Next up in my 2011 Veggie Girl Power Interview Series is Annie Shannon, one half of the quirky, fun and inspiring blogging team responsible for the website Meet the Shannons. So it's time to Meet Annie!..
Annie's other half is her husband Dan. Ah, a vegan power couple if ever there was. On Meet the Shannons, Annie and Dan share their vegan adventures, eats, passionate love of animals and random fun stuff sometimes described as "Nerdery" and such.
The Betty Crocker Project. If you've seen the movie Julie & Julia you will understand this quite quickly. Annie and Dan's mission is to veganize the entire Betty Crocker Cookbook. Wow, right? Well they have already posted quite a few recipes. You can check out their creative-veganizing skills and track their progress here: Betty Crocker Project
Meet the Shannons has been seen on and applauded by everyone from VegNews to The New York Times. But really, my favorite thing about the Meet the Shannons site is that it is pretty much impossible to browse without cracking a smile.
..I think the interview answers below will have the same effect :)
2011 Veggie Girl Power Series Interview: Annie Shannon, Meet the Shannons Blogger
Q1: Sunrise, what is the first food and/or drink you reach for to start your "Veggie Girl Power" day?
Annie: I'm a pretty lucky lady and am married to wonderful vegan man who makes me smoothies and lattes every morning while he watches The Daily Show from the night before. He has this whole morning system that is like a combo of science, politics and art. It maximizes time, nutrition and blueberries, and is a brilliant way to start a day.
Q2: As a Veggie Girl Power trailblazer you inspire many girls, who or what has inspired you?
Annie: When I was around 13, I read Gloria Steinem's Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. It was the right book at the right time in my life, and hit me like a lightning strike. Tween angst, the cusp between the 80s and 90s, and years of catholic school guilt all mixed together with a book that had a simple message: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Lines like "Evil is obvious only in retrospect" started me on the path to becoming a life-long activist who would do what she could to prevent “evil” whenever possible.
I can still remember my first years after reading that book; it not only empowered me by making me more aware of the impact of my choices, but also helped me understand my privileges and responsibilities. Since then I’ve really tried to be aware of the “evils” in this world, and do what I could to make a difference. It played a huge role in making me who I am today: both my career in the human and animal rights movements, and starting The Betty Crocker Project.
Q3: When you first went vegan, what was the most challenging aspect of your new lifestyle? How did you overcome those obstacles?
Annie: Back when I first went vegan, mock meats and soy cheeses were still in their Model T phase. I'll admit that in the early years, I ate a lot of baked potatoes and salads. I never doubted that I was making the right choice, but I was impatient for food technology to catch up with my hopes and dreams. I mean, I was living in a world with catsup that changed color and mini-pizza lunchables with ingredient lists that read like chemistry term papers. Why couldn’t science make a vegan cheese that melted?
My Italian mother raised me with a love of food that made me curious enough to try all these primordial vegan products back in the day, but it also gave me high standards. On top of that, I had no idea how to use these products properly. I devoted years to learning how to cook tofu, different chilis, Indian and Chinese currys, my own seitan, falafel, whatever. I played around with a raw diet for a while and every kind of vegetable I could find.
In the end I realized that eating vegan wasn't really that much harder than my previous omnivore diet. I mean, if you ate meat you wouldn't just microwave a chicken breast and think "this is delicious!" You'd season it and cook it at the right temperature and with the right vegetables. Tofu and mock meat dishes are no different. They need the little extras to help them reach their full potential.
Vegans today don't really have to worry about that as much though. Brands like Tofurky, Gardein, Match, Field Roast, Daiya and Light Life – just to name just a few – have completely revolutionized going vegan, finally making it the convenient, compassionate, healthy lifestyle I dreamed of as a kid.
Q4: When people ask you why you 'went vegan' what is your usual response?
Annie: I love animals. I'm pretty sure I say that every time, and it’s always true. Since I went vegan, I've learned about the health benefits and environmental impact of conscious eating. I've discovered how fun it is to search out new ingredients and products. I love playing in the kitchen, trying to find creative ways to make a dish vegan. I've fallen in love with searching out new vegan restaurants and seeing how other vegans all over the world are challenging the myth that going vegan is anything less than fabulous.
