Sunday, March 22, 2009

Living Vegan -- Keepin’ It Real (and Simple!) With Ginger Cooke

Greenies may have noticed her lurking around these parts. The clever may have spotted her logo (Vegan With A Purpose) over on the sidebar and gone ahead and clicked. Still, many of you might be asking -- who is Ginger Cooke? She writes a fantastically fun page full of recipes, hints, tips (even some poetry and real life stories) of being a vegan** gal living in Colorado. Her approach is always ‘fun meets function’ as she shares the best ways to create meals that she has tried, many of which she created. She asks her readers to give feedback, share stories and let her know what they think after they have made the yummy goodness she has shared. Ginger has set herself apart in the world of foodie bloggers by providing those of us who are “afraid” to give up meat with some amazingly simple, truly delicious and hilarious ways to make a meal.

I have personally been reading her for quite some time and have made many of her recipes for no other reason than they sounded completely fantastic…and they were! Ginger is honest, open and shares her experiences as if we were pals chatting on the phone -- through humorous wit and trial and error. I asked her to share some additional guidance for those of us Greenies who might be considering venturing into the world of vegan (or are at least interested to hear what it is all about), but are too shy to ask for directions.

How long have you been a vegan?

I've been a vegan for about 3 years. I was a vegetarian for a year before that, but I still ate eggs and dairy.

What made you decide to stop eating meat and other animal by-products?

My transition to a vegetarian diet happened gradually as I began to lose my appetite for meat products. Not because I didn't like the taste of meat anymore, but I began to see the meat on my plate as more than a food product. I began to see it as butchered, dead animal flesh and it really began to make me ill just to think about it. I stopped eating eggs and dairy a year later by accident. My sister, who eats a vegan diet for different reasons, was visiting from out of state. I realized, after a week of hanging out with her, that I had been eating a vegan diet without intending to and I felt great. After that, I'd decided to become a vegan.

Do you find it difficult to eat at restaurants?

Not really. While more and more restaurants are offering vegan options due to popular demand, some haven't quite gotten the message yet. Still, they usually at least offer a few vegetarian options and I can just ask for the cheese to be left off. They are normally very accommodating and will substitute marinara sauce for cream sauce, artichoke hearts for chicken and so on and so forth. Some restaurants even go so far as to offer vegan boca burgers or tofu as substitutions in meat dishes. The ones that aren't so easy usually at least have a good a la carte menu that a meal can be built from. Basically, I never go hungry with a salad in a restaurant while my friends feast.

Do you have to shop in multiple places to acquire all your groceries? If so do you find it is less expensive to shop in specialty stores?

I do the majority of my grocery shopping in my regular, neighborhood grocery store. Local stores are carrying more and more specialty items that used to only be available in health food stores. However, these items do tend to be a little expensive in the grocery store so I usually still buy those items at my favorite, locally owned health food store. After a couple of shopping trips you tend to figure out what items you need to buy at which location and you can do all of your shopping in one trip with no confusion. There's also online vegan stores like VeganStore.com, which are very convenient.

How long does it take on average to prepare a typical meal?

No time at all...less, actually. Vegetables cook up a lot faster than meat and I don't have to worry about overcooking them to kill any parasites or bacteria as long as I properly wash them. I'd say an average meal, with preparation time, usually takes about 30 minutes. If I'm playing with a good recipe it does take longer though.

Do you have a favorite recipe that you have gone back to over and over?

I have so many favorite recipes that I love to make when I'm in the mood for them. My top 3 current favorites are pancakes, seitan stew and veggie-tofu stir fry...The thing I'm in to right now is veganizing traditional recipes so I can expand my horizons and enjoy some childhood favorites.

Is it possible to veganize just about any recipe?

Mostly, I'd say. There are so many creative vegan substitutes these days that a good vegan alternative can usually be created with some patience and research. I love cooking and creating new recipes so this is half the fun for me.

What common misconception about living a vegan lifestyle do you want to clear up?

There seems to be an assumption among people I'm introduced to that vegans are generally anemic, malnourished and angry at anyone else who chooses to eat or use animal products. First, if anyone reading this has met an angry vegan and felt judged, they probably just met a zealot who would most likely be angry no matter what their lifestyle...most of us just want to make friends over a plate of sweet potato fries, I promise! ;) Second, the misconception that we suffer from poor nutrition really should be cleared up. Most vegans are well educated about their diet and nutrition and actually get more protein, iron and calcium than is required. They usually live longer and suffer less from heart disease and cancer than those who eat a standard Western diet.

In all honesty, is there anything you miss from your carnivorous lifestyle?

No, no, no! In all honesty, for the first 5 months of being vegetarian I missed cheeseburgers. Anytime the craving hit, I would eat something high in fat and the craving would be satisfied....ergo, it wasn't the beef I was craving, but the fat I had been getting from the beef. The secret to not missing animal products is utilizing resources to find vegan substitutes. I have a list of vegan resources and information in the sidebar on my page for anyone interested and searching for information. Also, if anyone ever needs information and can't find it, they can email me and I would be happy to do some research, make suggestions or point them in the right direction.

What are your top five vegan resources (books, blogs, tv shows, etc.)?

1) The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Living. Go out and buy this book and read it right away. It's filled with resources, information and nutritional education for anyone who wants to make an easy and healthy transition into a vegan lifestyle.
2) The Post Punk Kitchen or theppk.com. Hosts of a vegan cooking show and a vegan blog that provides much humor and lots of great recipes and cooking tips.
3) VegNews magazine or VegNews.com. It has loads of information, fun and yummy recipes to try.
4) GoVeg.com. You can explore and learn for hours.
And
5) Vegan.com. It's blogging, news and links to the vegan world that the general population rarely has exposure to. If they did, they'd rethink their lifestyle a bit.

**It is important to note that being vegan is not solely relegated to the arena of food. I chose to ask only food related questions of Ginger because it is the most identifiable area of change for most of us and because it is the focus of her blog, but to truly be vegan is a complete lifestyle change. Everything from cosmetics to clothing can be made with animal by products. The book Ginger recommends in her first favorite resource is a terrific way to start learning about some of the other life shifts that can be made to go completely vegan.**

5 comments:

Bridgete said...

I really love that Ginger doesn't get angry just because I still eat meat. And I love her recipes!

ginger said...

i would never be angry with you for eating meat bridgete!

this does read great jenn, thanks so much!! you rock!!...i'll have this linked on my blog before the day is up.

speaking of recipes, i have to go to vitamin cottage for some pie supplies. ;) yay pie!

High Desert Diva said...

I keep thinking I may as well completely switch....I haven't eaten any eggs or dairy for almost 4 years, but I still eat meat...although I'm certainly not a huge fan of any kind of meat. I think it would be easy for me to eliminate it from my diet.

Karen said...

Really cool interview! Great job :)

artjewl said...

Great interview, Jenn! Glad to see Ginger spotlighted. :)

If nothing, I can blame -- er, thank -- you, Ginger, for making me more conscious of my diet and its implications on a greater scale. I've kinda fallen off the vegan-day-a-week plan during this whole pregnancy thing, but I've done better at going vegetarian more often. And I'm grateful for your fabulous recipes to encourage that!