Hi everyone- new friends and old! For those of you who don’t know, my name is Sarah Louise, and I am the founder and sole baker/labourer of love at Blue Rose Baking Co.! I am very excited to share my vegan treats and meet all of you when I officially launch this summer. In efforts to introduce you to myself a little bit, I would like to share a little bit of my story and why I went vegan. I have shared a version of this on my personal blog, The Cozy Vegan before, where I like to post a lot of ramblings and others things!
I have been studying the ins and outs of business these past months, trying as hard as I can to make Blue Rose Baking Co. a reality. This has caused a lot of reflection and growth along the way. As I think about the ethics of the business and how I really got started- I keep coming back to why I went vegan. The ethics, the animals, how it all just makes so much sense, and if I can help a few others “get it” too, then this will all have been worthwhile. So, I’ve paraphrased my vegan story in hopes of hearing a few of yours too!
Growing up in rural Alberta, I learned where food came from at a very early age. A lot of my friends resided on farms surrounding my small town, and I quickly realized the sources of meat, eggs, and milk in elementary school. There was a moment in first grade when it all started to click… Old McDonald was slaughtering those damn chickens?! I started to become more and more curious and pry at every adult I could find about where my food came form. When my childhood babysitter taught me that veal came from a baby calf, I’m pretty sure I lost my marbles.
As I started to sentimentalize my food, I experimented with vegetarianism, though I didn’t know there was a name for it until I started watching the Simpsons. I would subsist off of side dishes at holiday dinners loading up on mashed potatoes, picking out only the vegetables in my stirfries the rest of the time. By junior high, I had a solid handle of what vegetarianism was, and started subscribing to Vegetarian Times, so I could learn to cook. It was through Vegetarian Times that I learned about the vegan lifestyle, and began omitting other products and making the transition to veganism by high school.
During high school was also the time I became enthralled with my local punk/hardcore music scene, where I began to discover a lot of bands and people with similar ethics to mine. I would travel into Calgary and sometimes Edmonton for punk shows, music festivals, any opportunity I had. It wasn’t weird there, to be an ethical vegan like it was in my small town. I made friends who wanted to go out and gorge on vegan Chinese food, finally. Some of my favourite bands sang songs about how eating animals is wrong, and I felt for the first time I was part of a community. That hasn’t stopped. Since going vegan, I’m always thrilled about feeling part of some bigger picture.
Going vegan is really what triggered my passion for food. Growing up in a small town, gathering ingredients for special recipes became an adventure, and food took on a whole different meaning for me. I no longer ate whatever was placed in front of me, but started placing ethics into the equation, and became extremely conscious of reading ingredients. The day my local grocer started carrying Yves vegetarian products, I was elated and took home every product I could find! Tofu and udon noodles became a staple in my diet, and even lentils and soy milk were an exciting find! However, when special occasions started coming around, I was a little saddened that all I had to eat was my sad, cardboard soy ice cream (there weren’t nearly the amount of options available we have now). That was when I formed a passion for baking.
The first vegan baked goods I ever ate, were my very own. The first recipe I ever experimented with were vegan brownies, from The Garden of Vegan. I was so proud of turning tofu into brownies, that I started baking them to share with everyone I knew. One afternoon in English class while we were watching Choclat, my favourite teacher asked us all to bring our favourite chocolate bar to enjoy. This was the first time I revealed myself as vegan to people other than my family, explaining to my peers that I don’t eat milk products, and brought in a batch of chocolate walnut brownies! I brought the extras to the rest of my teachers, and the response was always the same, “What is a vegan again?!” “I can’t believe you made these without milk and eggs! Is chocolate vegan?!” From then on, some of my happiest days were coming home from school and baking cupcakes, or having friends over to try the peanut butter cups I made.
When I moved to Calgary for University, I was over the moon to have access to a variety of ethnic markets, natural grocers, and other places to make WHATEVER I WANTED ALL THE TIME. I was also very thankful to have restaurants like Buddha’s Veggie and The Coup around in Calgary for whenever I wanted to go out and enjoy some vegan food in the presence of others eating only plants. Lots of vegan options in Alberta have popped up since, but these places really helped me set down my roots. At first I really did enjoy being in an academic environment, but what I would really look forward to was heading back to my first apartment each night to try and master the art of vegan perogies, the perfect chocolate cake at 3 am, whatever I could find.
Eventually, times did get a little rougher on a personal level. I won’t talk about it here, because this is a place for positivity and high fives and awesome vegan food. But, I was going through a lot personally, staying in school full-time to give myself something to focus on, and working more than I should have been to make ends kinda meet. That’s when I really started to take solace in keeping a blog (a mixture of personal for my own sanity, as well as sharing pictures of food), and spending the little spare time I had baking in the kitchen. I am by no means an advocate of emotional eating, but I seriously don’t know what I would have done sometimes. I would come home, take all of my confusion and anxiety, and turn that ball of energy into something positive as I played my records as loud as I could, came up with new recipes, and warmed up wherever was home at the time with the oven and smells of compassionately made food. I would stay positive by thinking about how I would share my recipes and all the vegan treats I made somehow, and how I could create a better life for the voiceless.
As I reached completion of my English degree, I no longer had the notion of wanting to either write the LSATS or move to Korea and teach or something. I started to reflect on what was really making me happy. That’s how I came to realize that it’s always been this…I wanted to instead spend my time creating awesome vegan food, connecting with other like-minded folks, and really building a community full of positive vibes. So, here I am, getting ready to launch at my favourite Edmonton farmer’s markets in June and staying true to my beliefs everyday. I am way over the moon about this. Feel free to share your vegan stories with myself and the rest of us if you’d like!