Robin Raven is the author of Santa’s First Vegan Christmas. She holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and is now furthering her education. Robin often has her feet on a dance floor or her nose in a book, and delicious vegan food rocks her world. She blogs at RobinRaven.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass. And here we are, it’s time for another episode of It’s All About Food and I have to tell you, I’m really looking forward to this program, a bit selfishly, and I’ll tell you why. If you listened to my last program, you could…you could tell, I think, that I was feeling a bit emotional, a bit melancholy, a bit frustrated and I know many people are feeling all kinds of emotional feelings. Our world has been turned around and well, we’ll see where the pieces fall, but I think we need to stay vigilant and stay in tune with what’s going on and stay strong with our integrity and our values and our morals and stand up for what we know and feel. Alright, now, the reason why I’m looking forward to this program today is I have two guests on that I found messages in their books and their writing that are helping me right now to feel inspired and know that there’s a lot of work ahead, but there’s a lot of reason to stay on the path to keep working for what we believe in. Now is not a time to give up on anything. So for those of you who are new to the program, I’m Caryn Hartglass. This show is called It’s All About Food. Most of the time, we talk about food. Sometimes we talk about things that are connected to our food choices, health, health of our individual bodies, health of the planet, treatment of the animals and many, many other subjects that are connected with food. The food system is so complicated, and I personally came to this way of thinking a long time ago. I was a teenager, I didn’t want to kill animals and it grew into so much more because everything is connected and what we put on our plate is connected to everything in our lives. Now, inspiration. Let’s get to what got me inspired and to do that, I want to bring on my first guest, Robin Ravin. Robin Ravin. And she is the author of a book called Santa’s First Vegan Christmas. She holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and she has a website, www.robinravin.com and I want to welcome Robin to the program right now. How are you, Robin?
Robin Raven: Hi Caryn, thank you so much for having me. I’m honored to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well I remember you contacted me a long, long time ago early in the year about this book.
Robin Raven: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And I have to admit that the way I work, because I always have so much, so much on my to-do list, I typically read books I’m going to talk about a day before, or two days before or the day of so that it’s fresh in my mind and so I’ve had your book, Santa’s Vegan Christmas, for a long time and I just read it today and it brought me to tears.
Robin Raven: Oh wow, thank you so much. That means a lot to me. Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: It did. It’s such a beautiful story and a wonderful message and I like to say that we need to voice the things that we want. We need to put out into the global consciousness an image of the world the way that we would like to see it. And, you know, there may be people who say “Oh my god, that’s not possible, that’s fantasy, that’s…we’ll never do that” but until we start painting that picture and creating that vision and sharing it with what I like to call the global consciousness, it won’t happen. We have to put it out there and your book creates such a beautiful image of what this world could be.
Robin Raven: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, now, let’s talk a little bit about this book. It’s…I would like to say it’s a children’s picture book. Or is it…but it’s kind of for everyone, is it?
Robin Raven: Yeah, so it’s…what’s nice is I’ve had people of all different ages enjoy it, so that…that makes me so happy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and it’s…it’s…you kind of took a spinoff of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas kind of story.
Robin Raven: Yes, yes I was inspired to write it because I was watching a lot of Christmas movies because I’m a huge…huge fan of the holidays and I noticed that there was like, this, casual violence within the Santa world, but it’s just sort of accepted without question, which I think it’s just so conditioned and so, a part of the fictional…a lot of people don’t even know it’s going on but in many old depictions of Santa, he’s carrying a whip and a lot of art shows him like, midair about to strike the reindeer and…and even in different films like Santa is depicted with a whip and the reindeer are all tied up and so, I was just taken aback by the casual violence in the holiday tales that goes unaddressed, but otherwise I like wonderful characters and the heroes of the stories and so it just made me think about how animals are treated cruelly in real life and it reminded me of instances in my own life where I’ve seen animal abuse or encountered injustice and so I was inspired to write the lead character of the story Dana, who’s this strong, independent reindeer who stands up for what she thinks is right. <laughter>
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, now, vegans are troublemakers, aren’t we?
Robin Raven: <laughter>
Caryn Hartglass: We’re really troublemakers because we take such a beautiful thing that people see as so beautiful and we kind of point out some of the things that are not so lovely about it. We’re troublemakers.
Robin Raven: <laughter> We are.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well we’re troublemakers for some but we’re liberators for others.
