I never imagined becoming vegan, or a fruitarian or a herbivorous. I still don’t.
But when I met Maricel, something about her attachment and passion to veganarie moved me. Her stance, her eyes and her voice, all drew me to her commitment. We chatted and I listened to her as she shared her Vegan Crush ideal with me. She has an instagram handle, and this is how she advertises her brand of vegan food aptly named ‘Vegan Crush’. I was not merely curious; I wanted to partake of this journey of hers and get to the bottom of her story.
I was certain there was one behind those sparkling eyes! I wasn’t wrong.
They say when the time is right, people come into your life. They also say, when it’s time for transformation of any sort, people are even sent into your life (who sends them?).
We don’t simply ‘run into’ people; our paths cross when stars are aligned. Young Maricel and my stars were aligned. We met. We spoke. We connected.
Even as I write this piece, I am sipping from a mug of cocoa that has been churned with walnut milk. It’s a warm afternoon, and I’m barely even a cocoa person. Needless to say it’s a chilled and satisfying mug. And who is this person who’s been nudged awake inside of me? 5 months back I would not look in the direction of any other milk but dairy: in this country it is Meji milk. one of the more popular brands. I love it. I’ve made cottage cheese (paneer) with it, drunk it plain, mixed it with endless cups of tea and coffee, with cocoa, added it to muesli and cornflakes – all the usual stuff. That’s definitely not happening anymore.
Forward to today: I take my coffee and tea with almond and pistachio milk, and I can’t complain – it’s absolutely delicious and no doubt I will continue to enjoy this warm brew thus for years to come. Maricel has certainly got what it takes to influence those ready.
I am no vegan I admit: I still love my dairy yoghurt and cream and cheese. I am at the threshold. I am beginning to appreciate the nuances of non-dairy products. A whole new world of ‘milks’ and other nutrients has upsurged, making itself visible. I see the beginnings of a healthier hunger arising within me, nudging out the greed of processed stuff, albeit very, very slowly. The awareness of shoots and leaves and grains and all sorts is crowding out other readymades. I am Indian and love our daals (lentils) and stir-fried vegetable dishes. Paneer? Oh yes, we love our paneer (a form of cottage cheese) and innumerable other dishes I use yoghurt for. That dairy life continues unabated.
I am no nutritionist, always grabbing healthy stuff from the aisles, or looking to purchase only organic veggies. Nope. I had chips this evening, with a readymade guacamole last night while watching a crime thriller on Netflix, so I certainly haven’t given over to the other side! God forbid I give up completely on the humungous array of delicious dairy offerings!
Meeting Maricel was fortuitous. Tasting her fare, for an entire week, was like an infant eating solids for the first time. The textures and grains she offered were totally new. They tasted of ’nutrition’, they spoke of fresh, unspoilt graininess. They were under spiced and some of it wasn’t even properly salty, but my body sung with it. I did add some coriander and cumin powders to the brown rice, and salt of course, but my mind and my being were awakened to the existence of whole foods. It was astonishingly refreshing.
During the vegan week, I found myself light and energetic. I didn’t miss the food I was used to eating at all. And it was extremely filling too. I stayed full for far longer.
I’ll share a fact : if I was full with the food I made, I would normally feel sluggish and sleepy. With Vegan Crush’s food, I felt rushes of creative energy and above all, my tummy was not bloated. My being felt easy and light. There was a tangible difference that my body observed.
How did Maricel, a German, brought up on a diet of meats and dairy arrive at this juncture? What made her choose veganerie? How is that she now runs a meal service called Vegan Crush – on subscriptions of monthly deliveries or weekly deliveries in the city of Bangkok and has enough takers?
Snatches of our chat below:
- Maricel, when did you give up eating meat and dairy – at what stage and age?
I started my plant based journey while on a world travel tour over 10 years ago when I was about 27 years old.
There are way too many misconceptions about vegan food, and one of the biggest misconceptions is that it is difficult to get and it is very pricey. Let me tell you that vegan food is the most common and among the cheapest food on earth: it includes grains, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits. All these foods are available all over the world. What makes it challenging though is that it isn’t easily available around the corner.
