SFU student Emily Von Euw, creator of the popular weblog, This Rawsome Vegan Life, has created a vegan dessert cookbook for the ages. Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-Cookbook will be in stores March 4 through Macmillan Publishers.
The book moves away from the spiral-bound word-art cookbooks of the early raw vegan movement, instead opting for a pro-matte finish.
Von Euw is a proponent of raw veganism, which combines veganism’s avoidance of animal by-products with a focus on foods never heated above 120°F. Many foods, when heated above this temperature, lose valuable enzymes and vitamins.
In her desserts, Von Euw uses only raw ingredients: dried fruit, nuts, purported superfoods such as coconut oil and cacao powder, etc. The recipes created out of these building blocks play on consistency and are open to infinite variation.
In recreating one of her cheesecake recipes, I added a cup and a half of rainier cherries on a whim — it turned out fantastic. Rawsome Vegan Baking takes raw desserts to a new level while remaining accessible to curious newcomers.
The photography, shot by Von Euw herself, is beautiful. Her blog, which receives over one million monthly page-views, has provided great practice for the gorgeous full colour photographs included with every recipe. The recipes and their accompanying photographs are regular features on the covers of vegan magazines.
I met with Von Euw at Golden Aura, a recently opened raw vegan café located on a particularly yoga-centric block of West Broadway. The food was good, but lacked the knockout flavour present in many of Von Euw’s recipes. We talked about her vegan destiny, convincing skeptics, and eating healthy on campus.
The Peak: What made you want to become a vegetarian or vegan in the first place?
Emily Von Euw: I don’t have an amazing answer because I don’t really remember much, but I remember reading Fit for Life, which is a book that was written in the 80s. It’s not even 100 per cent accurate, but it asks very rational things like “Why are we drinking the milk of another species when we’re full grown adults.” It is a little bit weird guys! So I remember reading that and thinking, “Why am I drinking milk? Why am I eating meat? This doesn’t make sense!” Then the next thing I remember is that I decided to go vegan for 30 days. A day or two into it I thought, “This is what my fate is, this is the lifestyle for me,” and I pretty much never went back.
P: Your transition to a vegan diet was quick! Were there any factors in place that made that possible?
Von Euw: A little bit before I went vegan, my uncle got leukemia and passed away. It was pretty intense and tragic for everybody involved because we were all really tight. That was a tough time. I was into healthy eating at that point and I remember being in the hospital with him and they gave him pudding in a cup and I thought, “This is so messed up, this can’t be right!” He should have been getting like fresh juices and healthy food! It didn’t make sense.
P: Can you explain your connection to the raw philosophy?
Von Euw: When I first heard about raw food I was like, [Sir Mix-a-Lot voice] “Oh my gosh, raw diet!” and I saw it as very 100 per cent or nothing, almost from a militant perspective.
I’ve since learned that’s not the way I should look at it. It isn’t about eating only raw food, it’s just about the fact that raw food is usually more nutritious than cooked food. No matter what, it is going to be in its whole form so it has a higher water content and it makes you feel fuller. It is also just easier for your body to digest most of the time, right?
Having said that, cooked foods are great for you, too. Quinoa, steamed veggies, etc., they’re all amazing for you and I eat those as well. I just try to eat the majority of my diet raw because that’s how I feel best. I think that how much raw food people should eat varies based on what will make them feel best, you know? Have an open mind about it. It’s not an all or nothing thing.
P: Do you have any tips for eating raw on campus?
Von Euw: For people who are trying to eat raw or eat vegan, or just trying to eat healthier, I recommend bringing tons of fruit, tons of nuts, and, honestly, recipes from my book because they’re all great energy snacks. I call them desserts, but really they’re the ingredients that you have in a granola bar, so they’re great for keeping you full. Nuts have really high calories and so does dried fruit.
Another thing I tell people, if they want to save money, is to buy rice and beans in bulk, cook them in large quantities, freeze them into little servings, and then have veggies, sauces, and soups in your fridge. Then all you have to do is steam some veggies, take out your rice, beans, or whatever, and mix that with a sauce or soup, and you’ve got a great meal. It isn’t raw but it’s super good for you, super cheap, and super vegan.
P: I actually made one of your recipes once. I made a cheesecake and it was really awesome. There was definitely lots of room to be creative with it. Everybody who tried it really loved it, and I don’t think they even knew it was vegan.
Von Euw: I was catering a friend’s play the other day and this woman and her friend came up to the table and were like “What’s in this? Is it a cheesecake?” I told her I call it a ‘creamcake,’ and that it’s cashew-based and has coconut oil and lemon and lavender, and all this great delicious stuff, and that it’s good for you — and dairy free.
Then she was like, “Oh, dairy free…” and she literally stuck up her nose and turned away. We were all trying to convince her to try it, because it was really good. So she had a piece and was like “OMG, this is so good! This is really interesting!” That was a big compliment for me. It’s more meaningful when a skeptic is wowed than a vegan raw-foodie because I have more to prove, there’s more at stake in it.
P: I’ve heard you will be creating a juice and smoothie book next? Can you give us a sneak peek as to what that will be like?
Von Euw: It’s going to be about 100 recipes. There will be sweet smoothies like the classic fruit smoothie, and there will be savoury smoothies which are going to have garlic and such. “Savoury smoothie” sounds kind of weird to me, so I tell people to think of them as raw soup. Put it in a bowl if that makes you feel better! There’s also going to be sweet and savoury juices as well as some energy bars and raw and healthy snacks. It should be out in December of this year.
P: Lastly, what’s your favourite recipe from Rawsome Vegan Baking?
Von Euw: Honestly, I’m going to have to go with my super indulgent side. There is a recipe in the book that I think is called vanilla chocolate chunk cheesecake. It’s in-freaking-sane. It’s just so decadent! You can use peanut butter, or raw peanut butter, or tahini, or cashew butter. There is chocolate and delicious vanilla layers. It’s super creamy and super dense. I could probably eat the whole cake!