The Vegan Club

A private club for vegans to meet and relax in a (finally) cruelty free safe zone. Recipes, life stories, ideas... enter in the Club to find out!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Weekly Veggie Tee

I found so many vegan and vegetarian tee shirts, I am going to post one weekly!

Have a look at this one: it says Vegetarian/Vegan (same word apparently) in Irish Gaelic! Is it not cool?

So far found on eBay only.
Reminder! You still have a few days to submit your recipe for the Vegan pic nic Virginie of Absolutely Green will be helding on August 2nd! Send in your recipe! Her blog is rightfully getting a lot of exposure in her native France and to help spreading the spark in the not overly vegan friendly Central Europe would be an excellent idea!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Vegan Heroes: Veggie Tales!

First thing rejoice! Veggie bandages do exhist (bandages with Tofutti Cuties not quite though...)! So if you really have the urge of donning some funky coverage for your cuts, you can show your veggie pride (now, whether these are vegan and not tested on animals, it is a totally different deal: any news on this front is appreciated).
Produced by Curad, these promises a smile on any kid (and most adults too!) face (just be careful they do not start to cut themselves intentionally!)!

But bandages are not the only merchandise related to these cute animated veggies! A little further research gave me more insights into what exactly Veggie Tales are....

Mind me, having passed that age, I am not (anymore) following what happens in the kid afternoon television timeframe... I have never heard of Veggie Tales before but they may be as well very well known to you... I just discovered them now: allow me to burst out with happiness!

These vegetables heroes were first born in 1993, an idea from animator and storyteller Phil Vischer, and have grown with time to become movie and video stars! But not your regular "consumerism and money is our drive" kind of movie stars!
Veggie Tales are pretty much the Pamela Anderson of animation! In the mission statement of the producing house, Big Idea, you can read grand ideas like these: "the irresponsible use of popular media (TV, film, music, etc.) has had a profoundly negative impact on America's moral and spiritual health. The same media, used responsibly, can have an equally positive impact. The best way to improve people's lives is to promote biblical values and encourage spiritual growth", "our Core Purpose is to markedly enhance the moral and spiritual fabric of our society through creative media", "most major media companies today name shareholder value or profitability as their top priority. At Big Idea, our priorities are: people first, products second, profits third. Profiting is like breathing. As humans, we must breathe to live, but we do not live to breathe. As a company, Big Idea must profit to exist, but we will not exist merely to profit. Achieving our goal of building a top four family media brand takes a tremendous amount of capital, but we will never sacrifice the needs of kids or of our employees simply to increase our wealth".
I am a fan already!!!

Veggie Tales are regularly appearing in videos (my favourite title is Veggie Tales - Lord of the Beans: you gotta love them!), have produced a number of hit children songs, can be played with in online games (all with a parents guide) and have released a first movie in 2002 (which I totally overlooked, it seems!). But the big news is the following!!! Another movie is being produced by Universal Picture and will be titled: The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, to be released in 2008, starring Bob The Tomato and Larry The Cucumber! Almost too good to be true!

And now there is hardly a product you cannot find with Veggie Tales characters on it! From bible holders, to gardening gloves until veggie shaped plush toys: much better than those hideous fleece ham and steaks of a couple of posts back!

But are these really veggie heroes? Premised I am not familiar with the videos or the movie, I am pretty confident these little vegetables have some strong pro-vegan feelings, since in their An Easter Carol video the eggs involved are made of plastic (and the hens are robots!!!)!!! Super!
They may just not for everybody if the religious twist (which is not present in each episode) is not for you, but nevertheless most of their production and the merchandise seems safe and filled with positive values!

A new generation of veggie kids is just about to be born????
P.S. 1 - The lovely Virginie, of super cool gourmand blog Absolutely Green will be hosting a virtual vegan pic nic on August 2nd! Send in your vegan recipe, your food tradition, your favourite fdish, in any language you like! This is by far the freshest blogging idea seen in a while! Not to be missed!!!!

