Welcome to a new series here on Generation Cake interviwing smart, inspiring, and just crazy cool women.
It’s not secret that I have a culinary crush on the first Wild Woman, vegan blogger and cookbook author Bianca Phillips. Readers of her blog, Vegan Crunk, get a taste of vegan eating in the dirty South where some sad lentils just won’t cut it. Her cookbook, Cookin’ Crunk, features a number of classic Southern recipes for the vegan home cook who wants to cut animal products without cutting taste. Starting February 19, Phillips is running a week long social media campaign called Keep on Crunkin’. She’ll be posting recipes from the book on her blog, as well as Cookin’ Crunk apron and book giveaways (I am dying for an apron). There will also be some guest chefs “crunking” their recipes. For more details, visit http://www.veganmainstream.com/keep-on-crunkin-cookin-crunk-bianca-phillip.
And now . . . Wild Woman Bianca Phillips
After a number of years as a vegetarian, why did you elect to take the step into veganism?
I was a vegetarian for 10 years and then went vegan. And I’ve been vegan now for 8 years. But at the time that I went vegan, in 2004, I had just begun getting active in the animal rights movement, mostly through PETA. We had formed a Memphis-based AR club, and we were doing regular circus and KFC protests. I met a few nice vegans through that work, and they opened my eyes to factory farm cruelty beyond just meat. Once I knew how dairy cows and egg-laying hens were treated, I couldn’t eat them anymore.
You started your food blog, Vegan Crunk, in 2007 to share your experiences veganizing Southern food. What are the greatest challenges and rewards of food blogging?
The only real challenge for me is fitting daily blogging into my sometimes hectic routine. I always blog at night, right before bed. But sometimes, I’m busy right up until bedtime, and I have to stay up late to blog. But no matter what, I always find the time … even if I’m sleepier the next day for staying up late blogging. As for rewards, I love having a community of readers and other vegan bloggers who I consider my friends (even though I haven’t met many of them in real life). Also, I love having a forever record of all the important meal moments in my life. Since I live to eat, meals are precious memories.
So it’s probably no secret that I am a huge groupie of your cookbook, Cookin’ Crunk. What led you to write your own cookbook and what was that process like?
Back in 2007, I realized I was slowly amassing a collection of recipes from blogging. And then I realized there were no vegan Southern cookbooks on the market (this was before Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen). So I decided to write one! My mama and my granny helped me veganize some of their recipes, and I used old Southern cookbooks from my mom’s collection for a little inspiration. Of course, Bryant’s book beat me to the Southern vegan thing. But our styles are very different. Love that guys! He’s a Memphis native too!
(editor note: Must get to Memphis as it appears to be home of vegan geniuses.)
What is one Must Try recipe from your book?
My very fave recipe is the Country Fried Tempeh Steak with Soymilk Gravy. I also offer a baked alternative. Both are good, but I highly recommend trying it fried at least once. Live a little!! (editor note: The baked is ridiculously good.)
If there was a foodie version of Mythbusters, what vegan myth would you love to see busted?
Probably the myth that veganism is expensive. That was one of the things holding me back before I went vegan. At the time, I lived on convenience foods, like TV dinners and frozen pizzas. When I looked at the price of vegan versions, I believed it must cost an arm and a leg to go vegan. But then, after I went vegan, I really started cooking from scratch and discovered whole plants foods are cheap! Way cheaper then meat. Costly vegan convenience foods should be saved for occasional indulgences when you’re on a budget. Also, bulk bins are your best friend.
What tips do you have for those wishing to try on the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle?
I always tell people who say they could never give up cheese and are scared to try vegan cheeses to give it up for one month. Just one month. No cheese or vegan cheese for one month. Learn to prepare meals without it. During that month, read up on the dairy industry and watch the sad videos. At the end of the month, try some vegan cheese, like Daiya or Punk Rawk Labs cheese. By then, you’ll have lost your taste for dairy cheese and you won’t be as likely to compare vegan stuff to dairy products. It’s not the same, but you’ll learn to appreciate those vegan versions for themselves.
What role does running play in your life?
I started running a couple years ago. Before, I had a gym membership but I only did classes, like yoga and boxing. I didn’t think I could run without dying because, even though I was in shape, I couldn’t run without huffing and puffing. Then I started a really basic couch to 5K program and went at my own pace. Now I’m addicted. I run three days a week and get in six miles runs on Saturdays. It’s how I meditate and find inner peace and all that shit. Running takes me somewhere else in my mind. It’s the perfect escape. Later this year, I plan to run my first half-marathon.
I’m a fellow Southern girl, but I’ve never been to Memphis. If we had 24-hours and limitless funds, what would we do to get crazy in your town?
I’d suggesting starting the morning at Brother Juniper’s for vegan breakfast. They have the best tofu scramble (stuffed with kalamata olives and roasted red peppers) and fried taters. Then for lunch, I’d send you to Balewa’s Vegan Gourmet for one of his live burgers (raw veggie patty on Ezekiel bread) and maybe a bowl of raw broccoli soup or some of his famous un-cookies. And then for dinner, you would HAVE to go Imagine Vegan Cafe for anything on their massive, awesome menu. The chicken fried “steak” and the macaroni and “cheese” are my faves. Or the French dip sub. Or the Vegan Memphis sandwich (BBQ seitan with coleslaw) for a real Memphis ‘cue experience. Grab one the vegan cakes from Swell Baked Goods sold at Imagine for dessert later. Oh, and sometime during that day, I’d recommend stopping by Cosmic Coconut for a vegan smoothie and some kale chips!
You have fantastic taste in music and movies. If movies still came on VHS, what movie could you watch over and over until it broke the tape?
Um, the Neverending Story 1 and 2 all the way!! I’m having Falkor tattooed on my leg next week! I actually do have those movies on DVD and I have watched them over and over. 🙂
(editor note: Fingers crossed for a picture of the final ink!)
I’m a sucker for cute animal stories. Any stories you can share about your rad pups?
Well, I have two dogs — a lab mix and a pit mix — named Datsun (he’s 11) and Maynard (he’s 2). Datsun is a lover. He’s super well-mannered, and he loves nothing more than a good game of fetch. Maynard is a little hellcat. He likes to get crunk and crazy and jump on people and chase cats and tear toys to bits. But every once in awhile, I’ll catch him sleeping on the couch and not acting crazy. That’s when he’s the cutest. I also have six cats — Akasha, Pandora, Polaris, Gelfing, Ozzy, and Seymour. My house is basically a domestic animal rescue sanctuary. 🙂
Thanks to Bianca for answering my questions and for being generally fantastic (she loves Tori Amos and Labyrinth!). Animal lover, vegan, Southern girl, and general hip chick–my definition of a Wild Woman.