Annie@SHVC: Hi Cynthia, where do you come from and how long have you been in Shanghai?
Cynthia: I am from Germany, and we moved to Shanghai last September after having lived in Chengdu for almost 5 years.
Annie@SHVC: So are you a vegetarian or vegan?
Cynthia: I have been vegetarian for 15 years, while gradually becoming a vegan since 6 years. I am trying to make as many decisions as possible that go in line with the vegan lifestyle. When I cook at home, it is always vegan. When eating out, I will always pick the vegan option, if not available I may request changes or take a vegetarian option. The idea behind this is the boycott of the animal exploiting industry while trying to not make my life unnecessarily hard. For example, I occasionally eat “vegetarian” noodles in local noodle places once in a while even though the noodles are often cooked in bone broth, a thought I am trying not to have. If there is no alternative at the time and considering that bones are a byproduct and not the main reason for the animal being slaughtered, I have been accepting this so far.
Annie@SHVC: Yes, I totally understand, as a vegan sometimes I also have to compromise as vegetarian when I eat outside… What exactly turned you into a vegan?
Cynthia: Coming to China actually. In Germany, tofu is quite pricy and you didn’t have as many variations as in China at the time. I was quite impressed with the selection and thought that being a vegan here could be easier.
Annie@SHVC:Wow… I thought many people find China a hard country for vegans… haha! Do you still find it difficult to eat vegan food in Shanghai? What kind of challenge have you met?
Cynthia: It can be difficult to find vegan local options, the same in Western restaurants. On the upside, Chinese food in general doesn’t contain dairy as much as in the West, while on the downside many dishes contain eggs and meat. It is probably helpful to emphazise that the vegetarian dish you are ordering should not contain any meat, and to know that the Chinese chef meant well when he sprinkled minced meat over your fried beans regardless. I guess it is a good idea to focus on what you can influence while other things may be out of your control.
Annie@SHVC: I often heard pregnant women worry about not getting enough nutrition from vegetarian diet, how did you cope with this during your pregnancy?
Cynthia: Yes that’s true, especially since pregnant women tend to be overly worried about anything (it’s the hormones!), myself being a prime example. If you are educated about which foods are rich in nutrition and what you should incorporate into your diet to maximize health benefits, I think you and your baby are probably better off than average. I was not vegan during pregnancy and also took a prenatal vitamin every day “to make sure”, but if you supplement B12 vegan pregnancies turn out fine too. I cooked with a lot of legumes because I did crave more protein-rich foods and tried to eat really healthy of course. My baby turned out beautifully and perfectly healthy, being quite a chub with 7.7 lbs! Also, even though it felt like I was eating all the time I was slim again pretty much right after giving birth.
Annie@SHVC: That’s great! Many moms struggled over that in dismay… is your baby also vegan? What kind of food do you give her usually?
Cynthia: No, she loves meat, just like her Dad. She is begging me for “chick chick” as soon as she gets the whiff of it, and I don’t deny her some meat. I am trying to sneak as much healthy food into her diet as possible, and luckily she loves things like broccoli and beans, too. I either mash up everything I am cooking for us at home, or she eats it straight. Her portion contains less salt, but she loves a dash of chilli!
Annie@SHVC: Wow, what a little Chengdu lady hahaha!I have a question though, last time when I was recording a TV program, a non-vegetarian mom mentioned that she never takes any live animals home as kids are very sensitive around their being killed, so literally mom has to lie a bit about meat and animals… how do you deal with this?
Cynthia: I guess this refers to a local Mommy talking about killing live animals she bought in the market? In the West we have a different reality when it comes to preparing meat. With everybody usually buying packaged meat in the super market we lost touch with the fact that what we are buying was breathing not long ago and on top of this had to endure cruel and shameful treatment from birth to death. It is a tough thing to explain to children. You certainly want to choose your words very carefully, and possibly explain it in more abstract terms. When my daughter is old enough I will try to create awareness about this topic gently. She adores animals and is very empathetic with both humans and animals. Understanding the dynamics behind eating meat may be a bit more difficult for her to understand in our situation since my husband is not a vegetarian and models his behavior to her as a parent. I am trying to not force things but to let them develop naturally.
Annie@SHVC: Last but not last least, what is your fav vegan dish or restaurant in Shanghai?
Cynthia: We go to wagas a lot because it is right around the corner, and they have this yummy falafel wrap and salad combo. Otherwise, I must admit that we keep talking about trying this vegetarian restaurant close by and never have. So I am looking forward to having a reason to try new places when meeting up with the Shanghai Veggie Club!
This column covers stories of people living in SH trying to have a pro-veg life( yes, you do NOT have to be a vegan or vegetarian to be featured), proudly presented by host Annie. If you have a story to tell, contact us for an interview.;)