The Vegan Girl in LDN

I’ve been obsessed with England since I was a kid. I’m not entirely sure why, but a few reasons come to mind. When I was younger, my favorite weather was cloudy and dreary days, and there’s no shortage of that in London. I also loved the accent. I think I do a pretty good British accent that might rival many natives. Whatever the reason my love affair with the country across the pond exists, my dreams of one day visiting came true when I went to London in February. The fact that I was traveling there as a vegan made it even more exciting. This isn’t specific to LDN (oh, and by the way, be prepared to see “London” replaced with “LDN” for the majority of this post– not because it’s a useful abbreviation, but because I love calling the city LDN), but I’ve decided that anytime I step foot outside of my hometown, it’s an opportunity for me to explore the vegan scene wherever I land. And that’s exactly what I did in LDN.

First stop in ldn, Shoreditch.

All the LDN Vegan Nomz…

The first day I arrived, it was raining and cloudy. Hmmm– raining in London, what a surprise. But I knew exactly where I was headed. My first stop was Shoreditch, a neighborhood that is borderline what we’d call “hipster” in the states. It’s chock-full of amazing street art and graffiti, cool vintage shops and a bunch of vegan noms. I had plenty of options, and a lot of people rave about vegan places in Shoreditch, but I wanted to go to one specific spot. This place was both my 80’s and favorite childhood breakfast dreams come true. It was the Cereal Killer Cafe. This cute place is a giant cereal bar. They have tons of yummy cereal options, many of which are vegan, along with vegan milk options. They also have a vegan loaded hot chocolate, and that’s what I went for due to the chilly weather I was facing outside. You can enjoy your meal in front, facing an entire wall of cereal boxes, or in back, and have a seat on one of several twin sized beds from you brightly colored childhood bedroom. I could live there, like seriously.

Peanut butter cereal loaded hot chocolate for my first vegan nomz in ldn.

So, I basically had a warm dessert as my first vegan meal in LDN. Next, I hit up the Shoreditch location of The Vurger Co. for my main course. The menu is filled with creative, meat-free substitutes for burgers, and many of them don’t use traditional, sliced-cheese substitutes either. They simply focus on fresh and interesting flavors.

They even bring you the receipt in old VHS cases– how cool is that?

I went for the “Auburger”, which is a tabasco chipotle patty made with aubergine (or eggplant as we would call it in the states), red onion and chickpeas. The burger is topped with gherkin, pickled red cabbage, tomato, vegan cheese and house cumin mayo. Instead of fries, I decided to switch it up a bit and get a side of slaw. It came topped with pickles and tortilla chips, and it actually reminded me of traditional American BBQ sides in its presentation and flavor (and the pickles). The burger was insane. So filling. Not only because it was filled with a hearty amount of toppings, but the patty was t-h-i-c-k, and really flavorful. This was an amazing intro to vegan food in London, and I was excited to try so much more. After my yummy burger and slaw, I made my way out of Shoreditch and headed to my LDN digs for the rest of my stay. Fun fact: I got lost heading home on my first night, my phone died while I was trying to find the air bnb, and when I went to get my portable charger, I realized I’d left it at home– in the states. I had to rely on the kindness of a store clerk to let me charge my phone for 15 minutes, and I ended up having to buy a new portable charger while in London. Welcome to my life.

The “Auburger” at The Vurger Co. Check out that thick patty, loaded toppings and saucy slaw.

And it Just Keeps Getting Better! But Literally, it Does.

The next day, I trekked over to Southbank Centre Food Market. This place is a burgeoning outdoor market that has food of all kinds, and also has more than enough vegan options. I actually arrived so early that most of the tents were still setting up. That didn’t bother me one bit– I wanted to get my hands on the vegan noms, and early; I had a lot of sight-seeing to do. I hit up Ethiopiques, an Ethiopian place that vends at the market and also has a spot on Brick Lane.

Ethiopiques vegan platter.

This is authentic Ethiopian food, a lot of which is naturally vegetarian; and they have a big ol’ vegan plate– that’s what I had. This was my first time trying this classic vegan plate that is served in many Ethiopian restaurants; at first, I wanted to save this meal for an NYC spot– I’d been meaning to go to an Ethiopian restaurant in New York for the longest since going vegan, but hadn’t yet. But then I thought: “dude, I’m in London– when is a better time to try it than now?” And I’m glad I did. So much flavor in that plate, and it got better with each bite. And the injera, the traditional and very popular Ethiopian bread, was sooo good. Soft and fluffy, but sturdy enough to pick up the sides with. Such an interesting texture also. And there was a great mix of pickled veg with more savory veg– each little component filled with it’s own flavors. I don’t even like okra unless it’s fried (at least I thought I didn’t), and I stuffed my face with the okra on this platter like nobody’s business.

