The Christmas and New Year period is a time to be with family and celebrate with a sense of joy, peace and compassion. I am grateful to be travelling the vegan road and here are my top three experiences that have emphasised my gratitude for being vegan.
Spending a Pre-Christmas Dinner with Good Friends
When I think of Shu Restaurant I think of delicious Chinese Sichuan cooking with a contemporary twist. This restaurant in Collingwood in my home city of Melbourne exudes a modern gallery feel with tasty Sichuan food with a modern vegan vibe. Friends of mine and my husband’s always catch up with us before Christmas and they love hanging out with us to enjoy a new restaurant when they want to try some gourmet vegan options. Over the course of six dishes we were able to celebrate the act of enjoying a good meal with good friends, despite our differences in the way we eat; all the elements for a memorable Christmas celebration.
Shu holds these nights regularly (as well as Vegan Tuesdays) and is a perfect way to enjoy a degustation while bringing good friends along for the ride. Sichuan cooking is also known to be spicy, so it’s also one of the best places in Melbourne to experience this style of cuisine. Degustation nights also give guests the option to match their degustation dishes with matched wines. And, here’s a fun fact – Shu is actually short for Sichuan, the southwest province from which this style of cooking originates; an area that is known to be the ‘Land of Heaven’ where some of the world’s earliest people in China to plant, harvest and forage while using ingredients seasonally and being plant-based.
Here’s what we enjoyed together:
Pink radish, cucumber and young ginger
Smoked tofu, Chinese garlic chive and preserved mustard greens
(My favourite dish of the night!)
Fish fragrant eggplant, grilled green chilli and fresh spring peas
(Yu Xiang style so no fish involved)
Tofu skin and fermented black beans
Shredded potatoes, pickled chilli and spring onions
Wok tossed Asian mushrooms and noodles in sesame cream dressing
Enjoying spending Time with Family over Christmas and New Year Meals
I think I will never see the day that my family will share a completely vegan meal. However, I’m thankful that my family is accepting of me being vegan. Each year, all family members bring copious amount of food to share. For Christmas 2017, we took handmade organic cranberry and nut roasts by AVS Organic Foods to both family gatherings my husband and I travelled to. In return, family members consumed and enjoyed our offering. My mother-in-law prepared coconut and banana biscuits, vegan nibbles and treats, steamed and roasted vegetables and an apple crumble.
After a roadtrip across to Koo Wee Rup, my parents created wood-fire oven pizzas, grilled peach halves with a side of cashew cream, and a gloriously rich balsamic syrup fruit tart. While I know that a full vegan Christmas meal won’t be served for all guests, I also know that a full Christmas meal is definitely possible. It’s just a matter of thinking outside the box and being accepting to the possibility. I’m also thankful that we could all celebrate Christmas together without my husband and I being ostracised or outcast by our loved ones for being vegan.
Thankfulness extended to New Year’s Day when my husband and I shared a meal with his family at Zagame’s Boronia Hotel, where my husband and I chose meals from their special vegan menu with gluten-free options.
Giving Back to the Animals at Edgar’s Mission and Checking out The Aspy
Whenever I visit Edgar’s Mission, an overwhelming calm comes over me. The openness of Edgar’s farmlands, nestled on the outskirts of Lancefield within Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. Here, farm animals call Edgar’s Mission their saviours and their home – those rescued, surrendered or repossessed. Ducks, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, cows, turkeys, cats and Ruby, the ex-cattle dog turned ‘nurse’ for the animals. All have names, and each, as to be expected, have their own distinct personalities. Edgar’s Mission is a world away from where these beautiful souls started their lives; a world of suffering, confinement and fear. This is the second year I’ve visited Edgar’s Mission on New Year’s Eve weekend to take the free walking tour to visit the residents and meet the new arrivals. Boxes of Weetbix are welcomed as donations which are fed to the residents as a treat along the way.
After about two hours of walking, socialising and purchasing some mementos from the gift shop, it’s time to refuel over lunch at The Aspy where vegan options can be found. A relaxing table can be taken either indoors in this converted heritage shopfront, or under the trees out the back in the extended courtyard. The Aspy is only about 10 minutes from Edgar’s Mission, back on the main drag of town. Their tofu scramble wrap filled with mushrooms hits the spot, sided by a veggie rice salad, but not before a relaxing soy latte.
To finish, the lovely staff recommend the one of their vegan gluten-free house-baked pistachio and rosewater cupcake anointed with dried rosebuds. What a way for travellers to show gratitude to a town that supports vegan travels – to offer spots where time and money can be spent.
It’s a brand New Year! If you’re not already vegan and want to give it a try in 2018, you can join Veganuary during January. Sign up for free and you’ll have access to support and resources you may need.
An omnivorous restaurant offering 10-course vegan degustation (bookings or ‘dining tickets’ are required via the website) or Vegan Tuesdays for Shu’s vegan only dinner menu. 147 Johnston Street, Collingwood Victoria Australia 3066. Phone: 03 9090 7878
An online vegan organic store that can also be found at markets around Melbourne and outer fringes for vegan roasts, spreads, cheeses and sweet treats. Specialty stores around also stock AVS Organic Foods’ products.
An omnivorous hotel chain across Melbourne. The Boronia location features a standalone vegan menu with gluten-free options for lunch, dinner and desserts. Bookings are recommended (phone or website) and walk-ups welcomed. 112 Boronia Road, Boronia Victoria Australia 3155. Phone: 03 9762 0883.
A non-profit farm animal sanctuary that holds free tours on weekends and longer tours at a cost mid-week. Book on available dates via the website. Boxes of Weetbix can be purchased at most supermarkets around Melbourne before the roadtrip. 81 Bridies Lane, Lancefield Victoria Australia 3435. Lancefield is just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne.
An omnivorous café offering vegan options for brunch and lunch, drinks, sweets and treats. 32 High Street, Lancefield Victoria Australia 3435. Phone: 03 5429 1084. Lancefield is just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne.