Vegan Foodie Interview with Laura Theodore, The Jazzy Vegetarian
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November 2015

Laura believes in taking the classic, familiar dishes she grew up on in the Midwest and recreating them as easy to prepare, delicious vegan recipes for all audiences today.

Laura Theodore is an acclaimed actor, jazz singer-songwriter, cookbook author and host of the celebrated weekly PBS show, The Jazzy Vegetarian. Her path as a vegetarian eventually led to her embracing veganism, which she’s been championing since the 1980s, long before there was widespread familiarity with the word. As a talented performer and recipe creator, Laura’s work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, New York Post, PBS Food, Readers Digest, JazzTimes, VegNews, Variety, and Time Magazine and many other outlets.

Laura believes in taking the classic, familiar dishes she grew up on in the Midwest and recreating them as easy to prepare, delicious vegan recipes for all audiences today. Laura is inspired to build a more compassionate, sustainable and healthy world, and she just released a new cookbook, Laura Theodore’s Vegan-ease: An Easy Guide to Enjoying a Plant-Based Diet. I am thrilled to feature Laura Theodore as our Vegan Foodie this week.

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?

As a child, visiting and learning how to prepare delicious food with my Grandma Cook fascinated me and eating my mom’s tasty dinners every night was something I looked forward to. One of my first fond memories is of me, standing on a stool in my maternal grandmother’s kitchen, stirring apples for her yearly batch of applesauce. On Sundays or holidays, I looked forward to entering my Grandma Cook’s kitchen. (Yes, Cook was her real last name!) It was always filled with the intoxicating aroma of a big pot of simmering spaghetti sauce or some other wonderful culinary creation that she was preparing for us to feast upon.

At home, I remember being fascinated when my mom took beautifully cooked artichokes out of the pot, or when my great aunt came to visit and made homemade pasta noodles. So when I became interested in a healthier and more compassionate lifestyle, I looked to recreating the traditional recipes from Mom and Grandma’s kitchens, and I started preparing vegetarian, then eventually the vegan versions of their classic recipes you see in my books and on television today.

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?

I liked Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Meatloaf, Burgers, Stuffed Peppers, and Casseroles, along with Ice Cream, Cookies and Cake…just like most kids! Now I have created delicious vegan versions of these classic dishes and I do not miss the meat!

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

Oh, THAT would be tough! Hmmm….One of the best was at my house last winter when I served a meatless loaf based in shredded zucchini and ground sunflower seeds, smashed potatoes and a vegan sweet potato pie for dessert! YUM.

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

I would prepare one of my delicious vegan mousse or cake recipes for Ellen DeGeneres.

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

I think the biggest mistake in vegan cooking is to try and follow recipes perfectly, rather than making a recipe your own. I believe that, like when preparing omnivorous recipes, everyone has their own tastes. Experimenting in the kitchen is the best way to create delicious, individualized recipes, so maybe it does not taste perfect the first time, but next time around a new recipe is born that will truly please your family!

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

All the colorful and hearty fall root veggies! I love to stuff squash and bake apples!

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

Italian, Mexican-Style and American.

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

Christina Pirello pioneered vegan cooking on television, and opened doors for others to follow.

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

That dairy and eggs are one of the cruelest of foods. The industry is far from the idyllic picture we have of cows happily grazing with their young, and chickens pecking and parading in spacious farmyards.

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

To me veganism is the most compassionate way to live on this earth. 

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