When VegNews Magazine publisher Joseph Connelly founded the Syracuse Area Vegetarian Education Society in 1996, he had no idea to where it would lead. He soon had the inspiration of converting SAVES’ newsletter into something more comprehensive, but the dream lay dormant for four years. After meeting Colleen Holland, VegNews evolved out of SAVES in 2000 with the publication of a 24-page newspaper. In 2004 the project would morph again into an award-winning, full-color glossy magazine, the one you can find today at Whole Foods, Borders, and Barnes and Noble. In 2009 Connelly was inducted into the North American Vegetarian Hall of Fame.
Caryn Hartglass : Hi. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Hey Joe, are you there?
Joseph Connelly: I’m here. Can you hear me?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah great. Hi Joe. Joe is the publisher of Veg News Magazine and originally he founded the Syracuse Area Vegetarian Education Society in 1996 and one thing led to another and now you have this wonderful publication Veg News and we’re going to talk a bit about that but first Joe Connolly I want to welcome you to It’s All About Food.
Joseph Connelly: Well thank you for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: What I usually do with my guests is first we talk about your beginning—how you became vegetarian, how you got on this path because those stories are always really interesting.
Joseph Connelly: Would you like me to go into it right away?
Caryn Hartglass: I do. That’s what I want you to do.
Joseph Connelly: Well, you know a lot of people think of vegetarianism as a three-legged stool, there’s the health, the environment and the eco-animal issues.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Joseph Connelly: I actually can trace my vegetarian journey, and vegan journey now, to all three. The first being, before I was even born, my grandfather passed away of colon cancer about two years before I came to be. Ever since I can remember that loss of not having one grandparent was something that stuck with me. I had great relationships with my other three grandparents until I was in my thirties and forties. It really was a whole void that was there. I can actually say that I knew that his colon cancer was connected to meat eating. I don’t know how I knew that. And I can’t give you any kind of evidence. That was something that I always knew—that he had died because of a diet-related disease.
Caryn Hartglass: I love that you felt that knowing.
Joseph Connelly: Again, no explanation for why that is. That was the health aspect of it. I’ve always been an environmentalist, long before Al Gore. Even in the 60’s I would wrap my Christmas presents in old comics which we called the funny papers back then.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Joseph Connelly: Everybody always knew what presents were Joseph’s because they were the ones wrapped in the old comics. So I always had the environmental connection there. Twenty years ago I took an environmental science class and wrote a paper called “The Diet and Environment Connection” which of course twenty years later it’s now getting headlines all over the world.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Joseph Connelly: So that part of it was there. After I graduated from college, in between those two events, I…similar story to so many other people…I was on my own, first time in my own place and I wanted to have a dog because I’d grown up with dogs but I wasn’t allowed to have dogs in my apartment. The landlord thought it was too small. So instead I went and got a cat. I actually named the cat Dog. And Dog was the ethical concern just like Eddie Lama for those people who know who Eddie Lama is in the movie The Witness.
Caryn Hartglass: Sure.
Joseph Connelly: You have this animal who you’re caring for and you’re holding the animal and the leg feels like a chicken leg and then you look at your plate and you’re having chicken that night and the connection between what’s the difference between the animal that I’m petting and the animal that I’m eating, obviously there is none. So I had all three legs of the stool come together for me and twenty years ago next year I turned vegetarian.
Caryn Hartglass: Good for you. I didn’t know you had that similar story to Eddie Lama.
Joseph Connelly: Actually I pre-date Eddie, too.
Caryn Hartglass: So actually the movie should have been about you.
Joseph Connelly: He stole the story from me. He’s much more charismatic than I am, I have to admit.
Caryn Hartglass: Then he went around all over Manhattan with this van that he created playing all kinds of videos about factory farms and animals that are raised for fur, some pretty chilling stuff. I don’t want to talk about Eddie any more I want to talk about you. So this was about twenty years ago. Were you living in Syracuse at the time?
Joseph Connelly: I was actually living in Schenectady, New York, right outside of Albany, the capital. My partner at the time and I went veg together. She and I then moved to Syracuse to pursue graduate school. Oddly enough she was going for magazine journalism and I turned out to be a magazine publisher.
Caryn Hartglass: I know Syracuse University a little bit. I had a friend that went there back when I was going to college in the late 70s and he wanted to get into the…Environmental…
Joseph Connelly: ESF, Environmental Science and Forestry.
Caryn Hartglass: He was really disappointed because he really was someone who loved the environment and when he enrolled it was all about making paper and really destroying rather than protecting. I don’t know what it is today but he found it not inspiring.
