Vegans needn't miss out on the sweeter things in life
Angie Palmer was born in Hong Kong, but a taste for adventure led her around the world. In 2008, while working as a film publicist in the United States, a cancer scare prompted permanent and drastic changes in her lifestyle, most notably becoming a vegan.
Last year, she returned to Hong Kong to take a position in public relations for the hospitality group GR8 Leisure Concepts. Palmer is also dabbling in the entertainment industry, having helped produce and performed in the award-winning short film Fast Love. She is also involved in a 1997-era drama that is in production.
She remains a strong advocate of veganism on her blog, found at angiepalmer.wordpress.com.
How did you become a vegan?
I was sick with what could have been a life-threatening disease. All my doctors said I needed surgery. At that time, I was working in the film industry in the US and I met two vegan activists at a documentary screening. I didn't even know what vegan meant back then.
I don't know why I divulged my health condition to them, but I did. They asked if I had ever thought about my diet. I didn't realise that while living in the US, I had adopted an American diet. I was eating more cheese, deep-fried meat and fast food. It made me think if I can get better by choosing to care about what I eat - rather than choosing to go under the knife - why don't I try the former and go on a vegan diet? I gave up meat and dairy, and went cold turkey. After about nine months, my health improved dramatically, to the point where every pathologist's report showed I was getting better. In the end, I recovered fully.
You don't sound like a stereotypical vegan extremist on your blog. You write about vegan dating and hunky vegan bodybuilders.
It's good to hear that. That was my intention. I don't claim to be an expert. I just want to share my stories and experiences because I've had positive results from this diet and lifestyle. I want people to know that if you're looking for a healthier way, here is one option. People are curious about what I eat and do.
What's the biggest misconception about vegans in Hong Kong?
That we eat fish. They always ask me: 'But you eat fish, right?' My first blog post explained the definition of veganism for everyone.
With a diet as restrictive as yours, do you have any vices?
I don't really drink. But with food, I'd say sweets are my vice, especially Western vegan desserts. In the US, I could get vegan scones, muffins and cookies at grocery stores and bakeries. I don't have that luxury here. Even with packaged food, I have to be careful and read the label to check what is inside. Out of the limited options here, I go to the Bookworm Cafe on Lamma - which does great vegan chocolate cakes - or Mana in Central for raw vegan coconut or hazelnut cakes.
What's your favourite vegan menu or restaurant at the moment?
I have more than one. For Chinese food, Vegelink in North Point is good. The environment is very comfortable, not old-style or dodgy. They have excellent dim sum and a great banquet at dinner, which includes an 11-course feast where everything is beautifully arranged into small-portion dishes. And it is great value at just HK$200. Next door is a little grocery store where I buy snacks such as egg rolls made without eggs, and vegan barbecue jerky, which tastes a lot like beef jerky. Besides eating plant-based foods, being a good vegan is also about eating organic and non-processed produce. But I don't want to take all the pleasure out of life, so once in a while I let go and spoil myself with these snacks.
Do you ever miss meat or dairy, or are you completely over it now?
I had moments of weakness during the first couple of years as a vegan. But right now, even if you put a steak right in front of me, I would not have an urge to eat it.
I do miss some foods, such as pistachio ice cream and chicken wings. I will ponder how good they look, but I would never let myself eat any of it because I live by my diet. It saved my life.