The Greatest Interview in the History of All the Things: Lil Bub on Vegansaurus! »
You guys, this is pretty much the biggest moment of my journalistic career. Lil Bub did an exclusive interview for Vegansaurus! If you are not familiar with Lil Bub, OMFG welcome to life! Lil Bub is a published author, talk show host, movie star, fashion plate and the most amazing cat on the internet. Bub also does a ton of charity work. She is a true philanthropist and a Bub among men.
Lil Bub’s Lil Book, for sale at a bunch of places.
Without further ado, I present the one and only Lil’ Bub!:
Vegansaurus: Where did you come from?
Lil Bub: I come from the planet Bub Ub Bub. It’s very far away.
How do you look so amazing?
Well the key to looking amazing is really believing that you are truly amazing from the inside and out. It’s all about perception. In my case, I am so proud of myself, and so sure of how remarkable I really am, that your perception of me is what you see - giant magical eyes, a perfect pink tongue and a remarkable body. But on my planet, we all look exactly the same, because we all know how amazing we are.
What inspired you to use your celebrity for the good of other animals?
Well let’s be honest, what else is there to do with celebrity power? I came to Earth on a mission. It was only a matter of time before the world knew about who I was, and I could pursue my mission of spreading positivity, understanding and knowledge to your people. And I can also do fun stuff while I’m at it.
Lil Bub on set.
What is your favorite animal charity or shelter?
Well this is a very difficult question. I love all the shelters, especially the ones that work extra hard. There are literally thousands of shelters that are doing everything they can to help find homeless pets a permanent family, to get pets off the streets and to spread awareness about the importance of adoption, proper animal care and spaying and neutering. One particular charity that I am very excited about is my own charity that I’m working on. It’s called Lil BUB’s Fund for the ASPCA, and it will be the first national fund specifically dedicated to special needs pets. It hasn’t been official announced yet, but it will be soon.
Where do you stand on cat breeding?
I don’t stand anywhere near it. There are far too many wonderful, magical, homeless and needy pets in the world. Breeding pets, specifically to create an animal that appeals to a human’s definition of “cute” for financial game is cruel in itself, but becomes simply horrific when considering that hundreds of thousands of homeless animals get euthanized every day. And I feel that I am proof that the most amazing animal on the planet did not come from a breeder. And I encourage people that want a special one-of-a-kind pet to go and look for one at their local shelter or at other shelters online. Why spend ten times the amount of money when you could find your very own special pet, who will repay your love ten fold?
Do you have a best friend?
My dude is my best friend. He rules.
Lil Bub and her dude.
Do you have any upcoming events or fundraising efforts we should know about?
Not at the moment, I need a break! But I am always raising money for charities through my online store, and am working on making Lil BUB’s Fund for the ASPCA a reality. It’s a lot of work for a four pound space cat!
AMAZING! Thanks so much, Lil Bub! We are so happy to have you on Vegansaurus. For all the Lil Bub fans out there, I encourage you to check out her award-winning documentary, Lil Bub and Friendz by Vice. Now, everybody, comment and tell us why you think Lil Bub is so great. There are so many reasons!
Guest post: Vegan Pierogie Night in Pittsburgh! »
Pittsburgh is a pierogi town. Pittsburghers seriously love sports, and not only are pierogies for sale at all sporting events, but at home Pirates games, people dressed as pierogies race each other around PNC Park. One might wonder whether pirates weren’t an exciting enough mascot; well, sure, but it’s Pittsburgh, dammit, and the people of Pittsburgh are proud of their Eastern European foodstuffs! Plus, the sandwich-with-french-fries-and-coleslaw-on-it costume is pretty confusing, and an Andy Warhol race just didn’t have the same mass appeal.
Sadly, though, most places stuff their pierogies full of non-vegan ingredients. We’re talking cheese, meat, lots of butter. Some places even put eggs in the dough. But hope is not lost for the vegan who wants to eat an enormous amount of authentic dough pockets stuffed with (preferably) greasy goodies like any real Pittsburgher!
