What this blog is about

Everything is going a bit slow these days. I have had a wonderfully easy pregnancy. No morning sickness, no puking, no gestational diabetes, no iron deficiency, not one single complaint except for some coughing and sneezing. But now that I’ve reached almost the last week, everything is getting a bit harder and I feel like a whale without water. I haven’t tried any new recipes and there’s nothing to share with you today. I did test many recipes for Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes though. They are writing a cookbook together. About vegan sandwiches! And they really saved me from starving on the couch! I’m going to share with you some sandwich test recipes in my next post, but now I want to tell you a bit about this blog.

I spent the last week moving all the content from my German blog seitansbraten.wordpress over to this site. This means you have access to both the English and the German version here, if I wrote a German version of the entry you are looking for. While looking at old posts I realized how much this blog has changed over the years. When I started blogging in 2007 there weren’t so many other vegan blogs available. I had a simple point and shoot camera, no clue about how to take a decent picture, no clue about how to develop a recipe etc. I just started blogging because I wanted to connect with other vegans. Which worked out absolutely wonderful!

As a couple of other bloggers have remarked lately, the blog world has changed a lot since then. I gave up keeping up with all the vegan blogs out there long ago. I am sure I miss out on many wonderful entries, recipes, and pictures on a daily basis. I think it’s really great that there are so many blogs out there that focus on vegan food, the vegan lifestyle, vegan advocacy, etc. It will show people that being vegan is a completely normal way of living and it’s getting more popular every day.

When looking at some of those blogs I realized that the focus of my blog has changed, too. I used to post several times a week, sharing a lot of what I ate on a daily basis. Now I don’t post that often anymore and if I do, I do share mostly baked goods. There are several reasons for this. I have a sweet tooth. But Dresden doesn’t offer many options when it comes to vegan cakes, cookies, etc. I am used to baking my own cake. And I think it is fun. Baking your own cake from scratch is a challenge and I like that, too. Cake is something special and it’s something that should be shared.

While blogging for over four years now I thought a lot about what vegan cooking and baking means. Many people see veganism as a hardship. It is a lifestyle focusing on what you cannot eat rather than what you can. And if these people see that vegans found creative ways to cut out meat, dairy, eggs, honey, leather, etc, they ask you “But what do you use instead? Does it taste the same?”

Recently the first vegan restaurant opened in our city. It’s a wonderful little place and we’ve eaten there for a couple of times now. They have a standard menu as well as some weekly changing options. The people who run the restaurant started out by doing vegan catering. Amazing vegan catering. Catering focused at vegans and meat eaters alike. The same goes for that restaurant, I think. But what does it mean? It means a lot of meat substitutes. Burgers, goulash, traditional German cuisine, etc.

I sometimes wonder what’s up with that. Don’t get me wrong, I like vegan burgers, sausages, etc. I like the occasional fast food veganized. But I also think that vegan cooking has so much more to offer. I do understand that for new vegans, it is very, very helpful to have these substitutes. It can be confusing enough to cut out lots of foods. It can be even more confusing to learn a new style of cooking. I started out the same way. I took “regular” recipes and replaced eggs, cream, butter etc. with vegan ingredients. But over time I got bored with this kind of cooking. I looked through newly published vegan cookbooks and decided that I didn’t need another recipe for mac and cheese, spaghetti bolognese, refried beans, banana bread, or chocolate chip cookies. I realized that many vegan cookbooks aim at new vegans or they try to convince non-vegans that vegan food is indeed edible and tasty. I don’t think this is wrong. (And it’s probably not even what the writer wanted to focus on in the first place. It might also have a lot to do with the publisher’s marketing strategies.) These books are help- and useful. Just not for me.  Not any longer. I’ve been vegan for over four years and I expect different things from cookbooks now. I also expect differnt things from my way of cooking and baking.

I think that vegan cooking and baking offers so many new possibilities. Moving away from egg-replacers, fake meats, and soyatoo whipped cream, I found many new and awesome ingredients. I think vegan cooking and baking can be something independent, something special, something that surprises people. It is a lot of fun to use an unusual ingredient and see how it works.Or to try a new method of baking or cooking things.

When I started to bring food to parties or when I cooked for my friends, I constantly asked myself: “Does this taste like the omni-version?” I don’t do this anymore. I stopped bringing something like a black forest cake to a party and waiting for people to tell me “Oh, this doesn’t taste like soy.” Instead I made a whole different cake. So people would stop comparing. So I would stop comparing. I don’t want people to see veganism as a fake and substitute lifestyle any longer. I gave up animal ingredients because I think it is wrong to use animals. But I am not deprieved, I am not missing out on anything, I am not suffering. This way of eating is not hard.

This is why I spent a lot of time learning to make my own cake, cookie, muffin, ice cream recipes, etc from scratch. Baking is where I can be most creative.  When it comes to cooking in general, this is what I can do best, I think. It is very challenging to see if the ratio of flour, sugar, and fat, the combination of different flavours and ingredients will work out in the end. Or if you will end up with a giant mountain of sad crumbs. If I would ever write a cookbook, it would be a baking book. I am way less creative when it comes to cooking regular meals. Veganism started all this. It did not only help me not to feel guilty any longer about the way we treat animals. It taught me how to bake.

I do live in a country/society where veganism is not seen as a healthy lifestyle by most people. (Especially not if you are pregnant!) And personally I think that is all ok. I am not a health nut. Of course I take my vitamin B 12 and I do eat a balanced diet. But I am a vegan for ethical reasons and I don’t buy into the no sugar, no gluten, no fat ideology. (I want to make sure I get all the nutrients so I can keep up living as a happy vegan and I don’t want to be someone who had to give up veganism because they didn’t take care of themselves.)

When I post a new entry and I receive a comment by a person who tells me that “yes, the food looks delicious, but right now I cannot have gluten, fat, sugar, etc…” it makes me sad. Sometimes these people have their good reasons (like a gluten intolerance) but sometimes they might buy into the latest fad.

I have read books about how to live a fat-free vegan diet and I am sure these diets can be helpful for certain people with certain health conditions. But I don’t think they are necessary or useful for me. If I would follow them, they’d probably do more harm then good.

I used to be overweight for most of my life and I lost the excess a couple of years ago. Not on a vegan diet though. I was a vegetarian back at that time and my eating habits weren’t the best. I was there, I cut out all fat, I cut out all sugar, I followed a lot of restrictions. And I felt miserable.

Since then I have learned that for me the best way to go is not only a balanced diet but also a fearless diet. I don’t want to cut out certain foods for the rest of my life. (Except for animal products of course. But I do cut these out for ethical reasons.) I want to eat the occasional fast food and cake. I want to drizzle some olive oil onto my pizza or my pasta. I do not make the perfect food choices every day and I do think it is okay. Everyone has to eat and I like to eat. But I don’t want food choices (healthy or unhealthy) to take over my life.

As I said, I do think a balanced diet is important, but I also think it is important to not stick to it from time to time. To eat a piece of cake with all the oil, all the sugar, and all the white flour and not be afraid of it. And never ever use the phrase “guilt”.

Maybe I am on the wrong track here, but I sometimes think that the health discourse is very similar or maybe even tied to this ideal of female beauty that is floating around everywhere and that is so hard to ignore. As a woman, being thin and beautiful is what you were supposed to aim for. And now it is thinness, beauty, and health. And in this context health equals a lifestyle full of exercise and the right food choices. I see lots of women sharing their stories on their blogs. Most of the time they tell you they were fat and miserable and now they are thin, healthy, and happy. But how about those people who are fat, healthy, and happy? Those, thin or fat, who still eat their cake? Those who don’t follow all the rules and restrictions, refuse to feel “guilty” about food choices they’ve made, but instead have a healthy relationship with their food? What about those? Those are the ones I bake my cakes for.

And of course for everyone else who wants them.

34 thoughts on “What this blog is about

  1. Thanks for your beautiful and valuable post.

    It gave me a wake up call from the health buzz that seemed to have caught me and almost took away my joy of sharing delicious food. Since 8 years I’m a vegan for ethical reasons, too. Although I think your point about the relation between the forced beauty ideal and health veganism is correct, this is not what caught me into the health issue. There is one more reason to start aiming for a super healthy diet and that is gaining control over your life. My experience is that life stress caused by things that feel hard to control made me look for something I can control, being what I eat and which effect this has on my body. Of course this is not offering any solution to my stress and it’s no good reason at all to try be even more healthy than I already feel. On top of that it is taking away the pleasure I have in experimenting with cooking, discovering new tastes, and most important: baking delicious stuff for others and enjoying this together. Joy seemed to be replaced by guilt, which is totally ridiculous!

