MANIFEST VEGAN: An interview with Allyson about her Beautiful Blog!

One of my favorite vegan food bloggers has agreed to talk to us for a super-inspiring interview! The wonderful Allyson Kramer of Manifest Vegan tells us about using food as activism, raising a vegan family and building community through the internet.

One glance at Manifest Vegan and you’ll see why this lady is such an inspiration! And it’s nice to know the woman behind the blog is every bit as sweet and friendly as her food is beautiful and delicious. Allyson’s recipes are her own and she is also the talented photographer behind the photos that help us look at our computer screens and begin to imagine the tastiness on her end.

Please enjoy this interview, and keep an eye out for the cookbook Allyson is working on. We should all be so lucky to invite her into our homes! Thank you, Allyson!

You started Manifest Vegan in 2009. Did some event happen that got you to finally start the project? Was it a long time in the making? What influenced your decision to write the blog?

Well, it was sort of a series of events…. I studied art in college (painting and sculpture).  And although I loved making art, I didn’t love the scene that came along with it. I was a homebody, and not much of a face to face people person.  I also was working various art related jobs, heading to a career in museum work, and I just became burnt out. At that point I knew I was using my creativity incorrectly.

I was always making art about subjects that mattered the most to me- mostly sexism and in a strange, and nowhere near as defined way, animal rights ( because they are completely connected, although I didn’t realize it at the time). I wanted to share my experiences through my art, and talk about the issues that were always on my mind.  And even though I was immersed in the art scene and actively showed my work- I never felt like I ever had an audience with my art.  Even if there was literally an audience, I was not convinced my message was getting through to anyone. So, I stopped pursuing traditional “art” in a sense, and converted my energy to advocating veganism.

I thought the web would be a nice gallery space where I would have an easier time getting my work seen, although my subject matter and message became a little more direct.  Now my medium of choice is photography, and my message is “go vegan! ” or at least “hey, try this cookie!”

How would you briefly sum up your blog and its mission?

I want to share recipes of delicious vegan food so people will make it, eat it, and enjoy it – with no animals being harmed along the way. I’d like to think I am helping to debunk the “vegans eat only salads myth” by handing out free info about how much youcan eat while being vegan. It’s my own version of vegan activism. Some people hand out pamphlets, I hand out recipes.

(Sticky Buns!  Vegan and AWESOME.)

When did you first become aware of veganism? Did something in particular trigger your decision to delve into this lifestyle?

I first became a vegan back when I was 15 years old. At the time, there was limited internet access, and “being vegan” was not too common. There was very little information out there, and I had only been exposed to the more glamorous side (the health benefits) of becoming vegan. I had checked out a small book from the library about vegetarianism, and in the very back of the book there was a section encouraging you to take one step further and go vegan.

I listened, and went vegan for about two years. Unfortunately High School got the better of me.  I fell off of the vegan wagon and jumped back on again about 5 times until I finally bucked down and watched “meet your meat” and “earthlings”.  I forced myself into a very needed wake-up call and immediately turned vegan… again… for good.

How do you hope to illustrate the idea of veganism to people who aren’t familiar with it, or may have preconceived notions of what it is?

I hope to illustrate it colorfully, deliciously, and simply… exactly as veganism really is!

(A throwback to comfort food. Creamy NO-Chicken and Rice)

For you, is a vegan diet about health, the animals, the environment? All of the above?

I definitely do it because I believe (above most other things) in leading a non-violent life.  The health benefits of eliminating animal products and the environmental benefits of a vegan diet are also very good indicators for me that I am doing the right thing.

How has blogging impacted and maybe even changed your life?

It has really opened up many doors for me. For a long time I was only exposed to people and ideas relating to art. Now, I feel like the people I can have conversations with about my work are from all types of backgrounds and experiences.  My blog keeps me focused on constantly upping my knowledge and connecting with people who have similar goals- very much like I have always done with art. Blogging has changed my perspective on art and communication in general, though. I see the potential of art everywhere now -not just in a gallery or museum.

(Fig and Walnut Ravioli Dolci. Clearly made by someone who studied art.)

I also have made advancements in my recipe development, and food photography skills which is enabling me to write my very first cookbook.  I never saw myself as a cookbook author until I began blogging, but now I am excited to be on such a path.

What sort of feedback do you get from people about your blog and your recipes? How does that encourage and inspire you, or perhaps cause you to reassess what you do?

I love my readers. Hands down, I couldn’t ask for a more supportive group of people! It seems like readers are really enjoying my work, and actually look forward to new stuff- which is amazing. My readers give me confidence about my work, fuel new ideas, and I take their feedback (whether it be comments, emails, or links from other bloggers) as a critique. I like that a lot, and I learn from it  constantly.

One big thing that I was afraid of doing with my blog was going gluten free- I thought everyone would freak out and unsubscribe. But, seeing as I had celiac disease, I really had no choice. The amount of positive reaction I received after the change was incredible! I not only didn’t lose my original subscribers, I gained more who were looking for gluten free recipes. I feel really grateful for having such open minded and loyal readers.

