Marla Rose is an award-nominated journalist, columnist, author and event planner. A vegan for more than 21 years, Marla is co-founder of Chicago VeganMania, the largest free vegan event in Chicago and October 1 will be the eighth year. She is also co-founder of VeganStreet.com and Vegan Street Media with her husband, which aims to empower vegan businesses, non-profits and advocates to build their brands and promote their products, services and messages to an enthusiastic audience by providing innovative, compelling and effective stories, images, and marketing tools and strategies.
Since 2009, It’s All About Food, has been bringing you the best in up-to-date news regarding food and our food system. Hosted by Caryn Hartglass, a vegan since 1988, the program includes in-depth interviews with medical doctors; nutritionists; dieticians; cook book authors; athletes; environmental, animals and health activists; farmers; food manufacturers; lawyers; food scientists and more. Learn about how we can solve many of the world’s problems today and do it deliciously, here on It’s All About Food.
Caryn Hartglass: Marla Rose is an award-nominated journalist, columnist, author, event planner, and a vegan for more than 21 years! Marla is co-founder of Chicago Veganmania, the largest free vegan event in Chicago, and October 1st will be the eighth year. She is also co-founder of www.veganstreet.com and Vegan Street Media with her husband, which aims to empower vegan businesses, nonprofits, and advocates to build their brands and promote their products, services, and messages to an enthusiastic audience by providing innovative, compelling, and effective stories, images, marketing tools, and strategies.
Marla! How are you today?
Marla Rose: Hi Caryn! It’s so nice to hear your voice! I’m doing good!
Caryn Hartglass: I’m sending you a big hug! A big virtual hug here
Marla Rose: I know! This is kind of weird, like I realize we haven’t talked in person for a while, and you’re one of my favorite people. [laughter]
Caryn Hartglass: And back at you, we’re just at it all the time!
Marla Rose: I know, there’s no rest for the weary right?
Caryn Hartglass: You know, I think I was at your first Chicago Veganmania eighth years ago and it was an amazing first event.
Marla Rose: Oh thank you! Yeah, we had no idea what to expect and thankfully you were one of the people who reached out to me like, “hey I hear you guys are planning something!”
Caryn Hartglass: I want to be there.
Marla Rose: Yeah! We hadn’t even really planned to have speakers and I think you were one of the first people who reached out to me and planted that seed. From then on, we’ve always had speakers. But yeah, back in the old days, for the first two years we were in an old castle building with lots of little rooms.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I remember that building.
Marla Rose: Yeah, it’s jailed up quite a bit and we’re really looking forward to this year, which is our 8th—which is amazing. I can’t wait!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, times have really changed. I love Chicago for so many reasons.
Marla Rose: And we love you.
Caryn Hartglass: And there’s great food in Chicago. Evanston, outside of Chicago is actually where I got my intense healing when I had that romp with Cancer ten years ago.
Marla Rose: I remember,
Caryn Hartglass: And it was always fun! People don’t believe this but I only have good memories of having chemotherapy at the Block Center. Part of it was, I’d get infused with my toxic poison and then I’d go to Chicago and have fun and go to great restaurants.
Marla Rose: Who would’ve known that you could combine those two things?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it was really fun.
Marla Rose: Because I remember that you had such interesting parallels happening with your whole healing with the pain, block, and everything.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m glad you mentioned that because a short version of that story is now published in a new book called 25 Women Who Survived Cancer. It features notable women with inspiring stories of healing, and I’m offering signed copies at my website: www.RespinsibleEatingAndLiving.com. You can get copies at Amazon and there are some amazing women in this book like Patti LuPone and Robin Robertson.
Marla Rose: Oh that’s so cool! I had long thought and hoped that you would write about it, and that seems like the perfect way to do that.
Caryn Hartglass: I finished the full book. It’s not published yet but I have people reading it right now and that’s my full story. But that’s coming later… But you know, you’ve been at this… you and your husband, John. You’ve been at this for so long and nothings stopping you.
Marla Rose: Right… you just made me feel kind of tired the way you said that [laughter] You know what, to be perfectly honest I wake up—and I’m sure I get the feeling you do too—I wake up everyday energized and excited. Even though it’s often disheartening, so heartbreaking, it is also so empowering to take this other path and sort of wake people up to what’s happening… I can’t imagine a different way. I just feel so grateful every day to be plugged into this and have the opportunity to spread awareness the way that we can. There are so many talented people in the vegan movement coming at it from so many different vantage points and perspectives, whether they’re bakers or foodie type people or academics or lawyers or amazing communicators like you. We’re really closing the awareness gap—all of us together.
