Julie G. Wester, The love of vegan cuisine
One Sunday morning at the end of August, Julie Grundtvig Wester, actress and a graduate from IT University of Copenhagen, welcomes us with a smile. She lives together with her boyfriend Jacques and their little Weimaraner poppy, Viggo. We are met with an atmosphere of generous hospitality. We have been looking forward to this Letter as the topic will be vegan cooking, which means a lot to us.
Julie is a vegan, and we talk about when it all started, and what inspired her to go vegan.
“I became a vegan during the summer of 2017. I attended a summer school in New York, and in that city, you are offered an almost countless variety of food. After 7 weeks with the most delicious vegan food in NYC, my boyfriend and I decided to go all the way – also when back in DK, where it would not be as easy and convenient. I may add that I have lived as a vegetarian since the age of 12 – and in the years up to the summer in NYC I lived 95% vegan. So, it was not a decision made overnight, but more like a long transition. When I started living primarily vegan, at the beginning of 2015, it was actually a selfish decision. It started as a matter of healthiness. As I learned about vegan food and lifestyle, I became more selective and made stronger choices. Suddenly I also added an environmentally dimension, together with animal welfare”.
The apartment at Amager is full of quirky things with a lot of history. Large as well as small. We ask Julie how her childhood has influenced her food habits.
“I grew up in a colourful home at Christiania, and I have travelled a lot together with my family during my childhood. Even though my parents eat everything, there was always a focus on organic food and homecooked meals with a lot of vegetables. My mum is a fantastic cook and dinner was always a time for family gathering. Every evening we had dinner all together – no phones, tv or other disturbing things. Only a nice meal and a talk around the table. Even though meat was served, vegetables were always the biggest part of the meal, which made it quite easy for me, not to have any meat.
Since I was a child, I have had strong opinions and as long as I remember, I have found it wrong to eat meat. Some people found me “picky”, but my parents did actually listen to me and allowed me to decide. For which I’m still very greatfull”.
We do indeed agree with Julie on the importance of getting together as a family, without any disturbances. Being close and intimate, fill our hearts with new energy. As Julie has been a vegan for two years now, we would like to hear what she has found easiest and also most difficult, when choosing vegan food.
“I think the most difficult thing about being a vegan, is not to try and attribute your conviction to others. You feel that you “have seen the light” because your choice of food suddenly makes sense, both in terms of health, ethics and politics. It is difficult not to wish this fantastic change of lifestyle, for everyone that you know and care for.
When it comes to what is easy about eating vegan, it is important to acknowledge that many people find it difficult to manage an everyday life when they try to go for a more plant- based diet. But – like with everything else – it’s a matter of habits. If you look at it with your long-term glasses, you know that it will become easy and normal, doing your shopping, cooking and eating vegan, as soon as it has become your lifestyle”.
We nod our agreement and listen with commitment, when Julie shares her interesting thoughts about people and the choices we make, when we suddenly start to talk about the food of the future.
Only time will show what exciting food habits we can expect, and as Julie mentions, how we as human beings will manage to make a difference through change of lifestyle and way of thinking, one tiny step after the next.
And the end of our talk, we simply must have a few tips about go-to vegan restaurants and snacks, from a fellow vegan.
“Go-to eating places I Kbh: Morgenstedet at Christiania, for a good, strong, cheap and organic everyday meal, and Baka D’Busk for a Restaurant experience which offers both a relaxed and yet festive atmosphere.
Go-to snacks on weekdays: Sticks of vegetables with a dressing of crunchy peanut butter, lemon juice, hoisin sauce, a drop of water and rice vinegar, seasoned with salt and pepper.
For the sweet tooth, a nice date with a piece of dark vegan chocolate and an almond, or a piece ofdried coconut, feels like a taste of heaven”.
“It is my hope that the food habits of the future will become less selfish – and instead more ethical and altruistic, compared with the habits of today and the past. Almost everyone that has grown up in the more privileged part of the world, including me, have a fundamental feeling of having the right to a lot of things. Most of us know the feeling of “having the right to” buy something or eat something, just because we feel like it or because we can afford it. When you think about it, it’s actually quite absurd: For instance, we do not necessarily say nasty things to people, just because we are able to do it.
