A month ago I was invited to celebrate Leigh Drew’s new cookbook, Greenlicious, 101 Ways to Love Your Greens. It was a marvellous event! I was able to eat ALL of the food for once.
You see, when I go to events, as you can imagine, most times it is a non-vegan event. I’d often get a special meal and most times people are very accommodating of my dietary needs but there’s nothing like the freedom of being able to eat everything on the table without having to check the ingredients or interrogate the waiting staff. I shared some photos from Leigh’s event in my weekly recap video – you can check it out here.
Now back to this cookbook. Greenlicious shows all the different ways you can eat more greens and illustrates just how versatile and delicious veggies can be. It was a real pleasure to meet Leigh in person, she is so warm and friendly and passionate about her food. The book is also co-authored by Amanda Benham, an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, which makes her ideal to answer any questions surrounding plant-based nutrition.
I bought the book, got it signed, and I felt healthier already. I asked Leigh and her publisher (Arbon Publishing) if I could interview her. Here’s how it went down.
PS: Make sure you read all the way to the bottom of the page for an exciting announcement.
Hi Leigh, congratulations on this amazing book! I have been reading it for a few days now and I love it. It’s so informative and full of simple and delicious looking recipes. What inspired you to write this book?
We should all be eating more greens – me definitely included – and I think we all get bogged down with the idea of being “good” and “having” to eat greens. I really wanted to write recipes that made people want to eat their greens, over and over again!
I know that you’re a long-term vegan but would you mind sharing your transition story and what made you choose this compassionate lifestyle?
I had been vegetarian on and off for most of my life, and consistently since about 1998. I had some vegan friends who I started cooking with all of the time and realised that vegan food was easy, tempting, fun and any excuses I had for not becoming vegan (cheese!! Cheese!!) melted away with that realisation. I didn’t really do much investigation of the ethical side of veganism until I started running cooking classes and being asked lots of questions. I consider myself an ethical vegan – I’m definitely in it for the animals! – and I find living this compassionate life has provided so much joy and so many opportunities that I would never have had otherwise. Writing and publishing multiple cookbooks, for example.
I’m always interested to hear stories from people like yourself who made the brave decision to go out on their own pursuing their passion. How did it all start and what are some of the challenges you face as a vegan-preneur?
Well, my main challenge is that my vegan-preneurism is done around my full time day job at the moment!! I guess my vegan advocacy work – which I do through cooking – started with my blogging vegan recipes. Having done that for a while, I then approached the Sydney Community College in regards to running vegan cooking classes. This was in about 2005, I think. They said yes, and I ran vegan cooking classes through them for about 3 years, on and off.
The success of the recipes that I wrote for the cooking classes and my finding a vegan shopping guide published by aduki books in Melbourne led me to contacting aduki and suggesting that they publish a cookbook by me. And they said yes!! I’ve been very lucky, having so many people saying yes to me and my ideas! My first cookbook, Vegan Indulgence, was published in 2008, followed by Wrapped in Pastry in 2011. These both led to me having Veganissimo: Beautiful Vegan Food and Greenilicious: 101 Ways to Love Your Greens published by Arbon Publishing. I feel very lucky to be able to follow this passion of mine, though I would like to find a way that I could do it full time!
What do you love most about writing recipes?
I love writing recipes – the work that goes into that, the research and knowledge that I gain through the research, and then hitting on a fabulous end result! (The not-so-fabulous end results have become fewer as I’ve gained experience over time, thankfully). I love meeting people through the cookbooks – people who are using the recipes to reach other people about the joys of vegan food, people who have gained confidence in their cooking by using the recipes, people who ask lots of questions at my cooking demonstrations and make me stretch my brain. Obviously, the most amazing thing about my not-day-job is knowing (or at least hoping) that every day I am contributing to the greater vegan advocacy movement.
I know this might be hard to answer but if you could list your 3 most favourite vegan foods, what would they be?
1. Vegan mac and cheese. There are so many different ways to make vegan mac and cheese, so many different spins on cheesy and creamy and rich and healthy and protein packed and vegetable packed vegan mac and cheese that I think you could make vegan mac and cheese every day for a year and you’d barely have scraped the surface of the recipes out there.
2. Nutritional yeast. Not necessarily something that I would recommend for the newbie vegan, as it is a taste that can take some getting used to, but it’s an invaluable addition to the vegan pantry. Whether you use it in vegan cheese, vegan sauces, vegan tofurky or seitan, or just sprinkled on top of your lunch, it adds its unique umami nature to everything.
3. Green smoothies. Mostly because I often find that I don’t eat enough raw greens, and these smoothies are an amazing way to get lots of greens into your diet.
What tips do you have for others who are new to this vegan/ plant-based lifestyle?
1. Remember that every meal does not have to be an Instagramariffic meal. Sometimes you’re going to have a peanut butter and jam (or tahini or almond butter or just jam) sandwich, and that’s just fine. In fact, that’s just delicious and now I want one. You’re making me want one now too, Leigh….
2. Everyone will ask you where you get your protein/iron/calcium from. Just smile and say “from what I eat” and continue on with your day. You could provide examples of the different foods that provide this, but really, talking when you could be eating delicious vegan food? Yeah, keep eating ;)
3. Get a food processor. A food processor is the cornerstone of a lot of vegan recipes and it makes life so much easier.
4. Connect with other vegans over the magical interwebs machine. Vegans own the internet. We are everywhere. So support, many recipes, wow.
What exciting plans do you have for the future?
I am working on recipes for another cookbook. But then, I am always working on recipes for another cookbook!! Hopefully more about that can be revealed eventually. I’m going to rest up a bit from the vegan whirlwind that is October/November (World Vegan Day falling on November 1 gives vegans an action packed couple of months) and explore the amazing vegan wonderland that is Berlin.
Finally, how could we learn more about you and your work?
You can also check out my personal Instagram @zuckerbaby.1 – it’s mostly awful food photos and pictures of cats – and personal Twitter @ZuckerBaby (note, I whinge a lot and talk rarely about my cookbooks on there – it is a truly personal occasionally TMI account), as well as my much neglected blog zbveganrecipes2.blogspot.com.
About Leigh Drew:
Leigh Drew is a passionate vegan cook and cookbook author who seeks to bring joy to the world through the medium of delicious food. She also likes cats, tattoos and genre media.
Isn’t she great? You can really tell how fun Leigh is in real life. I love this interview. I hope you are now inspired to eat more greens. I am. Do check out Arbon Publishing and learn more about Greenilicious.
Here’s a preview of the cookbook:
As promised, here’s the exciting announcement
I will be giving out 1 or 2 cookbooks for you through a giveaway just in time for Christmas. Would you like that?
Watch this space. If you’re not already on my VIP list, subscribe using the bar on top of this page or here so you can be the first to know :)
Until then, eat your way to health and happiness, one spoonful at a time.
Keep smiling xx,
Question: What’s your favourite greens? Mine is Kale and Spinach. I love love kale…