Vegans go glam – news – republican herald


Jaya Roll, 8, eyes a platter of veggie burgers at the family’s home in Calabasas, Calif., Sept. 9, 2015. Julie Piatt and partner Rich Roll are authors of “The Plantpower Way,” which consciously paints a more appealing, even glamorous, picture of veganism compared to the common deprivation oriented portrayal. (Amy Dickerson/The New York Times)

Rich Roll and Julie Piatt, authors of “The Plantpower

Way,” surrounded by some of their children at their home in Calabasas, Calif., Sept. 9, 2015. Roll and Piatt are vegans, and theyÕre on a mission to let people know that enlisting with their tribe doesnÕt have to feel like being trapped in a fragrant tent with Òthe dreadlocked hippie who is kicking the Hacky Sack, Ó as Roll put it. (Amy Dickerson/The New York Times)

CALABASAS, Calif. — It is easy to feel lumpy and inadequate here in Malibu Canyon, at the sunny, breezy home of Julie Piatt and Rich Roll, the couple behind a recent cookbook and lifestyle guide called “The Plantpower Way.”

Roll, who is 48 but looks as if he could still compete on the Stanford swim team, talked about his workout routine and how abandoning meat and milk helped return him to a state of godlike health. “Kicking dairy was brutal,” he said. “That’s like getting off OxyContin.”

Piatt, who also goes by her spiritual name, SriMati, was all flared pants and dark flowing hair as she crisped up veggie burgers in a pan. She was happy to reveal her age; people don’t believe her anyway. “I’m 53,” she said. “It’s my nonalcoholic, meditative, yogic, vegan lifestyle.”

Even their children seemed to be on board. Piatt put a mountainous platter of nachos at the center of the dining table, and the four of them, ages 8 to 20, ravenously dug in, with no grousing about the absence of sour cream and Monterey Jack. “Is everyone good?” Piatt asked. “Does anyone want more cashew cheese?”

The scene looked exactly like a page out of “The Plantpower Way,” with Pacific Coast light streaming through the windows of a modernist house so striking that Roll rents it out for movies and commercials. “It’s not a bad tribe to be in,” said Andrew Pasquella, an artist and friend who lives in an Airstream trailer on the property.

A different look

And that’s precisely the point: Roll and Piatt are vegans, and they’re on a mission to let people know that enlisting with their tribe doesn’t have to feel like being trapped in a fragrant tent with “the dreadlocked hippie who is kicking the Hacky Sack,” as Roll put it.

Veganism has been edging into the mainstream for years now, coaxed along by superstar believers like Bill Clinton and Beyoncé. But lately, as plant-based eating has blossomed and gained followers, influential vegans are laboring to supplant its dowdy, spartan image with a new look: glamorous, prosperous, sexy and epidermally beaming with health.

The evidence is bountiful — at restaurants on both coasts and in cookbooks, on blogs and throughout social media. “Being a vegan has crossed over into fashion territory,” said Kerry Diamond, the editor of Yahoo Food and the editorial director of Cherry Bombe magazine. Decades back “there was nothing chic about it,” she said. “Now it’s become a thing.”

Roll, who also wrote the best-selling “Finding Ultra,” about his midlife search for truth and health while switching to a vegan diet and pushing himself to compete in grueling athletic challenges, acknowledges that the dreamy visuals in “The Plantpower Way” are meant to give vegan living a more vogue-ish spin.

“It was a very conscious effort to kind of counterprogram,” he said. “Our whole idea was to present this lifestyle in an aspirational and modern way. We want to present it in a way that looks appealing, as opposed to deprivation-oriented.” Or as Piatt described it, “There’s no body odor coming off the pages.”

Adopting ‘the glow’

People have adopted veganism for virtuous reasons, but vanity plays an undeniable role as well. It’s not uncommon to hear vegans mooning over “the glow,” an irresistible incandescence that starts to emanate from within after a few weeks or months of eating only plants.

“There are definitely some really nice superficial benefits to the whole thing,” said popular British blogger Ella Woodward, 24, whose book “Deliciously Ella” chronicles her success in conquering health problems with a plant-oriented (she eschews the V-word) regimen. “My skin is so much cleaner and clearer.”

Vegan cooking itself has gone through a stark transformation, and so has the way it is sold: In some coastal pockets, at least, stern sermons have been replaced by the seductive allure of la dolce vita. Nonvegans are welcomed, not shunned. “The message has changed,” said Kathy Freston, an author and vegan proponent. “And we have moved away from that old dogma.”

It’s as if vegans collectively realized that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, or at least that you spread the message more easily when you don’t start preaching about how eating honey represents an exploitation of bees. Vegans like Woodward, Piatt and Roll remain highly fluent in the political arguments for plant-based eating, but they’re less likely to be sanctimonious about it.

And nonvegans, in turn, seem less likely to be dismissive. Chad Sarno, a 39-year-old chef and culinary educator in Austin, Texas, remembers a time when you’d step into a restaurant and “you would say the vegan word and the chef would look at you like you had three heads and just got off the commune.” Now, the dialogue has shifted.

Proof in the mainstream

In New York, there is a steady line out the door during lunchtime at By Chloe, where chef Chloe Coscarelli, at 27 already the author of several cookbooks, stresses that her veggie burgers and quinoa taco salads will not leave diners hungrily chomping on their own knuckles. “I want to be normal,” she said, and By Chloe’s alluring and clever presence on Instagram suggests that it has no intention of sulking in the margins.

“We didn’t want it to scream vegan, we wanted it to scream food and fun and delicious,” Coscarelli said. “Why do we have to make it a downer to be in here?”

That shiny, happy vegan perfection has prompted a few jabs. Even Amanda Cohen, the New York chef whose Dirt Candy restaurant was way ahead of the curve in celebrating vegetables, worries about the potential faddishness of the movement. “You really want to hope it’s not a trend,” she said.

All that swooning over “the glow” can lead to eye-rolls from those without the time and money to achieve it. “It’s a big commitment to get that glow,” Cohen said. “It’s not cheap. It’s not for the peasants.”

Roll, of “The Plantpower Way,” has felt the criticism himself. “One Amazon reviewer said, ‘You’ll never be as perfect as they are,’ ” he recalled. “That broke my heart. Somebody drew that conclusion, which was the opposite of what I’m trying to present.”

These vegans may look as if they have everything figured out, but getting there can be a long process. As the Plantpower family gathered for lunch at the long table, Piatt marveled at recollections of her youth in Alaska, where her father used to drag home wild game. “I remember eating bear once, as a child,” she said.

Jaya, her youngest daughter, looked up with eyes wide. “Wait, Mommy, you ate a bear?” she asked.

“It was when I was a kid,” Piatt replied. “I didn’t understand yet.”

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