vegansaurus!

05/05/2011

Happy Veggie Kids: Mac!  »

Hey people! Welcome to a new Vegansaurus series: Happy Veggie Kids! Are you tired of people acting like it’s child abuse or something to deny kids meat? OMG, the babies, they need the bacon! Without it, they will be pale and sickly weaklings! I, for one, am over it. So let’s show the world what happy and healthy little veggie kids are out there!

I have some great interviews with great kids and I’ll be rolling them out periodically. First kid up: Mac! Look at that face!
Mac is a three-year-old (almost four!) vegan living in Ottawa, ON, Canada.

Vegansaurus: What is your favorite food?
Mac: Hot potatoes.
[Mom note: He loves oven fries, mashed potatoes, pierogi, tater tots, latkes, anything potato!]

What is your favorite kind of birthday cake?
Lemon one with the pink icing like for my birthday last year.

Why are you vegan?
So I can be like you, Mommy. And because it’s nice and fun.

Do you like being vegan? Why?
Yeah because all the food is so yummy.

Is it ever hard to be vegan?
No it’s always soft to be vegan.
[Mom note: Ha!]

What do your friends think about you being vegan?
They think it’s great to be that.

What is your favorite animal? Why?
Cow because I want to hug ‘em.

Do you like pink dinosaurs? Can you draw one for us? We would love it!
Yeah that would be cool!
[Mom note: but he doesn’t know how to draw that, he says]

Yay! Thanks Mac! Our first happy vegan kid. Plus: how cute is he? Those cheeks! Email me if you want your vegan or vegetarian kid to participate!

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. 

04/15/2011

ME ME ME ME ME  »


Have you ever thought, “Geez, I’d like to get to know that Laura better! No, you haven’t! Well, here’s your chance! I’ve got a interview up over at SF Weekly! In it, I am very funny and clever, my turn of phrase and witty parlance (is this the correct way to use that word?) will shock and amuse the nation. HAVE I SOLD IT OR WHAT?!? Enjoy!

02/24/2011

Interview with a Vegan: Joshua Katcher!  »


Joshua Katcher is a super-cool NYC vegan and founder of The Discerning Brute! The Guardian dubbed him “the New Sexy Vegan!” Jealous.

Vegansaurus: Do you go by Josh or exclusively Joshua?
Joshua Katcher: I prefer Joshua, but I won’t have a complete meltdown if someone calls me Josh. I may cry for a few minutes and punch a hole in the wall, but then I’ll be totally fine. I’m pretty emotionally stable. 

Why are you vegan?
Because it’s delicious, and because I think animals are individuals who deserve validation and consideration where their lives and bodies are at stake. But also because I hate freedom and I was hoping to be frail and ill—but that backfired and I’m really healthy and athletic now.  

How long have you been vegan?
There was no exact date—it was a transition—but about 12 or 13 years, I think. 

Favorite animal?
I am completely FASCINATED by parasitic intelligence. But as far as animals that I want to hang with, and cuddle. Dogs and goats. And cows. And pigs. Turkeys are like cats!  Oy vey, this is impossible to answer. 

Got any companion animals? Pictures!

Enzo is a rescued chihuahua. His nicknames are: Enzo Benzo, Enzo Roni, Reno Roni, Monster, Burrito, Little Man. There are more, but my sanity would be called into question. He didn’t bark or play or have any interest in other dogs for almost two years, but he is finally coming out of his shell, and recovering from the three years of abuse/neglect he experienced. He was rescued by Amy from sugarmutts.org.

 
[OMJesus this picture!]

Favorite food?
Dr. Cow's hemp-nut cashew cheese. 

Favorite cookbook?
Veganomicon is so incredibly comprehensive. I like to experiment in the kitchen, too, and make my own recipes that I feature on TheDiscerningBrute.com 

Favorite vegan restaurant?
I still swoon over Candle 79’s seitan, but the bacon cheeseburger at Blossom Cafe is habit-forming, and the beet tartar at Madeline’s Bistro is worth flying to L.A. to have. I am such a foodie, it’s hard to choose favorites. Sometimes a bowl of steamed kale is the best thing in the world, and other times a Vegan Treats chocolate-covered strawberry shortcake hits the spot.  

Vegan celebrity you want to bang?
All of them. At once.  

