Welcome to Laura Miller‘s curious cooking show
BY SANDY STRASSER
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2015)
Those that think a vegan diet boring and stripped of all creativity will be easily contradicted by Laura Miller. It has rarely been more fun to watch while others cook than when watching her. Laura’s metiér: everything. As long as it is plant-based! The bubbly American lives in San Francisco together with her dog named Buzz. From there, she excites audiences across the globe with her cooking show on YouTube. What is the key ingredient of her success? Her charm, wit and a large dose of irony with which she presents her truly tempting recipes. After speaking to us, Laura created an exclusive PKM menu, which will make you crave for more when simply reading it.
What do you think Laura, why is there this hype around a vegan diet at the moment?
Laura Miller: I think veganism is much more accessible than it used to be. It is not just for hippies anymore. People from all different food backgrounds are discovering the benefits of plant-based, vegan food.
How and when did you discover your taste for vegan cuisine?
L. m.: I grew up in a family that grew a lot of our food – my dad had a big garden, an orchard, and a greenhouse. My mom was also really ahead of her time as far as feeding us plant-based foods. When I was 18, my older sister introduced me to the idea of veganism. With all of the environmental, health and animal rights reasons, it just made sense to me.
To what extent can a vegan diet indeed influence our daily life and well-being positively?
L. m.: I think that many people have no idea how much food affects how they feel. I have worked with some folks who had no idea that they felt constantly tired and bloated until they cut out the foods with added trans-fats, artificial colours and flavours, and preservatives that were weighing them down. Plant-based foods fuel you.
How would you answer people who say that vegan eating is not healthy for humans?
L. m.: Any type of diet can be done incorrectly – you can eat chips and drink beer all day and call yourself a vegan! What I am promoting is a plant-based vegan diet, which, if done correctly, is the best thing you can do for your body. It lowers cholesterol, prevents heart disease, helps you sleep better, improves your mood and can also help you lose weight.
Which obstacles have you had to overcome before your YouTube series ‘Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.’ became a success?
L. m.: I actually never had any intention of being in videos. It happened by accident. I had a small raw desserts business in San Francisco called Sidesaddle Kitchen, and my dream was to sell wholesale desserts to restaurants. It ended up not working out, but a video that had been made about my business made it over to the Youtube channel Tastemade, and they hired me to do more.
What is the underlying concept of your videos?
L. m.: The show is all about accessibility. I try to create recipes that don’t have too many wacky ingredients or too many steps, because that’s just not practical for many of our viewers. Tastemade has really been great about giving me free reign with what recipes I do, which I really appreciate.
What are your influences or from where do you take inspiration when planning a new episode?
L. m.: The great thing about doing web-based videos is that we get almost immediate feedback from our viewers, so we can respond accordingly. I still read all the comments and pay attention to which ingredients people are having trouble finding or what parts of a recipe are confusing that I should be explaining better. We use that information to make future content that is more helpful to our viewers.
Why this title? It seems pretty blunt.
L. m.: It was the tagline for the small raw desserts business that I had in San Francisco. I had a big sign at the farmers’ markets that said Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. because I didn’t want people to be put off by the whole “raw vegan” thing. A lot of people still associate eating vegan with food that tastes like cardboard, and that is just not the case.
To what extent can creative video content change the way we look at eating?
L. m.: Video just makes cooking so much more accessible. It allows people to feel more comfortable and empowered in the kitchen, and is a great way to learn about new cuisines and cultures.
Imagine someone would like to share their passions with others via video stream too, what would you advise them to do?
L. m.: It sounds very cliché and obvious, but I think it is very important to just be yourself and use your own authentic voice. When I started, I didn’t think I belonged on video because I did not look or speak like hosts I’d seen on TV – I am not stick-thin, I am not particularly perky, and I make a lot of mistakes in the kitchen. But I just couldn’t fake any of those things – it wasn’t possible. Lucky for me, our viewers were into my slow and low voice, and they thought it was funny when I made mistakes!
You are currently working on your first cookbook which is scheduled for publication next spring. Would you reveal the title for us?
L. m.: Yes! The title is ‘Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.’
What will the topic of your cookbook be and why?
L. m.: The book focuses on eating food that makes you feel great, both physically and mentally. What we eat really does determine how we feel on a daily basis. The book will also be chock full of vegan, gluten-free recipes. Most will be raw, but I have included some cooked recipes as well.
Talking about cooking: you were so kind as to create a vegan PKM menu for our readers. How did you select the ingredients and dishes to include?
L. m.: I chose a spicy chili wrap as the main dish because it is a great entry point into the raw world as it is colourful, delicious, and you can eat it with your hands. I combined it with a citrus salad that is packed with iron, fibre, and vitamin C. For dessert, I have a pudding that is incredibly quick and easy to prepare, but also rich and decadent. It’s fun to serve this to guests. They will never guess it is vegan, much less made with avocados!
What distinguishes this menu and what is essential to be able to recreate it at home?
L. m.: I wanted to include recipes that were packed with flavour, but required no dehydration or baking. It’s all just chopping and blending. The only equipment you’ll need is a good knife and a blender or food processor.
On a scale from 1 very easy and 5 very advanced, how would you rate the PKM menu?
L. m.: Can I say 2.5? The hardest part is to gathering all the ingredients. Once you have got them it is just a matter of assembly!
Kindly describe yourself and your talent in one sentence:
L. m.: I am a lifelong produce-lover, newly minted cookbook author and recipe video maker!
What are your plans for your future professional development?
L. m.: I want to continue getting people interested in plant-based food in a fun and accessible way. I’d love to do this by collaborating with other chefs, artists and makers. I think it is important to have fresh new perspectives in the food world.
Please tell us about your lifelong dream.
L. m.: I want to help create cultural shifts in how we think about our bodies and the way we treat them. We live in a world in which shape and form are valued over health and substance. I would like to support people in creating healthier relationships with their bodies.
Picture credits © Molly Decourdreaux