1840 Journal

Meet the artisans, discover their expertise, and share their passion.


Returning to the Roots of Food: Vegan Cooking with YYY

5 Jul 2019

As a potter or as a chef for Vegan Secret Suppers, YYY’s multidisciplinary artist, Mérida Anderson, promotes joyful gatherings and a respect for farming.

*Note: As requested by the artist, this text is written in a non-binary way. The pronoun "they" is used as a gender-neutral pronoun.

Creating Bonds Between Strangers

While taking a break from creating, Mérida travelled to Halifax and became interested in the idea of a supper club, a concept unknown in Canada at the time, where strangers gather in a private house to enjoy a gourmet meal cooked by the host or hostess. “Back then, I was making clothing but I had to take a break from fashion. I travelled to Eastern Canada and I met someone in Halifax who was hosting supper clubs, three-course meals served on communal tables. And I thought, ‘This is what I want to do!’”

In 2007, Mérida launched their first Vegan Secret Supper in their tiny apartment in Vancouver. “Communal suppers were not generally known about at the time! At first, people thought it was fairly weird to go eat at a stranger’s place.” While the first few moments might have been a bit uneasy, the guests very quickly became friends. “I met new friends, people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, people from different social circles.”

For 12 years, Mérida has welcomed strangers into their house in Vancouver, New York, and Montreal. Many of their guests come back, supper after supper, and Mérida cherishes that. “It’s because my food is vegan: it’s niche, so people tend to come back. When you are a vegan, it’s harder to try a lot of restaurants and have a different experience every time. That is what I offer.”

Spotlighting Vegan Cooking

When Mérida starts to cook, making vegan choices comes naturally. “I haven’t eaten meat in over 20 years, it’s a constant in my life. I don’t cook fake meat either.” Their meals are both meat and dairy-free and are based on the season’s freshest produce—the fruits and vegetables found at the market. The dishes they serve are gourmet and nutritious. “I like to cook meals we don't usually prepare on weekdays, meals that are gourmet but accessible as well. I also want people to be full when they leave the table: three beautiful bites on a plate isn’t my type of meal!”

Their passion for vegan cooking drove them to write and illustrate a book, Vegan Secret Supper: Bold & Elegant Menus from a Rogue Kitchen (published by Arsenal Pulp Press). If they had a restaurant and got to design the menu, what would be their favourite recipe? Fettuccine Alfredo with a creamy coconut sauce. Writing their first cookbook, made Mérida want to do it all over again. “I really want to write a second book and this time, highlight my pottery. I think it would be very cool to combine the two.” This is, in fact, exactly what fellow Montreal-based potter and vegan, Trudy Crane, did with her book Saisons : la table végane, which combines recipes and pieces of pottery.

Returning to the Roots

In the kitchen or in their workshop, Mérida knows how much time is needed to do things the right way as they’ve chosen a slow made and slow living lifestyle. “When you’re cooking, it’s important to be aware of where your food comes from, whether it’s a tomato or a piece of meat. When you grow your own tomatoes and you eat them in the summer, you understand the work that goes into watering the seeds, taking care of the plants, and watching them grow. In the same way that you have to respect food, you also must respect the time needed to cook it and the work it requires.” This is a philosophy that’s shared by the duo behind U Main, who have created a kit for making vegan cheeses at home.

Mérida has naturally found similarities in making pottery. “Only a few people know that it can take up to three weeks to make a simple cup by hand. The value of a tomato or of a cup is defined by the time it takes to grow the tomato or the time invested in making an object. It’s important for me to get to the root of things in my life.”

Photos credit: Vegan Secret Suppers