Peta: Y/N?
Yes. Sorry, haters. 

LOLCats: Y/N?
Crucial! Yes. 

Do you remember when we met at Lula’s? Was it as awesome for you as it was for me?
I have been recovering ever since.

What’s your favorite thing to get at Lula’s?
I keep it simple at Lula’s: I really like a scoop of strawberry ice cream on a sugar cone. When feeling adventurous, I am obsessed with the malt powder or a malted milkshake—and the coconut whipped cream is better than I remember whipped cow-tit secretions being. I have a gym membership for a reason. 

What do you like about fashion? How do you know all about it?
I like fashion because I am gay and I love being a stereotype. Ha ha. In all honesty, fashion is an incredibly powerful form of visual communication. It is the premiere means by which the majority of people in our current culture express their personal identity. We all participate in that discourse, whether we like it or not. Even if we reject the notion of fashion all-together, our culture is dominated by this visual language. There is a lot of power to be had or lost in dress, and if you know how to communicate that power properly, it have have amazing effects—especially if you are someone who wants to change the world. Additionally, if you know how to decode what others are wearing—a fur coat for example, it makes understanding the issues surrounding everything from animal cruelty in fashion to sweatshops and ecological issues, less overwhelming. 

Favorite vegan designer?
I am really inspired by the strides John Bartlett is making, announcing “I want to be a 100-percent-vegan designer.” He is a personal friend, and a powerhouse in the fashion arena.

Favorite vegan accessory/possession?
There are a few. I got a recycled poly suit from CPas, a vegan biker “Decontrol” jacket from April77, black “milo” boots from NOVACAS, the gray “Vintage Boot” from Vegetarian Shoes, and an awesome men’s peacoat from Vaute Couture.

Why’d you start The Discerning Brute?
I started the Discerning Brute several years ago because no one was really providing a lifestyle resource specifically for “ethically handsome men.” From the beginning, my aim was to slowly compile a catalog of brands, companies, resources, and people that would form a community, and to eventually open a store, launch a suit line, and write a book. These are all underway.

Who does the illustrative design-y stuff for your site? I’m into it.

Thanks! I did the layout and graphic design myself, and the actual art I used in the design is from an 18th century illustrator.


[Katcher and Anna Wintour look-alike outside the Conde Nast building for the
Pinnacle launch!]

What’s Pinnacle all about?
JK: PINNACLE: Reinvent The Icon is an image-driven initiative consisting of fashion industry professionals from all areas of fashion culture who are clarifying the changed meaning of fur within the context of our current culture.

Pinnacle produces editorial stories, and works with informed designers, models, and other professionals to create accessories and various forms of visual art consistent with an interest in:

  1. Aesthetics
  2. Providing critical commentary about animal fur
  3. Exposing aspects of fur production and marketing which are intentionally hidden or obscured
  4. Shifting the outdated, whitewashed and greenwashed attitude toward, and meaning of fur garments
  5. Calling for personal and corporate accountability concerning the cruelty inherent in all fur production

What’s next for Pinnacle?
I have been touring a bit with my “Fashion & Animals” talk, and I plan on speaking at Parsons, FIT, and San Francisco, soon. I was also asked to teach a module at the American University of Paris next spring on the topic, which is exciting. Getting more designers, models, photographers, etc. involved and producing more and more fashion content. Also, a huge priority for us is expanding to China because that is the fur capital of the world, and there are no regulations to protect animals. There is more animal cruelty in China than the rest of the world combined, and they are the largest exporter of fur—and that includes cat and dog fur. Because China is a communist country, if you can convince the government to stop something, it will be done overnight, more or less. We need to reach the Chinese government with a message of being heroes for animals in an appealing way. The Compassion For Animals Foundation is doing amazing work in China.

Is it true you’re trying to take over the world?
Well, the short answer is yes. But, since I have a bone to pick (hey vegan police, is it vegan to say that?) with hierarchical power structures, that poses a dilemma. I plan to change the world, but a take over seems so…egotistical.

First of all, the Guardian rules. Second of all, how do you feel about being “the new sexy vegan?”
I was so honored, and shocked. Growing up, I was always a totally shy, unpopular, comic-book-reading geek who got picked on pretty bad. So it’s quite strange to be considered “sexy” by someone. I’m learning to embrace it though, and use it to help animals. 

