Wednesday, April 6, 2016

10 Questions: Vegan Foodie with Natalie Slater...

 

Have you ever met anyone who you’d expect be too cool for school because she’s so stylish and effortlessly fabulous but it turns out that she is all that groovy, she’s just not stuck up about it? That is Natalie Slater
of Bake and Destroy fame, a tattooed pixie with an enviable bob who has more than a little extra sparkle in her personal faerie dust supply but given her great sense of humor and lack of pretension, you are put at ease right away. A fellow Chicago girl, Natalie has built a name for herself with her very popular, ahead-of-its-time Bake and Destroy brand and website, where she shares about her love of vegan kitchen witchcraft and, you know, pro-wrestling because why not? In addition to having written a well-loved cookbook, Natalie stays busy as the marketing director at I Heart Keenwah, helping to put on Chicago’s ultra-fun Vegan Vortex events (next one is coming up April 17!), caring for her sweet son and adorable dog and never breaking her unapologetically fabulous stride. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and wherever vegan pixies dwell. I am so happy to be able to feature the delightful Natalie as one of our Vegan Foodies today.

1. How did you start down this path of creating delicious food? Was a love for food nurtured into you? Did you have any special relatives or mentors who helped to instill this passion?

My family is Italian, so to us, food is love. There’s no better way to show someone you care than to stuff them full of carbs and marinara. I was still very young when I realized the freedom you have when you know how to cook. You want cookies? Get out a recipe and make yourself some, kid!


2. What was your diet like when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite meals or meal traditions? Do you carry them over today?

My mom, who has been a vegetarian for several years now, prepared me well for a life of veganism even when we were still eating an omnivorous diet. We ate a lot of vegetables, and not just as side dishes – that definitely made the transition more of a tiny life change as opposed to a jarring experience.

My grandma’s “famous” spaghetti has been my favorite food since before I can even remember. I talk about her technique in my cookbook – there’s even an illustration of how she cuts the onion for the sauce. I loved eating spaghetti for dinner and then mixing left over sauce with rice for lunch the next day. Did I mention that I love carbs? [I do, too, Natalie! Here is the recipe for all the other carboholics out there: Spaghetti Cake with Grandma Sharon's Hater-Proof Sauce. – Ed.]

3. What is the best vegan meal you've ever had? Give us all the details!

A girlfriend of mine took me to Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar in San Francisco a few months ago. Honestly I didn’t have high hopes because usually vegan sushi is just “whatever we have that isn’t fish,” but this meal was so amazing no one even noticed how bad I am with chopsticks. My favorite dish was the Surprise Ending – the menu says the ingredients are “Kale, avocado, asparagus, shredded tofu, tapioca, yuba, beets, rice crackers, and suspense” because only one roll contains a dollop of insanely spicy sauce. I was terrified the whole time I was eating it, but it was really tasty and my friend got the hot roll so not only did I get to eat delicious food, I also got to laugh at my friend while she coughed – win-win.


4. If you could prepare one meal or dessert for anyone living or dead, who would it be for and what would you create?

You know, I flashed on so many famous people and heroes of mine but ultimately, they’ve all had people cook for them and meeting me would be no biggie for them. So I think I’m going to go with roasting a big pan of vegetables and garlic and tossing them with farfalle and olive oil for my great-grandpa Teno. He passed away before I was born but I heard so many sweet stories about him and his beautiful garden from my mom and grandma that I named my son after him. I’d love to be able to get to know him over dinner.

5. What do you think are common mistakes in vegan cooking and how do you avoid them?

Not to discourage anyone who dreams big, but I think the easy access to complex recipes can sometimes make new vegans overly-ambitious. I’m not saying you can’t make homemade cashew mozzarella as your first foray into vegan cooking, I’m just saying you might want to start with like, nutritional yeast cheese sauce. I’ve had a lot of friends go vegan, attempt aquafaba meringue the first day, fail and then just give up like that’s all there is to it. “Well, I can’t make meringues so I’m out!” My advice is, get your hands on a fantastic cookbook like Julie Hasson’s Vegan Casseroles – simple, homey, no weird ingredients you can’t buy at a regular store. Make a few things, feel proud of yourself, and then maybe attempt that raw walnut and date cheesecake thing.

6. What ingredients are you especially excited about at the moment?

This is super general, but I feel like vegetables are finally having their day, right? Like, cheers to nutritional yeast and chickpea brine and cultured non-dairy everything, but how stoked are you that cauliflower steaks are a thing now? [Very! - Ed.] Today I saw a recipe for cabbage steaks. That is awesome! Carrot hot dogs? Yaaaaaas! Vegetables are delicious and I’m just really excited that people are letting them be the star of the plate.

7. What are your top three cuisines from around the world?

Obviously Italian is my #1 girl. Pasta, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, bread. All the major food groups. After that, it’s a pretty close tie between Indian and Thai food. Indian food is super vegetable-heavy just exploding with flavor – and for the record, Indian food mixed sweet and savory before it was cool. Once I figured out how to replace fish sauce in Thai dishes I fell back in love with all the salty peanut dishes – and I love all the fresh basil and garlic.

8. Who or what has been most influential to you on your vegan path? Individuals, groups, books, films, etc. included.

I worship at the altar of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero and I have told them both that much to their faces and it was as awkward as you are imagining it to be. Post Punk Kitchen came into my life at a time when my idea of feminism was being more like a man – and seeing these two bad ass punk rock girls baking cupcakes and taking charge made me realize that enjoying domestic activities does not make you a bad feminist and, in fact, that cooking and baking is s DIY and punk rock as it gets. I also owe so much to Julie Hasson, who has always been so generous to me as a mentor and whose books have made deciding what’s for dinner so easy over the years. [Julie is pretty fab! - Ed.]

9. What issue is nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like people to know more about?

OK, promise to stick with me here, but I’m going to talk about Mad Max Fury Road for a second. Without giving away any spoilers here, the basic premise of the movie is that this tyrannical ruler, Immortan Joe has taken over the post-apocalyptic world. One of the many disgusting, psychotic things he does is keep a group of female prisoners – some of them are “breeders,” who he has forcibly impregnated (aka raped), and the other group exist solely to nurse the newborn babies – there’s a scene in the film where you see these miserable women endlessly being “milked.” The whole story really revolves around a group of rebels who rescue the “breeders” and then it goes on from there.

What really struck me about this was how shocking this behavior was to the audience – the idea of imprisoning and forcibly impregnating women is horrifying, as is the idea that women could be viewed as “property” – but isn’t that exactly what we do to dairy animals? I’m not going to get into an argument about whether you can compare women to cows, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. What I mean is that people really, truly do not understand that cows don’t just magically make milk. They make it to feed their babies – then we steal those babies, and their milk, and we keep doing it over and over again until they die. It just boggles my mind that a blockbuster film premise could basically be the story of a dairy cow and everyone would freak out and cheer on the demise of the protagonist and then, by eating certain foods, be that actual protagonist themselves.

You can probably imagine the comments I got when I posted this review as my Facebook status. Also you might not want to go to movies with me, I am zero fun.

10. Last, please finish this sentence. "To me, veganism is…"

The easiest way to change the world.




9 comments:

  1. I love this! And I will help anyone who can't make aquafaba meringue :-)

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  2. As another vegan Natalie I am so happy this woman is here in the world!

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