P.S. 2 - These veggies are cute but not enough Superman like to be called heroes? Next post will hit the spot!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

And there is something as bad!!!!

Did you think that the meat cuts stuffed toys were the bottom of human perversion towards animal? Hold on for a minute... there is worse. Or at least something AS BAD!
And what could it be? What can actually be worst than meat plushes??? If I had to answer this question without knowing what I actually just found, I would not know what to bet on... maybe meat shaped furniture?!!! Clothes? Cars?
It is worse than that!
Have a look... Bacon And Eggs bandages!!!! Are the meat eaters seriously so degenerate?!?!!
Why? How? When? WHO would want to wear bacon and egg shaped bandages??? I seriously have no clue... all I can say are the reasons why, once again this is not only not cool.... but totally crazy!

Reasons why if you want these, there may be something wrong with you...

-you actually are a vegan and think that via your skin, some B12 can be tranfered right into your blood from these: do not know what to tell you.... beside for this: get a shrink!

-you are a new veg*n terribly missing meat : you again??? I thought you got your fix already with the meat toys! You still miss meat so much? I am afraid veg*nism is not for you buddy! Go back to your meat eating diet and clear the scene from fakers, will ya?

-your wife is a veggie and so are your kids: you hope to instill in them some love for meat by using this bandages on their cuts and telling me "let the pretty bacon take care of you"... give up buddy! your wife will win the battle and you know it! Your kids already hate meat! The only thing you have left to do is to veg yourself: you know you want it.

-you loooove meat, your drool over it, but no bacon and no eggs these days: you need to loose 150 pounds! Hence, this visual substitute. Well my friend, if you had learnt that only animal products had cholesterole in, maybe you would have not helped yourself to those triple portions or bacon+sauges+ribs+eggs (of course) every single morning.... and now would have not to diet to save your life... We strongly advise you going veggie: your diet (and your cholesterole) would go so much better! Plus, let me remind you one more time, vegan boys are in high demand! (and this can actually even help you pump your post diet self esteem!)

-you think these are pretty and more original than the regular bandages: you surely are right. These are more original! But unfortunately people will not look at you in awe when wearing this: who would want to actually place fried eggs and bacon on skin? On wounded skin?? No sorry, these are not pretty. And if you did not understand the last time, let me show you where these are from and you will agree with me.

-you have the bizzarre need to get meat and eggs straight into your bloodstream: since you were unable to do tha using the real food version, you are trying with the bandages. This person is suicidal, please someone call a mental detention centre now! You really want fat and cholesterole from a corpse to enter in you? Jeez....

I feel dirty just at the idea of putting a slab of bacon on my arm, fake or otherwise.... and I am just not really sure in which direction this world is going! Is this some sort of secret conspiracy to pass on the message that meat is good? Anything I am missing here?

Anyhow, rejoice! After all this ugliness, a veggie hero is just coming you way... (check next post!)

And yeah, if you really need to know, these are from (I thought it to be a pretty unlikely place to find meat supporters, but apparently I was wrong...).

Friday, July 14, 2006

Reasons Why This Is Not Cool

We are all aware to live in a world of meat eaters, bound to see meat on others' plates, being advertized on tv, smelled on the streets.

Yet, I think most of us are umprepared for this: plush meat toys by Sweet-Meats. To add to the fact that this idea is pretty bad, they add also the following statements: "every order comes wrapped air-tight on its own tray and date-stamped to ensure super fresh flavor.
Most of our meats can be ordered in individual and family sizes
". I wonder if these toys rots with time and smell terribly as well...
And for your information, the combo you see pictured does not come cheap, 70 USD, and they are selling a rib and a sausage chain plush toy as well...

Oh my, oh my...

Reasons Why If You Want This You Are Super Lame

-you love eating meat so much you want to cuddle it while you are sleeping: you are a total freak and your breath must smell really bad! Do not come near me!

-you are a vegetarian who still misses meat: you must be a newbee veg to miss that nasty stuff! Do not buy this toy: it will go away with time OR you are faking you veg*nism and you will go back to real stuff soon.