Tomasz Skowronski has been holding Vegan Pierogie Night for over two years, using mostly word of mouth to spread the joy of vegan pierogies to Pittsburgh’s herbivores and omnivores alike. “People think that the pierogie recipe is some sacred thing, but that’s the biggest misstep,” he says. “A pierogie is just supposed to be chewy and simple. You don’t need sour cream or fake things. The less artificial stuff you put into it, the better.”
Tomasz preps and serves.
This more-or-less monthly event has been a true labor of love for him. “At first, we pressed all the pierogies by hand. That’s possible to do, but eventually your hands just wither and you do a lot of crying, so now we use hand presses.” As the event grew in popularity, his partner Kate Lasky signed on to split the enormous amount of cooking and prep, while helpful friends volunteer the day of, frying and flipping and running around. “I think they just appreciate what we’ve got going on and they want to be involved in it,” says Kate. “And they don’t mind us bossing them around for three hours.”
Kate works in the kitchen while Tomasz serves in front.
With fillings like potato and red bell pepper coulis with sauerkraut and mushroom, or spicy carrot with stewed cabbage and cooked Jonathan apples, it’s no surprise that the line for food goes out the door, but Tomasz and Kate are committed to keeping it all-you-can-eat. Vegan Pierogie Night is a social event, where you get some food, sit and eat and talk, then go get some more food and do it again, rather than a pop-up kitchen or food truck. And pierogies are not the only thing served; there is always a second, unrelated food. Past pierogie nights have paired the Pittsburgh classic with such unlikely plate-mates as tacos, falafel, Korean barbecue, pizza, sushi, and banh mi.
Pierogies, dipping sauces, and tacos from the Pierogies vs. Tacos night held in December 2012.
Although Tomasz and Kate love to eat at many ethnic restaurants in Pittsburgh, they do feel the lack of strictly vegan places. “It’s so easy to buy vegan food for yourself at the grocery stores in the states now, so we’re kind of done with the whole ‘one vegan option’ thing,” says Tomasz. He and Kate have plans in the (slow) works to open up what sounds like would instantly be Pittsburgh’s most rad place if it ever came to be, which it totally should. “It’d be like, a Pan-Eastern European place that always plays Depeche Mode and has a late-night drunk menu. And a bar! With disco and darkwave.”
The next event happens on Saturday, March 23, from 6 to 9 p.m. It’s at the Stephen Foster Community Center, 286 Main St., in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. This time around, it’s Pierogies vs. Sushi, and entry costs $10. Details on Facebook!
Melissa Balick is a blogger originally from Pennsylvania who now lives in San Francisco. She writes about vegan cooking, type 1 diabetes, and preserving marine biodiversity on her blog, Food and Loathing. You can also follow her on Twitter if you have a short attention span.
Marketplace loves the Veggie Grill! »
My dad was on NPR yesterday, selling Kai Ryssdal on plant-based fast casual food. Woo, go dad!
Vegansaurus pal and all-around wonderful human being Kate Dollarhyde brought to our attention to this interview with her dad, Greg Dollarhyde,* who is CEO of the Veggie Grill! Which everyone should love, as it is terrific. Look at that salad!
Click through to find out what cities can look forward to their own Veggie Grills in the near future (hint: outside of California!).
[Photo by Michael Liu via Flickr]
*[The original post misidentified the first name of Kate’s dad. His name is Greg Dollarhyde, not Steve. Vegansaurus regrets the error]
Julie Gueraseva dishes on new vegan style mag Laika! »
I recently told you about Laika, the new vegan lifestyle magazine, and now I have a special treat! Laika's creator, Julie Gueraseva, was kind enough to answer some questions for us! I don’t know about you guys but I find these answers pretty awesome and inspiring. Enjoy!
Why did you start Laika Magazine?
