East Croydon Cool talks…Veganism

East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts. This month we caught up with twin sisters Kareema and Kaleema who run the Livity plant-based cuisine food stall at Surrey Street Market. They also run occasional pop ups, offer a food delivery service and are currently crowd funding to set up Croydon’s first plant-based café.

1) What is Veganism (we’re so confused with all the terminology!)
Officially Veganism is defined as “the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in a diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals”. Since “distinctions may be made between several categories of veganism”, we personally find the terminology a little confusing so prefer to be associated with the term ‘plant-based’ which basically means a diet based on foods derived from plants (including vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits). A Vegan could technically get by eating processed foods, but a plant-based diet (in our opinion!) ensures a more varied diet.

2) Do you both follow a Plant-Based diet?
We both grew up on Caribbean food and ate a lot of Vegetarian food. Health problems a couple of years ago led Kareema to move to a full time plant-based diet and I soon followed.

3) What made you set up a plant-based business?
We have been professional chefs for 10 years and always had visions of starting our own business together. This came earlier than we’d originally planned as Kareema’s ill health meant she could no longer work intense and demanding kitchen hours. We set up Livity to showcase our respective skills and diet choices and run a business on our own terms. Kareema ran it initially but as interest (and orders!) grew, it became a full time job for both of us.

4) What do you think about the rise in veganism? Is it a current trend or progressive movement?
There’s no doubt that veganism is on the rise. The Vegan Society reported that the number of vegans in the UK between 2014 and 2018 quadrupled! And in 2018, the UK launched more vegan products than any other nation. Whether it’s a trend fuelled by marketing or a genuine movement as a result of education, from our point of view, anything that reduces animal cruelty and encourages a healthy diet can only be a positive.

5) What makes your food stand out?
We make traditional Caribbean food vegan friendly which is not readily available (at the moment!) We offer plant-based twists on dishes we grew up around (for example, our signature dish is Curried Jackfruit, which is our take on Curried Goat) as well as comfort food like Mac & Cheese. We are the only people doing what we do commercially in Croydon.

6) What do you think about Vegan influencers on social media?
Whilst it’s great to see so many people spreading the word, the influencer ‘scene’ can get a little samey. It’s important to remember that Rastafarians had an ethical plant-based movement way before the term ‘vegan’ was coined in the 40s. We’d both like to see more diversity and cuisine from other cultures better represented.

7) What do you think about the Vegan options in Croydon?
Having grown up here, it’s great to see vegan food becoming more readily available. But there is still a long way to go. We really want to be a part of making vegan food more accessible in the area and are currently crowd-funding to open a permanent premises and be the first 100% plant-based Caribbean cafe in Croydon.

8) What’s the biggest misconception surrounding Veganism?
For us, one of the biggest misconceptions is that there are not many black vegans/vegans of colour. There seems to be an impression that Veganism is a white, middle class thing. That’s why it’s so great to see @London_Afro_Vegan, @SarahJaneCrawford and @tishwonders doing their thing on Instagram.

9) How are you helping to inspire others to try a plant-based diet?
We hope to show that vegan food doesn’t have to cost much or be overly complicated. We’re always happy to answer any questions or give advice and meal ideas to our customers; be that through face to face conversations at our stall, via our social media channels or interviews like this! Go on, give it a try 😉

10) Why did you choose to trade in Croydon?
We grew up and went to school in Croydon and are trying our best to inspire those around us and make positive change on our doorstep.

To support the twins in their campaign to open Croydon’s first plant based café, click here.

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