One of the things I love about being a vegan is feeling connected to a global community – my very own 'tribe' of like-minded souls. Making friends with other conscious, clever and compassionate brothers and sisters is as easy as saying "Hey, I'm a vegan too!", and in no time, you're swapping recipes and helping each other find the best avocado toast in New York. Since I'm lucky to know a few awesome vegans myself, I thought I'd introduce y'all in this new blog series. Welcome to 'Shakti Stories'.
First up, we have Barrington Goldson Jr. of Food.Health.Fit who I met a few years back. Not only does he take his food photography seriously (trust me, you've never seen a cabbage look so beguiling!), he comes from a chemistry background, and is currently developing plant-based cooking classes for diabetics and pre-diabetics at a local hospital – which is really huge!
He also just happens to be my secret weapon whenever I hear "that annoying protein argument". I simply pull out a photo of Barrington's biceps and shut that hater down. Thanks for that, B! I managed to grill him with a few questions...
Can you remember the day you decided to go vegan?
I’d been learning a lot about plant-based diets. The most powerful information for me was learning that heart disease and type 2 diabetes could be prevented and even reversed, and how rare cancer was in areas of the world that were plant-based. I’d learned about vegan athletes that held world records. And lastly, the more I learned about how good plant-based cuisine was the more I realised that this lifestyle was a no-brainer for me. I threw out all of the animal products in my kitchen and went vegan overnight, best decision of my life, haven’t looked back since.
For me, not becoming plant-based sooner was solely based on awareness. I wasn’t aware of how beneficial the lifestyle was, and how damaging animal products are to our body. I also had no idea how good vegan food was. Since I transitioned, I have made it a mission to spread awareness through my social media, website, and cooking classes.
I did not become vegan for ethical concerns like most other vegans/vegetarians, but when you become plant-based you definitely feel a closer relationship to animals and the environment. I feel really good everyday knowing that I am not playing a part in factory farming and the destruction of the planet.
What was the biggest surprise about going vegan?
I’ve had countless health benefits, but the biggest surprise is that I eat what feels like less food to get full and I stay fuller for longer. Yo, fiber is real! Haha!
What was the biggest challenge you faced when learning to cook plant-based?
Probably when I was first learning to bake. I’ve baked a few cakes that just literally never rose and were like a dense mound of soggy dough. My mom and I nicknamed it “dumpling cake.”
What are the pros and cons of being a vegan in the United States?
The Northeast is one of the more progressive areas of the United States and a lot of restaurants do cater to vegan/vegetarian cuisine. I am also by two major cities, NYC and Philadelphia, that have amazing vegan restaurants. Lastly, online shopping has made it much easier to get any ingredient that I like for my cooking! I’d say the biggest disadvantage is it can be hard to find properly ripened produce, even when they are in season.
What vegan food can you never get enough of?
Mangos, plantains, and medjool dates. I have a sweet tooth!
Tell me about your cooking classes?
Last year I helped to create the first ever class on plant-based cooking and nutrition at my local hospital, one of the largest in my region. I’m currently working with collaborating with them on another project designed to help diabetics and pre-diabetics as a plant-based chef. When I can find venues, I also teach cooking classes that are open to the public!
The next step for my business is to start becoming a seller of my favourite vegan products. Turns out that natural products often work better than the chemical-based varieties that everyone is used to! It is another aspect of a healthy lifestyle that I want to introduce people to.