Julie Gueraseva: I want to see animal liberation happen in my lifetime. And if not within my lifetime, then at least see definitive indications that it is in active progress. This magazine is my way of contributing to the movement, utilizing everything I have learned and all of my skills to their maximum capacity in advocating for animal liberation. I can be frank here: this magazine is a very strategic tactic. Of course, it goes without saying that I wanted to express my creativity and give other talented people an opportunity to do the same. Of course, I want to offer readers compelling, engaging and imaginative subject matter. But the real mission of this magazine is to spread compassion. And the strategy is basically carrying out this mission via a creative, dynamic format. I believe in a diversity of tactics. And this magazine is just one tactic. We all gotta get our hammers out and start hammering away at monolithic decaying status quos in any way we can, until they crumble.
How long did it take to launch Laika and produce the first issue?
The idea came about a year ago. The first photo shoot happened in January 2012, but the bulk of the work happened from June through October. So I would say about 5-6 months. In terms of the launch, I planned the party in about two weeks, and before that I was conscious to not put out much advanced buzz, because I felt that something like this needed to be delivered as a surprise, unexpected.
Were there any surprises along the way?
There’s many surprises I could talk about, but I will highlight one particular thing… Right before I launched, I thought that orders for the magazine would come primarily from metropolitan areas, concentrated on the coasts. But it turned out to be totally unexpected. It’s not concentrated in any particular geographic area- it’s from all over the country, literally. New Mexico, South Carolina, Minnesota, East Coast, West Coast, North, South, towns I’d never heard of, even a Military address. And digital is from all over the world- places as far as Sweden, Australia and Brazil. It just feels to me now that there’s more of us than we’ve been led to believe. It makes me feel very encouraged and hopeful. And if those subscribers are not all vegan, then they have definitely been awakened to something, and are tuning into their compassion.
How has the magazine been received by the vegan community?
Very beautifully. I have seen some genuine, wonderful support, from people I have never met— but suddenly they feel like family. (I was very touched that you Megan—never even having met me before—not only came to the party, but also wrote a post about it the very next day, and a very genuine post) [Ed. note: I know, I’m the best!]. So basically, I have seen kind gestures and words, that have been very touching, very moving and it is hard to even write about them without tearing up. We’ve all been discouraged sometimes, if we’ve been hurt or let down by someone. I’ve heard from time to time philosophical questions posed…are people inherently good, or bad? Well, after this experience, my life-long belief that people are in fact inherently good has not only been reaffirmed, but I see now just how much infinite we are all capable of. It’s all there. I am really really inspired by Laika’s readers right now, and the vegan community as a whole.
Has there been any response from the non-vegan community?
Well, interestingly, the very first piece of press came from Crain’s New York—not known to be a vegan publication. And I remember the person who did the phone interview with me was completely respectful and genuinely interested in the concept of a vegan lifestyle magazine, and essentially treated it as not some kind of niche publication, but just a new interesting-sounding publication worthy of covering. And then after that, I definitely got a lot of positive feedback from omni friends, and friends of friends, who had seen the magazine (some of them tweeted about a “vegan magazine”). I’ve also gotten inquiries from people interested in contributing— not all of them vegan, and a few emails from people within the design community complementing the design. Many of the vegan readers have reported showing the magazine to their non-vegan friends and family, citing positive reactions. It does feel like word has spread to outside of the vegan community, and is continuing to do so.
How did you get so many great vegans involved?
Some people—like Joshua Katcher and Melisser Elliott—I had already known, admired, and had worked on other projects with. My twin sister Stacy is someone I’ve known since birth, who is also vegan and a great writer, so she was a natural choice. And then there were people who I either sought out, or was put in touch with by other peers—like Hannah Kaminsky, who was introduced to me by Melisser. Some connections really felt like kismet, like with writer James McWilliams. My friend and fellow vegan Jessica Turner (who had by then been modeled for the magazine’s beauty feature) forwarded me an article of his one day out of the blue, which I really loved. I already knew who he was of course, and thought—what if I could get him to write a piece for my magazine? To my astonishment, he enthusiastically agreed. As did Melissa Schwartz, when I asked her if she would shoot the cover. I had already been a fan of her photography and activism, and finally met her at the Animal Rights Conference in DC over the summer (which was an inspiring, energizing experience—highly recommend everyone to attend one). After the conference, I reached out to her and proposed my cover idea, and she ended up shooting a beautiful cover, as well as the back cover.