    Thanks for reminding me of this by your clear story. Let’s bake some cookies again!

  2. Nice post. When someone decides to change their lifestyle to a vegan one the substitutions come in handy. It’s not hard to be vegan, 5 years now for me, my palate has opened up even more and have tried so many more new foods. I first became vegan because health, then the environment and then I saw how animals are treated. I was never overweight and unhappy but I want to live a long an healthy life because I saw what happens when family and friends don’t take care of themselves. I believe whole heartedly into eating as much fresh vegetables, fruits, etc. as possible, it makes me feel good and for me the desire for sweets has gone down alot. But with all this said..I enjoy my morning coffee, if I want a sugary sweet I’ll have it and I love wine now and again. I get tired of people always talking about calorie restrictive diets because if people just ate better and exercised they wouldn’t need to.

    I love always seeing the meals and baked goods you make. Keep it up!

  3. What a lovely post. I hadn’t seen your blog until today, when Celine at Have Cake, Will Travel linked to this post. It’s so respectfully written and well put. I have only visited Germany once, and my food memories of the place were mainly of potatoes.

    I have had the same thoughts with new vegan cookbooks. I even buy some of them still, simply because I like the authors so much, but I do feel like there is a glut of books with the same recipes. Whilst I understand it and am happy to cook on my own, I do love a good cookbook that focuses on fun, creative vegan cuisine without too many unusual or hard to find ingredients. It’s not always about replicating old food memories. It’s more often about creating new ones, at least for me.

    Congratulations on the new addition to your family, too!

  4. Pingback: have cake, will travel |
  5. Lovely blog! Beautiful pictures and your recipes look absolutely delicious. I completely agree with what you said about not wanting to bring things to parties anymore that people would compare to other non-vegan or in my case non-allergen foods. It does get annoying and what’s more annoying are the people who ask, “so is this the gluten-free stuff?” Or the people who complain that it’s gluten-free prior to even tasting it. I love being dairy free and gluten-free! And vegans shouldn’t have to make excuses either. Thanks again for a great blog that I am happy to follow and good luck with the birth of your baby! :)

  6. So much in here … I agree, it is so tough to keep up with all the great vegan blogs! I’ve been offline for a few days and I feel completely overwhelmed by my reader.

    I’m very happy to hear you had a healthy pregnancy, and I also agree with you on the reasonable vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons being separated from “health” fads.

    Both of these points, among the many you made here, are factors as to why I post less and less frequently. Sometimes it feels unhealthy to obsess too much about what I eat, and sometimes it seems like I’m trying to figure out my place among the blogs.

  7. “Since then I have learned that for me the best way to go is not only a balanced diet but also a fearless diet.”

    Beautiful! Yes! This post made me smile so much at work while I read it. I agree with you 100%, and I especially love the parts about vegan food being food. Period. End of story. Now let’s go have some fun with it and stop apologizing for the “vegan” aspect–amen sister!

  8. thank your mihl for sharing your food philosophy, your creativity and your passion. you can bake me a cake any day :)

    warm wishes for a smooth birth too!

  9. What a great post! I completely agree- starting out vegan you are always comparing and making substitutions. Now I don’t think of vegan cooking as full of substitutions, because that makes it seem like its not something creative and new in its own right, not a substitute for something else.

    I also agree that veganism, as seen on blogs, seems to be dominated by young women, many of whom are focused on it for health reasons rather than ethical reasons. While I think that\s fine, I get so uncomfortable seeing the number of hits coming from “pro-anorexia” blogs and young women that use being gluten free, vegan, sugar free ect as a way to avoid eating full stop.

    Vegan cooking is so much more than a weightloss tool or a sad substitute for omnivore cooking. Its a whole new thing, and it taught me how to cook and love food too.

    Good luck in these last few weeks of your pregnancy, and thanks for the thought provoking post!

  10. First of all: Congrats on your smooth pregnancy! I had to watch a lot of friends being totally miserable during their pregnancies, so it’s nice to hear that it can be different!