Do you have any amazing nicknames I should know about?
My nickname in junior high was “fag” so you can try that. Or you can call me Yahoshua Ruvin. That’s my super-cool Hebrew name. Don’t be jealous.

Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
I’m not sure I have room for a dinosaur in my apartment, but I’d be happy to come to one of your places and cook together! That would be fun. We can make sawdust and gravel and grass clippings, since that’s what vegans eat.

Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
What would the Vegansauraus dudes like to see happen on the DB, and what would you like to see for sale at my forthcoming store, BraveGentleMan.com? Do any readers have men’s lifestyle questions for me?  

Vegansaurus men, let’s hear it! Just what does the Vegansaurus Man of today want?

02/10/2011

Interview with a vegan: Sonya Cotton!  »

Sonya Cotton is a vegan and musician with a serious animal-rights agenda. She’s close to releasing a six-song EP and raising money for an eco-friendly tour through Kickstarter. Laura interviewed Sonya about her musical projects and vegan lifestyle, and why she dedicated her new album to her animal-rescuing mother.

Vegansaurus: Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal-rights reasons, or a combination?
Sonya Cotton: I’m vegan primarily for animal-rights reasons. The magnitude of animal suffering that goes on inside of the meat/dairy/egg industries is what hits me the hardest, and makes me want to cry/scream/do my part to change the world. The environmental impact of these mega-industries is also horrific, and a very compelling reason (totally independent of animal-rights issues) to go vegan in my opinion. Health doesn’t figure as much into the equation for me, though I know some people really stand behind the health benefits of veganism.

Vegansaurus: How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
Cotton: I was an on-and-off vegetarian for 12 years, starting when I was 15. Then last May when I was on tour with my band on the East Coast, we played a house show for a group called the Montclair Ethical Vegans. The woman who led that group asked me after the show if I was vegan. When I told her I wasn’t (just a vegetarian and an animal-lover) she gently yet passionately told me all the reasons why she choses veganism, and gave me an amazing book to take with me, called Ninety-Five (a reference to the number of animal lives saved in a year from one person going vegan). I remember reading this book, which chronicles individual lives of animals that were destined for the slaughterhouse but somehow found their way to sanctuaries instead. I connected with those stories so deeply, I was really rooting for each one of those creatures, and I remember saying out loud to my boyfriend: “I have to go vegan, I totally believe in this.” Then I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, which utterly sealed the deal for me. (To those of you out there who haven’t read Eating Animals, please do!)

Vegansaurus: When did you start writing and performing music?
Cotton: I wrote my first song in high school (an embarrassingly bad love song.)  But I’ve been performing since I was pretty young. I remember singing “By My Side” (from Godspell) in sixth grade at an open-mic at my school. In my head I was singing it to my English teacher who I was in love with at the time, and who was leaving the school: “Where are you going?  Will you take me with you?” Heavy! I also remember my first solo in Girlchoir in fifth grade. I got to sing a line from the song “Vine and Fig Tree” that goes: “And into ploughshares turn their swords, nations shall learn war no more.” Good stuff!  I was hooked at a young age.

Vegansaurus: Do you write about animals or animal issues?
Cotton: Yes, I frequently do. I feel deeply inspired by and connected to animals that I see around me in my daily life, as well as animals that I read about. I’m often taken by their beauty, their nobility, their lack of self-consciousness, their pursuit of what I see as “truth” (i.e. survival/self-preservation and social connection/love as opposed to fame and excessive amounts of money/material goods.)  On my last album, Red River, I sing a lot about the dead deer by the roadside, and all that that sight represents to me. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey so for much of my life that was a very common sight for me. In my more recent songs I am trying to write more clearly and directly about animal welfare issues. I just finished a song about a pig born into a factory farm, and on my upcoming album there is a song where I speak pretty directly to some of the fucked up things people do to animals: hunting falcons solely for their feathers, destroying wolf and deer habitat to build mansions and raise cattle, etc. I also frequently express the flipside of my outrage, in other words, my reverence and my gratefulness for the wild animal life around me.

