Take 5 with... Vera Carvalho from Comer Amor!
by Kasia Galak
Eat Love. This is what Comer Amor is - at least loosely translated. Honestly, when we asked Vera to answer these questions, we did not even imagine how inspiring and positive the answers will be. Read on and be charmed by Vera and her projects - now and forever!
First, please tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you ended up doing what you do.
Thank you for this interview Kasia, I love your project Womb. :)
I am 39, I live in Lisbon and I love life in general. I am passionate about many different things but mostly books, animals and their rights, food and its relationship with our wellbeing and the planet's health. I studied Psychology at university and later Traditional Chinese Medicine in IMT and it was during that time, with topics such as holistic health, that I got interested in natural living, plants and their amazing power to heal and nurture and I started studying healthy life and eating and soon became obsessed. For years, I took this as a hobby and worked in the communication field, mostly as a writer and translator, until I developed a major love for cooking and exploring vegetarian cuisine, inspired, of course, by travelling and reading - as one does. This passion became a calling and I started to want to do more with this. Later, a funny thing happened and I found myself being a contestant on the Portuguese MasterChef TV show... and boom, my life changed and I was suddenly having amazing opportunities to develop my cooking and my professional skills as a vegetarian chef. So this is where I am now, cooking vegetarian meals, teaching people how to do it, having my own business and being able to contribute to the world in this way
2. How did the idea for Comer Amor come around and what should we know about it?
Comer Amor was born when vegetarian food was not this big hype in Portugal as it is now, so I thought it filled a gap for vegetarian catering for events, at the time. Now, we are doing so much more and this is what you should now: We help restaurants develop vegetarian menus or just implement one or more vegetarian dishes on their menus. We deliver vegetarian meals, every day, to businesses around Lisbon city centre. We teach vegetarian food courses to adults and kids - many in pro bono regime. We share recipes and tips on social media and publish small e-books with recipes for free. We also produce vegetarian meals for restaurants, cantinas, take-aways services, shops etc. We are a reseller of ready-made fresh vegetarian meals. On top of that, we do catering for all types of events.
3. Tell us more about vegetarian/vegan cuisine in Portugal. We have a feeling that it’s still a pretty meat-heavy country, however with a lot of vegan options all around. As a vegan chef - do you see the tendency towards veganism consciously growing or being rather an everlasting but stable fad?
I am very happy to see this boom in vegetarian cuisine in Portugal. We now have amazing chefs, amazing restaurants, amazing people working in this field with a great variety and superb quality. This helps everyone, it is positive to the world and spreads love and compassion.
Yes, Portuguese food is meat-heavy but it was not so long ago that the Portuguese cuisine treated meat as a treat, not a staple. Having been a very very poor country until not many years ago, the rural areas would have a cuisine heavily reliable on plants and agriculture products, using meats, eggs and dairy sparingly and mostly on special occasions. Now, meat is so available and animal farming is so industrialised that it has enabled this overconsumption of meat... But this happens everywhere I think.
As to the veganism trend, it is here to stay. It is an evolutionary step towards a more humane society, a healthier and more sustainable future, it is inevitable and much-needed evolution. The future is vegan, no doubt.
4. We know you are not only working on Comer Amor - can you share a little bit of your other past or present projects that you feel passionate about?
I feel like Comer Amor takes up my whole life, I just love so much what I do that every project I have, even outside Comer Amor, feels like an extension of it. As a vegetarian chef, I write a lot, I write recipes for magazines, e-books, I am developing a web series of tips on how to be vegan while being broke haha (no, you don't have to have lots of money to eat green) and I am very passionate about books so you will find me hoarding them infinitely. I have a very very big project coming in but I cannot discuss it yet. <3
5. Share with us some of your personal heroes or sources of inspiration!
I am inspired by many amazing people, mostly people who do things without having many resources and are doing it just by the greatness of their hearts. I love this new wave of genius science kids who use their magic powers to help the world. I love this new generation of conscious kids and their enabling parents. They inspire me a lot. I am inspired also by random acts of love by random people that are trying to become positive role models in a world that is so full of hate nowadays. Everyone who owns a farm sanctuary and does animal rescue is my hero. Everyone who works with helping people is my hero. Everyone who tries to contribute to a better society is a hero.