Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the New York bred, do-it-yourself author of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Veganomicon. She translated her discontent with the lack of vegan cooking shows into Vegan With A Vengeance, a Manhattan public access show she co-hosted with Terry Romero. Vegan With A Vengeance blended the raucous and spirited worlds of cooking and punk rock, and featured live bands, many of which helped out with the culinary segments as well. The program aired from 2003 to 2005, and its success led to the publication of a cookbook of the same name. These days Isa has turned her energies towards direct local activism, hosting pay-per-plate meals in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon. These “four courses for causes” are showcased on the site Apron Activists, and promote various organizations including animal rights groups and shelters.
The Rumpus: What were your eating habits like before you went vegan?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: Well, I went vegetarian when I was sixteen, and before that my diet was pretty bad, but maybe a standard American teenager diet: no vegetables (besides fries), fast food, pizza.
TR: Did your family and friends originally think that your change in diet was just a phase?
ICM: Honestly, I don’t remember! But I don’t think so. Most of my friends went vegan at around the same time and my mom and sis went vegetarian, too.
TM: Does any vegan food gross you out?
ICM: Gross me out? Not really. There’s definitely stuff I don’t like, but knowing that some people eat fattened goose livers makes it pretty impossible to be grossed out by anything vegan.
TR: What does your family think about your career?
ICM: They love it! I think they’re just happy I sounds something that I like doing.
TR: Can you recall a recipe that turned out better than you expected?
ICM: When I finally got a tofu omelet down I was really surprised. It had been, like, ten tries, then finally all the planets were in alignment and it was bestowed onto me one perfectly fluffy tofu omelet.
TR: What would the vegan equivalent of gefilte fish be?
ICM: I hope I never live to see it. But maybe pureed silken tofu, matzoh meal and kelp granules in a kombu broth? With dill? Perhaps I should revisit that vegan foods that gross you out question.
TR: Do you still contribute to Food Not Bombs?
ICM: No I don’t.
TR: As a DIY vixen, how do you feel about the publishing industry to get veganism to the masses? Do you ever encounter any headaches with your work and mainstream media?
ICM: I think we need the publishing industry to get veganism out there. Zines are awesome but your Aunt Frimmie in Scranton is never going to buy one. As far as headaches with the mainstream media, yeah, all the fucking time! For the most part I am grateful for all the press I get, but sometimes I wish they would quote me correctly. It’s like, they’re always trying to dumb down stuff and make it more palatable to their audience. Like, instead of talking about how free range egg factories are still killing the mail chicks as well as the mama hens, they quote me as saying to eat free range eggs. It’s bizarre.
TR: I moved from New York to Portland a while ago (I live in Oklahoma now) and wound up going vegan while living there on Yamhill Street. How do you think the two vegan spheres of New York and Portland differ or are the same?
ICM: We all know that people are the same where ever you go….sorry, I am quoting Ebony and Ivory. I think they are basically the same except that New York vegans tend to spend a lot more money on food. Portland vegans seem to enjoy cheap comfort food. I don’t know that any other differences are particular to the vegan community though. There are the general differences between New Yorkers and Portlanders, like high-strung versus laid-back.
TR: Have you ever suffered a cooking-related injury?
ICM: Nothing serious, burns and scratches. Oh, and once I shot myself in the head when someone asked if I could make gluten free seitan.
TR: What advice do you have for teenagers going vegan? How do they handle the nosy/annoying/ignorant questions asking them why they can’t just be “normal” and “eat like regular people”?
ICM: First of all, try not to be annoyed. Be happy that you get to inform people about your food choices, at least they are asking. No one has a right to harass you though. Stand up for yourself, ignore people when you have to, and be as educated as you can be so that you can hold your ground. Also, always make sure to have fun with your veganism. Visit animals in sanctuaries, cook, have potlucks. If you are having fun there is a better chance that you will stick with it.
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