For some, the thought of going vegan or vegetarian leaves them in an utter frenzy. Meat is the staple of most households and while it might even save them a couple of rands, some people are still put off at the idea of ultimately opting for a plant-based and meat-free lifestyle.
The stereotypes around veganism are that it is a bland and expensive lifestyle to maintain, says Cape Town-based food blogger Anda Mtshemla (24). But she has made it her mission to dispel the uninformed myths associated with the widely revered dietary option.
She says the reality is actually the complete opposite to the myths. “There is so much variety and many combinations and flavours in vegan foods. That is what inspired me to start my blog.”
Mtshemla is the visionary behind 24 Karrots, a blog that assists those curious about veganism with inexpensive meal options and gives much-needed education around this increasingly popular lifestyle.
Drawing much of her meal ideas and inspirations from more prominent blogs, she wants to normalize a cheaper and healthier vegan lifestyle saying, “people normally view veganism as ‘other’ and a weird thing.”
Good food is often the thing that brings South Africans together. Who does not like a nice lamb tjop that comes from the heart of the Karoo? Slaughtering and eating meat together forms a fundamental part of our African culture. So, this will obviously make it more difficult for some to opt for a plant-based diet.
Mtshemla was born in Johannesburg and she spent most of her upbringing in the City of Gold. She now spends most of her time between Cape Town and East London. When she is with her family, they all enjoy a vegan lifestyle, she says. “My parents respect my lifestyle and they, too, mostly eat vegan when I am home.”
She decided to become vegan at the age of twelve after watching a documentary with gruesome imagery of the violence that animals endured in slaughterhouses. “After watching that documentary, I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian. Eight years later, I decided to finally become vegan, and I have not looked back since”, the food blogger says.
So far, some of her career highlights as a foodie include working with The Fry Family Food Company, a vegan foods company for which she produced vegan recipes. She also promoted the work and campaigns run by Veganuary, a British non-profit organisation that promotes veganism for the month of January.
‘People normally view veganism as ‘other’ and a weird thing.’
While some people might want to try out a vegan lifestyle, the cost associated with adopting this lifestyle is often off-putting.
“Veganism can definitely be expensive,” Mtshemla explains. When she goes restaurants, the vegan option of an otherwise animal product does bite at the wallet sometimes. “But if you take it to basics and take it back to whole foods such as lentils, beans and rice, these are the cheaper foods. Vegetables and fruits are cheaper options,” she says, for those starting a vegan diet.
The magic of going vegan
Much of the food that we consume nowadays is highly processed and full of preservatives. Mtshemla believes that if you opt for an inexpensive vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, you will feel much better.
‘Do everything from your perspective and bring your unique point of view.’
“You stay fuller for longer, because you are not eating something that is packed with sugar and corn syrup.”
Mtshemla believes that a vegan diet is healthier than an omnivorous diet, given that it is lower in salt and cholesterol and high in fiber. A study also found that people who eat vegan and vegetarian have a lower risk of heart disease, but a higher risk of a stroke, most likely due to lack of vitamin B12.
While people might think it is a good idea to entirely chuck out their meat at once to go completely vegan, Mtshemla advises against this.
“It should be a gradual process, otherwise it won’t work. Remember, you are introducing new foods and you do not know how your body is going to react. It might be difficult to adjust to everything all at once.” She also recommends that you keep your cooking routine, but just substitute all of the ingredients with a vegan alternative.
She encourages people to finish what is in their fridge and replace it with a vegan alternative. “Finish your dairy milk in the refrigerator and replace it with soy or almond milk. If your mayonnaise is finished, replace it with a vegan option.”
If you have your hopes up for becoming a vegan food blogger or home chef, Mtshemla emphasizes that you need to remain authentic to yourself and what your brand is about. “Do everything from your perspective and bring your unique point of view – that’s really what is going to make you stand out,” she says.
Mtshemla says that although she is not sure where she sees 24 Karrots going (“I am an Aries and not great at planning,”), she does have high hopes that her brand becomes a household South African name and a go-to for those wanting try out a vegan lifestyle.