~post by Emily
Two of our booksellers have written a brand new book that will be on our shelves next week. Vegan Survival Guide to Austin is the first of its kind – a guide to the many vegan friendly restaurants and food trucks here in town, as well as a look at the history of Austin’s vegan scene and the people who have built our vibrant and ever-growing vegan community.
Carolyn Tracy is BookPeople’s web sales manager. Julie Wernersbach is BookPeople’s publicist. They researched and wrote this book, published by History Press, in their spare time. Inspired by the format and success of the bestseller Austin Breakfast Tacos, they have put all of their bookselling and vegan food-eating knowledge to use to create what they hope will be an informative, useful book for local and visiting vegans and for the veg-curious.
We’ll celebrate the release of Vegan Survival Guide here at BookPeople on Wednesday, February 4th at 7pm. All are welcome! Refreshments will generously be provided by Austin’s all-vegan, must-visit restaurant, Counter Culture. We asked Julie and Carolyn a few questions about the book and Austin veganism in advance of their event.
BookPeople: When did the idea for the book come about and were you eating at a vegan restaurant at the time?
Vegan Survival Guide: We were drinking beers and celebrating a friend’s birthday at Liberty Bar when we first considered the idea. A group of us were sitting around the table swapping favorite vegan eats and we said, “There must be a book about this.” We thought about it a minute and realized that, no, the book didn’t exist. We got really serious really fast and put together a proposal about a month later. Several of our vegan and veg friends were there to confirm that this was, indeed, a rational idea.
BP: How long did the whole process take, from concept to research to publication?
VSG: That night at Liberty Bar took place in December 2013. We had a book deal by April and turned in the final manuscript in October 2014. It was a busy summer. We ate a LOT of really, really good vegan food really, really fast.
BP: Who is this book for?
VSG: EVERYBODY. New Austinites; new vegans; omnivores looking to incorporate Meatless Mondays or just more good old fashioned vegetables into their diets; people who don’t know what veganism is, but know that their cousin is vegan and want to have something to talk about at Thanksgiving; longtime vegans who know everything that is in this book already because they lived it and want a book that documents vegan history in Austin; foodies; food truck enthusiasts; humans who eat.
BP: When did you each decide to go vegan and was it a difficult transition to make?
Carolyn: I stopped eating meat when I was 13 and then transitioned to veganism around 16. Yes, it was hard. I was a teenager growing up in the ‘burbs of Texas and really just wanted to eat junk food, but not harm animals. I learned to love the 5 Layer Burrito from Taco Bell (7 layer minus sour cream and cheese) and figured out how to be resourceful at the grocery store with the encouragement of my mom. Things have certainly gotten easier over the years…
Julie: I stopped eating meat while working in a large dining hall during college. Seeing those plastic bags of Sysco chicken and beef dumped into vats and turned out on tray after tray as the “meat of the day” was enough to turn me off (and to make me think hard about where all of the other food in my life was coming from). I made the transition to a vegan diet after I moved to Austin and discovered I was lactose intolerant. I had the tremendous convenience of becoming vegan in a city that served vegan soft serve around the corner from my apartment building. I have nothing to complain about.
BP: Do you think veganism is a trend or here to stay?
VSG: I (Carolyn) think it’s enjoying a specific boom right now, but I do believe it’s becoming a clearer option as a way of life for folks. When eating a plant based diet is as easy as it is in Austin, you don’t get the feeling that you’re ‘missing’ or ‘foregoing’ anything. We have a vegan ice cream shop, vegan BBQ, vegan brunch, a vegan grocery store and more and more restaurants are adding vegan options and even menus to their lineup.
I (Julie) don’t think eating vegan is the same as, say, adopting the Atkins or Paleo diet. This isn’t a weight loss plan, it’s a lifestyle. More than ever, people are paying attention to how the food we consume affects both our personal health and the health of our environment. Americans have never been so conscious of where our food comes from. I think the growing movement towards a plant-based diet is a result of this increased awareness.
BP: What impact do you hope Vegan Survival Guide will have on Austin’s vegan scene?
VSG: We hope it makes it easier for folks who want to eat plant based food to do so, whatever their motivation may be. There’s also a vibrant vegan community here that we aim to support and celebrate. The people we interviewed for this book are working tirelessly to make it easier to eat vegan in Austin. They save animals, run chili cook-offs, organize bake sales and social outings, put on festivals….it’s incredible. We were humbled and impress by how much energy people are expending, as individuals and independent businesses, to make Austin so vegan-friendly. More than anything, we hope this book will provide exposure and help drive more business their way so they can keep doing what they do.
BP: Would you ever consider creating a vegan cookbook?
VSG: Yes, absolutely, though it would probably just be 101 ways to make vegan mac and cheez.
BP: Aside from Austin, what are some great cities for eating vegan, both in Texas and beyond?
VSG: San Antonio! They’ve got fantastic options. Also Denver and of course Portland.
BP: Do you have any tips for the traveling vegan?
VSG: Grocery Co-ops are your best friend. They get it. Find them first. There you’ll be able to ask for restaurant recommendations. And always travel with snacks! Stock your pockets with vegan jerky and fruit leathers.