Joseph Connelly: I only took a few classes in ESF when I was there. We moved to Syracuse which turned out obviously into a pretty big step for me because right around this time of year actually, 15 years ago—is that true? Time flies, doesn’t it Caryn? Neal Bernard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine came to Syracuse on one of his many book tours and in the basement of a church, in the shadow of Syracuse University, a Unitarian Church, he gave a lecture on a cold winter December night, snow on the ground.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s pretty cold there, I know that.
Joseph Connelly: It was pretty cold, probably still is right now as we speak. Thankfully I’m in California. The place was packed. Here it is a couple weeks before the holidays, cold, I think school was still in session, it was finals time and yet the room was packed with all these people wanting to know about diet and health. At the end of the lecture there was a Q&A, an elderly gentleman, I never found out who he was unfortunately, raised his hand and he said “Dr. Bernard, this is all fine and dandy but when you leave town tomorrow where do we turn? Who do we go to for support?” And a little light bulb clicked in my head. I said Syracuse has a couple of decent animal organizations fighting for animals but there’s no vegetarian society. I waited until the panel returned in ’96 and in January 1996—so it was actually only 14 years ago—I formed SAVE as you mentioned in the intro—the Syracuse Vegetarian Society.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I love the acronym—SAVES—the Syracuse Area Vegetarian Education Society.
Joseph Connelly: Thank you. So with SAVES we started publishing The SAVES Paper which was…it was an organization with a publishing component. We put out a quarterly newsletter. I think the first issue was 16 pages on newsprint and did that for four years. Right away—Caryn you are obviously with Earth Save—I think at the time Howard Lyman might have been the President of Earth Save. Howard was coming through, he was doing one of his lectures, one of his many, many lecture tours. He was going from Rochester where there was a vegetarian society called RAVS—Rochester Area Vegetarian Society—and he was going down to Binghamton to speak for a group down there. I think he was speaking like on a Saturday afternoon in Rochester and he didn’t need to be in Binghamton until Sunday. So I called up the organizers of both of these groups and I basically said you know can I steal Howard for a few hours? We’ll have an event with him—because you have to drive through Syracuse to go from one city to the other—and they both said yes and it was very nice and Howard came did one of the first major big public things that SAVES did. And that event, I have to say, so we have Neal Bernard’s event from ten months earlier and then Howard Lyman’s event, October 19th of 1996, made me realize that we need to unify this movement because this type of thing should be happening. I should add that I was in the music business for 15 years and I was still in the music business at this time, the merchandising end of it.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. I didn’t know that.
Joseph Connelly: Yes. This is the way bands do it. You don’t just fly all over the country. You try to line up a tour and you try to hit cities that are in some kind of progression. So I had that experience because I was on tour with some bands at the time. I just felt why not borrow the same concept? If Howard Lyman or Neal Bernard, or John Robbins or whoever comes to town let’s try to hook up several different gigs in a row.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Joseph Connelly: So the idea for Veg News was planted right then, at the end of ’96. I talked to Gene Baur, formerly Gene Bauston of Farm Sanctuary, about the concept and we joked about doing it just for upstate New York. We even had a few names we tossed around none of which can be mentioned on a family radio show. It took me another couple of years. The next big event was I met Colleen Holland in July 1999 at the North American Vegetarian Society Summerfest. She was in San Francisco and I was in Syracuse and I said “would you like to do this project with me” and she said “yes.” She was actually originally going to move to Syracuse which would have been a big mistake.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Joseph Connelly: I then went to visit her and landed in San Francisco and have never left.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. That makes sense.
Joseph Connelly: So it was definitely the right move.
Caryn Hartglass: I like that story. A lot of people meet at the North American Vegetarian Society Summerfests.
Joseph Connelly: Yes they do. I know you’ve been there.
Caryn Hartglass: I have. You know I love food, it’s all about food and that’s a great place for eating.
Joseph Connelly: We should put in a plug for NAVF. They’ve been doing this…I think this was their 35th year if I’m not mistaken, 35th conference in a row. It’s about 600-800 people, on a beautiful college campus. It’s usually held in Western Pennsylvania. If you’re out there and have never gone and you love food and want to try vegetarian food you should do Summerfest. It’s usually in July. The food is just nonstop. Bring your loose fitting pants when you come. You will eat vegan food prepared by Ken Bergeron and a couple of other top-notch chefs. It’s more than food obviously. I know you love food, Caryn, but it’s also educational lectures and being outdoors. It’s kind of like grown up summer camp for the family.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s vegan.
Joseph Connelly: It’s all vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s a good thing. So now you’ve got this magazine. It’s really turned into…well it’s a beautiful publication and it’s a community.
