This week meet Vaishali from Holy Cow ! Recipes from a Vegan kitchen on the Super blogger series. With more than 300 recipes on her blog and posts related to animal rights and ayurveda, she explains the necessity to turn Vegan. Lets hope she succeeds in her mission of stopping cruelty against animals..All the best
EC: Tell us something about yourself. How do you manage your blog and family ?
Vaishali: I've been writing Holy Cow! for just over two years now. The blog is a result of three of my great passions-- eliminating cruelty toward animals, writing, and cooking delicious food, in that order. I have always loved animals but I thoughtlessly ate meat and milk products almost all of my life. When I got involved with animal rescue, I realized that the dogs and cats I was saving were no different from the chicken, goats, pigs and cows who were suffering lives of abject terror and cruel deaths in factory farms which supply most of the meat and milk we consume today. So I gave it all up, but I was more determined than ever before to eat well. I started to experiment with vegan cooking and baking and found that not only was it an easy transition, but everything I made was better tasting and better for me than anything with animal products in it. Through my blog, I wanted to share this discovery and hopefully get readers thinking about eating compassionately.
I work full time and I have a huge family-- my husband, Desi, (who shoots all the pictures for Holy Cow!) and my three dogs and two cats, all rescues and all wonderful, so keeping up with the blog definitely requires a lot of juggling. But when you love blogging as much as I do, you make time for it. My posting schedule changes based on how busy I am at work or at home, but if I feel myself slackening, I remind myself that there are readers who look forward to seeing new material on the blog-- even my long, rambling posts on animal issues and things unrelated to cooking :).
EC: Who and what inspired you to start food blogging ?? How did you come up with the name of the blog ?
Vaishali: I was seeing a growing number of food blogs on the web, and there was one I really liked-- Nupur's One Hot Stove -- because her recipes gave me a chance to reconnect with my Maharashtrian heritage. (My mom, who died when I was seven, was a Maharashtrian.) But I didn't think about blogging myself until much later because I had a very busy career as a journalist, and writing a blog seemed like too much work.
Desi, who is the wittiest man I know, came up with the blog name which is a tongue-in-cheek play on the Hindu belief that cows are holy even though dairy cows in India are among the most exploited and abused animals. The dangerous practice of factory-farming dairy cows in inhumane conditions has migrated to India. In tabelas, which have replaced family dairy farms all over the country, cows and buffaloes stand all day in their own feces and suffer from untreated diseases. They are confined in small stalls where they can barely move, and are pumped with hormones to make them produce more milk. They are forcibly impregnated so they will keep giving milk.
The average life of a cow is 14 years, but a dairy cow is killed for meat and leather at the age of 4-- even in India. So anyone who thinks that by buying milk they are not contributing to animal cruelty and death is sadly mistaken. And through Holy Cow! I try -- gently-- to educate readers about this.
EC: How do you think blogging has changed your life ?
Vaishali: It has definitely changed my life for the better. I always loved to cook, but when I became vegan and started to share my recipes, I became more experimental. I found that instead of restricting my diet, my new lifestyle as a vegan had opened me to all kids of amazing and healthful new ingredients. Not only did I feel better about leading a compassionate life, I was also healthier. My blog was my way of reaching out to anyone who would listen and say, hey, you might enjoy this too if you gave it a chance.
Through my blog I also met lots of readers and other bloggers who I really grew to like (one reader, Roshani, who also lives in Washington DC, is a close friend now after we met through the blog). Ever so often a reader will write in and say that Holy Cow! inspired them to give up milk or eat less meat, or at least to start thinking about it, and it makes me happier than I can say.
EC: Have your recipes been copied anywhere without your permission..How would you deal with plagiarism ?
Vaishali: Plagiarism is a huge problem for bloggers, and of course I've run into a few copycats-- two just recently who copied my vegan challah bread recipe. I usually write to the blogger/writer asking them to take down the recipe or photograph or to credit Holy Cow! and some will do so, but there are others who refuse to budge. I believe there are some avenues, like writing to Blogger or Wordpress to complain about the plagiarizing site, but I haven't really tried that to see if it works.
EC: You seem to have explored various cuisines, vegan recipes and also some ayurveda related recipes..Tell us something about it and your favourite among them
Vaishali: I love cooking food from around the world and I encourage readers and other bloggers to do it too through my recurring food event, It's A Vegan World, where we explore cuisine from one country in one month. I love Mexican, Middle Eastern and Caribbean cuisines because they are vibrant and full of complex flavors, but at the risk of sounding biased and unadventurous I must say that it is Indian food that gets me the most excited. My tastebuds are just too stubborn, I guess :)
When I cook, I am always mindful of the fact that the food we eat is the foundation for our health. Most of us are careful about what we put down the garbage disposal, so shouldn't we have a higher standard for our bodies? With everything I cook I try to ensure that it is not just healthy but well-balanced nutritionally. I find cooking and eating the Ayurvedic way fascinating because it talks about balancing flavors and eating to serve your particular body type, which is great.
EC: What are your recipe sources ? Do you cook specifically for the blog ?
Vaishali: I tend to come up with a lot of original recipes because I have been cooking a long time now and I like to think I have a good sense of which ingredients work together, and which don't. But I do, of course, have my favorite cookbooks, including the baking section of the Joy of Cooking which -- in case anyone is not familiar with it-- is a collection of virtually every American recipe you can think of. I have veganized many, many cake, bread and cookie recipes from this cookbook. I also love Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian and some of Vimla Patil's cookbooks, but if there was one book I would never give up it is my tiny, well-thumbed copy of Vedavalli Venkatachary's How to Cook. After I married a Tamilian, living so far from all my Tamil relatives, this was the book that helped me find my way from his heart to his stomach :)
In the beginning, I would share what I had cooked for my family on my blog, but now I consciously experiment more so I can post interesting recipes for my readers. I also get recipe requests from readers sometimes that I try my best to fulfill.
EC: Something interesting that you encountered with after you started blogging
Vaishali: Being connected with-- and feeling close to-- a number of people I've never actually met, and probably never will. Food bloggers, and some of our readers, are a rather close group and after a while people start to feel like old friends even though you wouldn't recognize them if you saw them on the street. There's something weird but wonderful about that!
I am also constantly surprised by the generosity of all the creative food bloggers out there who share their own recipes, including those passed down through the generations in their families. It's a gift because I have run into people (even some I know well) who will simply refuse to share a recipe saying it's a family secret or something like that. I find that odd because if you have a great recipe, why not share it so everyone else can enjoy it too? You know, make the world a more delicious place. Food bloggers really get that.
EC: Your favourite vegetarian recipe
Vaishali: It's hard to come up with just one, but for reasons of taste, sentiment and popularity, I'd choose My Dad's Not-Mutton Mushroom Curry. The inspiration for this dish was a meat curry my father would cook for the family on Sundays when I was growing up, and which I loved. It also is a great example of how to go meat-free without sacrificing the flavors you love.