For dessert, I headed over to Crepes a la Carte. I absolutely love crepes so I couldn’t leave without trying a vegan one. I got mine filled with banana, strawberry jam and chocolate. The crepe itself was nice and soft and had a hearty flavor from the buckwheat mix they use as a base, but it wasn’t overpowering. I would have really loved to try it in a savory crepe, but mine was insanely good– it hit my sweet tooth perfectly. Also, the folks at the booth were so nice. They spoke French and entertained my menial French skills by having a little conversation with me while they made my crepe. Great people always make good food even better.

100% vegan crepe in ldn.

So Much More to Come…

The Old Street Underground station.

Next, I ventured out on the Underground to the Old Street area. It was beautiful and hectic out there– it was the weekend and from what I saw, this was a popular nightlife area; there were a few bars around and the streets were filled with people partaking of the nightlife vibes. On my way to my main destination, I stopped to pick up a few doughnuts at Doughnut Time UK. Although they aren’t exclusively vegan, they always have several vegan selections, which is great. I decided to get a “safe” doughnut and a “rebel” doughnut. I ended up getting a jam filled sugar variety and another called “Sia Later” (perhaps named after the singer?), a red velvet cake doughnut, topped with buttercream frosting and freeze-dried raspberries. Both doughnuts were ah-mazing.

Just look at these doughnut beauties.

The jam-filled tasted like your average jelly doughnut– but the jam tasted really fresh and the doughnut was so soft. The red velvet doughnut was unique and a bit more dense due to it being a cake doughnut and not a classic, doughy one. The buttercream was really sweet. I loved that so much. But the sweetness was slightly balanced out by the red velvet doughnut. A perfect ratio, in my opinion.

But I saved those for later. After picking up my sweet fix, I kept on trekking until I got to Unity Diner. I took a risk going out there on the weekend, during dinner, with no reservation– but I got a seat. And yes, it was already pretty packed, but I couldn’t leave LDN without trying the food here, for several reasons. If you’re big on veganism, you likely have heard of Earthling Ed. He’s popular here in the states, but he’s mega popular across the pond– he’s a vegan activist, speaker and educator and Unity Diner is his creation. All profits from the restaurant go to funding an animal sanctuary in the U.K as well as an animal rights organization called Surge. Knowing that made my food taste even better, although it didn’t need much help because the food here is ridiculous, and I mean that in a very good way.

So much flavor in this surf ‘n’ turf dog, I didn’t even know where to begin. I finished every. single. bite.
Some of the cheeziest vegan mac I’ve ever had, and some of the best too.

I had the surf ‘n’ turf dog, which was part of their Veganuary menu. Sea and land flavors are always a great combo– when they’re vegan, of course. Plus, this dog was pretty hearty. The crispy “shrimp” were delicious and having them alone or sharing them with a bite of the sausage was really good. Even the bun was great– lightly toasty and not soggy at all from the delicious saucy goodness happening on top of the hotdog, but also on the bun, which had a flavorful sauce and lettuce spread across it on one side, and tomato on the other side. I actually ate pieces of the veg, sauce and bun alone, and it tasted like a yummy veggie sandwich.

I also had the mac and cheese and it was piping hot, so cheezy and absolutely delicious. One of the best vegan macs I’ve had yet, and that’s saying a lot because there are a lot of vegan macs out there. Unity did not disappoint in any arena– the food, the hospitality, the service– everything was absolutely stellar and more than I could have imagined.

Outside Norman’s Coach and Horses.

Next up, I went to a vegan pub called Norman’s Coach and Horses. I found out about this place before I even left for the trip and I was so excited to visit because I could already feel that it was one of those hidden gems that doesn’t seem super popular, but if you know, you know– you know? It’s the first 100% vegan pub in LDN. I wanted to get there bright and early, so I traveled into SoHo, stopping first in China Town– and by the way, China Town in London is gorgeous. I marveled at everything I saw there while waiting for Norman’s to open. I started to walk over to the pub, and with about 10 minutes left, I noticed they were already open– my first clue that this place was definitely here to serve the locals. There were a few folks in there already enjoying a nice pint and chatting it up. I already knew what I was getting, because I couldn’t go to a proper British pub and not have the Fish ‘n’ Chips– or in this case, Tofush and Chips!

