Wednesday, September 13, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Foodie with Julie Hasson


This week’s vegan foodie is someone who just sends me into an instant shame cycle with her productivity.
Julie Hasson has been a fixture in the vegan scene for a long time, and as if being owner of the popular Native Bowl food cart in Portland, recipe developer, prolific cookbook author, columnist, cooking show host, and baking mix entrepreneur weren’t enough, she has now embarked on a new project with her friend and fellow vegan, gluten-free foodie Kittee Berns: fun and fabulous new e-books and consultation via their new venture together, Julie & Kittee. Despite her impressive resume, Julie remains an approachable, friendly, warm and engaging presence online, helping everyone learn some amazing new vegan recipes without judgment or condescension. She’s just the bomb and I am honored to feature Julie Hasson as this week’s Vegan Foodie.

1. How did you start down this path of creating delicious food? Was a love for food nurtured into you? Did you have any special relatives or mentors who helped to instill this passion?

My mom really instilled my love of food, as well as my French grandmother, at a very young age. So it was of no surprise to my family when I changed my career path in college from pursuing an art degree to enrolling in culinary school. My brother and I are both chefs.

2. What was your diet like when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite meals or meal traditions? Do you carry them over today?

Growing up I ate a very healthy diet. Until my mom went back to work when I was in 6th grade, my parents were health nuts. My mom made everything from scratch. It was all about whole wheat bread, home-grown vegetables, tofu, carob, and granola. No Wonder Bread sandwiches for me, no matter how much I may have begged at the time. Chocolate and sugar were frowned upon for quite a few years there too (and may have inspired my future career in pastry!). My mom’s bread and homemade soups were some of my favorites.

3. It’s late at night and you just got home: What is your favorite quick and simple vegan meal?

Fried rice! I just shared the recipe in the new issue of VegNews.

4. If you could prepare one meal or dessert for anyone living or dead, who would it be for and what would you create?

That’s a hard one! I’ll have to get back to you on that.

5. What do you think are common mistakes in vegan cooking and how do you avoid them?

Under-seasoning food is the biggest mistake I see. Vegan food should have tons of flavor, and texture and color too. Don’t be afraid to really season your food with layers of spices and fresh and dried herbs, as well as lots of colorful vegetables. Also, a little salt and oil go a long way in flavoring food.

6. What ingredients are you especially excited about at the moment? Also, what ingredients do you always like to have on hand?

I am loving the last of the summer corn, peaches, and tomatoes. It’s hard to see the summer fruit and veggie season come to an end. As for ingredients I always try to have on hand, there are lots! There’s nutritional yeast flakes, chickpea flour, a variety of gluten-free flours, smoked paprika, granulated onion and garlic, zucchini, fresh garlic, onions, tomatoes, scallions, lemons and limes, broccoli and red cabbage. I know I’m missing some, but that’s a good start.

7. What are your top three cuisines from around the world?

Again, so hard to choose, but Korean, Mexican, and Italian, followed closely by Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Chinese and Indian. I really love spicy, bold flavors, as you can see.

8. Who or what has been most influential to you on your vegan path?

My friend Heather for sure! She really inspired me to go vegan when I was first vegetarian. Also
Tanya Petrovna, who shared her delicious recipes and let me assist her cooking classes years ago, when I was a vegetarian chef. And Bryanna Clark Grogan, who inspired me with all of her amazing recipes, and did a 3-day cooking intensive with me in her kitchen!

9. What issue is nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like people to know more about?

There are so many important issues to focus on now that need our attention, so it’s really hard to pick just one issue. But, that said, dog rescue is something very close to my heart. I became involved with
One Tail at a Time – Portland, which is doing amazing work, including setting up a hospice program for old and sick dogs, and creating a short-term fostering program for those that are hospitalized and have no one to take care of their dogs while they’re away. There is also a huge need for fostering dogs as well as adopting. I wish I could foster all the dogs in need.

10. Last, please finish this sentence. "To me, vegan food is…”


Friday, September 8, 2017

Guide for New Vegans: Update!

Hi, all!