    And then, let me just say: Amen, sister! I agree with everything that you said. I also noticed that my veganism is moving away from “substituting everything so that it fools everybody” to a different kind of cuisine. I’ve discovered Indian food, that is delicious just as it is, and also a lot of Austrian homecooking that does not require a fake schnitzel. I realized that relying solely on substitutes is maybe not the best way to go – all of sudden, the prodzcts are gone and you just stand there and have no idea on what to cook (a good example is the disappearing Soyatoo, which is a nice product, but not the only way to bake cake!). What really annoys me are fake names for vegan food, like “Silch” for soy milk (works in German only) – what’s up with that? It is real food and not some weird product that pretends to be something it is never going to be.

    Also, I like your food philosophy, and I think mine is similar. I try to eat healthfully, eat my vegetables and fruits, and try to rely on unprocessed food. But you know what? I also really like food that has white flour, white sugar, and fat. And sometimes I eat – gasp – fried food, and I really enjoy it! So, I’m applauding you on your post.

    All the best,

  11. Your baked goods always make me happy. :)

    I love this post, and I’ve actually had this same discussion quite often in the last couple weeks. Since I’m taking raw food classes, I’ve naturally met a lot of health-conscious people, and seen a lot of restrictive eating habits.

    One of the girls was relatively new to eating raw, and was telling me how raw food was often not satisfying or comforting enough, and asked what I did. I tried explaining that cooked food isn’t evil and I find grains and beans super satisfying. Making raw food is great and all but I don’t see any good reason to cut perfectly awesome food (black beans, brown rice, etc) out of your diet because it’s cooked. That’s lameness.

    And then I told her about the vegan donuts I found in Portland. :) Sometimes I think more than anything, health is in the mind. Loving food and having a healthy relationship with it is more important than “no wheat no sugar no etc”.

    Anyway, thanks for provoking some thought here. :)

  12. Wow! The next time someone asks me why I’m vegetarian (and how horrible it’s gotta be for me to “abandon all that delicious food just as meat”) I’ll tell him/her to read that. Exactly what I think!! I couldn’t have said it any better! :))
    Greetings from northern Germany

  13. I LOVE this post and I love the comments as well. I’m so happy to see someone write about how silly the food blog ring can be. I started my blog to show people the food I make, not try to show how healthy I am or how high I can stack cakes. Also, I’ve found now, as I’m growing as a vegan, that my tastes are changing just like yours, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  14. Wonderful! I agree with everything you said! I sometimes feel guilty noting on my posts that I’ve used oil in a recipe. Why? I don’t want to feel guilty! Sometimes a recipe needs some oil, plain and simple. I also think you were very eloquent in how you said that vegan cooking can be completely separate from creating veganized versions of meat dishes. They can stand on their own and have completely unique ingredients. And, I love cakes! Bake away – you have my complete attention.

  15. What a great post! I feel the same way that you do about trying to reproduce exact replicas of omni food. . . just don’t see the need for it (even if I *do* occasionally include vegan “meat” on my blog!). And as a holistic nutritionist, I will always think that a whole food is better than a partial food–so no “lite” or “fat-free” for me–just less of the full-fat version. :)

    AND HOW DID I MISS THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO HAVE A BABY??? Huge congratulations to both (all three!) of you. So wonderful! What a great mommy you will be. :D Hugs!

  16. Congratulations on your pregnancy and warm wishes for an easy birth!

    I’ve been vegan for 15 years now, so of course, when my husband and I started a family, I had a vegan pregnancy. And when our daughter was born, we had a vegan baby. Hard to believe she’s now a vegan kindergartener … it’s true what they say about time passing by quickly!

    Don’t listen to people who doubt your wisdom in choosing a plant-based diet. The American Dietetic Association says that a well-planned vegan diet is safe for all stages of life, including pregnancy and infancy. Best of all, you’re bringing your child into this world without causing other animals to suffer.

    Love your blog and the philosophy by which you live your life. Take care of yourself and that little baby when (s)he arrives. :)

  17. I love you, Mihl.

    Everything you have said here hits home. Hard. I get annoyed and sad when people think I am “doing the gluten-free thing” for diet reasons, and then my blog gets looped in with and compared to these low fat- no fat- no sugar fads. I certainly am not developing gf recipes for any health reasons… save my own damn health. I get constant comments and emails asking how to replace this, that or the other with less “threatening” ingredients… or exasperated jabs at how unhealthy my recipes are. Just like you… I am a vegan for ethical reasons, not because I don’t appreciate nor want to eat a certain type of food. The whole celiac part I am not exactly fond of. I’d kill for a good puff pastry right now. And a decent beer.