-you want this so that you can actually have the feeling to have skin contact if not with someone alive, at least with something that once was alive, under your sheets: if your last resort to get some meat to cuddle you is to buy this toy, you are the crowned king of lame men.. no wonder you are still single! Going veg would definitely bumb up your chances by the way: don't you know that veg men are highly sought after items since most veg are girls?

-you want to get this to your son to remind him of your job, since you are a butcher: change job, this is all I have to say. And yes, your son has many chances to develop vegetarian friendly feeling growing up and therefore will grow to hate this toy.

- you find this is pretty: wanna see the real stuff and how they are produced? I promise you will not even want to come close to meat again...

No sorry, I cannot find any justification. Meat is already bad on its own. And does not improve as a stuffed toy. The only way meat is pretty and enjoable is when it is alive. And if you ever got to a farm to spend some time with a cow, a sheep and a a pig, you would agree with me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Saucy Vegan dresses like this...

Ok, so people around you don't know you are vegan. But they will find out soon. Since the barbeque you are attending is about to start. And no, you will not have the meat which is up on the grill: you will have the soy burger (grilled separately), the corn on the cob, the salad without the dressing, the weeds from the grass (depending on how lucky you are...).
And people will start asking/wondering/challenging you with the usual 1000 questions, which is by all means good to answer, firmly and politely, but that may not be entertaining for you... (come on people! I think I have said to half the world population why it is bad to drink milk? Is there seriously someone who still does not know?)

So what to do in order to get a bit more fun from that BBQ get together? Well, we say, stop hiding and attack first! Wear your saucy vegan message on you!
The challenged meat eaters will anyway sort of attack you because hit in the soft spot eating their bloody ribs while you are keeping your conscience clean... so coming out right away and make a statement of your veganism could be a good way to cut conversation short and to keep the meaties away for a while!

And these cheeky vegan tees seems done right for this purpose!

From (which, by the way, is a Brazilian company! If you have always though South America is not for veggies, think it over!), this great MEAT GAME OVER message surely will make lots of eyebrows raise with amusement.

For the baldest ones of you, sells this super saucy message: SAVE A PLANT, EAT A VEGAN. Careful! This is tricky and super fun! The meat eaters will think to have found an alley, but a bitter vegan surprise is waiting for them!

Feeling informative rather than mildy aggressive? With a message like CAN YOUR MEAT DO ALL OF THIS?, this soy tee from is for you!

(by the way, this tee is not on sale right now: you can vote for it to make sure it gets printed: no registration required)

Not feeling any of this? Surely there is the usual and always cute "I am not nugget", "kiss me I am vegan", "Pro-Life, Save Animals" tees... but this post was titled the Saucy Vegan, was it not???

For manhood-proof, cuteness infused, tofu forward, internationally understood, angrily opinionated, music interwined, retro-looking, fashion oriented, stylishly modern (and even Irish-Gaelic targeted) vegan tees, there will be other posts! We honestly found so many that we had to break apart the intended "best vegan tee-shirts" post into chapters!
Because one thing is sure: there is something to fit every vegan taste bud not only with food, but also in the world of tee shirts as well! Wear your pride!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A few words with... Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe

Another group of super cool people able to make of their veganism their job as well! How amazing is that? Your beliefs paying for your rent!
And where did I find these super cool people? On the internet: over at Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe! Which is owned, run and operated by the a super cute couple (and their cat!): Leigh, Ken and Cosmo!