Just a quick note to say this this week's update is a new chapter in an ambitious project we've been working on, The Guide for New Vegans. One thing I have noticed is that there are many vegan starter kits that help people learn about the "whys" of veganism as well as some of the "hows" but there is a dearth of materials available to help people who are already on the path but who, in those new months, are facing challenges. Without materials addressing the challenges, what we are doing is asking people to consider going vegan but not setting them up for success.

People often struggle, sometimes in silence, when they face challenges with their new vegan path and think that they lack the character, the willpower or whatever else to successfully maintain a vegan transition so they quit. We created the Guide as a user-friendly way to help people navigate the often steep learning curve of the first year, from listing free or inexpensive resources available to discussing how to find community as a vegan and everything in between, trying to keep it succinct but genuinely helpful. As a living document, we will be adding new sections and resources as we think of them and learn of them. As more people are exploring veganism with popular new films and books out that promote it, we feel this resource couldn't come at a better time.  If you've not seen it before, please check out the Guide and send me an email with any materials we should consider adding. If you have seen it before, please check out Chapter Five, our newest chapter and perhaps the most important, on "Staying Strong Against Social Pressure and Gaining Resilience as a Vegan," which is, to my mind, the biggest challenge new vegans face. We also have new links up on Chapter 2 and Chapter 7 as well as revisions throughout.

We are proud of this resource. We'd love it if you would share it as the feedback we've gotten on it has been very positive. Last, if you'd like to support the work we do as Vegan Street to create free materials like the Guide as well as all the recipes, memes and other content we create every week, please consider signing up as a Patreon, which affords us the ability to dedicate our time to creating this work.

Thank you!

PS - It will be available as a PDF soon. :)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

20 Reasons Not to Go Vegan


There are many valid reasons to go vegan but probably as many misguided ones. Don’t misunderstand, I am happy for anyone who quits eating animals, but the main thing is that I want it to last. When people are motivated by reasons beyond than their perceived personal gains, in my opinion, veganism has the greatest likelihood of lasting, which is not to say that all the benefits shouldn’t be appreciated.

When people “go vegan” for reasons that are more outwardly directed or in pursuit of something that a vegan diet doesn’t necessarily guarantee, they are susceptible to becoming the disgruntled “former vegans” I talk to all the time. While people are driven by a variety of motivating sources, I think it’s important to remember that veganism is at its foundation a way of living that seeks to reduce cruelty and make the world more just, equitable and sustainable. Does that mean that you are an inauthentic vegan if you’re primarily motivated by something else? Not at all. It just means that there are some very bogus reasons and if you want veganism to stick, rooting your veganism in ethics will provide a more stable foundation.

With that, I offer twenty reasons not to go vegan.

1. You want to be skinny.

2. You’re feeling inspired by a celebrity who was paleo just last week.

3. You want to impress someone, especially a romantic interest/partner.

4. You want to rebel against someone, especially a parent/relative.

5. You thought it would be a fun challenge, kind of an endurance feat.

6. You’ve heard good things about being gluten-free.

7. The most popular kid in school/at the office is vegan.

8. You haven’t gotten attention for a while.

9. You saw a picture of a vegan Instagram celebrity with washboard abs so…

10. It was either that or try paleo again.

11. You think veganism might help you live forever.

12. You think veganism might help you never get sick.

13. You think veganism might help you look 20 years younger.

14. Maybe this will be your ticket to making six figures as an influencer after all.

15. Alkaline something-something? Something about alkaline?

16. You saw a David Wolfe meme.

17. You’re bored.

18. Blood type something-something? Something about blood type?

19. You’ve been wanting to go on a cleanse.

20. It’s trending.

So forget those twenty reasons because this is the only reason you need to go vegan: Because you don’t believe animals should be exploited, suffer and be killed for your fleeting desires and the fact that you can help to improve the environment as well as prospects for future generations and enjoy some health benefits at the same time is just the icing on the cake.

If you are vegan for one of the other reasons listed above, don’t fret! Just build a stronger foundation underneath it if you want it to stick.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

On Virtue Signaling and Identity Politics: Or How to Misuse A New Phrase You Barely Understand…


My husband is a great guy but, honestly, he has a hard time keeping up on the latest from popular culture and emerging trends. Take, for example, new phrases. Over the past few months,
Vegan Street has been hit with a bunch of terms on our various social media platforms (but especially Instagram) that have left John with a proverbial cartoon thought balloon containing a big, red question mark over his head and two phrases are appearing most often. It usually goes like this: We post a meme about cruelty to animals and we’re accused of virtue signaling. We make a statement against the oppression of other humans and suddenly, we’re accused of engaging in identity politics.

