Friday, April 29, 2011

q&a with vegan/vegetarian chef julia simon, pt.1

one of my favorite food bloggers lately is vegan/vegetarian chef julia simon who is the author of no face plate.  julia was kind enough to do a q&a with me as well as share one of her favorite recipes (coming tomorrow with photos!)  she is a thoughtful lady and her recipes are absolute love.

courtesy of poprock photography

q:  tell me about your blog.

a:  no face plate began as a way to record what i was doing for my clients so that i could keep track of recipes and repeat them as needed. then someone gave me their old rebel xti and a 52 mm lens, and all hell broke loose.  now, it's a million things - a business card for my personal cheffing stuffs, a way to find other rad veg/vegan cooks and share ideas, products, recipes, a gallery of delicious vegan and vegetarian grub, and hopefully, in the future, the first step to writing a gluttonous, decadent, intensely illustrated cookbook.

q:  how long have you been a vegetarian/vegan?  explain your diet.  the new hip thing is "flexitarianism" as touted by mark bittman of the nytimes, do you consider yourself a flexitarian?

a:  i've been a pretty strict vegetarian since i was 15 - not including a brief stint of canned-tuna-eating when I moved to nyc for art school and was super broke (this was back in the day when tofu was more expensive than tuna).  i still eat artisanal/local cheese and free range, local eggs, as well as select non-vegan products (duke's mayo, for example - i know, gross). never any meat - the way i explain this to people is by describing my diet as free from eyeballs.  i transition to an almost completely vegan diet in the warmer months - and have plans to be totally rid of dairy and egg at some point in the near future.  i, like many aspiring vegans, have a cheese obsession that keeps me coming back.  butter's a problem as well.

i have no problem with flexitarianism as a way to eat - i mean, less meat is better, ya? - but you have to make your choice.  just as i know that my morals call for a vegan lifestyle, i feel like mark knows that eating bacon is pretty messed up.  it's hard to balance foodieism and food politics.  and by hard, i mean easier to put the politics aside and get lost in a pile of truffled pecorino than to adhere to rationality and abstain.  sigh.

q: what is your day job?

a: personal chef, dahling, to some gluten-free/vegetarian families near charlotte, nc.

q: are you interested in food politics?

a: of course!  while lately I've met many people who are transitioning to a meat free diet as a way to improve health (which is super cool) i eat this way for ethical reasons.  i was paging through my sue coe book just the other day, and my food not bombs patch (old and really dirty) fell out - totally got me reminiscing.  the combination of fnb and the punk scene in s. florida got me thinking at an early age about what i was putting into my body, and what i caused to occur by choosing to eat meat (i was also reading a lot of existential philosophy at the time - which is a lot about living with awareness of your footprint).  it's fascinating to see vegan/vegetarian culture become somewhat legitimate in the eyes of the mass media - i've always had trouble convincing family, friends, coworkers that abstaining from meat is not only better for your body but the planet as well.  when i decided to stop consuming animals, i was angry and teenaged and living with my pop - who was decidedly against my new diet, considering it disrespectful to him and an excuse to argue.  over the years, i've gotten my fam more on the boat - my ma's gradually transitioning away from meat altogether and my step dad ate heartily of the vegan brunch i prepared for easter.  of course, that process is 15 years in the making, so we're moving turtle-slow, but still, it's something.

i'm not the biggest oprah proponent but o could kiss her for the show she did on vegetarianism - hopefully, we'll see more media moguls advocate for less meat eating and consequently, see meat consumption plummet. i wonder and worry about the way the meat industry will combat that – with big-money scare tactics, propaganda and misinformation, to be sure.  those of us with media outlets of our own will have work to do to counteract the bs!

q: what inspires you?

a: lately, generosity's at the top of that list.  it's so ridiculously easy to get wrapped up in your work and digital life - keeping a macro perspective gets more difficult by the day, and taking the time to treat the people you love in a giving manner can be difficult to do consistently. 

q: are you a cookbook reader?  what is your favorite cookbook?

a:  i'm not a super avid cookbook collector, nor a precision recipe follower, no, but i have a couple of books that i go back to a lot - the millennium restaurant's cookbook has taught me tons of neat tricks, and I still use their seitan recipe and tamale recipe regularly.  i actually got to eat there thanks to a pal's generosity on a faux-honeymoon in san fran last summer and it was a mind-blowing (if costly) meal. the moosewood book got me started way back in the day - those recipes are simple and flexible, it's a perfect just-getting-started book.  the modern vegetarian kitchen, by a former chef at angelica kitchen in nyc, is process heavy and gorgeous.  and like a weirdo, i also collect old rotary club and church fundraising cookbooks from thrift stores, because some of the weirdest flavor combinations are in there!  they're super inspiring, in a really by-the-seat-of-your-pants-cleaning-out-the-larder kind of way.  it takes a fair amount of editing to make anything remotely resembling healthy fare from those recipes, but that's a blast, you know?

q: what are your favorite blogs?

a: food wise, a ton, but some of my favs lately:

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