Joseph Connelly: It is and it isn’t. Let’s backup a second.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay.
Joseph Connelly: Got me, Colleen and most of San Francisco…and if you remember and I know you do, the very first ad that we ever sold was to EarthSave actually. The project Veg News was not a magazine when it first started. Some people might not know that or forgotten that. It was a tabloid newspaper. It was like a trade paper really. It was very similar to what I had been doing in Syracuse except larger, on a national scale. From 2000 to 2004 we published as a tabloid newspaper, never used the word “magazine”, never used the word “lifestyle”. It was just trying to unify the vegetarian movement and be a community paper. We even had sections of the newspaper back then that talked about what the local vegetarian societies around the country were doing. That was a great project and I loved it. It was successful and I am very, very proud of the roots of the project. But one problem was that you can’t get a skinny bi-monthly tabloid newspaper on the newsstand. It’s an industry thing. Thankfully we went away from newspaper because newspapers are a dying industry, as we all know. So in 2004…if you’re following at home the quiz at the end of the show will show you that everything happens on the presidential years with me. ’96 is when I started SAVES. 2000 is when VegNews was birthed and in 2004, after 4 years of a newspaper, we hired a local firm of vegetarian designers. They’re really much more than designers. They’re actually a branding agency. They took that newspaper and converted it for us into the color glossy magazine that you now find at Borders and Barnes and Noble and Whole Foods. At that point I have to admit we did lose a little bit of that community feel, at least the intangible portion of it. We’re still a magazine totally by and for vegetarians producing our content…not that you have to be vegetarian to write for us but it just turns out that most of the people are. All of our recipes are vegan, always have been. When we went to the newsstand and we converted into a color glossy lifestyle publication it was no longer really a prudent thing to do to talk about what the Vegetarian Society in some place was doing because it just didn’t appeal as much to a national audience. So the project did change. We’ve had nothing but growth now with VegNews for ten years, with the entire project for 14.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about some of the great things that are in VegNews. One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed is you’ve highlighted many different vegan weddings. I personally like it because my brother and sister-in-law were featured in…
Joseph Connelly: I remember that.
Caryn Hartglass: …one of your years. It’s a great thing because…not just weddings but everything that’s in the magazine shows that vegans and vegetarians are regular normal people and we can do everything that everyone else does—have beautiful weddings, beautiful food, enjoy everything that life has to offer but we just do it with compassion.
Joseph Connelly: That’s so elegantly put. The wedding issue, which is our most popular every year of course, came about in an odd way. I knew three of the original four couples. The first year we featured four couples. I think I was even invited to a couple of the weddings. Again, light bulbs go off in my head, I don’t know why, thankfully they’re usually high wattage. We had this confluence of these four weddings all happening roughly in the later half of 2000. We just kind of said let’s do a wedding feature never expecting that it would be an annual thing. We’ve done it every year since. In fact yesterday was the deadline for next year’s wedding issue. Nowadays you have to actually apply to be in the wedding feature. There’s a whole application process you have to go through, submitting your story and your pictures, who your caterer was and everything else—how many people attended. It just shows how things do grow and how we—us vegans and vegetarians—are just like everybody else. There’s competition to be in the wedding issue and of course there’s always a disappointment if you apply and don’t get in but not everybody can be in it. We limit it to eight couples a year. We’ve had everything from backyard weddings where they served popcorn and wore tennis shoes to as high-end a wedding as you can possibly find with people renting out the top-notch halls and then honeymooning all over the world and everything in-between. And Caryn is absolutely right, we’re like everybody else which is one of the goals and projects and ideas behind Veg News. One of our tag lines is “more than recipes” and we do want to show everybody out there that just because we don’t eat animal products or wear animal products doesn’t mean that we are any different than you are. We still take vacations, we still read books, we still go to weddings and we still get married and all those wonderful things. Nothing is different from us other than just a modification—which is very easy to do especially nowadays—a modification of certain dietary items and maybe some clothing items if you want to go that far. It’s a joyful life. It’s a very wonderful way to live and really not have to worry about is anyone suffering for me.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to talk about two things and I hope I can remember them. One is—the thing that I like to talk about on this show It’s All About Food—is food and I always want to stress that vegan food in particular is very, very delicious and it kind of lifts the veil and opens your mind and heart and mouth to all the wonderful different foods that are out there. A lot of people they don’t even realize it when they are relying on an animal-based diet how in a rut [18:53 not sure of this word] they are with their food choices. When you open the door you’ve got this whole rainbow, all these different colors, all these different foods and one of the things you see in your wedding issue—we can talk about the other issues as well—but in the wedding issues you show the menus that people have during their wedding and you can see the wide variety, the creativity, the wonderful foods that they have at these celebrations and it’s only the tip of the iceberg because there are so many different wonderful meals, recipes—it’s just infinite, healthy, delicious, kind, gentle.
