Kathy Patalsky grew up in Santa Cruz, California where her passion for healthy vegan cooking and eating, food photography, green living and art first took root. She makes her living as a photographer, author, and blogger at Happy. Healthy. Life. Her first book, 365 Vegan Smoothies, comes out this year and she recently founded the website Finding Vegan. She is most inspired by colorful produce, natural lighting, animals big and small, amazing vegan chefs + bloggers, her kitty-cat friends, husband and family, and her readers.
Allison Rivers Samson: Please share your journey to veganism. When did you go vegan and why?
Kathy Patalsky: I have always been an animal lover. I have had pets since I was a toddler and was that little girl at the pet store begging her mom to buy her a bunny, a bird, a fish, a turtle for her birthday. I loved every one of my pets and that love of animals extended to wildlife and an early appreciation for nature as well. Plus, growing up in the nature-loving, beachy town of Santa Cruz didn’t hurt either. Both my environment and my love of animals encouraged me to experiment with vegetarianism when I was in high school. Later on in college I experimented with going vegan. I waffled a bit. But during those years, I was hired for an internship in education at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo (in Washington DC) and many of my co-workers were passionate vegans, so that really kept me strong on my lifestyle choice. It has been almost ten years now since “trying vegan” and I have never been happier, felt more at peace with my relationship with animals and the earth and other humans – and healthier! Vegan is a lifetime thing for me.
ARS: In addition to GORGEOUS photography, your blog contains numerous recipes. Where do you draw inspiration from? Any particular flavors or ingredients talking to you recently?
KP: I have always been creative. I went to art school in Los Angeles for a year (but then dropped it because the analytical side of my brain felt restless). I love to write, express myself through photography and drawing/painting and then there is my forever passion: cooking. I am thrilled that all my passions merge in my career as a blogger and author. And when it comes to inspiration for my recipes I really don’t have a method or technique I use. Inspiration comes at funny moments, from images, words, aromas. I love the California farmer’s markets. I remember going to them as a kid every Sunday morning with my mom. They inspire so much in my recipes and life. For flavors… right now I am really into winter greens, rustic winter soups, homemade pizza and of course smoothies. Always smoothies. Matcha protein shakes made with frozen banana and watermelon are my obsession for the past year. Wonder if that will pass. Like many food-people, I get obsessed with certain ingredients for a while then move on to something else.
ARS: Your blog began with a focus on healthy kids. Do you have children? What’s a favorite quickie kid-friendly recipe you’d like to share?
KP: I like to focus on kids because so many of my good and bad habits as an adult were sparked in my own childhood. So I know how important those first years are in a child’s life. One of my favorite recipes for kids (and adults) is a classic English muffin toaster-oven pizza. I think I made them after school for myself a hundred times, and showing kids that they can add vegan cheese and vegan pepperoni and as many colorful veggies as they’d like is a great way to show (vegan) kids that they can eat their favorite recipes just like non-vegan kids… pizza! I also love showing kids how to make smoothies. They love them. And no, I do not have kids yet but I have an adorable niece and nephew and I have been working with kids all my life. True story, the neighbors used to hire me to babysit their kids when I was in third grade. I laugh at that now because that is so young. I think I must have given off a “responsible” vibe. So yes, I love kids. Many days I still feel like one!
ARS: Your first cookbook is coming out in spring/summer 2013. Congratulations! Can you give us a sneak peak? How did you transition from writing a blog into writing a cookbook? How is the process different and what’s the same?
KP: Writing a cookbook is fun. And hard. And scary. And frustrating. And amazing. And exhausting. And energizing. I loved every second of it. But mostly, it teaches you a lot about yourself. I tell a story in my book about how I had an assignment in 7th grade to give a speech on something you consider yourself an expert in. I chose to teach my classmates how to make a smoothie. The memory is pretty hilarious when I think about it because I hijacked my parents’ blender for the day, snuck it off to school in a brown paper bag, and basically set up my own mini smoothie demo in my classroom. I don’t know why I chose smoothies, but I have always gravitated towards them and so writing a book about them felt easy! Of course 365 recipes is A LOT! I am really excited about the fact that the book promotes a plant-based lifestyle. And since it is my first book, I really hope it does well so I can write more!
ARS: Some of your recipes are available in two iPhone apps: Smoothies! and Dip Diva! How does creating an app compare with writing a cookbook or writing a blog?
KP: The Apps are really an extension of my blog. I wanted to take advantage of the “digital revolution” (ha) and give my readers another way to access some of my favorite recipes. And luckily, my husband is a computer genius so he helped me with the tech side of things.
ARS: My husband helps me with the tech side of my business, too! What do you tend to reach for first – savory or sweet? What’s your current chosen dish?
KP: Gosh I know it sounds lame but I am a “fresh produce” girl if that makes sense. I will eat anything with fresh berries, fresh veggies etc. My husband always laughs at me when we go to The Wynn hotel in Vegas and I order the large fruit plate. It is filled with berries, melon and tropical fruits. I literally devour the entire plate. I just cannot help myself when it comes to fruit. Is that a lame answer? Oh and sweet potatoes, pretty much love them with anything. Nut butter too. And maple syrup. Oh and vegan chocolate chip cookies… Wait, what was the question?
ARS: Do you have an Allison’s Gourmet treat you especially love or would most like to try?
KP: Oh my gosh they are ALL so amazing and decadent and a true TREAT! I really loved those vegan peanut butter cups. Some of the best I have ever had actually. And the cookies rock. And brownies when I am craving rich chocolate. Eeks, all fab. I still need to try the hot cocoa and fudge. You are so talented Allison! (Thanks for featuring me!)