One of my survival kit during my travels was happycow — an app where you find vegetarian/vegan restaurants and shops near you, anywhere in the world. I carried a book called the “Vegan passport” which explains what you can eat in every language. It was easy enough to get by with this passport.
The endless options of plant based cuisine is what has sparked my passion for cooking.
So throughout my travels I collected favourite recipes from locals, restaurants, friends and created a vegan version. It became a neverending journey.
- What is it that you read about dairy exactly that made you sit up and take notice of your intake, and made you question your food habits?
Milk for the calf is created for it to grow from 40kg to 400kg within a year. All the necessary ingredients of hormones, vitamins, fat and proteins form part of this nutritive drink to achieve this result. Human milk is created to grow a baby from 4kg to 75kg within 20 years. It should be obvious that the formulas of both milks are completely different, right?
Which is why I believe cow’s milk is not designed for human consumption. I also think it very odd that no other animal drinks milk from another species. You never see a lion drink milk from an elephant, do you? And if you look closer you’ll realise that there is no other species that still drinks milk once it is grown up. There is a reason why milk is only available for a specific period of time.
One knows that cows need to be pregnant in order to produce milk. Unfortunately it is very sad how this is handled. The mother cow never gets to see her babies and is milked until she is no longer productive. It is only natural to think, ‘how can something that was created in misery and despair be a source of health and vibrancy?’
– when did you come to Thailand and realise that your dream was to set up Vegan Crush and help all those who were turning vegan?
I came to Thailand not knowing that I would stay on for 6 years. All I knew was, I wanted to share what I have discovered and offer support to those who are on a similar healthy journey. Getting started on a plant based diet can be challenging. It’s a matter of changing one’s perspective. If one is convinced of its value, it is entirely possible to turn vegan.
It only seems difficult because it is something new and we have to educate our senses to a completely different viewpoint: how do we consume food and what it is we are putting into our bodies?
Vegan food can be so much fun and when done right you feel an immense health shift within a matter of a week itself. The birth of Vegan Crush was my attempt to illuminate and feed anyone who is willing to take the plunge.
- What does being vegan really mean to you Maricel?
Being vegan is so much more than just the way you eat. It is an act of being more conscious and empathic towards animals, the planet and yourself. Our loved ones are no longer limited to family anymore. It has made me reflect on many of my behaviours that did not feel right.
Food carries a quality of energy that impacts your own vital and psychological energies. Once I started fueling my body with whole plant-based foods, I became more sensitive and empathic toward my environment and above all, to my own needs. It gave me a sense of peace and calm I had not felt earlier. It was the best decision I have ever made in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful to have had the ability to put it into action.
Yes, it is a very powerful choice and provides more independence, because food can either debilitate or nurture one’s health.
I believe everyone can benefit from replacing or reducing dairy products. There are many more plant based milk options as well, depending what you want to use it for. And if cheese is your vice don’t be fooled: the process of making vegan cheese is exactly the same. Instead of cow’s milk, nut milk is used to create cheddar, blue cheese or even cashewrella!
After listening to all Maricel had to say, I began questioning everything that went into my mouth that was dairy based. Could one truly become vegan overnight? I don’t know. Awareness is the first step, and she has certainly put many thoughts in my foodie head. I have begun looking at vegan options in restaurants for one. They are all very interesting, and call out to me. I hope we all try and understand the reasons behind Maricel’s change of heart and mind, and her dream of providing healthy food for those willing to make a life change.
I don’t anymore wonder what a ‘vegan person’ looks like. Jokes apart, becoming vegan is a powerful choice, and a durable one. It can also be an experiment with whole foods and see where it takes us. It is not only in one’s imagination, but an undeniable reality that food fuels our mental and physical energies. The sluggishness that arises from eating heavy, and sometimes oily meats is not desirable. Processed foods are possibly the worst intake for someone looking for a healthier and cleaner existence. The additives that go into readymade meals are horrific on a long term basis.
We may all indulge in a takeaway, or packaged food once in a while, but may it be the exception.
Can’t live with it, can’t live without it – and I’m talking about good, nutritious whole food.
Give it a new meaning, shall we!
Let’s move toward the light. Let’s become whole. Thank you Maricel for being the forerunner of good tidings and great nutrition.