(This one seals the deal for me. PIEROGIES. Oh yes she did. Somehow, Allyson crawled into my dreamland of Polish dumplings raining from the sky and growing from the earth like cabbages. Well, at the very least anyone who includes pierogies in their recipes is a true friend of mine.)

Do you have any cooking inspiration? Do you watch cooking shows, read certain books or blogs, get inspired by certain cuisines, etc? Is cooking a personal or meditative experience for you?

My mom taught me how to cook without actually teaching me. She would cook for hours in the kitchen and I would lurk around, secretly noting every move she made and every ingredient added. When I was just 8 years old, I dove into her humongous recipe file and whipped up my first batch of cookies. They turned out really well!  I have been hooked on making my own food ever since.

We don’t own a television set so I never see any cooking shows, and to be honest, I really try and NOT read other people’s recipes unless the idea of what I am trying to make is totally foreign to me.  I feel like too much exposure may influence my originality. Again, it’s a lot like making art. You have to see a lot of it and talk about it often to understand it, and appreciate it, and to get a better perspective… but making your own stuff (all the time) is really the only thing that will make you better at it. At least that’s true for me.

(Mushroom and Asparagus Tart. Showstopper. Make your dinner guests salivate.)

And, cooking is definitely both personal and meditative for me. My favorite place to be is in the kitchen, I could spend all day in there! I even enjoy washing the dishes, and will just start doing them to get a break from all of the hustle and bustle on the weekends!   You can easily find me cooking something up three times a day. It’s kind of an addiction, I’d say. Now that I have a family, the rewards of sharing my cooking creations make spending time in the kitchen even better.

When I contacted you about doing this interview, you made a very positive comment on fellow bloggers supporting each other and not getting too competitive. What is your take in the community aspects of blogging?

Community is everything! I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support that is bountiful in the blog-o-sphere.  I have met so many wonderful people through blogging, who have honestly become better friends of mine than many of my friends in the “real world”.

It is incredible the amount of good that can happen when people connect with each other, rather than segregate themselves. No matter what our core differences, I think ultimately we all [vegan bloggers] want to communicate the same message “stop eating animals”, and having a community of likeminded individuals makes it all the easier to spread that message loud and clear.

(Pumpkin Apple Ginger Soup. The Fall season in a bowl.)

You have a friendly and welcoming approach to your blog, which I personally love and also strive to do. Do you think that approach to vegan cooking makes it easier for people new to the idea to get involved with cooking healthier and perhaps changing more aspects of their life?

Thanks Jaime! I think setting a friendly & positive example (not too far from home) is exactly the attitude that needs to be presented to folks unfamiliar with veganism, or any new idea, really.

I personally have never been happier since I committed myself to veganism, and I think many folks would feel the same if they made the switch too. I like to be honest and upbeat, because veganism is not just a lifestyle for me, it’s a cause I truly and wholeheartedly believe in.  I’d like to set a positive example for people, and show them how fun “being vegan” really is- and that I am not at all deprived. I know I am more fulfilled as a vegan than I was as an omnivore, and I‘d like to invite people to investigate that idea.

(When life hands you weeds…. change your perspective and make Dandelion Fritters!)

Is veganism something your whole family shares in? Does it set an example of values for your family? (Tell us about your family, too! Include photos if you’d like.) Is your child vegan?

My husband and I are blessed to share very similar ideas and values (we met and fell head over heels for each other in art school), so we made the vegan switch together.  Since we believe that eating a vegan diet is the very least we can all do to try and lead good lives, our children are definitely being raised vegan. We have an 8 year old boy Landen, who made the switch with us and he really enjoys it. He fully understands that people’s hamburgers contain dead cows, and he was never very excited about that… so it wasn’t a strain to convert him. He has always been a wonderful eater- requesting dark leafy greens, whole grain pastas and fruit over most other foods.

Our daughter, Olive (pictured above), is just a year and a half old, so she has been vegan since conception. She has a voracious appetite for vegan cookies, hummus, kale and tempeh!

Our kids eat far more diverse and whole foods (and dare I say healthier) than any omnivore children I know.  I take pride in that. Someday, I hope they will too.

If years from now you can look back on your blog as having left some sort of impact or legacy, what would that ideally be?

It would be wonderful to look back and say “My blog was a small part of a big movement that helped veganism become as common as it is today”.

And of course, by then, at least half of the world’s population will have adopted a vegan diet.  It could happen…

(Wine AND chocolate? Get the heck out of here. Lucky we’re at the end because my head just blew up. Shiraz Ganache Glazed Brownies.)

Clearly, Allyson and her blog are beacons for anyone that wonders “What can you eat if you’re a vegan?” Try and find a single thing on that blog that doesn’t look appetizing and delicious. (I’ll save you some time- you won’t find anything that doesn’t meet those descriptions.)

I’m also so thrilled to announce that Manifest Vegan can be found in the July-August issue of VegNews Magazine as one of their Top 10 Picks for Veg Blogs! WOW, what an honor! Get yourself to a bookstore and rejoice.

Now get yourself over to Manifest Vegan, and don’t forget to find her on FACEBOOK too.