One of the questions I get asked most is, what do you eat when you go out?
Most people can grasp the concept of eating vegan at home because they can understand and imagine buying and preparing the right ingredients themselves, however the first restaurants, pubs or cafes that come to mind boast menus full of meat and dairy-laden options, which leaves them wondering where to go when you love food and want to dine out, but also want to order more than just a salad.
Thankfully a shift in collective consciousness has lead to more awareness around the food we choose to eat and where it actually comes from, leading to the growing popularity of veganism and in turn a huge growth in conscious menu planning at public restaurants, pubs and cafes.
Sydney has experienced a huge growth in veganism over the last few years with new cafes popping up seemingly overnight and some venues even making the switch to a 100% vegan menu including Gigi’s Pizzeria and Soulburger. Not to mention Sydney’s first vegan pub, The Green Lion, which offers meat and dairy-free alternatives to public classics like burgers, parmigiana and pizza.
You don’t have to go far now to find veg-friendly food in Sydney though if you like to compare your options or need a little help, Happy Cow is there to help. Happy Cow is the best online guide to find vegan, vegetarian and healthy food as well as loads of travel tips and recipes. The site has built quite a following during it’s 18 years and has grown a lovely community of like minded people.
I got together with Eric,the founder of Happy Cow, Linette Voller, Happy Cow Ambassador, and Sacha from The Green Lion while Eric was in Australia for Melbourne’s Vegan Festival, to talk about the best vegan eats in Sydney over a 100% cruelty-free pub feed at Sydney’s first and only 100% vegan pub, The Green Lion.
Here on Chelsey Crafts we checked out the burgers and nachos back in June 2017 (click here for that review), this time Sacha put together a feast of The Green Lion’s favourites, including the noteworthy “Seafood” Basket and the Vegan Caesar Salad.
I thought it’d be a bit of fun to play 20 Questions with Eric, which brought up some interesting concepts and might leave you wondering what it would be like to have a superpower which means you can live multiple lives at once..
20 Questions with Eric Brent, founder of Happy Cow
1. Let’s cut straight to the chase, why vegan?
E: I grew up on bad food and hated vegetables. When I was 19 and in college some friends pushed me to go to a veg restaurant and try a veggie burger. After my first bite I made a connection of where out food comes from and stopped meat immediately. After traveling to China and meeting some Buddhist teachers eventually about a year later I went fully vegan.
2. On that topic, what’s your favourite meal?
E: When I was younger I used to be a junk food vegan but after getting really sick in India numerous times I’m much more careful about what and how I eat. I prefer to eat healthy most of the time and sometimes indulge. If I had to name my favorite meal it would most likely be something relatively healthy like vegan sushi or a macro bowl.
3. Favourite recipe to cook?
E: I barely have time to cook or bake and when I do it’s usually something simple like banana walnut bread made with low oil and not too sweet.
4. What was your dream job when you were a child?
E: When I was young I dreamed of being an inventor. My idea was to create something that would make everybody’s lives easier and I actually went to college to learn engineering/robotics, then switched to AI and psychology is what I graduated with.
5. What has been your life’s greatest lesson?
E: Life is a dream. Much of my early years after college I spent with spiritual teachers and from the beginning it was clear that we are not who we think we are. Everything we think is a concept and keeps us from knowing who we are. Once you are aware of that and surrender, the Universe supports you and takes you where you need to go.
6. What is the most valuable thing you own?
E: Tied to the last point it must be knowing that I’m not anything, nor is it stuff which make us happy. Even if there were something I don’t believe we can really own anything, although stuff sometimes “owns” us. We can hold onto things for a while, but eventually it all leaves us or we go. Additionally from years of traveling out of a suitcase I’ve learned to live with very little. There aren’t many things I feel I need.
7. How would you describe you perfect day?
E: Perfect day? A trick question? LOL. I love waking up feeling rested, hearing the ocean, roll out of bed, I eat a fresh papaya, and go for a swim in a tropical warm sea. Snorkel to a deserted beach, meditate for a little while, and listen to the nature around me. Swim back and check a drop of email just to confirm that everything is running fine without me. Meet some friends for lunch at a vegan place and have an amazing meal. Go for a bike ride to a hiking trail. After hiking for about an hour I reach a beautiful waterfall and go for a swim. Break out some rambutan and fresh mango to snack on. Head back to my room and have a nap before heading out to dinner later. In the evening I hang out with close friends in a hammock under the stars. Where am I do you know? Srithanu, plus a bit of dreaming.
8. If you could go back 5 years in your life, what advice would you give yourself?
E: It’s going to be better than you think, but enjoy each day now as much as possible.
9. What experiences have most shaped who you are today?
E: Meeting a spiritual teacher named Robert Adams when I was 21. He blew away every concept I had of who I was and helped me live a life of freedom.
10. What is your biggest achievement?
E: Well I’ve been running HappyCow 18 years now and sticking with this project for so long has been challenging at times. But where it is right now is amazing and even though I can’t credit it to myself alone being here for it now is definitely a big achievement.
11. If you could go any place in the world right now, where would you go?
E: I’ve been exhausting that list for years now. For the reasons mentioned above there’s one place I always love to go back to and would always like to be, that’s Srithanu in Thailand.
12. If you could have one superpower, which would you choose?
E: Even though I see life as a dream I’m sort of an experience junky and having a superpower which allowed me to live multiple lives at the same time would be very cool.
13. What makes you feel most fulfilled?
E: Surrender. Deep breath, this moment, right now, total fulfillment.
14. What are you most passionate about?
E: Peace. Veganism, Vegan food, Compassion.
15. Where is your favourite travel destination?
E: Srithanu. Second place, when the weather is warm, Warsaw Poland for the vegan restaurants and scene.
16. What’s your story?
E: My story? I love traveling and even when I was 14 I traveled alone to Europe. From 18 I started making trips to Europe as soon as I could save money. After college I moved to Finland and then traveled by train to China where I ran out of money. I got to Taiwan and found that I could teach English a few months of the year and travel for the rest of the year on the money I earned. I did this for about 15 years. I also had an import business and did massage therapy to support my travels to over fifty countries. I still love to travel but with all the responsibilities I have it’s hard to get away.
17. What personal passion project are you working on right now?
E: I can only say HappyCow. It’s always been a passion and it’s so intense that it takes every free moment I have.
18. What would you like to create in the world that doesn’t exist?
E: Vegan string cheese? Just kidding, I’m not a good scientist. It would be cool to create something like an app or a video which breaks through the barriers of every meat eater on how they can continue to eat meat and not feel what it is on a deeper level. Documentaries and YouTubers have been out doing great work to this regard, but I still feel there could be a magic key that nobody found yet, which could just crack open every hard nut.
19. What are you most proud of?
E: Proud that I’ve nearly completed answering these questions, lol. Proud that in my life I’ve been able to live outside of the box and venture so many different parts of the world.
20. Where do you see yourself and/or Happy Cow in 10 years from now?
E: Hopefully in 10 years a site like HappyCow will be obsolete and vegan will be the norm. I feel it’s really possible especially if you add in what in in-vitro meat will be doing. Perhaps then I’ll be able to hang in srithanu without the Internet.
A huge thanks (and congrats) to Eric for getting through those 20 questions! It’s great to see so much compassion and passion being shared with others. Now, back to that dream…