The meal, the ambiance and the people here were so great. The tofu “fish” was marinated in lemon and you could taste it in every bite. There was also a great crisp on the fry batter and it had seaweed on it to give it that kelp-y, sea flavor. The house-made tartar sauce was so delicious, and I used up every bit of it to dip my tofush in– it was nice and chunky and flavorful. The chips were nice and thick– not steak fries but somewhere in the middle; just perfect for the dish. And the peas were your regular peas, but also delicious. Being that I love to balance every meal out with veg these days, they were probably more spectacular to me that they would be to anyone else, and most folks could maybe do without them– that is, except a native Londoner who orders Fish ‘n’ Chips at any pub in London.

My Norman’s tofush and chips spread, along with dandelion and burdock “beer”. I also partook of that vinegar and ketchup on the table.

After my meal, I had a long conversation with some of the locals about a few struggles Norman’s is going through– by summer 2019, Norman’s could be shut down– a corporate entity may not renew their lease. Norman’s has been run by a father/daughter team for over a decade and the pub thrives off the support of some tourists, sure– but more so (and more importantly) off the support from locals who love this place so dearly. I signed the in-house petition while I was there, but I have recently found out about the petition for Norman’s. If you can sign it, that would be amazing. If you are able to donate any funds to help keep it going, that would be even more amazing. Let’s help keep this vegan pub alive and thriving!

And Even More Proper British Grub — with Dessert!

A lot of the shops had fun 3D art on them, like these sneakers.

Next, I headed out to Camden Town to check out Young Vegans. This was a looong time coming– I’ve been following them for awhile and I was so excited to go there and try proper British pie and mash. This was by far one of my favorite trips while I was in LDN. I’m obsessed with Camden Town. As soon as I got off the Underground, I knew I was in love with this place. It’s an alternative wonderland and it was packed with so many people and it was just sensory overload in the best way possible.

Proper Pie and Mash at Young Vegans, covered in dark gravy and topped with crispy onions. Food porn to the max.

When I finally made it to Young Vegans, I got the classic meat pie and mash with gravy. Yes, yes and yes. The crust was perfect. And the flavors of the seitan meat were so great– I assume they marinate it with magic (don’t quote me on that but it tasted like it was marinated for days!). The crispy onions on top were the perfect addition to add a nice lil’ salty crunch to the mash also. And the gravy was so flavorful but not thick at all. It just glided over the pie and mash and right into my mouth — which is currently watering while writing this description. And eating great food in an atmosphere that is amazing just adds to the greatness of the meal– Young Vegans is a quaint lil’ spot on it’s own that basically has “hole-in-the-wall” charm, if you will, but the quality of the food and the chill all around made me feel like I was eating in a tiny, cool British pub in town that no one knows about but everyone that matters knows about.

So many alternative and punk stores, and a lot of hip hop gear too. It felt like I was at home in New York, but not.

It was already dark outside when I left Young Vegans, and the plan was to head back to my air bnb– I strategically headed out there at a time where I’d be getting back a little later so I could see Camden Town at night 🙂 But as I was leaving, I looked around at the other shops and noticed there was a vegan dessert booth right across from Young Vegans. It was Nora and Nama— a 100% vegan bakery. I’d just had dinner, so, I had to get dessert right? This was an impromptu addition to my vegan food tour, and I also had a budget to stick to, so, although they had several delicious desserts staring at me, I went with a cute and delicious Alfajores— a traditionally Argentinian cookie, made vegan. It was delicious, with cream and coconut centered between two cookies. I’m actually not a big coconut fan but it wasn’t overwhelming in this cookie at all. And the cookies were soft but crisp at the same time–a difficult feat to achieve. I chowed down on mine while walking back to the underground and taking in all the beauty that Camden Town at night had to offer. You can say that I definitely left there a happy girl.

Vegan alfajores on deck in Camden Town.

And Another Vegan British Pub? Yes!

