Posted by: Kiki | April 21, 2009

Foodie fun & Rock n’ Roll

It’s food week here at We Love YA, and today, it is my great pleasure to interview Stephanie Kuehnert, the totally rocking author of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and the upcoming Ballads of Suburbia (coming July 21st).

Stephanie has had an interesting life, and it clearly shines through in her novels, which are gritty and punky with a biting edge you just can’t fake. But the most kick-ass thing of all, Stephanie is a fellow vegan, which means her food choices will be extra awesome. Here’s the interview.

This week is all about food at We Love YA, so to start off, what did you have for breakfast today?
Blueberry soy yogurt and a mini bagel with vegan cream cheese.
What’s your favourite food of all times?
Oh there are so many…. There is this vegan mac and cheese from a certain cafe in Chicago, sweet and sour faux chicken from an Asian place in Seattle… but of all time. Well, I have loved peanut butter all my life and it is so versatile. However I think I’m going to have to go with mashed potatoes. It is my ultimate comfort food.
What’s the perfect snack to go with a full day of writing?
Hummus! If I’m feeling healthy I eat it with carrot sticks. Otherwise tortilla or pita chips. It’s protein, it’s filling, and it’s not garbage. I’m partial to the Sabras brand where you get to mix in the red pepper bits or pine nuts or garlic or whatever you choose.
Tea or coffee?
Tea for sure. My friend Kevin sells loose teas through his frame shop (weird I know, but in these economic times you have to diversify) and he’s totally turned me into a tea snob. I mostly only drink loose teas now or teabag tea (I’m not sure how to phrase that without it sounding weird) that is very good. Green teas are my favorite.
What were your eating habits like as a teen? How have they changed now?
I think I ate less. I know I ate less toward the end of high school. I was struggling with an ulcer and a brief phase of anorexia after an abusive relationship. It wasn’t pretty. But that aside I always ate relatively healthy because I’ve been vegetarian since I was 13, but now I eat even more healthily. I avoid fried food for the most part and eat salad once a day.
When did you become vegan? How did you make that choice?
I went vegan when I was 17, that’s almost 13 years ago, though I had a year where I was in a bad place and started eating dairy again. The choice was part of natural progression. I’d been vegetarian since I was 13. I was vegetarian for animal rights reasons. When I was 16, I met a friend who was vegan and had worked on a rescue farm and once she explained to me exactly how exploitative the dairy industry was and (sorry to non-vegans) just how gross and unnatural milk really is, I started transitioning to veganism. She and I became roommates when I was 17, so I waited until then to go full blown vegan so she could teach me how to cook and shop, etc. 
Who was most opposed to your veganism when you told them?
No one was really opposed. My mom called it a version of anorexia at one point, which pissed me off, especially seeing as I used veganism to rid myself of those anorexic tendencies I had after that bad relationship. Veganism made me conscious of what I ate and therefore I was consciously reminding myself to eat which I really needed back then. But I think she was just in a bad mood that day. She always makes or buys me vegan cake on my birthday. My friends are all understanding. Maybe some of them teased, but that’s cause we teased each other about everything. I have to bring food to large family functions, though my grandfather before he passed away was best about the veganism and I think it is was cause he was a baker.
But I do have to say one of the easiest ways to get on my bad side is to harp on my veganism. Just recently this friend of a friend went off on a tangent about how hard it is to be vegan (um it’s only hard if you are lazy. Really how much effort does it take to read ingredients or ask a waiter what is in your dish?) and started trying to tell me what was and wasn’t vegan… Umm, I’ve been vegan for nearly 13 years, I think I know a bit more about it than someone who knows someone who is vegan. It’s just a pet peeve. I don’t nag anyone besides maybe my fiance and my mom (because with both of them it would be more in line with their politics if they were at least vegetarian) about what they eat, so I hate it when people nag me. Asking questions is cool; I’m happy to have a discussion, but being obnoxious about it….
Does your veganism come through in your writing? Have you ever written a vegan character specifically?
I haven’t written a vegan character yet. I have one in mind for a new novel that I’ve started. She’s a very political teenager. I was a very political teenager and that’s where veganism came from for me. When it comes to writing, I don’t like to inflict my belief systems or morals onto my characters. I view them as real people and I can’t/won’t mold them to serve didactic purposes. My main character in I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone eats meat. She grew up in farm country and I just don’t see her becoming vegetarian, so she’s not. My main character in Ballads of Suburbia is vegetarian though it is never said outright because there isn’t really a reason to say it, so I’m not going to force it. You can just tell because people around her will be eating burgers and she’ll be eating salad and french fries (my vegetarian meal at diners in high school). But this character in my new novel, being vegan is something she would talk about, so I will let her. It will be fun to write, just like it was fun to write Emily from IWBYJR’s love of music. It’s nice when you happen to share a passion with a character.
Cookbooks, online recipes or making it up as you go along?
Cookbooks and online recipes. I definitely alter recipes as I go, but I need to start somewhere. My fave cookbooks are How It All Vegan, Garden of Vegan, and Veganomicon (which is way more gourmet than I usually cook).
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I do love to cook. I also love to watch trashy TV. I’m addicted to Rock of Love and the soap opera One Life to Live, and 90210. Also the less trashy Degrassi and Grey’s Anatomy. And I read and listen to music of course.
What is the best book you’ve read so far this year?
Bad to the Bone by Jeri Smith Ready. It doesn’t come out til next month, but I got the hookup 🙂 Her WVMP vampire series is my fave vampire series ever. And there is a vegetarian, Rastafarian vampire. Chew on that.
Do you have a favourite food blog or site you’d like to share with us? That is where I get all my vegan recipes online!


Once again, thank you Stepahnie for that kick-ass interview. Clearly, she has excellent taste in cookbooks, too (Veganomicon is one of my faves, too).



  1. A vegetarian, rastafarian, vampire… now those three things just don’t seem possible, but hey it’s fiction!
    I need to eat more veges, but at the moment I’m surviving on vegemite sandwiches and cheese sticks. Thanks for blogging with us today Steph.

  2. Hello, my fabulous CP Stephanie! First, congratulations on your double nomination in the National Readers’ Choice Awards!

    It seems to me if you want to get away from mindless eating, try vegetarianism or veganism and really think about what you’re consuming. If you ever find yourself in Sydney, there’s a whole bunch of vegan restaurants we can try out together. Have you tried vegan chocolate?

    Great interview, Kiki!

    x V

  3. Thanks for having me, ladies! Tons of fun! *waves at V!*

  4. Mash potato and two minute noodles got me through uni 😀

    suddenly I’m feeling hungry ….

  5. Mmmh, vegan chocolate…
    And if you think Sydney is veg-friendly, try Melbourne. It wins the award for most veg-friendly city in Australia every year.
    You haven’t lived if you haven’t tried vegan chocolate made from cashew milk…

  6. I think I just learned more about veganism in that one interview than I have my whole life. She even made it sound yummy. (And I have memories of a god-awful vegan Black Forest Cake about 8 years ago.)

    Great interview and even better insight into veganism.

  7. Okay I really need to come to AUS for the food. It’s very clear. Now to go play the lottery so I can do so 🙂

  8. Stephanie, if you ever do, we’ll take you on a vegan foodie tour!

  9. Vanessa, have you tried Bodhi’s for vegan yum cha? Used to at Haymarket and Hugo Weaving was there once with his family when we were dining. Looks like its now moved to beneath the forecourt of St Mary’s Cathedral.

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