Saturday, March 20, 2010

Interview Series #1: Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

First of all -- I have to say that I am just plain blown away by the outpouring of support, warmhearted thoughts, and love being given to my blog right now. It is overwhelming, humbling, and so wonderful. If you are new to Kiss Me, I'm Vegan! - welcome! If you've been a follower from the beginning - why hello, old friend!  And if you are a Kind Lifer who found my blog through Alicia Silverstone's rockin' post about me - I am so happy to have you here to enjoy this journey with me.

For the past few months, I've been reaching out to mentors of mine in the vegan world to find out about their personal journeys toward veganism and animal advocacy. Well, today, I have a lovely treat for you all - my very first interview with one of those mentors, the amazing Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.


Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, pictured with a rescued hen 
(photo courtesy of the Compassionate Cooks website) 


For those who may be unfamiliar with this awesome lady, Colleen is one of my all-time vegan heroes. From her beautiful cookbooks (The Joy of Vegan Baking, a vegan baking must, and more recently, The Vegan Table), to her thought-provoking DVDs and "Food for Thought" podcasts, to her smart, kind, and truly revolutionary website, Compassionate Cooks - Colleen has made it easier and more accessible than ever to make the transition to a vegan diet and lifestyle. She's a passionate animal advocate and an inspiration to so many people who want to create a better world for animals - and especially those who want to eat delicious and satisfying food in the process. In the eyes of this vegan lady from Brooklyn, well, she just plain rocks!


 photo courtesy of the Compassionate Cooks website   


And now, without further ado, my interview with
Ms. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: 

Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you?

Colleen: Both - in a way!  I had already been an activist around such issues of puppy mills and animals in research but my first 'a-ha' moment that paved the way for where I am now came when I read John Robbins Diet for a New America, and I saw what happened to animals bred and killed for human consumption. I could no longer justify eating mammals and I stopped right then and there. It started me on a path to learn everything I could about these issues, and while I did so, I would share everything I learned with everyone I met. But I wasn’t fully awake; I was still consuming cow's milk, chicken's eggs, and fish - making the typical excuses so many make, because I just didn't want to believe I was contributing to suffering - until I read Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz. My life was changed overnight. Over the course of an incredibly painful couple of days reading that book it became clear to me that no animal raised for human consumption - whether for their flesh, milk, or eggs - escapes the horrors and cruelties of slaughter. I became vegan, I became fully awake, and I became dedicated to raising awareness about animal suffering and to being a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.
 
KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges?

Colleen: Every day brings huge rewards, both for me personally and because of the work I'm honored to do. The most rewarding aspect is hearing from so many wonderful people around the globe who share their stories of transformation with me. I'm so humbled to be part of their journey and hold so much hope because of the openness and compassion I witness in people.

Personally, knowing that the daily choices I make reflect my deepest values of compassion and nonviolence is an incredible way to live.   Becoming awake changed my life in profound ways - it's like I've fully integrated all the parts of myself. There's no guilt, there are no excuses, there's no hiding from the truth. I can look it straight on and not be afraid of it.

In terms of my health, I have a total cholesterol of 102, an abundance of energy, and I'm told that my skin and eyes are bright. :)  In general, my body functions as it should, particularly in the - how shall I say? - digestive and reproductive departments: regular like clockwork, no cramps, no PMS, light cycles - very different than before I was vegan. It's worth mentioning that I attribute these benefits not only to being vegan  - but to eating a whole foods plant-based diet.

My biggest challenge is not having the means to reach a larger audience. I certainly can't compete with the huge marketing machine that runs the meat, dairy, and eggs industries, so I just plug away each day. I'm thoroughly convinced that people want this information so desperately. They want to be healthier; they want to align their values with their behavior, they don't want to create suffering, and I'm so frustrated by people (so many people!) who keep the bar low and abandon all hope and expectation. "People will never stop eating animals! It's too hard," they say. "Tish and pish," I say! "The problem is if we keep telling people it's too hard, they'll start to believe you! It's so incredibly beautiful to raise the bar and watch people rise to it. I'm not surprised by it at all, because I have faith in people, but it's certainly wonderful to witness.
 
KMIV: What inspired you to create the Compassionate Cooks website?

 
Colleen: When I became vegan, my activism increased tenfold. The more outreach I did, the more I realized that the questions people had boiled down to food, nutrition, social aspects, practical aspects, spiritual aspects, and so Compassionate Cooks was born of a desire to fill those gaps for people - to address their challenges. It started with basic leafleting and tabling, moved to cooking classes, then the DVD, then the first cookbook (Joy of Vegan Baking), then the podcast (Vegetarian Food for Thought), then the second cookbook (The Vegan Table), and so on. The website has expanded as my projects have, though I admit we've outgrown it and need a re-design. A girl can dream.  