Vegansaurus: Your album is dedicated to your mom; please tell us more.
Cotton: My mother passed away a year and a half ago;  she had cancer for just 10 months. I’ve struggled a lot with this loss, and writing songs for her/about her/inspired by her has felt like a poignant form of therapy for me as well as a meaningful tribute to her. So many people are struggling with similar feelings that I’m struggling with, either because of a death of a loved one, or some other kind of loss, and I hope this album reaches them, helps them, makes them feel less alone. 

I should also share that my mom was an amazing advocate for animals throughout her life: She took in homeless dogs and cats; fostered shelter animals; worked to stop the deer hunt in my hometown and promote a more humane, nonlethal, form of population control; and worked internationally with a number of incredible organizations over the years, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, working to stop the harbor seal hunt in Canada, and the farming of moon bears in China for their bile; New York City Audubon to preserve migratory bird populations; and most recently as the bird collisions campaign manager for the American Bird Conservancy.

Vegansaurus: Can we listen to your music anywhere?
Cotton: Yes, here and here.

Vegansaurus: Do you have any companion animals? Tell us all about them!
Cotton: There is an amazing cat named Buddy who lives in my house. His mom’s name is Lea, she’s my housemate. Buddy is a big beautiful guy; he’s often a blissed-out purring machine, so cute. But it kills me on a daily basis that I don’t have a dog in my life. As soon as I figure out how to live in a place that allows me to have a dog—dogs are not allowed in the house where I live—I’m going to foster a shelter dog. And then, once I have figured out how to be a touring musician that is also a responsible dog-owner, I’m going straight to a shelter and finding a dog who needs a permanent home. It’s going to be amazing. Until that day, I will continue walking/hanging out with dogs at Family Dog Rescue, a wonderful shelter in the city.


Vegansaurus: Do you have any super-cute photos of animals to share with us?
Cotton: Here is a picture of my family dog, Lorenzo, who passed away a couple of months ago. He was part of a litter of 10 puppies that my mom fostered when I was in 10th grade. My mom found homes for all of his nine brothers and sisters, but Lorenzo was returned to us twice!  So we decided to keep him. He was such an amazing fellow, so handsome and spirited; I miss him.

Vegansaurus: What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
Cotton: This is an impossible question! If I have to choose, I’m going to say…wolf.

Vegansaurus: Favorite vegan cookbook?
Cotton: There are a bunch of vegan cookbooks floating around my kitchen (there are four vegans in my house), and I like all of them, but I’m not so inspired by any one of them to call it my favorite. I think I need a favorite vegan cookbook in my life, that’d be great!  Any suggestions?

Vegansaurus: What’s your favorite vegan dish to make? What about for a vegan bakesale?
Cotton: I love Brussels sprouts sautéed with onions, garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar. I also love kale and fried tofu over brown rice or whole wheat pasta with a peanut sauce. For a bakesale, the chocolate chip cookies from How It All Vegan! are so delicious!  Yum.

Vegansaurus: Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant?
Cotton: I love the fresh imperial rolls at Sunflower (3111 16th St. at Valencia Street) affordable and delicious.

Vegansaurus: Favorite vegan restaurant?
Cotton: Souley Vegan.

Vegansaurus: Tell us about the Kickstarter Project. How can we support you?
Cotton: I launched a Kickstarter campaign last month to fund the making of my next album: a six-song EP dedicated to my mom, as well as a northeast tour in May. The goal was $10,000, which, amazingly, was reached in just 11 days. People have been so generous!  We’ve now exceeded our goal by about $500, and it runs until 7:45 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 28. Though it sounds crazy, $10,000 was the bare minimum we needed to make this album and tour happen as we envisioned it: recording live in a professional studio, and traveling the East Coast by train, which is more expensive but kinder to the earth and the animals than cars and freeways! We’re so excited, and so thankful to have made it this far. But if we continue to exceed our goal this will allow us to expand the project in some really exciting ways. Depending on how much we get, we’ll be able to book an extra day in the studio, record an extra song, hire an arranger for several songs, and compensate the musicians involved more fairly. 

If you’re interested supporting this project, have a look at my Kickstarter page where you can watch a video explaining the spirit of the project more fully. You can also see the different rewards for donations, (for example, you can pre-order a digital copy of the album for a donation of $10.)  If you want to support me in a way that has nothing to do with money, you can help me spread the word about this project by sending the link to your friends, you can help me book a show on the east coast in May—ideally in a home or a church or a similarly intimate space—or come to my show in San Francisco this Friday, Feb. 11 at Viracocha!

