I am very pleased to post my first fellow vegan blogger interview. I reached out to Allyson at Manifest Vegan when I first started blogging because while searching for gluten free, vegan dishes for my daughter I came upon her blog and just fell in love with it. Her education in art really shows through on her blog in all ways from her decorative food, stunning photography, her own beautiful and creative body art and even when you sneak a peak at her amazing paintings at http://allysonkramer.com/.
I was smitten with her website and style so I had to contact her and we have since become pen pal buddies. Although we initially became vegans for different reasons we see eye to eye on the importance of cruelty free eating/living, our health and the health of our family and more things than we could have imagined. She has written a cookbook that is in the works and I can’t wait to see how gorgeous that is going to turn out!
When did you adopt a vegan lifestyle and why?
I went vegan solely for the compassion I had for animals. It seemed hypocritical to me to eat and take from animals if I also wanted to claim I respected them. Once that message became loud and clear to me (around age 15), I immediately transitioned to veganism and started learning as much as I could about cooking/being vegan. This went on for a few years during highschool, and unfortunately slipped to the backburner. During college I definitely had lost track of why I went vegan in the first place… and kept falling off the wagon and haphazardly hopping back on again. Eventually after I graduated from college, I worked a few jobs related to my degree (fine arts) and found myself completely dissatisfied with how I was using my time. I took a break from things and just re-assessed my life a bit… during that time, thoughts of veganism (and guilt!) started creeping back into my life. One day, I just sat down and watched “Meet Your Meat” and “Earthlings”… to force myself to remember, and it worked. I have been a dedicated vegan ever since.
How has being a vegan changed your life and the lives of those you love?
This is a toughie – there have been so many wonderful things happen in my and my family’s life because of us choosing to be vegans… but I’m not sure how directly correlated they all are! My husband and I are certainly happier than we were as omnivores, simply because for us, being “vegan” means trying to always be compassionate in everything we do. This has translated into more facets of our daily lives than we could have ever imagined! Our son, who is 8, also seems to boast a sense of security when he talks about not eating/using animals. Since he has always had a deep connection to all animals, I think veganism just strengthens his bond. My daughter, who is 1 ½ years old, is, in her own way, a positive advocate for veganism She is a brilliant and strong little girl who is constantly being doted over for her pleasant and smiling disposition. All in all, I would say that I have never been happier in my entire life. I just feel good about my choices, and that comes out in everything I do.
Where you already a vegan when you found out about your celiac and how challenging was that?
I was a vegan when I found out about having celiac disease. It was so shocking! I mean, I was ill for five years and no doctor, out of four, had ever suggested that it was my diet that was causing the issues I was having. In fact, I constantly asked my doctors about my symptoms possibly being diet related and always received a resounding, no. Not until after I went vegan the final time, did I really start to learn about nutrition. Eventually, out of desperation to regain my own health and sanity, I decided to go “high raw”… eliminating almost all gluten from my diet and replacing it will sprouted grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Suddenly after 5 years of unrelenting dyesthasia, skin problems, arthritis, fatigue, intestinal pain/cramping, and migraines… I felt fine.
At the time, I thought, “wow, this high raw diet is amazing!”… little did I know, it wasn’t all the fresh fruits and veggies I was including in my diet, it was the one thing I was eliminating. The stars sort of aligned and I had told my doctor about being “high raw” just as she was giving me my celiac prognosis.
The news hit me hard, mostly because I loved to bake, and had little knowledge of how to do so without gluten. I had also heard horror stories about gluten-free food (just as I am sure non-vegans hear horror stories about “vegan” fare). So, needless to say, I was a little apprehensive. But, I didn’t lose my knack for making recipes, and I had an easy transition into gluten free. It is still a learning process today, simply because of all of the variables involved in gluten free flours versus typical All Purpose flour, but I really am enjoying it very much! Plus, I can’t believe how many amazing whole grains I was missing out on when I was defaulting to AP flour in my cooking and baking. I am really glad to be gluten free- I am much healthier now, and I feel like I have a much better grasp on baking than I ever did.
Do you have difficulty traveling with not only being vegan but gluten free too?
We always plan ahead, and can usually find many choices no matter where we are headed. Oftentimes, there is at least a Mexican restaurant, Sushi Bar, or Chinese restaurant nearby. We have even had a lot of success just grabbing some prepared foods, like veggies, hummus, granola, fruit and bread if we are nearby a grocery store. There are always choices available; it’s just a matter of knowing how and where to find them!
When did you start your blog and why?
I honestly began Manifest Vegan because I was unhappy with how I was spending my time and energy during the day. I received a BFA in Painting and Sculpture, and began pursuing work after graduation related to art and museum work. At some point, I just became really frustrated that I had no time to do the things I really wanted to do. It was even coming out in my own artwork, where I was drawing and painting self portraits of me cooking in my kitchen! I knew I was missing my calling, and even toyed with the idea of running a vegan bakery for a number of years. Eventually, I realized that my passion for social and environmental causes far outweighed my paycheck at the time. I quit my dayjob and decided to start Manifest Vegan.
What have you learned from your blog?
A lot. I have definitely improved my recipe development and photography skills since I launched a year ago, but more importantly, I learned that I am in the beginning of what I intend to do for the rest of my life – one way or another. Prior to starting my blog, I hadn’t yet had that realization. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, exactly. Now, I know that my heart (and time) belongs to creating recipes, photographing them and sharing it with the world.
Are you a member of any local vegan groups?
No… not yet! But, we are soon relocating to Philadelphia… so I’d love to hear if anyone has any good recommendations!
Is your family vegan and if not how have you worked that out?
Yes, we are all vegans!
Do you do anything else in the vegan community?
I am currently working on my very first cookbook… which will have over 100 recipes with accompanying photos. I am having a blast in the process, and plan to complete a few more after this one.
How have you dealt with being a vegan in a small, non vegan town?
Honestly, I have never known any other way! I suppose that means that I have dealt with it pretty easily. It definitely helps that I make most of our food from scratch. If I were dependent on other people cooking for me, I am sure I would face a little more difficulty. Things are getting easier, around even my small town, for vegans. It still seems strange to me (and exciting) that I don’t have to travel an hour outside of town to find a decent vegan ice cream. Our humble grocery in the middle of a farmtown carries vegan cheese! The times they are a changin’.
Can you tell what 3 of your favorite recipes are (from your site)?
Who is your fav celebrity vegan and why?
Hmmm, I am going to make an educated guess at this- because I’m not really hip on who all the vegan celebrities are… but from what I can tell of him, Thom Yorke seems really cool. I’d say he’s my favorite.
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