16 Dec Katrina Lawrence
Gently Vegan was thrilled to chat to Francophile and international author Katrina Lawrence. She recently launched her beautiful first book, Paris Dreaming (published by HarperCollins).
A steadfast vegan for many years, beauty editor and international author Katrina Lawrence believes that we should be kind to ourselves, as we are extending that same kindness to the planet we live on and the innocent critters we share it with.
Gently Vegan: You’ve been vegetarian and/or vegan for your entire adult life. What was the turning point for you, when you decided to stop eating animals and their produce?
When I was sixteen I had a weekend job at the local deli, where one of my tasks was to string chicken carcasses onto the rotisserie poles. Some still had their necks attached, which meant having to chop them off. It was confronting, to say the least.
Until that point, I’d never really associated the meat I was served on a plate with the actual animals who had had to give up their lives. Within a few weeks of starting this job, I’d gone vegetarian (snaps to my dad for agreeing to cook two versions of dinner every night).
As for veganism, it wasn’t really on the mainstream radar back then. I got my head around it in my early thirties when I read The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. This book completely rocked my world. It opened my eyes to the reality of the dairy and egg industries, and it made me realise that, if you really care about animal welfare, veganism is the only answer.
I was strictly vegan for six years (except for the honey I could never successfully give up in my daily soy chai!). These days I’m married with two sons, so it’s a little more difficult to control household food intake, but I generally stick to two vegans meals per day, the other being vegetarian. I’ve continued to not buy leather (unless second-hand), which is as good for the bank balance as for the conscience!
GV: What advice would you give to others who wanted to begin a vegetarian or vegan journey?
KL: I once heard Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, speak and I’d love to share some advice of his that has really helped me of late. It’s that we all do what we can do. If it’s not possible to be 100% vegan at a particular moment in time, that’s okay — just do what you can, whether it’s one week a month or one day a week or one meal a day. I think it’s really important not to set yourself up for failure, and to work towards your ideal lifestyle goal bit by bit.
GV: How hard is it to stick to your vegan diet when you travel?
KL: It depends on where you’re travelling. It was always a cinch for me to eat vegan when in Asia, where there’s always tofu or edemame or tempeh on the menu.
When in France, on the other hand, it used to be extremely difficult to find nutritional balance and gastronomic joy when trying to stick to veganism. However, the Paris food scene has changed incredibly in the past ten years, and it’s now quite easy to seek out vegan options, especially if you’re in the 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th arrondissements.
I adore pretty much everything about France … except the amount of meat the country consumes! It’s part of their heritage as a historically agriculture-heavy nation. At the same time, they’re as in love with their vegetables — the amazing farmers’ markets are a testament to this — so it’s easy enough to get your vitamin fix in France.
GV: You have two boys … are you raising them to be vegan?
KL: I would have loved to raise them vegan, but my husband is a meat eater (admittedly he eats a lot less of it since having met me). Our compromise is that he cooks them organic meat once a week, and the rest of the week we all stick to vegetarian (although I tweak my dish to be vegan when possible). I’ve been very open with the boys from the start about where food comes from, and how evil factory farming is. I explain that there are some meats we’ll never eat and support, such as veal. We also only buy Barambah dairy products to support their highly ethical stance on bobby calves; the boys like to say their milk and yoghurt come from ‘happy cows.’
GV: You were 100% vegan during both your pregnancies … did you have to take any extra nutritional.
KL: I wasn’t actually 100% — I was advised to take the Blackmores Pregnancy Capsules, which contain fish oil. I also continued to sneak honey into my chai! But apart from that, yes, I was more or less vegan. I think I kept Iku in business in those periods.
GV: How do you cope when people ‘vegan shaming’ you? When they ask things like, “where do you get your iron?” or “But we are made to eat animals, you’ll be missing out?” and those kinds of questions?
KL: I honestly don’t get that anymore, but in the past I just made sure I was armed with enough factual information to bore anyone into submission! It helped that I was a beauty journalist and wrote a lot of health articles, which gave me access to some amazing experts and eye-opening research and studies.
GV: On that, has it been hard at times reconciling your vegan lifestyle with your work as a beauty editor?
KL: Ah, good question … I did actually torment myself over this when I decided to go vegan. In the end, I had to almost split the two lives. I needed to keep working as a beauty journalist to keep the money coming in, of course. So the only way I could keep my soul sane was to wear a neutral hat during work hours. Having said that, I could see that the beauty industry was slowly-but-surely moving to one of more compassion, with vegan products a steady trend, and I definitely had a softer spot for such brands. Continuing to work as a beauty journalist also gave me the chance to write not just the usual articles, but also about my true passions, so editors allowed me to report on ethical beauty. If you want to change an industry, it’s better to work from within, right?
GV: Do you feel healthier a vegan?
KL: Having turned vegetarian at sixteen, it’s pretty much what I’ve always known, so that’s tricky to say. But I definitely felt a change switching from vegetarian to vegan — like I had more vitality, that my eyes were whiter and skin clearer. I swear you can feel the vitamins and nutrients charging through your system when your food is as pure as possible. But of course, it’s easy to be unhealthy as a vegan or vegetarian, and snack on too many chips and chocolate, and I get lazy at times, until a sluggish system finally reminds me to get my act back together.
GV: Is there anything you feel you miss out on nutritionally and if so, what supplements do you take?
KL: I do vitamin B12 injections every three months. That’s about it. My iron levels have always been steady, although I have a blood test every year just to be sure.
GV: Anything you’d love to add?
KL: Veuve Clicquot is vegan-friendly. Always good to know!
Interview with Lifestyle and Beauty editor Shonagh Walker