02/08/2011

Interview with a vegan: Kate Dollarhyde!  »

You know who’s great? Kate Dollarhyde! She brews vegan beer, helps run Craft Bar—remember the upcycling plastic class?—and has excellent taste in shoes. No wonder Laura wanted to interview her!

Vegansaurus: Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
Kate Dollarhyde: When I first decided to go vegan it was absolutely for animal rights reasons. How could I see the evidence of animal abuses and torment and not act, especially when the act, for me, would be so easy? I was lucky to go vegan where I did—right in the center of San Francisco: a block from a forward-thinking Safeway, a quick jaunt from Rainbow Grocery, mere feet from the Castro farmers’ market. It was like magic, the convenience of it.

As I matured in my veganity, I read over and over about how destructive animal farming is to our ecosystems, our soils, and that’s what really sealed the deal. And health? I was never concerned with health! Do you guys know how many cupcakes I eat? I’m at like at least 1,000 per day. I might have a problem.

Vegansaurus: How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
Dollarhyde: I’ve been vegan for four-ish years. I’m not completely sure, but I know my veganniversary is in April sometime. I was a vegetarian for two years before that, though that was much more difficult than the veganism is because my family was less willing to accommodate me, especially during holiday meals. But my dad is vegan now, so it’s all good.

Vegansaurus: What do you do to make monies? Tell us all about it.
Dollarhyde: I do very thrilling desk work for a biotech start up in Berkeley; you know, research, coffee brewing, presentation compiling, dish-doing, all the exciting stuff. I was wary of taking the job because (in the interest of full disclosure) the company I work for contracts with labs that do animal testing. I didn’t have a lot of options when I graduated from college with a useless BA in a field that requires a doctorate, so when I was offered a job that would pay me a living wage with health and dental insurance included, I couldn’t turn it down.

The device they’re developing could save millions of human lives a year, but I still find it difficult to square with my vegan beliefs. Of course I’m against animal testing, but if one of my family members contracted the disease they’re trying to cure would I be glad the device existed? Heck yes I would be.

Vegansaurus: I know you volunteer with various organizations—what’s up? How can we get involved with some of them?
Dollarhyde: I volunteer at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art every Saturday, down in the museum district near the SFMOMA and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It’s a fantastic space and the people I work with are phenomenal. The museum works hard to engage the community for education and fun times, so every first Thursday we host a crafting event in partnership with Etsy called Craft Bar. It’s always hugely crowded and rowdy because of the cheap beer and is always the highlight of my month.

 The best way to get involved with the museum (and other small, under-funded museums like them!) is to ring them up and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Small museums are chronically understaffed and could always use a helping hand at the front desk or during events. And unlike at the large museums with competitive volunteer waitlists, small museums will usually give you the opportunity to do a variety of work. I was asked to help with aspects our recent exhibit installation and it was too dang fun.

Vegansaurus: Do you have any companion animals? Tell us all about them!
Dollarhyde: I have two cats! Boris, a giant bruiser of cat, and Rhubarb, a feisty little spitfire my partner and I adopted from the SFSPCA. Some complete jerk abandoned her in a cardboard box in the parking lot outside of the shelter at night, in the winter. Boris is a total weirdo, really vocal, and needy in a completely adorable way. He likes to wake my partner up in the morning by standing on his chest and licking his hair. Rhuby is a much more normal cat; she’ll roll on her back and lure you in with the promise of sweet, sweet belly rubs, and then just bite your shit like it ain’t no thing. She likes to sleep under the covers with us so she’ll usually stand by my head at 2 a.m. and meow until I lift of the covers so she can come in for a snuggle. It’s too cute to be annoying.

Vegansaurus: Do you have any super-cute photos of animals to share with us? 
Dollarhyde: Have you seen this video of someone’s pet fox licking a window? Because it’s amazing.

Vegansaurus: What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
Dollarhyde: I’m boring—I’ve always been a panda person. And my family was really weird about it! Every holiday someone would give me a panda stuffed animal until suddenly I was 18 and there were like 30 stuffed pandas in my room and people would come over and be like, Kate, wtf?