Let’s dissect these phrases, shall we?

What is Virtue Signaling?

Is a person anti-racist to the extent that he or she is working to eradicate white supremacy or is someone anti-racist in that he or she will post a Martin Luther King meme on the third Monday of each January? If it’s the latter, that person may just be virtue signaling.

Virtue signaling is sharing thoughts on important issues for the sake of being seen as a good person without doing the actual work to create a better world. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, virtue signaling is “an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media: Virtue signaling is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas or cultural happenings.” Coined by British journalist and author James Bartholomew, virtue signaling skillfully describes the spectacle on social media of people posting disingenuous and largely anodyne sentiments about important matters, often in the realm of social justice, for the main purpose of trying to be seen as virtuous. It is an increasingly common feature of our daily lives. The phrase “virtue signaling” is very handy in describing something that didn’t have a term for it until social media forged in into being but you wish you’d had it in your vocabulary long ago.

What is Identity Politics?

Identity politics has some similar aspects to virtue signaling. Developed as a term to describe
a personal, political and ideological focus on the issues relevant to various groups that are defined by a wide array of shared characteristics, for example, race, sexual orientation and religion, “identity politics” is more of a neutral term than virtue signaling, which is always derogatory, as it’s one that has both positive and negative connotations. At its best, identity politics helps to serve, elevate and amplify the needs of often-ignored groups and at its worst, identity politics is a blunt instrument that encourages conformity, suppression of individual voices and hyper-focuses on division and separation. I think that both interpretations can be true. In the hands of someone who scarcely understands the expression, though, identity politics becomes, like virtue signaling, just another self-conscious way to show off.

There is truth to
the criticisms; there are people who are prone to bland, self-centered “activism” and certainly social media lends itself to the garish pageantry of this. However, rather than a thoughtful critique, I am seeing the terms used as a knee-jerk and reactive cynical response more and more these days. Rather than examining why they themselves aren’t more engaged with creating a more just world, those who invoke the terms often seem like they would just be content if we’d all admit that no one really cares and that those who are trying to make the world a better place are grandiose, attention-seeking hypocrites. I have noticed a cold, cynical nihilism at the root of much of this accusation of phoniness rather than a thoughtful analysis.

I know we love our new expressions, especially ones with a bit of a zing, but slapping them on with a broad brush whenever we think it might apply tends to neutralize terms that are actually useful and helpful to understand. To adapt an idiom, when your shiniest, newest phrase is a hammer, all of the sudden, everything and everyone become a nail.

With this in mind, I’ve come up with a newbie’s guide to these two new phrases.

On Virtue Signaling…

Sample quote: “Pardon me, your shoe is untied.”
Instead of: “Hey, cool. Thanks.”
Might Try: “What makes you think you’re so la-dee-dah heroic? Show off. You virtue signalers are so annoying.”

Sample quote: “Excuse me, your gas cap isn’t on.”  

Instead of: “Oh, thanks so much!”
Newbies Might Try: “So now I guess you think you’re like the best person in the world for that, huh?
Awesome virtue signaling.”

Sample quote: “Hi, I found your dog running in the street and have him at my house for you to pick up.”
Instead off: “I am so grateful! I didn’t realize our back gate was open and I’ve been looking for him for an hour. Oh, thank you! I am so happy!”
Newbies Might Try: “What do you want, a virtue signaling cookie?”

Sample situation: Taking a public position on abuse, harassment, oppression, bigotry, misogyny, tyranny, etc. [fill-in-the-blank].
Instead of, “Thank you for -”
Newbies Might Try: “Oh, my god, enough with your virtue signaling, okay? I guess you think you’re so superior and all that?”

On Identity Politics…

Sample quote: “I am a feminist.”
Instead of saying: “That’s great to hear. Political, social and economic equality of the sexes should be a given.”

Newbies Might Try: “Ugh, people and their labels! Some of us are too mature for narrow-minded identity politics.”

