Chatting with East Sussex based vegan mama Jean of beaniesvegankitchen.com. Her cookbook, The Angel & The Avocado, is a lovely, accessible plant based cookbook with a great diversity of recipes and nutritional information dispersed through the book and she has another vegan cookbook focused on recipes for vegan baby in the works!
Visit her on IG at beaniesvegankitchen, on FB at Beanies Vegan Kitchen.
Annika: Where are you from and where do you live now?
Jean: I’m originally from a small Hampshire fishing village called Hamble. I lived there and the surrounding area for most of my life until 5 years ago when I moved east. I live in a sleepy little village in the East Sussex countryside surrounded by fields. It’s an amazing place to be. it’s really important for me to be surrounded by nature and to bring Freddie up in a natural environment.
Annika: Would you consider the area where you live very vegan friendly?
Jean: Since moving here 5 years ago I’ve made lots of connections with local people and made many friends. They all know I’m vegan as I talk about it freely. I’ve had quite a few people interested in my food blog and recently my book. As far as eating out, there are a few restaurants that have vegan on their menus, I’m finding its getting better. Luckily we live about 25 miles from Brighton on the coast where there’s plenty of choice of vegan restaurants, cafes and takeaways.
Annika: What kind of work do you do?
Jean: I mostly look after my one Year old little boy so I fit any creative pursuits around Freddie. I’ve always loved cooking and since being vegan I’m always creating new recipes and sharing them on my blog and social media accounts. For about 2 years I made raw chocolate which I sold from my site and to local shops, I had to stop making chocolate to sell as little Freddie was taking up most of my time. My plan is that I will be making more chocolates in the future with a well needed children’s range!
I’ve also just launched my first e-book and I’m working on my next book which will be ready next year. I used to be a professional artist for 10 years so being creative is in my core, nowadays I help out my partner with design work for websites, logos and more recently fabric designs.
Annika: When did you establish Beanie’s Kitchen and what inspired you to start it?
Jean: The idea for Beanies Vegan Kitchen was born in November 2013, I’d been vegan for 9 months and was writing down all my recipes and wanted to do something with them. I also wanted to give something back and inspire others to follow suit, I felt so good since becoming a vegan, physically and spiritually and I wanted others to feel good too. Always in the back of my mind is my passion for stopping the cruelty to so many animals, I wanted to do my bit and this seemed the best way to do it! My partner built my site and I started taking photos of my foody creations and built up a nice varied collection of recipes on my site.
Annika: You published a cookbook- The Angel and The Avocado Recipe book. What was the process like producing the book and how has the response been?
Jean: I put the book together myself, taking all the photos and designing it all, so it’s been a labour of love, I’ve enjoyed the whole process and can’t wait to do it all again.
The response has been great, most people are saying that’s it’s a brilliant and useful book for anyone who’s thinking of transitioning to a plant based diet as it has a complete shopping list for the 7-day meal plan ingredients plus what to stock in your larder. Also I’ve created the recipes so that they’re easy to follow and the ingredients aren’t too complicated and easily recognisable.
Annika: What inspired you to write this cookbook and what’s next?
Jean: I’d wanted to create a recipe book for a while and it was whilst my partner was away on business for a week back in September of last year, I thought to make it more fun I’d log everything I ate for that week and create a recipe book around that, so that’s what I did. It was really easy to do and just flowed. I added additional recipes to give more options.
I’m currently working on my 2nd book which will be launched next year sometime. It will be a physical book this time and it’s based on feeding your vegan baby from 6m+ with recipes and tips. It’s been really exciting and sometimes challenging to feed my little one to make sure he gets all the right nutrients and to create new and tasty recipes for him, I couldn’t find any books out there that put everything together in one place so I’m creating my own.
Annika: Did motherhood have any influence on your vegan outlook?
Jean: Motherhood is all about nurturing so I’ve definitely been on full power nurture since being pregnant, nurturing myself and my baby. Being a mum to a new little one Has made me even more aware of the importance for me to research and learn more about food and how it affects our bodies.
Annika: If you were vegan through pregnancy can you share any special changes you made (i.e. with diet & nutrition) when you were pregnant?
Jean: I suffered with morning sickness quite badly in the first trimester so I wasn’t able to have my usual smoothies so i ate pretty bland (still nutritious) food for a while, lots of beans and pulses and avocados. At 25 weeks I started taking marine phytoplankton to get my non animal source of omegas EPA and DHA, it helps with brain and nervous system function so great for mum and baby, I still take it now as I’m still breast feeding Freddie.
When I was over the morning sickness I got back into my healthy smoothies and salads. I started to blog about my pregnancy and created a sister site to my food blog called the Vegan Baby Diary, there’s lots of useful info on there for pregnant vegan mummas and I share the meals I created whilst pregnant.
Annika: How old are your children & are they vegan?
Jean: I have 3 children aged 29, 26 and little Freddie who is 1. My eldest sometimes dabbles in eating vegan food and loves it when I cook for her. My son Ben is a massive meat eater still, however again he loves my cooking when I cook for him and last year he actually ate plant based for a whole month and said he felt amazing on it! Little Freddie is vegan and loves all the food I prepare for him, he’s a massive fruit eater.
