VOD: I love that your recipes look relatively simple to make, and that most of them have easily recognizable ingredients (even for someone who's not a full time vegan). Was this a conscious choice on your part, in terms of recognizing an unfilled niche in the vegan cookbook-o-sphere, or is it more a reflection of your personal cooking style?
LN: Both; a big "goal" with my book was to show that eating vegan meals is easy, approachable, possible. So many vegan cookbooks call for exotic ingredients which I think intimidates people and turns them off. I think a lot of people feel you have to live in a big city or have a large budget to be vegan, which isn't true.
As for my style: I once went to 5 different stores to find pomegranate molasses, and when I found it, it was $7. I used it in the recipe--which was very good, but not something I could eat all the time, and then I couldn't find another way to use the stuff. I've since moved across the country twice, and took that damn molasses with me each time on principle. That really stuck we me, so I took care to never write recipes like that.
VOD: What's your culinary background? Are you entirely self-taught, or do you have any formal training. (I say this as an amateur cook who sometimes wonders if she should go take a knife skills class to learn to chop like the badasses on Iron Chef...)
LN: Self-taught, completely. I chop like the people on Iron Chef --- lots of practice!
VOD: My husband, the “Reluctant Carnivore” is usually skeptical when I tell him I'm going to make a vegan recipe, so it’s especially gratifying to find vegan dishes that he loves. Are there any recipes from your book, in particular, that you'd recommend I make for him?
LN: There is an "omni-friendly" icon, that's a good starting place... I think the portobello steaks are a good jumping off point.
VOD: When you went vegan did you change your eating habits all at once or use a more gradual approach? What did you find the hardest to give up?
LN: I was a vegetarian before I was vegan, but if I could do it all over, I'd go all in. Nothing was hard for me to give up; and I've never had cravings for animal products since--thankfully. I think once I wrapped my head around why I wasn't going to eat those foods anymore, it had a "mind over matter" effect.
The only "hard" part was giving up convenience. I was a law student at the time, so I missed being able to get a muffin at Starbucks or a slice of pizza -- but once I saw how much money I was saving by brown bagging it, any annoyance quickly disappeared.
VOD: On the flip side, what were your greatest discoveries after deciding to forgo animal products?
LN: I am continually surprised at how much better and healthier I feel. I saw huge improvements in my energy levels, my skin cleared, my migraines are pretty much gone, I lost weight, I reversed some digestive issues... but there have been some other really "nasty" discoveries... like when I picked up "omega-3 peanut butter" and noticed it had fish guts in it... or that sprinkles are made from melted beetles... ick.
VOD: Any dishes in particular that you might never have tried as an omnivore?
LN: I eat a much wider diet now than I ever did as an omnivore. I was a horribly picky eater as an omnivore, constantly frustrated that nothing sounded appetizing, and that's the exact opposite now. I am in love with Ethiopian and Indian food -- which I'd have never tried as a meat eater.
VOD: I saw that you have a new cookbook in the works. Where do you get the inspiration for new recipes?
LN: It's definitely more challenging this time around, particularly because I'm living on an island where I don't have as much variety, it's really hot (not conducive to wanting to cook) and I don't feel as inspired as I did in NYC walking around at the Farmer's market... but I just sort of take an ingredient, like say, cauliflower, then start tinkering with it until a recipe appears... kind of like a writer just putting pen to paper and seeing where it goes.
VOD: What does it take to become an official recipe tester for the Happy Herbivore (hint, hint)?
LN: I hand pick all of my testers. I look for people who tweet and blog about my recipes, have made a lot of my recipes, are really familiar with my style and are just generally fans of what I'm trying to do... why are you interested ;-)
Um…. Hell, yeah!