Creatives // Alexandra Lim (@alexcrumb)

I have long been drawn to the idea of disconnection. The idea that people are able to side-line the obvious and carry out actions that would have been otherwise contradicting to the discerning. Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Lim otherwise known to most online as her Internet moniker, alexcrumb, who I first heard the idea from. At 20, Alex is already wiser than most her age. What with leading a conscious lifestyle of veganism, climbing, reading, diary-keeping and yoga, she's still had the time to publish a book and perfect her vegan-friendly recipes. She seems set to conquer and I'm excited to introduce her to you.

Tell us about the whole idea of disconnection.
I love this question because there are two sides to the coin here. I’ll start off with the rougher side. The 21st century is the age of disconnection. It is what made me become a vegan in the first place. Disconnection is more than its literal definition. It is the unconscious paradigm shift that has unfortunately become the norm. Disconnection is the conscious or unconscious refusal of the present– we are disconnected with the food we put into our bodies, going with whatever’s the new Instagram trend (hey rainbow bagels, 10-pound ribeyes and sky-high milkshakes), almost as if we care more about the acquisition of an aesthetically pleasing food than how we feel or think about it afterwards. I was guilty of this for a very long time, that is, before I did my research on where our ingredients come from and why it matters so much. Why care? Why bother? These are the questions we must ask in a time where we consult Google for the smallest of things. We hear without listening, speak without thinking, wake up to scroll through the filtered lives of others, our brains reeling with the empty sparkle of someone else’s Louis Vuitton’s, because no one cares about the stately tree that grew a half metre in your garden, or the roof over your head, or the air-conditioning in your room. Nowadays, wherever I am, be it on the Tube in London or the MRT here, I am struck by the throngs of people whose faces I cannot see, eyes I never meet, souls hypnotised by the glowing rectangular screens they desperately clutch. Not to say this is wrong, just wrongly timed.

Then there is blissful disconnection. I revel in mobile disconnection once a week, usually a Sunday, replying to anything urgent but otherwise refraining from checking social media or being on the computer, save for some necessary prep-for-Monday work. That’s exactly what a brain deserves after a full week of zombie-like computer scrolling, phone checking, fretting, or just being on Netflix and oh look, the Sun’s out! It may seem like unnecessary restriction on a weekend, but I cannot tell you how rejuvenating it is in the long run. I love social media only because it took a long while for me to learn to have it under control, and not let it control what, when or how you post something. Passion precedes the urge to earn likes and comments. Erase all of that for a day, appreciate your cup of coffee unphotographed, and the small details all around you will start to sparkle a little more. It feels so good to reply or act on something upon the will of you, and no one else. Unless someone is dying, most things can wait, and you’re better off savouring time with a close friend or family member, or goofing around with some hobby.

Above: Alex's Berry Pillow Pancakes (here)

What specifically was the trigger that brought you to your journey of being vegan? What in particular made you go “whoa, okay. That’s it”
The trigger was this one realisation: veganism is not about kale smoothies and coconut oil. Rather, it is a paradigm shift. Once that clicked, everything fell into place and passion for the lifestyle burned like wildfire. And then it became so easy! Contributors encompassed personal, scientific, ethical and environmental reasons. Namely, The China Study by the inspirational T. Colin Campbell, scientific literature detailing the reversal of chronic disease on plant-based diets, documentaries (What the Health, Cowspiracy and Earthlings) and how every time I did yoga and then went out to eat, it did not make sense the putting into my body of food that did not benefit me or anything else on this planet. I savoured my sausage prata but that did not equate to satisfaction. I was physically, but never mentally satisfied, and even the physical satisfaction faded with the subsequent lethargy, grogginess and heaviness. Was this foreign weight of flesh meaningful to me, the Earth or my body? Evidently there was a severe disconnection between the food I ate, ‘being a foodie’ and physical and mental strength.

On Instagram for example, I’m known for being a sweet fiend, which is still very true, but what is not true is the idea that you can’t be a foodie as a vegan. You see, veganism is an ethical, not cultural norm. We have been conditioned to partake in the eating of meat since birth, it is what we have been trained to think as normal when it is not. Some people would say it’s fine if you shoot and then eat your own animals, thus making the case for ‘ethical’ slaughter, but I say there is no such thing. That’s like saying murder or paedophilia is humane. Is it, really? And since we have no physiological need for meat, for protein or otherwise, then it made sense to leave the stuff alone. The aforementioned documentaries, which you can easily can find on Netflix or online, made me literally put down my fork and think hard about the big picture. The literature is out there but most of us would dismiss diet, this cruel and fluffy d word, as trivial to be considered as important as cancer or heart disease prevention. We don’t need meat or dairy but the meat and dairy industries love manipulating pharmaceutical companies for false publications that make them look good. Not eating a steak or piece of sushi at a prized Michelin-starred restaurant now only seemed like the right, not just sensible, thing to do. As a vegan, I’ve honestly never felt better. I feel sharper, stronger, lighter and, call this more superstitious frill if you will, happier. I guess that would be the natural state of one who is connected, who understands what it means to eat delicious food and have the food love you right back.

