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“Eat less meat. Eat more plants. Try new things. Be adventurous. Be curious. And learn to cook if you can’t.”
These are the words plant-based chef and designer Parusha Naidoo left me with after our interview about her vegan cooking classes and pop up events. Johannesburg-based Parusha has taken the vegan diet and lifestyle and elevated it to an intersectional consciousness that filters into how to think about food consumption.
Her cooking and vegan journey began in the ten years that she spent away from South Africa in London and Berlin. Missing home, she started to cook meals that reminded her of the comforts of home. Like many of us, Parusha grew up eating meat. In 2013 she started to think about how eating meat was not a conscious decision for her. “As creative people I think we don’t question the norms of our societies enough and interrogate why we are doing things. I decided that I needed to look at everything in my life and consciously choose what I’m doing,” Parusha explained, “And after some research into it, it made sense to me to try it out veganism for the planet, the animals and the earth.”.
She describes her approach to veganism as intersectional. This is informed by her philosophy that everything in life is connected. For her this goes beyond simply removing the suffering of animals from our plates. The exploitation of people and the damage to the environment caused by the meat and dairy industries need to be taken into account as well. Included in her intersectional approach to veganism is a broadened definition of intersectional feminism. Here Parusha includes the afflictions we place on the bodies of females of other species. “Speciesism makes no sense… All inequality makes no sense,” Parusha emphasized, “[We can] begin with eating as activism and continue that desire to do no harm with your other choices.”.
Parusha is encouraging people to reevaluate their relationships with food by becoming conscious of the type of food that we buy and what this food does to our bodies. “I want people to be empowered to nourish themselves and learn that making delicious food is easy. I don’t want people to think of vegan food as whack or not tasty,” Parusha explained. She does this through her cooking classes and pop up events. She has also managed to blend her passion for food with art by including art making in some of her classes. In July she will be taking part in the Berlin Food Art Week by creating an artwork that comments on the dumping of American chicken in South Africa. Her plan for 2017 is to create artwork that promotes critical thinking about food consumption and promote plant-based living.
Parusha will be hosting a Vegan Basics Cooking Class this month at Conscious 108 and will be doing other classes there throughout the year. She will also be helping them with recipe development and hopes to do that for other restaurants with the vision of improving vegan menu options.