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Grater Good’s Flip Grater on veganism, feeding kids better and changing the world

"Butchery" is a not a term commonly associated with veganism, but Flip Grater, the founder of coming-soon vegan ‘butchery’ Grater Goods, thinks that’s okay.

It’s all part of challenging the status quo.

“There has been some backlash for the use of the word 'butchery' for a vegan project,” she says. “Meat and plant eaters alike take issue with that, but I'm hoping to reclaim the word.”

The musician, record label owner, parent and vegan food aficionado has a penchant for doing things her own way. Dissatisfied by the limited options available to younger people, a year ago she started Yumbo, a subscription-based healthy lunchbox service catering to schools and workplaces around Christchurch.

“Through Yumbo I’d been making vegan chorizo and it started getting super popular so I figured why not make a few other 'meat-like' products for people who are keen to eat less meat and looking for options,” she says of her decision to launch a vegan deli.

“There's a real groundswell of interest in plant-based proteins at the moment - it's really exciting after 22 years of veganism to see a genuine shift in people's ideas around plant-based eating and sustainability.”

They were German pork butchers who immigrated to the UK. Even my father - who is now a vegan vegetable farmer - was a meat inspector here in Christchurch when I was growing up. I feel like, in a way, I'm honouring that family history...whilst also atoning for it!

While the specifics are still under wraps, the plan is simple. Flip and her (non-vegan) husband Youssef Iskrane, are starting up a Christchurch-based vegan deli/butchery (and webstore, also forthcoming) called Grater Goods. The plan is to make and import vegan ‘meats’ and ‘cheeses’, creating Christchurch’s very own one-stop shop for vegan deli items.

A passion for food runs in the family. In fact, Flip’s grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather ran a butchery in England called Grater and Sons.

“They were German pork butchers who immigrated to the UK. Even my father - who is now a vegan vegetable farmer - was a meat inspector here in Christchurch when I was growing up. I feel like, in a way, I'm honouring that family history...whilst also atoning for it!”

“I've always been into food,” she says. “Throughout my music career, I've loved cooking and eating around the world while on tour.”

“My first cookbook was called The Cookbook Tour and was a collection of vegetarian recipes I collected while on tour around New Zealand, combined with a kind of tour diary. A few years later I released The Cookbook Tour Europe. Food is actually why I've toured some countries! I have toured Italy and Portugal more often than makes sense from a career point of view...I just needed more of the food and wine.”

Flip's philosophy on veganism is a simple one, focused less on deprivation and more on encouraging reflection about the everyday actions we take and how those can fit best with our own personal ethics. She’s also raising her two and a half-year-old daughter a vegan, something that doesn't sit well with every corner of society.  

“Oh, you mean like the Newstalk ZB caller who recently called me an irresponsible parent?” she asks.

“You know, we live in a time and place where eating a lot of meat and dairy is the norm so it is unusual to forego those things, but at some point in the future I think we’ll be shocked to reflect on the amount of industrial animal farming that once existed.”

“And I'm not surprised some people have concerns - there is a lot of misinformation out there about plant-based eating. The meat and dairy industries have had the protein market cornered for a long time now so they're understandably feeling pretty threatened. It's a real shame for New Zealand's economy - and waterways - that New Zealand meat and dairy seem reluctant to adapt to the increasingly conscious consumer.”

Good points, all, but just how easy is it to promote veganism to a potentially fussy two-year-old?

“Every kid I know loves pasta,” she says. “I just make sure it's nutritious, so I'll make a vegan mac 'n' cheese for example and hide a ton of veggies in the sauce, or make quinoa pasta and cover it in a kale and cashew cream sauce. A kid thinks they're just eating colourful, creamy pasta dishes while they're getting loads of goodness.”

If it sounds almost too easy, it belies some of Flip’s bigger ideas about just what is achievable in taking a more conscious approach to food production and the vegan lifestyle in general.

“The big picture is to cause less damage to the planet we're all currently living on and treat the animals here a lot better than we are.”

“The means to that is creating delicious, viable, sustainable alternatives for meat-lovers. Enjoyment of food is so important - food and drink bring us together and can transcend cultures, language barriers, politics...good food is everything. I want to show people that eating plants doesn't always look like eating a bowl of salad - we can have our vegan cake and eat it too.”

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