VEGAN VALENCIA: VIVA LA VALENCIA VEGANA!
Being a vegan in Valencia has not always been easy. Despite being blessed with the climate and the huerta which gifts a year round supply of delicious fruit and vegetables, veganism as a movement has seemed slower to take off here than in some other parts of Europe. A vegan in Valencia quickly learns the importance of being able to explain to restaurant staff, shop assistants, friends, neighbours… exactly what being a vegan is and why on earth you might choose to be one. You get used to being reminded that being a vegan excludes you from eating jamón. You maintain a smile while explaining that tuna is not, in fact, a vegetable.
But things are definitely changing.
I realised this recently when I queued for thirty minutes to get into a vegan event and when I saw the swarms of people going in and out of a multitude of restaurants on the recent Ruta de la Tapa Vegana organised by La Feria Vegana. There is no doubt that vegan living in Valencia is getting easier and the food options and new-found creativity that it brings is being embraced by vegans and non-vegans alike. If the popularity of veganism and related events continues, it may not be so long until Valencia can rival Madrid or Barcelona as the most vegan-friendly city in Spain.
Valencia now has around twenty specialist vegan and vegetarian restaurants and numerous others that offer well-thought-out vegan options. One of the first restaurants I went to when I arrived in Valencia four and a half years ago was Copenhagen in Ruzafa, which offers modern vegan and vegetarian food and remains popular with herbi- and omnivores. This seemed a revelation in itself, until I discovered so many other fantastic choices already in existence and with more options seemingly opening by the month.
Nehuen near the port offers delicious, jaw-droppingly affordable options in El Grau, while more central venues include Nomït on Gran Via with its tapas and burgers. A new favourite of mine, Aloha, with its healthy take-away food is to be found on Calle Caballeros in the old town. If you want a serving of vegan philosophy and culture with your delicious meal and the opportunity to meet like-minded eaters, I also highly recommend the associations La Mandrágora and La Regadera. Buhobio, near the Torres de Quart, also offer vegan dishes in a cosy, cultured and relaxed atmosphere.
By nature, fashions come and go and are quickly substituted by the next shiny idea to appear –much like handlebar moustaches. We might then ask: is veganism just a fleeting fashion in Valencia? A cynic might question the longevity of this enthusiasm, especially if it is not combined with the philosophical and ethical thinking which underpins vegan life. Yet around the world the figures show an increasing number of ethical vegans and more and more people who chose vegan food for health reasons, environmental concerns or the love of discovering new, delicious food.
Valencia, I believe, will follow a similar pattern of growth. Many of the Valencian events, such as the Feria Vegana, and animal rights NGOs are backing this movement with the education and ethics needed to ensure that the trend becomes a better understood and more widely supported life choice. In fact this growth is already tangible, with the Feria Vegana, which already attracted nearly 1,300 visitors last year. It is set to expand into a bigger venue this year to accommodate increased demand. Furthermore, the vegan calendar on Google now shows at least one type of vegan event happening every week in the city; including talks, cooking courses and specialist food nights. With this increased diversity of choice vegan lifestyles in Valencia look very much like they are getting settled and are here to stay.
So what does it all mean for you? I suggest that whether you are a committed vegan, a new breed of flexi-vegan or chegan (a cheating vegan) or simply an omnivore who fancies seeing what this whole vegan thing is about, that you open yourself up to this growing side of Valencian life which is offering new paths to explore in this beautiful city.