MICHELLE LANGSTONE, actor, Love Goddess in the Almighty Johnsons and doctor in Shortland Street, long-term vegetarian. Not only does she have great compassion for animals and people, she is also a great lover of art and literature who shares a funny joke about vegetarians.
Why did you become Veg and when?
I initially became a vegetarian at age 15, when I was on a long drive in the South Island, stuck behind a cattle truck. I was behind that truck for five hours and after seeing the distress of the animals, I decided that was it for me, and I didn't want to contribute to any more harm of those lovely animals. In my early twenties I had a bit of a lapse, because I hadn't made enough of an effort with recipes and cooking and exploring new foods. But I've been a vegetarian now for the last seven years, and I'd never, ever go back.
What’s the greatest thing about being Veg?
For me it is the lightness and sense of peace that comes from knowing you are not harming animals. I am a huge animal lover, and I don’t think we treat them, in the main, with the respect that they deserve. They are sensitive, intuitive beings and I don't feel it is our right to harm them.
How did you make the change?
I just stopped. I stopped that day and I started reading labels to make sure that things I loved, like cheese, didn't contain by products like rennet, or sweets with gelatine in them. I was fortunate because my Mum and Dad encouraged me to do as I pleased, and Mum would make vegetarian food for me, which was lucky, because at that stage I couldn't cook!
Was it hard to make the changes?
I didn't find it hard, no. Although I struggled with the convenience, and when I lapsed, it was because I could grab foods that were quick and easy to make, and didn't require such thought. It's very different now to what it was 17 years ago– there are so many amazing products for vegetarians and they are widely available. I had to be careful about my iron stores, too. But I consulted a naturopath, and I've not had much trouble really. The benefits far outweigh the challenges.
Are your family and friends Veg too?
I have both vegetarian and vegan friends, yes. But also lots of friends who are meat eaters. We all try to accommodate one another. It's not for me to say what choice anyone should make, but I hope my own good health and happiness might encourage people. When my non-veg friends come for dinner I pull out all the stops, to make meals so delicious they can perhaps begin to see that they're not missing out when they don't eat meat.
What’s your favourite food?
Oh gosh, there are so many! I have huge variety in my diet. I love legumes, and I have some amazing, hearty, Moorish dishes that involve heaps of spice and fresh herbs. I also make tortillas from scratch, and cook fajitas with a soy-based protein, heaps of guacamole and fresh salsa. Mexican food is probably my favourite, and there are so many veg options.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
I have two. For a cafe during the day, with delicious vege fare, my pick is Cosset in Mt Albert. They are a vegan cafe and their food is absolutely delicious. So are their staff, so it's a lovely place to eat. I also love Satya, which is an Indian restaurant (there are a couple in Auckland). They have amazing vegetarian and vegan options on their menu that will dazzle you.
What is a typical day’s menu for you?
I'm usually a dinner-for-breakfast kind of a girl, so it's often leftover roast vegetables, or/with? tofu and rice or noodles. Can't go past avocado and lime on toast, either. Lunch is salad for the most part, with lots of sprouted adukis and sunflower seeds and as many coloured salad greens as I can find. Dinner is often legumes – daal curries or lentil bakes. And huge roast vege salads full of everything!
What do you do for fun?
Head for the theatre, the cinema, a live music gig, or out for dinner with friends.
What do you do for fitness?
I'm a big outdoors person, so I walk and hike a lot. I also do resistance training at the gym, and a dance class when I can manage.
What is the funniest thing someone has ever said to you about being Veg?
"How do you know there's a vegetarian in the room? Don't worry, they'll tell you". Lots of us have a lot to say, which is a great thing!
Are there any challenges in being Veg?
I think you've got to make an effort with cooking and discovering different kinds of food. Keep an eye on your iron and calcium. Sometimes I get shy asking about the ingredients in a dish when I'm at a restaurant, but generally these days vegetarians are well catered for because it is a growing lifestyle (YAY), so nobody really minds. You can always find options and you should always ask.
Do you have advice for others about to Go Veg?
I say go for it! Enjoy the peace of mind! Explore all the different ethnicities of food! Spoil yourself rotten with trying vegetarian restaurants, and then go home and try and recreate the dishes. It's a happy way to be, I guarantee it.