KMIV: What advice would you give someone who is interested in veganism, but afraid of taking the leap?    

Colleen: I just encourage people to be true to themselves. If they feel compelled to make a transition overnight, then do it. If they feel compelled to do it slowly, then at least do something. But just be honest.

A common assertion I hear from people is that they could stop eating all animal products except X, and that X is usually cheese. And I say, “well, then STOP EATING all other animal products except cheese - for now. At least do what you're able and willing to do. But don't do NOTHING because you can't do EVERYTHING. Each step will bring you closer to the person you really want to be - and to the animals you want to help. But to continue eating animal flesh and animal's milk or eggs because you can’t give up cheese – doesn’t make any sense. It’s an absurd rationalization. “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.”  (**one of my absolute favorite quotes ever, by the way!**)


Plus, if you think about it, we only eat the same 7 or 8 meals all the time – we just rotate them! So, transitioning is as easy as creating a new 7 or 8 meals to rotate, while still eating foods that are familiar to us. So, first sit down and see what meals you already eat that are “vegan.” You’ll find you might already make a great pasta dish with marinara sauce or a vegetable stir fry. Next “veganize” something you already love. So, for instance, if you make pesto with parmesan cheese, just remove the cheese, and you’ll be thoroughly satisfied with the pine nuts, basil, garlic, and olive oil. Or, if you make egg salad, try it with firm tofu crumbled up instead. Then, incorporate two or three new dishes into your repertoire. Now you have 7 or 8 NEW dishes that you can rotate. In terms of eating out, that’s also really easy. Don’t feel limited to what looks vegan on the menu – most places can easily “veganize” existing dishes. Ask them to remove the cheese on something and to add some nuts instead; many soups are made with veggie stock; tell them to replace the meat with more veggies. You’d be surprised.



photo courtesy of the Compassionate Cooks website


I could go on and on, but I address these and a gazillion other issues and challenges for people in my podcast, Vegetarian Food for Thought. (It's all vegan.) It's available on iTunes or at www.vegetarianfoodforthought.com, and there are over 110 episodes to choose from - covering everything from food, nutrition, and cooking to the spiritual, social, and practical aspects of living compassionately - living vegan.
   
KMIV: Okay -  you're stuck on a desert island with three vegan food items - what are they?
 
Colleen: Well, the first HAS to be tea! As my regular podcast listeners know, I take my tea EVERYwhere, so that would definitely be with me on this hypothetical island! Green tea and also white - but mostly green: dragonwell, Lu Shan Clouds and Mist, gyukuro. (Does that all count as one?) Next, kale. No doubt. Finally, chocolate. Duh! :)

Thanks to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and Amanda Mitchell at Compassionate Cooks for making this interview possible. To learn more about Colleen and her work, please visit www.compassionatecooks.com.

11 comments:

CurlyLocks said...

Excellent interview! Collen Patrick-Goudreau and your blog are so inspiring!

C said...

Great interview! Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

After reading The kind diet I went Vegan.... found Colleen's podcast which solidified everything and now I find your blog.... the holy trinity maybe?

GodsDreamsForMe said...

I totally loved it :D She's wonderful. I made it for your first interview...very exciting. I love it when she said "Tish Pish" hee hee hee. Thank you so much for this. Now I have yet another awesome resource to reach out to.

This really is fun.

Lindsay said...

Thank you everyone for your responses! Colleen is an amazing woman, and it was an honor to hear her journey. Keep an eye out, because I will be doing more interviews in the coming weeks, each with an included question about how each person reached their veganism. Fun stuff! :)

Macenson said...

WOW, Lindsay! What a neat idea to feature such a great interview. thanks so much for sharing this. Colleen seems really neat & she's an absolute inspiration.

E said...

Fantastic interview! I love Colleen's podcast and have listened for about a year. Lovely blog. :) Way to go getting the word out and being true to yourself and your passions! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this very informative interview.. I am so inspired by what Colleen had to share with you.. Blessings, Marina

Veronique said...

Colleen is my vegan inspiration. I don't think I would have "seen the light" if it wasn't for her, or at least, it would have taken me much, much longer. She is smart and has a wonderful attitude.

Rachel said...

Colleen is a great inspiration to me too! She just posted this on Facebook. Never saw your blog before, but it looks super. I am also a Brooklyn vegan! :)

Jess - The Domestic Vegan said...

Wonderful interview & fabulous website! I love Colleen & admire her for all the work she does on behalf of animals, both human & non-human. :)