Top class vegetarian food at the Whale Tail Café in Lancaster
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 April 2018
As veganism becomes the fastest growing lifestyle movement in the UK, Rebekka O'Grady speaks to a popular Lancaster café to get an insider look at what it means to be a convert.
It’s been described as the fastest growing lifestyle movement by the Vegan Society and recent research claims that more than a quarter of all evening meals in the UK are vegan or vegetarian. Vegans steer clear of eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients. They also avoid foods that are processed using animal products.
‘We have certainly seen a rise in people becoming vegan, not just an interest in food but drinks too,’ said Tricia Rawlinson, owner of the Whale Tail Café in Lancaster. Established for over 25 years, it has become a go-to destination for tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes.
‘There is such a good range of vegan alternatives available now. Most people who come into the café are extremely well informed about veganism as it’s a lifestyle decision that they have made for themselves. It’s becoming so popular now that places you wouldn’t have expected now how have a whole vegan menu on offer.’
In 2016 a commission by the Vegan Society found there are now three and a half times as many vegans as there were in 2006, when the estimated number was just 150,000. The research, carried out by Ipsos Mori, suggested there were at least 542,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales following a vegan diet of plant based foods - a figure which has no doubt risen today in 2018.
There are various reasons behind the decision for becoming vegan, be it environmental or animal rights, or to lead a healthier diet. The common stereotype is that it’s boring food that will leave you malnourished, and is only eaten by hippies. However as it comes further into the mainstream, there is an increasing focus on shifting that perception.
‘Vegans are very keen to research and are always checking out new products, so I get a lot of feedback about what is new out there,’ said Tricia, who is currently a vegetarian but is moving toward becoming vegan. ‘The Vegan Society has been around for the best part of 70 years but it’s now more than ever that it’s becoming a proper lifestyle choice. At the café we are constantly looking at different ways to eat and cook, it’s certainly an exciting time to be in catering.’
For Tricia, she firmly believes that you don’t miss out on any nutrients that you would have got from dairy or meat products. She says that you can get everything you need from tofu, nuts, beans, milk and of course, vegetables.
‘It’s all there, ready for you to eat and nothing has been harmed or intensely farmed in the process. We are lucky to have a brilliant wholefood co-op, Single Step, below the café, which is celebrating its 42nd year. We always get good quality produce from them.’ Larger retailers are now clambering to supply the increasing demand, with many offering more vegan own-brand products and companies are introducing vegan-friendly varieties of popular products, even Bailey’s made from almond milk. This change in perception is proving that you don’t miss out on tasty food while vegan.
‘If it’s not good enough, it doesn’t go onto the specials board,’ said Tricia, while discussing the Whale Tail’s varied menu that includes breakfast, lunch and a daily specials board. Their vegan breakfast was named one of the best in the country by the animal rights group, PETA.
‘The burgers are very popular; we have varieties such as chickpea and apricot, or wild mushroom and walnut. Our curries, such as cauliflower, butternut squash and chickpea korma, and falafel are also a popular choice. They’re all very tasty, fulfilling and healthy meals.’
For many people, their step into veganism has been through ‘Veganuary’, a campaign which challenges people to try veganism in the hope they will either give up or reduce their consumption of animal products. Some will have seen it as a fashionable fad to jump onto, but for others it’s resulted in a permanent change.
‘I knew quite a lot of people who took part in Veganuary and are struggling to go back to eating dairy and meat,’ said Tricia. ‘I know someone who found these products too rich to return to. But you don’t have to worry that you’ll never be able to eat treats like a rich chocolate cake again. Eating what you enjoy while vegan is still easy to do; it’s just a different way of doing it.’