    Deprivation is not part of my plan. Never will be. I’d like to live a long happy life like many people, but for me… olive oil, chocolate, and full fat coconut cream is certainly part of a happy life.

    You are right on with the whole diet/health food spin on veganism being tied to the ridiculous ideal of female beauty. Even more reason to bake a decadent five layer cake and not give a damn what anyone thinks.

    Also, how did I miss that you are about to have a little bun of your own?? Congratulations, sweetie! What a terrific role model you will be.
    Big hugs,
    <3 allyson

  18. It was very interesting to read your post today cause I’m thinking about many things you’ve said here, such as the meaning of having a blog about vegan food, the focus of my blog since the beginning (or lack of focus) and also veganism related to health. I am about to write a post about and I agree with some of your points here. And congratulations on your pregnancy and all the best in these last heavy days. I’m also pregnant but have still many weeks to go!

  19. I really loved this post! I like your view of eating and how you approach it. I’ve been trying to eat in a similar matter, not focusing on loosing weight and just enjoying whatever it is I feel like eating (as long as it’s vegan of course).

  20. I agree with so much of what you say. For me, ‘vegan’ isn’t a diet at all. It’s not like ‘Atkins’ or ‘steak and grapefruit’ or whatever. I eat absolutely anything I want, except of course for animal products because that causes terrible harm to other animals.

    From a health perspective, I take a B12 supplement because I don’t get that from my food. And a multivitamin as a kind of insurance policy. (OK, and I do add ground linseed to my cereal.) But, apart from these very cheap and simple steps, I don’t see my veganism per se as having much to do with what I eat.

  21. Mihl, I’m glad you continue to blog. Your beautiful baked goods will continue to change people’s minds about what it means to eat a vegan diet. I fully agree that we need to have a balanced approach to eating, if we want to be happy and healthy for the long run.


  22. Thanks so much for taking the time to put your beliefs into nonjudgemental words. I’m new to the vegan lifestyle, but I can’t help but feel pressure from both sides – vegans and omnis alike – about what I’m eating and what I should be eating. It’s so nice to read this and see that there are others out there that have chosen to be vegan purely for ethical reasons. I’m so glad your pregnancy has gone so well! That is definitely another topic that many people harangue vegans about. You seem like a strong, grounded woman who has her head on straight… I’m so glad I found your blog and I hope you make that vegan baking cookbook! :-)

  23. You are absolutely freaking fabulous. Bravo, Mihl! What a wonderful, honest, thought-provoking peace. I agree with you! Please let me be one of the people for whom you bake cake!

    When I first went vegan, it was for ethical reasons, as it still is, though I embraced all the health advantages to being a vegan, too (and still do). I cut out most processed foods–like the foods that are “accidentally vegan”–though I still consumed fake meats and cheeses. Strange as it may sound, as I grew older and travelled to Italy more often, I started to let loose a little bit, drink a bit of wine, indulge in the occasional cookie that contained 12 ingredients instead of six and, to my surprise, I was still happy, still guilt-free, and still, well, healthy.

    We have to embrace the wiggle room. This doesn’t mean we veer from 100% vegan to 98% every so often; on the contrary: within our vegan diets, whether we adhere to them for ethical or environmental or health reasons, we can enjoy ourselves still if on any given day we miss a serving or two of leafy greens. And by enjoy, I don’t mean in the sense of “rewarding” ourselves, because rewarding implies deprivation. What’s the fun in having a (stereotypically) awful salad amongst others, with chopped vegan sausage on top, showing that veganism may be not only boring but fabricated?

    Veganism is fun! Veganism brings people to Indian, Lebanese, and Thai foodsl my family hadn’t tried Indian food until I went vegan. Vegan isn’t the narrowing down of options; it’s expanding them, and deliciously!

    You have a lovely, healthy relationship with food, and your model is admirable. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Yours is a blog I have followed and loved for years, and I will continue to do so.

    Again, bravo.

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