BIPOC Portraits is a series in which Best of Vegan contributors Val & Mani Latifi of Plant-Based Passport profile one BIPOC vegan creator each week over the course of 16 weeks, to shed light on the unique challenges BIPOCs face in making the decision to embrace veganism. For BIPOCs, the prevailing narrative that veganism is a white-dominated movement can often mean a perceived loss of cultural identity. The hope of this profile series is to make veganism a little less lonely for BIPOCs and to give courage to vegan-curious BIPOCs out there. In the seventh installment of BIPOC Portraits, Eunice Reyes of Rated V shares her journey to veganism as a Salvadoran-American. She also provides a delicious recipe for Pupusas.
[The acronym BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color]
Eunice Reyes is a Portland, Oregon-based Content & Product Developer for Country Life Natural Foods. After going vegetarian in 2018, she decided to go all-in on veganism in 2020, after watching the documentary What the Health. Eunice’s favorite thing about being vegan is the creativity involved in transforming seemingly simple ingredients into amazing dishes, and she believes vegan food helps her stay young and active. Eunice has traveled extensively throughout Spain and is currently working on a Spanish vegan food & travel eBook. She has a sign-up list on her website. When she isn’t making food-related video content, Eunice enjoys traveling, Salsa/Bachata dancing, and meeting new people.
When you first went vegan, did you see the vegan community as diverse? Did you see yourself as having a place in the vegan community as a BIPOC?
Prior to being vegetarian, I was always a huge fan of plant-based food. Many of my relatives were already vegan as well. In fact, although at the time I ate meat, I only cooked vegetarian at home, so I was fortunate enough to be exposed to amazing recipes early on that I knew could substitute for foods I grew up with, along with other diverse recipes. I knew there was space for me.
Did you have any fears or reservations about going vegan? Did you feel like you might lose part of your cultural identity in your transition to veganism?
I did have a panic moment about foods like pupusas and carne asada! I remember thinking, “How am I going to replace the cheese in pupusas?” I knew I wasn’t going to give up my favorite foods just because I went vegan. It actually incentivized me to create epic vegan Salvadoran food.
I remember thinking, “How am I going to replace the cheese in pupusas?” I knew I wasn’t going to give up my favorite foods just because I went vegan.
Did you worry about how your friends and family would react to your decision to go vegan? And how did they react?
Maybe at first going out with friends to restaurants that weren’t vegan, I felt like things might be complicated. But it was funny because they [my friends] weren’t really that surprised when I went vegan. I remember most of them saying, “Oh, you were kinda already vegan before”—since I was always the one raving about stuff like, “Did you know flaxseed can replace eggs?!”
Did you have challenges finding vegan substitutes to make your cultural dishes? What substitutes did you make?
One of my first substitutes was actually crema. My favorite Salvadoran breakfast item is pan frances con frijoles, aguacate y crema (a.k.a. French bread roll with beans, avocado, and sour cream). So I HAD to replace that sour cream ASAP because that breakfast is legit my addiction. We also eat crema with plantains and beans for breakfast. So yeah, that was the first staple I replaced. Cheese for pupusas has been the most difficult because none of the store-bought vegan mozzarellas works well, in my opinion. So far, the best vegan mozzarella I have used is one by The Happy Pear, which uses cashews. I feel it gives it the best consistency.
Discovering new cuisines allows you to connect with people and places in a different way. I got to be a part of an amazing friend community just through having veganism in common.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
To non-vegans, I encourage you to try as many vegan, diverse dishes as possible. You can learn so much about other cultures just with food alone! Discovering new cuisines allows you to connect with people and places in a different way. All of the friends I made during my two-year stay in Spain were through my VEGAN Instagram page. I got to be a part of an amazing friend community just through having veganism in common. You can create some of the best memories through food and community, and that’s what I want to capture in my videos because I want to show that a vegan lifestyle is so diverse and exciting, and has so much to offer someone.
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