The next stop on my vegan food tour took me out to The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker. This is another 100% vegan British pub. Although Norman’s has the history, this place has certainly carved out it’s own spot in the hearts of Londoners. It was a rainy day when I went, and that actually felt perfect. Once I got there, I was greeted by the folks working and also by Stella, the cutest pub dog ever (forgot to mention that I met an awesome pub cat at Norman’s).

Spicy Chorizo sandwich at The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker.

Their menu is also hella cute– a piece of brown paper posted on a wooden clipboard. So frickin eco-friendly… once I saw that, I was already in love with the place. I didn’t know what I wanted to get because I’m indecisive, but once my eyes ran across the spicy chorizo sandwich, I knew that was it. It was the most perfect pub sandwich I’d ever seen. The description alone screamed: “eat me after you’ve had a few beers or shots”. I knew I would be having neither, so I was hoping it would live up to my expectations being 100% sober; and boy-oh-boy, did it. The house-made, spicy chorizo was so delicious. Perfectly spicy, with the heat level just slightly off-set by the refried beans, but the spice was kicked right back up by the jalapenos. There was also cheddar which always makes everything better. All this goodness was sandwiched between two slices of pressed sourdough. OMG.

I also got a side of mozzarella sticks and what did I do that for? I wanted to order 100 more after trying them. And that cheeze pull though! They were perfectly crispy on the outside and so gooey on the inside. I haven’t had too many vegan mozz sticks since going vegan, but so far, the ones at Blacksmith are by far my favorite, and they were the most reminiscent of the mozz sticks I’ve had pre-vegan. The food was so good and the chorizo was so filling that I actually didn’t finish the sandwich– I took half home with me, tucked away in my bag for a late-night snack.

Mozzarella stick goodness at Blacksmith.

But I Didn’t go Home Without Dessert, of Course

The rain had let up a bit, so I decided to go to another destination right after leaving Blacksmith– a spot I was planning on getting to at some point while in LDN. I headed over to Yorica! , a 100% vegan ice-cream shop, to get dessert. Not only are they all-vegan, but they’re ice creams are also free from all 14 major allergens. Although I’m indecisive, I already knew what I was getting before I even walked in the door. Anyplace that let’s me combine caramel, waffles and ice cream has a special place in my heart.

Who takes selfies while eating ice cream? This girl right here. Because dude, I was eating ice cream in frickin London.

They have several combos, and I got a waffle and ice cream combo, with the salted caramel and caramel popcorn flavors. I actually swapped out one of the the original combo flavors for the caramel popcorn one because more caramel, duh. Yorica! is also awesome because they let you have free sprinkles with everything. So, although the sprinkles didn’t necessarily go with the flavor profile I was creating, they were free, so on they went and delicious they were.

Yorica! waffle sundae featuring: Salted Caramel and Caramel Popcorn ice cream with caramel and popcorn. Yes, you read that right, and yes, I’m a savage.
Close-up shot featuring sprinkles– free sprinkles. Yay.

And Finally– I Couldn’t Leave London Without Going to This Place…

Me, attempting to look cute while devouring Temple of Seitan nomz.

My final stop was the one and only Temple of Seitan. I think they’ve achieved cult status in LDN, and for good reason because their food is frickin amazing. I knew it was gonna be good, but I didn’t know it was gonna be that good. I had the chick’n bacon sandwich combo with fries and a cola. Even the cola was insane– it was organic, so that could be why, but dang! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this was one of the best chick’n sandwiches I’ve ever had, vegan or not. The outside of the chick’n patty was perfectly crispy and the bacon was just salty goodness. The inside of the patty would absolutely fool any meat-eater, and I’d dare them to challenge me on that. Not to mention the sandwich was slightly greasy and filled with mayo — such pure, unadulterated, vegan fast food goodness. I was kinda peeved that I couldn’t try the burger also but my appetite and budget wouldn’t let me. And the wings– oooh, those wings. I would fly back to London just to try the rest of their menu. Every taste bud in my mouth was thrilled that I left London with Temple of Seitan in my tummy.

Just look at this massive pile of vegan fast food insanity that lays before you, courtesy of Temple of Seitan.

Until Next Time London!

So, that’s it. That was my #veganfoodtour of London. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The food supplemented all the amazing things I got to see and do while I was there. I saw a show at the theater, got pics of some amazing street art, wandered around so many cool neighborhoods, got to see some classic London tourist destinations, went to some dope museums, got to ride the underground, met some cool people, and got to experience the amazing vibes of a super chill city. So yes, it will bear repeating for many years to come: #takemeback! Check out more awesome pics on my Instagram page and stay tuned for more vegan travel reviews!

