01 March 2011

Ask A Vegan: Pt. 20

Gosh it has been a while since I have posted one of these, and the silly thing is I have had this wonderful woman Barbara who owns Gone Pie baked goods answers floating around my inbox for months. I really don't have an excuse for my laziness, and I am truly sorry I didn't share her with you earlier. Gone Pie bakery has been around for over 25 years and has served the Vegan community countless delicious pies, cookies, brownies and more. Barbara excels in tasty gluten-free products as well creative and delicious flavor combinations. If you are lucky and live in New York you can get Barbara's pies delivered to your door, and if you live out of state...good news, all of her other deserts can be delivered to you! I mean really, who doesn't want to answer the door and find a package of tasty gluten-free coconut brownies?

Name: Barbara Sitomer
Age: 53
Location: New York
Website: www.gonepie.com

How long have you been Vegan?
Not sure exactly. It was such a natural process more than an historic event. I guess about 20 years.

What made you decide to go Vegan?
I was running a bakery in the lower east side of Manhattan. Most of my business was selling to health food stores. I became instantly drawn to the challenges of baking for folks with allergies or philosophies that left them with limited choices. I was educating myself about veganism before I was vegan, so I could provide treats for vegans. I didn’t feel veganism yet, but I understood how to bake for vegans. I hired a young person that was a very passionate vegan and a devotee of my products. She was shocked I was not vegan. We became quite close as we worked long shifts together. At some point, she knew me well enough to know what would make me feel veganism. She gave me a copy of “The Dreaded Comparison”. I read half the book and was so upset that I became a vegan. So you see, it was a process over time. We worked together for quite a while before she gave me that book. I pretty much ate vegan food, but I was not a vegan until the day I understood veganism as a philosophy.

How do you feel health wise with this diet choice?
Excellent! But veganism is not a diet. It is a philosophy. Embracing the philosophy makes me feel peaceful and happy.

Are you open about your Veganism?

If so, are you involved in any activism i.e. protests, leafleting etc…
Yes. I work for many local campaigns in New York that involve ending animal use.
I only put my support behind campaigns that end use, never those that encourage
continued use through animal husbandry reforms. I don’t believe we have the right to negotiate for our non-human friends. Campaigns that advocate for less than full end of use I actively oppose. I believe they encourage continued animal suffering. I don’t want anyone comfortable with their non-vegan habits. I believe the so called “welfare” reforms prolong use and make people feel better about animal consumption.

I work actively with Friends of Animals. We have active campaigns to ban horse drawn carriages, wild horse round ups and protect animals in the wild and their disappearing habitats.

I also strongly support the work of Humanemyth.org.

I give away a lot of baked goods - tempting people into veganism through tasty treats is my favorite form of activism.

What do your family, friends, co-workers think about your diet?
I think they think I am extreme and it makes them uncomfortable to a certain extent. I think if they are uncomfortable they are thinking about their actions, so I am OK with this. I certainly wish they would just wake up already. I honestly believe it is within every person to understand the importance of veganism - particularly the environmental benefits of the diet -and I am unrelenting in pushing them to do so. We only have one planet and we can’t waste time protecting it, it is in crisis. The challenge is helping them see that veganism is the key to saving the planet without freaking them out so they no longer listen to me. I almost never mention animal rights to people that are uncomfortable with veganism. It is not something everyone can relate to and easier to dismiss for most people. I absolutely never use health as a tool as it leads people to thinking about themselves, I am pretty sure this confuses my friends and family. Veganism is not about us humans being healthy, it is about all the living beings on our planet having a right to exist on their own term unexploited for our needs.

What advice would you give those interested in becoming Vegan?
DO IT!!!! You won’t believe how much better you will feel on every level. If you are even thinking about it, just take the plunge. I know from my experiences, that there comes a time when you truly understand what veganism means. You don’t have to understand the philosophy to embrace the diet. Over time the diet will change your perceptions. I never think of being vegan as a sacrifice or miss non-vegan foods. For me, they are just not an option and must be forgotten about. Celebrate what you embrace by making this choice and don’t dwell on what you no longer can have. Veganism is a process of awakening and enlightenment.

Would you eat at Mc Donald’s if they carried a Vegan burger?

What is your least favorite question that you are asked about your diet?
How could you give up (fill in blank)

What is your favorite dish?
I am a very simple eater for the most part. I eat a lot of giant salads with olive oil and sea salt. I eat a lot of greens with olive oil and garlic. I love baked tempeh. I love cold sesame noodles that I make at home. As a baker who follows recipes for a living, I pretty much never cook from a recipe. I am all about winging it when I eat savory. If I eat out, I love Ethiopian food and Indian food.

What do you typically eat at Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a very busy season for me. I used to sleep and fast all day to recover from being so busy. Last year, for the first time, I attended a vegan feast. We celebrated the harvest and seasonal vegetables. It was a magical experience and I hope to do something similar again this year.

If I could make you any flavor cupcake in the world what would it be?
I don’t like cupcakes! I don’t understand why vegans are obsessed with them. It particularly bothers me that most of these cupcakes have tons of frosting. The frosting is generally made with margarine. I find the frosting overly rich rather and unpleasant to eat and often it contains palm oil which I boycott.

If I absolutely have to have a cupcake, it would be chocolate with a small amount of chocolate glaze. I make a gluten free chocolate spice cupcake with super rich dark chocolate frosting and chopped hazelnuts and crystallized ginger as a garnish. I think it’s quite good, but I would prefer someone just order a cake. I don’t understand the fascination with cupcakes. I am repeating myself.....
-Though I do not agree with Barbara on the point of cupcakes, I do understand her distaste, if you will, for the palm oil industry. I do use Earth Balance in my frosting as well as Organic Spectrum vegetable shortening, both containing palm oil. I am not going to defend or argue any side of the palm oil issue, but I will say that change does start with the consumer. If we can urge companies to use fair trade and ethically harvested foods for their products, everyone wins.

Please share your favorite Vegan recipe.
I don’t really have one. Everything starts with saute onion garlic and ginger......


  1. Just as I'm thinking of opening a vegan bakery you give us this to think about! So tempting. Ah well, I guess I've no choice...

    And I'm with you Babs, what is this obsession with cupcakes? I mean they're nice, don't get me wrong, but there's other tasty sweets out there people. Pastry anyone?


  2. Barbara is great! Wonderful interview as always, Ms. Rikki. I <3 Gone Pie!! :c)

  3. Thanks Rikki! I forgot all about this. We did it such a long enough ago that my age is wrong! HA! Thanks for that!

    I have become a little more cupcake tolerant too! We now make FOUR kinds. (^_^)

    I totally agree with you that change starts with the consumer. We need to demand palm free alternatives. If we keep blindly giving these companies our business, they feel no pressure to change.

    Thanks including me in your ask a vegan series. It was fun!

  4. I loooove this series.

    Aaand I was trying to find an email address or something for you. I have a question for ya! If you can, would you shoot me an email at merrymayhandmade@gmail.com?

    And happy(late)birthday to Timmy!