Besides veganism, are there any other social issues you’d like Laika to address?
I would like to examine all of the aspects of animal agriculture and its toll on our world— the environment being one. Workers’ plight within the animal agriculture system is something I would also like to address. There are egregious workers rights violations, exploitation. It’s just a horrible industry for not only animals, but people as well. Slaughterhouses, for example, have the highest turn-over rate of any industry in the world. I’d like to shed some light on that. The psychological damage of working in an industry that exists to satisfy a demand for which there is no justification, are catastrophic.
There are many issues I am passionate about. Any kind of human rights violations shake me to the core. What is happening in Gaza right now is very distressing to me; indefinite detention, recently signed into law—deeply troubling. Is that something I can see being covered in a vegan lifestyle magazine? I don’t rule it out. But my focus is advocating for animals. I side with Leo Tolstoy, who once said: “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
What is your favorite non-vegan magazine?
For articles, the Atlantic; for design, this design magazine called Grafik. I check out Vanity Fair and the New York Times Magazine. I don’t know if I have a “favorite” mainstream magazine anymore. I used to. There have been some really great, inspiring publications, like Vibe in its early days, the British music magazine Q; I used to look at a lot of fashion magazines like French and Italian Vogue. But over the years, they’ve become harder and harder to look at, with all the dead animals permeating the pages. Which is a reason I started Laika. No risk of seeing dead animals! These days, if I look at a non-vegan mag, it’s mostly for research.
Bonus question: What’s your favorite animal?!
A tie between koalas and turkeys. If I ever come face to face with a koala in this lifetime, I will have an epic melt-down, in the style of Kristen Bell and the sloths. Turkeys, I’ve met in real life. They have qualities I most admire and enjoy in others: curiosity, kindness, affection and loyalty. They are unique and completely charming and fun to be around. One turkey in particular has my heart - Beatrice. She lives at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in the Catskills. I met her there last summer, and I miss her.
Vice, being Vice, visited the Internet Cat Video Film Festival, held last week in Minneapolis, Minn., and made a full-length documentary about the entire experience. It’s called Lil Bub & Friendz, was directed by Andy Capper and Danilo Parra. We asked producer Juliette Eisner, who keeps us up to date on all of Vice’s animal videos, to tell us a little bit about her experience at the festival, and why internet cat videos are so terribly interesting.
When one of the most renowned establishments chooses to create an event about felines, that is buzzed about all over the world, we think it would be crazy NOT to go see what’s up. Plus we are obsessed with cats. Meow.
We wanted to get some insight into why internet cats have taken over the world (and YouTube). But most importantly, we wanted to meet the very people behind the driving force that is the ever-growing cat obsession: the uploaders, the cat owners, the festival organizers, and the internet geeks.
Highs: Having drinks with Lil Bub at the hotel bar. Best. Date. Ever.
Lows: The gross hippie band that played the opening set before the festival. They thought they could distract people from their terrible music with some cat t-shirts and ears. Nope.
Internet cat video people are probably different than cat people who came before them in the sense that they now have machines that allow them to share their cats-periences on the interwebz… Equally as obsessed, though, I’d guess. Helllooooooo…. Egyptians painted cats on their walls ALL THE TIME.
I am zero percent a cat person but I am 100 percent on board with Lil Bub & Friendz. Based on this preview, it’s going to be super-adorable and super-weird.
Find out more about the Internet Cat Video Film Festival in the New York Times. Watch the award-winning internet cat videos on YouTube. And get ready for Lil Bub & Friendz, coming in fall from Vice. Thanks to Juliette Eisner for talking to us.
All I want in this life is to try all the delicious fancy vegan donuts the world has to offer. So far, I’ve only ever had Pepple’s. I love Pepple’s! But I want more! These are donuts from Dun-Well, pictured here to make you really hungry and because The Awl has a lovely interview with Dun-Well founder Christopher Hollowell.
We love Dun-Well so much! And we fully support the start of a Dun-Well vegan donut empire. Just make sure you come to the Bay Area before hitting L.A., those guys get all the good stuff.