Vegansaurus: Favorite vegan cookbook?
Dollarhyde: That is an impossible question, Laura. You know that is like the meanest question ever. But, well, fine. It has to be Vegan with a Vengeance. When I first went vegan I, like most newly hatched vegans, had no idea what or how to cook. Isa showed me the way, and now I cook every damn day and I’m actually not too bad at it. The book is the stuff of dreams.

My other favorite cookbook is Strong Waters but it’s not exactly vegan, just full of exciting recipes for exciting alcoholic beverages. I like to brew when I have the free time and Strong Waters covers all the esoteric weirdness I love to make the most.

Vegansaurus: What’s your favorite vegan dish to make? What about for a vegan bakesale?
Dollarhyde: Call me Garfield, baby, because I love lasagna. For a bakesale? Carrot cake! Always! Carrot cake is my second favorite food; it should be a food group all on its own. And it should have the biggest part of the food pyramid.

Vegansaurus: Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant?
Dollarhyde: How could you do this to me? How could you make me choose? Southern fried tofu and collards at Souley Vegan, or curry soba soup at Cha-Ya? Is there even a God?

Vegansaurus: Favorite vegan restaurant?
Dollarhyde: Ugh, it’s impossible. Souley Vegan.

Vegansaurus: Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
Dollarhyde: Yes, absolutely! Party at my house! You bring the booze, I’ll make the tacos!

Vegansaurus: Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
Dollarhyde: Is there a secret clubhouse I can visit? [Ed.: We wish! Someone finance the rent on a secret clubhouse/large cardboard box we can use as a mobile office!]

Are you a great vegan? Are you doing great vegan things? We want to to know more about you! Email Laura for more information on The Vegansaurus Interview!

01/14/2011

Over at Bay Area Bites, one of favorite-ever Hungarians and guest-posters, the delightful Vi Zahajszky, wrote an excellent article about tomorrow’s SF Vegan Bakesale! It includes an interview with yours truly and Karin, the two main organizers. There’s also a recipe from Robin Means, one of our awesome volunteers, and that recipe is for the photo above: cupcakes based on RONALD’S DONUTS. Girl, you’ve outdone yourself.
So stop looking at me (I’m know, I’m glorious) and read it!

Over at Bay Area Bites, one of favorite-ever Hungarians and guest-posters, the delightful Vi Zahajszky, wrote an excellent article about tomorrow’s SF Vegan Bakesale! It includes an interview with yours truly and Karin, the two main organizers. There’s also a recipe from Robin Means, one of our awesome volunteers, and that recipe is for the photo above: cupcakes based on RONALD’S DONUTS. Girl, you’ve outdone yourself.

So stop looking at me (I’m know, I’m glorious) and read it!

11/09/2010

Interview with a vegan: Lisa Congdon!  »

Lisa Congdon is a talent to be reckoned with. And by reckoned with, we mean PURCHASE EVERY PIECE OF ART SHE’S EVER MADE. Seriously, this lady is crazy-talented. My favorite pieces change moment to moment, but I’m currently lusting after this finch and "Brave Bear" (OMG I LOVE YOU BRAVE BEAR). Actually, I’ll just take one of each, please!

Lisa has lived in SF for 20 years. She is a woman entrepreneur (love) and co-owner of Rare Device, an art gallery and store that sells everything awesome and good (if you haven’t been, you are a fool who is missing out!). We love crafty vegans because they make the world a prettier place and can also design and paint stuff for the rest of us when we need it. You never know when you’re going to want a watercolor of yourself hugging a baby hippo in outer space. Actually, you probably want that right now, huh? Anyway, follow Lisa on twitter and buy everything in her Etsy store and visit Rare Device and be really happy that such a rad chick is vegan!

Vegansaurus: Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
Lisa Congdon: All three.

