Marieke is a screenwriter, blogger, radio broadcaster, columnist and a regular panelist on ABC's First Tuesday Book Club. Marieke was our March 2011 Vegan Easy Challenge Ambassador.
By the way, we should also mention that she's Vegan!
Q: What made you become a vegan and when?
Marieke: In 2008 my beloved friend and bane of my existence Lindsay McDougall kind of dared me to go vegan for a week during World Vegetarian Week. At
that point I was a full omnivore - I ate everything in my path, with gluttony and gusto. Given that I had spent the last two years teasing Lindsay about being a sanctimonious, iron-deficient bubble boy I figured I may as well give it a try. I was already a ferocious animal lover, though had never, or perhaps never wanted to, made the connection between these beautiful living creatures and the food that was on my plate.
During that one week, something significant clicked inside me. It was like a light turning on in a darkened room. Everything suddenly felt right. I couldn't believe how easy being a vegan was (now I'm sounding like Moira on Bert Newton's morning show). I haven't touched meat or fish since then, and my life is inherently richer for it.
Q: What's your favourite meal?
Marieke: It would be absolutely impossible for me to choose one as vegan meals
are like my children and I LOVE THEM ALL, but recently I had an eggplant dish with walnut and halva at Melbourne restaurant Maha and it was so good I cried and had to go and hug the chef.
Q: What do you cook the best, do you have a favourite recipe you'd like to share?
Marieke: I am a voracious cook, and while I'm a huge fan of cookbooks Veganomicon and Vegan Yum Yum, almost everything I make these days is from the brilliant Carla at easyasveganpie.net. I am completely obsessed with her. She is a wonder. I met her once and grew very shy.
Her mushroom bourguignon is out of this world - go look it up and make it, immediately - though a real crowd-pleaser is her cauliflower and caramelised onion tart:
1 medium head of cauliflower
3 tbsp of olive oil
2 large brown onions
1 tbsp of sugar
1 300gm packet of silken or soft tofu
2 tbsp of
1 tbsp of dijon mustard
1 sheet of puff pastry
1/4 cup of cheezly*
Trim the cauliflower into florets, toss in 2 tbsps of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast at 200 degrees until they go golden (about 20 minutes). While the cauliflower is roasting, slice the onions into thin rings, drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp of oil and cook on medium high heat in a heavy bottom pan, being careful not to brown them too much. Once the onion has wilted, turn the heat onto low, add the sugar, toss and cover the pan with a lid or a heat proof bowl, checking and stirring every 10 minutes or so. The onions should be done around the 30 minute mark, they will be soft, sweet and a deep golden brown.
Drain the tofu and whizz in a food processor with the nutritional yeast and some of the caramelised onions. Line your pie pan (I use a 9 inch) with your pastry, prick the bottom about 10 times, then smear
the dijon on the base. Put the onions on the mustard then roughly chop your roasted cauliflower and arrange in the pie shell and smear the tofu mixture over the top, knocking the pie onto your bench a few times to make sure it fills all the little nooks and crannies.
Sprinkle with Cheezly and bake at 200 for about 30 minutes or until the top goes golden brown. Pie is best left to sit for about 10 minutes before slicing for the tofu to set.
Q: Are many of your family and friends vegans?
Marieke: Apart from Lindsay, no - not really. I have some vegetarian friends but almost everyone I know eats meat and dairy. I don't see it as my place to lecture them about their eating habits - what they do is their choice and I love them - though I try to make veganism seem more exciting simply by cooking OUTRAGEOUSLY AWESOME FOOD. I think once people realise that there's so much more to vegan food
than broccoli and quinoa, and additionally that there's no shame in mispronouncing 'quinoa', their world opens up gastronomically.
Q: What makes you happy?
Marieke: Being with my dog, Bob Ellis, scratching the bellies of the pigs at Edgar's Mission, cooking enormous feasts whilst drinking wine, and reading books at the dinner table. Please note: if you date somebody who doesn't mind that you read at the dinner table - who in fact does the same thing themselves - MARRY THEM, THEY ARE WHAT IS KNOWN IN THE BUSINESS AS A 'KEEPER'
Q: What do you do to relax and unwind?
Marieke: The aforementioned reading at the dinner table does it. Books, food and animals are my passion.
Q: How do you keep fit?
Marieke: I walk Bob Ellis every day and I also go to the gym three or four times a week to do classes. I am spectacularly uncoordinated, so I like to think that my comedic efforts in
spin and weights classes at least serve to make other people briefly happy.
Q: Do you have a favourite movie/book/blog that inspired you that you'd like to share?
Marieke: Outside of Carla's blog - which I check every day - I would say Jonathan Safran Foer's 'Eating Animals' is a great and inspiring thing to read. It's not preachy, or hard-hitting - it's calmly stated and beautifully written facts about where our food comes from.
Reading recipes is like porn for me, so many happy hours have been spent perusing the Vegan Easy food links. I spent an obscene amount of time staring at the photograph for sticky date pudding. I may have started making involuntary little moaning noises.
Q: Do you have a favourite restaurant?
Marieke: Maha, without question. I also love Rumi in Lygon street and Attica in Elsternwick. I always call a day ahead to let them know a vegan will be amongst their diners. They appreciate the heads up and the results are usually brilliant. Attica's vegan degustation is outrageously good.
Q: What's been the best part of being a vegan?
Marieke: Feeling happy, healthy and
connected to my food. I am excited to know that what I eat doesn't hurt another living being, nor cause anyone pain.
Q: Have you found any difficulties being vegan?
Marieke: I was trapped in Iceland due to the volcano last year, and figure if I can be vegan there I can be vegan anywhere! Sometimes travelling can be tough, but the combination of planning ahead and taking food with you wherever you go makes it much easier.
The foxy Sarah Kramer's brilliant book 'Vegan a Go-Go!: A Cookbook & Survival Manual for Vegans on the Road' is a worthwhile pocked-sized investment.
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