Social media personality Laura Miller went vegan overnight after reading a book about the practice at age 18 — but she doesn’t recommend you follow in her footsteps.
“It’s the big joke that you’re vegan for a week or a month,” she says. “It makes sense that even if you start out gung-ho, you’re eventually going to lose steam. I’m a big proponent of the slow and steady transition, adding new plant-based things along the way.”
Miller entices vegan enthusiasts, diehards and the curious with her cooking series for Tastemade, where she whips up bright, colorful produce-packed dishes with deadpan humor and simple. healthy recipes. Her first cookbook, “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.” debuted this week from Flatiron and features glowing endorsements from the likes of both Jamie Oliver and Meghan Trainor. We chat with the Californian as she packages #Froobs (a fruit-as-boobs photo schtick she popularized on Instagram) T-shirts to benefit the Movement Foundation — a non-profit that promotes positive body image among women — and preps for her upcoming book tour.
What’s your background with cooking?
When I decided to do vegan food I figured I needed to earn my stripes so I worked as a line cook at a big restaurant. It was hilarious because I worked the grill with meat all day, six days a week, testing steaks with the finger to make sure they were the correct level of doneness. I didn’t know how to get trained in raw foods — I tried one place but it was a little too cult-like for me — so I gave up and started a tiny raw food business in San Francisco and had to teach myself.
Did you learn anything from the process?
I learned I was a bad business woman. [Laughs] I was more interested in teaching people about the food than selling it at a high enough price to make a profit. I was just so excited to talk to customers in the market that I would be like, “Oh don’t worry, I’ll send you the recipe! You don’t have to buy it!” I definitely have some regrets about not being able to pay my bills very efficiently.
Is there any one food that can turn a skeptic into a believer in vegan food? Do you have any secret weapons?
Magical raw things like avocado pudding, which a lot of people know now, but if you do it right, it just tastes like a delicious pudding,not like avocado at all. Then banana soft serve which is basically just frozen bananas. I tell people to start with these as a gateway because it’s a magical fun thing, but then you’ll also feel really great after.
What’s the difference between raw and vegan cuisines?
Vegan is nothing with animal product and raw is the next step beyond that. It’s complete vegan but nothing is cooked above 115 degrees, so people will do things like using a food dehydrator to make crackers or cookies. Also, raw stuff is usually all gluten free.
What’s the benefit of going raw?
People have very different answers, but for me, I like the limitations [of raw foods.] It forces me to focus on produce as opposed to vegan where you can be like, “Oh, Cheerio’s and soy milk, that’s vegan!” I don’t eat raw all the time by any means but it’s a good baseline for doing creative things with produce.