Joseph Connelly: It is amazing. I could say so much here. Anything that you can even imagine, you can have. Whether you want to pretend it’s meat and have some fake meat or whether you want [19:53 not sure of this] eschew that completely and just have the most wonderful bounty of colorful produce. It’s all doable. There are top-notch chefs coming out with books and opening restaurants and catering companies and what have you and anybody who wants to pretend or believe that you are denying yourself or limiting yourself in any way is just not up-to-date. For instance, Tal Ronnen who’s a kind of celebrity chef has…
Caryn Hartglass: on Oprah…
Joseph Connelly: …on Oprah on the 21-day cleanse, he catered Ellen’s wedding, he just came out with a book The Conscious Cook which was number three in The New York Times bestseller list for two weeks in a row and the top ten for several weeks, by the way. This book is just wonderful. You look through the book and talk about colors, Caryn, you would just flip at the quality of the photography and obviously his recipes—a little bit out of my range—but I’m glad that every once in awhile I get a meal that [21:02 unclear] he actually prepared.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a lot of vegan cookbooks out there and you bring up a good point there are some that are amazingly sophisticated, gourmet, a lot of ingredients, creative but then there are plenty that are very simple and easy to prepare and you can do it all. You have the choice.
Joseph Connelly: Just like everything else. I haven’t bought a non-vegetarian cookbook in many, many years but I think that there probably are some…the Julia Child type ones or James Beard type ones that would sit on my counter and be nice to look at and I’m sure there are simple cookbooks for the single person or the childless couple or what have you. Again we keep coming back to the same pattern and I hope the audience is getting this, that we’re just like you. Anything that has happened in the non-vegetarian world certainly has an opportunity of happening in the veg world.
Caryn Hartglass: I get a lot of comments from listeners and they’re not all vegan that listening to this show, believe me, so we can’t stress enough that this is a diet of plenty, this is a diet of joy, variety, not about deprivation. You mention joyful…I’m not somebody who watches the evening news very often. I like to focus my time and energy and reading on positive things because there’s so many positive things to focus on. Your magazine is full of lots of just positive, life fulfilling subjects. So I think we’ll take a break right now. Joe, stay with me, we’ll be right back.[23:08 omitted segue from break]
Caryn Hartglass: I just wanted to mention a few things. I have a new show on Sundays, 7pm, so if you’re listening and you have some questions, Sunday night’s the best time. We have a nice chat about food and recipes. Just want you to know about that.
Joseph Connelly: What’s the name of that show?
Caryn Hartglass: It’s called Ask a Vegan. We’ve had two shows so far. People have been calling in from lots of interesting places asking really great questions. What’s really encouraging is more and more people are talking about moving toward a plant-based diet. Joe, you’ve probably seen a lot of this in the news lately, there’s lots of really encouraging things in the mainstream. Reports coming out Worldwatch magazine said 51% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are from animal agriculture. The Lancet, a very prestigious reputable medical journal came out last week with a big study recommending reducing livestock production by 30%…so it’s not enough for me, but it’s happening. Twenty years after we’ve been banging the pavement with this information people are starting to get it.
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 9/15/2014
Joe Connelly: Absolutely and I obviously do follow the media quite a bit and every year it’s an exponential growth and while exponential growth is not necessarily a good thing, for things like population or CO2 in the atmosphere, for educational things, especially trying to educate people about eating lower on the food chain and more plant based foods is a good thing, this is wonderful. Years ago if you did a search on the web for “vegan” you didn’t get a whole lot of hits. Nowadays you get more hits in a day than you got back then in a month or two. We actually have something, a little blurb in the news section of our next issue, talking about this exact same thing, Caryn. All of the various different media mentions and, positive mentions by the way, even the ones that are not so happy like the front page New York Times article about the women who ate the beef a couple months ago and got very ill from it. They are positive and they’re respected; they’re educating people, and I feel sorry obviously for the woman but. There’s a book called Eating Animals out now which is climbing the best seller list by novelist Jonathan Saffron for getting a lot of publicity. Martha Stewart did a vegan/vegetarian thanks giving last week on her TV show.
Caryn Hartglass: And she’s got vegetarian thanksgiving recipes on her website.
Joe Connelly: Yes she does. You’ve got, you know we talked already about Oprah and Ellen and Ellen has come out as a vegan so to speak.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, she’s come out several times.
