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Talking veganism with chef, photographer and writer Rocio GravesJune 17, 2018

In the past three years, veganism has grown by 600% in the US and more than half of UK adults have adopted ‘vegan buying behaviour’I don’t have the figures for Spain but vegan restaurants are sprouting all over Palma. How did veganism, not so long ago a ridiculed alternative subculture, become an increasingly popular dietary and lifestyle choice?

Rocio

Perhaps the rise of veganism has something to do with the example of inspiring individuals like Rocio Graves, food photographer, creator of plant-based recipes and content for magazines and social media, private chef and health coach. Rocio was kind enough to offer me an insight into her work and life.

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, Rocio?

I was born in Mallorca in 1987 and am the daughter of beautiful artisan, artist, creative and loving parents. I’m a multi-passionate creative who feels like I’ve lived several lives in my short existence on this planet. I studied Human Rights at Roehampton University, became a professional make-up artist and then found photography as a way to share my recipes visually online. I’m passionate about plant-based cooking, organic farming, sustainability, wellness and spirituality.

How would you describe what you do?

Everything I do is related to food and wellness one way or the other. Apart from the photography and writing, I work as a private chef and host ‘Cosy Gatherings’ at my home in Santanyi. Here I create and share delicious, high vibrational organic and local plant-based food. For years, this was a dream project that’s now a reality and I’m thrilled.

I recently started health coaching, helping others find their way through the maze of misinformation around weight loss and health gain. I’ve been on my own health journey and experienced food as medicine. After studying plant-based nutrition online with Cornell University and by myself, I’ve gained precious insight into how the food we eat and our lifestyle can truly change our lives.

I also have Let It Be Cosy. This started as a plant-based recipe blog and is now more focused on nourishing a beautiful community on Instagram. Here I share inspiring and empowering content around food, wellness and spirituality through my words and photography. Let It Be Cosy feels like an entity that shifts and transforms as time passes.

Most of all, I’m fulfilled and grateful for the life I’m co-creating with the Universe.

Rocio’s Green Beach Soup recipe

  1. Throw cucumber, celery, zucchini, kale, spinach, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, hemp seeds, apple, a touch of cumin, salt and water into a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Either place in the fridge to cool for a while or enjoy right away at room temperature.

Why did you fall in love with cooking?

I’ve been fascinated about cooking and growing food since I was a child. One of my favourite memories of my childhood is harvesting home grown strawberries and digging potatoes out of my grandmother’s garden. Aged 17 I went to Vandana Shiva’s farm school in India where I volunteered for three months and learnt so much about different composting methods, natural fertilisers and pesticides.

Gorgeous kale

My love for growing food and supporting local farmers has only expanded and is a big part of my life. I’ve created really beautiful, precious bonds with farmers.

At home we always sat around the table for meals together as a family. I remember making ‘food’ out of plasticine in my bedroom restaurant and inviting my parents over. Watching them pretend to enjoy my food was the best feeling.

When I grew a little older I started creating and experimenting in the kitchen and writing down my recipes. Even though cooking has always been an interest of mine, I hadn’t quite made the connection between food and health. I thought of food purely as a pleasurable experience and didn’t really think about making it nutritious.

Why did you become vegan?

It was a decision I made from a place of necessity. Despite being health conscious and buying organic non-processed foods, there was still a big disconnect. It wasn’t until I got really sick with an autoimmune condition and was tired of taking medication that I made the connection between food and health.

I googled ‘how to heal the thyroid naturally’ and that’s how I was introduced into this world. My body craved support and adopting a plant-based vegan diet consisting of mostly fruits and some vegetables was exactly what it needed at the time. After a few months of radically changing my diet, my thyroid was healthy and I was able to ditch all medications.

I’m still eating a plant-based diet because it continues to feel good on a physical level but also emotionally and spiritually and at the same time veganism supports a more sustainable way of being on this beautiful planet. Aligning my values with my actions feels really good.

What are your thoughts on being vegetarian or vegan in Mallorca?

The scene has definitely changed in the last few years. It’s great! When I first started back in 2014 there only a few places to eat good quality vegan and organic food. The options now are much more varied, and my guess is that it’s only going to expand.

Chirimoyas – custard apples to you

We also have countless beautiful organic farms / farmers that sell their fresh produce at local markets (my favourites are Sa Taulera, Casa Pages and Biogranja La Real). We’re very lucky to have access to such high-quality food which is essential to our health. I am really aware of how privileged we are, and I don’t take it for granted.

Veganism or plant-based food as a concept is also much more widely understood and accepted which makes it a lot easier on an emotional level in social situations.

Do you have a favourite vegan recipe?

 That’s not an easy one to answer! At the moment, I’m really enjoying making big salads with spiced roasted veggies such as cauliflower or sweet potatoes on a bed of marinated kale, rocket or spinach. I add some pickled onions or radishes, a few handfuls of chopped hazelnuts or pistachios and a delicious tahini dressing.

Could you suggest any vegan dishes that could be prepared for the beach or eating informally outside?

For a nice beach outing I would definitely make a raw green soup. It’s very hydrating and filling, easy to make in a few minutes and simple to carry with you in a mason jar. No cutlery or plates needed.

I don’t have an exact recipe, but the soup would look something like this:

  1. Throw cucumber, celery, zucchini, kale, spinach, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, hemp seeds, apple, a touch of cumin, salt and water into a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Either place in the fridge to cool for a while or enjoy right away at room temperature.

How would you describe growing up in Deià?

Oh, I love this question. I feel very blessed to have grown up in Deià in the 80s and 90s. I’ll describe the experience in a few words: community, creativity, openness, freedom, magic, wild, safe.

What do you still love about the village?

It’s the deep energetic connection I have with the land, the trees, the mountains, the sea. The community that still lives there feels like family. I’m very protective towards Deià. It feels sacred to me.

Thanks, Rocio. I know what you mean.

So, back to the question of why veganism is on the rise right now. The answer, apparently, is the Internet and specifically Instagram.

Beautiful broiled radishes with capers and sea salt

According to The Independent, there are over 57 million #vegan posts on Instagram. Rocio’s Instagram community  is one of many forming at high speed. If you think about it, it makes sense. Instagram offers the perfect medium for sharing gorgeous, brightly-coloured pictures of the kind of salads and soups Rocio makes.

It’s probably impossible to make a picture of a bloody steak and fries look anywhere near as attractive.

And, like Rocio, many vegans are activists keen to spread the message that eating plant-based food is good for us and the planet.

As Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for The Vegan Society told The Independent, ‘Platforms like Instagram have helped people see veganism for what it really is: a compassion-driven attempt to live an ethical, sustainable and healthy lifestyle without contributing to animal suffering.’

Eating vegan in Deià at S’Hortet

There are plenty of good reasons to call in at S’Hortet, the wonderful cafè in The Clot, especially if you’re vegan. The menu features a vegan burger, a vegan cheese and zucchini quesadilla, Buddha Bowls bursting with as much natural goodness as colour and delicious vegan cake.

If you’re feeling inspired to change your diet and lifestyle, go to Rocio’s website  or Instagram account  to find out more. To contact her directly, please do so via letibecosy@gmail.com.

The next Cosy Gathering is on 23 June. If you’d like to join, click here.http://www.letitbecosy.com/gatherings/

 

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