a pie. I know Tart Bakery in Grey Lynn do great pies, and the Z energy stations. Otherwise I’m resigned to baking my own pies, which certainly aren’t easy to do. So I’ll just say it was easy as 2 minute noodles. Vegan noodles.
On Dad’s side, nobody is vegan or vegetarian. They weren’t sure how to cater at first, but I told them not to worry. We’ll go do a big fun shop and buy some tasty foods. One of my favourite ways of teaching people about veganism is to go grocery shopping! What a fun way to discover the incredible plant-based world out there!
My stepmother made me vegan pumpkin Kasha, a staple meal in Ukraine which makes a good breakfast, lunch or dessert. The ingredients usually consist of mashed pumpkin, rice/buckwheat and dates. I didn’t get the exact recipe but there’s plenty of great ones on the internet, like this from vanillaandbean.com.
Stepmum isn’t vegan, but has a pretty plant-based diet and is interested in the idea of full veganism. We were talking about the benefits of a plant-based diet, which is one of my favourite topics. But I don’t always know how to act when somebody takes a huge conversational interest in veganism. I’m more used to confrontational, not conversational. I became super afraid of saying the wrong thing just to avoid hurting anyone.
On the day of arrival we went shopping at the local Countdown, I got to show off some cool vegan products, including some top ice-creams and black-bean burger patties (which my Dad loved, served in a bun with peanut butter, BBQ sauce, lettuce and tomato).
‘I really admire your diet, but having a little bit of animal products occasionally will not hurt you.’
‘Sorry Dad, but I’m fully committed.’ I said.
This is my usual response these days. In the past I might have meekly said ‘yeah’ or ‘mmm hmm’, but what have I learned? That you really need to stand your ground about things like diet. If you haven’t the charisma of impassioned orator, then the least you can do is make it clear that your diet is based off conviction solid as rock, unmoving.
People in Palmerston North are so friendly. They ask me about my diet without judgement or presupposition, motivated only by sheer curiosity. Not once did anybody make even the subtle mockery that I’m so used to in Auckland. Eh, the grass is always greener, right?
That being said, Palmerston North is no backwater. It’s a balance between idyllic large town and small, modern city. And there’s no shortage of markets to get the bulk, ethnic and wholefoods that make up a quality vegan diet.
Dad took me to Davis Trading, a mammoth ethnic and bulk foods supermarket with foodstuffs from all over Asia. He had had a fortifying breakfast of black-bean burgers and was now full of energy, zipping through the aisles asking me what everything was and what it could be used for. Dad had always encouraged me to eat healthy from an early age, but because of the custody situation, I saw him only once a week and the teaching never rubbed off on me. I didn’t start eating relatively healthy until I went vegan. So when we saw each other again, he was amazed to see just how much I had learned about food and nutrition. Dad was grateful towards my veganism because it showed me the path towards healthy eating. I’m grateful towards it for that reason too.
Then there’s silk route spices, an Indian market which sells these tasty vegan burger patties! (yes, the website is incomplete A.F)
On Christmas day, I made the family a vegan big breakfast – toast with those Indian patties, baked beans and a dollop of hummus. I wanted to show that Kiwi-style food can easily be vegan, but also I just like cooking for holidays! Cooking for others is an easy gift and people tend to appreciate it. Sometimes I like waking up to a ready meal. Food is awesome, that we can all agree on! So let’s all make food for each other 😀
Others were thinking along the same lines. Most of my gifts were consumables (which I like. I have too much stuff.) That included this delicious vegan rice milk chocolate and these awesome biscuits.
So Christmas evening was the big night! The night we cooked the ROAST – bah, humbug! This is the most difficult part. Luckily I bought with me a Seitan mock duck from Blissful health and Vegetarian shop
The family’s chicken took hours to cook, but this only took a few minutes! Of course it was cooked alongside potatoes, kumara, carrots and parsnips. But the end result was a pretty convincing copy of a Christmas roast dinner. I don’t know if the rest of the family liked it, but I did. It was my first time eating Seitan too, which was a bit weird. But still pretty good.
Most resourceful vegans know you can easily be vegan basically anywhere in New Zealand, but this is my holiday and I wanted nothing but fatty filthy junk food from America.
Because I was working at the same time I spent a few too many times binging on apple pies and fries at McDonalds, a few too many spicy Indian burger patties, plenty of Subway, sushi and vegan dumplings from countdown. Oh and a brilliant Turkish bistro in the Plaza did me a mean falafel burger.
The big discovery was Café Royale, located near the square inconspicuously inside an art building. The top vegan café in Palmerston North, I had a mean big breakfast. The staff are friendly! It was peaceful sitting alone with my food, coffee and work. I felt at peace throughout the whole holiday, but I dig solitary time, especially with great food.
Thanks to VANZ – The Vegan New Zealand facebook page for telling me about the cafe, as well as getting me in touch with veganpalmy.org.nz, the page for the Palmerston North Vegan Society. These guys are the true vegan voice for the city.
Well thats it! A brief overview of my experience in Palmerston North. Here are the basic points of interest:
- Davis Trading, the best place for bulk and ethnic foods
- Café Royale, a cool, hip café with plenty of tasty vegan food and coffee
- Veganpalmy.org.nz, an essential guide for vegan living in Palmerston North.
Happy travels people! Keep on writing and keep on exploring! If you have any tips or experiences as a vegan in Palmerston North, get in touch with the veganpalmy crew or leave a comment here!