Author Tags: Cookbook
Sarah Kramer’s zest-laden books about vegan cookery arose after editor Tanya Barnard encouraged her to write a cookbook in 1996 as a homemade gift project to give to their friends and family for Christmas. Combined sales of her four titles after one decade of authordom have reportedly reached one-quarter million. With the reissue of How it all Vegan! (Arsenal Pulp $24.95)—designed to make the transition to animal-free eating easier for newbies—she has added a tenth anniversary calendar. Her tongue-in-cheek self-packaging is consistently quirky and smart, aided by high quality photos taken by her husband, Gerry, with whom she operates Tattoo Zoo in Victoria. Her entrepreneurial savvy arises from what she describes as an ’80s punk DIY work ethic. 978-1-55152-253-1
World Vegan Day is celebrated each year on November 1.
DATE OF BIRTH: June 27 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Regina, Saskatchewan
EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Owner of The Tattoo Zoo
Winner of the 2003 Veggie awards - "Best Veg Cookbook"
Winner of the 2004 Veggie awards - "Best Veg Cookbook"
How It All Vegan - 1999 (Arsenal Pulp, 2009; 3rd printing Arsenal 2014)
The Garden of Vegan - 2003; 8th printing Arsenal 2014
La Dolce Vegan (Arsenal Pulp, 2005; 6th printing Arsenal 2014)
Vegan A Go-Go!: A Cookbook & Survival Manual for Vegans on the Road (Arsenal, 2008; 2nd printing Arsenal 2014)
Go Vegan! 2010 Wall Calendar (Arsenal Pulp, 2009)
[BCBW 2014] "Cookbook"
Vegan cooking isn’t weird. It just means making food without animal products. If you love animals, and if you have the rational power to remember that humans are animals, satisfying recipes are now available in the bestselling cookbooks by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard, The Garden of Vegan (Arsenal $22.95) and How It All Vegan.
The Kramer/Barnard collaborations are vegan Bibles for the uninitiated, campy and serious at the same time. Former lazy vegetarians, they use tongue-in-cheek marketing to present themselves as mighty Vegan Warriors, ‘kicking vegan ass,’ using fun like some folks use dollops of ketchup, dressing up for photo shoots.
“Tanya and I collect all sorts of vintage things,” Kramer says. “We are both second hand store/garage sale-aholics. My house is packed with all sorts of kitschy crap and my closet is bursting with vintage clothing that I don’t always get to wear. Now I have a reason to dress up!”
Beneath their flippancy, there’s a serious side. Kramer was once diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, having weighed 83 pounds. “Why am I vegan?” she says. “How can I not be? I can’t love one animal and eat another. I could barely eat at all. It was an ordeal just to pick up a fork.” She says she became friends with food again thanks to vegan recipes.
The duo’s success is about lifestyle as much as cuisine. You are what you don’t eat. Their website has a chat room about vegan pregnancy, tofu, vegan cosmetics, migraines and living in a leather-free world. And no, cuz people have asked, they’re not a couple. 1-55-152-128-8
(SUMMER 2003 BCBW)
La Dolce Vegan! (2005)
"I get really excited by ordinary things," says tattoo shop owner Sarah Kramer, returning for her third Vegan cookbook, La Dolce Vegan! Vegan Livin' Made Easy (Arsenal $24.95). Kramer doesn't mean raindrops on roses, brown paper packages tied up with strings or snowflakes that fall on her nose and eyelashes. She means, "the scent of fresh basil. The crunch of an empty sun-bleached clamshell as my foot runs across it on the beach. The deep, soft sigh of my dog as he's about to fall asleep. The smell of my kitchen when I'm baking bread...." Going vegan, for Kramer, is not just about food; it's also a lifestyle and an attitude. Her ebullient approach to self-marketing has helped turn How It All Vegan! and The Garden of Vegan into bestsellers. "La Dolce Vegan! comes at a time when I find myself multi-tasking to the nth degree," she writes. "I'm busy running a tattoo shop, maintaining the GoVegan.net website, testing and creating recipes, taking photos, and making sure my dog and my husband get enough exercise... I don't have a lot of free time to much about in the kitchen and I suspect you don't either." 1-55152-187-3
Tenth Anniversary Introduction
Personal Essay (2009)
[How It All Vegan! was the all-time topselling title from Arsenal Pulp Press, eclipsing a title called Stoney Creek Woman by Mary John and Bridget Moran, when Sarah Kramer wrote the following account in 2009 of how her first Vegan cookery & lifestyle title came into print.]
Welcome to the tenth anniversary edition of How It All Vegan! Wowzers, does time ever fly by when you’re having fun. Woo hoo! When I think back to how this book started as a little DIY homemade zine—to a decade later and almost a quarter of a million books sold ... it is beyond mind boggling.
When I sat down to write this new introduction, I found myself at a loss for words. So much has happened to me in the years since HIAV! hit the bookshelves, and I couldn’t figure out what to write about. With my deadline looming, Fergus (dog), Gerry (husband), and I went for a long walk so I could clear my head. As we walked around town, we found ourselves strolling through our old neighborhood and by the house we had lived in where it all began (or should I say vegan).