Caryn Hartglass: And don’t you just love eating? Don’t you just love what we’re eating?
Marla Rose: Yeah! I love our food!
Caryn Hartglass: I love our food!
Marla Rose: I do, I do, I just feel sometimes like an alien when I see the associations people have with veganism.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah… it’s crazy.
Marla Rose: Boring, bland… you know we have to push ourselves away from the table. Like you, as a long time vegan, we remember when there was the smallest amount of options out there for vegans. It’s almost like you have to get back to a healthier way of living because there are so many delicious options that it’s kind of dangerous sometimes. But yeah, we are so so lucky. I am so grateful every single day for this community, information, knowledge, and awareness. I’m just so grateful.
Caryn Hartglass: This Aquafaba thing that started a couple years ago… this is really dangerous.
Marla Rose: I know! Because when we were first figuring out how this crazy stuff works, like pour sugar in a bowl, like okay that works!
Carny Hartglass: Yeah, and it’s amazing… it’s too good… it’s really too good.
Marla Rose: Yeah, it’s got the right amount of proteins and carbohydrates… I don’t know, something science-y that adds up to egg whites. But yeah! It works great in savory applications too!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah we got our test kitchen at home and we’re just starting to go crazy with it. I want to get serious for a moment…. Because there is a very serious side to do what we do with joy and what reminded me—and I thought about asking you on the program so many times just because you’re you and you’re amazing…
Marla Rose: Aw, thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: But I thought as I was thumbing through the last VegNews magazine, and you did a great in-depth article called, Milk Money. And I just came as I mentioned from this EATx forum at the UN and one of the things that was chilling was these passionate people were talking about eliminating hunger, extreme power and food sustainability. But, they never talked about the cow in the room. There was one businessman who was a speaker who was talking about “clean milk”—feeding cows with enzymes that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Marla Rose: Yeah, people would rather, you know, jump through hoops of fire while averting flying darts than possibly question: Maybe let’s just shift from this paradigm all together? They will tie the most tiresome, expensive, and flawed ways to avoid facing the truth, which is that it is very problematic “food” from many different points of view. Whether you’re looking at health, ethics, or the environment. They keep trying to hit a nail other than something than a hammer, you know what I mean? They keep using the same mistake in tools, and they keep trying to modify that tool. It’s just inherently and innately flawed.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m thinking about how when people are enlightened and they think about vegetarian, for example: they stop eating meat and continue to consume eggs and dairy and even wearing wool… I’ve been having conversations with people lately… But what a lot of people don’t realize is that dairy cows, egg hens, and wool giving sheep are probably more tortured than the animals going straight to slaughter. And probably do more environmental damage than the animals going straight to slaughter for meat… and we don’t see that.
Marla Rose: Definite… I think I read this somewhere and I need to back check but that leather is one of the most profitable aspects of the meat industry. One of the conceits you’ll hear about the whole animal, and you know what I say is that animals add. They extract every last piece of the animal in order to make it possible. You know, one of the things that I think is encouraging is when I was a vegetarian at 15, and that was beck in the pre-internet days… I thought that was the end of the road. I didn’t know anything about veganism. I didn’t know about the cruelties of the dairy, egg, wool, and leather industries. It took me 12 years to close that knowledge gap and really be exposed to some people who helped to usher that into my life. But, it would be interesting to see any new statistics on this… but I feel like there is less of that lag time these days because there is such a shrunken knowledge gap as there used to be. So a lot of times people don’t have that years and years and years lag like I did, and so many well-intentioned vegetarians did back in the day. Now it’s almost like you need to be quite a bit older and not around the internet for that lack of awareness.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to believe that. A lot of the knowledge is out there—you’ve probably experienced this as much as I have or maybe more… when you’re sitting down to a meal and you mention you’re vegan or people have heard that you’re vegan… right away they do their mea culpas, they start confessing, “oh I don’t eat a lot of meat” and “I don’t eat a lot of dairy”. You know, they confess because deep down they know what’s going on… they know!
Marla Rose: Yeah, what I was referring to before is the people who go vegetarian for compassionate reasons. But I do know, “the world’s going vegan”…. I’m not one of those people who on top of the hilltop streaking that, because I know the reality is that it is a slow shift. But, it is a shift that’s happening. You don’t hear a lot of people bragging about how much meat they eat anymore….
