Ron talks to me about veganism,
his cheesecake business and
his plans to change the world
by feeding people!
Ron went vegetarian when he was about 12 because he had some consciousness about eating meat. He turned to veganism 8 years ago through listening to hard core music like Earth Crisis and Gorilla Biscuits. Ron listened to mega vegan hardcore bands for years, but still didn't fully understand their vegan message, until he watched the music video of Waste by Good Riddance. The images they show of dairy farms is what prompted him to go vegan.
At first Ron had a terrible diet because no one helped, his parents didn't care and wouldn't cook for him: he ate no vegetables and lived on chips. He says: ''I was the worlds worst vegan for years!'' Then Ron went travelling in Europe and discovered there is nice food without meat and dairy in it, its just that the English don't know how to do it! Ron found that Austria and Germany are decades ahead of the UK with veganism: the stuff they have is incredible and so readily available.
Last year Ron knew he was returning home for and arrived back with no job. He'd been living in Berlin for 2 months, and decided to bring veganism back home with him and do something with it. He came back October last year and booked into a vegan festival. He didn't know what he was doing! Ron's mum is German and when he was younger she always made cheesecake. Ron hadn't had any for years and then ate an amazing vegan cheesecake in Berlin. So when he got home he spent a month eating bad cheesecake while he worked out the recipe! He says: ''I put on loads of weight because I was only eating cheesecake! Eventually I got it right and my Mum liked it, so I thought it must be good!''
Ron took the cheesecake to various vegan festivals, along with seitan fake meat products. Seitan is a wheat protein like glutinous flour, which you can use to make meat analogues. It has more protein than meat, which answers the 'where do you get your protein?' question. They use it a lot in Chinese vegetarian food. Ron just realised that we are so far behind here in the UK, but he sees it getting better. Even in the years that he's been vegetarian and vegan he's seen improvement: once the only product you could eat was Quorn, which put him off all meat substitutes. For years Ron wouldn't touch fake meat and thought it was all vile, but then he tried a vegan donner kebab in Berlin and he said ''it's the best thing that ever happened!'' It convinced him to try and to do the same in the UK.
Its happening slowly, but he aims to make it more widespread. Ron's goal is to make a cafe in the European and American influence, not pandering to people's half-attempts at veganism like offering a dairy option: it won't be available and people will have to deal with it! Many cities like Bristol and Brighton have loads of vegan options. It's not a competition, it should be everywhere: for the planet, for animals, for people. But Ron believes there is no point in preaching veganism and then giving people bad food. He is convinced many people would rather have vegan burgers, steaks and fish where nothing got hurt for it, where people are not starving because their grains are being fed to live stock, where rain forest is not being destroyed to have animals raised on the land.
Ron wants to take an ethical stance with his business. He believes that adopting veganism just to live a healthy life is not true veganism: that is a self-centred motive. If the only reason you are vegan is for your health, then it's like any diet: what stops you cheating? Why wouldn't you wear leather or have a piece of cake every now and then? A lot of people disagree, he is aware, but Ron thinks that if you are not 100% convicted, you won't do it forever, because there will always be some time when its too hard.
This is why Ron started his business and why he continues to do it. However sometimes he feels like he's preaching to the converted, by catering for vegan events and weddings. He enjoys the weddings because its usually the bride and groom that are vegan, everyone else 'has got a face on them' because it's vegan catering, and then they eat the food and really like it. Ron envisions prominent places in all towns and city centres everywhere, so veganism is not just a weekend experience, but something that is seen everywhere, every day.
Ron spent years in activism: picketing places and getting in trouble, but he doesn't think he made as much difference doing that as he did just feeding people. The trick is not to say 'don't do this and that,' but to give an option. Rather than fighting it with anger- give them cheesecake! For too many years the vegan option has been laugh-able. People must have stuff that makes them happy. Ultimately people are selfish, and that is why these horrific industries continue. If you give people stuff that makes them happy, then they more likely to do it.
A term Ron keeps hearing is: ''veganism is a first world privilege'', because the options are seen as expensive. He cannot see how that is true (makes no sense to me either, as the poorest countries have very little meat and India is all but vegan), and even if it is true: then use that first world privilege to help the rest of the world. Help those who are starving to feed animals to feed you. To use that argument sums up people's ignorance.
He envisions a purely vegan world, and believes all the worlds' problems can be solved through veganism. ''It's the only way the planet has any hope.'' He sees a strange competition between vegans, arguing 'who is more vegan than who', but the only real competition is vegans vs the world. He points me in the direction of Rhiannon on YouTube, who makes environmental and other videos, and Sgaia, who make vegan bacon, steaks, and other meats, proving that good vegan products do exist. This company is very mainstream which is good. Ron still gets called a hippy all the time, and unfortunately that has negative connotations and is seen as a group to be ostracised: people don't want to be a hippy so are not vegan. But Sgaia are just 'normal' people, and that helps. It's good if everyone can find a place within it, and people use the 'hippy' excuse not to do it.
Ron listens to the Vegan Revolution blogger and podcaster, and catered an event they were at. There he first heard the term ''culinary activism'' and decided he is exactly that: a culinary activist. Going through it all totally changes your mind-set: Ron came into veganism 100% animal orientated, but has since become an environmentalist, humanitarian, and anti-fascist. He admits it's probably bad for you because it puts you in a bad mood all the time, but it still makes you feel good that you are doing something good. He still feels though that he isn't doing enough. But you never know who you will inspire, like the 6 people Ron 'converted' during a festival: throughout their lifetimes that is a lot of animals saved!
Every little helps, and through his Unless Hardcore Vegan Catering business and future restaurant plans, I am sure Ron will do all he can to help save this planet.
Ron says: ''you write about it, someone else makes a video,
I'll just keep making cheesecake!''
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