Vegans of Ottawa – Lise Beutel

Photos by Lise Beutel

In this series, we chat with vegans from around the region to find out what it’s like to be plant-based in Ottawa, discovering tips and tricks for living a like a local – vegan style.

Lise Beutel is the founder of the chic online vegan shoe shop SOULiers Studio. Born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick, she has been in the capital city for 10 years and is now a resident of Old Ottawa South. A longtime vegetarian, she slowly transitioned to veganism about 6 months ago. She took a quick break from preparing for SOULiers’ first ever pop-up shop to talk to us about food, footwear and finding a network.

Ottawa Life: What inspired you to become a vegan?

Lise Beutel: I became informed about factory farming in particular and starting reading and watching documentaries about the ethics of our food system and the environmental and social toll it takes.

Was it difficult for you to make the transition to veganism? Why or why not?

Not really because I did the transition slowly and came to learn about all of the wonderful options out there for a plant-based diet.

What do you find to be the most challenging part about being a vegan? How do you try to overcome that challenge?

In one word: footwear. I started SOULiers Studio, the e-boutique carrying exclusively vegan shoes for women (and maybe eventually men’s too if all goes according to plan) because I struggled to find stylish vegan shoes that met both my values and aesthetics and I was pretty sure I wasn’t alone. 

What is the greatest benefit that you have gained from being a vegan and why?

I feel healthier, truly. And I feel like a more conscious and responsible consumer across the board. I am aware and make more judicious decisions about where all of the products I use come from – from food, to personal care products, to clothing and footwear, etc.

What are your favourite vegan spots in Ottawa and why? What are your favourite things on the menu?

Café My House – everything, Good Eats (not all vegan but lots of amazing vegan options!) – great sandwiches and salads, Pure Kitchen for the buffalo cauliflower wrap, The Belmont in my neighbourhood for the Trini Doubles (these amazing roti wraps with curried chickpeas).

Where do you get your groceries in Ottawa? What does your grocery list typically include?

In the summer months, I have a farm share from Roots and Shoots, a local organic farm and then I supplement that with some groceries, mostly from Cedars on Bank St in Old Ottawa South. They carry a lot of vegan products like Gusta, Yves, Field Roast, etc. They also have a delicious falafel sandwich for under $5 at their deli counter!

Do you find that there is an active vegan community in Ottawa?

Yes and growing! I’m so impressed by the number of amazing vegan businesses that seem to be cropping up lately and how active and supportive the community is, whether it’s through social media or as was witnessed by the turnout at this year’s VegFest.

What advice would you give to people interested in or thinking about going vegan?

I’d suggest looking for supportive, positive people who can provide tips, resources, and share experiences. And maybe carry around a FAQ because guaranteed that you’ll end up getting the same questions over and over (you know the ones – where do you get your protein? But aren’t we meant to eat meat? Don’t you think it’s rude to go to someone’s house for dinner and decline what they’re serving to you? But won’t the cows go extinct if we stop eating them?…). I don’t really mean it about the FAQs but it could help.

I’ve witnessed various approaches to advocacy in the vegan movement and I believe that the positive, encouraging approach is much more effective than a judgemental stance. It’s the whole “attracting more flies with honey than with vinegar” adage.

Lise’s Vegan Essentials:

Vegan Snacks (Homemade or Purchased) – Smoothies with chia seeds, almond milk, dates, frozen fruit; spiced and roasted chickpeas; edamame; lots and lots of nuts.

Vegan Desserts (Homemade or Purchased) – I love dessert and I mostly do my own baking. I love adapting non-vegan recipes and then impressing my family with how good it tastes (I’ve told them about the wonders of aquafaba and flax eggs!)

Sources of Plant-based Protein – So many – chickpeas, blackbeans, lentils, quinoa, greens, some soy-based products, nuts, etc.

Blogs and/or Social Media – Of course I follow “For The Love of Vegan Shoes” but I also find the local Facebook community pages like Ottawa Vegans and Vegetarians to be a great place to learn about new restaurants, recipes, and sales on vegan products!

Cookbooks and/or Recipes – I love the Minimalist Baker website; Oh She Glows; A friend recently gave me the Veganomicon cookbook. I’ve only tried a couple of recipes from it so far but they were both foolproof!

Local Takeout Spots – New Generation sushi does some delicious vegan sushi, Panago pizza (hold the cheese, even the Daiya), Light of India in the Glebe.

Catch Lise at the SOULiers pop-up shop this Saturday, July 29that 78 George Street.