Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in Chicago with my husband Tony and our son Teno. I’m the marketing manager for a global vegan food brand, Upton’s Naturals, which is also based in Chicago. I wrote a vegan cookbook called Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans and I have been blogging about vegan food since 2006 at BakeandDestroy.net.
You can find Natalie online here:
What lead you to veganism?
The internet was still pretty new when I was a senior in high school, and I spent a lot of time on message boards talking to other people who were interested in the same type of music I was into (straight edge hardcore punk). Someone posted a pig farm investigation video and I watched it without really knowing what I was getting into. I was so horrified and heart broken by what I saw I decided at that moment to never eat another pig. Over time, I realized that other animals raised for food – whether for their flesh, milk, eggs, etc. – all were treated the same horrible way. So I went vegan.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
I did a big purge, donating everything I owned that wasn’t vegan and starting over. I wouldn’t recommend it – I always advise people to phase things out as they can afford to instead. I mostly shopped at thrift stores at the time, so I was able to replace most of what I owned, but in hindsight it would have been more sustainable, not to mention affordable, to just wear and use what I owned and replace it as it wore out. The food, of course, was all in one shot. My fridge was always so empty as a young adult I really don’t think I had much to get rid of!
Are you a vegan Parent? If so, what are some of the challenges you find raising a vegan child? How have you dealt with this challenges?
My son is actually friends with other vegan and vegetarian kids at school, so we’ve been really fortunate to never have an awkward social situation. Plus it’s really cute to hear them explaining vegan food to their non-vegan friends. Kids are really receptive to new ideas, and I’m always encouraged by how willing they are to try new foods or to hear someone out about why they do things a little differently.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into products? How are you educating your child/children on veganism and compassion?
Kids ask those questions anyway. Every adult I know, vegan or not, can remember the moment they asked where meat came from and learned the truth. Even the ones who still eat meat have told me how horrified they were. I think it’s important that they know how animal products are made, I’ve always been 100% honest with my son about it.
What does being vegan mean to you?
I have a do no harm philosophy regarding all living creatures. I try to leave harmless insects where I find them, and relocate anything with the potential to bite or sting. I shared my bedroom with three huge spiders on a recent trip to Paris because I knew they were harmless and would probably eat other things I didn’t want in the room with me. I also try to support vegan-owned businesses whenever I can. It’s something I really love about my job, actually. Upton’s Naturals is vegan-owned, and we work with lots of vegan-owned companies like our PR agency, design firm, etc.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist? What form of activism do you take part in?
Activism is a really important part of being a vegan, but marching and protesting aren’t for everyone. I think that leading by example is a powerful form of activism. Make delicious food and share it so people see that we aren’t denying ourselves anything. Be patient and treat people with kindness, engage in civil discourse. And if you’re the kind of person who likes to get out there and make noise, by all means, do it because it’s all helping a compassionate cause.
Any recommended vegan books, social sites, or blogs?
The Sexual Politics of Meat really impacted me, and I’ve re-read it several times. I recommend it to every woman I know.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
My favorite thing to make is so, so simple. I have a full recipe for Noochy Noodles on my website, but in short, it’s just pasta tossed with olive oil, garlic, and nutritional yeast.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Remember that perfection isn’t the goal. Be as kind to yourself as you are to animals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
Chicago has an amazing, ever-growing vegan scene. We have a huge annual expo called Chicago VeganMania and a monthly pop-up market called Chicago Vegan Test Kitchen. Loads of restaurants, vegan-owned businesses, and tons of activists.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Vegan Facebook groups can be really great, but they can also be breeding groups for really negative people – so join your local group and if it doesn’t feel good, leave it! Check out vegan hashtags for your city, and if you don’t find many other vegans locally there’s tons of them on the internet!
What does living cruelty-free mean to you?
Living cruelty-free means making compassionate choices – choosing not to eat or wear animal products, choosing not to buy things that were tested on animals, and also showing compassion for the humans who are responsible for producing your food.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
Herbivore Clothing is a really great resource for vegan clothing, housewares and more.
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
I recently had a bit of a struggle finding ethically-made jeans that have petite sizes and don’t use leather for their tags. But it was such a specific quest, and I think most people have a hard time shopping for jeans regardless!
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
At one point I dated an omnivore who traveled a lot for his job. He wasn’t always considerate of my veganism, and I didn’t have resources like Happy Cow at the time. So there were a lot of really sad salads eaten during that time.