What I immediately loved about their online store was that:
  1. they named their shop after their cat: how cool is that?
  2. the retro feeling of the name and of the graphics, inspiring a feeling of home made, safe treats, which in fact they sell
  3. their fantastic mission statement, which made me sight with relief (someone IS doing the job for me!): "When you buy from Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe, you can be sure that the items you purchase are 100% vegan. Since we are vegans ourselves, we understand the frustration that can come with pouring over product labels. That's why we do all that for you. But we do much more than read labels. We also contact companies and get their assurance of a vegan product.
    If a company can't tell us the source of a questionable ingredient, then we will not carry that product, period. No company that tests on animals will ever be carried by Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe. This guarantee includes our nutritional supplements, which we go to great lengths to make sure are free of lanolin, fish, dairy derivatives, etc. We may carry certain products from a company that also offers non-vegan products, but the items from that company we choose to carry will be completely vegan, and never tested on animals.
    We also choose to carry products that are of the highest quality. For example, you will never find synthetic vitamin E in our supplements, or artificial sweeteners in our snacks".
    And since their product focus seems to be on body products, this assurance is especially relevant!
Could we not ask them how their veganism changed their lives? No we could not, so read and listen the words of Leigh and Ken themselves: they are truly profused of strong and kicking vegan ideals!

1- We already know that Leigh and Ken (and Cosmo!) are the proud owners of Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? How did the shop came about?

Leigh: Ken and I are both in our early 30's, and we are vegan for ethical reasons. We had the idea for opening up the store a few years before it actually happened. I was working as a buyer at a health food store at the time, so I was learning about which distributors carry the vegan products that we liked and how to deal with companies, sales reps, and so on. It made me feel more confident about my part in our potential retail business. Ken has a very logical business sense about him (from a previous business he owned at one time) and I knew that between the two of us, we could make it happen. We chose a vegan store because being vegan is a huge part of our lives, and because we love being vegan.

Ken: Leigh and I talked about running our own business shortly after we first started dating in 2001. We were both very much into the idea of starting our own vegan webstore where anyone could order without having to worry about reading labels. We wanted to guarantee our customers that every item on our site would be 100% vegan and cruelty-free. I had previously operated a hardcore/punk record distro/label, so I had a basic idea how start a mail-order business.

2-What motivated you to become vegan? When did you start? How was the process?

Leigh: I decided to become vegetarian at age 17. I was working at a pizza place, and I remember a manager there watching me eat some pepperoni and saying, “Do you know what that’s made of??” I laughed and told him that I didn’t want to know. That night I couldn’t stop thinking about the various pig parts that were probably in my pepperoni. I started looking into meat production, factory farming, and so on. There was no way I could continue eating meat after learning about all the cruelty. Soon after I phased out all of my leather shoes, belts, and purses.
I didn’t go vegan until Ken and I started dating. He had already been vegan for about four years, and being around him showed me how easy being vegan really was. I had always wanted to go vegan, but I the idea of it being too difficult had always stopped me. I’ve been vegan for five years now, and it’s definitely for life.

Ken: I first thought about going vegetarian as a freshman at Georgia State University in 1991. While doing research for an English paper on the ivory trade in Africa, I began to question my own actions, such as my diet, and how I affected other lives and the environment. Like some folks, it took some time for my dietary habits to shift and for me to slowly cut out the fast-food junk that I had grown accustomed to eating. Fast-forward three years later and thanks to some positive individuals in the hardcore/punk scene, I learned how easy it was to give up meat. I can say that the hardcore scene during the early to mid 90’s was a definitive time for veganism. Many bands, labels, and show promoters actively promoted the positive aspects of veganism. I then made the transition to veganism in 1997 when I officially wrote off cheese as viable food option. In all honesty, I suffered from cheese overload while on tour with an old band of mine. When I returned from the tour, I swore off cheese and have been vegan ever since.

3-You do some really serious checking over each product you carry: you mentioned you calling each and every company to figure out the exact composition of everything and refuse to carry a product if there are 'grey areas'. A very commendable and probably demanding process, especially thinking you stock a lot of body and skin care products! Is this difficult? How are companies responding to your enquires?

