The Female Focus: Amy Smith

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Introducing Amy Smith…

The vegan movement has gathered momentum over the past few years, with the younger generation increasingly turning to plant based diets for environmental and health reasons. Fascinated by this growing trend, we talked to Amy Smith who runs the vegan-based food blog Little Nibble to talk common misconceptions, health benefits and how you can still enjoy a sausage roll as a guilty pleasure.

Hi Amy, we love what you're doing with Little Nibble. Tell us more about what inspired you to start the blog and why you're dispelling the myth that going vegan isn't easy?

 I originally started collecting recipes that I used on a regular basis because I had been diagnosed with a pretty severe wheat intolerance and everyone kept moaning it must be a nightmare to cook but mostly that they’d never have me round for dinner because they’ve have no idea what to make for me. So, me being me, as a bit of a “fuck you, it’s easy” along with a heavy amount of encouragement from my friend Dom, aka my first cheerleader, I started Little Nibble. My intention at this point was not to go vegan! EVER. But, life is weird and I ended up going down the vegan route and realising that this space I have on the internet is a really important tool for me to talk about how easy and wonderful being vegan can be. I was put off veganism for years because I didn’t know how to do it, it felt extreme and I didn’t know any vegans. Ok, I still only know a handful in real life but instagram is full to the brim of incredible vegans, spreading a message in a peaceful and friendly manner. I can sometimes see people’s faces shudder when I mention that I am vegan and I hate that! All I want is to create a safe space for me to talk to people at any stage of their journey (vegan or not), show them that the food is amazing and that you can wear pretty cool non-leather shoes - hello vegan Dr Martens!

That’s a bit of a ramble, nut in a nutshell, Little Nibble the vegan blog, was an accident and I now just want to talk to everyone about how we can thrive while being a bit more vegan.

Although you now live in Glasgow you're originally from Somerset and went to art school in Norwich - what inspired you to make the move to Scotland?

I’d love to say that moving to Scotland was part of a grand master plan but unfortunately it was on a whim, like all huge decisions are right? I graduated with a photography degree and had no idea what direction to go in, I was starting to lose hope that I’d be able to work in the field that I desperately wanted to be in. Luckily, I was working at schuh and an assistant photographer job came up and I thought “ah, sure, I’ll give that a go for a couple of years” and almost 10 years on, I’ve made a home in Glasgow and I’m the Photography Manager at schuh. Glasgow is so very different to Bridgwater where I grew up, but Glasgow is the most wonderful, interesting and vibrant city, I’m so happy to call it home. Glasgow has some of the best vegan markets, restaurants and people (not that I am biased or anything)!

 You're a creative and work as a photography manager, has this job helped when it came to set up your own venture? If so, how?

Absolutely yes. I’ve had to learn how to focus being creative into getting shit done which is a skill that doesn’t come easy, or at least it didn’t to me. Sometimes getting something done is better than making it perfect, that sounds like crappy advice but I promise, it’s good. I would rather put a rushed, messy snap of salad bowl (read: bodge job nachos) in Pizza Hut to prove that you can eat some nachos at a pizza chain instead of clearing the table, getting a new bowl and trying to do some styling in my local Pizza Hut - even I have my limits.

Being a creative always helps when planning (or often just winging), my brain literally thinks in photographs. Yes, I am the foodie in the restaurant eating slightly cold food, yes you need to wait for the OK before you take a fork full of your food babe and no, you can’t eat that pudding in the fridge with the post it on, I’ve not photographed yet. I am a delight to be around. Having a natural creative streak with a learned get shit done attitude has really helped me just put content out there on my instagram and start my venture of selling prints and tops because there really is no harm in trying!

What spurred you on to become vegan?

So I’ve always considered myself a bit of a hippy who is obsessed with oceans, especially whales and dolphins. After watching Blackfish and The Cove, I started to look more into the state of our seas because I became heavily upset at the way we, as humans have been treating these magnificent and intelligent beings, then what are we doing to their habitat? I’d always been a big meat and cheese eater but I started questioning the responsibility I (and everyone else) has to our planet, and began to be proactive about making a change.

In recent years the vegan movement has arguably become a lot more mainstream. Do you see this as a positive? Or do you still think there is a long way to go?

It’s definitely a positive, I mean we can buy a hot sausage roll from Greggs when we’re on the run! We can order a Papa Johns pizza to be delivered and buy a banging lasagne from M&S. I still can’t get over that this is where we are in 2019. Personally, I think that it is so important that we support vegan choices in non-vegan shops and restaurants to prove that there is demand. The fact that big companies are bringing out vegan lines means that there is money in it and this should be celebrated! We created that demand!

Unfortunately, with everything that becomes popular there are always voices that will constantly point the finger at people not being vegan enough, rubbish. Sadly, those voices are often the loudest which is why I try to be a positive voice to encourage people to try vegan food and show everyone that it’s easier and more importantly, it’s tasty!

 What are the common misconceptions that come with being vegan and how are you looking to fight against this?

That I eat grass. Or that I’m no fun. Or that I only eat chips. That I’m ill informed about farming methods. That I am constantly angry. It’s expensive. Veganism is restrictive. Veganism is a diet.