Sample quote: “I think speaking up against racism is kind of the least I can do.”
Instead of saying, “I agree. We should be doing everything we can to reverse white supremacy and ending systemic racism.”
Newbies Might Try: “Well, whoopety doo, you’re against racism. What about reverse racism? I had to work for everything I have. I am so tired of everyone’s damn identity politics.”

Sample quote: “As a gay person and business owner, I like to support businesses that are on the record for supporting LBGTQ causes and withdraw my support from those who don’t.”
Instead of: “Showing support of businesses that stand for LBGTQ rights is a great way to use your dollars to reward those whose values you appreciate and withdraw support from those you don’t.”
Newbies Might Try: “Oh my god, what’s next? This is like Nazism. Enough with the identity politics.”

Sample quote: “As a vegan, I take a position against the oppression of all beings. Whether we’re talking racism, sexism or any other form of bigotry, aligning with discrimination is in conflict with my vegan convictions.”
Instead of: “Yes, that makes sense. I mean, you’re opposed to suffering and cruelty, right?”

Newbies Might Try: “Ugh, how about you take your damn identity politics out of your veganism? Not every vegan is a SJW libtard.”

Or, you know, maybe we shouldn’t bust out new phrases whenever we feel threatened or reactive but look within at our responses instead. It’s your call, virtue signaler.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Eric C. Lindstrom...

Yay for Eric C. Lindstrom! A talented
designer and President of ThankTank Creative as well as the new Marketing Director of FARM, Eric is responsible for helping to position so many vegan businesses and non-profits for success
with beautiful, smart logos and communications. As an author with a popular new
book, The Skeptical Vegan, Eric deconstructs how a self-described former carnivore could – and why he would – go vegan, painlessly and willingly, with joy and even enthusiasm. I am so excited for Eric’s book, which can reach people in a way that many vegan advocacy publications cannot by showing readers that at one point this vegan champion was just like them.

With a disarming and self-deprecating humor buttressed by his unflagging honesty, The Skeptical Vegan gives people a real lens into what a vegan transformation can look like – how deeply and richly it manifests in our personal lives as well as how making simple changes to our mindsets and our kitchens can net significantly positive results –and, more important, gives readers access to helpful resources and insights that can remove barriers to veganism. I can’t recommend it enough. Plus, I was fortunate enough to meet Eric in person at the most recent
Animal Rights Conference when we were on a panel together and he’s just a great guy all around: talented but down-to-earth, generous, warm, smart and really tuned into the what is happening in the world, Eric is just the bee’s knees. I am honored to be able to shine a spotlight on Eric C. Lindstrom as this week’s Vegan Rockstar.

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

I’ve been telling people that my vegan story is the blog that inspired the bet that inspired the book, The Skeptical Vegan. While the early days of veganism were started from a challenge set forth by my wife that soon became the “bet I refuse to lose,” I’d have to say the people along the way who I met were really what inspired me to stick to it. Having support, and a support system, made it possible for me to go, and stay, vegan.

When you’re a new vegan and you get to have lunch with Dr. Greger, or work closely with Miyoko Schinner, or brunch with Steve-O, going vegan seems like a very cool club to belong to. Without these early influences, I don’t know if I would be where I am today.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

There was no talking to me back then. Back when I ate animals, I wouldn’t listen. The first vegan who said to me, after finding out I ate 68 chicken wings in one sitting, “so, you support animal cruelty?” I thought she was crazy (still do, kind of). I didn’t support animal cruelty, I loved chicken wings. Year later, I’m that crazy person and I know now where she was coming from. Maybe in some ways her words helped me see the light but at the time I wasn’t having any of it. The “old me” wouldn’t listen and this is the challenge. I’m not sure there is one way to approach this since every person is in a different place when it comes to their own choices.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

I’ve been known for my snark. Great white snark. It’s been my sense of humor that has opened the doors for a lot of people to walk into veganism. They can see that there is an actual “life” as a vegan. The stereotypes are no longer true. Promote the vegan message with a sense of humor and approachability and I think we’ll all succeed.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

Power in numbers. Having just returned from the Animals Rights National Conference, it’s inspiring to see so many (and I mean thousands) people behind this movement. Getting to hear a talk by Nathan Runkle makes me confident we are going to win. For the animals. There are so many amazing people, and now amazingly generous philanthropists, making sure the next generation, and the one after that, doesn’t have to pay for our past when it comes to the treatment of animals.