Caryn Hartglass: Except the people who eat bacon. [laughter]
Marla Rose: mm. yeah bacon people, or occasional paleo people. But you know it does seem that, most of us are honest and will admit that there is discomfort with this practice. If not, there wouldn’t be all this pushback and hate skewed towards vegans. I do think that people are being so clever, creative, smart, and skilled with closing that knowledge gap. And I can only thank people who have been playing along forever and all the new people who are bringing in so much passion.
Caryn Hartglass: and so many products!
Marla Rose: So many products! That’s the other thing, Caryn, I mean you’ve got to remember back in the day… It was like if you wanted a specialty item or whatever, you had to go to that one little dusty pull up with the cans that have probably been sitting there for 7 years with spider webs all over them…
Caryn Hartglass: and you were so excited to see it! Like oh my gosh you have that stuff!
Marla Rose: and I don’t want to sound cross, but you have to acknowledge it’s some real money now that comes into this. It’s not whether they’re calling it “plant-based”, “non-dairy” or however they frame it… this is vegan food. It is for people avoiding animal products. So that’s amazing! And it wasn’t this even ten years ago.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so now tell me what’s going on in VeganStreet.
Marla Rose: Oh gosh, we are so busy! Well one of the things that John and I do is that we both wear the hat of Chicago Veganmania so we’re both pretty immersed in that right now…so what we’ve been doing is for the last few months is…. We originally started VeganStreet years and years ago like 1998 I believe, and we had it going on for about 3 years and then my son was born and we took a hiatus and started working on other things…. Then we resurrected VeganStreet… We called it VeganStreet 2.0 in 2013, so we took like a ten year hiatus from that. We kept the URL but just didn’t update the site. So anyway, when we brought VeganStreet back it was VeganStreet 2.0 consciousness of the new media that wasn’t around when we were first there… you know Facebook, Twitter, and social media that was there. So what I was seeing was that from what I’ve been on Facebook over the years, materials being shared were either not visually compelling, had faulty information, was communicated in what I view to be a an effective way… So when we started talking about bringing Vegan Street back, one of the first things we needed to concentrate on was getting our name known and helping the community and animals by creating better material and communication materials. So we started creating memes. We started doing daily memes for the first year, and ever since then we’ve been doing two or three original memes a week just at different angles of veganism, whether it be on animal cruelty or the benefits of a vegan diet. There’s just all of these different angles and you’ll never get tired of it. It’s just limitless! So we’ve been creating these new materials, selling vegan message gear on VeganStreet, creating recipes, essays, reviews, and interviews. A few months ago, we started Vegan Street Media which is on www.veganstreetmedia.com. I have no clue why it took John and I so long to put two and two together, because we’re both from Communications backgrounds. All we’ve been trying to do all these years is improve Vegan Communications, so we finally put two and two together like, “Hey! Let’s be a Vegan Communications firm.” I don’t know why we didn’t think of this before! Anyway, a few months ago we launched Vegan Street Media, which is like you said in the intro: helping vegan businesses, nonprofits, and eventually advocates, with our message, capacity. You know, whether it’s creating new logos, websites, or communications work—we want to be there. So, anyway, that’s what we’ve been doing. It’s been busy!
Caryn Hartglass: Well, say hello to John for me!
Marla Rose: I definitely will. But, yeah, as you were saying… there’s no stopping right?
Caryn Hartglass: We still have plenty of work to do, because even though those gaps are closing and more people know about it and are apologizing, there are still people that won’t acknowledge what is going on and want to do the same old same old. You know, there are some numbers that say we are eating less meat, and some say that we are eating more… and then there’s the whole risk to the planet.
Marla Rose: Exactly, I think that’s the kind of thing that is a common problem. The belief that meat or red meat consumption is going down in the U.S and extrapolated, somewhere it get miscommunicated that people are eating less meat…but if you look to China, South America, and places that are becoming more affluent—the meat eating is going up. And these are places that tend to be more populous, so we really need to not lose sight of what we need to do. To avoid burn out, we need to be acknowledging progress. But, we can’t rest on our morals, we can’t do that to animals… we need to keep moving forward.
Caryn Hartglass: Yep! Deliciously. Moving forward deliciously.
Marla Rose: Yes, exactly… exactly….
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I want to hear about raising Justice….
Marla Rose: Oh, he’s my son! I remember when you guys met that was back when he was into the big heavenly image of dinosaurs. He’s an amazing kid! I think I’m going to keep him… been kind of debating here. He’s fourteen now and so sensitive. He’s just creating and unusual, wonderful… I’ve got to say it’s hard to not sound like one of those moms, but you know I’m kind of into him!
Caryn Hartglass: And he’s totally embraced what you and John are about!
