Interview: VeganMania’s Christa Trueman
Christa Trueman, the baking goddess behind Vancouver’s VeganMania, recently took some time away from crafting her delicious nibblies to share with us what inspires her, tell us about her life-long love affair with delicious food, and how her bed, not food, is her most cherished indulgence.
Starting December 5th, you can catch Christa at the Vancouver Farmers Markets Winter Market at WISE Hall. You can also keep up with Christa by becoming a fan of VeganMania Kitchen on Facebook and by following @veganmania or @zaftigvegan on Twitter. Christa also has a new food blog: duchessofkircaldy.wordpress.com. And don’t forget to check out www.veganmania.com for her amazing selection of vegan treats (she does Canadian mail orders!) and her extensive and mouth-watering recipes page.
Wanna see more VeganMania goodness? Keep posted this week for a review of VeganMania on The Vegan Spoon!
Where did the name “VeganMania” come from?
In a very roundabout way, it came from the show Seinfeld, but I have to give most of the credit my dear friend Akshara. A long time ago, my husband and I lived in a communal house with a bunch of friends, and Thursday nights were potluck dinner and sitcom nights for us. There was an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and his nemesis, Newman, are planning competing Y2K New Years Eve parties. Newman was considered to have the advantage, because he sent out his invitations first and because his party had a cool name: Newmania! Well, we thought that was hilarious, since our last name is Trueman. From then on we called all our parties Truemania and it was a kind of in-joke between us, our roomies, and our friends.
One day I was sitting with my friend Akshara and telling her about how I wanted to start up my own vegan recipes website. But I was stuck for a name, and I was considering (the rather unwieldy) “Truemania’s Vegan Cookery” when she just blurted out, “You have to call it Veganmania! You have to.” And so it was.
Of all the things you could have chosen to do, what inspired you to become a vegan baker?
It just kind of happened. I actually went to school to study art, but didn’t have the motivation at that time to really go anywhere with it. I ended up taking a series of dead-end jobs, living a kind of college drop-out party lifestyle for a few years. Then I suddenly found myself married and knocked up! (Well, it’s a much longer and more detailed story than that but I’m not sure how much space you have for this interview, so you get the jist of it).
Once I had my son, I became a very dedicated mother. I threw myself into the whole housewife and full-time mommy thing. I really had no time or inclination for any real creative or artistic endeavours beyond finger painting and homemade play dough, you know? But I still had the urge to make things; beautiful things that would be appreciated by others. Food was the easiest way to do that, and it wasn’t long before I began to really take pride in my gastronomical creations. My favourite thing was to bake friends their birthday cakes, cook huge meals, and throw dinner parties. Food is really the best kind of art, in my mind, because it is instant and palpable gratification. It hits you on all levels, on all senses. It’s practical, it’s so easy to share, and it’s so very appreciated by just about everyone.
After about six years of doing this, hosting the parties and giving away vegan goodies every Christmas, someone suggested I start selling my cookies online to make a little extra money. That turned out so well that I was encouraged enough to apply to the Vancouver Farmer’s Markets as a vendor of vegan goodness there. And the rest is history.
Where does your passion for cooking come from?
I’d have to say my fascination with cooking and food started young. My mom was actually a renowned cook (among her circle of acquaintances, that is) while I was growing up. Even though we weren’t vegetarian, she cooked a lot of vegetarian meals – often out of economic necessity, but also because we just plain liked it. She was always trying new things in the kitchen. I had a very adventurous palate as a result of all her creative endeavours there. I would get really weird looks from kids at school when I’d open my lunch kit because she’d fill it with roasted soy beans (long before they were available commercially), blue cheese on crackers, mushroom blintzes, and other weirdo stuff. Remember, this was the 80s, everyone else had baloney sandwiches and hostess snack cakes.
She worked for a couple of years as a chef in a Mexican restaurant, to help put herself through university, and she really honed her abilities there. She always had a great collection of cookbooks and they were always well-worn. When she threw dinner parties, people would flock to our house for them. I just loved seeing how much attention and praise she got for the meals she made – all of it totally justified.
I know it’s kind of gauche to say you do something because you love hearing how great you are at it, but honestly that’s what keeps me in this business. It’s a level of appreciation I wouldn’t have achieved as a painter, or a sculptor, or even as a notorious party girl. On the non-egocentric side, however, cooking is great because you get to play with ingredients, you get to learn chemistry, you get to flex your creative muscles, and you get positive reactions wherever you go (if you know what you’re doing). I just love it.
What are your favourite tunes to listen to when crafting in the kitchen?
I have a vast and varied collection of music in iTunes, and I just generally hit shuffle and go with whatever it throws at me. If I have to pick, though, I’d say that these days I’m listening to a lot of Van Morrison and Sparklehorse. And I’ve been really digging the new Flaming Lips album now that it’s streaming online.
What’s the most important tool in your kitchen, and why?
I can’t pick just one! I have nearly equal love for my KitchenAid stand mixer and my food processor. I use both of them multiple times a day. The reason I love my KitchenAid should be obvious to any cook worthy of their salt – it’s one of those machines that does just about everything, and does it well. I have been able to make so many different things that I never would have been able to achieve with a piddly little electric hand mixer, never mind a whisk. And it’s going to last forever, right? That’s the beauty of it. The food processor does all my pureeing and nut grinding, a lot of my mincing, and a good deal of cutting fat into flour for various pastries, too. I could probably live without it, but it would be a miserable existence indeed.
What’s your favourite indulgence?
My bed! I know, you thought I was going to talk about my favourite food, right? And believe me, I love food. But these days, quality sleep and lengthy luxuriating amongst pillows and quilts are in short supply for me. I am looking very forward to my next opportunity to lounge and nap with impunity for a day or, dare I dream, even a weekend.
What are your dreams for VeganMania?
You know, I’m still asking myself that. I love what I do now. I have a great deal of autonomy over my schedule, and I can make sure I’m around for my kids most of the time. But they are growing up so fast, and I’d be lying if I said VeganMania is the same business it was when I started it five years ago. I’d like to branch out from doing just baking (and the occasional catering job) and provide Vancouver with some other interesting vegan food options. I know the demand is there, and I know I’m good at making a lot more than just cookies, cupcakes, and dips. Right now the challenge is to really think hard about what I want to do with VeganMania, and focus on it. As soon as I figure it out, I promise I’ll let you know.