Bellingham is home to a variety of alternative diets ranging from the protein-based Paleo to the animal-friendly vegan diets. At local eateries, wait staff don’t blink an eye when customers ask about the ingredients that go into the cuisine, based on their personal dietary preferences. However, it does help to have a guide to walk us through the maze of local eateries. That’s where Clarissa Mansfield, founder of the “Vegan in Bellingham” blog-turned-website comes in handy. She can help you find Vegan-Friendly Whatcom County Eateries.
Mansfield declared herself a vegetarian on Thanksgiving Day while still a teen. She grew up in a small town in West Texas where cattle-raising dominated the community. “I stopped eating meat when I was 14, although I had been thinking about it for a number of years before that,” Mansfield recalls. “When my family first moved to Texas when I was around nine or ten years old, we had an opportunity to have sheep as pets. I discovered they were such smart, sweet, loyal and wonderful creatures with their own unique personalities and social relationships.
“My experiences with them made me question the reasons why some animals are considered to be companions while others are considered to be food. I became very conscious of my own discomfort with eating animals.”
While many dietary-conscious folks would stop at becoming a vegetarian, Mansfield took her diet one step further. “I later became vegan in 2000 when I was an undergraduate at Western after meeting a vegan student. I grew very interested in veganism. The more I read and learned about the connection with the meat and dairy industries and how animals are harmed in the production of dairy products, transitioning from vegetarian to vegan seemed to be the next logical step for me.”
Eight years ago, Mansfield launched the blog, “Vegan in Bellingham.” Visitors to her blog include vegans thinking about moving to Bellingham and the local vegans already living here. She also receives e-mails from vegans in British Columbia. Her website currently features luscious photographs of Mansfield’s favorite dishes from local chefs.
When asked to choose her Top Three vegan-friendly eateries, Mansfield responded, “I don’t think I can choose just three! There are so many great places to get a good vegan meal in Bellingham. As you know, I adore the vegan food at Ambo Ethiopian (located in the Public Market). And I think Mulu is an amazing chef.
“The Soy House is another one of my go-to places. There are many delicious vegan options there. Everything they make is yummy. I think the Soy House might be the most vegan-friendly place in town.
“D’Annas has a dish called ‘Aglio E Olio’ that I love to get with their vegan spinach rigatoni. It has walnuts, garlic and olive oil. I usually add mushrooms to that dish. I am in heaven. D’Annas is awesome and they have vegan options right on the menu. They are always super friendly. I have been going there for years. It’s definitely one of my favorites.”
As Mansfield and I ate Ethiopian lentils and kale at Ambo Ethiopian, the foodie’s eyes lit up as she rattled off her favorite vegan eateries—all which are featured on “Vegan in Bellingham.”
It wasn’t that long ago when the average person relegated vegans to the dietary fringe. Vegans still face obstacles such as finding restaurants where they can take their omnivore family members and still eat vegan. “When I hosted meetups, potlucks, or other vegan food-based get-togethers in the past, I frequently heard from vegans that they appreciated the chance to connect with other vegans because the biggest challenge for them, especially when they were newly-vegan, was feeling isolated,” Mansfield says.
“I think the internet and social media have really helped people deal with this because they are able to reach out and connect with each other online when they may not have otherwise had that opportunity in their daily lives. I think that’s been a positive development. Because of that, things have improved greatly, including the mainstream awareness of what it means to be vegan.”
As far as her own experiences as a vegan, Mansfield grew passionate about cooking and trying out different recipes. A vegan diet provides wonderful opportunities to see food in a new light.
“I feel healthier, happier and more in touch with my values,” Mansfield says. “Being vegan has enriched my life in many ways and has made me more adventurous with food and with cooking. I love to cook. And I have grown more skilled over the years in creating wonderful flavorful dishes. I feel nourished, satisfied and more connected to people, to animals and to the earth.”