Home Tech ‘I’d buy fish and hide it under kale’: the star vegan chef who developed a taste for liver

‘I’d buy fish and hide it under kale’: the star vegan chef who developed a taste for liver

by Elijah
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‘I’d buy fish and hide it under kale’: the star vegan chef who developed a taste for liver

Alex Jamieson’s veganism became world famous when she appeared in the 2004 film Super Size Me, the groundbreaking, Oscar-nominated documentary that explored our relationship with fast food.

Jamieson was working as a vegan, health-focused private chef in New York when a conversation between her and then-boyfriend Morgan Spurlock – the film’s star and director – sparked the idea. The success took them to 20 countries, winning Jamieson deals for three books including Vegan Cooking for Dummies, 25,000 subscribers to her vegan recipe and mindset newsletter and $7,000-an-hour speaking engagements in the US.

Then, in 2012, she started craving burgers. “I started dreaming about salmon and woke up shocked, thinking I had eaten it,” she says. “I went out for dinner and ordered tofu; a friend ordered a burger and my mouth watered.” The irony was not lost on her, as she had gained a following and built a career after nursing Spurlock back to health through veganism following his 30-day McDonald’s diet for the documentary. But more seriously, more than ten years of veganism had made her ill.

Alex Jamieson with ex-husband Morgan Spurlock in the 2004 film Super Size Me. Photo: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

“I initially became vegan around 2000 to help manage major health issues. I was a sugar addict with migraines most days. A doctor suggested she change her diet. “There was a wall of health books in the library,” she says. “I’m someone who jumps in with both feet, so I read everything I could. I had never heard of veganism before, but after ten days of cutting out animal products, sugar and gluten, I felt clear-headed.”

She quit her job at an entertainment law firm and retrained as a specialist chef. “I didn’t know how to cook for a vegan lifestyle and couldn’t just eat quinoa and blueberries,” she says. What she cooked in Super Size Me (with recipe inserts in the DVD format) became “my whole identity,” she says. “Instagram and the word influencer didn’t exist yet, but it did the same thing: it launched my personal brand.” The speaking circuit and coaching followed.

But by 2012, when she was divorced from Spurlock and had a six-year-old son, her energy was so depleted that she couldn’t get off the couch. “The doctor said I was so anemic she didn’t know how I got up,” she says. Knowing she needed iron, Jamieson began craving animal protein but feared the public backlash. “The vegan world was like any other community: people can be crappy. I often heard rumors about: ‘I saw such and such an author eating eggs.’ I was afraid that would be me.”

She gave in during a trip to Costa Rica, with non-vegan friends who wanted her to get well rather than fear judgement. “I still remember the first bite of white fish, lightly cooked in olive oil with a little salt,” she says. “I felt fantastic and guilty at the same time. I was ashamed that I wasn’t good enough.” The following year was very stressful. “I bought fish at the market and hid it under the kale. My acupuncturist advised me to eat liver, so I bought pate. I thought maybe I could eat animal products occasionally to feel good.”

The commercial impact of telling her followers was a consideration, but the larger dilemma was a moral one. “I felt like a liar. I stopped calling myself vegan and started using “plant-based.” I have expanded my repertoire to include healthy eating.”

Finally, in March 2013, she posted a blog post titled “I’m Not Vegan Anymore.” It went viral. “I woke up to an avalanche of horrible emails. People not only wish me dead, but also make vague death threats. Friends in the vegan world uploaded entire posts of their own calling me the devil. That was the worst: people I knew turned their backs.’

She lost thousands of newsletter subscribers and speaking engagements dried up; there was also a wave of negative book reviews. But she also became “a vegan confession booth.” “People whose entire business was about veganism would message privately or send a text asking if they were going for a drink and saying they were also eating meat.”

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Now 49, she says: “I definitely lost. I also struggled with whether I had set unattainable standards and made anyone feel worse about themselves. I had to be honest so I could move forward.”

The virality of the blog and the response to it created new opportunities. She was asked to write another book, Women, Food and Desire, and now works as a creative leadership coach, with 15,000 Instagram followers. She is also an activist for abortion rights.

“I eat meat almost every day,” she says. “Breakfast consists of three eggs and bread, and I still really like liver. There is something at the cellular level that is so satisfying.”

What she has been through has made her braver. “I did my best,” she says. “Now that I’ve experienced it once in a spectacular way, I’m much braver about the changes I’m making in my life.”

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