Author of the cult Jadłonomia blog, Marta Dymek talks to the Insider about her vegetarian mission.
Where did your vegetarian path begin?
The tipping point was stealing my classmate’s lunch when I was 16! I was a picky teenager who hated steak, kiełbasa and even my grandmother’s schabowy. That lunch turned out to be the first thing I liked so much. I started asking my classmate about being vegetarian and immediately understood that this was my future. When I came home I announced, “mum, dad, I’m vegetarian.” That was a relief and the beginning of the greatest adventure of my life.
Have you tried veganism?
I only cook vegan! I can’t accept the way that dairy is produced nowadays: it’s so environmentally damaging and unsustainable. The livestock industry is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and the mass production of milk and yogurt is one of the biggest ecological disasters ever. The dairy produced this way is of very low quality, full of antibiotics, and that’s before mentioning how the cows even live. Of course, there are small eco farms using ethical methods, but these are expensive and hard to find in groceries. So as a food blogger I decided to show that plant-based cooking can be a mouthwatering alternative.
Who are some of your culinary inspirations?
Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi. He published an amazing book Plenty focused just on veggies, lentils and grains. Although he is a meat eater he treats veggies very seriously and he’s aware how important they are. I also appreciate British food writer Nigel Slater, who wrote an enormous tome Tender about fruits and vegetables – no-one can describe aubergine in such a beautiful way or understand the nature of the gooseberry as well as he does. But my ultimate and once in a lifetime inspiration is Amanda Cohen, a vegetarian chef from NYC who created brave new flavors using meat free ingredients. Think aubergine tiramisu and beet caramel. Everything is possible in her kitchen.
Where do vegetarians stand in Warsaw?
Right now we’re fully satisfied! Last year was crucial; all of a sudden every cafe served soy milk, each restaurant had a vegetarian option for lunch, and there were a lot of new decent vegetarian and vegan spots, including vegan burger places – in particular, they’ve got great flavors and give you super powers! And they’re undeniable proof that being vegetarian doesn’t hurt. Even food critic Maciej Nowak is starting to forgive vegetarians and goes the extra mile to understand us! Meatless restaurants have also popped up in Poznań, Wrocław and Kraków, though vegetarians living in smaller towns have not been so spoiled.
What difficulties do they face eating out?
It’s very likely that if you go to a restaurant in a small town, a vegetarian dish might be understood to be chicken or fish. If you’re lucky you’ll have pierogi with a salad of some sort, but you’d better forget about soup because as these are always cooked using a meat stock. Of course, it’s also much more difficult to buy specific ingredients, like vegetarian pate or soy milk.
Are you one of those Morrissey-style people who thinks meat is murder?
I’m not sure I speak the same language as Morrissey does, although I might agree with him on some points. Morrissey’s field is public space, mine is the kitchen, so we use different methods to promote vegetarianism – he shocks the public with extreme and radical statements, while I work with meat-free products to extract the best taste. Both ways serve the same purpose.
What is the secret to a healthy diet?
For me the key is seasonal, local and unprocessed food. To do so the best way is to follow the different seasons – in winter that means digging into root veggies and grains; in spring grabbing fresh leaves and herbs; in summer picking the ripest fruits and vegetables; and in the autumn once again looking into roots and bulbs. Easy, right?