Sunday, September 28, 2014

urban vegan is now a plant-based review blog

First blog post at original blogspot blog on 3/28/06
I can't believe I've been blogging for 8 years... I was one of the blogosphere's early adopters. I started the Urban Vegan back in 2006, simply as a hobby and a way to connect with like-minded people. It's been a wonderful ride. I had no idea that blogging would lead to three cookbooks, cooking demos from New York to Portland to Paris, and countless wonderful friendships in between.

For both personal and philosophical reasons, I've decided to change the focus of Urban Vegan to a review-only blog. I'm pretty stoked about the fresh start. And I'm thrilled that plant-based diets are now much more common. But before I get to reviewing, here's why I'm changing my focus:

Personal reasons
1. I'm burned out.
Thinking outside the box is exhausting.
I love my day job, but it can be stressful at times with long hours. Plus, I work in the creative field – so I am continually digging into my psyche to create. By night, I then create and tweak recipes, review products, answer emails, do social media, write blog posts and take photos. Blogging takes a lot of time and organization. You can only give so much until you need time to recharge and take things in, instead of continual output. Reviews take up less energy; I'm just lending my culinary and plant-based experience to critique what someone else created.

2. I missed cooking for pleasure. 

I love to cook. Obviously, right? Since I've run this blog, every time I set out to make a meal, I felt compelled to write down the recipe or post the photo on social media. It's gotten way out of balance. Since I stopped posting recipes, I've rediscovered the pure joy of cooking.

3. I only have so much time. See #1. I've really been into running and marathon and half-marathon training, and I only have so much free time.

Philosophical reasons
1. I stand against this new culture of working for free... 
Poster from
It's chiseling away at the middle class – and at the real value of talented artists, chefs, writers, photographers, etc. The notion of working for free in the US is becoming so pervasive that people actually think it's normal. Guess what? Working for free is not normal or ethical.

Nowadays, our first exposure to working for free is often through unpaid college internships [which in some cases, are illegal, but in this economy, students do them anyway]. Writers, photographers, artists, and chefs are often asked to give away their content and art work for free or "on spec." Or we give it away for free by choice via social media, forfeiting our intellectual property rights. I am constantly asked to contribute free blog posts [which I used to do often but now will only do for worthy charities]. Recently, for example, a well-known athletic software company asked me if I would write a 500-word blog post for them on vegan nutrition for athletes. I said sure, if they would give me a free subscription to their service in return. No answer? No blog post. I do not work for free. [Say it with me, people. "I do not work for free." Power to the creatives!] Giving away content, art, recipes and photography undervalues what creatives do. Know what your work is worth.

Working for almost free is almost as bad. Many cookbook contracts, for example, have ridiculous stipulations that have authors largely doing their own publicity. When you factor in social media and day jobs, that's a lot of time. And just because you're a great cook doesn't mean you're a great publicist. I was very lucky. I'm grateful that my current publisher, Quarry Books did a phenomenal job of co-publicizing my most recent book Pies and Tarts with Heart But many of my vegan/vegetarian cookbook author friends have not been so lucky. "Cookbook author" sounds like a glamorous job, but it can sometimes amount to less than minimum wage.

I've given away tons of recipes and photos on my blog. In my case, my impetus was altruistic: I wanted to help animals, and raise awareness about factory farming and the then-new paradigm shift in the way we eat. I guess good karma came into play, because, working with my agent, it helped me land a bona-fide cookbook contract, and I think I accomplished all my goals. Since there are a plethora of fabulous vegan recipe blogs now, I humbly leave the recipes to them.

2. Whatever happened to quality and originality? When I started blogging 8 years ago, it was a completely innocent, honest world. There was less appropriation and more creative, fresh material and perspectives. It wasn't de rigueur for bloggers to post every precious [and not-so-precious] moment on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Now, the blogosphere and social media is largely filled with "noise." Sorry, but it's true. Everyone is a ______ [insert creative profession here]. My feed is polluted with regurgitated articles, recipes and craft ideas that have been done [and redone] to death. True originality is a rarity.

So there you have it. Part burnout. Part revolutionary [Power to the creatives!]. I'm excited to be embarking on my new adventure!

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Anne said...

I've enjoyed the recipes and postings over the years! Looking forward to the new review content. I had a blog I updated fairly regularly (not even CLOSE to the level of your blog), and I've since abandoned it. It was hiking pictures from Pennsylvania, and also State and National Parks when I traveled. It was a lot of work after every hike, and I spent the hike looking for something blogworthy. It's nice to leave the camera at home now and then!

Tina. said...

Thank you so much for all the recipes, photos, stories, etc. you've shared with us over the years. I completely understand why you're changing your focus, and I am looking forward to your future posts.

Babette said...

I'm happy this is not the end of The Urban Vegan! I've been reading your blog for years.

I like that cat picture when the "think outside the box" motto.

Samsam Cherie said...

Can't wait to see what's yet to come, I'm a baby vegan - only about 3 months so far - and will definitely be using your blog for advice on what to buy! Thanks!
~ Samantha

dayna said...

Hell YES. Major props and a HUGE round of applause to you. As a lady who has spent almost half her life as on-again-off-again blogger, this is a breath of fresh air in the stale, sad, directionless "blogosphere". We shouldn't work for free, and in many ways, blogs shouldn't be work. They used to be diaries, moments in time, shared experiences. Now they're competitive and monetary and as boring as corporate office "culture". I'm really proud of you for going this direction... This post made my heart sing in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with all of that. It's the same for me with music. All of a sudden with old..hipster trend everyone was a musician. Everyone has a soundcloud. The music scene is flooded. There is still good music being made, but I feel I have to dig through so much to find it. I can imagine, and see, it being the same with blogs and other creative endeavors. So right on! And I look forward to your reviews.

Egusta said...

All power to you. :) Best of luck with the new venture. I have been reading your blog for years. I am pleased we are not losing you, but appreciate your reasons for the new direction. :)

Mattheworbit said...

I'm with you! Glad you're doing what's right for you, and letting things evolve. It's a real glut of endless self promotion/cross promotion/regurgitation out there these days.
I know I'm old school, but I value something so much more in hard copy, whether it's a book, music, or anything else. Your cookbooks (And the effort, testing, and development behind them) are cherished in my house and will be for much longer than any recipe printed or scrawled down from a website. You value what you pay for more, too, and then it's fair that - the creator is compensated for their expertise. Right on. Hugs.

urban vegan said...

Thank you, everyone!

And a special thank you, Matthew, for your kind words. Means a lot xx

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