Vegan goddess, Sarah Kramer discusses animal-friendly cooking, crafting and shoes.
When did you first become vegan / vegetarian and what was your motivation?
"It's not a problem for me to be vegan. I've never found it to be a hassle. That's why I started writing books so I could show readers how easy it can be.'"
I talk about my journey from vegetarian to vegan in my first book How It All Vegan, but long story short I've been vegetarian since I was a child. My mother raised my brother and I veggie since birth and when she passed away, when I was 10, my Dad continued to raise us vegetarian, even though he was a meat eater. I did a little "experimenting" with meat when I was a teenager and quickly went back to vegetarian. Eating animals was never something I was comfortable with.
The transition to veganism was a natural one for me. I have always been a lover of animals but didn't fully understand how much they suffered until I saw a documentry called "The Animals Film" which was an eye opening experience for me. I walked out of that movie a changed person.
How was the transition from vegetarian to vegan and did you pick up any tricks?
I think that the transition from veggie to vegan is like everything in life. You're making a choice. A conscious choice to make a difference. Either you stick to your convictions or you don't, but once you've drawn the curtain back and have seen how animals suffer for food and fashion. I don't understand how anyone could fall off the vegan wagon.
Were there any non-vegan meals/ things you really missed and found hard to replace?
The only thing I miss are shoes. I have a serious shoe fetish and while you can find some fantastic vegan shoes out there at places like MooShoes or Left Feet, the majority of vegan shoes are kind of plain. I would love it if there were some more gorgeous unique choices for me. Although MINK shoes is getting pretty close.
Do you have any tips or advice for someone struggling to stick to a strict vegan or vegetarian diet?
Don't think of it as strict. *laugh* I think it's important to focus on all the things you CAN have. Not the things you can't. The list of what a vegan can't eat is very small compared to what we can eat. There is so much out there to taste. Go wild!
Do you consider veganism a personal choice or something that everyone should practice?
Being vegan is a very personal choice for me and I try my best not to be the Vegan Police. I prefer to live by example and hopefully my vegan choices will rub off on the people around me and will raise their consciousness a little so they'll start making cruelty free choices. But I do have some friends who are dog lovers. They would lay down in front of a car for their dog, but they still munch away on fried chicken or steak. The connection they have for one animal and the disconnect they have for another fascinates me and frustrates me all at the same time. So I try my best not to judge (because that does nothing) and instead to gently encourage. We all have a path to walk and some of us are faster than others.
I can imagine eating out would be difficult. How do you deal with dining at restaurants or other people's homes?
My biggest tip is BE PREPEARED!
It can be a challenge but I live on the west coast so my choices are plenty. You can usually find something on the menu that you can eat. My biggest advice is to plan ahead. If you know you're going to dinner in a strange town then do some research before you go. Get on the internet and see if there are vegan friendly places there (check HappyCow or VegDining). If there's no veggie places then stick to ethnic. Mexican, Indian, Thai, etc, etc, will all have veggie choices.
If you're going to someone's house for dinner... and they're not vegan ... I almost always bring a dish I can eat so I know I'm covered. If it's not a potluck and your host is insisting on making the entire meal - and you're worried they don't fully comprehend what veganism is - then eat a small meal before you go. *laugh* That way if they make vegetarian soup with chicken stock or mashed potatoes with butter you're not hungry and you can eat around the things that aren't vegan. Lastly. Stick a couple of energy bars in your purse and you can eat them when nobody is looking.
Most importantly. Never apologize for being vegan. Never feel bad that someone has to go out of their way to avoid animal ingredients. You're vegan. Be proud of your choices. If your host or hostess feels put out by your restrictions ... then it's their problem not yours. But saying that, not everyone understands veganism so offer to either make food you can eat or to help with preparing the food so you can join in at the table.
Sarah's favorite dishes = anything with potatoes. :)
How do you organize yourself in regards to food shopping and day-to-day meal preparation in your home? Do you cook the majority of the meals?
I pretty much eat every meal at home and every meal is made from scratch. Don't get me wrong... I'm not boiling my own beans and baking my own bread, but I do make each meal. I wrote La Dolce Vegan (my last book) because my life was getting so busy and I didn't have a lot of time to cook, so most of the recipes in that book can be made in under 30 minutes with minimal ingredients you can find at any grocery store but with maximum yummy!
How has veganism changed over the years, since you started writing your cook books and do you feel like the internet and the information available now, has encouraged more people to try out veganism?
I've seen veganism grow alongside the internet. The internet was a new-fangled thing when How It All Vegan first came out and the groundswell of support for the book came mainly from internet at first. For me the internet has been an amazing way to connect with like minded people. When I was growing up I thought I was the only vegetarian alive and I felt unsure about my choice to be animal friendly. I didn't know anyone else who thought like me. The internet helped me to connect me with others and showed me I wasn't alone. That my dedication to veganism was something that others shared with me. Yay internet!
When you're not cooking, what other crafts do you enjoy?
I love all things crafty. I'm a bit of a thrift store junkie so I love finding treasures and sprucing them up or totally refurbishing them. I have a wee craft chapter in La Dolce Vegan. With crafts like how to give 'found objects' a new life or making a dress making dummy out of duct tape.
Which came first, the crafting or the cooking and have you always been so creative?
I've always been a creative person. Both my parents were actors and ran a theater company so I've always been surrounded by artistic people. I spent my childhood on the floor of the stage of the theater watching plays being born and when I wasn't there I was in the wardrobe room watching costumes being made or the props room watching sets being built. My parents also had a lot of artists friends (photographers, sculptors, painters etc etc.) so my influences are far and wide.
I express myself through all the things I do whether it be photography, food, art, writing or even the way I dress. It's the way I find my joy.
How does being vegan affect your crafting? For example, are their certain materials you can't use?
Well I have to avoid anything that is made from on contains animal products. So I don't use wool, silk, leather, etc. I also have to make sure that the products (glue, paint, etc) I'm using are vegan friendly. There's a lot of products out there that are vegan friendly ... you just have to get a little "crafty" about what you're using.
Are there any other issues that you feel as strongly about?
Violence against woman was something I took on just this last year when I co-produced and performed in a production of The Vagina Monologues. We raised $30,000 for Women's Transition House here in Victoria and the experience from start to finish was transformative for me. I can't even put into words how amazing the experience was.
What's next for you?
I just finished working on a new book called Vegan A Gogo! It's a small travel size cookbook (about the size of a small journal) and has travel tips, 20 new recipes as well as some of the "best of" recipes from the first 3 books.
I receive so many letters from readers around x-mas time that they are at their parents and want the recipe for this or that but they didn't bring their cookbooks with them. I mean, who travels with their cookbooks? Well come Sept you will be able to travel with this one. It's small enough that it can fit in your bag without taking up too much space and has a TON of recipes in it. Most of the recipes have ingredients you can find almost anywhere. I can't wait for this one to come out. I'm stoked.
For more information on Sarah and her books, check out GoVegan. If you'd like to receive more information on Sarah's upcoming cookbook, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and Sarah will email you will all the latest information.
Photography by Gerry Kramer. The shoe pictured with Sarah is by MinkShoes.com, a vegan shoe company in LA.