How It All Vegan! was lovingly kneaded, given time to rise, and baked to perfection in an old rickety pink-painted house on McClure Street in Victoria, BC. As we walked up the street toward the house, I saw that nothing much had changed. The house was still pink and just as rickety, but as we got closer I was stunned to find out that it was scheduled for demolition the next day. How fortuitous is it that we walked by? As we poked around the property and took some photos for posterity, I was flooded with so many remarkable memories that I couldn’t wait to get home and write them down.
The house on McClure Street was one of those amazing vintage homes that gets passed around from friend to friend. The rent was insanely cheap—$325 for a one-bedroom/den with a claw-foot tub and all the charm you can muster in a turn-of-the-century house—but there was a reason for all the charm, and it came in the form of slumlord who didn’t care about the property.
Living in a slumlord’s house has pros and cons. The benefits are the cheap rent and being able to decorate and paint the walls any color you want. With rent that cheap, my husband and I learned to tolerate the family of raccoons in the attic, the broken windows, dripping taps, and the scary knob-and- tube wiring in the attic. Ahhh. Good times. Good times.
It was there that Tanya Barnard (my co-author) came to me with the idea of making a zine-style cookbook to give to our friends and families for Xmas presents. This was during the height of the ’90s zine scene; my friends and I had been making zines for years, so neither Tanya nor I expected that our little homemade zine would turn into an international best-selling book.
I put the book together using a crude desktop publishing program that came with my computer, and then we photocopied all the pages at the local copy store and collated and bound the book in my living room. I think our first run of the zine was maybe 100 copies.
When we handed out the book as Xmas presents, the response from our friends and families was overwhelmingly positive. They loved the book so much that we decided to make another 900 copies to try and sell at punk rock shows and on the Internet. The second run of the HIAV zine sold out almost right away and became so popular with our peers that a light bulb went off, and I realized we were on to something. Tanya and I decided to try and go legit and find a publisher.
We started doing research on different Canadian publishers, and Arsenal Pulp Press was our first choice because they were local and seemed to have a similar sensibility to us. I wrote a cheeky book proposal (and included some Tofu Jerky for them to try), but to hedge our bets we sent our proposal to five other publishers, just in case. I remember placing our other book proposal envelopes in the mailbox and watching them fall out of sight, but we hung onto our Arsenal Pulp proposal for last because we wanted to give it a big kiss for luck before throwing it into the mailbox. Three days later, we got the call from Brian Lam of Arsenal Pulp asking if we’d like to have a book deal to publish How It All Vegan!
I’ll never forget talking with Brian and trying my best to sound normal and professional—all the while my knees were knocking uncontrollably as I tried not to pass out from excitement. I put down the phone and stared at Gerry in utter shock. Tanya and I had a book deal! I was going to be a published author! For real!
The original HIAV! zine was only fifty pages long, so Tanya and I furiously went to work inventing, testing, and adding more recipes as well as adding an introduction that included our story about how we vegan. We also included information for vegan newbies making the transition, and what we ended up with is the book you are holding in your hands.
My kitchen at the house on McClure was incredibly small, and there was almost no counter space, but I made the best of it and used my thrift-store kitchen table as a place to write, bake, chop, test, and re-test every single recipe for HIAV!. Gerry and I didn’t have a lot of money back then, and I was working with the bare minimum of supplies: a few knives, a food processor (that was a wedding gift), and barely enough money to buy all the food to recipe test. Gerry worked two jobs (in a restaurant and as a tattoo artist) so I could focus on the book. It was a heavy burden to bear, but out of our financial limitations the mantra for the book was born: Healthy, delicious recipes that were easy to make, with easy–to-find ingredients.
Our vision was for it to be not just a cookbook but more about how to live a fun and happy life as a vegan. We wanted readers to discover that being vegan was easy once you knew a few tips and tricks. We spent many months recipe testing, editing, and re-editing the book. We poured our hearts and souls into every page, and it was a lot more work than I expected, but once we sent the final draft off to the publishers ... I knew in my heart we had made something special.
I was at Tanya’s house the day we got to see the book back from the printers. We eagerly ripped open the envelope, and I stared at the cover in disbelief. Holy shit. We were authors. I thought, “Wow. This is going to end up in a library somewhere.” I was incredibly proud of the work we did.
Then I flipped to the back of the book and my heart sank. There was no index. “Where’s the index?” I yelled at Tanya. We had both assumed that the publishers would put the index in. I called Brian in a panic, and he said “Does a cookbook need an index?”
Oh my lord.
So the first 2,000 copies of HIAV! hit the shelves without an index. For all of you who have that first edition, you can take it up with Brian. *laugh*
Word of mouth really helped boost the sales of How It All Vegan!. The book did pretty well out of the gate. Arsenal Pulp Press did a great job of promoting it, and because I come from an ’80s punk DIY work ethic, I got busy myself, promoting the book via the Internet. The ’net was a fairly new concept back then (can you even remember what life was like before the Internet?), and for the first time I was able to easily communicate with other vegans, not just in my local community but around the world.
