Wednesday, August 16, 2017

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with JL Fields


How many ways do I love
JL Fields? Let me count the ways…

1. I love her passionate vegan foodie ways.
1. I love that she is a passionate vegan foodie who manages to create recipes that are accessible to the average home cook who doesn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen with each meal but still have delicious food regardless.
3. I love that she’s funny, snarky, engaged,
fierce and talented. (Follow her personal page on Facebook to see ample evidence of this and professional page for lots of foodie inspiration.)
4. I love how prolific she is! Look at all these fabulous
books she’s written and co-authored.
5. She also has a radio show, when she’s not coaching people and creating meal plans. Are you even kidding me?! I was lucky enough to be a guest. I could have talked to JL for seven hours straight.
6. I think I need to take a nap now.
7. I feel like a failure.
8. But I can’t hate JL because she’s far too awesome.
9. And I get to see her at
Chicago VeganMania on September 23 (as do you!) with the release of her most recent cookbook, The Vegan Air Fryer. Join us!

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

I’d love to tell you that I had an inkling at a young age that vegan was the way to go but I just didn’t. Yes, I loved my cats and dog and yes, I loved eating meat. When I was in my late thirties I was in Kenya for a work event and a male elder led a got into the ceremony. The goat was slaughtered, stewed, and served for dinner. I became a vegetarian on the spot. It was eight years later, when, far less dramatically, I had concluded a 16-day detox with my yoga instructor and realized I hadn’t had animal products during that time. Huh, I guess I’m vegan, I thought. And so I was.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I consider myself a seeking spirit – something I attribute to my Buddhism – and I tend to be more convinced when I have an experience and allow myself to be moved by it. But I can tell you that if the year I was 40 someone said go vegan to lose weight or go healthy I would have said, “not necessary!” I was a size 4 and running marathons and my blood work was top notch.

If someone at 40 had said, “It’s great that you’re vegetarian, but do you know how hens and cows are treated for your eggs and dairy?” I just didn’t know. It’s actually one of the reasons that when meat eaters ask me how to start, and they know they aren’t ready to go all in, that I encourage them to give up eggs and dairy before meat. It gives me the opportunity to talk about the cruelty in terms of logic. An animal farmed for meat will die a violent death in a matter of months. Dairy cows and chickens experience utter hell for months and years on end. I think once you lay out the simple truth of a farmed animals life, it’s hard not to want to end all of the cruelty.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

I’m an enthusiastic foodie. I get so excited by vegan food, how to make it quickly and deliciously, and I think my utter delight in creating vegan food rubs off on people. I’m on a book tour right now and no matter how daunting a day of travel can be, the minute I’m in front of people demonstrating fun vegan recipes, well, I’m perked up and ready to roll. Anyway who’s taken one of classes knows that humor is an integral part of what I do. We need to have fun. This is very serious stuff we’re talking about – saving animals and the planet – but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh and smile while we’re doing it.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

We have some compassionate leaders who are emerging and changing the face of the movement. Though there’s still a lot of bowing down to the feet of the white male plant-based doctors, there are exciting entrepreneurs and solopreneurs that are making delicious food, creating gorgeous clothing, pushing forth a social justice message and taking up space in the environmental movement. Their leadership is inviting in a broader audience.

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

I think every single activist should know their audience and be willing to meet them where they are. Being kind and inviting others in, at their pace, just might have a more profound impact that treating people like nails and your message is the hammer. You know, I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 15 years and vegan close to eight years. My husband didn’t follow the same path. And I never tried to hammer veganism into him. I did invite him to vegan events, draw the line on what I could tolerate (I never purchased animal products or prepared them once I went vegan), model a happy and healthy vegan lifestyle, and he ultimately did make a decision to live a vegan life. On his terms.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

I was on a morning news show in Denver show last month and the anchor asked me why I didn’t want to eat animals or animal products,

“I don’t need to eat them, so why harm them?”

Obviously I’m only going up one floor on the elevator (oops, should have walked).

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

I have many mentors and there are leaders I admire from afar but I have to say that Ginny Messina, Christopher-Sebastian McJetters, and Andy Tabar are three people who really inspire me. They are consistent in their vegan message. They speak truth to power. They are vegan for the animals.

When I want to passively share vegan information on my personal social media, knowing many of my non-vegan friends and family will see it, I lean toward Vegan Outreach and Mercy for Animals. And of course I share Vegan Street memes! [Ed. note: Interrupting this interview to pass the hat and remind you, gentle reader, that you can support the memes and other work we create by signing on as Patreons of Vegan Street.]

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

Before transitioning my career to that of culinary instructor and food writer, I worked in the nonprofit sector. My clients were victims of hate crimes, sexual assault survivors, and women around the globe who experienced all types of violence. I learned early in my career that carving out time for quiet reflection or reckless and loud fun was essential to cope and come back refreshed. I still carve out meditative and raucous time.

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

I want every single chubby/curvy/fat vegan to know I see you and I love you and you are as important, if not more important, in this movement. Please do not let the loud, highly visible people who judge and shame food choices and body size silence you. 

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

…meeting my highest self.

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