Jackfruit and Potato Curry

I’m a big fan of potatoes. And for some reason, they seem to taste waaay better when they have sort of saucy goodness on them. This recipe includes just that– potatoes with saucy goodness of the curry variety. There’s also jackfruit in here, and of course, some veg to balance it all out. I’ve been making recipes in a more sporadic nature lately– mostly because I haven’t had the time or energy to devote to coming up with them. Although this isn’t the most unique recipe around, it combines my love of Indian and Caribbean cuisine, creating recipes, and yes, eating food. Unfortunately, this description doesn’t really include my love or skill of writing. Ha, see what I did there? In my defense, I’m writing this late in the evening, and I’m really tired, and this is a personal blog, not the New York Times. So bear with me, read my less than stellar but still witty intro, then, go make this recipe because it’s really frickin good. Oh wow– the word “good” just reminded me of good night. Good night– I’m going to sleep.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups of cooked white rice
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas, drained (15.5 oz)
  • 1 cup jackfruit, diced (fresh or frozen can be used)
  • 1 1/2 cups baby potatoes, chopped in halves (I used Klondike potatoes; you can use any variety)
  • 1/2 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1/8 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup “not beef” bouillon broth*
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • about 1/4 – 1/2 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

What to Do:

  1. Prepare rice (boil water, add rice, stir and bring to a boil again, turn heat to a low simmer, cover and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes or so– use approximately 1 3/4 cup of water for every one cup of rice). Set aside.
  2. Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.
  3. Once hot, add chopped onion, diced potatoes, and carrots; stir ingredients well to mix with oil.
  4. Cook for approximately 2 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Reduce heat to low (not a low simmer, but low) and add chickpeas and “not beef” bouillon broth (or vegetable broth). Gently stir and cover with a lid; let ingredients simmer on low heat for approximately 4-6 minutes, until potatoes just start to tenderize, but not fully.
  6. Remove lid and add jackfruit, cumin, curry powder and salt to skillet. Gently stir into potato mixture until well mixed.
  7. Reduce heat to (a low) simmer and return lid. Let curry simmer for approximately 6-8 minutes, until potatoes are more fork tender but liquid should not dissolve.
  8. Remove from heat; add additional salt if desired.
  9. Transfer rice to a serving dish and top with curry. Serve and enjoy 🙂

Date Posted on Instagram: 4/23/2019

* recipe for the broth can be found in another recipe I wrote. If you do not want to use this broth or don’t have the bouillon cubes, you can use vegetable broth instead.

Tofu and Autumn Veggie Soup

Dump Skillet meals are ideas for meals to create with fresh produce– specifically fresh produce that is on its way out.  Sometimes we don’t know what to make or what we can do with a bunch of veggies because we aren’t used to using produce as the star of our meals or as the only components of our meals. Hopefully these ideas will inspire you!

Produce Used:

  • about 2 cups brussel sprouts, finely chopped (or roughly chopped depending on your preference)
  • 1 large carrot stick, chopped (or shredded with a vegetable peeler — I did both)

Other Ingredients:

  • 1/2 block of firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 “not beef” bouillon cube*
  • 1 tsp essential seasoning blend
  • additional salt for seasoning
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

What to do:

  1. Heat a medium sized skillet on low heat with olive oil in it.
  2. Once hot, add cubed tofu and stir.
  3. Turn heat to medium and let tofu cook for approximately 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Reduce heat to low, and add carrots and brussel sprouts to skillet and stir until well mixed.
  5. Add about a pinch or two of salt to lightly season the mixture.
  6. Let the tofu mix simmer, stirring occasionally until tofu has a light browning to it, approximately 4-6 minutes. Do not let the vegetables get too soft, because you want them to remain slightly crisp for the broth. Turn up the heat for the last few minutes if you would like the veggies to be cooked a bit more well-done (as in the picture). Once cooked, remove from heat.
  7. While the veggies cook, you can start the broth. Bring the water to a boil with the bouillon cube in it.
  8. Once boiling, reduce heat to a low simmer and add essential seasoning blend and stir.
  9. Continue to stir broth until bouillon cube is fully dissolved if it has not done so yet.
  10. Let broth simmer for about 2-3 minutes, then, add tofu and veggie mixture to broth and stir.
  11. Let soup simmer for another minute or two, then, remove from heat and serve hot.

