As a continuation of my efforts to bring vegans in together here in Casper, I interviewed a long time friend of mine! I am doing monthly interviews with people I have met that have adopted a vegan lifestyle. This not only shows that there are more people out there than everyone believes, but it also allows people to see that it is possible to be vegan in Wyoming! Every month on the last Sunday of the month, I will share someone’s story, including why they went vegan, what their favorite products are, other fun facts! This month I interviewed Katherine Roussel. She is a college student and just happens to work at my favorite coffee shop in town, so lucky for me I get to visit with her on a fairly regular basis!
Katherine have known each other since we were kids, I honestly don’t remember how long. My earliest memory with her is from middle school. She was vegetarian and I had just gone vegan. We were having a conversation about peanut butter because I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and she was telling me how sometimes she would just sit down and eat half of the jar. Later on I had a few classes with her in high school, and we naturally gravitated toward each other. We would talk about food all the time, naturally. Every once in a while we would make lunch together and get together to cook. I just remember being really excited that there was someone who was my age that was doing the same thing as I was.
I loved getting to sit down and talk to Katherine for this interview! It had been a few years since I had seen her and it was amazing to hear her story and get to know her even better! Katherine has been vegan for a year and a half. As I mentioned earlier, she had been vegetarian before going vegan. She was vegetarian for six or seven years before making the full transition to veganism. She initially went vegetarian because she didn’t like eating animals. After being an exchange student in Brazil, she developed a lactose intolerance. She figured that if she wasn’t going to eat dairy, there wasn’t a point in eating all of “the other stuff”. Knowing she was fully plant based, she sought alternatives to leather and body products. The food part wasn’t an issue for Katherine at all. Since she had been vegetarian for so long, she was “used to things like tofu and tempeh”, the food part was very easy for her. She really struggled with all of the body care, cleaning supplies, and other house hold products. We both agreed that it’s so hard to be a “perfect vegan”, though. In other words, finding all of the cleaning products we need at Natural Grocers or taking quarterly trips to Whole Foods is incredibly impractical. Not to mention a lot of vegan/vegan friendly companies are owned by parent companies that either test on animals or lack ethics. Luckily, she had a few people support her in her early months of veganism. Her boyfriend has supported her decision and attempts to make her baked goods, and her younger sister will go grocery shopping with her mom to make sure everything they buy is vegan friendly. Even her coworkers look out for her! Every time she steams her soy, her coworkers make sure that the steamer is sanitized and the non-dairy pitcher is strictly non-diary. On the other hand, her mom has a hard time understanding. She also gets a lot of questions from her friends. Most people will ask her how she does it. In short, she says she puts food in her mouth and eats!
Just like many others I have talked to, Katherine found inspiration in watching other people living a vegan lifestyle. To my surprise she said that I was her biggest inspiration in making that transition. She said when we would cook together I would make it look “easy and effortless” and she thought that if I could do it, she could do it too. There was something about “having an actual person in real life do it effortlessly” that reassured her that being vegan wasn’t hard. She also follows a lot of vegans on Instagram and “religiously follows the Minimalist Baker blog” and that helps her get ideas for meals.
Of course we had to talk about food! Katherine has found that “once you become a vegan, no food combination is too weird”. I had to completely agree. Neither one of us were sure where these strange inspirations came from, but we make them work like “nutritional yeast on toast” or “hummus on noodles”. Her favorite things are the Chao Cheese slices, both the tomato cayenne and plain. She was telling me about all of the quesadillas she makes. Once again some of them were super bizarre (tempeh bacon and regular Chao), but it made sense to me since I worked at a cafe that did a similar one. By far her favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurant is City O’ City in Denver, CO. She told me the biscuits and gravy are a must! Apparently she still talks about them with her sister! When she’s stuck in Casper, she loves going to the Arepa Barn. On the other hand, she really likes comfort food! Her favorite thing to make is mac n’ cheese! She describes it as “the thing at the grocery store that you know you like, or the thing you eat that you always like”. Speaking of grocery stores, we briefly talked about all of the dos and don’ts at the grocery store. Both of us had to agree that all of the Field Roast products are amazing, especially since they’re available at so many stores around town now! We also had to agree that reading labels sucks so we mostly stick to the trusted products that we have been familiar with for years. Katherine said that every once in a while, she will pick up something new out of curiosity. Unfortunately when she did that with the Gardein “crabless cakes”, she was unpleasantly surprised. As far as grocery stores go, Albertson’s is definitely the way to go. Since they have changed ownership, it is an amazing breath of fresh air!
Everyone who has adopted a vegan lifestyle has their own way of being an activist whether it is for the environment, for the animals, or for health. Ever since going vegetarian, Katherine has been an activist for animals. She said she is kind of a loud mouth when it comes to animal rights, so she has to control herself when she is in public. She is currently getting her degree in biology and wants to use it to help animals, specifically orcas. Basically, she does what she does because she believes that “every animal has the right to exist” and that her existence isn’t more important than any animal out there.
To end the interview, I asked Katherine what she would tell a new vegan. Her best advice to everyone is “to be patient”. Getting rid of an entire wardrobe of wool, silk, and leather clothing can be incredibly costly. Those things take time to replace. It is also hard for people to switch body care products overnight. A lot of people (like me) want that instant gratification and expect to have the change happen overnight. Realistically, the change will happen over time and she has come to realize that she will never a “perfect vegan”.
I had so much fun talking with Katherine! I really didn’t want the interview to end. We covered a lot of ground in the short time we got to talk. I loved hearing about all of her cooking and grocery store endeavors, and her take on the lifestyle part of veganism. I know it helped me to hear some of her struggles with converting average everyday products to more vegan friendly ones!
More than anything, I just hope stories like this inspire everyone whether they are vegan or not! If you are interested in being interviewed, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!