A little while ago I was featured in the very first edition of Regional Foodie magazine. I was super-chuffed. Unfortunately they decided not to continue the magazine which is a real shame. It was only available here, so I thought I might share with you my interview. I cover a lot of topics y’all sometimes ask me about, so I hope you find it interesting.
What kind of foodie environment did you grow up in? A very economical, old-fashioned one. It revolved around what would feed the six of us on a low budget, so my mum was forever putting zucchini in the spaghetti Bolognese and things of that nature to make it “go further”, which terrified me no end. It was a lot of practical cooking that had been passed down from her own mother.
Was it all about meat and three veg for dinner? And how! My stepfather was a shearer, so dinner was very manly and meat-centric. Often our friend Bob or Jim or Fluffy the sheep in the backyard would end up on our plate.
What was your favourite meal as a child? Funnily enough, a roast dinner swimming in gravy.
At what point (and why) did you really start to pay attention to what you were putting in your mouth? Probably my mid-20s. I had picked up yoga and was beginning to be conscious of being healthy and that my body had to process whatever grime I fed it. My mum became a vegetarian when I was still a teen, mindful that eating meat meant she was absorbing the fear and hormones of all the dead cows. That was the first time I thought of it that way. But you know… roast pork and all that.
What sparked your initial interest in a vegetarian lifestyle? Probably my mum, as I’d dabbled in the idea since she went veg when I was about 19. I liked the lifestyle and found the times I tried it, I really enjoyed it. But… roast pork.
What prompted you to finally take the leap at 26? Reading Fast Food Nation and the details about slaughterhouses, their standards and treatment of their workers. Fair enough, it was American-focused, but it made me realise I couldn’t support that industry with my hard-earned cash. I decided to eat only free-range meat, but I did that once and never bothered again. The more I read, the more I just couldn’t justify eating meat any more.
How hard was it to go from deciding to become a vegetarian to putting the lifestyle into practice? Honestly, I was astounded at how easy it was. I think the first few weeks and months were fuelled by shock, and eventually it just became habit. I now don’t even think about meat, except when I see recipes with meat in them. It doesn’t factor into any of my thoughts about food, it’s like it doesn’t even exist.
Was it something people around you struggled with? Nope, not at all. My husband and roommate at the time were supportive, and even went vegetarian a few weeks after I did. My mum thought it was great, and everyone was so used to her doing it, nobody raised an eyebrow at me. I get more grief from strangers, really.
Do you find you get questioned a lot about your grounds for being vegetarian? I wouldn’t say a lot, because I’ve been veg so long it’s not even an issue any more. I do get asked from time to time, but I don’t go into detail about why, I find that pushes people away and they shut down. They aren’t really looking for aproper answer half the time, they’re just curious. But if I have to answer “do you eat fish, though?” one more time, I’m cracking skulls.
Do you think there are still people who think you miss out by not eating meat? Of course! Meat is delicious. It was a conscious choice for me not to eat it for other reasons, it’s not that I didn’t like it. Now I don’t though. My tastes have changed.
Many people think vegetarianism is about being a hippie and eating rabbit food, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What’s your take on it? I’ve got a ton of ‘70s vegetarian recipe books full of lentils and bowls of things that look like they’ve already been eaten so I totally get where that comes from. It’s horrible stuff and I’m not surprised in the slightest that people have a poor image of vegetarian food. Especially when next to a picture of a seared steak! But with all things, food for vegetarians has evolved and I’ve never seen a rabbit eat what I do.
Could you cook before becoming vegetarian? Damn straight! I was a kitchen renegade.
Did it inspire/require you to get better? No, but it forced me to look elsewhere for ingredients and ideas, and the sheer amount of things I’ve tried and loved and added to my repertoire is incredible. I would never have eaten this much variety had I not had to think outside the usual.
Can you list a few of your favourite vegetarian recipe specialties? I am very good at pasta, particularly with a garlic-cream sauce. Roast veg and haloumi salads, soups, curries and Mexican-inspired dishes are on constant rotation here.