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

The biggest challenge facing the vegan movement are the “fly-over states.” Everywhere between New York City and Los Angeles. The coasts are covered and some interior cities like Austin, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Boulder know what’s going on; but there are so many golden buckles on the corn belt that still live off of butter and beef. Just when we think we are making strides, we get data that pork consumption is on the rise. From where I sit, literally in hippy Ithaca New York, this seems impossible. But it’s not.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

“Animals are not food.” This is all I ever have to say. There is no counter-argument to this in my mind. Some friends I have who are recent vegans always ask me how to respond to omnivores as to why they are now vegan. This is all I tell them: Animals. Are. Not. Food.

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

I mention in The Skeptical Vegan some of the earliest influencers in my vegan journey. From Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s 30-Day Vegan Challenge to Joe the Juicer’s Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, most of my influence came from a health perspective. I’ve been fortunate to have T. Colin Campbell as a personal friend and he has helped and inspired me in so many ways. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Steve-O. Meeting him just as I was about to go vegan had a positive impact on me as I realized that anyone, at any age, can make radical life changes.

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

I continue writing. Just as The Skeptical Vegan hit the shelves nationwide, I started working on my next book, Mind Your Peas and Cukes: A Guide to Raising Vegan Kids. While writing may seem like work, it’s actually a respite from the rest of my hectic life and when the words all come together and make sense, it’s very fulfilling. Other than this, I spend the majority of my time chasing around our two vegan toddlers.

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

I, like so many other vegans, have had it with the terms “humane meat” or “free range” in regard to omnivores food choices and their arguments for continuing to eat meat, dairy, and eggs. Some of the less-than-kind reviews of my book have been readers complaining that it seems as though I want them to stop eating animals entirely. Which I do. Since animals are not food.

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

… the right thing to do. For your own health, the health of the planet, and for the animals.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with JL Fields


How many ways do I love
JL Fields? Let me count the ways…

1. I love her passionate vegan foodie ways.
1. I love that she is a passionate vegan foodie who manages to create recipes that are accessible to the average home cook who doesn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen with each meal but still have delicious food regardless.
3. I love that she’s funny, snarky, engaged,
fierce and talented. (Follow her personal page on Facebook to see ample evidence of this and professional page for lots of foodie inspiration.)
4. I love how prolific she is! Look at all these fabulous
books she’s written and co-authored.
5. She also has a radio show, when she’s not coaching people and creating meal plans. Are you even kidding me?! I was lucky enough to be a guest. I could have talked to JL for seven hours straight.
6. I think I need to take a nap now.
7. I feel like a failure.
8. But I can’t hate JL because she’s far too awesome.
9. And I get to see her at
Chicago VeganMania on September 23 (as do you!) with the release of her most recent cookbook, The Vegan Air Fryer. Join us!

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

I’d love to tell you that I had an inkling at a young age that vegan was the way to go but I just didn’t. Yes, I loved my cats and dog and yes, I loved eating meat. When I was in my late thirties I was in Kenya for a work event and a male elder led a got into the ceremony. The goat was slaughtered, stewed, and served for dinner. I became a vegetarian on the spot. It was eight years later, when, far less dramatically, I had concluded a 16-day detox with my yoga instructor and realized I hadn’t had animal products during that time. Huh, I guess I’m vegan, I thought. And so I was.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I consider myself a seeking spirit – something I attribute to my Buddhism – and I tend to be more convinced when I have an experience and allow myself to be moved by it. But I can tell you that if the year I was 40 someone said go vegan to lose weight or go healthy I would have said, “not necessary!” I was a size 4 and running marathons and my blood work was top notch.

