In Awe Of - Nourishing Nicola

We sit down with Nicola Brown, the woman behind @nourishingnicola, as she talks to us about her healthy living lifestyle, including favourite Sydney eateries and plant-based good stuff.

Where’s home? I live in the south of Sydney, in the beachside suburb of Cronulla.

Was food always a big part of your life, or has running Nourishing Nicola changed that at all?

Food has always played a large role in my life, however Nourishing Nicola has changed the types of food, which I eat today.

During primary and early high school I was heavily involved in the school swimming team, training at least 4 days per week. The exercise meant I was always hungry and definitely ate a lot more than your average kid! My best friend’s mum (jokingly) called me ‘garbage guts’ – I’d always be eating people’s leftovers!

Around year 10 I stopped competitive sport and played social netball and waterpolo. I still ate more than most, which mum put down to my fast metabolism!

At the age of 19 I was confronted with digestive health issues, which led to a year of experimental dieting. I adopted the gluten, dairy and sugar free diet for a year or so, unfortunately to no avail for my digestive IBS. About that time I created my Instagram page to connect with other women who were suffering the physical and mental affects of diet control. However, it was only about a year ago when I discovered veganism and six months ago that I started my plant-based pursuits.

What particular ingredient/food are you most excited about using next?

I have recently started experimenting with chia-seed ‘eggs’ and psyllium husk ‘eggs’: basically you mix the chia or psyllium husk with water, leave it to set for 10 minutes and voila you have this amazing jelly-like substance which functions as a real egg when added to your baked goods! Sounds like a complete ‘health-nerd’ trend, but it’s such an amazing alternative for us plant-based foodies who want to avoid involvement with the egg-industry!

Talk us through your decision to be plant-based instead of vegan

Being ‘vegan’ is not simply a way of eating, but a way of living – those who preach ‘veganism’ practice a cruelty-free existence, by washing their hair with non-animal tested shampoo, wearing faux furs and leather, and of course, by eating a diet based solely on plants.

While this may sound all well and good, it can be quite a difficult lifestyle to maintain - particularly when still living at home, where my shampoo (is luckily) still paid for by my parents. On the other land reducing my contribution to animal cruelty in the context of food seemed a much more realistic target. This mindset, (coupled with practice) is what I would define as being ‘plant-based’. It’s not about eradicating all cruelty from your life, but reducing it where you can.

I watched various animal cruelty videos, which had a profound impact on how I viewed eating: I made the connection between the food on my plate and the harsh reality of where it came from. I began to question why it was okay for the meat, dairy and egg industries to profit from the exploitation and killing of animals and I realized I didn’t actually need animal products to sustain my life. However, contrary vegans, I might cave to my desires on occasion - I eat fish once weekly and sometimes have milk chocolate because it’s DAM DELICIOUS. I’m not perfect. I don’t always put animals first, but I try my best. This is exactly why I don’t ascribe to the ‘vegan’ label.

When you’re not following a recipe and cooking for yourself, what are your favourite food spots and dishes around town?

Oh there are so many! I absolutely love treating myself to breakfast or brunch – if you haven’t had an acai bowl from Bondi Wholefoods you are missing out! Any good café serves smashed avocado on toast, but my favorite would have to be Blackwood Pantry in Cronulla (a super-trendy new café/bar that’s just opened up, check it out on the Urban List)! Coffee is a must before midday for me, and I’ll admit I’m quite the snob – I like my caffeine in the form of a soy latte, but I only Bonsoy organic soy-milk (the yummiest and healthiest). You can grab a delish one from The Grounds of Alexandria, Ham Café in Cronulla and Kaffeine in Balmain. As for after lunch options, I cant go past Newtown without having a vegan pizza from Gigi’s, a cocowhip from Sadhana Kitchen and Gelato Blue for a vegan coconut milk gelato – their hokey pokey is to die for!

Does what you eat change at all when you go on holidays? Do you become more flexible, cook for yourself more etc.?

Definitely! I recently spent Easter at my boyfriend’s family farm and almost every meal I’d teak to make it suit my needs – although far less than I had to in the past when I was gluten free. Instead of burgers I had veggie burgers, instead of lasagna I had veggie lasagna (and hold the cheese please)! It’s actually quite easy to eat cruelty free foods when you make them from scratch! A lot of restaurants now provide vegan options too, so I haven’t found starved on a holiday yet, although I will on occasion eat cheese or egg in foods to avoid being shunned as annoying or obsessive (being the only plant-based eater I know, it can be hard when you share meals on holidays with your meat/dairy/egg eating family and friends)!

Where’s your favourite place to chill out around Sydney?

Definitely the beaches in summer - Bondi, Bronte, Clovelly are beautiful and in winter I spend a lot of time near uni – Newtown, Balmain and Drummoyne. If I didn’t have uni or work commitments I’d definitely escape to my boyfriend’s farm near the Hunter Valley as much as possible – I love chilling out in nature and having a camp fire.

To see more of Nicola's delicious creations, check out her Instagram @nourishingnicola