My parents used to grow their own vegetables. They were given land in a place called Rauðhólar, about a 30-minute drive from Reykjavík, and made a huge effort to plant trees for shelter and started making their own soil by composting leftover food. Slowly but surely, what was once a mass of lava, moss and mud turned into a sheltered and nutritious paradise. It was hard work, but they managed to turn the land into a decent vegetable garden. We helped harvest vegetables: carrots, potatoes, beets, cauliflower, turnips, red and white cabbage, broccoli and parsnips. As a result, I grew up in a home with a wider variety of foods than my friends – the local store mainly sold potatoes, turnips and cabbage.
I became a vegan in 1980 at the age of 19 and have been traveling with food ever since. Unfortunately, the Nordic food culture lacks an excellent source of nutritious plant protein, various fruits and vegetables, spices, legumes or grains – fish and potatoes were the main ingredients until the 1990s. Luckily, when I was living in Copenhagen, I was able to experience different cuisines of the world, especially those with a strong tradition of vegetarianism, such as Indian, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and the Mediterranean.
When I came back to Iceland after seven years abroad, I realized that there was a lot of food that I used to eat but could no longer buy at the local store. Things like tofu, tempeh and plant based milks were just not available. I rolled up my sleeves and started making everything I couldn’t get at the store from scratch. My kitchen has become my favorite place. I didn’t have a garden with my first apartment, so I started growing herbs in pots on my kitchen windowsill because they made everything taste better. Lettuce leaves quickly followed, as did a tomato plant. For me, it’s crucial to grow produce whenever possible, even if it’s just coriander or mint.
I’ve come so far in my vegan journey. Now I want to help others do the same. I want to help make cooking easier without compromising on quality; spreading the art of making delicious plant-based foods; and revealing how great it can be to cook and eat nutritious vegan food.