Robin Raven: Exactly, yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, it’s making me think about…oh, who wrote The People’s History of the United States? Howard Zinn, where we’re raised to…as children and students to perceive history the way the author wrote it. Usually from the perspective of the victor and there’s a whole different story from those who have been oppressed. It’s a whole different story. And we need…we need to look at all sides of every story, even ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
Robin Raven: <laughter> Yes. The People’s History, it was such a life changing book for me and yeah, it is important to speak up, even in fictional ways sometimes.
Caryn Hartglass: No, absolutely. I’m believing in art…art…all kinds of art, writing and theater and song more than ever and as…as the funding gets taken away to support the arts more and more, and we will probably see it stripped away even more in the United States with the new government that’s going to take over. Art, the artists, writers, journalists will have to struggle even more and go underground more and more, but the message that artists bring is really important. So, you’ve done that in your simple, little beautiful little beautifully illustrated storybook. Can you tell me about the person who illustrated your book?
Robin Raven: Yes, I’m so lucky. Kara Maria Schunk is the book’s illustrator and she is incredible. She has beautiful illustrations and she was assigned to the book by my wonderful publisher, the Vegan Publishers, who published the book and yeah, I was just…I was so amazed the first time I saw her artistic depiction of Dana because I teared up a little bit because she totally got it and she got what I was trying to say with the story and I feel like she adds a lot to the story too with her art the way it’s illustrated. Yeah, I was very happy with how the book turned out.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, OK, now let’s back up and talk about Robin and get a little idea of how you formulated your personal philosophy.
Robin Raven: Mmmm, oh, well I’ve actually been a vegetarian since I was a kid, like ten years old. I always, always loved animals from my earliest memory…felt the connection with them, so when I really realized, you know, I made the connection between what we eat and animals and I can…I can never eat meat again and then I became a vegan more recently and I’m vegan for life now. I wish I’d done it a lot sooner.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Robin Raven: But, I think that now more than ever, as you were mentioning about some recent developments in November going on in the world, I think that no one issue that we’re facing is independent of the others right now and so I think the case for animal rights also stands alongside other forms of prejudice that we need to address, so I think that it’s really important to stand up against all kinds of prejudice now more than ever, whether it’s against <….> citizenship, their race, gender, sexual orientation, <…..> or their species, I think it’s really important to have an intersectional approach to activism.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I…I’ve always taken the broad view of racism, homophobism, racism, sexism, speciesism, all of those –isms are really the same thing. It’s just hard for everyone to see it that way and we tend to get more progress for humans in general if we manage a single issue. People have a hard time swallowing the big picture for some reason, but it is all the same.
Robin Raven: True, that’s a great point. Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: And, I think veganism in particular is…is a great form of activism because when we’re feeling frustrated that we can’t do anything to make change, we can at least change what’s on our plate.
Robin Raven: Mmmm, so true.
Caryn Hartglass: Several times a day, and that is very powerful and it can lead to so much more. So, for all of you frustrated people out there that want to make a difference, if you haven’t done so already, leave our non-human friends off of the plate.
Robin Raven: Yes, please.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, please. Putting it out there. Are you…do you…are you writing any other books? Do you have another story lined up?
Robin Raven: I do, I do. I have several works in progress. I hope to have concrete news on that soon, but absolutely I’m excited about several future projects and it’s not the last you’ll hear from Dana either, so…
Caryn Hartglass: Oh good! Bring Dana back!
Robin Raven: Yeah, Dana’s going to come back. <laughter>
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, that’s exciting. And so I’m wondering what the feedback has been…has the book been released already? Yes.
Robin Raven: It has. It was released in the summer and I can’t tell you how touched I am by the response. The holiday, the latest issue of Veg News does a wonderful review of it and other magazines, like Vegan Health & Fitness and Animal Times and ActionLine and Naked Food Magazine…they all have reviews of the book in the recent issues. I’m very honored, very touched that it’s received such positive reception and I heard from a parent the other day that told me that they are going to read the book now as part of their holiday tradition every year on Christmas Eve for their children and I just teared up hearing that because that’s…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. OK, now as an artist, and writers are included in artists, and it’s really a lesson for everyone, but we really shouldn’t care what other people think of us and of our works.
Robin Raven: Mmhmm.
