Elizabeth Castoria is a freelance writer and the former editorial director of VegNews Magazine, where she shared the fun, ease, and variety of the vegan lifestyle with readers around the globe. She recently came out with an adorable little book about going vegan called How To Be Vegan. I had the opportunity to chat with Elizabeth recently and we chatted about her new book, food and veganism in general.
Chic Vegan – What motivated you to become vegan? Was it an overnight switch or more gradual shift?
Elizabeth Castoria – When I was about 14 or 15, I was eating a piece of chicken and I found a vein in it. For some reason, that really struck a chord with me, and I instantly made the connection that what I was eating used to be a living animal. That immediately prompted me to stop eating meat. Then, when I was 17, I was dating a cute dude who was vegan, and he encouraged me to make the switch. So I did. And, like all decisions made in your teenage years for some dude, it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done and has changed my life in so many wonderful ways.
CV – When people learn that you are vegan, what is the #1 question they ask and what is your response?
EC – “What about cheese?!” is still something that comes up pretty frequently. There are a zillion great vegan cheese options out there these days, so try them all! If someone adopts a vegan diet while they’re sampling all the available dairy-free cheeses, that process alone is likely to add up to a month or so of vegan living, at which point their habits will have shifted and they’ll be hooked. Sneaky activism at its best!
CV – Tell me a little bit about your wonderful new book How to be Vegan and what inspired you to write it.
EC – The inspiration for the book came in the form of a phone call from my publisher, Artisan Books, asking me to write it! They had noticed the growing interest in vegan living and wanted to address the demand. Since I was editorial director of VegNews and had been vegan myself for so many years, Artisan’s associate publisher, Lia, thought I’d be the right fit to do it. It was that perfect combination of right place, right time, right expertise, and right contacts. I feel extremely fortunate.
CV – Did you learn anything that surprised you while researching the book?
EC – Since the book is really a starting point for anyone who’s interested in veganism, there wasn’t a huge amount of research that I needed to do since I’ve been vegan for so long. It was more about thinking through the decisions that I automatically make now, and trying to figure out what aspects of this lifestyle can be challenging for those who are new to it. For example, I automatically look up menus online when I’m going to a new restaurant to see what they have that’s either already vegan or easily veganizeable, but someone who’s just starting out might not necessarily think to do so.
CV – Robin Robertson provided the recipes for How to be Vegan. How did you get her involved with the book?
EC –Again my editor was amazing and really wanted Robin to do the recipes. I am not a recipe person, I’m much more the throw-together-whatever-is-in-the-house-and-hope-for-the-best type, which doesn’t always yield the most delicious results. I’d worked with Robin for years at the magazine, and was absolutely thrilled that she had time in her completely insane cookbook-writing schedule to do this. She’s just fantastic!
CV – Do you have any heroes in the vegan world?
EC – So many! There are really so very many people who fall into this category because there are people working on every aspect of making the world a more animal-friendly place. Picking one or two to name feels very unfair!
CV – What do you typically eat in the span of a day? Are you a snacker?
EC – There’s this funny e-card that says something like “My diet is best described as an unattended child at a birthday party.” The only real constant in my life is coffee (without which, I am useless and cranky), and I generally try to eat a salad once per day. Otherwise, it’s a haze of quesadillas, oatmeal, pizza, and bread. My boyfriend and I have both been getting into making bread at home recently, which has been really fun. It’s also made for a lot of bread pudding in my life, which is to say that I’m very, very happy. I don’t snack a ton, but if I do it’s usually Trader Joe’s peanut butter-filled pretzels or the toasted seaweed snacks.
CV – What is your favorite vegan indulgence?
EC – This is kind of like the heroes question—there are so many! I’ll say that dining at Crossroads in LA is just a mind- and taste-bud-blowing experience. Everything there is top-notch. But for something that I indulge in more than just when I’m in LA, a solid glass of champagne and some St. Germain does the trick.
CV – What vegan product could you not live without?
EC – Earth Balance. Like I said, there’s a lot of bread going on in my house, and if it were possible to live healthfully just eating bread and butter, I probably would!
CV – In your wildest dreams what will your life look like in 5 years?
EC – Honestly, I hope that my life looks really similar to how it does now, except that I’d like to spend more time on tropical islands. I’m healthy, I’m learning, I have an amazing partner and ridiculously wonderful family and friends, and there are lots of fun professional opportunities on the horizon. In five years, I hope that I’ve developed some of those opportunities into rewarding, interesting work, but the basics of my life are very good; I’m very lucky.