vegansaurus!

04/17/2011

Xgfx: vegan and gluten-free website launch! Meet the geniuses behind it!  »

I hope you’re ready for prettiest day on the vegan internet, because a stunning new website full of all things both vegan and gluten-free launches today!Xgfx “brings you the ultimate 100 percent vegan and gluten-free resource—featuring a shiny new blog, a community recipe hub, xgfx tips and so much more!” You guys, I just want to pinch this URL’s cute little cheeks, and I’m not even gluten-free. I practically live off gluten alone, but that’s going to change ASAP because the recipes in the xgfx database covered some of my favorite foods in the world, and yours too, sans gluten! You don’t have to feel sorry for your celiac vegan friends anymore, and you can bully your non-vegan celiac friends to go vegan without being an asshole! Actually, you’ll probably be kind of jealous and soon we’ll all be xgfx because we want to be the most popular kids in the community. These people are onto something.
The adorable ladies behind the community, Kittee, Allyson, and Jessy, put their gluten-shunning heads together to create a site that fills a gap in the online vegan community and brings delight to gluten-intolerant vegan tummies everywhere. Following a week filled with scandal, it is kind of the best thing ever to see passionate vegans launching a site filled with earnestly vegan and gluten-free content. Vegansaurus interviewed the trio, so check it out if you can hold off clicking through to xgxf for another second. It’ll be worth it! There is a recipe for vegan pho at the end!

Vegansaurus: Who coined the term xgfx?
Kittee: I coined that term back in 2009, shortly after I went gluten-free. I was blogging for Vegan MoFo and it was bugging the shit out of me to type vegan and gluten free over and over and over again. I definitely got the idea from XEDGEX, but I didn’t mean to steal or demean it in any way—we’ve had a tiny bit of backlash about it. Somehow some folks are afraid that if they go to a show with tattooed exes on their hands, people will mistake them for being gluten-free? Every time I would type out vegan and gluten-free, it would just make me feel bad about myself, like I was sick and dragging a feeding tube on stick a really long distance. When I shared the name with Jessy and Allyson, they liked it too! 

Vegansaurus: What is this community all about? How do people interact with others to share information about xgfx living?
Allyson: We have an actual community of folks, which is a list of individual bloggers who blog entirely vegan and gluten free. We also have a recipe archive that is community driven, and can enable folks who may not have their own blogs (or blogs that are not exclusively vegan and gluten free) to share xgfx recipes with everyone under one big happy roof. And lastly, we have an entire website dedicated to housing all the info. The site has how-to guides, resources, recipes, product reviews, blog posts and much more.

Vegansaurus: Whose idea was it to start the community? How did you three connect with each other?
Kittee: During Vegan Mofo last year, I contacted Jessy and Allyson, because I liked them and their blogs. I wanted to see if they were interested in doing some kind of xgfx event for the month. Our email conversations turned into a website proposal. The whole project has really come together in a very organic way. Each of us has unique things to add to the project, plus Allyson is a Wordpress lumberjack, so that made the website seem like something we could totally do. 

Vegansaurus: How did you come to be xgfx?
Allyson
: I personally had been vegan (for ethical reasons) when I discovered that I had celiac disease back in 2009. It had been a long drawn out “diagnosis,” and I was thrilled to finally understand where all my medical problems were coming from. At the time, my doctor knew very little about celiac disease and actually had to call in a grad student who was doing his thesis on autoimmune disorders to come in and give me his opinion. Once I heard my prognosis was that I had to give up gluten, it all made sense. I wasn’t going to change my morals, so the xgfx diet itself kind of chose me. Today, I am very happy that it did.
Jessy: I started out vegan—my spouse and I had made that decision back in 2008. I have suffered from IBS for as long as I can remember. I went on Kris Carr’s “Adventure Cleanse Tune-Up” as a guinea pig for her Crazy Sexy Diet book back in the summer on 2009, and within three days my IBS ceased to exist. ‘Twas awesome. After the cleanse, I slowly started to reintroduce what was omitted from my diet, and as soon as I incorporated gluten, my IBS returned. I’ll never go back to my glutinous ways.
Kittee: I’ve had really bad muscle pain (myofascial pain syndrome/fibromyalgia) since my senior year in college, ‘89/’90. For 20 years, I’ve experience periods of debilitating pain, mixed with daily chronic stuff. I had no idea there was any correlation to all of the bread and seitan I loved, until [my partner] Dazee and I evacuated New Orleans in ‘08 for Hurricane Gustav. To make a long story shorter, I cleaned out the fridge before we left town and then ate nothing but burritos, bagels, seitan and other wheaty convenience foods while driving to refuge in D.C., where my parents live. When we finally got back home, I had the worst flare-up of all time—I literally sat on the couch for weeks on end unable to do anything, including stand up, without horrible muscle knots. The bout made me question why I was feeling so badly, which led me to realize I had been eating a ton of gluten, so I stopped eating it to see if it made a difference. I would say going xgfx has improved my quality of life by at least 50 to 65 percent. 
 

Vegansaurus: What are your hopes for the future of the community?
Jessy: I hope it just keeps growing and expanding and reaching more people. I hope vegans who aren’t gluten-free and gluten-free people who aren’t vegan can find something within the community which might help them out, and I hope we can show everyone that xgfx is possible, it isn’t scary, and it’s pretty damn delicious, too.
Kittee: Fame, notoriety, cash and a sportswear line would be awesome.

Vegansaurus: Any favorite recipes from the database?
Jessy: Kittee’s pho (recipe below!) is the bee’s knees and I’m currently addicted to Allyson’s besan!  