A couple of years ago, a survey appeared that determined the fact that human beings only make up 0.01% of all living organisms on earth – but at the same time, human beings are responsible for the extinction of more than 80% of the earth’s wild animals and plants. Looking at it this way, human beings are both completely insignificant – and at the same time totally dominating the way of life, on our planet. I often have the thought that human beings only value what we will profit from.
For instance, the above survey shows that animals are actually only entitled to live, if they can be considered a resource. And we see more and more that the environment is not necessarily worth preserving, but only has a value when it is used for growing crops or serve other purposes as a resource. This is something I hope will change, if we all focus on a more humble, altruistic and less selfish view on our consumption and mother earth. Recognizing that we are the most dominant species on earth, we also have a great responsibility to take – changing one small habit after the next. “Every little helps”, is how I remind myself, and in a positive way motivate myself to constantly try to improve my habits and the way I consider consumption, and consequently also my food habits”.
It is great to enjoy a homecooked meal in good company. We all gather around the table, and relish Julie’s warm vegan pizza.
And here is the recipe for the tasty vegan pizza that Julie served:
Olive pizza with green and fresh tomato salsa with lovage (2 persons).
Preparation time = approx. 2 hours
200 ml water
20 gr fresh yeast / or xxx gr of sourdough
40 gr pumpkin seeds (lightly crushed)
50 gr sunflower seeds (lightly crushed)
350 gr spelt flour
1 teaspoon fine seasalt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
100 gr sunflower seeds
150-200 gr olives without kernels (black, green or mixed – whatever one prefers)
1 handfull of sundried tomatoes
1 garlic glove
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh tomato salsa with lovage
150-200 gr tomatoes of good quality – you may mix various tomatoes of more colours (chopped into small bits)
1 stem of lovage, finely chopped (if in season – otherwise you may use other fresh herbs like sage, thyme, or oregano)
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
A couple of tablespoons of lemon juice (optional)
Whatever you have – or are in season. You may arrange a mix of one or more of the flw: fresh rocket, spinach, heart salat, pointed cabbage or curly kale.
Fresh basil (or other fresh herbs you may have, like for instance thyme or oregano)
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. The baking sheet or pizza stone must be extremely hot
Soak 100 gr sunflower seeds in water in minimum 1 hour.
Clean and prepare all vegetables and herbs
Start with the pizza dough by mixing the water with the yeast, in a large bowl. When the yeast is dissolved, add the crushed pumpkin and sunflower seeds, together with seasalt and 2/3 of the flour. Add olive oil and slowly knead the remaining flour into the dough, until it is soft and coherent. If the dough is too sticky, add some more flour – if the dough is too dry, add a little water. Knead for 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a moist cloth and leave it in a warm place.
Allow the dough to ferment for around 30 minutes or to rise to double size.
Then proceed with the olive tapenade. Use your best blender or food processor and blend the ingredients for the olive tapenade, all together. Season with salt and pepper, and add a little water, if the tapenade is too thick. You should be able to spread it on the dough, and it should be a bit coarse.
TIP: If you do not use up all the olive tapenade for the two pizzas, keep it cold in a sealed container, and enjoy it on a piece of toast or use it as olive pesto on pasta, in the coming days.
The tomato salsa is made by cutting the tomatoes into small pieces and place them I a bowl. Mix with olive oil and the finely chopped lovage. Season with salt and pepper and maybe add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. Store cold, until served.
When the dough is ready, divide it into two portions. Roll one portion out on a piece of baking sheet. Sprinkle a little flour onto the dough, if too sticky. Spread a generously amount of olive tapenade on the dough and remove the hot baking plate from the oven. Put the dough with baking sheet on the plate, and sprinkle a little olive oil on the pizza, before baking it – start with 5 minutes at the bottom of the oven and then 5 minutes at the top.
While baking the pizza, arrange a bowl with the green mix of salat and kale, and set the table.
Serve the warm pizza at the table and top your own pizza slice with fresh tomato salsa, lovage and green as well as your favorite herbs. Season with freshly grinded salt and pepper. You may spice-up this special pizza with capers or a teaspoon of good chili paste, if you want.
Don’t forget to buy organic and as local as possible. Preferably enjoyed in good company.