Robin Robertson is a vegan dynamo. With enough cookbooks to have her own section at the bookstore as well as an active blog, she seems to never stop creating new recipes. I own many of her books and I’m in awe of her ability to continuously develop delicious, no-fuss dishes. When I can’t figure out what to make for dinner, I usually head to her website to see what her latest creation is, as it’s sure to be a creative meal that will be both easy to cook and a treat for my taste buds.
I was fortunate enough to be a recipe tester for her book Quick Fix Vegan, and since then Robin and I have stayed connected, thanks to the magic of Facebook. We usually talk about our pets since we’re both crazy about cats. When I was given the opportunity to interview Robin, I jumped at the opportunity, as I was curious to get a glimpse into the life of one of my favorite cookbook authors.
CV — WITH OVER 20 BOOKS UNDER YOUR BELT, YOU’RE PROBABLY THE MOST PROLIFIC VEGAN COOKBOOK WRITER WORKING TODAY. IS IT DIFFICULT TO COME UP WITH FRESH IDEAS FOR NEW BOOKS?
RR — Yes and no. If I “try” to think of a new idea, I usually come up blank. But if I go with the flow, I often find that ideas will just come to me in a flash of inspiration.
CV — TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK FRESH FROM THE VEGAN SLOW COOKER AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE IT.
RR — As with many of my books, the way I cook is what I like to share with others, whether it’s how to cook “on the cheap” or “quick and easy”. Cooking in a slow cooker is one of my favorite ways to cook – it’s economical and convenient and a boon to people who are too busy to cook. I make a lot of delicious vegan food in a slow cooker and I wanted to share the recipes in a book to show people how easy it can be to get a healthy vegan meal on the table.
CV — YOUR 2004 BOOK FRESH FROM THE VEGETARIAN SLOW COOKER IS A VEGAN COOKBOOK DESPITE THE TITLE. HOW DOES YOUR NEWEST BOOK DIFFER FROM IT?
RR — Well, the 2004 book, which I actually wrote in 2002, is mostly vegan, but it does include options for dairy products, at the request of the publisher at the time. The new book differs in several important ways from the previous title. Most notably, it’s 100% vegan, but the recipes in the new book also use less oil (many of them can be made oil-free). The recipes are also marked as being either gluten-free or soy-free (or both). Ten years have passed since I wrote the first book, and rather than reinventing the wheel, a lot of the basics remain the same, with updates. I used the experience of the first book as a jumping off point to share new recipes, techniques, and ideas I have developed since then.
CV — IN ADDITION TO YOUR MANY COOKBOOKS, YOU OFTEN POST NEW RECIPES ON YOUR WEBSITE. HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH SO MANY NEW IDEAS FOR RECIPES? DO THE RECIPES ON YOUR SITE EVENTUALLY MAKE IT INTO A BOOK?
RR - I’ve been a food professional for about 30 years, so it’s a natural process for me. It’s just the way my mind works. I think about food all the time and I’m always thinking of new ways to use ingredients. Sometimes I even dream about new recipes! I also draw inspiration from the ingredients themselves. Seasonal produce is a huge source of inspiration. I often just get an idea and jot it down, or just go into the kitchen and start playing with particular ingredients and soon, a new recipe develops. Invariably, most of what I create for my blog ends up in a cookbook sooner or later.
CV — WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO BECOME VEGAN AND WAS IT AN OVERNIGHT SWITCH OR MORE GRADUAL SHIFT?
RR — My love of animals was the great motivator in my becoming vegan. When I was 18, I became vegetarian for ethical reasons, but it was difficult to sustain for lack of ingredients, support, and other pressures. When I became a chef in mainstream restaurants, I felt conflicted because, in my heart, I couldn’t come to terms with cooking or eating meat. During the late 1980s I decided to quit working in restaurants and on the same day, I stopped eating animals forever. It was the best day of my life, because I was finally at peace with myself and the animals I loved.
CV — YOU WERE ALREADY WORKING AS A CHEF WHEN YOU BECAME VEGAN. WAS IT DIFFICULT TO MAKE THE TRANSITION IN YOUR COOKING?
RR — It wasn’t at all difficult – it was actually exciting and empowering. I had just quit working as a chef in a French restaurant when I went vegan, so the first thing I did was to figure out how to make all my favorite French dishes without using animal products. It was challenging, but lots of fun, too. Many of my original creations have made it into my cookbooks.
RR — My day begins too early thanks to my cat Gary who likes to share some quality time with me in the early morning hours. After feeding the cats and the ducks, I head back to my upstairs office and work at my desk all day, answering e-mails and working on my various projects. During the day, I’m “forced” to have several cat breaks where Gary will come and sit in front of my computer monitor so I can’t get anything done. I also take breaks to make lunch and dinner, but I do put in long days, usually seven days a week.
CV — WHAT DO YOU TYPICALLY EAT IN THE SPAN OF A DAY?
RR — I start the day with a large coffee and either oatmeal or a smoothie made with SunWarrior raw vegan protein powder. Lunch is either leftovers from dinner the night before, otherwise it’s a salad or a bowl of soup. Dinner might vary from something I’ve made in advance (I like to cook ahead) or have put in the slow cooker earlier in the day. Otherwise I’ll prepare a quick stir-fry or maybe a pasta dish. Often, I just cook with whatever is on hand, especially produce that needs to be used while fresh. Fresh fruit is always on hand for snacking.
CV — WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VEGAN INDULGENCE?
RR — I consider most vegan desserts an indulgence because I generally only make desserts when we have company or if I need to test a recipe. My favorite desserts are fruit pies or anything with white chocolate.
CV — YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY WRITER IN THE FAMILY NOW THAT YOUR CAT GARY HAS HIS OWN BLOG, GARY WORLD. HAS HIS NEW-FOUND FAME GONE TO HIS HEAD?
RR — Not really. Gary pretty much takes everything in stride. He’s very easy-going and has a great attitude. My only issue with his blog is when he wants to use my computer while I’m working on it. But I draw the line at getting him his own computer. After all, I don’t want to spoil him.