I was watching An African City on YouTube and, on the first episode, you see one of the main character, Ngozi ordering food, in a restaurant in Ghana and she was vegetarian. Her friend gave her the side look and said ‘a non meat eater in Africa. ‘We are Africans, we are supposed to eat meat, we’re supposed to love meat!’
You can watch the whole show here.
So for my new serie, I am featuring some African ve*an.
The first person willing to share her story with us is the beautiful Yedei from This Afropolitan Life. I hope you will like it.
Would you please introduce yourself ?
My name is Clarissa. I’m Ghanaian-American with a passion for good food, health, family, travel, African culture, art, afro pop…
In essence, I explore where my African culture and my American culture collide and I write about it all on my blog www.thisAfropolitanLife.com
Since how long have you been vegan/vegetarian?
I was a strict vegan for about two years, before I had kids. Since then, I have been mostly vegetarian.
Why did you decide to commit to this lifestyle ?
I had been vege-curious all thoughout college as being exposed to different people and cultures kept me questioning and challenging some of my inherited values. The brief time I lived in Ghana gave me something to compare my life in America to and helped me see some of the ways we unhealthily complicate our food choices in the west. Like, why is every entree topped/garnished with cheese? I didn’t see this in Ghana, or Paris. This lifestyle is a result of my incessant questioning and desire to live closer to my personal truths and I truly believe in the vegan diet.
Did you grow up in a vegetarian/vegan household?
I did not grow up in a vegetarian/vegan home. At home, our soups, stews and jollof rice was (and still is) loaded with smoked turkey, corned beef, beef, tripe, pig’s feet, ox tail, dried fish, fresh fish, snail, chicken, etc. You name it, we had it.
What do you eat in a day ?
Usually, our day starts with a hot cereal: oatmeal or cream of wheat. Other days hausa koko, rice pap, or rice water (rice pudding) makes it on the menu for breakfast. I’ll add applesauce, various berries or peanut butter to the oatmeal sometimes. Warmer weather calls for breakfast smoothies.
For lunch, It really depends on what I have on hand. Maybe I’ll eat a big salad, maybe I’ll make a yummy vegan coconut BLT, or chickpea “tuna” salad sandwich. Peanut Butter and jelly is a staple when I’m strapped for time.
What is your favorite source of protein ?
Beans. I like tofu but I eat it sparingly because I think I may have a soy allergy. I also eat a lot of greens. I’m famous for putting broccoli or kale in my peanut butter soup. LOL.
Does your immediate circle as the same eating habits as you do ?
My husband went vegan with me and he enjoyed it. I have some vegan friends and family since I was successful in convincing some of my family to eat more plant based food. Many in my circle are very veg-friendly. Others have have cut out land animals completely and only eat fish.
If not, what do they think about it ?
I do not have a problem with non vegan people. My choice is personal, so is theirs. If they ask me about it, I talk about it with no judgement and really just tell them how veganism is for me. I don’t try to preach to the whole world because I’m not perfect in my veganism either.
Do you have children ? What eating habits do they have, would you like them to have ? Why ?
I do have children and this is why I am not a perfect vegan. I’ll explain.
I fell off the vegan boat for a bit during my pregnancies and in between them, as a new mom trying to adjust to life with a new baby, I gravitated towards what was convenient, and time saving. Anyone who has young children knows how unconfident and unsure you feel about making sure your kids are getting all the right nutrients. Maybe it’s just me who succumbed to the all the noise in America about doing all the right things to make sure you’re raising healthy kids. (Mothers everywhere else outside of the west, seem so sure and just know seemingly what to do when they have their babies, I don’t know, it just seems that way.)
Anyway, I gave in to the yogurt, cheese (not milk, I breastfed)–for calcium–argument. I didn’t give them meat, but they would eat it at my mother in laws home, so now they eat chicken and turkey at grandma’s house. I get “Chick-fil-A! Please mommy!” from the backseat of the car, instead of MacDonalds requests.
They’ve never had hotdogs. (Yuck! I draw the line at hotdogs. LOL!)
My oldest has had about a half a hamburger her whole life.
They eat TONS of fruits and veggies because that’s what we eat at home.
And there is an occasional salmon dinner because again, I gave in to the noise about omega 3s. And grilled salmon is just soo much easier then grinding up flax seeds and convincing them that it’s not really flax oil they taste in their oatmeal and smoothies. Ugh.
I do believe, for the most part, that I’ve started them off with very good eating habits. My youngest will eat a date fruit just as well as she would a lollipop. They aren’t familiar with parmesan laden spaghetti sauce, and cow’s milk is an unacceptable substitute for rice milk.
Is it easy as an African vegetarian/vegan to go grocery shopping ?
Yep. I just skip the meat section.
The african market is full of veg-friendly staples; gari, yam, plantain, seeds, nuts etc.
How do you deal with holidays dinners ?
Here is where me and other vegans differ. When I go home, I’m going home to love. I don’t see going home to confront my African grandmother or mom, or aunt, or gasp! my loving mother in law, about the meat in her soup. What’s the point? Veganism is a healthy alternative to all the crap that is found in a Standard American Diet. It’s an alternative to diabetes, heart failure, clogged arteries and gout that results from lard, butter, salt, SUGAR, dairy, eggs, bacon and the meat you’re served in a chain restaurant.
My grandmother may have fresh fish or smoked turkey in her spinach stew but I can guarantee you there’s no sugar in it.
So I’m okay with my kids eating the love my family put into cooking for us. Most of the time I’ll pick out the beef, and if I can’t, I’ll load up on the veg-friendly side dishes, and I’ll taste a bit of everything.
Thanksgiving only comes once a year.
How do you deal with eating at your non vegetarian/vegan friends places ?
These days there are plenty of vegan or vegetarian options at restaurants, if we find ourselves at one of them. At their homes, I’ll bring a yummy vegan side dish to share. Or I’ll pick out the meat, or I’ll just stick with the wine. It’s my choice, and I’m the only one responsible for what I choose to put into my mouth. So if necessary, I’ll eat before I go.
How is vegetarism and veganism perceived in your city ?
These days vegetarian dishes are trending everywhere. So I think it’s perceived as normal and is accepted. It’s not weird anymore. LOL
Do you have anything else you would like to share ?
Veganism has been a process for me. A journey of sorts. I’ve gone back and forth and back again. I fail at being 100% plant based sometimes (There’s a grilled fresh tilapia with my name on it somewhere in the world LOL!), but that’s okay.
Perfection isn’t the goal for me, it’s about health and awareness that ultimately leads to compassion.