Veganly Delicious

Julie-Juliaing one cookbook at a time.

Interview with Alicia C. Simpson.

on October 13, 2012

A sad note: my camera decided it doesn’t so much like taking pictures, so until it does like doing it, no more. (I am really sorry. There were a couple I managed to snag).

And now – my very first interview (I’ve now done two) Yay!. This one is with Alicia C. Simpson, the writer of Quick & Easy Low Cal Vegan Comfort Food. Yumm. If you remember, out of a Buy, Try or Fry, I gave this book a solid “Buy” rating.

My one tiny complaint, and I am going to pick this up in every book that has a nutritonal serving…. even if it is listed at the back/beginning of the book, I’d like a serving to be weighed out/measured out for the particular recipe. Just don’t say “serving”. Especially when it comes to combination foods. If pasta is 1/2 a cup, veg 1 cup, and beans 2/3rd a cup pers serving, and all of that is in the dish… you see the problem?

But it’s minute.

Anyhoo. Here’s my conversation with Alicia. 🙂

Liv: Hi Alicia, thanks so much for being my interview-y! (My first one!) :), So how long have you been a vegan? What inspired you to be a vegan?

Alicia: First of all I’m super excited to be your first interview!

I’ve been vegan for over 6 years now (vegetarian for 4 1/2 years before that). My road to veganism was a long one that I went down kicking and screaming until I realized that I was just being silly and foolish. I was sitting in a class on fasting with a woman who will always be near and dear to my heart, Arden Zinn, who at the time was in her late 80s and is now in her 90s! I told her I was a vegetarian and gave the typical “I just love cheese soooo much I could never give it up” spiel that everyone says and she, without flinching, looked at me and said “why would you as an adult human drink the milk of a cow that is designed to grow a calf into a 1/2 ton cow or bull?” For some reason, that simple question made everything else come into focus and I realized that drinking milk and consuming milk based products was just about the most unnatural thing I could do. So from that day forth, I was vegan.

(Inside my head: You know. this is a good question. My sociology teacher asked something similar in university to me. Why do people drink things that make huge, honking animals…. makes no sense to me!).
Liv:  What prompted you to write this book in particular (and your first two books?) Was it difficult when you got started?

Alicia: This fall I’ll be graduating with my masters in Nutrition and sitting for the RD exam, so health and wellness are passions of mine. There is so much misinformation out there about what healthy eating is and what healthy eating isn’t that I wanted to write a book that set the record straight without the gimmicks and forcing people to cut out incredibly valuable parts of their diet like fats. The process of writing a book, I find, to be easy and fun – I’m in the kitchen every day anyway so it’s just a matter of writing everything down and organizing it. To that end, so many great recipes are lost forever because I jotted them down on a piece of junk mail that accidentally got thrown in the recycling bin or compost heap. (Liv: heeee. me too! it’s really sad, actually). 

You have three cookbooks now, and two focused on comfort food, why the focus on (Southern-y) based Comfort Food?

AliciaI think when people make a big lifestyle shift, like going vegan, they still need to know that the foods they have always loved will be there. Even though I’m a California girl, born and raised, there’s something about southern comfort food that is just nostalgic and utterly fantastic. In our house southern food was only served on special occasions, like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter so for me it’s synonymous with family, togetherness and home. I think those that buy Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food will find is that it isn’t focused on southern comfort food but comfort foods from around the country and some new twist on old favorites.
Liv: What did you want to accomplish with this book? (You know, other than the low-cal aspect!)

Alicia: As I said before I really wanted to breakdown the stereotypes around what healthy eating is and present a low-calorie book that still had real food – poundcakes, fritters, casseroles, the whole nine.
Liv: What do you think of the Vegan Cookbook explosion? Why do you think it’s happening now?

Alicia: I think it is fantastic! What I also think is amazing about the vegan cookbook explosion is the level of creativity out there. The bar is continually raised and I am a fan of so many vegan cookbook authors. I think that we, as Americans, are in such a horrific place in terms of health that we are finally starting to see that the meat and dairy based diets we have enjoyed for the past couple of generations will ultimately be our demise and to that end people are looking for alternatives. I also think that people are often more compassionate than we give them credit for and when the truth about the horrific practices of the meat and dairy industry are put in front of them it’s hard to deny that the way we eat has to change.

(Note: I didn’t know this during the interivew – but this is actually the year of the Vegan Cookbook. In case you were wondering, last year was the year of the Canning book. Do it yourself is in ya’ll).

Liv: And I’ve got to ask – All those recipes, and not one Pizza recipe? What gives?! 😀

Alicia: There is! There are mini-pizzas in Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food. (Note: this is Alicia’s first book, which I don’t have). I actually have several pizza recipes (even a few deep dish ones) that are tried, tested, and fantastic that just haven’t made it into the books yet. I usually brainstorm and cook somewhere between 200-250 recipes and then whittle it down to the final 150+ for each book so, unfortunately, not everything makes every book. If I get the chance to continue to write vegan cookbooks then, I promise you, there will be more pizza recipes!

Liv: Out of three books, which one is your favourite?

