This Sweet Life : Vegan Desserts and Baking in the wilds of Connemara
I started learning about veganism nearly two years ago after one morning when I was making a good old fry for breakfast. I was looking at crackling bacon and bloody pudding in the pan and it just looked and felt so horribly wrong. Ever since then, I’ve been putting a lot of work into clean eating. I call myself a conscious eater rather than a vegan. I would have to be a total hypocrite if I told you that I am 100 percent positive that there were absolutely no traces of egg whites or dairy products in everything I had over the last year. It’s really hard to avoid it, especially when eating out and the choice is really limited. That’s why I prefer to cook at home where I eat only plant based food with no hidden ingredients. But veganism isn’t just about what you put in your belly. To me it’s more an ideology that encourages living more ethically, sustainably and having a healthier life without exploiting anything, anyone and repaying our planet a long overdue debt.
Sweet things have been always my weakness and since I decided to give up dairy, eggs and refined sugar I thought that my life was about to become very sweet-less and miserable. Who can live and be happy without sweet treats in their life??
So I started researching and looking for plant substitutes for traditional butter, cream, eggs, etc. It was a long period of experimenting and failing. Trying and failing again. I somehow managed to create a nice repertoire of plant-based sweets that I enjoyed myself but had a very little belief that anyone else would like them. Encouraged by my partner Stephen and his family I organised a tasting in a local health store about a year ago. To my extreme surprise the feedback was really positive. I was amazed by the level of interest and appreciation for my product. It never occurred to me that Sweet Nothings might become a business in the future. I guess that day Sweet Nothings created its own story without me even knowing about it.
My approach to most things I do in life is intuitive and often accidental and I really like it. A lot of unexpected fun things can happen if you allow a bit of ‘not knowing ‘space in your life. I also apply this way of thinking to my baking. There’s very little literature on making vegan food, so I get to be the ‘mad professor’ constantly experimenting , throwing things together in the pot and hoping that there’s method to this madness. Usually there is not! Very often my experimentation ends up being a total disaster but every now and again there are some small victories. Creativity and exploration is the most interesting part of my work. Discovering new aromatic herbs and tasting plants I’ve never heard of is extremely satisfying. I love being in a constant flow of making. It excites me a lot and makes my work stimulating and inspiring.
My main influence is the place I live in. What I‘ve learned about myself over the last 13 years living in Connemara is that simplicity and living in harmony with nature and others is the key to everything . I strongly believe in ‘less is more’ way of living. I have a lot of appreciation for all the amazing gifts of nature that Connemara offers. Simple, wholesome, healthy and full of flavour ingredients. That’s all I want my food to be.
I would love to show as many people as possible that plant-based food isn’t just a bowl of boring salad. There are so many exciting and really tasty ingredients out there that can substitute meat, cheese, cream, butter and eggs. My dream is to educate people about nutritional benefits of what Sweet Nothings can offer and hopefully prove that vegan food can also be really tasty.
Sustainable living is one of the most important values in my personal hierarchy of ethos. To me it simply means living on the Earth as lightly as possible without putting too much unnecessary impact on our environment . It’s living respectfully towards our planet, all living organisms and each other. I don’t want to sound too preachy or Orwellian, but the truth is: we need to understand that if people don’t stop damaging the planet then the environment won’t be able to protect itself. It’s proven that vegetarian and vegan diet is more sustainable and that it largely contributes to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, land occupation and cumulative energy demand . Some even suggest that plant-based eating is the future — or it is the more efficient, cleaner future.
I realise that it sounds a bit too unachievable and unreasonable and we would need a worldwide mass revolution to make everyone go vegan but even making small changes in our everyday routines would make big change. Like reducing plastic for example. In my household we use flasks and reusable bamboo tea/coffee cups. We refuse using straws and remove plastic packaging from products bought in supermarkets and leave it on the shop premises as a statement. We love the idea of bringing your own containers to the shop and filling them in with products if possible. As Sweet Nothings we have strictly ‘no plastic’ policy. We use only carton bags, boxes, forks and cups.
I love fashion but I’m aware of it’s unethical dark side. That’s why traceability and fair trade are so important to me in fashion . My wardrobe is quite simple and not very demanding, mostly second hand clothes inherited from my female and male friends , some bought in charity shops. I like swapping clothes. I wish there were more places where you can exchange clothes.We are so blessed to have so many shops in the area that put so much work and heart into sourcing beautiful, ethically produced clothes. We are so thankful for having so many remarkable women who care about this in our tiny community.
One tip or idea that you try include in your lifestyle that contributes to caring for the world around you?
Invest in a flask or a keep cup. So cool and totally worth it!
As usual we asked Justyna the big three :
Name one thing you are good at, one thing you could be better at, and one aspiration.
I think I’m quite good at listening. I really enjoy listening to what people have to say. I’m definitely better at this than talking. I am also not very good at physical activities. I wish I had more time for stuff I really like doing: jogging, yoga and Chi Kung. I would like to live a good and happy life for as long as I can and I wish everyone the same. This is my one and only aspiration in life.
Justyna and 'Sweet Nothings' can be found at the Roundstone Country Market on a Sundays during the summer, she also has product in the WellBean Healthstore and Steam Café in Clifden. AND Yes! She bakes vegan magic to order.
Contact her by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Or call 0879701221 for more information or to place an order.