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Parusha Naidoo is a vegan chef and designer based in Johannesburg who combines her love for food and art in her creative projects. She tells us more

A vegan is someone who does not eat meat, fish or poultry and does not use any animal by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, or any cosmetics and soaps derived from animal products.

My vegan journey began in December 2013, I was living in Berlin when I broke my ankle. Because I had a lot of time on my hands, I watched several documentaries, including a few recommended to me by a vegan friend, such as Earthlings, Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and Food Matters. After learning more about the effects of animal agriculture on the planet, on human life and on animals, I went from eating a lot of meat, dairy and eggs to following a vegan diet.
There was no in-between stage. I tried it out for a month in January 2014 and just kept on going.

I started doing pop-up dinners in Berlin shortly after I became vegan. It was initially just a once-off thing for fun, but I liked it so much that I kept doing it until I became known as a vegan chef. I had friends in different cities, so it was relatively easy to organise the pop-ups. They are a nice way for people to see and taste what I’m doing.

I like the idea that how we eat is how we live – variety, adventure, learning, growing, quality over quantity, least effort, most reward, kindness, freedom and compassion for all living beings, both humans and animals – these are things I value.

I teach vegan cooking classes because I think everyone needs to learn to cook and enjoy food.

People have a preconception that vegan food is bland and I try to change that with my cooking classes.

Being a vegan offers many rewards. Every vegan meal saves the planet and lives. Following a vegan diet is cheaper than one that includes meat, dairy and eggs.

My biggest challenge is convenience. South Africa is a meat-loving country and people find it hard to think outside of that box. Vegan options need to be accessible in supermarkets.

My go-to comfort food is a pizza with vegan cheese.

In my pantry you will find many staples like lentils and beans (including some canned) for quick curries. Then there’s rice, pasta, couscous, nori paper for sushi, rice paper for summer rolls, and different condiments such as Sriracha hot sauce.

If you are thinking about transitioning to a vegan diet, variety is key. Don’t allow yourself to feel deprived. Try out as many different vegan foods as you can, including vegan junk food and meat substitutes. Experiment with herbs and spices.

My goal is to combine my love of food, art and story into what I do. I am currently making a sculpture for Berlin Food Art Week in July that comments on the US dumping of chicken in South Africa. The work will be accompanied by the facts about the effects of this dumped chicken on South African jobs and health.

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This article was originally published in The Times.