As a twist to the annual Veganuary segment, to kick off 2022 we’re featuring a self-described ‘flexitarian’ who hasn’t, as the tag says, fully converted (yet!) to veganism, but is expanding her vegetarian and vegan portfolio to make her small contribution to a sustainable environment.
She is Rachel Payas, music teacher by day and foodie at all waking hours – often she even dreams about elaborating new recipes – and blogger of Blurred Limes, Facebook and Instagram pages that span from posting her culinary concoctions to reviewing local eateries.
“There are many good restaurants in Gibraltar, and they must be showcased, because diners often tend to settle for what they are familiar with, and don’t explore the full extent of their menus,” says Rachel. “I want to promote the local catering industry as a boost to local economy.” She does so by dining here and there with friends, a new venue each week, and snapping the mouth-watering pics she posts to accompany her honest reviews, sometimes firm but fair, with constructive criticism, and a passing mention to value for money.
Rachel started her food page after she travelled to Asia before Covid struck: “Rather than posting in my personal page, I opened a new one specifically dedicated to the food I tasted there. So Blurred Limes was born. Later, it expanded to anything food-related I like to do. The name is a pun on the pop hit ‘Blurred Lines’, with limes being a staple in south-Asian cuisine.”
“Our happy moments seem to rotate around food.”
The page that she describes as ‘explosion of my food brain’ boasts the tagline ‘Just a girl who loves her food’ – and surely food is a big part of her family life and happy memories. “I’ve been obsessed with food since…forever,” Rachel smiles. “One of my earliest and fondest memories is watching my dad cook. And there I was, three-year-old me, standing on a stool chewing on raw peppercorns to discover what they tasted like!”
Rachels mum is a baker, so cooking is ingrained in her genes: “Our happy moments seem to rotate around food, around a set table, so I wanted to elaborate on that concept, create new dishes, and show the emotional connections that food sparks in our lives.”
Last January, she pledged to follow Veganuary, and she breezed through five weeks without cheating or mistakes. “It has been hard, especially without cheese (I think at some point my body was screaming for it!), in a culture like ours that enjoys plenty of dairy and fish. I went for Veganuary out of curiosity and as a challenge to myself. It made me question several common practices we take for granted, for example detergents and shampoos in plastic bottles. So I dumped all bath foams and used soap instead, and now I have learnt how to make my environmentally friendly house detergents out of natural organic products, free of chemicals, and to recycle their containers.”
The challenge made her realised how ignorant or blind she’d been to animal cruelty, so she researched it and learnt a few shocking facts. Thus she reconsidered her animal protein intake, and steered towards vegetarianism at least, abiding a few meat-free days per week.
She distinguishes between plant-based nutrition and veganism all the way, a lifestyle that requires commitment and dedication, as it extends well beyond what one consumes at the table, but encompasses clothing, toiletries, bedding and furniture, transport. Veganism is not just a whim: it’s a standard of living one has to ‘convert’ and commit to gradually, because it uproots one’s habits and imposes new, often unpopular or uncomfortable ones. It is about wearing only plant-based garments, including footwear, drastically dialling down one’s carbon footprint by buying local, recycling and reusing, and favouring second-hand outlets.
Rachel admits that this radical change is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we can do our tiny bit, with small proactive changes in our routine. If each and every one of us becomes just a little more environmentally conscious and responsible when it comes to limiting wastage and animal protein consuming, all together we will start to make a noticeable difference.
“If we all adopt a bit of veganism in our life, the transition will happen gradually and naturally. I reckon that our grandchildren or great-grandchildren will be fully vegan and they will look back at us meat-eaters with historical curiosity,” she predicts.
“Although Brexit is preventing me to find some ingredients readily available, I tend to cook vegetarian or vegan for my family. Virtually any recipe can be ‘veganised’: tofu is ever-present in my fridge as a substitute to chicken, so we can limit our meat intake, in view of phasing it out completely.”
Blurred Limes is mostly about Asian cuisine, which Rachel is spellbound by, because of its ingenuity, of its variety of ingredients and dishes, and its healthy nutritional value. She mostly replicates street food recipes with a personal touch, and spices them up with unusual flavour combinations to make our Mediterranean taste buds tingle: “Being open to foreign gastronomy is the first step to evolve together as a civilisation.”
Spicy Sesame Noodles (Serves 2)
You will need:
- 200g noodles
- 2 tablespoons of tahini
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 teaspoons chilli oil
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- Optional toppings: sesame oil, scallions, sesame seeds, crispy fried onions, crushed peanuts.
1. In a small bowl add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of tahini paste (which can be substituted with peanut butter in equal parts if you prefer) as well as half a teaspoon of rice wine vinegar.
2. You will also want to add in 2 teaspoons of brown or white sugar and depending on your spice levels, 2 teaspoons of chilli oil. Use 1 teaspoon if you can’t handle the heat!
3. Boil 200g grams of your favourite dried noodles on the hob over a medium heat for around 5 minutes and drain.
4. Add your soy and tahini mixture to your noodles and combine well.
5. Top with whatever you may have in the fridge. A splash of sesame oil, a handful of sliced scallions, a poached egg for the non-vegans, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, crushed peanuts or crispy fried onions will all do the job. Let your imagination run wild!