There was a Spanish Sephardic Jewish Philosopher named Maimonides who said something (actually numerous things) that just made sense. My personal favorite is this: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I realize that fish is not part of a vegan diet, so substitute the word ‘fish’ with your favorite vegan meal.
I chose this quote because it reminded me of sisters Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg, who are the owners and operators of Spork Foods, a Los Angeles vegan food company. This company isn’t a restaurant, but rather a hands on experience that offers organic vegan cooking classes, in-home healthy eating consultations, private cooking parties, corporate trainings and demos, team-building cooking classes and more. It’s easy enough to find a vegan restaurant these days, but let’s face it; eating out for every meal gets expensive really quick, and quite frankly, it can get boring. Being able to create your own vegan meals is a learning process and allows you, the cook, to expand your vegan lifestyle.
In addition to offering cooking demonstrations at schools, corporations, festivals and parties, they offer cooking classes in West Hollywood (they have been doing cooking classes for 8 years, 4 ½ at that West Hollywood location). Each class is $70 per person has a different inspiration. They recently had a Mexican Christmas theme, a tamale theme, an Italian theme and upcoming an aphrodisiac theme for Valentine’s Day.
What led you to veganism?
Heather: Fifteen years ago, while in college, we made connection that the food we were putting in our mouths three times a day had a profound impact on the environment. We went vegan and never looked back. Like many vegans, what started out at an environmental impact decision that morphed into a lifestyle decision—we are vegan now because of a culmination of issues: it’s better for the animals, our bodies and the planet.
Jenny: The food options when we first became vegan were dismal, so we started making our own food. So we had tofu, brown rice, seasoning, veggies and a healthy imagination and appetite to try new things. Since then, the vegan market has exploded and there are so many vegan options, whether it be in vegan only restaurants, mainstream restaurants, grocery stores and even coffee shops.
Do you prefer to say vegan or plant-based or another word?
Heather: We love the word vegan! When you tell someone you’re vegan, it’s about a lifestyle inclusive not only of food but the clothes that you wear and the items you purchase to make the connection vs. only a plant based definition in a dictionary.
What positive changes have you seen lately for vegans? I know the obvious; there are more food options, especially in Los Angeles.
Heather: Just the familiarity of what vegan is, I rarely if ever have to define the word for people – they know what it is and more importantly they accept it.
Jenny: I Agree, and now they don’t assume we eat lettuce and condiments! The stigmas are going away. It’s no longer a fringe lifestyle, in fact, the health benefits are palpable, and it’s hard to deny that.
Also we are starting to see veganism embraced by all age groups which is great. It’s not just the young hip thing to do or just something women embrace; we are seeing a lot of older gentlemen that are looking to reverse health issues. We also notice a lot more ethnic and diverse population turning to veganism—we were in the Latin market the other day and noticed soy powder next to animal protein. It’s empowering to eat this way!
You do so many things—develop recipes, host cooking classes, cater events and cooking demonstrations (amongst other things). Tell me about a few and tell us, what is in store for Spork Foods for 2015?
Jenny: We are the Ambassadors and Executive Chefs for GO VEGGIE’s vegan line of food products and Sutten Farms. We just got back from a three month tour with Go VEGGIE and Whole Foods partnered with. We develop recipes, do tradeshows, and create video content for both of those brands. We’re pretty picky about which products or brands we promote and have turned quite a few down because of the quality of ingredients or taste; it can’t just be a so-so product, we have to absolutely love and use the product.
Thank you for your time, ladies, and I’ll definitely be attending one of your classes!
Jenny: Well thanks for spreading the word about our culture. The more people know about it, the more they are inclined to make that leap to Veganism.
Being vegan is more than just what kinds of foods you eat; it’s a more proactive lifestyle. It’s our responsibility to not only spread the word about veganism, but to act on it, and Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg certainly offer us plenty of ways to be active. Buy their cookbook ‘Spork-Fed Cookbook’, enroll in a class or set up a demonstration at your place of employment by visiting www.sporkfoods.com.