[photo by watashiwani via Flickr]
Interview with Sayward Rebhal, author of Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide »
My general strategy for attacking something that’s new or unknown to me — or even just interesting — is to bury myself in information, often in the form of books. This has lead to a personal library that covers a few topics, like cats and vegan cooking and nutrition, in great depth. It also probably makes people think I’m weird, but I am a nerd and I like to arm myself with information!
Naturally, when I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to stock up on all the pregnancy and baby books I could get my hands on. There are a lot of those, to be sure, but there aren’t that many that address concerns specific to vegan (or even vegetarian) pregnant women. My experiences in skipping over a lot of stuff like “How much dairy to eat while you’re pregnant” is part of why I wanted to do this series for Vegansaurus in the first place. It’s also why I was so happy to receive a copy of Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal, awesome blogger of Bonzai Aphrodite and badass vegan mama.
VPSG is a short read, but it’s packed with information — even with as much as I’d read already, I found stuff to take away from the book that I hadn’t yet come across. It’s also nicely organized — you can read the whole thing or just flip to the section that’s relevant for where you are in your baby-growing experience. And it’s friendly and conversational without having that irritating “Girlfriend OMG let me tell you ALL ABOUT pregnancy!!!1!!” attitude that some women-oriented reference books employ. I think I dog-eared every second page of this one and I know I’ll come back to it often.
Ms. Rebhal was kind enough to answer some questions for me about the book, her own pregnancy experience, and what she hopes to work on next. Read on!
What made you decide to write a book about pregnancy from a vegan perspective?
When I first found out I was pregnant, I did what most newly knocked-up ladies do: I went looking for books! At the Herbivore store here in Portland, I was wandering around in circles when the owner, Michelle, asked if I needed anything. I said, “Yeah, where are all the books on vegan pregnancy?” And she was like “NOWHERE … you should write one!”
That was basically the start of my friendship with Michelle and Josh. They were awesome during my pregnancy, and after my son was born, I decided to take Michelle up on her offer. I wanted to write a book so that other people wouldn’t have to do what I did (hours and hours of exhaustive research, piecing the puzzle together from every corner of the Internet), and I asked Josh and Michelle if they would help me publish it. Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide was released by Herbivore in late 2011.
Were there any particular challenges you came across in finding information about pregnancy and post-partum care for vegans?
Yes and no. I mean, the underlying pregnancy and post-partum care is the same for vegans as it is for non-vegetarians. We all have the same requirements, you know? So it was more a matter of understanding universal pregnancy/postpartum needs, and then modifying things with a vegan twist. Mostly it was pretty straightforward. Sometimes it took a little creativity, which was fun (if you’re a geek like me). Sometimes, like when I had to spend a whole day calling all the major over-the-counter drug manufacturers to verify which products were and were not vegan, well that was not so easy or fun.
How has the response to the book been?
So great! There was definitely a hole there that needed to be filled. Especially since, I think, becoming pregnant can be sort of unsettling. It was for me. I never doubted my choices until I was pregnant, but when you’re suddenly responsible for a life … and it happens to be the very most precious life in the whole world … that’s a ton of pressure! So I think a lot of women are just grateful to have a little friend in their back pocket going “Yeah! You got this! Here, try X or Y or Z, you’re doing awesome.”
You’ve had one vegan pregnancy now — is there anything you’d do differently the next time around?
I’d take my own advice, and eat less sugar!
Any favorite vegan products for pregnant women and babies?
Oh yes. The brand Earth Mama Angel Baby is all vegan/cruelty-free and really amazing. Their stuff uses only natural ingredients and the whole line receives a “0” on the Cosmetic Safety Database rating system (that’s the best score, it means no risk whatsoever). The Baby Bottom Balm is great for diaper rash prevention, and the Mama Nipple Butter is essential for those first few weeks of breastfeeding. Every other nipple product (and I mean EVERY one) uses lanolin. Earth Mama Angel Baby has all sorts of other products too. They’re the best!
Finally, are you planning a follow-up book — vegan child care, perhaps?!
