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Q&A With Katie of Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk


Meet Katie, the creator of Don't Eat Off The Sidewalk, a vegan zine and counterpart website that has taken the cooking world by storm. Full of "simple recipes for complicated vegans," DEOTS is a testament to the creativity, community, and cuisine that exists both online and off in the world of DIY vegan cooking. The first issue–which was championed by Isa of the PPK, and of which over 400 copies were printed–quickly sold out, and now Katie is putting the finishing touches on her second, holiday-themed installment, as well as making plans for a very special third issue.

What inspired you to create your zine, "Don't Eat off the Sidewalk"? Did you have any previous zine or chapbook publishing experience? Why did you choose that format, rather than shopping your recipes around to potential book publishers? And of course, how'd you come up with the name? My New Years resolution for 2007 had been to make a DIY cookbook for my friends and family as Christmas gifts. Eventually it occurred to me that other people might be interested in it, so I decided to do a zine. I had never done one before, so I ordered a copy of Stolen Sharpie and did some homework.

I honestly feel that my recipes and cooking style are more fitting for a DIY format. I can be loose in my recipe instructions, I can cuss, and I can do themes! Themes are fun. I was trying to think up a name, and the song "Don't Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk" by The Cramps came up on my playlist. How long have you been vegan, and why did you choose this lifestyle? I have been vegan since July of 2006, but i've been a vegetarian since 1993. My transition was very gradual. I started drinking soy milk and limiting my dairy intake in general. Then I stopped buying eggs because I never ate them all, and I dabbled in vegan baking. I started considering veganism because I didn't feel right anymore, I was feeling guilty about consuming animal products at all. I hopped online to do some research, and discovered The Post Punk Kitchen. I bought Vegan With A Vengeance, joined the message boards, and was vegan within a week. Everyone there is so nice and they made it seem so easy, and it was! I've never doubted my decision. From what I've been able to glean, your husband isn't vegan. Does that create any conflicts, and do you have any culinary-inspired advice for other couples? No, he's not vegan. Sometimes it creates problems, but most of the time he is very respectful. We have a compromise, our household is vegetarian (no meat), but he keeps cheese and pudding around. I do most of the shopping, but sometimes he'll come home and say something like, "I got barbecue sauce, and I checked the ingredients to make sure that you could eat it." The fact that he likes a lot of vegan foods really helps. He loves seitan, I have a picture of him stuffing a whole chunk in his mouth straight out of the pot. Unfortunately, he hates vegetables. So a lot of the time I'll make something simple, like tofu with rice and sauce, and then I'll cook the vegetables on the side for me. Or we'll make vegetarian tacos and he'll add cheese to his at the end. Then there are times that I tell him that I'm going to make something he won't like, like lasagna, and he'll eat a tofurkey sandwich for dinner. My advice would be to find a middle ground. If you try to force your non-vegan partner to be vegan, it's just going to cause tension, and relationships have enough of that. That doesn't mean that you have to cook them steak for dinner, either. It's all about respect. And keeping around lots of vegan cookies to stuff in their mouths if they start complaining. What kind of food did you grow up eating? Ha, my parents were terrible cooks. I grew up eating things like frozen salisbury steak and Hamburger Helper. One time, I got grounded because I wouldn't eat a mustard sandwich. Everything was overcooked, the meat and the vegetables. When I hit junior high, my mother stopped cooking dinner and I ate microwave meals most of the time. The upside is that I really appreciate fresh foods now. The downside is that when I started learning how to cook, I had no foundation to start with. What cuisines, geographical regions, or flavors most inspire your cooking? I'm from the Midwest, "the breadbasket of the country", and that has greatly influenced my preferred cooking style. I like things that are warm, creamy, and filling. Basically, comfort food. I grew up in the city that hosts the Illinois state fair, so I believe that you can deep fry pretty much everything (but I don't). I'm on a mission to make a really good vegan horseshoe. You're based in Clarksville, Tennessee, which I would imagine is a meat-heavy place to be. How do the locals regard your veganism? The problem is not being in Tennessee, but the fact that my husband is in the army. Almost all of the social activities that I'm expected to attend are either barbecues or potlucks. Since I don't like going to food related activities where I can't eat anything, I just avoid them. I'm a very private person, and years of having people shove hamburgers in my face have made me cautious about telling people that I'm vegan. I'm a hermit in general, so it's usually not an issue. There's no health food store here, but there is a natural food section at the local Kroger. Also, the army commissary is surprisingly vegan friendly, with tempeh, tofu, soy yogurt, and even a small organic section. When will the second issue of DEOTS be available? What kinds of recipes will be included? How many more issues do you aim to publish? It's mostly written right now, and depending on when you publish this, it might be ready by the time people are reading this. I had a setback with the cover art. I can't draw, so I have an artist friend do it for me and I forgot to ask her about it until a few weeks ago. Most of the recipes are holiday-themed, but not all of them. A lot of them are veganized versions of recipes i've been using for years. There are a few original recipes that I'm pretty proud of, like the Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake. In addition to recipes, I have a few articles about vegan gifts, other recipes I really like, etc. I honestly can't say how many issues I will make. There is definitely going to be a third issue, because I have been sitting on the theme for that for over a year. It's going to be a tribute to my favorite TV show and all of the food references in it. Which show? It's a secret! How do you find your testers, and what is that process like? Very simple, I post a thread on the PPK message boards asking for testers. People reply, I send them a link to my testing forums. They point out errors in the recipes, suggest changes, etc. and when I write the final draft I take all of the comments into consideration and make little changes as necessary. I could probably get away with not having testers since i'm just doing a zine, but I like the feedback. There's a fringe group of vegans being dubbed "vegan-sexuals," who abstain from physical intimacy with non-vegans. What are your thoughts on this? It's infuriating, because this is the kind of stuff that gets a lot of media attention. The general public doesn't want to hear that vegans are happy and healthy, they want to hear about how we're elitist snobs who are picky about who we sleep with and that we starve our children. It confirms their belief that vegans are an insane little cult. I'd like to see some mainstream news stories that shatter that stereotype. It makes sense that a person who is vegan might not want to be in a long term relationship with an omnivore, but to say that you won't even have sex with one? Where do you draw the line? Can you not be friends with people who eat meat? I believe in the saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. If you tell someone you won't sleep with them because they're not vegan, they're not going to think about their diet. They're just going to think that you're a whackjob.

The second issue of Don't Eat Off The Sidewalk will be available Nov. 1

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