Is It Easy to Be a Vegetarian or a Vegan in Cape Town?
I started my journey with vegetarianism around 7 years ago. First I tried to completely eliminate meat but I was struggling with eyes twitching and cramps. As I was unwilling to spend an excessive amount of time focusing on my diet, I chose the easy way out and I started to eat fish. A year ago I dropped (visible) egg consumption, after I learnt about the fact that male chicks are killed as a byproduct of mass egg production (for instance, Woolworths SA admitted in a reply to my husband’s query that the chicks are shredded by hand). I was quite happy with the diet, feeling I’m doing my bit by at least downgrading my consumption of animal products. Nevertheless, a few months ago I saw documentary “What the Health?”, followed it by my own research and then realized that the consumption of modern animal products is not only unethical but also unhealthy. At the moment I’m a vegan during the week and a pescetarian during the weekend but I may take the Cape Town Vegan Challange and perhaps become even stricter with myself. This lengthy introduction leads me to the main question of this post, which is: Is It Easy to Be a Vegetarian or a Vegan in Cape Town?
Eating in is of course wayyyy easier than eating out. South Africa has two main brands of vegan and vegetarian meat alternatives that you can stock up on: Fry’s and Quorn. Fry’s products are vegan but they also use soya as the main ingredient. The opinions about how much or little soya you can safely eat are still divided so do your own research and check what you’re comfortable with. Fry’s has a range of burgers, sausages, pies and other meat replacing products. Their food decent and constitutes a part of my diet. Quorn, on the other hand, has some vegetarian and some vegan products so make sure to check the label before buying. Their products are made from mycoprotein which is a fermented fungus. I have found no significant studies into negative health influence of this protein but it may cause a very rare allergy that can result in serious health consequences. They even put a warning about it on their boxes. Quorn manufactures burgers, sausages, meat balls and nuggets. Their products are delicious!!! The only reason why I’m being cautious about eating too much of mycoprotein, is because it almost seems to be the case of being too good to be true. I have also tried numerous cheese replacements but unfortunately most of them are expensive and not even close to the flavor of actual cheese. Perhaps, I’m yet to find something satisfying in this respect. Apart from the two main brands there are numerous local producers of vegetarian and vegan food. If that’s something that interests you, the Wellness Centre in Kloof Street or the Vegan Goods Market may be the place to go.
Eating out isn’t too difficult for a vegetarian living in Cape Town. Most places have at least one or two vegetarian options. If they don’t, there’s always at least a few sides that are acceptable for you and will do for a meal. A vegan has a much more difficult situation and I must say I’ve been struggling on my new journey of weekly veganism. I have found a vegan option at IYO Burgers and a vegan curry in Alexander’s Bar. The other times I just ate fries with a salad, because nothing else was an option. This is why places specifically designed for vegans are thriving. My personal favorite is definitely The Hungry Herbivore. It has limited space so making a booking is a necessity. I really like their Chef’s special pizza which tastes a lot like it had bacon on it. My other favorite is Mexicana…because nachos! A second place where vegans can choose anything they want from the menu is “Raw and Roxy”. The place isn’t only vegan but also raw. I’ve only eaten there once so far but I was really happy with my experience. Their choco smoothie was one of the best deserts I’ve ever eaten. Last AND least, is Plant café. I used to be a regular goer, but after I visited the place three times in a row around a year ago and each time they didn’t have the advertised food to suit my intolerances, I had enough. I even complained to their then manager which is something I almost never do. Their food is good, though, so don’t get discouraged by my experience. Before I stopped going there, I particularly enjoyed their vegan cheese. All three restaurants are on Bree Street. I will certainly have more to say as I continue on my sort-of-vegan journey.
I’d briefly written about the meat culture before. South Africans like to eat meat and if you go to a place like Mzoli’s, you’re struggle as a vegetarian. In fact, regardless of the culture, I’ve heard surprised questions about my eating habits from South Africans. From being asked whether it was my choice (as opposed to?) to long tirades about how they couldn’t live without meat; I’ve heard it all. It just shows that the growing ethical eating movement is still marginalized and meat-eaters dominate the mainstream culture. The only place in Cape Town when an omnivore will feel oppressed is apparently the Department of Philosophy at UCT 😉 Perhaps the upcoming Cape Town Vegan Challenge in October will help with popularizing awareness about the plant-based diet. Having said that, I don’t think it’s difficult to be a vegetarian in Cape Town. It’s the vegan folk that has a long fight before they can comfortably eat something wherever they go.
Are you an omnivore? What’s the attitude towards meat in your culture? If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, what are your reasons for your dietary choices?