30 September 2011

Sisters create a collection of favorite vegan recipes with 'Spork-Fed'

Veganism used to be the awkward little sister of vegetarianism, always in the shadows, always misunderstood and in serious need of a cut and color. Now, thanks to people like the fabulous sisters behind Spork Foods, Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg, the lifestyle choice has gotten the long overdue makeover it needed.

Veganism no longer needs to feel like an intimidating sacrifice, and Engel and Goldberg are proving that with their brand-spanking new cookbook, “Spork-Fed: Super Fun and Flavorful Vegan Recipes from the Sisters of Spork Foods.”

With 75 recipes and a foreword from the other sisters we all love, Emily and Zooey Deschanel, the cookbook will carry on the tradition of positive vibes and absolutely scrumptious vegan fare that Engel and Goldberg are known for in their cooking classes in West Hollywood as well as their online classes at SporkOnline.com.

"We even have cookbooks that our mom collected as a kid and so she passed those down to us," Engel said. "And so we've always had a fascination with cookbooks and just the feel of them.”

In that same vein, the sisters decided that a cookbook would be the best way to put all their recipes in one place and to just sort of progress with the veritable empire they're building, though they would surely be too modest to call it that.

"We're really hoping that people sort of pass along our recipes down from generation to generation," Goldberg said.

“Spork-Fed” is a collection of the sisters' star recipes, broken down into sections like brunch, dessert and main dishes.

"We basically just chose recipes that we found weren't really in any other vegan cookbooks that we knew of, so they would put kind of an original spin on vegan cuisine," Engel said. "And then also recipes that were really easy to recreate in people's home kitchens. So we wanted these to be very approachable, yet very unique."

"No one's going to be vegan unless it tastes good," Goldberg elaborated. "And this was our way of empowering people to be able to have the kitchen confidence that we try to inspire them to have so that they can sort of get the word out about how great vegan cuisine can be."

We all know the perils of celebrating a meat-free, dairy-free holiday, and the sisters were sure to include a section that addresses that issue with their usual compassion and positive appeal.

"We knew that the book would be released in fall, so we included these kinds of dishes that you can bring proudly to your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and serve to your family and friends and really start to get the conversation rolling,” Engel said. "Because you know they're going to ask you questions about being vegan anyway, you might as well have something delicious to back it up."

One feature of the book that took quite a bit of time and is also somewhat of a trademark for Engel and Goldberg is called "For Your Smarts & For Your Parts," which basically gives some important facts about key ingredients.

"We really think that it's fascinating and really important to understand where these foods originated from, how they spread all over the world, who brought them around, animals, people, explorers, you know, how that all went down," Goldberg explained. "And also, what these foods are doing in our bodies, all sorts of medicinal qualities, healing qualities. So we really wanted to empower people to be able to take their health into their own hands."

Both sisters believe that quality ingredients and whole foods are the tickets to a more satisfying life.

"If you think about thriving and living a healthy happy life, if you're eating a lot of processed foods and fast food and things that are going to make you feel sluggish, you're not going to treat yourself as well, you're not going to have as much energy and, you know, be able to live to your full potential," Engel said.

And it's a good thing they've got that energy, because in addition to the cookbook, Engel and Goldberg just recently spent some time with the chefs at UCLA, advising them on the differences between veganism and vegetarianism and the best ways to make vegan food tasty.

"Because Jenny and I went vegan in college, we understand that there are a lot of kids that have their minds open to this," Goldberg said. "So we love being used as that tool for schools to bring us in, do a lecture and do a cooking demo and give them our recipes to use in their restaurants."

They hope to continue those efforts with more schools.

"We realize that these colleges are listening to their student bodies," Engel said. "So if the students are out there demanding that they have more vegan options, and that they want vegan options that taste great, then they can really get that, and we're there as a resource for these schools."

Engel and Goldberg always knew they wanted to have a sister business, and though their paths converged and separated over time, there is no doubt they've found their collective calling with Spork Foods.

"Teaching people how to make these dishes in their own home kitchen is giving them the tools that will cause a ripple effect," Engel explained. "When they make these meals for their family and friends, they're showing them that vegan cuisine is really delicious, and that actually can really help to save animals' lives, educate people about the environment, and just open up the discussion about this type of cuisine.

"Because we know that, often, your first experience when you eat vegan food will determine whether or not you'll eat it again. So if we can educate people as to how to do this well and inform them and give them the tools to do this for themselves and their families and their friends, what better thing to do in this life than to just share this with everyone?"

Pick up a copy of “Spork-Fed: Super Fun and Flavorful Vegan Recipes from the Sisters of Spork Foods” at Amazon.com. (In pre-order at time of publication.)

Stephanie DeBalko | @_stephanied_
Stephanie is a freelance writer who loves shelter dogs and Vegenaise. She recently came to the conclusion that the written word could be an amazing ally for all animals, and is choosing to use her nerdy love of grammar and punctuation for the greater good of animal welfare. She can also be found at I Hope Vodka Is Vegan.

Photo credit: Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg