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Q & A with Brian Patton about The Sexy Vegan Cookbook
Brian Patton is author of The Sexy Vegan Cookbook and is executive chef for Vegin’ Out, a vegan food delivery service in Los Angeles. As the quintessential “regular dude” vegan chef, he started posting instructional cooking videos on YouTube as his witty, ukulele playing alter-ego “The Sexy Vegan” and quickly gained a large following. Visit him online at www.thesexyvegan.com.
How did you come to write your book?
I was just a guy in his little apartment, with a crappy camera and limited editing skills. I gained somewhat of a following by making silly cooking videos and posting them to YouTube.com, my sexyvegan.com website, and various other social media outlets. Then one day I got an email from someone claiming to be a book publisher asking me if I wanted to write a cookbook. After I verified that this was indeed a real person from a real publisher, and not one of my idiot friends messing with me (which wouldn’t have been the first time), I agreed to let them pay me to write a cookbook — and here I am!
What was the defining moment that helped you decide to be a vegan?
For me, there was no one moment. I switched to a vegan diet as an experimental kickstart in hopes of losing weight. I was around 260 pounds and I felt terrible all the time. And since I was the only meat eater working for a vegan company (Vegin’ Out, L.A.’s premier vegan meal delivery service, where I’m now executive chef, www.veginout.com), I thought I’d give it a try for a month. I started to feel better and lost a few pounds, so I went another month, and another month. Ten months later, I had lost 60 pounds and felt better than I had in my entire life. But just because I had adopted a vegan diet didn’t mean I was a full-on, level 10 vegan. I had been gradually becoming conscious about the other aspects, like not buying leather belts or wool socks. And let me tell you, my silk underwear collection took a big hit that first year. Then one day, I instinctively trapped an interloping spider with a cup and a piece of cardboard instead of stomping on it. My roommate walked into the room while I was escorting it outside and said, “Dude what are you doing?” I said, “I don’t know, but I guess I don’t kill spiders anymore either.” My perspective had shifted. In that moment, I saw a being just trying to go about its day, like we all do. I thought, “We earthlings don’t really know what we are in the grand scheme of things…maybe we’re just a lucky spider that hasn’t gotten stepped on yet.” I finally saw what it meant to “do no harm.” And I think that was the moment when I reached the top of the vegan pyramid. My “spider moment.”
What advice do you have for people looking to transition to a healthier way of eating?
The most important step is to take an interest in your food. We only need to do two things to stay alive: breathe and eat — and one of those things takes care of itself! It’s strange how often we completely neglect the ONE other thing that is tied for first place in the “keeping us alive” category. I know, there’s no time, right? Isn’t there? Do you really need to see the ENTIRE 4 hour results show of whatever talent competition you’re invested in? Do you really need to see Snooki fall down drunk AGAIN?? Ok, well I do like seeing that, but what I’m saying is, with a couple tweaks to your daily routine you can give yourself plenty of time to prepare fresh homemade meals. That’s where your transition must begin.
What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about being vegan?
In Los Angeles we have an exponentially expanding number of vegan eateries, so people are pretty hip to the fact that vegan food can be diverse, creative, and delicious. But when I go home to visit the family in Northeastern Pennsylvania and someone hands me a plate full of grass and sticks from outside (hardy-har-har, Dad), I can see a major misconception: vegan food lacks variety. This, of course, could not be further from the truth. Go look in your average grocery store. How many types of meat can you buy? Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, and a few varieties of seafood. What’s that? Like five different things? Now go to the produce section. How many different fruits and vegetables do you see? Thirty? Forty? Fifty? How many different beans? How many different grains? I’ve never actually counted, but that sure looks like variety to me.
What are some good recommendations of dishes to make for non-vegan friends?
If you want to help inspire a permanent change in someone else, it will not happen overnight. You may have the best veggie burger recipe on the planet, but a meat eater will eat it and say, “this is nice, but it’s not meat.” You’ve got to ease them in. Don’t try to directly replace meat right off the bat. It will backfire. Meat is tough to mimic. You’ve got to pick something that still closely resembles its non-vegan counterpart. The Lasagna Fauxlognese recipe from my book is a perfect example. You’ve got to appeal to all senses. First, it looks and smells just like lasagna. Second, they take a bite, and the textures of the cashew ricotta and the tofu fauxlognese sauce are so reminiscent of the non-vegan versions that they won’t even register a difference. Finally, their taste buds kick in, and guess what? They taste a meaty, cheesy lasagna! That is partly because it actually does taste like a meaty cheesy lasagna, but also because you have attacked all of their senses. That is the key.