Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Katie Frichtel + Troy Farmer – raven and crow studio

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hey. We’re Katie Frichtel + Troy Farmer, we run Brooklyn-born, Los Angeles-based creative agency raven + crow studio and also act as creative directors + Los Angeles store runners for MooShoes, the all-vegan shoe store.

raven + crow
ravenandcrowstudio.com
IG: @ravenandcrow
FB: facebook.com/RavenAndCrowStudio/

MooShoes
mooshoes.com
IG: @mooshoesla
FB: facebook.com/mooshoes/

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

For both of us, what led us to veganism was a concern for the animals, first and foremost. We care about the environment and it’s great to be healthier as a side-effect, but once we figured out we could lead a lifestyle that didn’t involve all that inherent violence and death, there was no looking back for us. And this was a long time ago too—in college, where we met, in the mid-nineties. It was a very different scene for vegans back then, especially in rural areas. I think there were, like, ten of us total in the state of Virginia in 1996. So we had to get really creative, but we both really like food. Honestly, that dearth of vegan options (in both the restaurant sense and the grocery one) paired with the desire for good food pushed us into places we likely wouldn’t have gone otherwise—traditional Eastern restaurants like Thai and Vietnamese and Indian and then, at home, there was a lot of cooking and learning early on from these nascent vegan cookbooks and the non-Western cooking ones. Loving and not having easy access to really good vegan food made us better cooks and better citizens of the world, really.

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

We both went pretty cold turkey—side-note, I just looked this up: ‘The term comes from the piloerection or “goose bumps” that occurs with abrupt withdrawal from opioids, which resembles the skin of a plucked refrigerated turkey.’ Crazy. Anyway, the big thing for us was finding out that most commercial cheese is made with animal rennet, which comes from the inside of a cow’s stomach, so, even when we thought we were vegetarian, we weren’t in the strictest sense. That revelation pushed us from vegetarian to vegan pretty succinctly. Clothing did happen a little more gradually, but, at the time, a lot of what we bought and wore were thrift store finds anyway. Shoes had always been kind of tough, but, luckily, MooShoes has been around since 2001, so we’ve relied on them for a while (even before becoming involved in a professional sense).

Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism? For example, how strict are you with your children’s veganism at school or at family gatherings?

The kid/family question’s new for us—our son, Nico, is just turning six months in a couple weeks. But the plan is to raise him vegan; it’d be odd for us not to. In our minds, animal flesh, dairy, eggs—these things simply aren’t food; yes, our bodies can digest them, and some would argue many of these things are good for us (many would argue the opposite), but we have no right take these things by force, which is what we’re doing in a very systematic, established, it’s-okay-because-everyone’s-doing-it way. We don’t want our son to be a part of that violent system, much like we wouldn’t want him to be a part of any other system we saw as unfair or wrong. But our hope is that this is something that will come as naturally to him as it now does to us, this way of thinking about the world—ring us up in ten years, we’ll let you know how it went.

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?

If they want to see it, sure. I think it’s our duty as responsible humans—children and adults alike—to know as much about the systems we support as possible. That means knowing who made your jeans and what chemicals went into their wash and how that’s affecting the communities who rely on this industry for their livelihood; that means knowing who picked the strawberries you’re eating, how they’re paid, how they’re treated, and what was done to the fruit as it was growing; and that means understanding that there was a sentient, living breathing being behind your ‘meat’. We talk about this a lot now with a kid—it’s so fucked up, how we raise them with these books and prints on clothing and toys to love animals, to appreciate them, and then we turn around and feed them the very animals we’re reading them stories about or that they’re snuggling up to as they fall asleep. It’s just so inane and absolutely hypocritical—I feel like, if the system was more transparent and children saw what happened to the cute cow they just read about before it got to the plate, we’d really all be vegan.

What does being vegan mean to you? For example, does it extend to not killing bugs and bees? Does it include not patronizing vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies? Does it affect the way you treat other humans?

Reading this, we might come across as pretty militant, but we really do both believe that every little bit helps. I feel like so many people don’t try anything in terms of a more conscious, cruelty-free lifestyle because they feel like they can’t do all of it or go totally vegan, but it all helps, and we’re always telling our non-vegan friends (of whom we have many) as much. But yeah, we try to avoid any killing, or, more positively, we try to appreciate all life. And when given a choice between supporting an all-vegan, vegan-run company with our consumerism and supporting one that’s neither, we chose the former. But we also both really do think it’s helpful to encourage any and all non-vegan companies to offer vegan foods or products; again, every little bit—just LOOK at how much more prevalent and available cruelty-free products are now compared to the 90s, across ALL markets and in such impressive variety and quality. And the direct result is less demand on the inherently cruel, animal-dependent industries.

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

No. It’s every human’s duty to live a responsible, eyes-open life that negatively affects others as little as possible. That definitely means being vegan, but it means other things too—for some, that is being an activist in a commercial economy and with the global reach we all now have. But, again, every little bit—if you’re not interested in being vegan but you stopped eating pigs because Okja really touched you, that’s cool by us; that’s something; I think the pigs would agree.

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

I think there’s a lot of information constantly streaming all around us every day and it can be completely overwhelming if you don’t selectively shut some of it out these days; and I think we tend to want our lives to be as happy and easy as possible; for a lot of people, that means ignoring what most of us know at heart—that eating animals and their products is inherently cruel, especially when it reaches massive scales. So we get it. But, luckily, it’s easier than it’s ever been in the history of the world to not support that system and to instead lead a cruelty-free lifestyle and it’s only going to get easier and more widespread.

Any recommended Vegan books?