Joe Connelly: Yeah she’s come out again. So, you know there’s just, there was even a NYT editorial right around thanksgiving which supposedly ticked a lot of the people off and they got some nasty letters to the editor about it but it was about being vegan in a non-vegan world. I just finished reading a book yesterday called “on a dollar a day.” It’s two school teachers, high school civics teachers, a couple in southern California, about San Diego, and it’s their adventures in eating in America. They actually experimented with two diets; one was eating literally a dollar per person a day. They basically ate beans and rice and made their own food and they chronicled their journey and they have a website you can check it out if you like. Then they went and they did another experiment all of these were one month by the way. This one was eating the equivalent of the food stamp program, which is roughly $3 a day supplemented with a little bit of your own cash. So they ate for a month on 4 and a half bucks a day. And they used these two experiences to completely revamp their diet. They were already vegan going in but they were not necessarily healthy vegans they would eat, you know, junk food and all that so… But they saw how much waste was going on and they saw how much unnecessary, how much food is grown and thrown away. You can waste it by throwing it away or you can waste it by eating too much.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
Joe Connelly: Either way it’s not good for the environment and it’s not good for you. So they’ve now revamped their diet and written a book and the book is coming out early next year. So look for it, On a Dollar a Day, but Christopher Greenslate and Kerry Leonard. Now you talked about food earlier, I want to mention that, and you know as I said earlier, everything happens in presidential years for me for whatever reason. So in 2008 last year, we completely redid our website vegnews.com and you can check it out. This year we won four major national magazine website awards. So our website is actually quite impressive.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes it is.
Joe Connelly: And this holiday season we did the first ever ebooklet that you can purchase for a measly $3 for holiday cookies. So anybody that likes to try holiday cookies, visit vegnews.com and you can download this book and make yourself, it’s a cute little book too, it’s like 7×7, so it’s a cute size. You can download that and make up some holiday cookies for your friends.
Caryn Hartglass: And it has cookie recipes in it?
Joe Connelly: They’re all cookie recipes, all holiday cookies, cookies bars, holiday sweets.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a tradition her in Manhattan, there’s one guy who hosts the annual vegan cookie swap. And lots of people come and bring all different kinds of vegan cookies. And then you bring some and you can bring some home for you so you try all these different ones.
Joe Connelly: So is it strictly a swap or is it a contest where they try to judge which is the favorite
Caryn Hartglass: You know there’s no contest, and it’s funny because I guess I’m very competitive and I go and I bring these cookies and I walk around saying these are the best these are the best. I kind of make my own little thing, but it’s just bring them and enjoy them.
Joe Connelly: And who does this?
Caryn Hartglass: The guy’s name is Mike; I’m not going to give his full name. It’s in Manhattan, he has it in his home and all the lucky vegans that are on his list get to go.
Joe Connelly: Well I’m very jealous of that but we do have you know a little competition here out in San Francisco and I’m a New Yorker so I can be on both sides of the fence here. But we have a worldwide vegan bake sale. Now we didn’t start it here, but it was started by another gentleman and it was very popular and I think they did the first one this past summer. But we’ve taken the concept and this coming Saturday we’ll have our second, local vegan bake sale. The first one raised money for a cat and dog shelter and this one’s raising money for a rabbit shelter. And we have I don’t know how many, there were 50 people baking every kind of imaginable sweet you could think of. And they set up outside of this restaurant that lets us use their sidewalk. And they sell out within a couple hours and they make quite a bit of money. So vegans do like their sweets as I’m very guilty of having to admit.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I wish I could be there because I love baking and I would be happy to contribute but I’m not going to be there this Saturday.
Joe Connelly: That’s okay you have your own swap you have to prepare for.
Caryn Hartglass: they that’s true. So one of the features that you have in the magazine are these awards – and once again it’s another opportunity to recognize all these different things that are going on in the vegan community and to show that we’re everywhere and we do lots of things very well. But it’s also great to give people recognition for what they’re doing.
Joe Connelly: Absolutely. Getting back to the community nature of Veg News that we already spoke about, when the project first came to be it became obvious that we need to honor and recognize what we’re doing and what progress we’re making. And that’s not to say that these are the best. We don’t use the word best, we use the word favorite. And it started out as a reader survey exclusively, and so our readers can pick their favorite soymilk or their favorite restaurant or their favorite veg friendly vacation destination. Never wanting to say ones better than the other, just a public interest type thing and a way of giving all these wonderful individuals, companies, organizations, the recognition that they deserve. The veggie awards issue is obviously also a very anticipated issue every year, it comes out November/December so it’s the one that’s on the newsstand right now. And it has grown much over the last seven or eight years and, I think this is the eight one we’ve done. We now have both a reader survey component and an editor’s picks where we go out and kind of find the new things that might not yet be on the radar so they’re not going to win the reader portion of the poll necessarily, I mean sometimes they do but it’s kind of our way of plugging in and recognizing organizations/individuals/products that are just so amazingly good that they deserve some kind of recognition. This year for instance, there’s a new cheese coming out of Canada called Daiya.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes! I’ve had it!
