Isa Chandra Moskowitz on her latest cookbook, being vegan in the Midwest and more (with recipes!)

Nine out of ten vegans can tell you exactly who Isa Chandra Moskowitz is. VegNews named her "favorite cookbook author" for seven years in a row; she's been creating recipes for zines, bestselling cookbooks and her beloved website, Post Punk Kitchen, for more than two decades. And she's just released her latest masterpiece, Isa Does It, jam-packed with easy, fast, plant-based recipes that are bound to be a staple in many kitchens before long (for vegetarians and meat-eaters, too). She'll be signing the book at the Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Avenue, tonight at 7:30 p.m. In advance of that appearance -- complete with cookies! -- we caught up with Isa to talk about the new collection of recipes, moving from Brooklyn to Omaha by way of Portland and more. Keep reading for a recipe of that meaty beany chili with cornbread shown in the photo!)

See also: John Schlimm of VegFest Colorado on becoming vegan, grilling tofu and more (recipe included!)

Westword: I know you became a vegetarian as a teenager, which led you and your family to explore cooking more heavily than you had before; how did you wind up creating recipes for a living after that? And were you vegan right from the start, or was it more of a progression?

Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I started as a vegetarian and became a vegan pretty quickly after that, within a year. I wasn't really trying to become a cookbook author, it's just having grown up in the punk-rock scene in New York, I always did zines and was putting recipes in my zines or using other people's cook zines. There was obviously no Internet back then, so as soon as we started doing my cooking show, Post Punk Kitchen, in 2002 and put the recipes online, it just kind of blossomed from there.

How would you describe your food philosophy, for people who might not be familiar with the Post Punk Kitchen ideology?

In one sentence: Just try to make vegan food fun and accessible.

You made a move from Brooklyn to Omaha -- was there food culture shock involved for you in that transition? What was that like?

I actually went via Portland. I moved from Brooklyn to Portland and then moved to Omaha. I think if I had gone straight from New York to Omaha, I would have had some type of culture shock, but having gone to a mellower place and having visited Omaha a bunch, I knew what I was in for. I like it here because there's a lot of potential -- in Portland, there's so much vegan food people are complaining about it; it's nice to be in a place where you can serve vegan food and have it be a new, welcoming experience for people and it kind of feels more effective in that way.

That's actually what led to the new book, basically just being like, "This is what's available to most people." I do have a Whole Foods, and there are great Asian and Mexican markets -- most things are available to me -- but it just gave me a very good idea of what most of the country has available. I think Vegan With a Vengeance has rosewater in a recipe, and here, I'm just not going to do that. I had rosewater at my corner store in Brooklyn! And in Portland, there are so many vegan products like soy curls. Here those things aren't accessible, and I feel like it led me to create lots of pantry-friendly recipes.

In what other ways does Isa Does It compare to the other cookbooks and food resources you've made available?

It's a lot pared down compared to Veganomicon. For that, we thought, let's do all this really interesting, creative vegan food, there are a lot of projects in there. Isa Does It is trying to get all that flavor and creativity and make it weeknight-friendly. I feel like it's a cumulation of everything I've done.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Amber Taufen has been writing about people, places and things in Denver since 2005. She works as an editor, writer, and production and process guru out of her home office in the foothills.
Contact: Amber Taufen

Latest Stories