Carla Sammut is a vegan. No judgements will be made. Meat-lover Jess Naylor talks to the blogger behind Easy As Vegan Pie about veganism, blogging and pie.
In 2001, while watching a TV documentary about the effects chemicals have on the body, Carla Sammut was inspired to try veganism and see if it made her feel better. It did. Since then she has been working on her blog as a way of showing the rest of the world that veganism is not actually that weird. She explains how becoming a vegan started as a way of simply improving her health but slowly became much more than that. ‘I became a much happier person almost instantly,’ she says. ‘It made me realise the benefits of living a compassionate life’. The prejudice against veganism is something that is very present in our society, even if we are becoming much more diverse and aware of the environment and the importance of healthy living. Many still see veganism as cutting out all the good things, but as Carla explains and as is evident on her blog, it is all about substituting and being creative.
When Carla begins to discuss the benefits of her diet as well as some of her favourite meals, I begin to wonder just how hard it would be to become a vegan. ‘When thinking about becoming a vegan you have to be gentle with yourself,’ she says. ‘Do it slowly.’ It is true, habits can be hard to change and as many would know, it is those cravings for chocolate, hamburgers or cheese that would get the better of us. Carla suggests that the best way of thinking of it is as just another cuisine and to remember that practice really can make perfect. ‘Vegan cooking is a cuisine, just like French or Italian. You wouldn’t be able to whip up a four-course French meal straight away – apply that logic to veganism.’ She also tells me that after a little while my cheese cravings would start to go away. While at the moment I could never imagine going without my toasted-cheese sandwiches or pumpkin and feta pizzas, it is in the way that Carla explains it that I begin to believe her. Maybe my vegan scepticism is being put to the test.
Through her blog, Carla is working to make vegan cooking and eating just as accessible for everyday people as any other cuisine. I am curious to know about the best vegan cafés in Melbourne. Are there any at all? Have I just been so caught up in my own meat eating that I have not even noticed that they are everywhere? As our city changes, so does our palate and our dining options. Nowadays you can get a vegan meal at almost any café or restaurant in and around the city. ‘I have even had a great vegan meal at a ribs place. If you can believe it,’ Carla tells me, and I don’t really believe it, so I do a bit of research. I discover that it is now almost rare for somewhere to have no vegan options at all. Most places really do have something with no meat or dairy in it. I think it is this that really shows the power blogging has over our lives these days. It is the things that people like Carla share with the world that tell us what is going on among our fellow humans, and it is these things that we learn that make all the businesses realise just how much we are all changing, for the better in this case.
In 1999 Carla began her first blog on LiveJournal and it was an evolution of different writing experiments that finally lead to the creation of Easy As Vegan Pie, which was previously called Northside Ladies. It was at this time that she had been working on and off with her veganism for around a decade and finally decided to document her struggles as well as everything she had learnt over the years. It was this form of documentation that became her form of activism and a promotion of vegan culture. She puts it simply, ‘I can’t rescue chickens but I can teach people to cook amazing vegan food’. The blog is easy to follow and as welcoming as a website can be, but most importantly it actually encourages one to try the food written about on the site. Even now, as I write this, I am planning to make some of Carla’s favourite dishes, including the red curry pumpkin soup and the Asian slaw salad. I want to test out my family with just a little bit of veganism and surprisingly, I am actually really excited.
With a title like Easy As Vegan Pie one does hope that there are pie recipes on the site, and do not fear, there are plenty. When I email Carla with the question of pies she replies with ‘SO MUCH PIE!’ A self confessed pie maniac, the recipes on her site range from caramelised onion and cauliflower to a classic cherry pie, or a coconut chocolate pie with tofu as one of its main ingredients.
In the space of a few emails, some very good conversation and a very tasty blog, Carla Sammut has managed to convert me from a huge vegan sceptic to somebody genuinely interested in the ideals, the benefits and most importantly, the food of veganism. And for that, I would say she is indeed one very successful blogger.
Carla’s blog is at http://www.easyasveganpie.net. She’s talking about digital writing today at the Town Hall Conference.
This article is part of Signal Express at EWF, a daily magazine at the Emerging Writers’ Festival. Grab a free copy at any EWF event.