Is the rest of your immediate family vegetarian too? Yes, my husband has been veg for years, and our daughter doesn’t eat meat but she’s free to make her own choices when the time comes.
When and why did you start your blog? I began when I was thinking about starting a family and was working at a newspaper. I tried to figure out what kind of work I could do as a mother, and while writing was always going to be my career, I didn’t want to stay at newspapers my whole life. I started the blog mostly as an online portfolio of food writing, because I’d had no other published material on the topic and was dying to crack into the market.
Who gave you the nickname Veggie Mama? I did! I was discussing the blog idea with a friend over emails and said “I think I want to start a blog and call it Veggie Mama”. Y’know… cos I was veg and wanted to be a mum and all. I loathed the word “mummy” and Veggie Mum didn’t have the same ring to it. It was an instant flash the very first time I thought about it, and it stuck. People literally call me Veggie or Veg or even VM now, like it’s my name.
What was early feedback to the site like? I don’t remember much, but I think there were a few comments on posts just saying “yum!”. And then people at work saying they loved it and had printed it all off like their very own recipe book.
Did it start off as a tool to inform or purely to as something personal? No I’ve never been in a position of education, it was solely a journey through my many collected recipes I tried every night! I wanted to try food writing, but honestly … it’s just become a place where I open a post, write stuff and press “publish”. It’s not written to a standard, it’s just what comes out of my keyboard on any given day.
What do you give and get from the blog?I give a lot of recipes, sarcasm, food photos and silly stories. I get more back than I ever could have foreseen. I’ve made gorgeous friends, been given fabulous opportunities and experiences, and had wonderful emails from people who find something of value in my words and take the time to let me know. It’s become an entity in itself.
What are some of the other topics you cover on the site apart from vegetarianism? Well I really only cover vegetarian recipes, not vegetarianism in itself – I come from a firm place of no preaching. I also post what I feed my daughter, because I get a LOT of questions about that, bits and pieces occasionally about raising her and growing another baby as a vegetarian pregnancy, my attempts to be socially-conscious, eco-friendly, sustainable and all the times I try to grow vegetables and fail fairly miserably.
What has your following grown to become? A couple thousand people with impeccable taste in blogs.
What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve ever had from the blog? That I provide “gentle inspiration”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, and while I never knew really why I started the blog, or why it became so popular, that aim must have been subconsciously there all along. When I saw a stranger had gleaned that from my little corner of the internet, it struck a chord with me.
Tell me the background and idea of Meatless Monday….I could see a lot of people were interested in eating less meat, and going meatless at least once a week. I knew of the practice elsewhere, but wanted to host a place where people who had blogged about it could link up with like-minded people.
Do you know if you’ve inspired anyone to change their ways? Oh yes! Several friends went veg not long after I did, and I know my husband’s family has embraced the idea of either no meat or less. I get comments, tweets and emails all the time saying someone’s trying my recipes, or having a meatless day. To be honest, they’d probably do that anyway if they’re already so inclined, but I’m happy to be the stand-in reason for now.
Blogs these days can act as great springboard to build a profile and then launch into books, podcasts, TV – the sky’s the limit. Where do you hope it takes you? No idea. I’m terribly good at going with the flow. Even at the start, all I thought about was hoping I’d get hired in mainstream media somehow. Now I have a job that I absolutely love, and everything else is just gravy. I’ve no agenda, but I’m incredibly open-minded, and bloggers are branching out all over the place.
Do you see a cookbook in your future? Readers ask me for one all the time! It has never been a goal, but I’d think about it if there was ever a time.
What do you think of the Sunshine Coast food scene? I am so far out of it, being a crazy lentil-eating freak. It’s so seafood-and-meat focused that I honestly have not paid attention. I can see though it’s something a lot of people are incredibly passionate about, and I think with that much passion and love and pride for the industry, that can only mean good things.
What message would you like to share with everyone? Times have changed. Meatless occasionally won’t kill you. You’ll probably even like it.
Finish this sentence: Bloggers and vegetarians….Are gonna take over the world.