Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Interview with Blogger Susan Voisin of FatFree Vegan Kitchen!!

Susan Voisin :-)
I'm so excited to finally share with my interview with the brilliant and lovely Susan Voisin!  When I first became an "Esselstyn" vegan, I really struggled to find low fat recipes that met the "Esselstyn" criteria.  One of my first recipe searches introduced me to Susan's blog:  FatFree Vegan Kitchen. It was a treasure trove of delicious & healthy recipes!!  I was SO happy to discover that my husband & I were not alone in our vegan quest AND that even though we were trying to eat fat free we could do so with pleasure since her food was (& is) SO tasty!!!  

Susan's blog is awesome and she also runs several other sites, including the Fatfree Vegan site and the The Vegan Connection.

Given how incredibly popular she AND her blog are, I never dreamed that she would be willing to be interviewed on my little blog!!  But I decided to take a leap of faith and email her to ask--imagine my absolute delight & surprise when she said yes!!!  So I sent her my questions & bless her heart, she answered everyone!!  

In the course of completing the interview process, Susan has become a friend.  She is warm, kind and humble--as you can see by this interview.  I'm so happy to share her thoughts with you today & hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!!  I know that MANY of you are HUGE fans of her (like me!) so feel free to share your love in the comments section of this post!

We are all so lucky to have  Susan as one of the first trailblazers of the vegan blogosphere--without her, none of us would be here!!  Enjoy the interview!
1) I read that you became a vegetarian out of your concern for animals and then you became a vegan for health reasons.  What changes have you noticed in your total body wellness after giving up meat (over 20 years ago!) and then after giving up dairy and eggs?

It’s been so long ago (18 years since I became vegan) that I can hardly remember what I felt like before. Once thing I can say for sure is that once I became vegan, I stopped getting bronchitis every winter.  Even as a vegetarian, I would get a terrible respiratory infection every winter, but that just stopped happening once I stopped eating dairy and eggs. Who knows what other maladies I might have now if I hadn’t become vegan?

2)  In medicine, I have learned that EVERYONE has an interesting life story!  Before you started your amazing blog, what did you do with your time?  Did you ever have formal training as a chef?

I’ve always liked to cook, but I never even considered a career as a chef so no, I have no training. Up until 13 years ago, I was a college English teacher. I took a break from that to be home with my daughter when she was very young, took a few online classes in website design, and started a second career building websites. Well, it was more a hobby than a career because I had only a handful of paying clients. At the same time, I built my own vegan sites, The Vegan Connection and, later, Fatfree Vegan Recipes, and found that that I was more interested in providing information to vegans than building sites for other people. But those sites didn’t really take off--and I didn’t find my true calling--until I started my blog in 2006. Blogging let me combine the things I enjoy most: cooking, writing, educating about veganism, and photography (which was something I didn’t know I’d love until I really got into it).

3)  You started your blog in 2006 and now it is well deservedly the most popular vegan blog on the net!!  What motivated you to start blogging and what do you remember fondly about those early blogging days?

What I remember most clearly is that I didn’t even know what a blog was! I was running the Fatfree Vegan site, and Karina Allrich, who had contributed recipes to the site and had just started her Gluten Free Goddess blog, suggested that I write a blog. I thought, “Why? I already have a website.” But I looked at her blog and a couple of others and thought it looked like fun. I could just write about whatever I was making that day. I figured I’d give it a try as a sort of off-shoot of the website, and if it didn’t work out, I could always stop. I never dreamed that very quickly it would turn into the most popular part of the site.  

4)  I know that you, like me, have rode the weight loss merry-go-round over the years, once losing 100 lbs yourself!  You have shared on the blog that you recently started eating differently to lose weight and be healthier.  How does your body feel now compared to before?  What advice to you have for others who struggle to become or maintain a healthy weight?

Weight and dieting are difficult subjects for me, and I don’t like to offer advice when I still struggle with my own weight. So I stick to describing what works for me--a low-fat, vegan diet centered on vegetables, fruits, and beans and avoiding processed foods like sugar and flour. When I eat that way, I feel better all around--more energetic, fewer of the aches and pains that come with aging, and less craving for processed foods. But even though I know that, I still slip up, more often that I care to admit, so I feel that I am not anyone’s role model. 

5)  You obviously have a special heart of service and we are all so grateful for everything you give those of us in the vegan community & beyond.  That said, I know that giving can sometimes deplete us.  What inspires you to keep blogging?  How do you maintain your balance in your life to continue blogging with a joyful heart?

I love blogging--the fun of creating a new recipe, of trying to capture it beautifully in a photograph, of sharing it with others, and--especially--of getting feedback from people who try it. So for me, blogging is its own inspiration. I do sometimes hit rough patches where I’m not sure where the next recipe is coming from--after having written so many, it can start to feel like I’ve exhausted the possibilities for fat-free cooking--but then I’ll read something in a cooking magazine or a reader will ask a question that will lead me to a new idea. 

The great thing about blogging is that I fit it in around my family life, not the other way around, like most “real jobs.” So when I need a vacation, I take one (and try not to stress out about time away from the blog too much).

6)  Your recipes are creative, delicious and extremely nutrient dense.  I realize that this might be like asking you to pick amongst your children but what are your favorite recipes on your blog and why?

Why, thank you! Picking my favorite child--that’s exactly how I describe it! It would be so much quicker to tell you which of the recipes I don’t like!  One of my readers recently asked me the same thing, so what I did was go back through my recipes, find the ones that I make all the time, and add them to a category on my blog, Family Favorites: They’re not always the fanciest recipes, but they’re the ones I make over and over again and that my whole family loves.

7)  Speaking of children, I find it inspiring that you've shared that your teenage daughter has stayed on the veg-centered path.  What advice do you have for other Moms and Dads on how to guide their kids to eat healthfully without inciting a veg rebellion?!

I had it fairly easy because I raised E as a vegan from birth; trying to change kids’ tastes after they’ve acquired them must be so difficult, and I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that. I think that what has kept E vegan is that I always explained to her why we eat this way, and her compassion for animals is so strong that, other than a brief flirtation with ice cream and other dairy treats, she chose to be vegan for the animals. Now, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have the typical teenage attraction to sugar and other less-healthy foods. I can’t quite get her to be as concerned for her own health as she is for animals’, though I’m sure she eats a wider variety of vegetables than most kids her age just because she was raised eating them.

So my advice is: Explain the reasons for your diet, cook vegan at home, but once your children get old enough to make their own decisions, let them--at least outside of the home. If you don’t make it a battle, they won’t have anything to rebel against and may wind up coming back to the way you taught them. 

8)  I did part of my medical training in the rural South so I can understand the challenges of maintaining veganism without much local support or resources!!  Your town of Jackson isn't really rural, but have you had a hard time getting the food and support you need there in Mississippi?  Any tips for others living in non-veg friendly areas?

Because it’s the largest city in the state, Jackson has just about any vegan specialty item I could want, as well as several international grocery stores that make it easy to pick up ingredients that people in more isolated towns might have trouble with. So even though there isn’t a thriving vegetarian community here, I’m lucky ingredients-wise.  For people who live in areas without access to specialty foods, I recommend online shopping. Practically anything can be found online these days, so take advantage of free shipping through Amazon and other retailers.  And also take advantage of the vegan communities available online; they really kept me going when there were few vegans to talk to in my “real” life.

9)  Last question!  Everyone whats to know if and when you will be publishing a cookbook!!?  Any news to share on that front?!!

Sorry--no news!  And I am totally to blame for that. I’ve had opportunities, but I really can’t decide if I want to take time away from my blog to write a cookbook. I know myself, I’m a perfectionist, and I can’t imaging being able to do a good job at both and still have a life. So we’ll see.

Thank you Susan for taking the time to share with us today!!  You can follow her blog on Facebook here & check out her amazing blog FatFree Vegan Kitchen here!

I've written about how much I love her blog here.  And have featured her recipes MANY times on the blog:  a small sample includes my "What the Happy Nurse & I Are Eating This Week" posts (here & here & here) & "Best of the Blogosphere" posts (here here) & my "Foods that Heal" posts (here & here) & my post on Salads & on Sugar-Free sweets & Snacks!:-)  
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  1. Susan's blog made our transition to plant-based so much easier than it would have been. My parents attended Dr. McDougall's 10 day program in Santa Rosa, and the rest of the extended family went plant-based soon after. I'll never forget going to her blog and being able to find a recipe for ANYTHING I could think of. Blueberry muffins, banana bread, alfredo, chili, veggie sushi, burgers....all these recipes I found over 4 years ago I'm still using! :) And now I'm really enjoying exploring Susan's new "Family Favorites" recipe section.

    Susan, thank you for all you do! I would be lost without you and your wonderful blog. :)

  2. What a great interview! I'm new to a low fat vegan lifestyle and Susan's site has given me so many recipes and I love them all. Susan you are inspiring! Your time and energies are so appreciated!!

    Thank you,

  3. Hi, Cat! I so enjoyed meeting you at St. A's the other day, and I'm excited about your blog! My husband, the content carnivore, was a little less enthusiastic when I told him about finding another veg friend (wink!). I hope your visit to Texas was great, and I hope to see you again soon. Let me know when you guys head this direction again. Maybe we can get together! -Jennifer


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