I’ve never eaten grass. I LOVE fun. I do eat chips but I also eat a wide variety of food. Farming methods, especially fishing methods started this journey, I do my research. I AM ANGRY! But I channel my anger because there’s no point ranting and raving in people’s faces. Mate, beans are not expensive, veganism can’t be as cheap or as expensive as you like.

Veganism is not restrictive! Let me say that again for the people in the back. VEGANISM IS NOT RESTRICTIVE. There appears to be a trend at the minute of influencers leaving veganism because they are too sick to continue. I’m not not going to name any of them because I think they’re getting too much air time (he who shall not be named in particular), but all of the videos I’ve seen with influencers coming out as no longer vegan have been restricting their diets, juice cleanses, water fasts and raw diets are NOT VEGANISM.  Personally, my world of vegansim, I’ve gone from hating a lot of foods and having a wheat intolerance to my body curing the wheat intolerance and trying more and more foods. I even like mushrooms now, my mother, the original mushroom hater in my life, is raging.  This leads on pretty well to veganism not being a diet. Being vegan is so much bigger than the food on your plate. Seriously, if you go down the rabbit hole, there’s so much to think about. Everything from the shoes on your feet to the dye in your hair can be non-vegan.

Told you I was angry…  

Tell us your favourite vegan brands, restaurants, products... We're always a fan of a good recommendation! 

The Vegan Kind Supermarket are your one stop shop for everything that you can’t find in your local supermarket. https://www.thevegankindsupermarket.com

If you’re in Glasgow like me and you haven’t been to Lotus then let’s go babe. For real, it is the best Chinese that I’ve ever had and I’ll happily take you! Oh, also Dennistoun BBQ have an INSANE vegan burger and Pizza East do very affordable pizzas that make me want to cry with joy. I get emotional over good food ok?!

But big chains like Zizzi and  Pizza Express have really decent vegan options now so there’s always an option to try. For make up and skincare, get to Superdrug, all of their own brand products are vegan and very clearly labelled and affordable so they are my one stop shop for my skin. 

GIN IS ALWAYS VEGAN. That’s probably the most important piece of info there… but there’s a website called Barnivore (http://www.barnivore.com) which is a massive index of vegan booze so you can always use that to check that there isn’t anything nasty in the alcohol.

We'd also love to hear where we can clue ourselves up more on the benefits of going vegan. Any articles, books, podcasts or bloggers you'd recommend we buy / follow?

Ok, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole here, I’d keep it simple to start with, follow some Instagram accounts:

For all the BEST food:

@hetface and her husband @poweredbypineapples (good food, hilarious, dogs, what more could you want?)
@sophie.bullimore who is an insane baker
@hench_herbivore PT and nutritionist giving out no nonsense health advice
@thezestylime

For good food and vegan food for children:

@abbyavocado
@carrotsncashews

For a mix of food, articles and opinions:

@_iheartvegan_
@tofeelhealed

For activism:

@veganmama_katherine
@katelouisepowell 

I’d spend some time looking at Earthling Ed’s YouTube channel, he’s such a calm, gentle soul who speaks with such rational clarity (I mean did you see him on This Morning last year?). I personally find his manner very understanding but firm. He’s definitely one to watch to learn a lot.

Books:

Eat, Drink and Live like you Give a Shit - Fat Gay Vegan. This reads like advice from your friendly, vegan uncle. Sean cuts through the nonsense, the fad diets and tells you that it’s OK to swap your junk food for vegan junk food. Sean O'Callaghan also has a blog so follow him on all his social accounts and sign up to his emails. He is a fountain of vegan knowledge.

How not to die - Dr Michael Greger. I have this book at it’s basically an encyclopaedia of illnesses and the related food that can help. I LOVE THIS SHIT. I’ve always thought food and illness was linked and Dr Greger has spent his life trying to prove that a plant based, whole food diet is healthy as hell. If you don’t want to read the book (it’s gigantic), then he has a podcast too.

 Looking to the future - what's next for Little Nibble Vegan and what's the grand plan?

The grand plan is to invest even more time into Little Nibble to keep spreading that friendly, vegan message so I’ve started to make some fun merch, tote bags and tops to sell, which helps to pay a few bills so hopefully I’ll start to sell at local vegan or craft festivals this year. My tote bags are legit flying out of stock which is so exciting! I don’t think I’ll ever get over that feeling of someone giving me money for something that I’ve designed, it’s wild! I want to create more of a community with the people I know on instagram and the people who buy my merch to support me, I have a couple of ideas so I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as my next idea comes to light! 

 What's a quote / saying that you live by?

Just one? Ok, the main one is “In a world where you can be anything, be kind”

I have no idea who said it first but there is so much hate and anger in the world that I think if everyone added a little kindness into their day then we’d all be able to support each other more, rather than tear people down.

But also, I once went to a talk by Bob, who used to be Vegan Geezer but is now the dad in Family Freedom who gave out some great advice, he started a YouTube channel years ago and when someone asked how they could figure out what their niche could be he simply replied that your viewpoint is your niche, you’re the only one doing veganism your way. I loved that!