Leigh: Well, lucky for us, the use of animal testing is not nearly as common in the natural products industry as it is in more mainstream products. Staying mostly with the natural products industry (much like your local health food store) helps us, because the companies we speak to tend to be more open and knowledgeable about their animal testing policies. The same goes for ingredients. Basically, we just read labels. If a product is referred to as “vegan” or “vegetarian” by a company, but it has a questionable ingredient, we contact the company and give them a chance to tell us the source of the ingredient. If we get a solid answer, then we carry that product. It’s funny though, because even though a lot of companies are becoming more aware of where they source their ingredients from (mostly because of potential allergies in people) they are not always hip to the less obvious non-vegan ingredients. Just last week we received a packet from a sales rep where she wrote, “All of our products are totally vegan!” But the very first sell-sheet in the packet was for a product that contained both lanolin and beeswax. So even though it has gotten easier to find vegan products, we still have to be careful not to just blindly assume a product is vegan just because a company says so. We have to read every label. And I certainly don’t think that these companies are trying to be deceptive in any way, I just think that the concept of 100% vegan ingredients is still a bit foreign them. We try to be positive and educate these companies just to let them know that the demand for 100% vegan products is out there.
These days, more and more companies are starting up that are completely vegan. We especially want to support those companies and their products. We carry products from NuTru, Liz Lovely, Crazy Rumors, Tree Huggin Treats, Road’s End, Sweet and Sara and others who are either vegans and vegetarians themselves, or who fully support the vegan ethic. They advertise that their products are vegan, and have clear ingredient listings. We appreciate the chance to offer their products to the vegan community, and keep the vegan consumer’s money “in the family”, so to speak. How we, as vegans, choose to spend our money speaks volumes to companies everywhere. Show that the demand is there, and more vegan options are bound to become available.

4-Is Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe your full time job? How hard is it to target to a very narrow (yet super active and rightfully demanding!) slice of the market? And how easy was to open your online shop?

Leigh: Cosmo’s is more than a full-time job, it’s our whole life! Ha ha. We eat, sleep, live and breathe Cosmo’s. It takes up a lot of our time, but we love it.
As far as targeting our core market, I think we are getting the hang of it now. We run a lot of print ads in vegan publications such as VegNews, Herbivore, and Satya. We also have banner ads running on veg-orientated websites. Other than that, we rely on word of mouth. The folks in the vegan community are very supportive- we take care of our own. We are very grateful to be a part of such a compassionate, growing community.

Ken: Quite simply, almost everything we sell on our site is something we could easily sell to ourselves. Leigh and I are good critics of the items we sell and if we do not believe in the company or if we think the item is not good quality, we will not sell it. As far as running the business, it is definitely not as easy as it may seem, but I enjoy every second of it. At the end of the day, it feels great to be a positive part of the veg*n community.

5-You named your shop after your cat: is he vegan as well? Can you tell us more about him?

Leigh: I adopted Moe (Cosmo) ten years ago, when he was just six weeks old. I was a vegetarian at the time, but it hadn’t occurred to me to look into feeding him vegetarian. Later when I turned vegan, I seriously considered switching Moe to a vegan diet, and I did my research. What I found out did not make me feel comfortable about switching his diet. Being a male cat, I was very concerned with potential urinary crystal problems. I saw my best friend go through a difficult time with her male cat after he had a urinary blockage. Her cat almost died, but he had emergency surgery to remove the blockage and is doing well now. I didn’t want to test Moe out on a diet that does have a tendency to cause Ph and urinary problems in males. Even the folks over at now suggest that male cats not go completely vegan:
Because of this, I reluctantly decided to keep Moe on a diet of meat-based cat food. If we ever adopt a female cat or a dog, we would definitely re-visit the vegan companion animal idea.
Moe is a real joy to have around! He’s our baby. He’s very spoiled with love, toys, treats, and brushing. He talks to us and follows us around constantly. We just adore him. If you would like to see more of Moe, we have the “obligatory picture of Cosmo” each month in our e-newsletter. Anyone can sign up for the newsletter via our website.

Ken: Unfortunately, Cosmo is not a big fan of tofu, seitan or veggies. But, he has been known to run off with a potato or two from the dinner table : ) Seriously, I echo Leigh’s answer.

6-What's your favourite product and why? (Mine is the chocolate marshmallow, but I have not tried them all!)