If someone at 40 had said, “It’s great that you’re vegetarian, but do you know how hens and cows are treated for your eggs and dairy?” I just didn’t know. It’s actually one of the reasons that when meat eaters ask me how to start, and they know they aren’t ready to go all in, that I encourage them to give up eggs and dairy before meat. It gives me the opportunity to talk about the cruelty in terms of logic. An animal farmed for meat will die a violent death in a matter of months. Dairy cows and chickens experience utter hell for months and years on end. I think once you lay out the simple truth of a farmed animals life, it’s hard not to want to end all of the cruelty.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

I’m an enthusiastic foodie. I get so excited by vegan food, how to make it quickly and deliciously, and I think my utter delight in creating vegan food rubs off on people. I’m on a book tour right now and no matter how daunting a day of travel can be, the minute I’m in front of people demonstrating fun vegan recipes, well, I’m perked up and ready to roll. Anyway who’s taken one of classes knows that humor is an integral part of what I do. We need to have fun. This is very serious stuff we’re talking about – saving animals and the planet – but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh and smile while we’re doing it.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

We have some compassionate leaders who are emerging and changing the face of the movement. Though there’s still a lot of bowing down to the feet of the white male plant-based doctors, there are exciting entrepreneurs and solopreneurs that are making delicious food, creating gorgeous clothing, pushing forth a social justice message and taking up space in the environmental movement. Their leadership is inviting in a broader audience.

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

I think every single activist should know their audience and be willing to meet them where they are. Being kind and inviting others in, at their pace, just might have a more profound impact that treating people like nails and your message is the hammer. You know, I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 15 years and vegan close to eight years. My husband didn’t follow the same path. And I never tried to hammer veganism into him. I did invite him to vegan events, draw the line on what I could tolerate (I never purchased animal products or prepared them once I went vegan), model a happy and healthy vegan lifestyle, and he ultimately did make a decision to live a vegan life. On his terms.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

I was on a morning news show in Denver show last month and the anchor asked me why I didn’t want to eat animals or animal products,

“I don’t need to eat them, so why harm them?”

Obviously I’m only going up one floor on the elevator (oops, should have walked).

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

I have many mentors and there are leaders I admire from afar but I have to say that Ginny Messina, Christopher-Sebastian McJetters, and Andy Tabar are three people who really inspire me. They are consistent in their vegan message. They speak truth to power. They are vegan for the animals.

When I want to passively share vegan information on my personal social media, knowing many of my non-vegan friends and family will see it, I lean toward Vegan Outreach and Mercy for Animals. And of course I share Vegan Street memes! [Ed. note: Interrupting this interview to pass the hat and remind you, gentle reader, that you can support the memes and other work we create by signing on as Patreons of Vegan Street.]

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

Before transitioning my career to that of culinary instructor and food writer, I worked in the nonprofit sector. My clients were victims of hate crimes, sexual assault survivors, and women around the globe who experienced all types of violence. I learned early in my career that carving out time for quiet reflection or reckless and loud fun was essential to cope and come back refreshed. I still carve out meditative and raucous time.

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

I want every single chubby/curvy/fat vegan to know I see you and I love you and you are as important, if not more important, in this movement. Please do not let the loud, highly visible people who judge and shame food choices and body size silence you. 

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

…meeting my highest self.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Finding Amelia Earhart

Lately I’ve been thinking about what Amelia Earhart’s second-to-last thought might have been. Her last thought was likely along the lines of "Well, I guess this is it.” But her second-to-last thought? Perhaps it was “I failed.” It’s the idea of Amelia Earhart’s second-to-last thought that makes me unsettled in the middle of the night.

From what I understand about Amelia Earhart, she was not only preternaturally ambitious but she was also uncommon in that she used her celebrity status to help elevate other female pilots, would-be competitors of hers, through her work with the Ninety-Nines, an organization she co-founded to advance women in aviation. Despite her many accomplishments as an aviator – she was the first solo pilot to fly from Hawai’i to California as well as the first to fly solo nonstop from Mexico City to Newark – feats that were impressive regardless of gender and access, in those final moments, I wonder if she was consumed with the heavy, heartsick burden of failure of a nature few of us will ever experience. The weight of it is hard to comprehend. When Amelia Earhart was last recorded trying to land on the very tiny Howland Island on a cloudy day in the mid-Pacific Ocean, she had 22,000 miles of her 29,000-mile flight around the world behind her. With a last report, “We are running north and south,” Amelia and her navigator weren’t heard from or seen again. They had just 7,000 miles to go.