Date Posted on Instagram: 04/08/2019

* I used the Edward and Sons brand and found it at Whole Foods. You should be able to find these at your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or even a specialty store. If you don’t live near one of these places, you can also try purchasing the cubes online. There are also other brands that make vegan-friendly bouillon cubes. To make the broth, you dissolve 1 full cube into two cups of hot water (or 1/2 a cube into 1 cup of hot water).

Best New Vegan Food Blogger? That Could be me!

I want to first say thanks to all who read and subscribe to my blog! I love you and think you’re awesome and amazing for being vegan or being interested in the vegan lifestyle, or an eco-friendly lifestyle or even just my personal vegan journey!

That being said, I’m nominated in a vegan awards this year that’s been put together by One Bite Vegan! I’m nominated in the category of “Best New Vegan Food Blogger”. I’m excited because I truly love blogging and it’s even better that I get to blog about topics I’m really passionate about. I love writing also and being able to entertain and/or inform through my writing is what I think my gift to the world really is!

Follow me on Instagram at “thevegangirlnyc” and follow One Bite Vegan at “one_bite_vegan”.

I would love and appreciate it so much if you could go vote for me in that category! To vote, simply go here:

You DO NOT have to vote in every category! Voting ends on APRIL 30, 2019!! Once you vote, you’ll be automatically entered to win a brand new Vitamix Ascent Series A2500!!! Talk about incentive! So go! Go vote for me now! Best new vegan blog category! Gooooo!

This beautiful new Vitamix (valued at over $500!) could be all yours— so go vote for me noooow!

Why I Ditched Chocolate (sort of)

Chocolate. Everyone loves chocolate. Well, my mom has actually always hated chocolate. And if you’re allergic you probably aren’t a fan of it either. Oh, and it’s also toxic to cats and can even be fatal if they ingest a bunch of it. But the point is, most people do enjoy chocolate, myself included.

Even though I’ve been a chocolate fan my whole life, I’ve always been picky about the types of chocolate I consumed. For some reason, I never liked chocolate cake, and I also don’t like chocolate ice cream. Growing up (and still to this day) my favorite forms of chocolate were brownies, muffins (which do not taste the same as cake!) and candies of all sorts– chocolate bars filled with practically whatever, truffles, and pretty much anything that was covered in chocolate, especially pretzels.

Huge, decadent and delicious vegan chocolate muffin — my first 100% vegan treat when I began my path toward veganism.

Going down this chocolate memory lane is indeed nostalgic, and makes it even more obvious as to why I was extremely proud of myself when, after going vegan, I managed to cut out chocolate just like that. I guess I didn’t necessarily have to do this because I live in one of the vegan capitals of the world, where practically any food that exists can be found in vegan form. But the first several months of being vegan was filled with me trying to navigate this new world of eating and my thoughts really weren’t “where can I find vegan chocolate?”. And anyway, before I officially went vegan and I was still in my “vegan trial period”, I actually did have a decadent, giant chocolate muffin from a vegan bakery– and like most omni’s trying vegan junk food for the first time, I was shocked that something that good was vegan.

But as time went on, I eventually tried vegan chocolate in all its glory– not only chocolate treats but I’d had several types of granola bars featuring chocolate that were made by some of the big names in vegan snacks.

However, a few months ago, I started following an organization on Instagram called the Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P). Their goal is to bring awareness to food accessibility throughout the world, and they also shine a light on food injustices in the form of child labor and/or slavery in food production, and how the food choices we make affect the environment, animals and people.

I loved what they were about because it aligned with what I was about and what I wanted to learn about and spread awareness of in the vegan community and perhaps more importantly, outside of the vegan community. One day, a specific post on their Instagram page caught my eye and it prompted me to download the associated app that the F.E.P had created– it had to do with none other than: chocolate.

According to the F.E.P, chocolate, or more specifically, cocoa production, was an industry that had a huge hand in utilizing child and/or slave labor. As a person of color, this was disturbing to me on a personal level, especially being that my Instagram and blog were built on a premise of intersectional veganism, where the injustices of one group are intertwined with the injustices of many groups. I couldn’t continue to fight for the rights of animals and not do something to show that I was also against the exploitation of children and others who were being utilized as slaves in many African countries.