Honestly, I think the most important lesson I’ve learned as a parent is that you just can’t judge other parents, because kids are just too different and every situation is unique. So I don’t think I’d feel comfortable instructing people on how to raise their kids.
However, for the same reason that I wrote Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, I’d love to write a kid-centric cookbook. There’s not a lot out there for vegan kiddos! I’m super lucky to have a huge community of vegan families in my area, and I dream of compiling a massive compendium filled with their most delicious, nutritious, children-approved recipes. Lots of color, lots of photos, lots of stories and style and tips and strategies. I have such a strong vision for this book, and I really hope to see it through some day. (Hey publishers - email me!) (Just kidding) (No, but not really)
Thanks, Sayward! And everyone, read my other posts about vegan pregnancy and let’s rap about swollen ankles and designing nurseries on Pinterest. Go!
Interview: Gnosis Chocolate gives you sweet vegan choices! »
A couple years ago, Vegansaurus TV did a feature on super-gorgeous Gnosis Chocolate creator Vanessa Barg. Since then, Gnosis has undergone some super-exciting changes! Vegansaurus chatted with Gnosis’ Marla Golde about these changes, and how Gnosis is working to offer more healthful ingredients in its all-vegan, organic raw chocolate!
Vegansaurus: In the past, your products were sweetened with agave, and it seems some of your new chocolates have coconut sugar. Why?
Gnosis: We are currently in the process of a switch to raw, organic coconut palm sugar as our primary sweetener! The taste and consistency of coconut palm sugar is slightly different than agave nectar, so we decided to offer our customers a choice during this transitional period through our “Sweet Choice” program. This allows customers to choose between chocolate sweetened by an agave nectar/coconut palm sugar blend, or coconut palm sugar only.
Vegansaurus: What’s so great about coconut sugar? Are you anti-agave?
Gnosis: Coconut palm sugar is a highly nutritious sweetener; rich in magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and calcium. It has a low glycemic index, and we’re particularly excited about it because it has been named the most sustainable sweetener by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations!
Vanessa Barg has a great relationship with Big Tree Farms in Bali, and has worked directly with their farmers. This has created a deep connection between our company and the community there, ensuring that we receive the highest quality product. The difference you’ll notice in the flavor of CPS-sweetened bars is that they impart more of a maple, molasses, or brown sugar-like taste—it complements our line of chocolates beautifully.
We still stand by our specific source of agave (see Vanessa Barg’s report here) and will continue to use it as a sweetener in some of our products. Our agave is organic, truly pure, low-glycemic, and raw.
Vegansaurus: Gnosis uses no advertising, but y’all are doing pretty splendidly! Why do you choose not to advertise?
Gnosis: The company has grown 100 percent by word of mouth, with no advertising and no PR companies. Instead, we devote that energy and money to making the absolute best products possible; and carrying out projects that make sure that our customers can deeply trust in our commitment to run our vegan business with complete integrity.
Vegansaurus: Where are you located?
Gnosis: Both our office and our kitchen are located in Long Island City, just a few minutes from New York City.
Vegansaurus: Please tell us more about your vegan mission!
Gnosis: The phenomenal health benefits of veganism (decreased likelihood of heart disease, increased life span, stronger immune systems, just to name a few!) are vitally important reasons why our chocolates are vegan. Because our bars are dairy-free, they don’t block antioxidants and contain no cholesterol. Gnosis was born out of Vanessa’s work as a holistic health counselor—the bars were created for her clients as a way to take great care of their health without giving up their beloved chocolate.
Also, while personal health is a vitally important part of our mission, planetary health is just as important—so our products are also vegan in the name of sustainability and environmental consciousness! Since the livestock sector plays such a major role in deforestation, pollution, land degradation, and the reduction of biodiversity; and animal agriculture leads to global warming via methane and nitrous oxide emissions…. Producing products that support a vegan lifestyle is a great way to ensure that we’re a model for responsible, conscious entrepreneurship.