Did she feel regret? Was she angry with herself?

Who knows what those last few minutes were like but I wonder if when Amelia Earhart's plane went down, she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. Maybe she was heartsick about how the news might be spun, how she was letting down her sister aviators and all the other women who were desperately trying to achieve in fields long denied them.

If so, it may have felt worse than knowing she would soon die.

Like most people, I have failed before, many times, in many different spheres, sometimes with barely a peep, sometimes flaming out spectacularly, though nothing that approaches the grand scale of Amelia Earhart, of course.

Socially, I've had more than a few failures: there was the time my freshman year of high school that I thought I looked so snappy in my navy blue turtleneck and leg warmers that I walked straight into a door frame with such a force that I have a permanent bald spot on my right eyebrow. A classroom full of my fellow freshmen turned from their teacher’s lecture to open-mouth gape out the door at the dazed me and the rivulet of blood now running down my face. “Those face wounds, they can really bleed,” the school nurse nonchalantly remarked as I sat in her office as she squinted and dabbed at my wound. There were more failures, many more, before and after the Eyebrow Incident. Actually, in ruminating on this topic, I am revisiting a tragically embarrassing memory lane I'd rather not skip down so suffice it to say, big, embarrassing social failures are no stranger to me and I am no stranger to them.

Let us continue on the broader topic of failure: I failed my driving test three times, which meant that after that last road test examiner bolted out of the car clutching his clipboard to his chest with white knuckles, I had to wait six months to take the test again. (After this interminable probationary period, I learned how to deep breathe and I finally succeeded with getting my license but I still felt like I had to dash out of the DMV before they revoked it on me.) I failed at my first four jobs in food service, letting me know that I definitely did not possess the skill set and/or temperament for being a passable or even, let’s face it, safe, waitress. There was no fifth restaurant job. The winter of 2015, I took a part-time job - not in food service, I learned that lesson while still in my teens - that I thought would be a great fit for me but it was a pretty miserable experience. On paper, it was great; in reality, it was kind of a nightmare. After a couple of kind of yucky months, I was let go. Mercy can act in unexpected ways.

These are all failures on paper, but you know what? Today, I am a great driver if I do say so myself. It’s been at least 20 years since I got a traffic ticket and, knock on wood, my driving career is pretty unblemished. During my short and less than illustrious career as a server, I spilled many trays of food and I am pretty sure there’s a party of four from 1983 still sitting at a corner booth at Baker’s Square (then Poppin' Fresh) in Wilmette, waiting for their order, but the experience left me with a lifelong respect and understanding of how hard it is to be a good server in a personal, empathy-expanding way that I wouldn't have had otherwise. (Seriously, waiting tables is hard work or at least it was for me: I still have very vivid stress dreams about being a waitress all these years later.) My pride was hurt when the “dream job” in 2015 fizzled but that unhappy experience was the impetus to get really clear on how I do and do not want to spend my time. Thus Vegan Street Media was born.

My failures are not really comparable to Amelia Earhart’s, though. I bruised my ego, she fell from the sky or starved on an island with a mountain of hopes and expectations on her shoulders.

Maybe, though, when this thought consumes me in the dead of the night, I am thinking about this all wrong. Maybe instead of thinking, “I failed,” Amelia thought, “I tried.” Maybe she thought, “Yeah, well, this is pretty lousy but I’d like to see anyone else do what I did.” Maybe that last minute of her life, she was damn proud of what she’d done, defiantly pleased with herself. To fail spectacularly as Amelia Earhart, you have to live spectacularly. For us mere mortals, though, living a full life means failure as well and at times, it may feel like we’re also falling from the sky.

You have not failed unless you’ve not tried. With time and distance, there is always learning to take away, always growth to be had, and all those other platitudes that are painfully hackneyed to write but still true. There is so much in the world that petty people would love for us to feel ashamed and embarrassed about. Trying and not succeeding as we’d hoped we would just isn’t worth it.

Let's allow ourselves to fail. Not only that, really let’s all try to embrace failure. Court it. Own it. Bathe in it. Be proud of it. Welcome it. Dance with it. When we do that, we’ll know we're flying with the giants.