The app that the F.E.P created, called the Chocolate List was meant to be used as a resource to discover which brands of chocolate are sourced ethically and which brands are not. The below screenshot is an example– there are three sections on the app; “R” stands for recommended, “NR” stands for not recommended, and “M” stands for mixed meaning that the brand uses ethically sourced cocoa for some of its products but not all of them. Even with this powerhouse list available to me, I was a little perplexed about some things, which prompted me to start doing my own research.

Screenshot of the Chocolate List app for iOS, created by the Food Empowerment Project.

I’d go to a store and decide I wasn’t gonna buy chocolate from brands that weren’t recommended, but at the same time I’d see some of those not recommended brands with labels slapped across them like “fair trade certified”.

It was confusing to say the least.

I wondered why these brands were not on the recommended list when I’d read so much information that stated that fair trade farms did not use slave labor. In addition to that, some of these brands stated directly on their website that their chocolate was, in fact, sourced ethically via fair trade farms.

So what was going on? Why was the information from the brands conflicting with the information from the F.E.P?

I decided I had to go straight to the source to uncover where the disconnect was. I emailed the F.E.P and anxiously awaited their response as to why some brands that publicly stated they used ethically sourced cocoa were being place on the not recommended list by the F.E.P. When I received a response to my email, the result was quite unfortunate but it opened my eyes further to the lies we are told everyday by the people who run the largest companies and corporations in the world.

An employee and rep for the F.E.P explained that the companies on the “NR” list are there because they source their cocoa from countries and regions “…where the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, is most prevalent.”

You see, the F.E.P creates their ethically sourced cocoa list “…based on the country of origin… and not “…on certifications based on how problematic they have been found to be.”

Apparently, some fair trade certified farms still utilize child slave labor even with the fair trade certification. How is that possible? I wondered the same thing. I presume it all goes back to politics and the bottom line which is money and production of the product. An unfortunate truth. Sure, the farmers in Africa may have a small say in the use of this illegal labor– but most of that weight should come upon the huge corporations that are using these farms– it is they who have the resources to ensure that the cocoa they need is produced under ethical standards. These companies absolutely have the manpower and money to ensure that proper wages and working conditions are in place, and that child slave labor is not used on these farms, especially if those farms have already undergone the process of declaring themselves “fair trade”.

Chocolate is a sweet treat that most of us enjoy — but at what cost?

In the same response email, the F.E.P employee suggested that I watch Shady Chocolate, a documentary that showcases the ills of cocoa production within the industry. I was also given another resource to seek out; a report that was released last May: The Global Business of Forced Labour Report of Findings— this report showcases how prevalent child and slave labor, human trafficking and even kidnapping have been in West African countries that are key players in the cocoa industry. In the report, linked above, the cocoa industry findings begin on page 26.

I watched the documentary, eager to learn more. I had already committed to not eating chocolate from brands on the NR list, but the documentary sealed the deal for me. It was sickening to see the normalization of child and slave labor, and to see footage of a child crying after being trafficked to a neighboring country via bus, dropped off and left there to eventually be exploited for slave labor.

Please watch the documentary. I truly believe that it may spark something in you to want to purchase your chocolate more responsibly. This issue goes to the very heart of everything I believe in and am fighting for. When we have so many options available to us in 2019 when it comes to purchasing and enjoying products that contain cocoa responsibly, why would we pay people to use child and slave labor just so we can enjoy something sweet for a few moments?

I also urge you to download the app and use it as a resource when buying chocolate products. I feel the need to mention that this is completely unsponsored, but instead is stemming from my own journey and experience as I learn more about everything we buy and take into our bodies.

If you’re reading this, then you are likely blessed to have many resources available to you to that allow you to live, survive and even thrive in your life, such as a place to live, a phone, and food to eat. But chocolate is not a necessity in life– it is a luxury. That is all the more reason why you should try to purchase it responsibly. Don’t pay to support child labor and slavery. Once I understood that this is what I was doing, I knew I could no longer continue to do it with a clear conscious, especially not for a luxury food item.

Thank you for reading this blog post and please use your time and energy to seek out more responsible ways to get your food. Visit the links in the above paragraphs as a start to learn more. It all begins with us and as previously mentioned, we have a wealth of options available in this world to cause the least harm possible when it comes to what’s on our plates, so why not give it a shot?

Close-up chocolate image courtesy of Pixabay via