“I don’t know if anyone ever says that they want to be a cookbook author when they grow up. Good thing I’m not grown up just yet,” says Terry Hope Romero, who released her newest cookbook, Vegan Eats World in Oct. 2012. It’s almost hard to believe that the popular cookbook author once considered herself an awkward teenager with a simple fascination for healthy cooking. Romero co-wrote the popular vegan cookbooks Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and Vegan Pie In The Sky with friend Isa Chandra Moskowitz. In 2010, Romero went solo with her first book, Viva Vegan, which focuses on Latin cooking. Her newest cookbook, Vegan Eat Word, was a labor of love for her and the largest cookbook she has written to date, with 300 international recipes.
Recently, Terry Hope Romero was kind enough to answer a few questions for Global Looking Glass about veganism and her new cookbook.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My parents came to New England from Venezuela in the late 60s, but I was born here in the U.S. Where I grew up, there weren’t a whole lot of Venezuelans, if any, so all the Latino food was eaten at home.
I was basically raised on black beans, plantains and sofrito, but my papá still talks about when it was impossible to find avocados or papayas. While I’m not the biggest fan of arepas (traditional Venezuelan corn cakes) whenever I get a hankering, I prepare caraotas (Venezuelan-style black beans with a mellow sofrito and papelón, raw tropical brown sugar), white rice, some kind of fried plantain with a side of gausacaca, sort of like a Venezuelan-style guacamole.
What inspired you to go vegan?
I was a weird teenager in that I was interested in health and cooking, so my fascination with healthy cooking gradually shifted to cutting out all meat. I love the challenge of transforming traditional meaty foods into meatless fare. It wasn’t always easy, though, as there were practically no vegetarians in the suburbs of New England in the mid-80s.
Becoming vegan happened years later when I moved to New York City and hung out with a lot of punks and vegans in the Lower East Side. There I met boatloads of like-minded folks. The restaurants were filled with options and the food shopping opportunities were mind blowing, so investigating vegan cooking was so much easier.
What has been the biggest obstacle you faced since going vegan?
Food is not particularly an obstacle for me, in the sense that I’ve always loved the challenge of “veganizing” non-vegan recipes and working against the old myths that vegan food can’t be interesting or filling. If anything, it’s people who seem to insist that being vegan is impossible, especially those who love telling people who already live a happy and healthy vegan lifestyle that they’re “doing it wrong.”
What does veganism mean to you?
Oh, the usual: don’t eat animal products, for whatever reason be it health, ethical reasons for not eating animals, and concerns about the environment. Often it’s all three for many people. There’s also the whole lifestyle aspect too (vegan clothing, animal rights) which is interesting and overlaps with a vegan diet, but I feel shouldn’t be a barrier for anyone who’s curious about the vegan lifestyle and doesn’t know where to begin.
What is the inspiration behind creating your newest cookbook Vegan Eats World?
After completing Viva Vegan!, my book of vegan Latin American recipes, I wanted to take the next leap into a big, lavish cookbook with a focus on my passion for ethnic foods.
What was the hardest recipe you converted to vegan?
Usually anything with lots of eggs can be tricky. But I love my new flourless chocolate cake with Ethiopian spices in Vegan Eats World. Gluten-free cooking can be egg and dairy heavy, so coming up with a vegan alternative was fun!
You have traveled to many cities. Which one was the biggest inspiration for this cookbook?
I live in the city that inspires me the most — New York City; Queens to be specific, since it’s one of the most culturally diverse places on the planet. The wonderful ethnic neighborhoods of Toronto were also a big inspiration for me too, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel there every summer the past four years.
What is your favorite vegan comfort food?
That all depends on the season and mood. Sometimes it’s avocado peanut sushi rolls, rice and beans, Indian dosas or a Thai curry. Right now, it’s winter and I just can’t get enough soup…anything made with red lentils is my go-to favorite.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about vegan food and vegans in general?
It’s still probably that vegan food doesn’t supply enough protein, or that vegans don’t like food! These myths are slowly dying away, but it’s always annoying when they surface during a conversation or interview. That’s when you just remind them there are healthy, happy folks who have been vegan for decades, or educate them on the wonders of coconut milk ice cream or one of the multitude of excellent new vegan restaurants that have popped up everywhere in recent years.
Do you feel veganism has become more mainstream over the years or is it starting to take a turn toward one of those diets where everybody jumps on the bandwagon because it is popular?
If vegan is a bandwagon that everybody is jumping on because it’s so cool, then hurray! But I don’t think that’s the case, because the vegan diet isn’t a fad. It’s been around for decades and its popularity is steadily increasing.
The vegan diet is not, and should not, be treated like a fad diet. It can have amazing health benefits when done correctly, plus it has wonderful side effects including being both kinder to your body, the planet and farm animals. And yes, there are more vegans that ever before, and more non-vegans simply know what a vegan is. All good developments in my opinion.
What are your staple ingredients that you always have at home, no matter what?
Quinoa, canned chickpeas, tofu packed in shelf-stable boxes, olive oil, nutritional yeast, shiro miso, frozen spinach, oats, dates, raw almonds and cashews. Any of these ingredients can go into making a great breakfast, lunch or dinner.
What is your vegan guilty pleasure?
Chocolate in all forms, but especially super 80% dark with a dash of sea salt, almonds or dried cherries. Love it.
Courtesy Images: Terry Hope Romero