I have followed Nouveau Potato for years. Not only is she rated in the top 20 of Melbourne’s top food bloggers, she reviews Vegetarian food. Not vegetarian restaurants, mind you, but vegetarian food. Now, for those of you that are vegetarian or support Meatless Mondays, believe me, her blog is a god send.
And for those of you who aren’t vegetarian, her blog will take you through all the other aspects of the restaurant – service, timing, wine list, quality of food etc… It’s my go-to guide when I’m trying to plan a nice dinner party with friends. So you can imagine my delight when Nouveau Potato herself agreed to an interview! It was like walking with the food gods. Here’s how it went:
Tiny Green Hands: So, tell us a bit about yourself – who are you, what do you do, why do you do it?
Nouveau Potato: I love food. I am vegetarian. And I am a blogger. Before I started Nouveau Potato, I was becoming frustrated being given menus with salad as the only option, vegetarian was used as a euphemism for dieting and reviews would label restaurants as ‘good for vegetarians’ just because there was choice, regardless of quality. I believe that is changing now. Once I wrote a review of a cafe saying I was still hungry afterwards. A chef saw it and wrote she would use this with her students as an example on how vegetarian food still needs to be substantial. This made me very happy.
Tiny Green Hands: What caused you to shift to a vegetarian lifestyle?
Nouveau Potato: I became vegetarian when I was only twelve years old, so it was not so much about the lifestyle (I probably didn’t even understand the concept of lifestyle back then), it was more a realisation that I didn’t want to eat meat and that these days humans do not need meat to survive. For me eating meat is like eating my puppy dog. She is far too cute to be eaten. But I also felt that I had no right to take an animal’s life. The idea of it began to disgust me.
Tiny Green Hands: You seem to have travelled far and wide – how does Australia stand up internationally for vegetarian food?
Nouveau Potato: We are lucky in Australia that everyone understands vegetarianism and that most eateries will have at least one vegetarian option. But there is still a long way to go, which is why I first started Nouveau Potato. The best eating experiences I have ever had were in India and in Spain. In parts of India, vegetarian eating is the norm and this really shows in the health and flavour of their cooking. I had some wonderful meals. I particularly remember a chickpea curry from a restaurant in Jaisalmer. The restaurant was purely vegetarian and frequented by army men. Can you imagine the army eating daily at a vegetarian restaurant in Australia? They also had amazing Thali where our plates were continually filled with curries, we wouldn’t realize just how full we were until we tried to stand up!
The Spanish are not pro-vegetarian but they have fabulous restaurants that understand innovation and create food as art. This meal in particular was astounding: http://nouveaupotato.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/most-amazing-food-experience-i-have.html I was in awe as each dish appeared.
Tiny Green Hands: I’ve heard stories of some vegetarians and vegans being judged for their choices – have you had to deal with any criticism?
Nouveau Potato: People do criticise, but just as I don’t pressure people with my own beliefs, they should not pressure me for mine. My mother, who would make most of my meals as a child, was very against me being vegetarian. For years would try to spike my food with meat. Others warn me that it is unhealthy. The best is when people bring religion into it: “In the bible God says we should eat meat!” I never quite know how to respond to that one…other than to politely walk away.
Tiny Green Hands: How has being a vegetarian changed your relationship to food?
Nouveau Potato: I have always loved food and being vegetarian did not change that. Blogging, on the other hand, definitely changed my relationship with food. I started to appreciate each meal even more, studying the flavours and cooking techniques.
Tiny Green Hands: Will you play our “Tiny Threes” game? Basically all you have to do is pick three cheap and easy things that you do from each category that would only be a tiny change for other people to adopt.
Nouveau Potato: Sure. Sounds fun.
Tiny Green Hands: What are your three favourite food related activities?
1) Weekend breakfasts are very special. I love spending them with family or friends, making eggs and toast, with a dollop of kasundi, then discussing life over multiple cups of properly brewed tea.
2) I don’t do nearly enough baking. There is something beautiful about cakes fresh out the oven.
3) Walking along the beach in summer with ice-cream. I think that is everyone’s favourite.
Tiny Green Hands: What are your three thriftiest yet yummy meals?
1) I love to make gnocchi. Flour and potatoes are far cheaper than the deliciousness of homemade fresh pasta.
2) I also love homemade pizza…perhaps there is an Italian theme here. I still find it fascinating watching the dough rise. Good cheese is not cheap, but one does not need much of it. And the toppings are usually whichever vegetables I have in the fridge at the time.
3) A healthy but easy meal is a basic stew I do with chickpeas or lentils. I fry onion and garlic, then add lentils or chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, chilli and sweet potato. It is hearty, tasty and easy.
Tiny Green Hands: What are your best three edible presents?
1) One of my high school friends used to give paper cups filled with homemade fudge at Christmas. She would beautifully wrap them, they were such a treat.
2) Another friend was famous for her cookies. I was delighted to receive a box of these on my birthday.
3) My dad makes a delicious chocolate cake and one year we made it together for my friend’s birthday, her family were overseas at the time. We put her initial on the top in icing sugar. She was so touched that she cried when she saw it. People are moved by food…it is definitely the way to my heart.
Tiny Green Hands: You have a knack for finding new and interesting restaurants and cafes. If someone was visiting Melbourne from overseas for only one day – where would you send them for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Nouveau Potato: My favourite place for breakfast is the Green Refectory on Sydney Road. Actually, when friends visit I usually do take them here as it is vaguely on the way home from the airport. Lunch is a hard one, but I would probably go down Centre Place as there are so many great cafes from which to choose and the laneway is typically Melbourne. For dinner, I would go all out and go to Ezard’s for the degustation menu. Oh and I would be sure to order the dessert platter. Delicious.
Tiny Green Hands: If you could give any food advice to people, what would it be?
Nouveau Potato: Enjoy it. Appreciate what you are eating. My Hungarian friend told me a story about her parents never speaking during meals because in communist times, they had to be thankful for every meal and focus on the food. I am not saying food shouldn’t be sociable, but there is still a lesson here.
Tiny Green Hands: Thank you very much for taking time to chat with us, NP. One final question: what Tiny Change would you recommend people make today?
Nouveau Potato: If you love food, share it. It is so thoughtful and happy to be given something delicious unexpectedly.
For more of NP’s amazing food reviews, visit her blog at: http://nouveaupotato.blogspot.com.au/