Alicia: Hands down it’s Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations. It might not be PC to say you love one of your books more than the others, and they are all fantastic and represent a different place in my life and a growth in my cooking and writing but I have to say I just adore the recipes in Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations. It’s the book I cook out of most. It is full of comfort food recipes as well as a really diverse group of recipes from Louisiana style cooking for Mardi Gras like Gumbo, Oyster Po Boys and Beignets to Shepherd’s Pie (St. Patty’s Day) and Homemade Irish Creme Liquer. I literally make the traditional and North African Meatballs from Vegan Celebrations at least 3 times a month and my daughter loves them!

Liv: What’s your inspiration?
Alicia: Helping people wade through all the misinformation out there and get to the root of really great, simple, food that is good for them is my passion. I’m inspired by my readers, their stories, and their experience with each recipe and each book. New vegans excite me and invigorate me and make me want to just keep on creating fantastic recipes that will help people discover how easy and delicious veganism is. My goal is to make veganism as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. Of course, my biggest inspiration now is the little vegan in my life, my daughter. She’s a phenomenal little recipe tester and has really changed the way I cook and eat. Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food was actually written while I was pregnant with her.
Liv: Whose your favourite chef (vegan or otherwise?)
It’s so hard to just name one! There are a lot of great up and coming vegan talents who’s books have made it across my desk. If I had to name one Kelly Peloza brings me immense amounts of joy. I’ve never tasted a recipe of hers that I didn’t love. Her egg nog cookies are reason enough to fall head over heels in love with her.

(In my head: Heck. freaking. yeah. Kelly’s stuff is amazing. Ah. mah. zing. Seriously.).

And I know this seems completely insane but I love Paula Deen, in a sort of ironic way. Her over the top, completely unhealthy, butter on top of butter with cream on the side recipes are what inspired my blog The Lady and Seitan so I have to give props to Paula since she inspired an entire blog of mine and I spend my days veganizing her recipes now (and trying to make them a bit healthier).
Liv: For those reading and wondering if veganism (or at least very strict vegetarian) is for them, what would you suggest for them?

Alicia: Yes it’s for you! Going from being an omnivore to a herbivore is a lifestyle change and you have to treat it as such. As with any lifestyle change you can’t just jump into it without a plan, if you do you won’t make it long-term. If this is truly the way you are going to live for the rest of your life you need to go about it thoughtfully.

Find a few cookbooks that you like, or good recipe blogs to get an arsenal of go-to vegan recipes that you really love. Don’t give up if the first couple recipes you try aren’t great.  Not every recipe is for everybody that’s a universal truth to all cooking not just vegan cooking. Find out where you can eat out, when you’re out at your favorite restaurants look over the vegetarian menu and ask if they can make things without eggs or dairy products, you’ll be surprised how often the answer is yes and how many mainstream convience foods are already vegan. Find like minded people to bounce ideas off of and get inspiration. There’s nothing worse than that isolated vegan who doesn’t go out with friends anymore, doesn’t go to dinner parties, and kind of removes themselves from everything not vegan in life. That’s no way to live!

Vegan Celebrations really talks in depth about how to be a party starter and not a party pooper (that’s literally the name of one of the chapters) and how to be vegan anywhere and everywhere. The more people that see you’re a happy, healthy, vibrant, vegan the more attractive veganism will be to them and you might be the spark that helps someone else make the change to being vegan without even knowing it! Online forums like the PPK are amazing places to bounce ideas off of people, vent frustrations (seriously how many times can you answer “where do you get your protein from?”) and just connect with others.
Liv: Would you say your books are for the newly veganist?<<– yes that’s a word. I made it one.

Alicia: I really believe my books are for everybody. I started writing  Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food during my transition from being a vegetarian to a vegan and it was published after I had been vegan for 3 years. For that reason I think it appeals to new vegans more because it really takes you step by step through my vegan journey, information on vegan nutrition and dispells a lot of vegan myths. Overall, my books are for people who love food, because at the heart of it I’m a foodie who would spend everyday in the kitchen if I could.

Liv: What are your favourite recipes from “Low Cal Comfort Food?”

Alicia: The Corn dogs made with homemade ball park hotdogs, Chili Cheese Fries, Seitan Cheesesteak, Chickpea Cacciatore, Butter Pecan Ice Cream, Butter Rum Poundcake, Strawberry Milkshake, Fried Green Tomatoes… Hmmm…the more I think about it this might be my favorite book afterall! I just want to name every recipe!
Liv: Is there anything else coming down the pipeline?

Alicia: I’m bouncing around several ideas for cookbooks right now and looking for what really fits me best for where I am in life right. Any cookbook author will tell you, that looking back at old cookbooks is like looking at a yearbook – it’s a really good picture of where you were creatively at that time. Beyond cookbooks, now that I’ve finally finished with school I also have the opportunity to write more about my areas of speciality which are maternal and pediatric nutrition and lactation and there’s several projects I’m actively working on in that arena.

Liv: Thanks again!!

See. that was so informative. 🙂 (and Alicia was a real sweetie!). She was super busy, so I didn’t want to expand a lot of the answers which were straightforward enough, but as you can tell with the thoughts in my head, – there are some questions that you ask yourself once you really think  (like the milk thing), why do we do it, other than.. you know, marketing, etc? (Or because you are told to). Not to get too political or anything, just an observation 🙂

And I have another interview coming up (like I mentioned).  Featuring, the lovely, and talented dessert goddess: Kelly Peloza! (honestly, when I saw Alicia name her as one of her favourites, and Kelly had just graciously agreed to interview with me, I was like, see. all of these things work out for the best!). 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: