07/10/12 - 0 Comments
The ‘Simple Pleasures’ of Vegan Dining: A Q&A with Author Cornelia Guest
Cornelia Guest is definitely one of our favorite ladies of the moment. If you’re into cruelty-free products, you probably already know her from her catering service, Cornelia Guest Events, her vegan chocolate chip cookies and her designer handbags that are 100% cruelty-free. Yes, she’s a pretty awesome woman, and now she’s branching out even further and bringing her love of food and animals into your kitchen with Cornelia Guest’s Simple Pleasures—that’s right, this is a completely vegan cookbook with amazingly flavorful recipes and some great tips on how to throw a party.
Guest herself has been a vegan for about five years and is a big fan of seasonal, local, organic cooking. But even if you’re not vegan, these dishes are too tasty to pass up. As she explains, these are simple, delicious foods that are sure to make you feel good about yourself (no matter what your opinion is of bacon), and that’s what’s most important. But why listen to us when you could have the author herself explain her philosophy?
What got you into cooking?
You know, really, my passion for animals. I was always bordering on vegetarian when I was little. I didn’t understand how animals were different. So when [my mom] got sick [with cancer], I started reading about how food affected her health and, more importantly, how the cruelty issues are getting worse and worse and worse. So I started cooking more and more and more. I always loved being in the kitchen when I was little but, as I’ve gotten more passionate, my cooking skills have grown. Well, my cooking has grown. I don’t know if my skills have grown. [Laughs]
Well you’ve published a cookbook, so you must be doing something right!
Thank you. My cooking is very simple, you know. It’s nothing fancy. I don’t like fancy food. I like very simple, delicious food.
Was cooking always something you wanted to make a career of?
No, it’s something that just sort of has come into my life. Really, I’ve embraced it more and more because, when people come to my house, they’re like, “How do you do this?,” and I’m like, “You know, this is not brain science. This is not difficult. This is easy.” I think in order for anything to be fun, when you learn, it has to be easy. You have to enjoy what you’re doing. If I see a recipe that has fifty things to do, I shut the book.
So you must be a big fan of local ingredients.
Yes, I am. And I’m a really big fan of asking people and demanding of our growers to become organic. That is the most important thing to me in the world, for everything—for the planet, for your health, for everything.
What do you think the most difficult part about being a vegan is?
You know, I don’t talk about it unless people ask me. I don’t want to be didactic about it. I don’t want to tell anybody what to do. I just want to show people an intelligent alternative, or a different way. All the recipes in Simple Pleasures can stand alone. So, if you want to have some sort of animal protein, that’s fine, you can add it. Quinoa additions are great on the side of fish, salads are delicious. They go anywhere, and I think the most difficult thing about being a vegan is showing people that it’s not weird food.
Is a cruelty-free diet different from a standard vegan diet?
No. I just like the term cruelty-free a lot better than I like the word vegan. For me, the most important thing to do is take off the label. On the front of my book, I don’t call it vegan, I just call it delicious food. So I’m trying to take all the labels off.
So it’s really about knowing your food and knowing what you’re putting on the plate.
Exactly. Just educate yourself. We speak with our wallets. That’s how this world is going to start to change.
Now, you’ve got more than recipes in your book; you’ve also got advice on entertaining. Does this tie in to a cruelty-free lifestyle?
Yes, it all does. And, you know, my book’s really an entertaining book. It’s a lifestyle book.
Do you have a favorite entertaining tip?
Well someone—and this isn’t in the book—came into my house one day and they said, “Oh my god, the dog beds are everywhere. Where should I put stuff?” I said, “What do you mean, where should you ‘put stuff’?” And she said, “The dog beds. We have to move the dog beds,” and I said, “Why?” This never occurred to me, to move a dog bed, because my dogs have the lay of the land. And I think this taught me something about really being comfortable in what you do.
That’s why my food is so simple, because I find that I want to enjoy my friends, I want to be in the kitchen, I want it to be easy. It’s got to be fun. Because people know when you’re stressed, and there’s nothing worse than walking into someone’s house and your host is making this unbelievably grand dinner, and sweat is pouring off her face and her teeth are clenched, and she’s ready to kill herself and you. It doesn’t set a great tone or energy for the evening. There’s always the time and place for some huge, elaborate dinner, but start out easy. Just remember that you’ve got to have fun because, if you have fun, your friends and your guests are going to have fun.
What about the recipes in your cookbook? Do you have a favorite?
That’s like asking you if you have a favorite child. Right now, one of my favorite recipes would be the vegetable carpaccio, because all those vegetables you can get at the farmers’ market. Everything is just so fresh now, the flavors are so great. Everything’s in season.
What do you think is one cooking mistake women make too often?
We try to be so elaborate. I’m a lot more impressed when food is delicious and simple than when it’s bad and extravagant. Simple and easy and not pretentious. No one likes pretentious. It makes everyone feel uncomfortable. So, keep it as simple as possible. What’s better than roast potatoes with some rosemary? I mean, everyone loves it.
With your cookbook, you’ve said you want to change the way people think about food and entertaining. What do you think people need to see differently?
I think people need to educate themselves about where our food comes from, and take it from there and make decisions based on what makes them feel good. If [factory farmed chicken] is something you want to consume, that’s up to you. But what I’m saying is that there is a better way.
So I guess the one thing to take away from this is that being a vegan and living a cruelty-free lifestyle is not limiting at all.
Nothing, nothing is limiting.