Lastly, we never, ever want our products to harm any creature, so our chocolate is also vegan in the name of kindness to animals. We know that the animals at factory farms feel pain just the same as our beloved Choco-Kitty, Charlotte, and are proud that our vegan certification tells the world that none of our products are tested on animals.
Vegansaurus: Thank you! Any concluding thoughts?
Gnosis: Thank you so much for this opportunity! We absolutely honored to be a part of Vegansaurus again!
All Gnosis products can be purchased online and at select Bay Area health food stores.
From A to Vegan interviewed HSUS's Paul Shapiro at DC VegFest! So sweet and earnest and well spoken, all three of them. Did you know that HSUS has “an extensive network of vegan recipes”? They're such a good organization.
From A to Vegan seems like a good group of people. They have Vegan Gastronomy Weekends, where they spend a couple days eating their way through different cities. I’d call that “vacation,” but for them it’s just a fancy weekend! I’m so envious. Stupid East Coast with its major cities located near each other and its affordable and convenient public transportation. WHERE’S MY CHEAP TRAIN TO L.A., CALIFORNIA?
Guest interview: Krisanga Cowen of Vivapura! »
I have a history of awesome vegan roommates (see: Vegan Myths Debunked creators Jonathan and Ivory). My new roommate here in Patagonia, Ariz. is the awesome Krisanga Cowen. Krisanga (far right) took a break from grinding sprouted raw nut butters and making coconuts delicious to tell Vegansaurus readers about how much he loves promoting a health-conscious, plant-based lifestyle through Vivapura, the vegan superfoods company he co-owns here in Patagonia. Here’s the skinny on this fit and loving veg guy and his approach to incorporating superfoods in a plant-source diet! Hope you enjoy!
Vegansaurus: How did you get into veganism?
Krisanga Cowen: My best friend since kindergarten Todd got me into the Smiths. At 16, we dyed our hair blonde to look like Morrissey and kind of idolized him. In 1985 Smiths came out with “Meat is Murder.” That song opened our eyes to what actually goes on in this country and factory farming and how animals are mutilated. We went vegan overnight. Later, I read John Robbins’ Diet For a New America, and I actually went to vegan restaurants, which I’d never done before. I studied with yogini Kali Ray for seven years on and off, taking classes [and] workshops, [being] among other teachers, and really admired her way of eating plant-source-only, mostly live, all-organic foods for health and yoga.
How did your previous business, Cocopura, which sold only coconut products, become Vivapura, which sells an extensive line of superfoods?
I had one product in four different sizes: coconut oil. My quest for developing more products was moving to Patagonia in 2007, renting a 6,000-square-foot warehouse. I met Chris Whitcoe, and he and I were both master’s students. I had connections for superfoods. I had just built a commercial kitchen for coconut products and I started selling gogi berries and Incan berries and nori sheets and Monukka raisins, basically out the back door. I mainly sold to guests and people working at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center. That’s how Vivapura was born.
When did Vivapura officially take off?
We formed Vivapura in September 2008, and got into Whole Foods and other stores in 2010, in addition to our online and in-store sales. The idea behind Vivapura was to create raw vegan products that haven’t been seen or available on the marketplace—unique, hand-crafted products like coconut crème that’s stone-ground, our chaparrel coconut oil, our soaked and dehydrated nut butters…. Sourcing products that are heirloom varieties that are unique to different regions of the world. Styrian pumpkin seeds are only grown in Austria in that region, and heirloom variety of pumpkin seeds that are robust and GMO-free and high in zinc and protein and chlorophyll. Our products were designed to be eco-friendly, vegan, non-GMO, and delicious. We hope Vegansaurus readers will enjoy them!
Is most of the Vivapura team vegan or vegetarian?
We support local people and give them a voice inside our company…we open a space for people to transform. A lot of people become vegetarian or vegan after working with us; we accept the mainstreamers and teach them about gogi berries and how to eat vegan and feel great on superfoods. We expose people to ways not to need processed foods, in a healthy, supportive environment where your voice matters and is taken into account for decisions the company makes. That really impacts an individual. They shift, grow, expand and become more open and expressive. Naturally, that often leads to vegetarianism or veganism.