Watership Down. Seriously. And, really, we can and should educate ourselves about these animal-based systems, but too much of the negative can overwhelm a lot of people and do the opposite of what’s intended. We’re not advocating for sugar-coating things, but positive reinforcement does prove more effective in the long term in almost every case. To that end, we encourage anyone to be pulled in to any stories that have you sympathizing with animals, seeing them as more than a product. Oh, also the book Persimmon Takes on Humanity.

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

I guess we’re a bit ‘of the times’—we tend to keep up more on socials these days than on the ol’ weblogs. But we follow all our favorite non-profits there—Farm Sanctuary, PETA, Mercy for Animals, Animal Liberation, Intersectional Feminists for Animals. And vegan foodies + friends—Los Vegangeles, S+M Vegan Chefs, Quarry Girl, Isa, and all her Modern Loves, Terry Hope Romero, Stacy Michelson.

Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?

If anyone hasn’t seen the aforementioned Okja, run, don’t walk. We really do like the narrative format cross-platform—documentaries are great and so helpful in pushing the movement to the outer bounds in terms of audience, but there are still so many people out there who assume facts are being made up or at least bent or presented in a non-objective light. But a solid story that speaks to your heart, that’s invaluable.

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

Ooh. Hard one. In our old home of New York, definitely Modern Love Brooklyn these days. Isa does everything so well. Superiority Burger there is a close second (they’re veg but vegan-leaning); same with Dirt Candy (ditto). Orchard Grocer is a traditional NYC all-vegan deli attached to MooShoes NYC and they do the best sandwiches (the Bowery breakfast sandwich is tops). Back home in Los Angeles, we could go on for days, but our absolute favorites are likely Elf in Echo Park (vegetarian but super-vegan-friendly, Mediterranean-style with an innovative menu that’s constantly changing), Crossroads (high-end all-vegan at Melrose + Sweetzer ), Moby’s Little Pine, and Matthew Kinney’s Plant Food + Wine. But the best thing about vegan dining in LA and what this city constantly beats NYC on is how non-vegan establishments bend over backwards to not only accommodate vegans, but accommodate us with really fucking good food. Noodles, curries, and spicy crispy rice salad at Song Night + Market; insanely good vegan deepdish at Masa; the sweet potato tacos from Guerilla, who just moved from the food truck world to a brick-and-mortar a block away from our office; the seasonal pumpkin ramen in the fall at Tatsunoya; the breakfast bun from Spoke Café; the cottage pie from the vegan-friendly British pub, The Stalking Horse; the vegan burgers and nuggets at Burger Lords; dan dan noodles at We Have Noodles; Uncle Jesse Boa at Baohaus LA; the Gomasio brown rice cakes at Kitchen Mouse (which is vegetarian); scallion pancakes at Pine + Crane; tofu balls and pinball and beer at Button Mash. God. We should not have done this interview before lunch.

Please share your favorite vegan recipe?

Single-sheet lasagna with homemade fresh pasta, homemade cashew crème, and farmers market fresh vegetables—no one beats Southern California on awesome farmers markets where you can both support your local farmers directly and get the freshest of fresh produce. You can find it on our web journal –
http://ravenandcrowstudio.com/journal/single-sheet-lasagna/

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

We’re broken records, but every little bit—whatever you can do to make it easy to lessen your impact on animals, we’ll take it.

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

Los Angeles is amazing for vegans right now, truly amazing. Not only in the sense that we have the most vegan and very vegan-friendly establishments ever, but also in the sense that we’ve got a great community of active, engaged vegans and just people who are working to affect positive change locally. It’s truly inspiring what our friends and colleagues are getting done right now—we’re so proud.

What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?

Make the most of your socials, whether you’re in a big city or not, and, even if you’re not finding other vegans, find the common areas of overlap between you and someone else—no matter how different we are from someone else, we’ve got some areas of overlap in shared interests somewhere. I think we’ve gotten really bad—vegans and non-vegans—at talking to people and interacting with people who aren’t like us and that’s caused a lot of problems in our society. And if you’re bummed that nothing’s happening where you live, make it happen—start having vegan bake sale, find a way to help your community, and find a way to engage more fully in a way that’s important to you.

What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?

Totally. I think it’s helped us think about how our actions impact others across areas and industries. I think we all most fundamentally want to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and happy, everything grows from that, so it’s about how you chose to best accomplish that. Some people think that means pushing others away and making them succeed less so you can succeed more; others believe the best way to live a fulfilled life is by choosing to spread love and positivity and do less harm. We fall more into the latter camp.

What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?

We’re biased, but MooShoes really is a great company. We started and remain small and family-/friend-run and I think and hope that really shows in how we run our store in New York, in LA and in our global presence online and in socials. And we’ve really been making a push to grow beyond just animal-friendly products but also into the most people-friendly (fair pay and worker treatment) and earth-friendly products we can support and carry for our customers. Just last weekend, we hosted a Plastic Free July event and featured a zero waste station from Sustain LA. And it again just shone true for us how very great this community is here.

What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?

Nothing any more? I mean, we’re really lucky—we live in a time and a place where the demand is so huge for cruelty-free vegan products that it’s being met by so many people in so many ways, just as an effect of the market. But I guess if we had to say something, we’d say vegan cheese—it’s come a LONG way since plastic-y orange sheets of vegan cheese, but it’s still so hard to get the mouth feel and taste of animal milk cheese. But we may never get there, and that’s fine by us.

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

Post-college, we struggled a bit, partly getting lazy and but also living in a weird time with 9/11 and the shifts that came after. But we were brought back to our true center through our work, actually, when we were brought on to rebrand Farm Sanctuary and do a lot of early design work for them. It’s funny—we always say that we try to do good through our creative agency, taking on clients we think are changing the world for the better, but that time it was the other way around—they helped us.

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