Brett Cobley, the man behind the vegan culinary Instagram sensation EpiVegan, shares his vegan journey with us.
Before Epi Vegan
Want to know what vegans eat? Well, at one point in my life, so did I.
I went Vegan nearly 3 years ago. It was the spring of 2016, and for me, veganism was a strange concept. I had never even considered anything like that before. In fact, the first time I ever purposefully cooked something for a veggie, was when I cooked for a neighbour I had when I lived in Liverpool. I should have seen it coming. I can remember getting excited all day, just thinking about the fact I was about to cook veggie food!
That evening, I made pastry parcels filled with halloumi on butternut squash and sweet potato mash, and various roasted vegetables to accompany the main. I was a protein obsessive at the time, so the concept of veggie was madness to me. The neighbours I cooked for, on the other hand, were doctors. Needless to say some seeds were planted that night, and I soon came to realise why my logic was so flawed.
The main concept which surprised me was the effect of a high protein diet on the kidneys. They expressed that when people experience kidney failure, they get put on a vastly reduced protein diet. I never knew there were any negative connotations of consuming a high protein intake. The following months, I frequented veggie restaurants with friends, and soon began to realise that some of the people I worked with were vegan. A year or so later, a conversation with a colleague lead to me watching (popular YouTube video) “101 reasons to go vegan” and it finally sunk in.
The extent to which we, as a human race, are manipulating and torturing animals… the effect we are having on the environment, and the negative effects consuming these animals has upon our health: I had to change my ways.
It was a shock to the system, purely because of my lack of education on the matter. To begin with, the first few weeks of being vegan consisted of eating a diet pretty much consisting of fruit and nuts! It seemed I needed a second opinion, so I went to visit my uncle. First of all we talked about, exactly what vegans couldn’t eat (a logical start). Obviously there’s meat, dairy and eggs.
Following these, we then branched off to the lesser-known parts of being vegan, the ones you don’t necessarily think about at first, such as honey. It was actually discussing honey, which lead me to begin my research into veganism and sustainability, as I had no idea there was anything wrong with consuming honey. Sure, what could be wrong with clipping bees’ wings, before filling their homes with smoke to steal their food, which is the result of incredibly labour-intensive work?
What Vegans Eat
My uncle and I then started to talk about what vegans could eat: bread was a win because I realised that I could still eat toast (happy days!) Toast is a go-to-last-resort when hunger attacks! Most types of pasta were also still on the cards, which also made things a lot easier. When I started to think of the abundance of meals I could make with basic ingredients, such as flour for doughs and pastas, and the limitless selection of fruits and vegetables I could use to garnish and adorn these fundamental ingredients, I was well away.
It all started with a pizza (of course!) Anyone that follows me or knows me personally will undoubtedly tell you how I adore pizza. In fact, I love all Italian food, so much so that the cuisine inspires me on a regular basis. Naturally, the first thing I decided to trial on a vegan diet was mastering plant-based pizza! I got some basic vegan cheese from my local supermarket, made my own dough, and created a pretty delicious vegan pizza.
In that moment I realised a few things: firstly, I concluded that vegan cheese was a strange concept! It tasted a little bit cheesy, but didn’t behave in the way I wanted it to. Secondly I realised that vegans could eat pizza, which although now sounds obvious, was a revelation to me at that time! Lastly, I found an overwhelming confidence in my initial thoughts towards a vegan diet. There was no going back. I could make this vegan thing work.
Becoming Epi Vegan
Pretty chuffed at my creation, I did what anyone with a smartphone would! I took a photo, sent it to my friend, and said look, I made vegan pizza! He couldn’t believe it was vegan! Just the reaction you want! He was also a lot more social media savvy that me, and suggested I should start up a social media channel for my food! I had deleted my Facebook several years earlier, and was barely using Instagram, but my friend knew me better! He confronted me, saying that if I didn’t start my own page, then he would start uploading pictures I sent him himself! Most importantly, he told me that if I really believed in this new lifestyle, then I should let people know how easy it is. I needed to help spread the word.
Next thing you know, I set up my social accounts on Instagram @Brettcobley, and later a YouTube channel. At first I took pictures of everything I ate: three meals a day uploaded instantly. As my popularity grew, I started to write down the recipes people were demanding from me. It seems when people know what vegans eat, they want to give it a go for themselves. Fast-forward to today, and I am still on that same path: to help show the world that they can easily make changes to go vegan and still eat tasty food.
Telling family and friends that I was now vegan surprised them for sure, but above everyone else, the most surprised person in this whole journey was me. Surprised at the complete abundance of incredible food I could still eat as a vegan, and surprised at just how much amazing food I was oblivious to before.
If you want to begin your exploration of What Vegans Eat, you can order Brett’s debut book here.