Leigh: Hmm… there’s so many! I love the Liz Lovely Cowgirl Cookies. We love them so much that we served them at our wedding. Our family still mentions how good the cookies at the wedding were. I also love my Queen Bee Truckette Bag. It’s a real workhorse of a purse. It’s big and sturdy, and I constantly get compliments on it. My recent favorite is the Soy Whip topping. It’s perfect on top of a vegan ice cream sundae. Oh, and the Harb Chocolate Pecan Caramel Cup. It’s soooo good!

Ken: Wow, that’s a hard question because I like so many items we sell. I would have to agree with Leigh and say the Liz Lovely Cookies are probably my favorite. I would also include the Harb chocolate peanut butter protein cup, Sjaak’s caramel dark chocolate bar, Herbivore’s “Praise Seitan” t-shirt, Chocolate brownie Pure bars and the new Sweet & Sara vegan marshmallows (they are incredible). Do you see the chocolate pattern here?

I do see the chocolate pattern and not only for Ken, but for myself as well (and by the way that RiceMellow Creme seems developed for me, just for me, all must be mine...). I am super happy Cosmo is running such a great shop (to be a cat must not be easy to get all the respect he needs while doing businness!) but to be honest I am just glad I do not work there.. just imagine the scene: wrappings all over the place and someone with a sugar shock going on sitting in the middle of them with hands and face covered in melted chocolate and rice creme!
Leigh and Ken just got a lot of respect from me for actually be able to run their online shop without eating all their delicious vegan supplies before they can ship them out!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Meat can not be murder? Meet 'Artificial Meat'

No, I am not talking about fake meat, mock meat or anything that want to taste like meat but it is made of x-y-z, all of these being vegetables... I am talking about REAL meat. Just not coming from an animal.

A few months ago I first read about a new experiment related to creating muscle tissue from one single cell: for my understanding it is a pretty standard procedure, which has already been used for years in a variety of medical applications (for example to produce new skin to transplant to patients with severe burns). However, the difference this time was that the purpose is to produce artificially grown muscle meat (here with a video as well)for human consuption... in the form of some sort of steaks!

As much as it first sounded as a joke, it is not at all: scientists are thinking of creating artificial (but on every biological aspect real) meat on a large scale for us to eat it!!!
I thought this idea to be pretty crazy but doing a little more research about this topic, I discovered that they are for real: the development of artificial meat has progressed a lot more than I thought and they are making it sound a less far fetched idea that what I had thought at the beginning.

The first big breakthough for articial meat happened a year ago, when the news that massive production was proven to be possible: "Scientists at the University of Maryland think that large quantities of artificial meat could be produced to supply the world with animal-free meat products, like chickenless nuggets. This is based on experiments for NASA, that created small amounts of muscle fibre cultured from single cells. According to the researchers, larger quantities could be grown in thin sheets and then stacked up to create thickness".

The reasons behind artificial meat are many, the most obvious of a commercial nature, even if developers are keeping in mind that "cultured meat could appeal to people concerned about food safety, the environment, and animal welfare, and people who want to tailor food to their individual tastes".
This experiment is not a one time and soon-to-be-forgotten event either: a non profit foundation to help develop artificial meat was founded, it is called New Harvest (it does sound very much like something that came out of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, does it not??) and on their website they declare that "one novel line of research is to produce meat in vitro, in a cell culture, rather than from an animal. The production of such "cultured meat" begins by taking a number of cells from a farm animal and proliferating them in a nutrient—rich medium. Cells are capable of multiplying so many times in culture that, in theory, a single cell could be used to produce enough meat to feed the global population for a year".

Now, the idea is definitely a bit shocking... and I am not totally sure what I think about it. However, for lay reporters it is VERY clear that the preferred (and in their eyes extremely thankful) target of this new product is us, the vegetarians and vegans.
Almost no article, aside for scientific papers which stick to the principle of science neutrality, mention artificial meat without talking about animal lovers, environmental activists, militant vegetarians! Let me just list here some of the newspaper articles that appeared on the subjedct to give you an idea: "It's time to stop killing meat and start growing it " (Washington Post and Slate), "Will consumers have a beef with test-tube meat?"(Globe And Mail), "Brave New Hamburger "(Village Voice), "When meat is not murder " (Guardian), "Why meat may not be murder " (The Independent).

