I met the lovely and talented Kim Garr and her accomplished husband, Ryan, at the 2011 Vida Vegan Conference in Portland. Her warm smile and perfectionism mirrored a kindred spirit and we instantly hit it off. As a contestant on the second series of Cupcake Wars and having a Baby Girl on the way, Kim has been a busy woman. Read on to learn about some of her experiences.
Allison Rivers Samson: What inspired you to adopt a vegan diet/lifestyle?
Kim Garr: It was a long road all the way to veganism, but it started when I read the book “Fast Food Nation.” I learned about the beef industry and their blatant disregard for their workers and consumers, and so I decided to cut red meat out of my diet before I even knew all the horrors of factory farming. I later learned about the health hazards of consuming dairy and pork from reading the book “Healthy Life Kitchen” by Marilu Henner. Eventually, I also learned about the way that the animals we use for food are treated, and I stopped eating chicken and eggs. My last step to a totally vegan diet was eliminating fish, which took me a while. I didn’t eat much fish to begin with, but it was often easier to eat a dairy-free fish dish than a dairy-free vegetarian dish when eating out. Once I stopped eating fish, though, I realized it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be. I think that when you know the health benefits of a vegan diet AND the humane reasons for making the choice (as well as the impact factory farming has on our environment), it’s a much easier road. The more I learned about the foods that we eat, the more excited I was to make a change to my diet.
ARS: You were on the second season of the Food Network series, “Cupcake Wars.” What was that like for you and would you do it again?
KG: The short version is that it was a crazy amount of work, and I’m grateful to have had the experience. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to face something that I was very afraid of doing. I always think it’s a good thing to face challenges and realize that we can actually do more than we think we’re capable of. That being said, I don’t know that I have any interest in repeating the experience, for many reasons (I signed a pretty hefty confidentiality agreement, so I have to have a somewhat abridged answer here), though I’m glad to have done it once.
ARS: You write a blog called, C’est la Vegan. What’s the biggest challenge in running it?
KG: The biggest current challenge has been my pregnancy. Ideally I’d love to have 2-3 new posts a week, but from the nausea and exhaustion of my first trimester, to the carpal tunnel I’ve developed in my third (which I’ve learned is a totally normal side effect of pregnancy), I’ve just not been able to cook nearly as much as I used to, let alone take photos and type up posts. My husband Ryan has been a huge help in the kitchen, though, so I’m doing my best to try to have at least some new content on the blog. I’m also rotating in some old posts that feature holiday recipes so that people can still use the blog as a resource since this is the time of year when so many of us are either hosting or attending parties and need an easy dish to bring along.
ARS: What do you love most about it?
KG: I’m still always amazed that people not only read the blog, but that they actually like the content. Nothing is more gratifying than getting positive feedback from my readers. It totally makes my day to hear that someone made one of my recipes and loved it. There are lots of things I love about blogging, but that’s definitely the best part for me.
ARS: You’re about to have a baby girl! What advice can you share with other vegan moms-to-be about nutrition or nurturing themselves during this important time in life?
KG: I’m definitely not the nutrition expert here as sometimes all I’m able to eat is toast or oatmeal, though I try my best to focus on getting lots of protein and fiber. I would definitely tell people to stick with the diet that they’re most comfortable with, and don’t worry about people judging you or telling you that you’re hurting the baby by eating a vegan diet. There’s plenty of information out there to support your choice. You need to do what’s right for you, and having a doctor and partner that support you is helpful. I’m very fortunate that our doctor was totally unfazed by our diet and even made the comment that most of her vegan patients were healthier than the non-vegans. The majority of foods that you’re not supposed to eat during pregnancy aren’t vegan anyway, so you already have a leg up there! As far as nurturing yourself, it’s important to listen to your body and what it needs. I thought I’d be exercising throughout my entire pregnancy, as I was really active before, but that’s been pretty far from the reality of what I’m able to do. When I’m feeling like I should be doing more – whether it’s cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, etc. – I just remind myself that right now the priority is taking care of myself and my developing baby. This is a special time that I’ll never experience again in this way. I have the rest of my life for work and chores, but only one shot at a first pregnancy. I’m amazed at what a toll pregnancy can take on the body! I also try to be present each day, even the bad ones, and not try to just rush through all of this and get to the due date. People always say that from the time they get pregnant everything goes so fast, but I think that being present in each moment makes you really aware of the different stages and allows you to fully appreciate and experience everything. I’ve certainly found that to be true in my experience of motherhood!
ARS: Are there any whole-food staple grocery items you can’t live without?
KG: Definitely fresh fruit. Living in Southern California, we’re very fortunate to be able to get fresh fruit and other produce every weekend at our local farmers’ market. We always have broccoli, romaine and kale on hand. I also like to have quinoa, brown rice and pasta in the pantry, along with chickpeas and black beans. Between those and other pantry staples, we can usually pull together an easy weeknight meal.
ARS: Do you have a favorite seasonal meal idea or recipe you’d like to share?
KG: I love having soups and stews once winter rolls around. It’s definitely the time of year for cozy comfort food. Some of my go-to’s are Cauliflower Bisque with “Buttered” Bread Crumbs, My Favorite Chili, and Irish “Steak” and Stout Stew. Definitely heavier comfort foods, but they sure keep you warm and happy! You know I love comfort foods!
ARS: What’s your favorite holiday baked good?
KG: That’s a tough one! My Mom used to make tons of press Christmas cookies, and my favorites were little Christmas-tree shaped sugar cookies that had just a hint of almond flavor. They’re actually really easy to veganize, and I often make them without a press. The only problem is that I eat waaaaaaay too many of them! Yum! My mom made those too. Let me know when you’re ready to bake and we’ll get together and make them. =)
Thanks Kim, so nice to hear about what you’re up to!