Caryn Hartglass: But every time we put something out there that kind of challenges the status quo, we’re going to get some…some pushback.
Robin Raven: Mmhmm.
Caryn Hartglass: I remember when…I’m grabbing for her name right now…OK, it’s…I’m going to have to come back with it, but…I’m sure there are some people that might be upset by the story.
Robin Raven: Yes, and you know I…
Caryn Hartglass: Have you heard that?
Robin Raven: You know, I was really concerned about that and worried about that because I expected that, considering that I’m, you know, making a pretty bold statement here about a long-held tradition, but I haven’t gotten very much of that. I heard that…I got this angry email from someone who is angry about Santa at all…they sent me a long sermon about how Santa is…you could spell Satan out of the letters from Santa and that it’s an evil book because of that…
Caryn Hartglass: Oh gosh.
Robin Raven: I haven’t had the pushback that I thought I would, actually. People have been embracing it. But I’ve struggled with self-esteem and self-confidence in the past, so it’s…so it feels a little weird to be talking about how people have praised the book, but I was just really, really touched and humbled by its reception.
Caryn Hartglass: I was…I remember, I was…I wanted to mention the author Ruby Roth, who wrote a number of books, specifically for children….That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, Vegan is Love, V is for Vegan and there were some people that thought that her books weren’t appropriate to share with children because they talk about factory farming and they tell the truth in a very…in a simple way that’s approachable for children, I think, with some really lovely drawings. But still, people didn’t want to share this information with children and then you have to wonder, if you don’t want to share this information, why do you support it at all?
Robin Raven: Exactly. Exactly. You know, I saw an interview of Ruby Roth too and I thought, wow she handled that well because the reporter was obviously antagonistic, but everything that…she was so grace under pressure so I admire her, I love seeing her interviews.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so anyway, what I wish for you is no negative criticism, but you may get it and just be as strong and courageous as you can be because you have a beautiful story and I love…I love rewriting traditions because what we don’t realize is the traditions we have are dynamic. They’re…they’re not stagnant. They’re always changing. Even though we call them traditions and say it’s something we’ve done hundreds of years, thousands of years, they’re always changing and we can make all of our traditions better.
Robin Raven: So true. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is when they first hear about people going vegan…they imagine a gross tasting food and depriving of all their happy traditions and that it would be miserable, but I’ve found the opposite is true. I’ve gotten so much happier when I eat…when I am…when I do vegan stuff…and when I change traditions to be kinder like, there are about, like, I think twenty different types of, you know, turkey alternatives that are vegan now, that are easy to make or buy and it’s…it’s easy to change traditions and they’re more fun and happy too.
Caryn Hartglass: No question about that. Last week was Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving is a very emotionally charged holiday for many people just because they’re getting together with their family…everyone…so many people seem to have issues with family members…the ones that they want to be with, the ones that they don’t want to be with, but then we all have so many different food requirements these days and vegans really spoil it because we don’t like having turkey on the table. How was your Thanksgiving?
Robin Raven: Oh, it was lovely. I spent it with my family and we all had the guardian turkey…the non-turkey. <laughter> It was really good, really fun.
Caryn Hartglass: We were with my partner’s family in California and it was…I had…it was an opportunity where I wasn’t responsible for any of the cooking and that hasn’t been so for a while and many of the family members made sure we had a lot of things to eat, but I didn’t have any of…well, I didn’t have some of the foods that I love to have on Thanksgiving, like my vegan pumpkin pie, so I just made one last night.
Robin Raven: Ohh, right. Good idea!
Caryn Hartglass: And I had a slice just before the program started and if anybody is interested in making a fabulous pumpkin pie, I think this recipe is…it’s vegan, it’s gluten-free, it’s light, it’s custardy and you can find it www.responsibleeatingandliving.com . It’s easy and very, very yummy and I might have to have another piece after this program is over.
Robin Raven: <laughter> Oh wow, you know I’m going to check it out right after this interview. Pumpkin pie is like my all-time favorite food, so I’m really excited to see your recipe.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well part of it is the crust. So, I don’t have any gluten intolerances, but I like to bake gluten-free and I came up with this pie crust and a lot of people are afraid of rolling pie crusts and I find that this recipe and this dough is so easy to use and forgiving. You know, if it cracks or splits, you could just take a little of it and press it right back in there. It’s like Play-Doh. But it tastes great, so it’s easy, it tastes great and the custardy, pumpkin pie…ohh, it’s so good.
