Howdy chums. Today’s TIWAVLL (This Is What A Vegan Looks Like) is the fantastic vegan and all-round mega-dude Ava Szajna-Hopgood.
Ava’s a freelance writer living in North London. Her blog – Guac and Roll – is firmly in my bookmarked list as it’s a joy to read, utterly beautiful and has a squillion (I counted) tips and guides to eating out. But don’t just take my word for it. Ava’s blog has featured on Vice’s Munchies, as a Top Food Blog on Creative Tourist and Cut Out + Keep. As well as those places, her food writing pops up on The Debrief, Hello Giggles and Chickpea Magazine.
In 2015, alongside running the Guac & Roll blog, Ava began working on Guac & Roll Kitchen and Guac & Roll Bakes. She now caters for small parties and special occasions, and bakes sweet-as-anything cakes, pies, tarts and brownies for other vegan food businesses.
Ava’s philosophy is wonderful and as her cooking, she is a tonne of fun to hang out with and she has a bunny called Buddy who is THA CUTEST.
Over you you Ava:
1/ What made you go vegan?
I was raised vegetarian which I am so, so grateful for. It meant that I never took eating meat for granted and that I grew up pretty comfortable with sticking to my beliefs in what I was eating. In my teens I started rebelling- we lived out in the countryside and I would try to eat anything that was put in front of me. A lot of my friends grew up with Boxing Day Hunts and being very involved in the rural farming community. That was never me, but I am also really grateful for knowing that world. I’m not ignorant to what it’s like to shoot your own pheasants or know people that go hunting.
By the time I was 22 and living in London, I decided I wanted to start thinking long and hard about eating meat and the ethics behind it. I think the minute I consciously opened up to listening to all the facts that are out there about how much meat we consume, and the quality of life we allow for animals that become our food, I couldn’t go any further with a laissez faire vegetarian diet. So I became vegan overnight (over lunch!) but really, I see those earlier experiences as vital in me getting to that point, and staying vegan.
2/ If you could only watch 3 TV programmes for the rest of your life, what would they be?
The day Netflix uploads E.R., I’m going off grid. Parks & Rec for the LULZ – defo would love to have a P&R marathon with Jen (from @winfriendswithsalad too!) and Buffy.
3/ What or where’s your favorite place in the entire world?
Bloody hell that’s hard! I don’t know if I’ve been to enough places yet! I love waking up at my best friend’s Heather’s house in Berlin though. Her room is big enough for two double beds and we usually have started laughing at some stupid joke before we’re even properly awake. And there are vegan burgers in walking distance…
4/ What are the vegan options like where you live?
They’re looking up! I feel like 2016 has definitely been a tipping point for London and veganism- in the number of businesses open and how the ones already doing an awesome job are treated. I’ve worked for Club Mexicana since summer 2015 and we’re now seven days a week at Camden, with loads of vegan customers every day, which is so wonderful to see. At the moment I’m working at their Hawker House site on Friday and Saturday nights and it’s so great when people come back for more- as well as converting people to try the vegan option.
It’s brilliant to see Cook Daily expanding, What The Pitta doing so well, Mildreds adding extra branches and awesome companies like Pomodoro e Basilico constantly selling out at every market. It finally feels like there is a grass roots move to veganism here- and a real, true community behind it that really care for each other.
I have to say it’s also amazing have vegan PALZ to go to all of these places with. Like Hannah (me!) , I don’t have a partner that is vegan, and although he’s great at going with all the vegan food I make at home, having a friendship group that are just as obsessed as I am with the garlic mayo at Mildred’s has changed a lot of how I perceive London as a vegan.
5/ What is your idea of happiness?
Ever since I left a full time job to be a freelance food writer I think I’ve woken up happy every single day. It’s not an easy way to live- I’ve never worked harder and weekends or holidays without emails no longer exist- but I’ve also never felt more content. I’m really thankful that going vegan and starting Guac & Roll has meant I can develop a niche and share my discoveries and adventures with people that want to hear them. I wake up every day so happy to be able to do that!
6/ Which three other vegans would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
Aghhhhhhhhhh it would have to be Alicia Silverstone, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Stevie Wonder.
7/ Do you have a favorite motto, if so, what is it?
Try a little tenderness.
8/ What are your all-time fave vegan things to eat?
I love the tofish tacos at Club Mexicana, the burgers from Yellow Sunshine Burger in Berlin and the Jungle Curry from Cook Daily. Other than that, anything Tsouni from @yesitsallvegan has ever made, and my parents’ vegan cooking, which is INCREDIBLE.
9/ What song do you most like to dance to at a party?
Chaka Khan’s I Feel For You is my favourite for empty warehouse dancing, or I love going all out to The Clash’s Train In Vain at a packed house party (and probably making everyone hate me).
10/ Who in the world would you most like to see go vegan?
As many people as possible! As many that can. I don’t care who it is- just to see the message for a kinder life spreading is wonderful.