Joe Connelly: And it is like the holy grail of veganism I think is the way it was described. It stretches, it melts, you could put it on a pizza and nobody would know that it’s a vegan cheese. It’s not made with soy, so it doesn’t have the same taste and flavor. It’s actually made of tapioca and cassava root. So it’s like okay how in the world does somebody come up with this. Well thankfully the guys who invented it are mad scientists and I say that with a smile, a twinkle in my eye, because they’re great guys and I know them. And I mean they’ve invented some really great things and this was just a challenge for them and they put their scientific minds behind it and they came up with a cheese that stretches and…
Caryn Hartglass: Yea it really tastes good.
Joe Connelly: It’s like being back in New York and having a slice of pizza on the street and you fold it in half and it’s dripping with oil and cheese. You know as long as you don’t do it too often.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. Well we have some food shows and the one that’s up there right now we interview Candle 79 in the beginning and one of the dishes they put out during that show was a pasta dish that had that cheese on it. And it so I got to try it, it was really yummy.
Joe Connelly: Speaking of Candle 79, we should mention that they were restaurant of the year in VegNews this year. Not only for their food, which is as good as you’ll find anywhere, but what really cemented it for us was that they also do so much in the community. They’re out there educating, they’re out there donating, they’re out there catering events and giving so much of themselves and of their times. You know Candle 79, Bart and Joy, God bless them they’re just making this all, you know, as we’ve talked about before the commercial break, making this main stream. Showing that you don’t sacrifice anything, I mean the people that go through candle 79 are dignitaries, heads of state.
Caryn Hartglass: Celebrities, they’re good with celebrities.
Joe Connelly: It’s a destination restaurant it’s a place to be seen. They’ve got several of them in New York and when we come to New York it’s just eat eat eat all the time.
Caryn Hartglass: This is by far the best place for vegans to eat because there are more vegan restaurants here than anywhere and they’re phenomenal. It’s really a joy. But I want to bring up a word, access, a lot of people I talk to struggle with the discipline. You know they get the horror that’s going on in factory farming and they really would like to eat more plant-based foods. And they know that there are foods out there that they like but it’s this kind of slipping back into old habits or going to their old hangs ore being with other people that aren’t ready to go vegetarian or don’t know that much about it. And so it’s this access, and certainly over the last few decades there’s more and more food products, prepared foods in supermarkets and restaurants that make it easier. But it’s all about access the more we can get out there with products, the easier it’s going to be. And so certainly your magazine is one of piece of that. We all can’t do everything. Bart and joy have these great restaurants, and that adds to the access and then this magazine. So people can learn bout all the products that are available.
Joe Connelly: You know I can’t tell you how often we get emails and letters and even phone calls from people who tell us that they love Veg News its always we love Veg News and we say thank you very much, of course we appreciate that, but then they go into I even love the adds. People tell you that they read the ads in our magazine and you can’t say that probably people don’t read the ads in People or Time or US Weekly or whatever, but our audience is so committed to not only the cause of being vegetarian or vegan and living that lifestyle but they’re so committed also to supporting these companies. One of the proudest things of all, Veg News has had many many successes, but one of the proudest things I have to say, maybe even the most. We’ve been able to give small, relatively small companies, with very minor advertising budgets, and opportunity to advertise their store, their product, their restaurant or whatever in a national magazine that you can find in 50 states. Now we’ve been able to keep our production costs reasonable and our advertising rates very reasonable and you can flip through the magazine and you will see 100+ ads each issue with some companies that never ever would have that access, and a different type of access than you’re talking about Caryn, but they have access now to a worldwide community, nationwide really continent wide community of people who know first of all, that if they pick up a copy of Veg News, that its going to have them vetted. We’re not going to put ads in the magazine for products that are not vegan. So they know there’s already that trust. So now they can find out about the Daiya cheese we’re talking about or the new restaurant that’s opening down in Los Angeles and they can find out about the B and B that’s up in New England some place or down in the Florida Keys. Who knew that there was a vegan B and B in Florida? Bu that has allowed us to give both sides of what you’re talking about. Not only giving the businesses and the business people the access to the actual people who are customer based but we’ve also then given the customers this ability to see wow you know I remember when I turned vegetarian in the 70s I had to buy powdered dry hamburger and make it when I got home. Now I can go out and get 8 or 10 different types of frozen hamburgers at the grocery store. And it doesn’t have to be a natural food store it could be Safeway or Kroger or even A&T.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah that’s something to be happy about.
