Like a kid at 6AM on Christmas, I am an excited, glowing, and blissfully restless vegan blogger this morning, because today, I get to share with you my interview with Rory Freedman! I can't believe the day is finally here!
Unless you have been avoiding all forms of technology for the past several years, you know Rory Freedman. She's the rockin' vegan activist who, along with friend Kim Barnouin, took the world by storm with her 2005 New York Times Bestseller Skinny Bitch . For many of us, reading Skinny Bitch was either the stepping stone toward going vegan or a milestone that reaffirmed our already vegan lifestyle (my experience being the latter).
Not only does Rory rock at writing hip, in your face vegan manifestos - such as Skinny Bitch, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven(for you moms or moms-to-be out there), and Skinny Bastard(a kick-butt version of Skinny Bitch for boys) - but she also is a killer guest blogger on Crazy Sexy Life and a regular contributor to VegNews magazine, just to name a few publications. The coolest part about Rory is that her background includes having been an agent at Ford Models, which means that she is not only equipped to help us all look fabulous, but, combined with her decade-long study of holistic nutrition and diet, she can help us all feel fabulous on the inside as well.
Basically, she's a vegan jill-of-all-trades, and if you haven't brought Rory into your life yet, you need to right now!
One thing to note - I know the questions I pose to Rory, and to each of my past interviewees, can seem repetitive. They are totally meant to be that way. It is my hope with this interview series that you, my faithful readers, will have a chance to see how many different paths a person can take and how many varying experiences someone can have in reaching a vegan lifestyle. Each person I've interviewed in the past has had completely different moments in their lives that solidified their core values for them, as well as benefits and obstacles they've come across during their vegan journey - and it all goes to show that no one way is a wrong way if it leads you to go veg.
Rory is a perfect example of how a few key moments in life can inspire someone to become an integral force in the vegan movement. Rory took something that meant a lot to her - the abuse of farm animals, our health, and our environment - and spun it into a series of empowering books that give woman and men the information necessary to create positive change in their lives. Today is a great day for Kiss Me, I'm Vegan!, because it is a day shared with Rory.
Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you?
Rory: It was two biggies. The first one came in college when I got a PETA magazine in the mail. I had never heard of factory farms, and I had never seen photographs of slaughterhouses. Reading that article and seeing those pictures, I was inconsolable. Up until that moment, I was calling myself an “animal lover,” yet eating meat at every single meal. But in that instant, I vowed to never eat another animal again. I became a vegetarian.
About ten years later, I was at a Farm Sanctuary event, and they showed video footage taken from a dairy farm. These poor cows had udders so grossly engorged, they were literally dragging on the ground. The animals were also sick and injured and were stumbling, swaying, and falling. It was gut-wrenching. I knew I could never again justify eating a piece of cheese.
KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges?
Rory: Without question, the greatest reward of being vegan is knowing I’m not contributing to the confinement, exploitation, torture, and slaughter of any animals. It was my greatest motivator then, and it continues to be my greatest motivator now, sixteen years later.But I’m grateful that my vegan diet has also made me feel healthier and happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Veganism taught me a connection with food that did not exist before.(I used to eat Burger King seven days a week! Blech!!!) It also got me on the path to caring about being a better person, being eco-conscious. and being the type of person who believes in making a difference in the world. It has completely shaped the person I’ve become and the one I’m continually trying to be.
As far as challenges go, being vegan is really easy once you get the hang of it. At first, I struggled with finding food I liked and with kicking my meat and cheese addictions. But now, with all the great foods available, it’s a total breeze.
KMIV: You've created a vegan revolution with the release of your and Kim Barnouin's amazing books, Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard. What inspired you to originally write Skinny Bitch?
Rory: The suffering of animals is what inspired me to write Skinny Bitch. I knew that most people just have no idea what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses. But I also knew that if they knew those horrors, and they knew how unhealthy animal products are and how bad the production of these products are for the planet, they’d be motivated to get their veg on. I felt strongly that most people are animal lovers, and, if given the education, they’d make better choices.
KMIV: What advice would you give someone who is interested in veganism, but afraid of taking the leap?
Rory: A great way to kickstart things is to take a thirty-day veg pledge . Pick a date in the near future, and commit to trying one month as a vegetarian. Plan meals in advance. Find fun, new recipes. Recruit friends or family members to try it with you. Visit GoVeg.com for a free vegetarian starter kit.
If you’re already veg, try a month-long pledge to veganism. Whatever you do, make it fun and exciting. It’s just a month. No reason to get all freaked out.
KMIV: My thoughts exactly! Okay - you're stuck on a deserted island with three vegan food items - what are they?
Oh, these kinds of questions torture me. Assuming the island already has fresh tropical fruit, I’ll keep it simple and say: brown rice, beans, and broccoli. That’s for Healthy Rory. PMS Rory would want the V-Burger with Daiya (from the Veggie Grill in LA), mashed potatoes, and some sort of vegan hot fudge sundae.
And now for everyone's favorite part - the recipes!
This particular recipe is taken from Rory's 2007 cookbook, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, which is a book filled with comforting, yummy dishes that will make anybody's first few months as a vegan a delicious, fun, and easy process.
If the recipe below doesn't hit your comfort spot, I don't know what will! I would suggest using Daiya cheese if you can find it near you, and if you don't have access to vegan parmesan, nutritional yeast should do the trick. Make sure all vegan dairy alternatives are casein-free!
Macaroni and Four Cheeses
from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch
• 1 tablespoon refined coconut oil, melted, or safflower oil, plus more for the casserole dish
• About 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
• 1 pound whole-wheat or brown rice elbow macaroni
Preheat oven to 375 F. Oil a 2-quart casserole dish; set aside.
In a 4- to 6-quart stockpot over high heat, combine 3 quarts of water with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the salt. Bring the water to a boil, add the macaroni, and cook according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine the squash and milk, stirring and breaking up the squash with a spoon until the squash is defrosted. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Cheddar, Jack, cream cheese, mustard, cayenne, and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of salt.
When the pasta is done, drain it, then return the pasta to the pot. Stir the cheese sauce into the macaroni. Transfer the entire mixture to the prepared baking pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and the 1 tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Place the casserole dish on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.