Welcome to the second installment of Vegans of Color! This time around I had the pleasure of interviewing the talented Afia Amoako, aka The Canadian African. When she isn’t working incredibly hard in school, she makes amazing vegan Ghanaian food that she shares on her Instagram account and her YouTube channel. She also has a free ebook available here for anyone interested in trying some simple Ghanaian dishes—and after one look at her feed, who wouldn’t be?
Keep reading below to find out how Afia discovered veganism, her favorite Ghanaian dishes, and the ways her cultural background shapes her diet.
What is your ethnic and cultural background? Where did you grow up?
I am Ghanaian. I spent the first ten years of my life in Ghana and then moved around from Tanzania to South Africa, and then the United States.
What kinds of foods did you eat growing up? Does your family have specific meals you eat on holidays or special occasions?
I grew up eating predominantly Ghanaian food. In all honesty that is all I remember eating! I did not try my first burger until I was 10. We did not eat specific foods on holidays or special occasions. Christmas, Easter or a Wednesday evening consisted of the same food items. Either jollof rice, plantains or fufu (plantains and cassavas pounded together to form a swallow, then eaten with soup). Now living in Canada, my family actually eats more Western food such as mac and cheese, stuffing and gravy on Christmas and Thanksgiving; we do however include some Ghanaian favourites like jollof rice. So during holidays our meals are a hybrid of Western special meals and Ghanaian food. It is so interesting to see how our diet changed when we came to Canada.
When did you decide to go vegan, and what were the main things that led you to that decision?
I decided to go vegan in July 2015. I had initially tried it out at lent, which was in March of 2015, because I had a friend who was vegan and I was curious. Unfortunately, I was not eating properly so I went back to my regular diet. I was also going through a bad time with food, and watched Forks Over Knives which had me hooked. I really wanted to take better care of myself and eat better so I decided to go vegan. Watching Cowspiracy helped me make the connection between meat consumption and climate change and that really gave me a reason to stay vegan.
How did you transition into veganism? What were some of the first vegan dishes that you cooked?
Unfortunately I actually never transitioned. I started cold-turkey, which I do not encourage because I did not give myself time for my body to slowly detach from dairy- or meat-based products. I already had a pretty healthy diet, so I remember eating some veggies and potatoes at first and lots of oatmeal.
How do you navigate food situations with non-vegan family members, both on a casual basis and during holidays or big events?
I have been incredibly fortunate to have the family I have and be part of the culture I am in. Ghanaian food is pretty vegan friendly so it was not a big adjustment for my family when it came to accommodating me. Other family members are just curious about my eating habits, and it’s always a great opportunity to share information about eating well.
Are there any foods that you miss eating with your family?
I do miss eating fufu and soup with my family. I have worked pretty hard veganizing a lot of the Ghanaian food I ate growing up, but fufu is eating with a meat based soup so that is something I do not eat anymore. I do not miss the taste of it, I mainly miss the experience of eating it with my family.
Why did you decide to start creating vegan content? What are your main goals and intentions?
I have always loved food. It has been such a creative outlet for me and becoming vegan with a huge appetite for Ghanaian food, I knew that I will really need to be creative with my cooking if I still wanted to enjoy the foods I ate growing up. With all the new things I was learning I thought why not share the information with others and that is how I started creating content. I also thought it will be a great way to showcase Ghanaian food to the world and also make it accessible for those who have dietary restrictions like I did.
Who are some vegan content creators who inspire you?
My favourite content creators are some of my friends. So Eunice from @eatsbyeunice. I really like her simple and cosy style of food. Since we are both students, I can relate to her on so many levels. Also my friend Meg Glover @livelyvital. She make the simplest of meals but they look so good.