Joe Connelly: And you know you and I have been in this long enough that we remember, you know I remember the first time tried nondairy milk. You went to the old hippie type health food store, long before Whole Foods and you bought powdered soy milk. And you brought it home and you mixed it up and you tasted it and you spit it out.
Caryn Hartglass: I remember my first tofu experience. I couldn’t mash it small enough to disappear in this stew that I was making.
Joe Connelly: But nowadays you know we have. And I have to admit, I am exceedingly spoiled in that, because of Veg News we get products in literally every day. One of our blogs is called this just in, so you can follow all of the promotional items that we get sent. Our lovely Lindsay puts up this blog every day, 5 days a week, of what gets shipped to the office. And we try chocolates, and cosmetics and we get books before they’re released and it’s just wonderful to be able to sample these things and promote them, really. You know we give our stamp of approval and unfortunately we only have, we come out 6 times a year and we have about 10 products that we’re reviewing each issue so it is a little competitive to get one of those 60 slots a year to promote. But it is never ending what continues to come out. As we’ve already talked about the vegan cheese this year, there’s been an enormous amount of raw chocolates and truffles that have just gone over the top and gotten much better than even just 3 or 4 years ago. Obviously raw foods are something that’s also burgeoning here. And it’s all good! It’s all good, and everybody who’s, even if you’re not going to go full vegetarian, you can try these products and compare and contrast them to what you’re normally eating and see that hey, I can do this, if I go vegetarian just half the time, look at all the greenhouse gases I’m saving, look at all the cholesterol I’m not eating, look at all the animals I’m saving.
Caryn Hartglass: So you’re listening to It’s All About Food and I’m Caryn Hartglass and I’m talking to publisher Joe Connelly who has the magazine VegNews and I’m curious – so first you have your website, vegnews.com, very easy to remember. Do you have a feeling for the demographics of the people that read Veg News?
Joe Connelly: Our demographic, which is largely a female audience, which makes sense, since…
Caryn Hartglass: Because we’re smarter.
Joe Connelly: You know smarter and more beautiful obviously, but in addition to that you’re also more likely to be vegetarian. You’re also more likely to be a magazine reader, especially a lifestyle magazine. So we have a roughly 37/37 year old female is our average reader. Of course we’ve got many male readers, we’ve got many younger readers and we’ve got many older readers, but for demographic purposes, its peoples favorite magazine almost exclusively. And people tell us all the time that they can’t wait for the next issue to come in, they want us to be monthly and they read it cover to cover, they read it before anything else, so we have such a very strong committed audience and readership and that’s just a lovely thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Now what about location wise? Are a lot of them in California, Chicago, New York?
Joe Connelly: So the major cities, the coasts, certainly, are about a third of our readership is on each coast. And then about a third for the rest of the country and a little bit in Canada. Cities obviously, where there are more vegetarian activity, which would make sense because whenever there’s a higher population density we have a higher readership. But you know we have profiled cities in all over the country, every issue we have one city profile. We’ve even profiled international cities on quite a few occasions. We have supported and promoted companies that are based in Wisconsin, and based in Minnesota, and we’ve done Los Vegas many times. So if you’re out there listening or picking up a copy of Veg News next time you’re at the book store. Don’t think that we’re a demographic or a geography exclusive to certain areas. It’s not. And that’s actually one thing that we’ve had to overcome, thank you for bringing this up Caryn, people thought that we were a California based publication because we happen to be based in California. But obviously you have to call some place home, but no…
Caryn Hartglass: Sure, and there are also a lot of food distributors and a lot of vegetarian activity in California so it makes sense.
Joe Connelly: It’s funny, I had this conversation with a colleague a couple weeks ago. More organizations are on the east coast and more food manufacturers are on the west coast. I don’t know why that is, we haven’t figured it out yet; it just seems to be the way things have fallen right now.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea I discovered that when I used to have this annual food festival in Manhattan called the Taste of Health, I did it for five years, and it was a bit of a struggle to get the food exhibitors because most of them were in California. But you’re right, we had a lot of organizations that would show up, you know non profits
Joe Connelly: And why do you think that was?
Caryn Hartglass: Well you just told me, you said there are more food manufacturers in California and more organizations on the east coast. Anyway…
Joe Connelly: I know the Taste of Health is one. That’s been going on in Vancouver if I’m not mistaken. Well, you’ll have to come out here and put it on.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea it’s on my list. It’s a long list.
