I caught up with Thomas Erex - founder of the Danish Vegan Society - to talk about food, diet, and dating.
When did you discover and start to explore your passion for food?
When I was a child, I loved cooking with my mom. She would always be in the kitchen, preparing something delicious for me and my brother - the kitchen was where the fun was.
I loved food so much that I gained a lot of weight and started to feel really bad about myself. Around age 13, I lost it all and gained a new perspective on food. I learned that food should be mainly healthy as well as fun, colourful and delicious. I started to cook a lot more and I introduced a lot more greens into our meals.
I was in no way vegetarian or vegan at this point, but I just started to explore fruits and veggies a lot more. My passion for food and cooking only grew stronger, and I kept playing with ingredients.
What led you to committing to a vegan diet?
It’s difficult to pinpoint what made me go vegan. A series of events probably influenced me to go in that direction, but I think that I’ve always had it in me.
All you really have to agree to - to go vegan - is that it’s wrong to harm animals unnecessarily. Who doesn’t agree to that? You just have to realise what that means.
When I watched the documentary Earthlings, I realised that I was contributing to unnecessary animal suffering, and that I could stop. So, I immediately stopped eating meat, and gradually phased out all other animal products over the course of a month. That was it. I was vegan.
Subsequently, I educated myself further and learned about the massive environmental benefits and the health benefits of a plant-based diet and life.
Does Danish cuisine lend itself to being a vegan?
Danish cuisine is meaty, cheesy, buttery, bacony. We like thick gravy and potatoes on the side of any cut of meat. Naturally, this can be a challenge when you want to avoid animal products, but it’s a fun challenge when you like to cook.
I’ve come up with recipes for vegan versions of some of the traditional Danish dishes, and they’ve been received very well. I especially like when non-vegans write to me and say that they loved my vegan version better than the animal-based version. That makes it all worth it.
While Danish cuisine isn’t the most vegan-friendly, that’s just a fun challenge - it means that there’s room for a lot more vegetables, and I think the Danes are ready for it. Young Danes are eating more and more plant-based foods because they’re concerned about their health, animal welfare, and the environment.
What are some of your favourite dishes to cook?
When I have the time to be in the kitchen all day, I love to just experiment with the ingredients I have in the fridge and see where it goes. Sometimes you make a little masterpiece and sometimes you fail horribly. But that’s okay, you have to have fun with it.
When I’m not experimenting, I like to cook curries with whatever vegetables are in season, I like to cook pasta dishes - like my lasagna or bolognese - and I like to make pizza. In general, I’m a really big fan of Italian food. I’m also a really big fan of pleasing my friends with my food, so I cook the things they like, which means pasta, pizza, burgers and the like.
Does being vegan make dating more complicated?
Luckily, my vegan milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, so I’m doing alright. But yes. In some ways it does. Finding vegan food for a date is pretty easy where I live, but being vegan is not just about what’s not on my plate. I have a set of beliefs that go against a huge part of our culture.
I strongly believe that it’s wrong to make animals suffer for your own pleasure when you have a choice not to. Maybe you can imagine why this isn’t really a good topic for a first date when you want to get to know someone and have a good time. Ultimately, though, I don’t want to date someone who isn’t open to veganism or who just sees me as a vegan. It’s a big part of me, but I’m a lot more than that.
If someone was thinking about embracing a vegan diet, what advice or guidance would you give them?
Any vegan will tell you that going vegan has been the best decision of their life, so go for it. Take it one step at the time and educate yourself along the way.
Knowledge is power, and there are so many great sources available for free online. The more I know, the more that I’m sure that I’ve made a really good choice by going vegan. Let yourself be inspired to live a more healthy, ethical, and sustainable lifestyle.