Robin Raven: Oh, that sounds good. I think I’m going to have to make it this weekend.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, OK, so Santa had his first vegan Christmas and…I have to say, I’m not a religious person and…I was raised Jewish, although we did have exposure to Christmas and Christmas gifts and Santa Claus. My sister had a fear of Santa Claus. You know, some strange guy coming down the chimney like, we didn’t even have a chimney, but it was like, “Whoa! That’s scary.”
Robin Raven: Right, I get that. I’ve heard that about people. <laughter>
Caryn Hartglass: What I liked about your Santa in your book was he was on the slim side. Was that intentional?
Robin Raven: You know, that’s not how I had read it or envisioned it, but that was the creative <….> with the publisher and illustrator and I think it worked out great for the story.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
Robin Raven: Yeah, I love the Santa the way he did…the way she depicted him. I loved it…yeah, so…
Caryn Hartglass: OK, now for kids that are going to be waiting for Santa Claus this Christmas, what kind of treats might they leave for Santa Claus this year?
Robin Raven: <laughter> I hear he loves almond milk and soy milk and…even cashew milk.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, and any kind of vegan cookie, right?
Robin Raven: Yeah, vegan cookies. Yeah, he likes all kinds of vegan cookies, so…
Caryn Hartglass: That’s great. Well, anything else you want to talk about? About this book? Where can people find it?
Robin Raven: Oh, you can find it…Vegan Essentialist has started carrying it. You can find it at my publisher’s website, www.veganpublishers.com. It’s also available at the PETA catalog, PETA is carrying it. It is available at Annie’s Book Stop in Massachusetts, it’s available on www.amazon.com too so. It can also be…if it’s not in your local Barnes & Noble or independent bookstore, it can be special ordered at any main bookstore as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well, it’s got a thumbs up, big recommendation from me. It’s really a beautiful book and I needed to read it today. I needed to put that image in my mind and all around me and just sit with it because the images that have been flashing across my screen these last few weeks are not good.
Robin Raven: Yes, I so agree and I…it really…I find it really touching that you did embrace the book and that it did help. So thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, absolutely, well Robin, I really wish you tremendous success with this book. Now, you have a website, right? www.robinravin.com and is there anything going on there because…I tried to see your blog and I didn’t get anything.
Robin Raven: I’m actually revamping the website this week. There should be more on there right now, but right now there’s really…there’s some basic information on the site. But yeah, it’s being revamped this week and…the blog should be back up. <laughter>
Caryn Hartglass: OK great. So, for most people who will probably be listening to this after today, it’ll probably be up there and ready to go and read?
Robin Raven: Absolutely, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, great. Terrific! Thank you so much for joining me on It’s All About Food and I’m sorry…I’m glad that we finally had an opportunity to chat and connect after all this time and we’ll talk again sometime in the future.
Robin Raven: I’m looking forward to it, Caryn. It was such a pleasure to talk to you. Have a wonderful day.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, Happy Holidays! Woo!
Robin Raven: Happy Holidays! Merry Vegan Christmas.
Caryn Hartglass: Merry Vegan Christmas and a Happy Vegan New Year to everyone. Thank you, Robin. Yes, OK that was Robin Raven. Robin Raven with a V…R-A-V like Victor-E-N. Robin Raven. Santa’s First Vegan Christmas. Yesss! Let’s say “Yes” together. You know, we have so many things that can make the winter holidays, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s…vegan. We have silk nog in the store, you can make your own egg nog that’s vegan. We have…you might remember it from last year…you might not…but I invite you to revisit www.responsibleatingandliving.com . We have posted our “Feast of the Seven Dishes,” created by my partner Gary De Mattei. This is a beautiful menu of fabulous recipes, special recipes. You can try them all, or one, or another but this is for…a gourmet, lovely holiday celebration. Foods you haven’t seen anywhere and they’re made from real plant food, so I invite you to check that out at www.responsibleeatingandliving.com , “Feast of the Seven Dishes.” It’s a play on “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” right? Right. Yes, so let’s take a quick little break and when we come back, we’re going to get to partying because my next guest, Jeanette Hurt, has written a book called Drink Like a Woman and I can’t wait to hear some of what’s inside that book. So we’ll be right back.
Transcribed by Kevin Coughlin, 12/6/2016