Natalie Padilla, a consumer insights researcher at Vacasa, talks about vegan ethics, favorite restaurants and what's in her refrigerator.
Why I became vegan, again [Padilla became vegan in college. She was vegetarian for a while but switched back to veganism three years ago.]
Availability of time and focusing in on ethics again. I studied philosophy, political theory and psychology so it has always been on my mind. I think I was consumed with work at a certain point. I reestablished the ethical side.
It is an ethical issue. I feel there is no need to eat animals, and animals suffer, especially in the agricultural system we have. Most people are aware, especially in Portland, about the impact of global warming. But not everyone knows how much it is tied to our farming practices; how much water is consumed by animals we use for food. It is interlinked – the ethics of reducing harm and suffering of all beings, but also the impact on the environment.
Also, there are health benefits, which to me is a great side benefit. I eat a ton of fruits, plant-based foods and vegetables, and I have a lot of energy. I used to feel sluggish in high school when I ate foods that were meat based and heavier.
Some people think if you are not eating the way they are that you are automatically judging them, which is definitely not the case. But also going out to restaurants that are oriented a certain way that your friends chose and finding the vegan dish.
Padilla: I really like Virtuous Pie. I also like Blossoming Lotus. I like Prasad in the Pearl, which is close to where I work. It is easy to get something simple like a falafel there for lunch. Nationally, I really like Café Gratitude.
What is in your fridge?
Definitely the vegetables from Imperfect Produce. I have a juicer and like to make juice a couple of times a week. I have alternative milks. I have a lot of sauces that help make a vegan meal; for example, Trader Joe’s has a red Thai curry sauce. You can throw that in with some mixed vegetables, and that is an easy meal. In my freezer I have cauliflower rice. I like to get prepared Indian foods. There are a lot of great foods from around the world that are naturally vegan.
Best vegan experience
When I was in LA I went to a vegan beer fest. It was cool to be surrounded by like-minded people and able to eat whatever you want.
I studied abroad at University College London. I joined up with the vegan group on campus. It was a good way to integrate into a college that I didn’t know. To be able to have that connection to like-minded people and be able to discuss philosophical issues was very interesting to me, and also share with people the lifestyle of being vegan.
Worst vegan experience
I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer. That was one of the big impetuses that pushed me to continuous veganism – reading about what is happening on factory farms. It was painful to read about it.
Are you vegan beyond food?
I am. But I probably have things at home that I inherited or were gifted that may not be vegan. I don’t buy leather or suede.
This article is part of a feature package on the vegan economy published in our May 2018 issue. To read more vegan coverage, click here.
Correction appended: The original article referred to "Rich's Pie" as one of Padilla's favorite restaurant. The correct name is "Virtuous Pie."