It’s a hard life for vegetarians in Denmark, a country known for its huge consumption of meat, especially pork and beef. Just ask the 80 members of Raw Vegans Community in Aarhus, a Facebook group started to help fellow vegans and vegetarians make up for the lack of information on the right type of nutrition and where to find it.
Being a vegetarian myself, I had to adjust to limited food items available in the supermarkets upon arrival in Denmark. So I was interested in finding out how some others were adjusting to these conditions.
Kirsten Vernon from Aars was about 19 when she decided to go vegan and later turned vegetarian.
“I had many vegans in my network and had seen ‘riots’ against cruel treatment of animals by the meat industry that views them only as food and not living beings. I lived in Austria at that time and to be a vegan was quite exotic. But I had made my decision. It’s also a good way to detox your body,” she says.
Vernon got funny reactions from her family and friends and it took her time to adjust to her new lifestyle.
“I lived in a small mountain town where it was normal to eat meat every day, like it is in Denmark. National dishes are only with meat in Austria. And it was quite difficult to find vegan and vegetarian food in the local supermarkets,” she says.
However, according to her, it was not an uphill task to learn new recipes.
“As a teenager, I had many fasting periods and it was a natural thing for me to control my food patterns in order to enjoy food and beverages in a qualitative, instead of a quantitative, way,” she says.
“Moreover, I have lived in cities like Berlin and Hamburg, where it is easy to try a lot of different dishes from around the world. That always gave me inspiration to be creative in the kitchen with recipes with no meat.”
Vernon has since added eggs and fish to her diet.
“I think it is better to be a vegetarian than a vegan. You learn how to control your food patterns and listen to your body. Fasting is also a very good way to do this.”
Kirsten Vernon takes a selfie with her favourite tofu.
Vernon rues the fact that Danish supermarkets do not sell a lot of vegetarian food.
“Germany is a dream destination for shopping vegetarian food. The supermarkets, especially the bio-markets, in Germany have a fantastic variety of healthy vegetarian food as well as fast food. In Denmark, this might happen someday but it will be a long way for this pig-rearing country to consume lesser meat.”
Another long-time vegetarian in Denmark, Janna Kelley says that although it’s not easy being a vegetarian in Denmark, it is becoming easier.
“For example, if you go to just about any restaurant and request a vegetarian dish to be made specially for you, most of them are more than happy to do it. I have also often called restaurants ahead of time to request for a vegetarian dish and they appreciated it,” she says.
Kelley shared with me some alternative protein food items and where to find them in Aarhus:
Quinoa – Ren Kost organic store on Jægergårdsgade 45, Aarhus C. Also, increasingly common in stores like Føtex. (You can read more about Quinoa here)
Soya – Salling food market. The brand is called Garden Gourmet, found in the frozen food section.
Pinto Beans – Føtex or any organic shop
Tofu – Føtex or any organic shop
Janna also recommended these restaurants with vegetarian options in Aarhus: Drudenfuss, Råbar, Den Grønne Papaya, and Pita Bar. More vegetarian-friendly Aarhus restaurants can be found here.
For those of you struggling with vegetarian recipes, Kelley suggests checking out some of these: here are some links suggested by her:
Zesty Quinoa Cakes (her personal favourite)
She also suggested making veggie stir fry, spaghetti, casserole dishes, or just about any recipe that calls for meat, and then substituting it with soya.
Sparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After having worked in the top Indian media companies, he decided to come to Denmark in the fall of 2012 to study at Aarhus University and later worked at Lego. A Danish green card holder, he is currently looking for marketing or consulting opportunities globally, while working as a freelance journalist for The Local Denmark and blogging about his experiences in Denmark at Denmark.dk, where this piece originally appeared. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s