Nikita from Vegan Wise is our in-house chef, she can cook a feast in a field quicker than most of us can make a Pot Noodle, and if you’ve ever been on one of our camping trips you won’t have forgotten her!
In a lifelong study of food and health, she has experimented with fruitarianism, befriended a herd of cows and acquired a wealth of knowledge of Ayurvedic cooking, and this winter she is going to share some of that wisdom in her first cookbook...
What came first, veganism or cooking?
Cooking. I always was on some sort of mad mission to sort out my gut and stop being fat. I had major IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) all my life and out of all my family, I was much more aware of my diet and my body.
I always put on more weight than my siblings even when I was really young, so I got sucked into the diet fads. I think the first one was “You are What you Eat” by Gillian McKeith. I went raw for two years and tried being a fruitarian! Basically I have been experimenting on myself my whole life and never stopped.
How did you become a vegan?
I spent a year working on a biodynamic dairy farm when I was 19 and became best friends with a herd of cows. I became aware of their life cycle and their nature, I witnessed their maternal patterns and saw how similar they were to humans. Seeing the distress caused when they lost their babies and watching their immunity weakened by being constantly pregnant was really shocking.
Up until that point I had eaten diary my whole life and I loved it, but one of my best friends who was also working on the farm said we can’t do this anymore, we need to go vegan, so we started this adventure together!
Do you ever talk to non-vegans about their food choices?
Typically I don’t, people are allowed to have their own choices and I don’t like the reputation of vegans being preachy.
I want to work against that stereotype to show that there is a spectrum. Whether you are a hardcore vegan, or working on just having one plant-based meal a week, it’s all ok.
It took my whole life of eating diary, to then have a connection with that herd of cows, and still needing a push from my friend before I made the commitment to be vegan. I’m not a perfect vegan and that stereotype really needs to be broken down.
How did you get into surfing?
I always liked the idea of it, people who surfed looked the happiest. I think it was also vanity that drew me in, I thought beach babes looked attractive and I wanted to be one! But once I actually caught a wave and experienced the flow of a wave it was like crack cocaine, I was hooked!
At the beginning I was so hard on myself. I expected it to be like all other sports where you practice and get better. It taught me the best lesson of my life which was to just be happy with the process. It’s the greatest practice of mindfulness because you are 100% present.
Any simple cooking tips for people trying out plant-based food?
Yeah! Learn how to prep vegetables in interesting shapes and sizes! It really does make a difference to make food interesting and beautiful. When you combine something crispy, something slimy, something light, it’s almost like the flavour takes care of itself.
Tell us about your plans to write a cookbook...
This has been about 5 years in the making, every time I pause to write down some recipes, I think of 50 more ideas and scrap all the last ones! I want to explore the last 7 years of veganism, including the good lessons learnt from the diets I have been through. It will be a how-to cookbook, teaching people how to combine and create texture so they can really learn how to cook.
Nikita will be asking for pre-orders of the book in the next few months to help her get published. Follow her at @vegan_wise or email email@example.com to find out how you can help!