Annika: What are some of their favorite foods?
Jean: I call Freddie my little fruit bat, he loves water melon and mango! He loves the tomato spaghetti dish I create for him using red lentils in the sauce and quinoa spaghetti, he also likes my avocado carbonara.
Annika: Are vegan options common for school meals where you live?
Jean: As Freddie isn’t at school age just yet I’m not aware what the local schools are prepared to do. I only know from friends who have school age children, and they’ve said it might be an issue for us when he does start school. I’m hoping that opinions will change by the time Freddie starts school and vegan will be on the menu.
Annika: Have you had experiences with doctors or nurses who were skeptical about your or your children’s veganism and its effect on your health?
Jean: Yes I’ve encountered issues when I was pregnant and when I started to wean little Freddie. I found it quite intrusive actually, however I assured the health visitors that I knew exactly what I’m doing and pointed them to my blog. In fact one of the HV’s checked out my blog and the next time I saw her told me that she’d tried a few of my recipes! I would say to any vegan mum who feels intimidated by doctors or HV’s to stand your ground and not to buy into any of their fear mongering as its none of their business what you feed your child.
Annika: What are some of your favorite foods?
Jean: I love salads and smoothies. I eat 80% raw most of the Time in the summer months and introduce more soups and stews or curries in the winter. I love bananas and avocados! If there was one food I couldn’t do without it would be avocado!
Annika: Favorite restaurants?
Jean: We live close to Brighton which has.quite a few vegan eateries, my favourite is Terre Terre for top notch vegan and VBites for burgers and chips and light bites.
Annika: Favorite meals to make for your family?
Jean: I love to make my lentil Dahl for my family, I’ve been making it for years and it was a recipe I created when I was a vegetarian, I’ve just tweaked it a bit since being a vegan. I also love to make chocolate for my friends and family and they love it too!
Annika: I really enjoyed the “why vegan” section of your website. For people to become comfortable with veganism, it’s critical that they are introduced to how delicious plant based cuisine can be but also with being able to “bust out of the norm” as you put it at your site and be willing to look at the facts surrounding consumption of animals. I resisted those facts for many years before going vegan myself. Why do you think such a psychological obstacle exists for people to look into the facts and be motivated to not support these industries?
Jean: Dare I say it, willful ignorance! I really do think that people don’t want to know the facts as knowing them would put them into a quandary, it may also become too disruptive for them if they decided to change what they ate, and let’s face it becoming vegan isn’t just about the food, it’s a lifestyle change, a change of thinking and how you look at the world, to become an ethical vegan you are opening up your compassionate self. I also believe that people don’t make the connection to the animal on their plate and the animal that sits by their feet or on their lap.
Annika: There is a tremendous misconception that the dairy industry does not harm cows and of course some societies have conditioned public belief so well in thinking that dairy is essential to our diet. What is your view on this and some advice for people to move away from dairy consumption?
Jean: The facts are that dairy cows are constantly impregnated in order to keep producing milk, their young are either taken away and slaughtered or raised to do the same as them. Cows milk is meant for cows and we are the only species that consumes another species milk. It’s a cruel process and a living hell for the cows and a dairy cow only lives to around 4 or 5 years old as its too knackered to produce any more milk and gets sold on for slaughter however when left to live a natural life a cow would Live to 20 years old. That’s the sordid facts.
From a health point of view if you are consuming cows milk You are also consuming antibiotics and drugs that the cows are given to treat their mastitis plus blood and puss that gets into the milk from udder infections. Milk and cheese also furs up your arteries, causes allergies (especially in children) and dairy consumption has been linked to asthma and eczema too!
It’s a myth you only get calcium in dairy.. You get calcium in vegetables too! There’s a good amount of calcium in many vegetables, romaine lettuce is a favourite of mine as it’s packed with Calcium.
You can make your own plant milk, however if time is an issue you don’t need to as There are plenty of alternative milks for sale nowadays and mainstream supermarkets stock a good variety, from almond milk to oat or my favourite coconut milk. I’ve found that Coconut milk is the closest to dairy and it doesn’t spoil the flavour of tea or coffee. I would say Give it a go, you might go through a withdrawal or detox from stopping dairy but any detox symptoms shouldn’t last for any more than 3-4 days.
Annika: Veganism is really on the rise in the UK at large. During your time as a vegan, what kinds of changes have you witnessed in the movement there as well as in public opinion of veganism?
Jean: Since becoming a vegan 3 1/2 years ago I’ve noticed more vegan options on menus, more programmes on main stream tv that will touch on the subject of a plant based diet and it’s health benefits. Also We now have several vegan magazines available and more vegan food Fairs are being held around the country.
Thank you Jean!
Visit Jean online:
FB at Beanies Vegan Kitchen.
All photos provided by Jean
This interview is part of an ongoing interview series by Annika Lundkvist with vegan mothers and fathers around the globe. For more interviews and information please visit this page: Interview Series: Vegan Pregnancy, Parenting & Kids.