Thanks so much to Rachel for taking the time to answer all my burning questions! It’s so nice to have a vegan friend in town! And thanks to YOU for reading my first interview here on The Vegan Steven! Enjoy!
Name: Rachel Rattenborg
How long you’ve been vegan: About 8 months.
Why did you decide to go vegan?: I’ve always avoided red meats and tried to eat as few processed foods as possible. I dabbled with being a vegetarian in college when I was first really exposed to it, but didn’t maintain that after I graduated. I have been dairy-free for about two years, so that wasn’t as much of a challenge. When I moved away from my hometown, it was harder for me to find ethically sourced animal products (well, all food in general) from places and people I knew and trusted. I also started watching a ton of documentaries about industrial farming on Netflix and that was the final straw. I’d highly recommend watching Food, Inc., What The Health, Cowspiracy, and the show Rotten. I just couldn’t justify compromising my morals for convenience anymore.
Favorite vegan food:
DONUTS. (Huge shout out to Rachel for bringing us back the most glorious vegan donuts from the east coast.)
Vegan products you can’t live without: I always have dry beans, whole grains, nut milk, vegan butter, and spices on hand – you can make ANYTHING as long as you have those basics!
What’s something you want others to know about a vegan lifestyle: How freeing it is! I thought that going vegan would be restrictive because of the elimination of animal products, but it’s really diversified my cooking skills! It is so much easier to go to the grocery store when you can completely skip entire sections of it. I promise.
Any challenges you’ve run into?: I went vegan in a small city and then moved back to my hometown, a small rural town in Iowa literally surrounded by dairy and pigs. I definitely got used to having vegan options in restaurants in a bigger city, it’s been a challenge finding things I can eat when I go out with my family and friends. But I know at least one item on the menu at all my favorite spots in town now, so I always have a go-to wherever I’m eating out. That’s been tremendously helpful!
Any advice you’d give to people just starting out or interested in becoming vegan?: Google is your best friend! Want to know what candy to buy for Halloween? Just Google it. Traveling to a new city and need a place for dinner? Google it. Looking for that perfect vegan Oreo cheesecake truffle recipe? Google it. Sick of people picking fights about protein with you and need a witty comeback? Google. It. Interested in why honey isn’t vegan but not sure how you personally feel about it? That’s right, Google it! AND, like, you’re definitely going to consume an animal product in some form, at some point, it’s inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up about it, and don’t use that as a reason to not keep with it! The goal isn’t perfection, not by a long shot. Just keep being as aware as you can be, educating yourself, and trying your best and you’ll be just fine.
Favorite vegan restaurant: APTEKA in Pittsburgh! (http://aptekapgh.com/menu/) They were voted Best Restaurant in Pittsburgh in 2016 and they definitely live up to the hype. I still have dreams about their salads and pierogies! Oh and their vegetable pate! And the floral sodas…. okay, I love everything there!
What’s the best thing about being vegan?: Getting to share it with my friends and family! I’m so fortunate to have people in my life who are supportive and curious – and willing to go to vegan restaurants with me when I go to visit them! It’s really nice to be able to cook a vegan meal for a friend and then talk about the ethics behind it.
Anything else you’d like to talk about: Thanks for asking me to participate, it was so much fun answering these questions. A few of them are things I’ve never taken the time to really put into words, so this has been helpful for me as well! It’s been a real treat sharing recipes, donuts, and other small town advice with you! Maybe one day we’ll open a vegan breakfast joint together! (Likewise, Rachel! It would be a dream to open a vegan restaurant here in little northeast Iowa! :D)