Billy Collins: Honest Edibles
This week I caught up with vegan and zoology student Billy Collins from London, living in Leeds. He describes himself as having been “freegan” for most of his life, has been vegetarian for 4 years and vegan for 2. Billy’s veganism stems from ethical reasons but he is also nutritionally conscious, and is against over-consumerism in general. His outlook on life is pretty simple but endearing: he wants to see a lack of separation in life, with connection in every aspect.
About three years ago, Billy set up his own company, ‘Honest Edibles’, which provides organic, local and sustainable vegan nutrition. He sets up shop on Leeds University campus outside the union every Monday at the farmers’ market. On an average week, Honest Edibles has about half regular (or semi-regular) customers and half new faces. ‘Rice n Peas’, couscous, chickpeas, lentils, salads etc. for £3 or £4, Billy provides students with a guilt-free, healthy option for lunch (which is refreshing in a sea of pasties and sandwiches). “Be the change you want to see in the world,” is what inspired Billy to get started. “It’s all about reconnecting people to the environment, and to themselves.” And the process is ethical all the way through from start to finish – even the boxes in which the food is served are biodegradable. “I think people are happy to pay a little more for something that is guilt-free.”
Honest Edibles is also available for hire for private functions and occasions anywhere with an LS postcode – good news for students living in and around the city. At the end of November, Billy will be making an appearance at the Winterfest Vegan Christmas Market in Leeds (November 27th), doing a talk and a cooking demo. Cookery classes also take place in Billy’s busy schedule, at places such as Leeds Beckett.
I asked Billy if he thinks that being vegan is becoming something more accessible and popular. He responded, “Yes definitely, it’s trendy to be connected to yourself right now.” With the onset of the digital and information revolution, transparency of information and a convergence of all the different facts are becoming available to everyone. As a result, people have started asking questions about both ethics and nutrition. Even in the few short years of his business, Billy has noted a significant change in attitudes towards veganism. “I want it to be more of a fad… I do think it’s here to stay.”
On an average day, Billy starts with a smoothie: spirulina (rich in B vitamins that vegans infamously often lack), maca powder, extra virgin coconut oil, cacao powder, flax seeds, chia seeds and a selection of veg such as broccoli and kale. A bit later on, he will snack on some rye breads with avocado or beans. After that it’s stir fry time – beetroot being an “earthy flavour” fave – and then roast veg to finish the day off. When Billy is feeling “naughty” he will reach for a jerk jackfruit or sweet potato wrap. We finished off our chat with a declaration –“Cooking is my life.” Tip: Billy thinks that fat, not carbs (which is a popular belief within the vegan community), should be our main source of energy. Good fats. That means avocado, nuts, seeds like hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds, and cacao.
Search for Honest Edibles on Facebook, give the page a like and look out for a brand spanking new webpage and maybe some YouTube videos coming soon.
Images: Author’s own