Words: Mallory Legg
If the last handful of years have taught us anything, it is that we are not indestructible. Our global community, the ground we walk on… it is fragile! And while this concept is somewhat confronting and anxiety provoking, there is a beauty behind the idea that acknowledging the fragility of the world invites the potential for productive change and innovation. We, as simple people stimulated by new and elaborate things, welcome this. And through the confrontation of climate change and a rising awareness of the delicacy of our planet - the food industry and its consumers have adapted. Whether it be the sudden emergence of vegan restaurants in every city or the access to knowledge that we are gifted by our smartphones: this new cultural shift is worth noting, because it is looking like it is here to stay. It is no longer difficult to find a comfortable place to sit down and enjoy a vegan meal. Go for a short walk around London, Paris, New York, any city really and you will find something that suits your needs and satisfies your cravings. But what has led this sudden stampede of veganism to our treasured cities? For many, it is the preservation of the planet and those who live on it, especially with the acknowledgment of the United Nations that animal based foods are associated with the highest greenhouse gas emissions. But this new shift of climate conscious people looking for equally good alternatives invites a chance for chefs and restaurants to explore a newly discovered cuisine that encourages inventiveness and ingenuity. Plates London, a high end conceptual restaurant right next to Dalston Junction in Hackney shows the limitless possibilities that plant based culinary expertise and experience have to offer. Since 2017, the team have been pushing the boundaries with their plates - especially with their presentation. Whether it be barbecued aubergine or shiitake lasagne, pickled fungi or seaweed caviar - plates represent the future of sustainable eating while bringing eccentric and innovative dishes to the forefront of the industry.
Vegan delights at Plates, London
Photos: Plates London
But how do you replace indulgence? It is the heavy comforts that are just too daunting to give up-but there is room for that here, too. Unity Diner, just moments from Spitalfields Market and Tower of London, invites the satisfying guilty pleasures to what might be seen as a not-so-sinful diet. The dirty loaded fries make you forget that the cheese and the meat are deceiving you, the burgers delude you into believing that mushrooms were supposed to be sandwiched in between a golden bun all along.And after all the curing of cravings, when you at one point may have felt shame, you can now rest peacefully knowing that the money you spent on all (and I mean all because you will want to order the whole menu) of that went toward supporting an 18 acre animal sanctuary in the heart of the UK (@thesurgesanctuary). The Unity Diner is humanity making reparations for the planet whilst making sure we don't miss out on the good stuff.
Crispy indulgent treats from Unity Diner
Photos: Unity Diner
The reality is, though, we are not going to eat out every night.There is a novelty in standing over a pot or waiting by the oven door, biding time before the alarm rings. However, sustainable eating is a commitment as well as an adjustment. Lucky for us, we have access to everything, I mean everything, right at our fingertips. Chefs and home cooks have taken to TikTok to show how amazingly easy it is to bring plant based, or at least sustainable, dishes to your kitchen. Halle Burns (@ballehurns), a 21 year old university student who started making videos in her sophomore year and in the peak of COVIDis spreading the simple joys of home cooked vegan meals. I say simple because she makes it look easy, but the creativeness is so present. Pinecone potatoes, popcorn cauliflower, tofu dough, five minute dairy free caramel: her ideas are truly unbelievable and wildly accessible. Most of all, Halle as well as the other social media food gurus, are representing easy going but healthy fun. There is a uniqueness in plant based food, it's rewarding, interesting and altogether cool; Halle reminds us of that.
Halle Burns on TikTok
Photo: The New York Times
But what about the people where plant based just does not cut it. Is it possible to be sustainable while still eating meat? Truly, if the diet cut is not right for you, there are still steps you can and should take to make your footprint a little less meaty. Martyn Odell (@lagomchef) is truly my favourite influencer on the internet right now. He is a seasoned chef, he knows what he is doing and his eccentric personality makes him all the more likable. His goal: to show us how to eat… everything. First and foremost, he is the owner of a business called Lagom Chef, a nutrition platform and meal plan that brings zero waste to the household, sharing skills and recipes that encourage you to eat what you buy. But his TikTok platform shares his innovativeness with the masses.Whether it is using bacon grease to make mayonnaise or producing chutney from banana skin, Martyn is a disrupter leading the ‘war on waste’,but surely, we should all try to be?
Martyn Odell: The Food Waste Disrupter
Photo: Good Find
What is exciting is the new concepts that are being born out of the adjustment to the new status quo.
Alternatives are now becoming go-tos, plant based is no longer inaccessible but encouraged. But I cannot sit here and coerce you to change your diet or your mind. All I am saying is to check out the people and places I have mentioned, becauseI think that they can.