Do I care more about having a burger than human health, the environment and feeling so bloody fantastic on a vegan diet? The answer is a straight no.

Above from left: Rice Cake Granola (here),  Salted Caramel Brownies (similar here) and Krakow, Poland

I know you probably get this a lot but…do you find it tough to stay vegan? What are some of the struggles you face day in and day out?

Haha I was almost expecting ‘how do you get protein??’ instead; that’s a way more common question! I don’t find it hard when living alone in London, but it is slightly difficult at home in Singapore. Alone, I can control what to buy and where to eat, but you don’t get that freedom at home in Singapore in a big family of meat-eaters. For example, as a non-vegan previously, ice cream was my absolute vice. Oh God, I could just have ice cream all day. Vanilla-speckled, pistachio or strawberry cheesecake. The Holy Trinity. So now when I see a fresh tub in the freezer, I ask myself: Why do I put myself through this torture? It smells so darn good, a scoop won’t hurt! But it’s about keeping in mind the big picture more so than anything else, that paradigm shift. So I buy or make my own coconut ice cream, which is just as creamy and delicious as the normal sort. And then I ask myself again: wow, why can’t this be the normal idea of delicious? Here, it is up to me to resist, make more vegan bakes and contribute more to the dinner scene.

As I said earlier, meat-eating is the cultural norm, and meat is so central to many ethnic dishes, especially here in Singapore. Eating, you cannot forget, is a huge part of life. Not only is it necessary, it is social. We have lunch breaks with co-workers, dinners with other friends and family. It is hard to convey something you’re so passionate about and receive confused looks or perhaps even anger in return. You don’t want to be looked at or talked about afterwards. At first, I did not want to be labelled as ‘the vegan’, but as it embodies a lifestyle so important in the 21st century, this age of disconnection, I have grown to be proud of it. Not that it defines you as a person, but then you realise… Hey, it sort of does. Veganism is about being connected, feeling good, feeling affection and appreciation. Feeling grateful!

It’s not that people do not understand, it is that they don’t want to understand. Eating or cooking without meat appears to be restrictive or just plain weird, when it is the total opposite! It took a long time to convince my family of my choices, because the concept is still so foreign. To them, it is extreme. Isolating, selfish, crazy shit. I do not wish to disrespect cultural norms that and that is why I am a little more flexible when out with family or friends; I will make do with the next best option. Let’s face it, a lot of food, especially when eating out, would be cross-contaminated with non-vegan ingredients. That can’t be helped, so I try my best. It’s better than not caring.

On that note, are you particular about patronising eateries or supermarkets when they have both vegan options as well as well, non-vegan options? Does that somehow seem like they’ve disconnected somehow?
I do heavily support these eateries and supermarkets, but it’s clear there’s still a bit of work to be done here in Singapore. I am not surprised most people aren’t keen on making the switch or trying out vegan fare; I recently visited a place that did wonderful vegan and raw vegan food, albeit at ridiculous prices and meagre portion sizes. There is evidently a lot of conscious effort put into promoting health and vitality, an effort to be connected to what we put into our mouths and how we feel. However, the research and passion has to match sustenance and approachability. There must be a shift in mentality to prove veganism doesn’t mean anaemia and acai bowls. Elsewhere in the world you can get vegan fish and chips, bangers and mash, mounds of delicious stir fry. I would love for that to be the norm here, and sometimes the norm is only established with flexibility– that is, by incorporating both vegan and non-vegan options on the menu to let the sceptics acclimatise and appreciate vegan food. This is not disconnection, this is merely sensibility in the 21st century.

Above: Arlette Biscuits (here)

How do you come up with your recipes! They always look so mouth-watering.
Ah thank you! Aside from online and paper resources, I have really sometimes just gone into the kitchen and tried to put things together of my own accord. In fact I just developed a vegan fudge brownie waffle recipe that way. With time, you get more confident just playing around. Once you get the base ingredient ratios for a cake, brownie or whatever you wish, it’s up to you to go crazy with flavour combinations. Other times it depends on what I have in the pantry and mixing up unexpected ingredients. Miso and maple may not initially sound pleasing but the pairing is heaven on the tongue. To experiment is to be fearless.

