DBB: Hello Jaime K! I love talking to people about how they evolved into their vegan lifestyle as everyone has a different story and reasons to why they became vegan. Would you share your story?
JK: I began my blog in what was a very low point in my life. Everything I knew had changed, I became severely depressed and anxious (which had weird side effects, like for a few weeks I couldn't eat any foods you had to chew because chewing felt uncomfortable). It was that place where you literally can't get any worse, or else you do something tragic. The only other option was to try to find some purpose and get better, slowly but surely.
As I started listening to vegan podcasts, and reading books, and learning more about the ideas of nonviolence and compassion toward animals, it was giving me a hope in life and other people. And then, of course, I recognized the link in being kind to animals and being kind to ourselves.
It's kind of crazy. The blog started when I didn't want to live anymore, and now I'm making a career at out helping people find the beauty in everything (even the bad times, because that's when we learn).
Veganism also helps with how I deal with other people. I've had some people act like real jerks toward me, but I have to remember, if I'm vegan because I want to be a kind and compassionate person, I need to extend that to other people, too. It's helped me shrug off a lot of criticism I used to take personally. Now when it happens, I wish happiness for those people, because I think then you're really happy and working on your own stuff you aren't so worried about trying to tear someone else down.
DBB: You started Save The Kales 2010 and have won quite a few awards for your recipe and lifestyle blog (which is amazing and beautiful!) What advice would you give someone wanting to start a successful vegan recipe blog?
JK: Be OK with the fact that the blog will evolve as you do. I had a different idea of what my blog could be when I first started, and over time it's become more "lifestyle blog" and less recipe/news blog. The way I look at it now, I want my blog to sort of normalize veganism. So, through it I can showcase some awesome faux-leather shoes I bought, or a delicious breakfast the cook made specially for me when I went out to a non-vegan restaurant. And sometimes it's not anything directly vegan at all! I think when people can see that being vegan doesn't mean you have to suddenly live some weird, fringe lifestyle, it can be less intimidating.
And, this is huge: your blog doesn't have to be everything to everyone. You'll lose your integrity if you try to make it that way. Not everyone will like your point of view, they may disagree, they may be mad that your recipes aren't super healthy, they may be mad your recipes are too healthy and you make it looks like vegans only eat salad, they will be mad you aren't all organic, they will be mad you ARE all organic because they can't afford it, they may point out "better" blogs. Well, that's fine. They can go read those other blogs, or better yet, start their own.
You doing your own creative pursuit is not preventing anyone else from doing their own, their way. Blogging helps you get in touch with yourself (this sounds hippy-dippy, bear with me) because choosing what to put out into the world makes you pause and reflect on your life, opinions, and decisions. It's literally the best thing I've ever done.
DBB: In May this year Save The Kales became a half hour TV show that is aired online and in Pennsylvania! Which contains you making wonderful vegan dishes, and lovely community projects that are happening in your area! You must be so proud and happy with the series!
JK: The best thing about this show is that it's very much a DIY effort. With the help of friends and the wonderful crew, we make the show happen and it comes from us 100%. Being so hands-on also means we have a great opportunity to learn along the way. We learn what shots work, how many seconds you should show chopping something before it gets boring, that kind of thing. For myself, I've become a lot better at not saying "Um" as much in between sentences, and feeling overall more comfortable in front of the camera.
This also isn't like "The Jaime K Show". Being involved in my community and showcasing what awesome stuff other people are doing is very dear to my heart. That's why we have two segments in every show where we go on location to highlight a business, organization, or project and then bring on a guest to talk about their inspiring work while they get to eat whatever I cook that day! We can get caught up in hearing about negative things, but there are so many people doing a lot of good. I want to talk about that.
I love doing the show because I feel it's one of the best ways I can do my work. I'm not a painter, I'm not a musician... There are vegan chefs who much more experience, training, creative recipes, or are great cookbook writers. I never claimed to be the best vegan cook in the world. I think I'm pretty good. But I feel what I can do very well is connect with people and make something like veganism accessible and welcoming. That's why I do a show.
DBB: What meal or dessert evokes a special memory for you and why?
JK: I grew up in a Polish household, so pierogies are one of the most sentimental foods for me. (Pierogies are half-moon shaped pasta pockets filled with mashed potatoes and onions, sometimes cheese or other ingredients like sauerkraut or fruity pie filling. Then you fry them in some butter and onions!)
To this day, butter and onions (vegan butter!) is one of my FAVORITE smells, even if I'm cooking something else entirely. Also, my cat is named Pierogi and he's soft and there's a chance he's full of mashed potatoes. ;)
DBB: What are three ingredients you couldn't live without?
JK: Nutritional yeast, sriracha (or hot sauce/peppers), garlic.
DBB: I give you a bag containing these ingredients, aubergine (eggplant!) quinoa, spicy seitan sausage, chocolate, raspberries, what would you make?
JK: Slice the eggplant thin, and roll it up with the sausage in the middle. Cover in a red sauce. For dinner I'd like to make a quinoa pudding with chocolate, raspberries, and maybe some coconut milk!
By the way, "Aubergine" is an adorable word.
DBB: What is your favourite recipe book?
JK: It's absolutely impossible to pick a favorite. I get sometimes as many as 5-10 new cookbooks a month! But I'll tell you about my first vegan cookbook. I think it was 2003 and it was "The Garden of Vegan" by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard. The cover sold me: they are sitting in vintage dresses having a picnic in the grass, and they have all these pretty colorful tattoos. I felt like I could be friends with them in real life. Then I remember going to the store with my mom to buy white miso paste, which was completely foreign to me... though now I use it a few times a week! This sounds sappy, but the pictures and little stories in the book made me feel like a had a connection to the authors. They were girls who looked like me and my friends, and they had a published book -- still the most rockstar job, in my eyes!
DBB: What would be your perfect afternoon?
If it's a sunny day: All of the above in condensed form, then finding a small town to explore. I grew up going on weekends trips to small towns, checking out antique shops and used book stores eating in shiny silver diners. Every little place has a personality, and getting to explore that for an afternoon feels like someone has welcomed you into their home.
You can find out more about Jaime K and Save The Kales at: