Cooking Vegan With Flavor With Bobo Matjila
The idea that going vegan means giving up on rich or flavorful foods is one that will be quickly deconstructed if you follow Bobo Matjila, host of the Bobo and Flex podcast and author of the upcoming vegan cookbook “Eat The Rich.” Her instagram stories is a collection of philosophical questions, integrated with homemade vegan food that doesn’t look vegan, all broken down into simple steps.
From honey butter tofu, to vegan donuts, Bobo has created a community that celebrates vegan decadence, as opposed to the “healthy” (and often bland) vegan stereotype of a basic green salad. Because our mouths were already watering, we caught up with Bobo to hear how she inserts flavour into her plant-based diet.
When and why did you decide to go vegan?
I went vegan 7 years ago. I had been practicing Buddhism for about a year, and one of the consequences of practicing Buddhism is being more compassionate. So, I realized one day that the energy emitted when you kill an animal is transferred into your body, then your mind and spirit. I decided I want no parts in any of that, so I stopped eating animal products and haven't looked back since.
What was the hardest part about becoming vegan for you?
I have a sweet tooth, so the hardest part of becoming vegan was finding substitutes for baked goods (particularly cinnamon rolls and croissants). I learned how to bake so I no longer have to worry about that anymore.
Vegan food gets the reputation of being bland, as a vegan chef, why do you think this is?
This is gonna be an unpopular opinion but the reason vegan food has a reputation for being bland is because veganism is perceived as a western export, so it's become synonymous with whiteness (and western food has a reputation for being bland). Veganism existed in indigenous communities long before rich white women in California made it trendy, so it can truly be whatever you want it to be. Another reason vegan food has a reputation for being bland is because western culture places meat at the center of every meal, so most people aren't even familiar or accustomed to eating vegetables. It's also the fact that meat is synonymous with masculinity and plants synonymous with femininity, so in a patriarchal culture, a plant-based diet is perceived to be lesser than. There's so many layers here.
What's your favorite vegan thing to make and how?
My favourite vegan thing to make is croissant cinnamon rolls. Yes, I basically just combined my two favourite desserts into one and it's incredible! There's also a South African dessert that I've veganized in my upcoming cookbook called milk tart and a vegan feta and oregano mac and cheese. Those are my favourite comfort foods.
What do you consider vegan pantry staples?
Since I love Greek, Italian and Lebanese food the most, my two pantry staples are vegan feta (from Violife) and rose harissa. I also add olives to everything and use pomegranate molasses a lot.
What's your biggest piece of advice for new vegans?
The easiest way to transition into veganism is to find a type of cuisine that's your favourite (e.g for me, I love Greek, Italian, Lebanese and Mexican food the most) and learn a few basic recipes. Once you have a flavour palette down, it'll be easy to keep a well-stocked pantry that you can use to whip together quick meals all the time. There are vegan substitutes for almost everything now, so the transition shouldn't be too hard. Also buy my new cookbook/anarcho-communist manifesto, titled “Eat The Rich” (it will be out next month).