Joe Connelly: You could do a live broadcast from your taste of health San Francisco version.
Caryn Hartglass: So I just want to mention a few more things, we have a few more minutes. One is you had an issue once where you highlighted vegetarian musicians. And now I’m realizing that you had this music past, so maybe there was some motivation there. But my brother was one that got a little mention in your magazine since he is a vegan musician. He also composed the intro and exit music for this show and my Sunday show, so I always like to mention that.
Joe Connelly: So your brother has been in our issue twice.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes! Thank you.
Joe Connelly: Wow, he’s a lucky guy.
Caryn Hartglass: He is a lucky guy, cause he has me as his sister.
Joe Connelly: What’s that?
Carny: he’s a lucky guy because he has me as a sister.
Joe Connelly: Oh boy, an older sister too right, so you can show him the ropes. Not too much older though. Now since this show is called It’s All About Food I want to make one more mention. Earlier this year Veg News acquired a website called VegWeb. And VegWeb is the largest vegetarian recipe website in the world. It’s been going on for about 12/13 years now. It’s got thousands and thousands, I think 12000 recipes, all tested, all submitted by readers, and you can rank them you can go on there and download the recipes and so check out VegWeb if you’re looking to expand your cookbook or your recipe book or just make dinner tonight.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah well that’s, I love the internet. And you can get a recipe for anything vegan on the internet. It’s all there, and VegWeb is probably one of the places where you can find them.
Joe Connelly: I actually was leafing through an old issue of this saves paper that we started off with an hour ago and we used to publish recipes in there and this was 96 or 97 and I used to credit where I got the recipes from and I actually took one of the recipes from VegWeb 12 or 13 years ago without even realizing it and of course it comes full circle. Here its 2009 and now it’s part of the veg news family.
Caryn Hartglass: So I’d like to end talking about some of your favorite foods.
Joe Connelly: Some of my favorite foods?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Joe Connelly: Oh boy, oh you’re going to put me on the spot. I can talk about things but ask me my favorites and that’s difficult. I actually, let me plug something else here…
Caryn Hartglass: OK.
Joe Connelly: I’ve tried, I’ve gone from standard American diet, to vegetarian a short time, I kind of went vegan much quicker than most people, and I’ve experimented with raw foods diet and what have you and I certainly think we should be eating as much raw food as we can, but I recently read Alicia Silverstone’s book called the kind diet. And Alicia as a history very similar to the one I just described myself as most people do. And she experimented with raw foods for a while and then kind of came back around and has settled on something quite similar to a macrobiotic diet which is based on grains. And then john McDougall a prominent physician and internist MD has very similar recommendations. So my favorite meal I guess it would be a big giant plate of some kind of cooked grain, brown rice or basmati rice or even quinoa, and then I would add a freshly sautéed green like kale or chard, and then maybe 50% grain, 25% greens and then 25% protein. Protein could be in the form of tofu, unless it was going to be for you Caryn and id add tempeh or something other than tofu.
Caryn Hartglass: No I like tofu! It was just the first time back in 1970 something it just…
Joe Connelly: Well the protein source can even be a handful of cashews or almonds, it doesn’t have to be a grain meat or soy based meat. So I would say that I’m like a simple one pot type guy, when I’m at home I like to throw everything together and eat it that way. Unlike mom, if you’re listening, and I know you raised me with meat and potatoes and vegetables but you know that was then. Now if I go out to a restaurant though, I’ll go to any of the restaurants that we’ve mentioned in this interview and many more. I mean candle 79 is a must every time I come to new York city, pure food and wine which is a high end bar/restaurant out here in san Francisco we have what I would still consider what I would call the best restaurant simply because of longevity if nothing else – millennium restaurant. If you’ve never been you have to come to San Francisco for millennium. And Los Angeles where I am many times a year; we have a real food day.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah one of my favorites I love their cookbook.
Joe Connelly: And I love to experiment when I go out, I love to eat simple when I’m home but I love to experiment when I’m out and try any of the things that any of these vegan restaurants will serve.
Caryn Hartglass: Well Joe thank you so much we’ve come to the end of the hour and as usual I’m always starving after this show after talking about food. Thanks so much for joining me, Joe Connelly, publisher of VegNews magazine.
Joe Connelly: And thank you for having me Caryn it was wonderful and I hope to do it again with you sometime soon
Caryn Hartglass: Okay great. So this has been It’s All About Food, I’m Caryn Hartglass, thanks so much.
Transcribed by Jacob John 9/13/2014