LA-based dynamic duo Heather Bell and Jenny Engel are sisters, business partners, and co-authors of two popular cookbooks, and their latest, Vegan 101, is poised to become a classic in the plant-based culinary genre. Here, the pair gives us an inside look into their delectable universe and invite us to the table to try some of their favorite plant-based recipes.
Q: You've been spreading the vegan love since 2007 when you launched Spork Foods, an LA-based vegan gourmet food company that offers, among other things, plant-based cooking classes. What kind of people come to your classes, and what do you hope they'll come away with after spending a few hours with you in the kitchen?
Sporkies: We’re always surprised at how each cooking class brings a whole new group of people into the kitchen – and some familiar faces too. In our classes we get a mix of young and old, ladies and gentlemen, vegans and non. Some classes end up mostly couples, and others have predominantly single ladies who forge friendships through their love of making healthy food. We always want people to come away with some fun cooking tips, and an understanding that plant-based, vegan cooking is do-able and, most important, delicious!
Q: So many veg-curious people are intimidated by the thought of shopping vegan, cooking vegan, and ultimately, eating vegan, thinking it will be complicated or lacking somehow. What might you say to those people to encourage them to give it a try?
Sporkies: Well, first we’d say that our new book, Vegan 101, is a great place to start breaking down barriers and becoming more familiar with what it means to go vegan. There is a handy guide to alternatives to dairy, eggs, and meat in the beginning of the book, and many of the recipes take 30 minutes or less, so you’re not going to spend all day dehydrating anything or investing in crazy cooking tools.
Also, we always tell people that if they just try to incorporate more vegan meals into their everyday lives, then they’ll soon see how smooth and easy it can be. There are so many incredible websites, restaurants, blogs, books, movies, and guides to help you go vegan - so if you truly want to make the shift, you’ll see it’s really approachable. And that’s not even mentioning the improvement you feel when you make the shift both energetically and spiritually.
Q: Your latest book, Vegan 101, explores the enticing world of vegan cuisine, with easy ideas for integrating vegan foods into our standard meal rotation. What are some of your favorite tips for newbies who want to dip their toes into veganism without fully committing?
One helpful tip is to understand that you’re not being punished, or putting yourself on a diet when going vegan and eating should still be pleasurable and exciting. Stock up on spices, vinegars, fresh fruits and veggies, and fresh herbs, and you’ll open yourself up to a bright, flavorful way of eating that’s not only delicious, but makes you fee good.
Much of our foods’ flavor comes from the seasonings we use, so having a stocked pantry will help your cooking immensely. Whether you’re drawn towards this choice for environmental reasons, animal welfare, your own health, or spiritual choices, just know that you can still enjoy.
Swell: Your original recipes have earned you legions of fans; if you each had to pick a recipe from Vegan 101 that you'd make to dazzle a dinner guest new to veganism, which one(s) would you choose, and why?
Sporkies: Great question! We do like to cater to our audience, so it would depend on the guest – but if we have to take a shot in the dark here goes:
Heather – I would make them our Acorn Squash Fritters with Korean Spicy Sauce. Who doesn’t love a crunchy fritter full of flavor?
Jenny - think I would want to make a whole meal for my mystery guest and it would definitely include dessert, because who can walk away from a meal that is capped with a delish treat and not have a great experience. We have a ton of sweets in the book, but the pecan pie bars are some of my favorites so I would make those.
Swell: As cookbook authors, creative entrepreneurs, and food-loving vegans, you have the power to make a positive impact in the world. How would you like people to remember you and the Spork Foods brand?
Sporkies: Through the brand that we’ve created we just focus on the positivity surrounding all things vegan. There are many important websites that expose the dark side of the meat and dairy industry, and we think that is very powerful – but we’ve chosen to expose people to all that they can enjoy and savor.
We hope that through our message people can see how healthy, fun and easy cooking vegan can be and that they don’t have to sacrifice anything by eating vegan.
"we always tell people that if they just try to incorporate more vegan meals into their everyday lives, then they’ll soon see how smooth and easy it can be."
"Stock up on spices, vinegars, fresh fruits and veggies, and fresh herbs, and you’ll open yourself up to a bright, flavorful way of eating that’s not only delicious, but makes you fee good."
"We hope that through our message people can see how healthy, fun and easy cooking vegan can be and that they don’t have to sacrifice anything by eating vegan."
Los Angeles-based Spork Foods (sporkfoods.com) is a gourmet vegan food company owned and operated by sisters Heather Bell and Jenny Engel. They offer vegan organic cooking classes, chef trainings, recipe development and private chef work in Los Angeles and worldwide. Their cookbook, Spork-Fed, is currently in stores, with a foreword by fellow fans, actors, and sisters, Emily and Zooey Deschanel. Their second cookbook, Vegan 101, is widely available.