Sarah Kramer

Scott Laming talks to Sarah Kramer about dining out, guiltless cheesecake, and veganism today.

In the city of Victoria, BC, where AbeBooks.com resides, lives a woman by the name of Sarah Kramer. She co-owns a local tattoo shop, is an avid photographer, and has also written three renowned vegan cookbooks - How It All Vegan, In the Garden of Vegan, and most recently La Dolce Vegan.

The books are general cookbooks for a vegan lifestyle, and run the gambit from snacks to supper to sweets all without the use of any animal products (ie: meat, dairy, eggs, etc). Before we begin I’m not a vegan, I’m not even vegetarian but do in fact have a copy of How It All Vegan, and cook from it. The Chili is to die for.

Sarah didn’t exactly plan to write cookbooks all her life. She tells me that back in the early 90's she and her co-author Tanya Barnard were trying to come up with an inexpensive home-made gift idea to give away as Christmas presents since neither of them had a lot of money. “I had just received a computer as a wedding present so Tanya suggested that we write a cookbook,” explains Sarah. “We threw some recipes together and designed a small 50-page cookbook in Microsoft Publisher, printed them out and bound them in my living room.” Their friends and family loved the book so much that they decided to print another run, this time of 1000. “We sold them at punk rock shows and over the Internet and we sold out almost immediately.” The light bulb had gone off and Sarah “wrote a cheeky book proposal” and within three days they had a book deal with Arsenal Pulp Press. “It was CRAZY!! We were in the right place at the right time” explains Sarah. The book now has sold over 150,000 copies and is one of the bestselling books at Arsenal Pulp Press. “So How it All Vegan was the first thing you ever had published” I ask. “Well I did get a letter to the editor published in a magazine once, that counts right?” she says with a laugh.

Having traveled with a vegan friend through Germany I realized what a challenge any restriction on ones diet can make, especially on a road trip. Vegan diet requirements compounded by our complete inability to speak German made mealtime a challenge so I wanted to know if Sarah had ever experienced such problems. She assured me that starvation was never an issue “it’s never hard to find vegan food... you just have to be resourceful,” she recommends stocking up when you find a market and take snacks with you. Either that or know the hot spots in the cities you're visiting, she explains that most cities have good vegetarian and vegan eateries and I wanted to know the cream of the crop. Having just returned from New York, Sarah drops a couple names off the top of her head. “Hangawai is a Korean vegan restaurant that is always such a crazy food experience, I can't even explain how wonderful it is. I always order the Emperors Meal which is a seven course meal. They bring out dish after dish of amazing food. I have no idea what I'm eating... but it rocks my socks every time I go there. Red Bamboo is another good one, it does fantastic comfort food. Faux Fish with vegan tartar sauce, Mock Chicken Drumsticks with a mock Blue Cheese dipping sauce. My husband's fav dish to order is The Faux Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich. Cha Ya in Berkeley is tops too, some of the best Japanese food I’ve ever eaten.”

There’s a lot of misconception about being vegan, such as thinking you’ll be eating nothing but raw fruit and lentil soup but it also goes further then that. “Some people think we’re all angry which is sad as almost every vegan I’ve ever met is compassionate, passionate and lovely.” As an outsider looking in I think that attitudes towards vegetarianism and veganism are changing, it helps that many of the veg products (faux meats, soy/rice milk etc) are vastly improving and entering mainstream markets. Sarah also brings up that for some, the choice is an environmental one quoting that “20 vegetarians can live off the land required by one meat eater.” Oh and after one quick look through any of Ms. Kramer’s cookbooks you’ll see there’s much more than lentil soup.

Finishing things off with a few rapid fire questions:

Guilty food pleasure?
I eat without guilt.

What’s your favorite recipe in your new book, La Dolce Vegan?
I had a lot of reader input with the new book and my friend Wolffie contributed a large amount of recipes, each one stellar. I would have to say that her Apricot Cheesecake Recipe on page 242 is one of my favs.

What made you decide to go vegan in the first place?
That's a long story... *laugh*... and I explain most of it in the introduction to How It All Vegan.

Are your books available in Europe?
The books are available world wide. I get letters from readers in Germany, Australia, even as far as Nova Scotia. *laugh*.

Books you can’t live without?
I am hooked on Scarlett Thomas's books. Popco is a terrific read and has a vegetarian main-character (woo hoo) and I am currently reading her new book The End of Mr. Y. She's an amazing writer. I also encourage everyone who's interested in learning about veganism to read Becoming Vegan by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis. It will answer just about any question you might have about vegan nutrition. Also any of the cookbooks by Isa Moskowitz, she writes fantastic cookbooks.

[Find copies of How It All Vegan] [See all books by Sarah Kramer]