The book was flying off the shelves, and I started getting phone calls from friends across the country who’d spotted HIAV! in the bookstore or at a friend’s house. It was also exciting when we started getting fan mail from places all over Canada, the US, Australia, Germany ... I wrote back to each and every person who wrote to GoVegan.net (and I still do). Ten years later, it still blows my mind to think that someone as far away as Greece has my book in their kitchen. I’ve actually become very good friends with some of the people who wrote fan mail: Josh at Herbivoreclothing.com; Rudee at SecretSocietyofVegans.co.uk; Sara and Erica at MooShoes.com; and the Wimmers at PlanetWimmer.com.
I think without the Internet HIAV! would have been just another cookbook on the shelves, but people our age were logging onto the web and finding other like-minded people to talk to about animal rights, vegan products, politics, and everything in between. Word of mouth spreads fast on the Internet, and they found us at GoVegan.net.
I also think having our photos on the cover helped with sales. Our publisher, Brian, insisted that we be on the cover, and I fought him for a while because I didn’t want to be like a cheesy, mainstream Martha Stewart (sorry Martha, I do love you).Thank Tofu he won that argument, because being on the cover was the best thing we could have done. I have countless fan mail from people telling me that they purchased the book without even looking inside because they saw us on the cover and were excited to see someone like themselves reflected back. I also have a few letters from mothers who ripped off the cover, or covered the book with paper so we wouldn’t influence their kids with our tattoos and piercings. *laugh*
We did every interview request. Every TV show. Every newspaper interview. Whatever came our way ... we did it. We worked hard to get the word out, and it showed in sales. I thought we’d be lucky if we sold a few thousand copies, but when the numbers came back at 30,000 books sold in our first few months of sales ... I was in shock.
What surprised me the most was our first royalty check. I really thought we had hit the big time. Best-selling book. Fame. Where’s the fortune? I quickly learned that writing a cookbook is not a way to make quick money. The book sells. The money goes to the store. Who then pays the distributor. Who then pays the publisher, who then splits the royalty portion with each author. Eventually, I would get my check.
It was then that I realized this project was going to be more of a labor of love than a job. A job pays you a regular paycheck. You get medical and dental. You work 9–5. This new job of being a cookbook author was 24/7, and if I added up the hours I worked versus the cash I was bringing in—I was being paid pennies.
But it didn’t matter to me because we were receiving so much encouraging fan mail from the readers; they were loving what we were doing, and it was hard to think about walking away to get a real job. I really felt that what we were doing was beneficial for the vegan community, and on a personal level I found the work utterly satisfying, creatively. I love how a little spark of an idea about flavors will turn into a recipe, and even though recipe testing can be frustrating and overwhelming (actually, all the dirty dishes are the worst part), the thrill I get when I finally get the combinations right is intoxicating.
Luckily, we were doing okay. Gerry had started tattooing full-time, and we were able to live off the money he made from that so I could continue with the books. Thank Tofu for Gerry and his support or none of this would have been possible. With a little extra cash in our pockets, we were anxious to get out of the McClure Street house, as it was starting to fall apart, and we were afraid for our safety. We heard later that two months after we moved out, the ceiling in the living room collapsed, so we’d been lucky to move out when we did. But even though that house was a creaky, drafty, mouse-infested dump, my life changed in a way I never expected while I lived there, so that old rickety pink house holds a special place in my heart, and I’m sad that it’s now gone.
My hope for How It All Vegan! back in 1999 was to create a book that would make the transition to veganism an easier one for newbies. Ten years later, I hope that those of you then-newbie vegans who are now veterans still love and continue to use the book. For those of you who are picking this book up for the first time, I hope it makes your vegan transition easier and that your new healthy lifestyle makes a positive change in your life and the lives of those around you. Most importantly, I hope that you realize you can have a blast in the kitchen while making yummy healthy food to fuel your body.
As for me now? Writing these books is like baking a cake: I’m so very careful about measuring, mixing, and making sure the oven temperature is perfect, but once the book hits the shelves and I start hearing back from fans, well, that’s pure icing. I love the writing. I love the editing. I love traveling to other cities to meet and greet fans of the book. I love visiting with readers at GoVegan.net. I love working with the team at Arsenal Pulp. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be able to have a career doing what I love. And as for Tanya, we wrote a second book together called The Garden of Vegan, and then Tanya decided to leave GoVegan.net to pursue a career in nursing.
So here I am in 2009: four cookbooks under my belt, a tattoo shop to run, a loving husband, a snuggly dog, friends and family that I cherish. In 1999, as I sat at my table in that tiny kitchen worrying about every tiny detail of the HIAV! manuscript, I don’t think I ever could have imagined my life would be as wonderful as it has become.
As for this tenth anniversary edition, some of the information that was current in 1999 is now incorrect, so I’ve made a few minor tweaks throughout the book. Thank you to everyone who has supported the books and GoVegan.net over the years. You are wicked awesome!
Now enough reminiscing. Start flipping the pages, find a recipe, and start cooking!