Interview & photos with Helsingborg based Louise for vegan mothers’ interview & portrait series in Vegan Italy magazine!
This interview appears in the June 2017 issue of Vegan Italy Magazine
I fondly remember this day, meeting Louise & 3 of her children on a rainy, windy afternoon in Skåne to do photographs & relax & talk at a local library. They were all a pleasure to photograph & also such kind, strong & beautiful beings to be around. Thank You Mama Louise & Vegan Italy magazine!
Profession: I work in my husband’s company here in Sweden while I go on studying psychology and criminology. Full time mother, during my free time I sleep since I have barely any free time!!
Passions: the human mind. It’s like a new continent to discover! I have worked in a psychiatric department some years ago and there my passion for psychology and criminology woke up again.
Interests: traveling with my family, alone, with my husband, alone with my kids, sometimes only with my daughters, other times with my sons. Traveling opens your mind!
Instagram: my oldest daughter has an IG account that started as an IB project : CAS ( community, action, service), My daughter Sweden, through her account alf_ Sweden promotes and fights for animal rights and she has also participated /organized different protests here in Sweden.
Annika: Where are you from?
Louise: I’m half Italian and half South African, born in Rome.
Annika: What brought you to Sweden? How long have you been here?
Louise: I’ve lived in Sweden since 12 years. I moved here with my hubbie, 3 kids, 2 pitbull and a duck. Since I was a kid I’ve had a passion for the Nordic countries in general and for Sweden in particular. In 2005 the economic situation in Italy became difficult and since I was bilingual I wanted my kids to grow up with two mother-tongues, so I liked the idea of growing them up in another country.
Annika: What are your impressions of Sweden and in Italy, in terms of major differences and points in common?
Louise: We drove our house-car the whole way from Italy to Sweden with our 3 kids ( at the time 8, almost 6 and almost 3 yo). We loved the landscape, the houses that looked like Legos, the road signs that said “careful crossing ducks”. It was strange for us to see how children obviously younger than 10 years took the buses by themselves and had dinner out with their friends. Sweden for us was the country where children could be free, a bit like in Italian small beach towns.The only difference is that here we had this feeling of freedom and peace all year.
The schools seemed to be the cherry on the cake. We were used to lovely schools surrounded by beautiful landscapes since we lived in Numana (AN) for over 10 years but in Sweden the schools appeared like huge playing parks, without those fences and high gates that we were used to in Italy. What we most loved was the idea that the children could spend a lot of time outside, playing, independently from the climate. In winter you can see children warmly dressed playing out in the snow! It makes me smile when I think how Italian moms would react to this, since the main fear back in Italy is that the child gets a cold.
Annika: How long have you been vegan? When did you become vegan and why?
Louise: My children and I, we’re vegetarians since year 2000, except for a shorter period when we just moved to Sweden and we were totally unaware that we could ask the school to serve vegetarian meals as well. It’s important to say that 12 years ago it was difficult to find vegetarian food in Sweden: vegetables were so incredibly expensive and the price was not per kg but per piece! We’re vegans since 2010 because we love animals.
Annika: How old are your 4 children? Are they in public schools, special private school? Since the beginning, did they have a vegan menu available, or is it a recent development? And how do their peers react to their veganism? Are they curious about it?
Louise: I have two boys and two girls: 20 years and 6 years the boys; 17 and 14 the girls.
We’ve changed several schools, both in Sweden and in Italy. In Sweden my children have attended both communal and private schools.At the moment two of them are in a private school, Vittra ( pre-school and 9th grade). My oldest son is doing the military service, by choice. My daughter Sweden will graduate this year, in a few months. She is doing the International Baccalaureate program, which is very interesting. In Italy this program is very expensive, but it is for free in Sweden.
Vegetarian and vegan meals have been available for years now, thanks also to the Muslim community that has put pressures on the communes in order to get different meals.
At the beginning the other children laughed when they heard that my children were vegan.They obviously they tried to make fun of them (in a very playful way). Long and endless discussions have taken place, with always the same statements : humankind has always eaten meat; you can’t excel in sport if you are vegan!; vegans are weak!; where do you get your B12 from? My oldest son was a competitive swimmer and he got on the podium several times at the national competitions: his specialty was 200 butterfly, vegans are weak, right?
Meanwhile some of their friends have become vegetarians, others vegans… and others just more informed( often their parents don’t want them to join the vegetarian/vegan movement)
Annika: What are your impressions of the vegan scene and movement in Sweden as compared to Italy?
Louise: In both countries the amount of vegetarian/vegan meals and shops/restaurants have increased crazily. Things are changing quickly and towards a positive direction!
Annika: Are your children’s schools vegan friendly?
Louise: Yes at school my kids (that meanwhile became 4) get vegan meals. I want to add that vegetarian/ vegan meals are also offered when doing military service.
Annika: Is their pediatrician vegan friendly?
Louise: I’ve never asked the pediatrician’s opinion and never received critiques. Usually at the routine visits she asked if the child was healthy, if it ate fruit and vegetables and if soda drinks and candies were kept to the minimum You can’t imagine her face when she heard that my child preferred fruit and vegetables instead of candies and fries and most of all water instead of soda drinks.
Annika: What are some of your children’s favorite dishes & your favorite meals to cook for your family?
Louise: We buy few vegan ready meals, we love to experiment. Often we look for new recipes online and try them. Guys, the vegan crepes with vegan chocolate are super yummy!
Annika: Your studies are in psychology which you plan to continue and connect more to veganism as well. Psychology is really a cornerstone to veganism so this is fascinating. What are your research plans?
Louise: I want to get deeply into the link between psychology and alimentation and understand better the “omnivore diet concept. There is more to come so keep tuned!
There is a great amount of subtopics that I would love to research on. Why are we so afraid of veganism? Why do parents literally freak out when their children want to join the vegan movement? The same parents usually have no reaction when their children eat at fast foods or often wolf on highly processed industry food.
Why do some people claim that they felt ill when they ate vegan, but feel way better when eating “normally” again? Further interesting topics are links between criminality and alimentation, psychological illness and alimentation and so on.
Annika: What is your favorite thing about living in Sweden?
Louise: Sweden is very different from Italy and from the rest of continental Europe. I use to say that I have a love/hate relation to Sweden. One of the positive sides of living in Sweden is that when I am here I try to become a enrich myself through reading, studying; whilst while I am in Italy I am a completely different person. In Italy I am way more sociable, I read way less…it’s all about going to the beach, having fun… la Dolce Vita at its fullest.
Annika: Do you visit Italy regularly? If so, where do you go and what season? What do your children love about visiting Italy?
Louise: We try to go back to Italy as often as we can. Last year (2016) we went back 4 times.We spend all school holidays in Italy. Italy is beautiful during all seasons and now that our kids are older we try to visit new places back in our home country.
Annika: Were you vegan through all 4 pregnancies?
Louise: My first two kids were born when I was not aware about the pain and suffering of animal industry. When pregnant of my now 14 yo daughter I was vegetarian and vegan during my last pregnancy.
Annika: Did you make any special diet and nutrition changes when you were pregnant and breastfeeding? Did your doctor have any special concerns or recommendations?
Louise: Absolutely not, I just ate more since I was hungrier.
It is important to make a consideration: vegan does not always mean “healthy”. Many vegans transit from a fast food alimentation to a vegan one and tend to hold onto the fast food concept. This means that they substitute animal products with fries, white bread, biscuits and so on.
To be healthy and vegan you need to include whole foods, vary your alimentation often, include legumes, fruit, vegetables. Make sure your dishes are multi-coloured with a variety of different food1
I am a great fan of breast feeding , the longer the merrier!