Have you ever thought about the ultimate guest list at your dream vegan dinner party? I do. Maybe it’s because I live in a small one-bedroom condo and I wish I could host dinner parties, or because I have some really amazing vegan friends I would like to do something nice for, or maybe, even, it’s because I am so inspired by some of the truly life-changing voices in the vegan community that I wish I could sit down with all of them at once and have a fabulous evening full of vegan food and intelligent conversation. Whatever the case, I recently found myself pondering who I would invite…
Let me reiterate, I already have some incredible vegan friends. One of them gave me a job and showed me the way early on in my own vegan path. One of them is an amazing cook. Two of them work towards ending factory farming. Another two run a vegan meetup. Another one works toward helping people reclaim their health by shifting to a whole-foods, plant-based diet. These people are rockstars. I don’t know what I did in this life to have the great fortune of knowing them. That’s the truth.
But if I wanted to fantasize about being surrounded by (whom I have dubbed) “vegan celebrities” and breaking bread with them, here are the people in the vegan world (in no particular order) I find inspiring, motivating, talented, and just plain old cool.
1. JL Fields — JL and I exchanged email at very pivotal times in both of our lives. She was working towards building her passion into a profession, and I was looking how to get out of my (then) profession. Her advice was empathetic and heartfelt. I’ve been a long-time blog reader of hers and the way she has moved to various places around the country and is basically now helping to set the scene for the vegan movement in Colorado is awesome. And she didn’t come to veganism until later in her life — proof that anyone can change at any time and become a strong voice for the animals. At the dinner party, I would love to get her advice on turning one’s passion into action.
2. and 3. Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer — These two ladies run Our Hen House — one of my favorite podcasts which I listen to religiously. They not only fight for animal rights, but they have an online magazine, online publishing arm, podcast, Brooklyn-based tv show, speak at events — what is it they aren’t doing to spread the word about ethical veganism?! The dedication they show in their work and the integrity with which they do it is inspiring. They have found their place in this world, or rather, made their place in this world, to save animals. At the dinner party, I would love to ask them how they found their voices and learned to be so steadfast in their pursuits.
4. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau — Another favorite of mine, Colleen is not only a successful cookbook author, but she offers amazing podcast episodes and YouTube videos to empower other vegans and manifest change in their own lives. She’s incredibly, incredibly well-spoken, well-read, intelligent and compassionate. While her work is meant to help other vegans, every minute of her work and intention comes back to the bottom line — saving the animals. At my dream dinner party, I would love to talk to Colleen about how she became so confidently armed with knowledge so that I, too, can speak intelligently on all things vegan.
5. Jay Astafa — Jay Astafa is a vegan chef. What is so amazing to me is how young and talented he is! His food not only looks (and apparently, tastes) amazing, but he has been so successful as to go on to start his own boutique vegan catering company. Not only would I hire Jay to cater the dinner party, but I would absolutely make sure he had the time to sit down to hear the other guests rave about his cooking, but also so I could talk to him about how he got started with experimenting in the kitchen and nab some of his cooking tips for myself ;-).
6. Jenny Brown — I was first smitten by Jenny Brown when she was a guest on the Our Hen House podcast. I’ve since read her book “The Lucky Ones” and am in awe of all that this founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary has overcome and accomplished. She’s apparently a real fire-cracker, too. I love that! I want to tell her how cool I think she is, what spunk I think she has, and find out more about her life at the sanctuary — the behind-the-scenes stuff, the animal stories, the impact the animals may/may not have on the omnivorous sanctuary tourists, etc.
7. Dr. Neil Barnard — Neil Barnard heads the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. The website for this organization is chock-full of medical and health information and how it relates to a vegan diet. Most interesting to me are the cases PCRM is making against animal testing at universities and other institutions that use animals as the “dummies” in medical training. While he might be too smart for me to follow, I would love to talk to Dr. Barnard about more humane practices for medical research. Animal testing is a tough call, at least I think it is. I don’t believe in it, but if I had to look at an innocent child who is fighting leukemia and the only thing standing between that child’s health and death is testing a treatment on a rat, I’ll be honest, I would have a hard time looking at the child and saying, “sorry, kid — tough luck.” You may think that is speciesist, and I guess you would be right. But that is where Dr. Barnard’s insight would be so helpful. Maybe we would save the medical testing talk until after the food has been served 😉
8. Bruce Friedrich — Bruce (P.S. do I have a right to call any of these vegan celebs by their first names?) is the Senior Policy Director for Farm Sanctuary. He also serves on the advisory board of the Christian Vegetarian Association and is a founding member of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians. This is all according to my research. How I really found out about Bruce is through a book I am currently reading: The Animal Activist’s Handbook. However, as a person of faith, I regularly struggle with watching my fellow neighbors in faith who are ignorant to the inherent cruelty in eating animals. Bruce and I need to have a chat about how to reach religious people on the compassionate level.
9. Matt Frazier — I’ve been following Matt’s No Meat Athlete blog for a while. His brand is on fire! As you can probably tell, he talks about being an athlete (various levels of athleticism) and being fueled by a vegan diet. But he, too, has a podcast, a book, merchandise, and has even organized No Meat Athlete running groups around the country. He’s also written some incredibly insightful blog posts about hot button topics, like vegan vs. paleo. His writing is always thoughtful and uplifting and positive. Matt just seems like a cool guy and I want to have a chance to tell him that, and get some running tips. Running is my workout of choice 😉 And here’s a cool fact, I just learned that Matt is a native Marylander — like me!
10. Fran Costigan — No, I did not “save the best for last”, but heck, that might as well be the case. Fran Costigan is the queen of vegan chocolate baking. Y’all know I can’t have a dream dinner party without Fran bringing some of her show-stopping, mouth-watering chocolate recipes along. I own her Vegan Chocolate cookbook and it is too die for — you must get it if you profess to be a chocoholic! I would love to talk to Fran not only cooking and baking with chocolate, but I’m curious if her baking has led to any vegan conversions. How did she discover her love for chocolate and how did she make such a name for herself in this niche within the vegan community?
As I stated earlier, this would be a fantasy dream dinner party. There is no way in heck I will ever be able to sit down and have one on one, let alone group, conversations with all of these overwhelmingly inspiring people. But a girl can dream, can’t she?
What about you?