How moving to the south of Europe changed my vegan diet
When I became vegan in 2010, I was quite spoiled. My cooking skills were still underdeveloped and convenience food played a major role in my life. Ready made vegan cheese, vegan cookies, mayonnaise, pizza, ice cream… you name it. In 2013, I worked in a vegan store and things got worse. I didn’t eat anything besides highly processed food that was expensive. And for sure didn’t improve my health.
Living in a small town in the north of Greece
Things changed radically when I moved to a small town in the Greek mountains in September 2013. Before I quit my job I put some vegan goodies and the famous vegan passport in my luggage. In Greece, especially in the countryside gardening, home-cooked meals and traditional ways of preparing food still have a huge impact on everyday culture. The food is delicious and people like to gather and enjoy their dinner together with friends and families. A normal Greek dinner out can easily go on for four hours. And I am sure that I spent more times during a single meal in a restaurant. But: There is no processed vegan food at all. No tofu, almost no soy milk, no canned beans, no vegan sweets. If you would like to eat hummus, you need to plan it. Soak the chickpeas the night before, cook them for 90 minutes and prepare your own hummus. If you like plant-milk, make your own! Use rice, oats, almonds or cashews. During my time in Greece — it were two years in total — I learned to cook from the scratch. Making my own bread, my own mayonnaise and my own bread spreads.
I learned a lot about patience and I understood that convenient food and a microwave is nothing compared to spending hours in the kitchen and preparing fresh food with love and mindfulness. I need to add that I was living with at least four other persons during the whole time. We cooked together, shared the process and divided our time. In average, I spent less money and less time for shopping and cooking compared to the years I spent with my ex-boyfriend in a big German city.
My time in Portugal
When I moved to Portugal in the first place, I worked in a hostel. Sharing a fridge and a stove with 23 other persons taught me gratitude and patience. Sometimes there is no space to cook. Or it is very selfish to take up all the kitchen for a single meal. During my time in the hostel I also discovered the benefits of cooking and eating with people from all over the world.
My co-worker taught me Brazilian recipes. Another one introduces me to french food or the perfect Thai curry. The variety of vegan convenient food is also not very big in Portugal. But instead of buying ready-made cheese or facon I learned how to smoke vegan sausages, how to prepare perfect Brazilian tapioca, make delicious feijoada and vegan pao do deus. Especially the fact that my diet basically consists out of veggies, fruits, different flours, nuts and seeds showed me an enormous variety.
Being in Stockholm
At the moment I am in Stockholm. I am writing this article under the impression of a big Swedish supermarket I just visited. The possibilities, the selection of convenient food and organic alternatives left me completely stoked. I honestly did not know what to buy. I felt like a child walking into a giant toy store. Huge amounts of plant-milks, vegan bread-spreads and even sour cream are no part of my everyday life. In my opinion it is very easy to become vegan in northern Europe whereas it is very difficult in the south. I don’t wanna complain. I feel grateful for the knowledge I got while I was living in Greece and Portugal. And I hope people who live in country with a great variety of vegan food appreciate the fact, that they got everything.
I am Julia, vegan by heart, traveler and minimalist based in beautiful Portugal. I love simple but delicious food, ashtanga, skating, surfing and having a nice conversation over snacks and a glass of wine. I am blogging about vegan food, my minimalist journey, life hacks and my experiences as a traveler.