Marla Rose: Yeah, he owns it for himself, and that’s the thing that a think a lot of parents think: “ oh you’re pushing it on him” or “you indoctrinated him”… When all we did was nurture his natural compassion. He owns it for himself. He owns his own way of framing things. He does advocacy without us around… that’s just who he is. I think almost no one in our extended family are vegetarians or vegans. So we raised him to understand that not everybody lives the same way that we do, but we still love them. I think we tried to raise him to understand that we can still love people, even if we don’t agree with some things that they do. They can still be good people, even if they make some decisions that we don’t appreciate. Anyway, he’s just his own spirit. He’s a really cool kid, and I want you to meet him again!
Caryn Hartglass: I would like to meet him again! I mean those aren’t just lessons that are appropriate for raising a vegan child, it’s appropriate for raising any child.
Marla Rose: Yeah, thank you! One of the things that saddened me while raising him was just seeing how young indoctrination against different people started. You know, he would bring his vegan lunch to school and as young as first grade people would be like “ewwww”
Caryn Hartglass: How did he deal with that?
Marla Rose: I think that’s one of the difficulties of being a vegan child, you see the wrongness in it but you don’t necessarily possess the communication skills to debate. Because of what the animals go through and what the toll is on our planet is so real to him, it’s really hurtful. I think that when we’ve adult vegans, a lot of time we can just brush things off and not take things so personally. But we all have our moments too, even as adults where we just feel so….
Caryn Hartglass: unpleased
Marla Rose: Yeah, just so unhappy about that. So, I think with kids it can be hard, like some kids are really confident. I think a lot of times kids have other sibling that they are used to being picked on and defending things. I think that those kids might have a thicker skin about it. But other children can be more sensitive about it, and they need somebody to be there to support them and help them learn how to be more resilient towards that kind of behavior.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s hard because you never know what’s going to happen. You can do some role play and imagine some scripts.
Marla Rose: That’s true. We all are hopefully very different, there’s no one prototype of person and some kids fitting in, is much much more important than other kids. My son never cared, and he still does not care about fitting in. It’s more about his sadness about people being belittling about what the animals go through. But for other kids, it’s very important for them to feel like they are like the other kids. So, you have to kind of be there for them too in that way and figure out how you can make them more comfortable while being different. I think we’re all so unique in that way… there’s no single correct way to do things. You have to keep the children as individuals.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, the last thing I wanted to talk about is superheroes.
Marla Rose: super—what?
Caryn Hartglass: Superheroes. Vegan Superheroes.
Marla Rose: [laughter]
Caryn Hartglass: Do we need Vegan Superheroes? And I think we already have one out there… can you tell us about Vivian?
Marla Rose: Oh, Vivian Sharp. I need to get back into her one day. The Adventures of Vivian Sharp was a Vegan Superhero novel that I wrote published a few years back. She came to me as kind of a dream… originally… years and years ago when she first developed in my mind, Vivian was just going to be a superhero character on a shirt called V-Girl. And her logo was: “Keeping animals off your plate” but it turned out that V-Girl is a big porn site… [Laughter]
Caryn Hartglass: Oh no! [Laughter]
Marla Rose: But from there, we came from this character, to an essay, to a short story, to a novella, to a novel. I was just the one typing it out, it just kind of emerged and I couldn’t slow it down. So basically she’s just an impasse… She wasn’t always like that but somehow became awakened to what happens to other animals. Through that awakening, she’s not able to turn off her empathy and she uncovers intriguing and terrific stuff happening in her small pound. So she has to become a different person, in order to expose it. She’s just a fifteen year old girl, the same that I was when I became vegetarian. So she has to kind of deceive people, break the law, and perhaps disappoint people in the unveiling of what’s happening in this town.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, Marla, I would love to hear more about Vivian Sharp, and we should have more Vivian Sharp episodes… We need more vegan superheroes but we’re out of time. I can’t believe it.
Marla Rose: I know! We can talk for hours and hours!
Caryn Hartglass: I know! Add a little food and talk a little more.
Marla Rose: Yes! Absolutely! You’re so wonderful, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you for joining and thank you for doing everything! Thank John and give Justice a hug for me!
Marla Rose: Likewise, we’re so appreciative. Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: And now, I’ll get to Vegan Street one day! [Laughter]
Marla Rose: No, I know. [Laughter]
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you Marla Rose for joining me on It’s All About Food!
Marla Rose: Thank you, Caryn!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, bye-bye! I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’ve been listening to another episode of… It’s All About Food! Join me at www.responsiblelivingandeating.com and you can send me comments and firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember, have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Victoria Nguyen 12/17/2016