Thursday, 11 January 2018

Vegan Nigerian Stories: Blessing

Hey folks, in this new blog series, I introduce you to other Nigerian vegans. Hear their stories and be inspired! If you would like to be featured in this series, drop a comment below or send me a message on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Tell us about yourself.
Hey, my name is Blessing! I'm a Yoruba girl who moved to London at the age of 7, but I'm currently living in Spain. I'm into travelling, language learning, food and rock music. 






















Describe your vegan journey.
I went vegan in November 2016 and I can't believe how quickly it's gone. Like most Nigerians, my diet growing up was predominantly: rice, stew, and a rotation of meat, chicken, fish etc. And I loved it all! I was really into food and kinda prided myself on being up for eating anything, so long as it tasted good. I didn't care. 

I don't think I ever considered where the "protein" came from until I first went back to Nigeria after leaving at the age of 7 where I witnessed my grandad killing a live chicken. Up until earlier that day we had been chasing the chickens around the same way we did with my grandparents' dogs. I remember feeling a bit horrified and sickened. I've always been incredibly empathetic, and even though I didn't feel right about it, I initially chose to ignore it because everywhere you turn, we're basically told that animals are products to be consumed any which way we see fit. 

I went along with this line of thought for a long time, but the turning point for me was when I went to an art gallery with two friends. A piece showed a fish caught in a drinks can plastic holder and I suddenly became angered and appalled, going on a rant about our mistreatment of the planet and its creatures. The conversation ended with my friend saying: "wow, it sounds like you should be vegetarian or something". And up until that point I seriously would have laughed at the idea of becoming a vegetarian, but when she said it, it just made sense. I went home with the intention of eating less animal flesh, but after researching the animal industry, I could no longer see animal flesh in the same way. I went vegetarian literally overnight. Over the course of the month I researched more and more into the effects of animal products on our health, the planet, and other human beings, and by the end of November I was fully vegan. 

How did your family and friends react to you going vegan?

Rice, vegetable stew & plantain
Surprisingly, a lot of them were very supportive. I'm not sure they understand it (or want to), but I've found that even the most hard-core meat-eaters will go out of their way to make you a vegan plate if they're your friend or family and you make it clear to them that you are convicted in your decision. The only person who took it to heart was one of my grandmothers (ha!). She continuously offered me non-vegan items (What do you mean snail isn't vegan?? Yes it has meat stock inside but there's no actual meat. Dried fish counts as an animal??But I think most grandparents are like that when you turn down food in general!

A lot of my friends and family thought vegan food does not taste or look good, so as someone who loves cooking and eating out, I've enjoyed the challenge of proving them wrong and showing them that there is a delicious vegan alternative to the vast majority of foods. You can still eat at Nandos and your favourite pizza and Chinese restaurant. No, you don't have to order a salad. Yes, vegan ice cream is real and just as good as the real thing. It really is almost always possible to find tasty vegan food anywhere.  

Describe your experience of being vegan while on holiday in Nigeria.

Again, as someone who loves cooking, I already knew how to veganise all my favourite meals, so I didn't find it challenging. I researched the staples of each region before arriving and really enjoyed a lot of local produce. 
Indian restaurant in Lekki

With regard to eating out, I didn't go to many restaurants. The only two vegan-friendly restaurants I ate at were:
  • An Indian restaurant in Lekki. The staff were helpful and willing to modify many dishes and the food was really delicious. Make sure you remind them not to use Ghee in any of your dishes. 
  • A vegan restaurant in Freedom park, Lagos [called Veggie Victory]. I went back three times because it was that good. Seriously! 
If you go out to eat at Nigerian eateries, everything apart from freshly boiled yam, rice and beans will be seasoned with Knorr (which generally isn't vegan), so definitely eat before or/and bring a snack. The one and only time I found myself in a Nigerian eatery and hungry, I simply ordered plain rice and beans and asked them to drizzle some oil and salt over it for me (which was surprisingly tasty, but definitely not something I'd recommend eating regularly). 


Veggie Victory menu


Veggie suya
































Describe some of the meals you ate.
Akara (street food)
Breakfast: Oats with soy milk (loads of brands have dairy milk mixed in so check carefully) or water. Fresh fruit. Fruit smoothies. Yam or bread with tofu scramble or fried tomato stew with chopped garden egg (a.k.a. aubergine - super easy to find). 

Lunch/dinner: When cooking at home I would have things like fried and Jollof rice. Plain rice/potatoes/swallow (eba, iyan etc.) with fried tomato stew, leafy vegetable stew (sometimes okra or gbegiri). I would sometimes add things like mushrooms. 
When out and about in the city, i could have chips and ketchup or cheese-less pizza with all the vegetable toppings. 

Snacks : Fresh fruit, plantain chips, roasted plantain, kokoro (a maize snack), akara, roasted or boiled corn on the cob. All of these are relatively easy to find on the corner of most main streets. I also discovered a bunch of accidentally vegan biscuits sold on every street corner.


Share some tips for anyone who wants to go vegan in Nigeria or those travelling to Nigeria as a vegan tourist.
Fried buns
  • If you're staying with people who you know will want to cook for you, give them a heads up and send them a list of things you can eat. Don't spring it on them at the last minute. 
  • Again, Knorr generally isn't vegan, so unless you want bland food, buy curry seasoning or your favourite spices and use it to season your meals when at home. 
  • Take a snack with you when going out, just in case. 
  • Shoprite has a lot of the less traditional food items. It's a bit pricier but if you want more international food ingredients, go there. 
  • Eat yam, plantain, corn and leafy green stew. Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables (there's nothing quite like a fresh mango straight from someone's garden). 
  • Most importantly, just enjoy the beauty, variety and vibrancy that Nigeria has to offer. 
Sunset in Ibadan

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