Vegansaurus: Who is the genius behind the stunning design?
Kittee:
Allyson has the skillz! We’ve been working very collaboratively, which is great for a project like this. We share ideas, color schemes, etc, then Allyson sprinkles pixie dust on all of it and it comes to life.
Allyson: Going off the basic framework [Jessy, Kittee, and I] came up with, I put my rudimentary web development knowledge to work, and got plugging away with the technical sides of things. I also helped migrate our graphic ideas into Adobe Creative Suite to make to all come to life. We re-worked it continuously until we finally got it to where we wanted it. In general, the look of the sites has been a big happy collaboration among all three of us.
 

Vegansaurus: Do you think, in general, that things are looking up for people following a vegan and gluten free diet? Are there options in your local restaurants/grocery stores?
Jessy: I really, truly do! Both natural food stores [here in Richmond, VA] have fairly decent sized gluten-free sections and I’d say that 50 percent of the products offered are vegan. There isn’t much in the way of xgfx restaurants, but there’s a little veggie friendly place downtown which now serves an xgfx pie every once in a while. I think I almost cried the first time it was offered—I was absolutely elated.
Kittee: I would say things are looking up indeed, because for the most part, it seems like folks go gluten free for their health—so it makes people feel better. Living with chronic pain, or IBS, or any of the other symptoms that gluten can produce or aggravate is not a good way to be. I’m lucky, because where I live (Portland, Ore.) is not only Vegan City, but it is also extremely xgfx-friendly.

Vegansaurus: Is there anything else you’d like to add for the xgfx-curious?
Jessy: I’d like to add that for those struggling with becoming xgfx, I promise it gets better. When I first became gluten-free, I already had the vegan card under my belt and I kind of figured gluten-free would just require a few tweaks to my diet. I knew how to cook like a mofo, so I was cocky and thought gluten-free would be a snap. Well, it wasn’t—there was a lot of crying over failed attempted xgfx recipes. But these days are happy-faced ones—and I don’t cry over baked goods anymore. Many of us, myself included, have some very strong emotional ties to food (it can be comforting, it’s linked to memories and emotions, it’s a large part of ones culture and buddies up with a slew of traditions), so becoming xgfx can be hard because you don’t know where to start, and you might find yourself having to rethink some of your favorite dishes. But it is possible and it is awesome. Remember to enjoy yourself and don’t get tangled up in the little things. We promise it will [get better] and we’re here to help because we’re all in this together! 
Kittee: The main reason I wanted to build this website is not to grow community, which is lovely, but to provide a resource for vegans who are also gluten-free. I know folks who have starting incorporating eggs into their otherwise vegan lifestyle, because they didn’t feel like they had options or enough support to stay vegan. People are always saying how awesome one or two particular gluten-free blogs are, because they always have vegan options. But honestly, if you check out most of their vegan recipes, they just call for “egg replacer” instead of the five eggs in their original recipe. Expecting egg replacer to work in a recipe like that is setting it up to fail.  We want to share recipes and resources for xgfx food that tastes great and works.

For an example of such, check out Kittee’s vegan Pho. MAKE IT FOR ME NOW:
Xgfx Pho (Vietnamese noodle filled soup—tangy, spicy and full of herbs and mushrooms)

Ingredients
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2-inch piece ginger, thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
12 cups water
4 pods cardamom, crushed, or ¼ teaspoon ground
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 whole star anise pods
Small pinch anise seeds
6 whole cloves
2 tsp. unbleached granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
Large handful dried shiitake mushrooms, optional
1 1/2-2 cups fresh shiitake or portobello mushrooms, sliced 1/3” thick protein–-about 1/3 cup per bowl (bite-sized fried tofu, thinly sliced baked tofu, and seasoned Soy Curls would go especially well in this)
2 to 3 cups fresh mung bean sprouts
Bunch fresh basil
Bunch fresh mint
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
Small bunch fresh cilantro
2 limes, cut in half and quartered
Hoisin sauce*, optional but tasty (Premier Japan–makes an awesome xgfx product)
Sriracha or red chili pastewheat-free tamari
13-oz. package rice noodles

Instructions
1. Place the onion, garlic and ginger on a cookie sheet and broil under direct heat until lightly charred.

2. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the charred ingredients, the spices, sugar, salt, carrots and dried mushrooms, if using. Cover the pot and let the broth cook over medium-high heat (rolling boil) for 30 to 45 minutes.

3. While the broth is cooking, prepare the noodles as directed on your package, rinse ‘em well with cold water and set aside.

4. Prepare the herbs by giving ‘em a good bath and drying them well. The fun part of eating pho is that diners get to assemble and season their own bowls. So, you can pile the “accessories” onto one platter to be shared by the table, or arrange ‘em into individual bowls for each person. Make neat but separate piles of the sprouts, basil, mint, cilantro and limes. Leave the leaves on the herbs, and let folks rip them off into their own bowls at the table.

5. Strain the broth to remove all solids, rinse out the pot and return the broth. Bring back to a soft boil and add the fresh mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Season to taste lightly with salt.

To serve: divide the noodles evenly between four deep bowls. Top with your protein choice, and then fill up with broth. Let each person season their bowls to taste with freshly torn herbs, sprouts, lime juice, jalapenos, wheat-free tamari, Sriracha and hoisin sauce.

This interview was brought to you by Gabrielle Pope, who is our resident (guest) expert on Canadian living. She lives on a small island where she is currently 1) going pleasantly insane, and 2) writing a novel. 

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