If you don’t know who Terry Hope Romero is, you must have been living under a block of tofu for the last 10+ years because she’s kind of a big deal in the vegan world. Those who do recognise the name will probably know her as Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s collaborator on Post Punk Kitchen as well as their subsequent books – Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Pie in the Sky and Veganomicon as well as her own cookbooks – Viva Vegan and Vegan Eats World.
Terry is Down Under as part of Sydney Vegan Festival and I was lucky enough to keep her up late from her home in NYC before she left, to talk about vegan cooking, Australia and of course – Vegemite.
Let’s start at the beginning, what was it that led you to start cooking vegan?
I was cooking before I was vegan! Since probably before I was 12, I was always baking, cooking, reading cookbooks, that kind of stuff. After going vegetarian at 16 and years later vegan, I loved the challenge of transforming non-vegan recipes into vegan ones, and then later inventing all new recipes too.
What was the first thing you cooked where you were like “yeah, this is dope, I might be onto something”?
I’ve been making great food since I was a teen! So I have no idea, other than I must have liked something enough to keep making it. Again, I love both baking and cooking, so it could be mint chocolate chip cookies one day, peanut avocado sushi another, or veg paella or seitan tamales or so many other things.
It’s hard to believe that with your collection of amazing recipes that you would have any total culinary failures but can you recall any disaster dishes?
Sure, it happens to everybody. When working on the pie cookbook Vegan Pie in the Sky, I had a few requests to make a vegan version of “shoofly pie”, a regional favourite in Pennsylvania. It’s made with a ton of molasses and some eggs to hold it together. My first version had a whooping 2 ½ cups of molasses, and I didn’t get the binding replacement for eggs down. So while the pie looked nice, one slice in the entire thing just bled molasses all over the kitchen counter. It still tasted pretty good, and my friend Dave ate the entire thing.
Is there any recipe or dish that you’re yet to conquer?
Well I’m not out to make everything vegan…there are a lot of local weird meat-heavy things out there that I’m living my life just fine without a vegan substitute. There’s a lot of people out there working on making vegan meringue desserts. Not my thing, but more power to them if they want it.
Now, a lot of people would know you from your work with Isa Moskowitz on Post Punk Kitchen and subsequent collabs such as Vegan Cupcakes, Vegan Cookies, and Veganomicon. As well as your own books like Viva Vegan and Vegan Eats World . What do you think it is that made those books such a success?
They’re awesome books. We’re awesome. We’re fun and we like to make good food. We brought the world vegan cupcakes when there was a dearth of them…can you imagine a world before vegan cupcakes? Dark times indeed.
Are there any other vegan personalities that you’d love to collaborate with in the future?
No. Ha, seriously that’s top secret news! All shall be revealed in good time.
You’re heading out in March for the Vegan Festival in Sydney and some other events around the country, have you been to Australia before? What are you most looking forward to?
First time ever to Australia! It’s a little unreal and I’ve been so busy (finishing up a new book Salad Samurai for the spring, among other things!), I haven’t had a chance yet to plan. But I’ve been told to look out for all kinds of exciting and different twists on vegan cuisine. Time to make a list!
We have some pretty amazing vegan restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne, any that you’ve heard about that you’re particularly looking forward to trying?
I have and I want them all!
Have you tried Vegemite yet?
Of course! I was gifted a wonderful jar of it when I was in the U.K. from @msmarmitelover (of the Supper Club Fan Group) and instantly became of fan of it smeared on vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.
What’s next for Terry? Got any exciting projects on the horizon?
Yes! A new book, Salad Samurai, coming this spring! And lookout for a new season (season 2) of The Vegan Mashup also coming in the spring!
You can catch Terry Hope Romero along with a bunch of other dope vegan legends at the following events:
Wednesday, 26th March – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday, 29th March – Sydney Vegan Festival, Sydney
Sunday, 30th March - Crowbar, Brisbane