The problem is... are we really a target for this possibly future product? I immediately asked myself what I was thinking about the issue, me being a vegan. And I am still pretty unsure whether this is ethical or not: I just know I am so turned off by meat that I would not eat it, even if coming from non animal sources (right now the starting for the cell culture is coming by animals but there are plans to totally ditch using animals all together, since this was the scientist's original purpuse)... On the other hand, if mass production was indeed possible, it could mean a huge relief from the terrible impact factory farming is having on the environment.

At last, what do you think? Would you abandon your veg*n habits if meat was made a healthy and completely cruelty free viable option? What is your position on this experiment? A marginal break thought that will never develop or the hope for humanity?

Submitted by G. Luisi

Monday, July 03, 2006

A few words with.... Beverly Lynn Bennett, AKA The Vegan Chef

Ever since landing on her website, I always wanted to ask a few question to the woman, no, the chef, no, the brave food inventor, who started a site called The Vegan Chef. On her page, on my internet perusing among people who made of their veganism their job as well, I think I first found out that working as a vegan chef is possible, that a career in the cooking industry must not necessarily be a veg*n-free zone, thing that I thought not possible since in many vegan restaurant today the chef is a (male) meat eater who just settled with a job in a vegan eatery. Beverly proved me delightfully wrong! And shared some of her very inspiring experiences in being a vegan chef in a painfully oh-not-vegan-at-all cooking world.

Lynn, you have been a vegan chef for some time now. Did you go to cooking school as a vegan or vegetarian or you became one after? Was it difficult to be at cooking school as a vegetarian?
In the late 80’s, I became a vegetarian while pursuing my culinary arts degree at the University of Akron in Ohio. I had to deal with handling animal products to varying degrees while finishing my education, which was really awful. Most chefs are required to take classes on butchering techniques, not to mention all of the ways to cook meats. Fortunately, we were allowed to work in teams, and I was able to have other students do most of the things that I was opposed to. It was still horrific to even be in the same room. I began to focus more on baking, and less on the various line cook positions and stations, which allowed me to deal with meat as little as possible.

That's awful! I cannot image how bad butchering must be for a meat-eater, let alone for a vegetarian! When and how you became a vegan? What were your motivations?
As a teenager, I ventured into eating vegetarian with the influence of my synchronized swimming coach, both for the health benefits and to drop a few pounds, but unfortunately I did not stick with it then. It was meeting my husband Ray, who went vegetarian when he was 16, that changed everything for me several years later. Through him, I began learning more about the moral and ethical aspects of vegetarianism, especially the horrors of factory farming and animal abuse and suffering, and I began to question our society’s heavy reliance on animals. I began educating myself about all sorts of issues from animal rights and the environment to the health benefits of a plant-based diet, organics, and even special diets and food allergies. Ray and I began to eliminate more and more animal products from our diet and our lives, and in the early 90s we went vegan for good.

Your job definitely poses some challenges to a vegan: vegetarian restaurants are not very widespread (yet!!!). Has this been a big hurdle? Have you moved around more than your meat-cooking colleagues because of this fact? Were you ever forced to settle with working at a non veggie restaurant after you became a vegan? After graduating, I worked for various bakeries and took jobs in cafes that had as few meat offerings on their menus as possible, and I always tried to incorporate more vegetarian dishes wherever I went. I’ve never let being a vegetarian and now a vegan stop me from cooking or baking professionally. Rather, it encouraged and inspired me to independently develop my own style, talents, recipes, a website, and a writing career. Fortunately, I started working in vegetarian restaurants and natural foods store kitchens, and for the last decade I have been able to prepare only vegetarian food with almost all of it being vegan during the past 6 years. Wanting to cook or bake only vegan foods has dramatically reduced my number of opportunities as a chef, which is one reason I left Ohio, where I was born and raised, to relocate to the more veg-friendly city of Eugene, Oregon. The opportunities are still limited for vegans here, but there are still more than any other town that I know of. Things are getting better throughout the country for vegan culinary professionals as more and more people embrace the lifestyle and way of eating, so I am very optimistic about the future for myself and others that share my passion!

