If you’ve been interested in spirituality, body image, healthy weight loss or veganism in the last 20 years, chances are you’ve read one of Victoria Moran’s books. She is an icon in the vegan world and her latest book, Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World, written with her daughter Adair, promises to be as entertaining, inspirational and full of great recipes as we’ve come to expect from her works. Want to win of copy of this wonderful new vegan guidebook? Victoria is letting us give one away and you could win it just by commenting! But first, the interview:
Allison Rivers Samson: You’ve written ten books themed around spirituality and growing healthy relationships with our bodies. Your eleventh and newest book is all about being a “Main Street Vegan.” Can you tell us what that means and why the time is ripe for this book now, after having been an outspoken and well-known vegan for almost 30 years?
Victoria Moran: For me, Main Street Vegan is coming full circle. My very first book, actually the thesis I wrote in college after researching the vegan movement in the UK, was Compassion the Ultimate Ethic. As far as I can tell, it was the first book on vegan philosophy and practice ever published by an actual publishing house. Of course, in those days — it came out in 1985 — very few people were interested in veganism (or had even heard of it). Now, the degree of acceptance and enthusiasm of this topic is so gratifying. When we were meeting with potential publishers for Main Street Vegan, one editor — the one we ended up going with — said very matter-of-factly, “Sure we’re interested. We don’t have a vegan book.” Remembering the time when nobody had a vegan book, this really told me how far we’ve come.
ARS: Congratulations on 30 years! What started you on this path of compassion?
VM: It’s not quite thirty — but nearly — and that includes a lot of ‘imperfect’ years when I wasn’t as careful as I ultimately came to be about what was in things. My daughter really helped me with that. I raised her vegan and if she ever had any question about what was in the cookie or the cracker, she simply didn’t eat it, even as a small child. She was my little guru. What started me on this path — that was your question — was, I think, the woman who largely raised me. My parents both worked and this was before daycare, so they hired a live-in nanny when I was six months old. She was an amazing, eccentric, grandmother-aged woman who’d studied a lot of spiritual teachings and loved animals, so she brought me up with these ideas. She wasn’t vegetarian, but she knew about vegetarians and told me about them. This was Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1950s. You can’t imagine what a bizarre concept it was, in a town with huge stockyards and our famed Kansas City steak, to learn that some people never ate meat — ever.
ARS: You raised your daughter, Adair, as a vegan twenty years ago. How was that experience?
VM: Well, it was a lot easier in the ’80s than it would have been in the ’50s! Actually, it wasn’t hard at all. We lived in the Chicago suburbs when Adair was little, then moved to Kansas City, then the central Missouri Ozarks (that was a bit challenging, but we belonged to a food co-op and did fine), then Stamford, Connecticut, and back to KC where we lived from the time Adair was eleven until she was seventeen and we moved to New York City. In all those places, we just ate what we ate and did what we did. We always knew some other vegetarians or vegans, and we went to the NAVS Vegetarian Summerfest every year to touch base with a few hundred veg/vegan adults and kids.
ARS: This year was our first at Summerfest, and it was so great to spend some time with you there. Olivia, our 5.5-year-old, is becoming more vocal about being vegan and is already opening doors for others to inquire about their own journeys toward becoming vegan, something I have previously shied away from. Is that part of what a vegan lifestyle coach like yourself might do? What else can a coach help with?
VM: Vegan Lifestyle Coaches guide people who want to become vegan into doing that. We also work with people who are already vegan but who may want to eat more healthfully, or cook more creatively, or shop more fashionably — whatever someone wants to do, we teach, guide, counsel, and inspire. There’s also a vegan outreach element when we speak for groups or talk to the press.
ARS: What inspired you to create the “Main Street Vegan Academy?”
VM: I found that in my practice as a Holistic Health Counselor, what I was doing was really coaching people to be healthy, happy, kind vegans, or at least vegans-in-the-making. I saw a need for this service: there are places to train in vegan nutrition, but nothing that was training coaches and educators in every aspect of this way of life — food, health, clothes, makeup, raising kids, having a social life.
ARS: In your work helping people move towards healthy vegan lifestyles, what have you found is most daunting for people about transitioning to veganism?
VM: Change. Change is always scary, and going vegan often means doing something that nobody in your family or circle of friends is doing or has any interest in. It can seem like volunteering for pariah-hood! Nutritional questions are usually answered pretty easily. The ethics of being vegan are unassailable. It takes very little time to learn to make vegan food tasty and affordable. What hangs people up is the thought of being weird, being different.
ARS: What’s your best tip for overcoming that particular challenge?
VM: It’s a combination of support, friends (online and in person), and lots of great information — not to mention lots of great food! Since I’m a writer, my favorite is probably ‘information.’ When you know all the ramifications — what this simple lifestyle change can do for your health, the animals, and the planet — it’s hard to say, ‘I’ll go ahead and clog my arteries, support the torture of innocents, and promote global warning, because I really want to fit in.’ Once you really, really know, there’s no going back.
ARS: People sometimes associate veganism with celebrity chefs and expensive ingredients. “Main Street Vegan” sets out to show that it is possible to live healthfully and compassionately in the real world. What’s your favorite “real world” vegan recipe?
VM: Gosh, I have a lot. And the ‘real world’ ones are my only favorites. I’m not a gourmet cook and ease is important to me. I suppose if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the ‘Dilly Tofu Dip’ I include at the end of the “Win Friends and Influence Omnivores” chapter of Main Street Vegan. It takes almost no time to make; the ingredients list is short; everything is easy to find at an ordinary grocery store; and even the most conventional eaters love this — to them, it’s just a good ranch dip. Here’s the recipe:
Cool Dilly Tofu Dip
6 oz. soft or medium tofu, drained
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt (I like Himalayan salt – it’s pink)
Dash black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried dill (I love dill and often use ½ tsp.)
Combine tofu, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in food processor and process till smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the processor if necessary. Add pepper and dried dill and blend briefly. Serve with crudités, healthy chips, or pita triangles.
ARS: As a longtime fan and gift-giver of Allison’s Gourmet, what is your favorite AG product? Is there something we make that you haven’t tried but would like to?
VM: The vegan brownies are my favorite for sure. They’ve become a Christmas tradition at our house, and now at my daughter’s, too. If it gets to be December 5th or 6th and there are no Allison’s brownies around, it’s a reminder to get our holiday spirit in gear and order some! I haven’t tried the Vanilla Chai Fudge, although just typing the phrase is delicious.
Thanks so much, Victoria. I can’t wait to try that Dilly Dip! To win a copy of Main Street Vegan tell us: What is your go-to dish when entertaining mixed company (omnivores and vegans)? We’ll pick a winner Thursday, August 2nd. You must be a resident of the US or Canada to win.