So really, I think I should start saying that I'm vegan because it's a blast and you can't beat the food… and I love animals.
Q5: What is the one message that you always try to project to your fans/followers?
Annie: There’s room in 'The Vegan Club' for everyone. Even if you’re only vegan one day a week, you’re still making a choice that is better for your own health, the environment and animals. I feel like it’s really important to be as inclusive and helpful as possible. Being vegan can be really fun once you figure out how to do it in a way that works for you, and I just want to help people find that.
Q6: Vegans love to share their knowledge about food and nutrition, what is an interesting food fact you love to share with people?
Annie: Vegans are so smart already. I’m sure whatever I could tell you all, you probably already know. Like how you need to grind up flaxseeds before you use them to get through their tough hull and get all that nutrition for your salads and smoothies. Or how it’s important to not just eat soy and wheat-based everything when you’re vegan—so try new things like almond milk in your morning coffee, or bread made with buckwheat flour, to help add variety. Again… vegans are already pretty smart. I would bet you already figured that out.
Q7: Vegans don't live on carrot sticks and hummus alone, give us your most creative/delicious vegan snack idea!
Annie: I’m not much of a snacker. I usually have a few small meals throughout the day… which may actually mean I’m nothing but a snacker. I guess it depends how you look at it. One of my favorite mini-meals right now are crostinis. I’m in the process of finalizing the recipes for our book, so I’ve been experimenting with a few different types, like Greek with Kalamata olives and Pepperoncinis, and desserty ones with Cinnamon-Apple pie filling. But my favorite is Mexican.
Basically, you brush slices of whole wheat baguette bread with a little olive oil and lightly toast it. Then add a layer of sliced avocado or guacamole and then top that with some of your favorite salsa, diced cilantro, and sliced black olives! It takes less than 10 minutes and about 3 of them make a nice little mini-meal.
Q8: Words to live by: what is a favorite life tip or quote of wisdom?
Annie: I guess I have 2.
#1. "Goonies never say die!" and neither should vegans. Not every recipe works out the first time, and not every product is going to live up your expectations - but never give up. It's too important.
#2. "You always know the mark of a coward. A coward hides behind freedom. A brave person stands in front of freedom and defends it for others." - Henry Rollins. Whenever someone tells me it’s their "right" to eat meat, I think of this quote. Animals have so little, and rely on our compassion and judgment just to survive. Just because people can eat meat doesn't mean that they should.
Q9: How do you respond to negative comments from those critical of a vegan lifestyle - both online and in the real world?
Annie: I usually find that the people who are the most critical of a vegan lifestyle are the ones dealing with some kind of guilt that's made them defensive. When given an opportunity to actually talk to these people and hear their reasons for being defensive, you can usually find some common ground. I think being able to start the kind of dialog where you're looking for what you can agree on is usually more productive than just calling someone out for supporting industries that are destroying our environment and inherently cruel to animals and people.
Q10: What vegan ingredients and/or vegan products have you discovered that you simply couldn't live without?
Annie: I can't imagine my kitchen without nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, Braggs Liquid Amino Acids, and red wine. They’ve helped me countless times in countless recipes. They're my kitchen BFFs. As far as products go, the recent wave of great vegan products available in grocery stores around the country has made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Daiya vegan cheese plays a huge role in our lives, on pizzas and cups of soups as well as in sandwiches and quiches. I still can’t believe it’s real. Sweet and Sarah vegan marshmallows and Lite Life Smart Bacon have become my guilty pleasures of choice… but not together.
Connect with Annie & Meet the Shannons:
Facebook - Vegan Foods = Joy (Meet the Shannons)
Website - www.MeetTheShannons.net
Betty Crocker Project
Check out all the interviews in this year's VGP series! more ladies to come.
(Linked ladies have posted already)
Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart
Portia de Rossi