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10 Questions with Melisser Elliott, Author of The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life

Melisser Elliott, The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life

It’s Melisser’s book’s cover!

Our favorite Vienna-based urban housewife, Melisser Elliott, is celebrating the release of her first book, The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life, with a trio of book signing events in the New York metro area this month. She will be at Mooshoes (Manhattan) on November 12th from 7pm to 9pm, Champ’s Family Bakery (Brooklyn) on November 20th from 7pm to 9pm (disregard any flyers you see with a different time for this event!) and Go Lightly Eco Store (Montclair, NJ) on November 21st from 1pm to 3pm.

Earlier this week, Melisser took a much-deserved break from packing for her book tour to answer a few questions for SuperVegan.

Deborah Diamant: Am I allowed to mention that I read a PDF version of the book, or will your publisher give you the silent treatment when it finds out?

Melisser Elliott: Sure, why not? Besides, silence is golden.

DD: Okay, so, I read the book already! Congrats on producing an exhaustive introduction to veganism and a user’s manual for those already vegan! I don’t think any vegan-related topic went untouched except for the vegan chocolate-covered malt ball. Why doesn’t the vegan chocolate-covered malt ball exist?

ME: It does! Here in Europe, we have something similar to Whoppers, but with dark chocolate and spelt. They’re a bit healthier, I suppose, but still have that delicious crunch with a chocolatey outside!

DD: Ugh, Europe wins again! So, now for the hardball questions: Why a vegan girl’s guide? What about old men, toddlers and the genderless?

ME: Last I checked, I’m a childless female, so I thought I should stick to something I know about: veganism from a female’s perspective. That being said, I do address children in the book and I think an old man would also learn a thing or two from reading it.

DD: Who do you think will become the main audience for your book? Transitioning-to-veganism folks, newly vegan folks, veteran vegans?

ME: I’m hoping it will be picked up by people curious about veganism and make a solid case for them to join us, but I do feel like a lot of current vegans are expressing interest in it.

DD: What section of your book would you expand if you had an additional 50 pages to insert?

ME: All of them? No really, I would have loved to feature more vegan women in the book or talk more about animal rights.

DD: As an ethical vegan working to enlarge access to affordable housing and protecting civil rights through my day job, I love that you mention more than once that “You don’t have to be a single-issue activist.” Tell me about your non-animal-rights-related activism.

ME: While I can’t deny animal rights are the focus of my activism, I have also worked with charities benefiting humans through the San Francisco and East Bay Vegan Bake sales such as Food Empowerment Project, the Housing Rights Committee of SF, and Cycles of Change. Sugar Beat Sweets [Melisser's bakery] also organized a bake sale for Haiti that raised over $6,000 and I have worked with Food Not Bombs.

DD: You feature many profiles of fierce vegan women throughout the book. What criteria did you use to select these awesome folks? (Also, thanks for featuring the woman who helped me go vegan nearly a decade ago, Emiko of Food Fight! Vegan Grocery!)

ME: There’s so many amazing vegan women out there, it was hard to narrow them down! I wanted to show a range of ages and locations, so I could show that veganism is not for one type of person, but something that can work for everyone. Everyday I run across another woman I wish I had featured, which I think is a great thing!

DD: I love that the book has a conversational tone and consists of several primers on the issues most important to the ethical vegan. Do you think vegans need to turn themselves into experts on the issues to be effective advocates for animal rights?

ME: While I don’t think there’s any required reading for vegans out there (just kidding, buy my book!), I do think an ill informed vegan does us all a disservice. Unfortunately, much of the general population is looking for a hole in our stance and will throw a lot of questions at you about your lifestyle. I tried to tackle some of those in the book, but there’s a lot more vegans can learn about.

DD: You recently left San Francisco for Vienna. Is your book an appropriate gift for the vegan woman living beyond the U.S. border?

ME: Definitely. While there is some U.S. specific information in the book, most of the information is pretty general and can apply to the entire world. I tried to keep a lot of the ingredients in the recipes easy to get, so everyone can cook from it as well.

DD: I want to eat something dangerously decadent tonight. Which of your recipes should I make tonight?

ME: Banana Bread French Toast with Strawberry Syrup! It’s a bit time consuming, especially compared to the rest of the recipes in the book, but it’s a decadent treat you’ll want to make to impress friends.

Banana Bread French Toast with Strawberry Syrup (by Melisser Elliott)

Banana Bread French Toast, The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life

Photograph by Hannah Kaminsky

While this can take a bit of time, if you make the bread and syrup the night before, you’ll have French Toast in no time the next morning. The banana bread is a good on its own, but it’s really designed to be battered and fried for maximum deliciousness! If you don’t want to make the syrup, this is just as good with maple syrup.

Banana Bread
2 cups ripe mashed Bananas
1/3 cup Canola Oil
1 Tbsp Molasses
1 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9×5 or similar sized loaf pan. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, blend the bananas until mainly smooth. Add the oil, molasses, sugar, and vanilla, and mix to combine. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and then pour in to the prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow the bread to cool completely before making the French toast and slice it in to 3/4 inch pieces.

French Toast Batter
1 cup Non-Dairy Milk (if using unsweetened, add 1 Tbsp Sugar + 1 Tbsp Vanilla)
4 Tbsp Flour
1 Tbsp Chickpea Flour
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg

Mix the flour, chickpea flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Add the non-dairy milk slowly, whisking as you go. Heat a pan over medium heat and lightly coat it with oil or vegan margarine. Dip the bread in the batter, allowing the excess to fall off, and then add it to the pan. Allow the bread to brown on each side, about 5 minutes per side, then serve warm with strawberry syrup or other topping of choice.

Strawberry Syrup
1 pound Strawberries, hulled and diced finely
3/4 cup Turbinado Sugar
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Lemon Zest

In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and then bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer until the strawberries are soft, about 20 minutes. Mash the berries in to the syrup, and then either serve as is, or strain the berries and return the syrup to the heat and reduce over medium for 10 minutes.

Learn more about Melisser and The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life at www.vegangirlsguide.com.

2 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Laura Leslie

    on #

    That banana bread french toast recipe sounds great. I love the addition of strawberry syrup!

  2. Comment by

    Alex

    on #

    I love Banana Bread French Toast with Strawberry Syrup ! thanks for this!

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