Who has inspired you in the past few months?
My boyfriend Phil, who constantly encourages me to be confident, creative, better. He reminds me of life’s bigger pictures, helps me do everything with intention but also with a laugh.
Leonardo da Vinci for his endless creativity and ferocious will.
Recently, Jeong Kwan from Chef’s Table for her humility and heart of gold. Who else can make kimchi look so good?
On that note of humility, my grandfather’s honesty, integrity and perseverance has and always will be a source of inspiration and motivation.

Above: Crumbs by Alexandra Lim (Amazon, Book Depository)
Tell us about your book!
Crumbs is my creative baby. It is a collection of easy, fast recipes without any compromise on flavour. I put them together as a non-vegan at the time, but all the recipes can be made vegan with simple substitutions. Culinary fun aside, it is my way of trying to get more people to slow down in the mornings. Of revelling in the steam of that first cup of coffee, zoning out, savouring time in the kitchen like a form of meditation. Being proactive instead of reactive, which is so important in this day and age. Nowadays people wake up and start scrolling, zombie-like, through the lives of everyone else in the world, before they brush their teeth. There is a lost sense of self starting from Minute 1. Just taking 10 minutes to make something in the morning, armed with mindfulness and childlike creativity, can change your entire outlook on the world, yourself, and set the perfect tone for the rest of the day.

What made you decide to bite the bullet and publish your own book?
I started putting some recipes online a few years ago but, the bibliophile I am, wanted to put something together in a form people could feel, mess up, see, love. Some of my earliest memories of food did not revolve around just eating, but rather, sifting through pages spiked with the flour that fell from my 5 year-old hands and hair. I love to write and I love to write about food, so it made sense to weave these two in a physical form that steps out of the messy online archives.

 "Some people would say it’s fine if you shoot and then eat your own animals, thus making the case for ‘ethical’ slaughter, but I say there is no such thing. That’s like saying murder or paedophilia is humane. Is it, really?"
Above from top to bottom: Cinnamon Roll Blondies (here) and Flourless Chocolate Cake (here)

I know it’s not easy taking a different route especially at our age and generation with going vegan and publishing your own book…how did you cope and what did you find out from that uphill climb if any?
I wouldn’t say it hasn’t been easy, rather the hard part is just starting. The rest is fun. It’s all only made me want to challenge myself more, and embrace the decisions I have made. You miss 100% of the hoops you don’t shoot at, right? There may still be this stigma with veganism (oh those weak, kale-munching, dreadlocked kids!), but you have to own it. Slavery wasn’t abolished in a day, women couldn’t start being part of the workforce by snapping their fingers. You must own it, love it, be proud of it. We all falter and fall, and I’ve made many failures before. That’s just part and parcel of finding out why you love what you love and do what you do.  

What are you trying to achieve on your platform at the end of the day?
I want people to feel connected to themselves, their surroundings, think for themselves, and be kids. To question what they see, experiment with childlike curiosity, maybe fall but always get up again. I want people to be fearless in all endeavours, be it baking a cake for the first time, trying out a vegan restaurant for the first time, or loving someone more than usual, with fullness of heart and purity of intention.

What do you have planned for the next day, week, month, year?
Well right now I’m having my Summer holidays but am working in research, so that’s what’s going on for the most part for the next 6 weeks! On weekdays I meet up with old friends, annoy my sisters, and indulge in economy rice (haha). Weekends are for family and strolling around, exploring new places and playing around in the kitchen. Will be travelling to Bangkok and parts of Malaysia with my boyfriend in 2 months, and I already have a list of things and places to check out. Next year is my final year of university, which is crazy, overwhelming and exciting. I can’t wait to embark on more adventures and take on more challenges in this roller coaster of a life.

 Above: Alex's escape - The New Zealand countryside

What’s something you’ve learnt thus far from being you and growing?
3 things. I learnt to be proud of what you love, to treasure those close to you, and that it is 110% ok to fall and hurt yourself. As someone who’s sensitive and easily pushed down by words and happenings, that last one came pretty late.

Lastly, what would you wish to say to those who are struggling, lost, stuck in a creative rut or afraid to be different?  

Take a day (or two) for yourself. Go explore, near or far, by yourself, just to let yourself think about the world and the things important in your life. By being able to listen to your own thoughts, you’ll surprise yourself with a rejuvenated sense of self and outlook on life afterwards. You don’t have to be a monk– immerse yourself in the sacred quiet of a forest or thrust yourself into the bustling city streets. Sometimes just being on the Tube in London, looking at the strange and different faces of people far and wide, makes me appreciate the beautiful diversity of life, every face a different story, a different history. Take that appreciation and use it to cultivate a renewed sense of wonder and excitement.

Check Alex out on Instagram and her website.
end, merci.


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