V: How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
LC: I have been a vegan for about two years. I had been thinking a lot about becoming a vegan for a long time, but when I did it, I did it pretty much “cold turkey,” as opposed to weaning myself off stuff over time. It’s sort of funny how it finally happened. My partner and I were visiting my family in Portland. We all love to eat, and we had this really gluttonous weekend of gorging on food, which included a lot of rich cheese. That Sunday we were at the airport for our return flight and we felt horrible and gross from eating so much crap. We went into the bookstore in the airport and we saw Skinny Bitch on the table. A friend had told me about it, so we bought it. We dove into it right away right there in the airport and read it together. We finished it before we got back to San Francisco (love the book, but it’s the Reader’s Digest version of “why be a vegan”). That same week I went a little heavier and read the The China Study and, we also went to see Food, Inc. That movie sealed the deal, and we both became vegan that same week. We’ve continued to educate ourselves as much as we can about the benefits—health, humane, environmental—of eating a plant-based diet, and feel like it was one of the most important choices I have ever made in my life.

V: What’s the best part of being vegan?
LC: There are so many amazing things. I’ve never felt so good in my life, both physically and mentally. I have far more energy than I’ve ever had, which is scary because I have always been pretty energetic. I sleep better, I never feel sick after eating—except maybe after I have the potatoes at Gracias Madre, which are completely naughty. I also feel good about causing less harm to other living creatures and the environment. I revere animals, and now I feel like I walk the talk. I can be more like Ellen DeGeneres, who is my personal hero. Oh, and I have become a mean vegan chef.

V: Do you have any companion animals? Where are they from?
LC: I sure do. First off, I have Barry and Margaret, my cats. I got them about five years ago at the SPCA. Margaret is secretary of the house. She makes sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to and if you aren’t, she lets you know. Barry lives a less stressful existence, mostly staring out the window onto the action on Capp Street from our apartment. [Ed. SO CUTE! Also, Vegansaurus HQ used to be on Capp! Perhaps Hazel barked at Barry and Margaret in your window at some point!}

Then there is Wilfredo. Wilfredo is a chihuahua I rescued from Wonder Dog Rescue about three years ago. He’s three and a half, and he’s a very good, sweet, gentle, loving boy. He’s just the kindest dog you’ve ever met, and very cuddly and amazingly loving. He’s got a really wonderful, distinct personality and beautiful green eyes. Unlike many chihuahuas, he loves people, even strangers. And he doesn’t bark, which is also pretty ridiculously amazing. Wilfredo and I will be featured on the The Bold Italic’s upcoming Pet Week [Ed.: It’s THIS WEEK and culminates in an awesome party on Saturday night at The Women’s Building in SF! The party will benefit Rocket Dog Rescue and there will be all sorts of vegan food there, including cupcakes from Fat Bottom Bakery and Sugar Beat Sweets, cookies from Eat Pastry, and VEGAN SANDWICHES FROM IKE’S PLACE! Plus, vegan chili and cornbread and BINGO and a pet fair and awesomeness! COME!]!

V: What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
LC: Oh geez, I HATE this question. It’s a toss-up between dogs, horses, goats, and sheep. Although this summer I visited the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen and I really must say I have a thing for pigs. And cows. Someday I want to have a barn.

V: Does being vegan affect your art? If so, how?
LC: Not really; my subject matter hasn’t changed too much since I became vegan. That said, I make the bulk of my living doing illustration work, and I did turn down a high-profile illustration job recently—it was for a cookbook—because they wanted me to draw diagrams of animals about to go to slaughter, with the cuts of meat and the like. I said I wouldn’t do it and told them why—as professionally as possible, of course. I lost the job and I have no regrets.

V: You have lots of art with animals in it; do you have a favorite?
LC: I think my favorite animal painting I’ve ever made is the "Mountain Goat"

V: What’s your favorite vegan cookbook?
LC: That’s another hard question! It’s a toss up between Veganomicon for basics, The Conscious Cook for fancier recipes—such amazing concoctions in there and I do like Gardein a lot—and Vegan Table for awesome seasonal recipes.

V: Favorite vegan restaurant? Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant?
LCGracias Madre. I am not sure what I ever did without it. It’s also rad—and dangerous—that it’s around the corner from where I live. And my favorite dish is their naughty Papas al Horno, potatoes with cashew nacho cheese sauce!!!

V: Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
LC: All 11 of you? ;) [Ed.: YES! God!]

Thanks, Lisa! You’re the most amazing and we are officially in love with you. Check out our other Vegansaurus interviews and apply to be interviewed YOURSELF! Just email and we’ll totally interview your fascinating ass.

[Lisa’s amazing portrait of Wilfredo is above; all photos and art in this post by Lisa!]

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