Last week, I was flattered and surprised to learn that Becky and Sarah over at the awesome Soydivision blog had nominated me for a Liebster Award. Thanks guys! If you’re not familiar with it, the Liebster Award is a fun way for newer and/or smaller scale blogs (with ≤ 200 followers) to recognize and highlight one another’s work, and ideally to form new relationships and connections. It also involves answering lots of fun questions to help your readers get to know you in ways they otherwise may not through your regular posts.
According to Becky and Sarah, the basic rules are as follows:
- Answer the questions provided by the nominator, then come up with 10 new ones to ask your nominees.
- Nominate 8 other blogs, let them know you have nominated them and put a link to their blog in your post.
- No Tag backs (i.e. you cannot nominate the blog that nominated you)
- Nominees must have under 200 followers on any platform.
- You must tell all the blogs that you nominate that you have nominated them.
Ok, so here goes. First, the questions I was asked:
What’s your favorite vegetable?
I know this is a bit of a cop out, but after a great deal of deliberation, I still cannot pick just one! Instead, I’m going to give you my top five: avocado (because its richness makes everything better), tomato (because they’re just flat out delicious), wild mushrooms (because they add meatiness and depth that is otherwise hard to get in a plant-based diet), cauliflower (because it’s surprisingly versatile and deliciously nutty), and any kind of dark greens (because I crave them).
Who’s your cooking idol?
Rich Landau, the chef at Vedge in Philadelphia. Eating at his restaurant was a revelation and really changed the way I think about cooking. He is able to create deep, complex flavors from plants and to recreate the essence of non-vegan classics with whole, plant-based foods, without using any weird artificial replacements.
What’s your secret guilty food pleasure?
It’s not really a secret, but I love anything deep fried and salty, preferably with a vegan mayonnaise based dipping sauce. I have even been known to eat vegan chili mayo (veganaise+sesame oil+soy sauce+Sriracha) by the spoonful when I think no one is looking…
What’s your food hate?
Traumatized by an icky mouthful of vegetable shish kabob at age four, I have been onion-phobic for most of my my life, to the point that even seeing a slice of onion in my food would make me sick to my stomach…at age 30. This past summer, though, we received so many onions from our CSA that I started experimenting with cooking them. To my surprise, I discovered that, as long as I cook the heck out of them, I almost, maybe, kind of like them.
What kitchen item can’t you live without?
I’m usually not much of a kitchen gadget person and I do love a meal that requires merely a dutch oven and a wooden spoon. Since going vegan, though, I’ve found myself increasingly more dependent on my food processor to whip up delicious nut creams,vegan cheeses, and rich velvety soups.
You can have any famous person, living or dead round to dinner. Who do you pick and what vegan meal do you make for them?
I would have the late, great scientist Carl Sagan to dinner. The year my (now healthy and thriving) mother was fighting cancer, I read every single one of his books. They brought me comfort by helping me to find beauty and meaning in the seemingly chaotic, often tragic, natural world. While it seems he was an omnivore for most of his life, I credit this incredible quote for pulling me back to vegetarianism and eventually toward veganism :
“Humans — who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals — have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and ‘animals’ is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them — without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us.”
I’d serve him an Indian feast including mushroom biryani, dal tadka, chickpea makhani, and homemade naan.
Life gives you lemons, what do you make?
Not sure what, if anything, this means symbolically, but I personally love to snack on slices of lemons… If I had to make something, I’d use it to brighten a pasta primavera with lots of fresh veggies. (Can you tell I don’t have much of a sweet tooth?)
What’s one non-vegan food item you’ve always wanted to make vegan?
Sushi! Good sushi is, for me, all about combining and balancing interesting flavors into a single delicious bite. It seems like there are endless possibilities of yummy, Japanese-style vegetable combinations that could be worked into maki rolls, but all the vegan sushi I’ve had is either boring and repetive (I’m talking about you, sweet potato maki) or too out-there to scratch my sushi itch (I’m talking about you, Beyond Sushi maki rolls). My attempts at home have so far been unimpressive, but the quest continues.
What made you become vegan in the first place?
I follow a vegan diet for two basic reasons. The first is that I have, since I was a kid, felt uneasy with the idea of eating other conscious beings and factory farming them as though they were merely inanimate things. (Charlotte’s Web and Babe really traumatized me…) I thought that I was supposed to eat and enjoy meat, so I tried to compartmentalize and suppress those feelings in order to be “normal,” but they never actually went away. The Carl Sagan quote I shared above made me realize that I was only able to eat animals by denying the innate disgust and sadness I felt at the thought of consuming the dead body of another being. It was incredible how immediately and profoundly I felt at peace when I cut animal products completely from my diet.
The second reason I follow a vegan diet is that I just don’t think it is natural or healthy for humans to consume animal products at the rate that we do, particularly in the current context of most animal products having been exposed to artificial hormones and antibiotics. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, I did a great deal of research on the connection between health and diet, and I was shocked at the strong correlation between animal product, particularly dairy, consumption and cancer, not to mention myriad other health issues. Dairy never really agreed with my stomach, and, when I really let myself think about it, I always found the idea of drinking the excretions of another animal’s mammary glands to be pretty gross and unappetizing.
What’s your favorite animal?
Sea mammals, particularly blue whales, are incredibly fascinating. I’m mesmerized by their enormous size, their beautiful, sleek form, and their high level of intelligence. I get goosebumps imagining these larger-than-life, ancient beings moving freely around the entire globe, maintaining lifelong relationships with other whales, and communicating in a complex language that is millions of years old and is yet to be decoded by humans. I would love to be able to know and understand their way of life, and I have a feeling that they are far more sentient than we could possibly imagine.
Ok, so now–drum roll please–my nominees: (Like Becky and Sarah pointed out, it’s pretty challenging to figure out follower stats, so many of these blogs may have follower bases larger than 200. I tried to pick blogs that feel down-to-earth and homegrown.)
And, finally, here are the questions for my nominees:
- Describe your fantasy meal.
- What’s your go-to easy weeknight dinner?
- How did you learn to cook?
- How do you go about developing a recipe for your blog?
- Have you ever had a kitchen disaster? What did you learn from it, if anything?
- What have you found to be the most surprising thing about being a vegetarian or vegan?
- What about the most challenging?
- How do you tend to navigate situations in which you’re the only vegetarian or vegan?
- What’s your favorite thing to do on a Saturday afternoon?
- What is one one thing your readers would be surprised to learn about you?