Chefs are often looked at as celebrities, the more our life revolves about food and the least we cook at home: how do other chefs look at you? Are they interested in your living and working choices or they just fail to understand? How different is your career when compared to theirs?
Reactions of non-veggie chefs to my chosen vegan path have ranged from ridicule to respect. Some have a genuine interest in the vegan approach to food preparation, while others can barely hide their disapproval or amusement. In recent years, with plant-based cuisine gaining more attention and acceptance than ever before, I’ve noticed an increase in a genuine and respectful interest in the way I cook (or uncook, if it’s raw) among fellow chefs. In terms of how a vegan chef’s career compares to that of a traditional meaty chef, we generally get paid less, for one, and we have fewer employment opportunities, for another. Ethical and moral concerns generally don’t figure a whole lot into the reasons that a traditional chef goes into the restaurant biz, whereas it’s usually the driving force behind a vegan chef’s. That and a lack of enough vegan restaurants to work in can often add another layer of complexity to one’s career. As vegans, we often have to create our own opportunities rather than have a wide assortment of already-established restaurants to work for. Traditional chefs may consider it just a job or paycheck but for me it’s more like a mission. I don’t always get paid as well as someone with my experience should, but money isn’t what motivates me. I love being and cooking vegan, and I want to share this with everyone else for their health, the animals, the planet, and our future.

There seem to be a tragical luck of a proper and established vegan cooking school. Yet, the demand seems to be pretty high! Vegans cook a lot, both because of interest, control over the ingredients and lack of vegan resources out there and many would like to attend cooking school. Why do you think a proper school has not been established yet? When will you start one?
Cooking schools are way behind the times in keeping up with food trends, to say the least. Veggie food sales have been increasing exponentially for the past decade or two, yet only a very few schools even offer vegetarian cooking as a course of study with maybe one or two classes thrown in on vegan, raw foods, or special diets. Why? I wish I knew. Vegan cooking schools are usually what people ask me about the most, whether in person or through my website. I direct them to the various schools that I know of, but many are expensive and not what they are looking for. It’s for this reason that I have been toying with the idea of starting something on my own here in Eugene. Not necessarily a formal cooking school, but more of a vegan cooking and baking instructional series focusing on specific topics of interest and skills that one could use in their everyday life as well as professionally. As vegans, when we see a void or the need for something, in this case a cooking school, we have to try to fulfill it ourselves. If we wait for someone else to do it, particularly those who don’t share our passion, it may never happen!

I was jaded to discover that a proper vegan cooking school may just be a few months away. As Beverly would out it, peas out!

Beverly Lynn Bennett has a more than excellent 'vegan pedigree' and I am in trouble listing here all her accomplishments. Here are just a few: beside for having her own website (which I am sure most of you are already familiar with), she is the co-author with her husband of the recently released The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Living, has just relased her e-cookbook "Eat your Veggies! Recipes from the Kitchen of The Vegan Chef" with new, never released recipe, since 2002 has a regular column on the vegan oriented VegNews Magazine titled "Dairy-Free Desserts", which also recived the 2005 Veggie Award for favorite VegNews column.
And finally, along with personalities like T.Colin Campbell (authoer of
The China Study), Carol J. Adams (author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory) and my beloved Dan Piraro (the vegan cartoonist), she is one of the invited speakers at the Vegetarian Summerfest happening between July 5th and July 9th in Johnstown, PA.
For anyone in the area with nothing to do for the upcoming weekend, the Vegetarian Summerfest is still accepting registrations: in the participations fees all food is included and, you guessed it right, all food provided will be vegan and delicious! Unfortunately participations is not particularly cheap, but it included accomodation as well (doubles as well, if you are thinking of taking hubby along), if you are driving to get there. You can register for either the full lenght of the event of just for the weekend. If anybody end up there, please give us a shout: we want to hear your report!






Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. Anatole France