Interview by Natalie Tabone
Photos by Alexandra C. MacArthur
Alexandra C. MacArthur
Where do you live?
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA
What do you do?
I’m an online English teacher.
What did you have for breakfast?
I woke up quite late and made a vegan Philly cheese steak. My boyfriend flew back to Australia today, so I wanted to make him something special and regional.
When and why did you decide to go vegan?
I started easing towards a vegan diet in 2014. I became a vegetarian in 2012. I saw the movie “Cowspiracy” in 2014 at the vegetarian summerfest in Pennsylvania. This was the first time the movie was screened and I got to meet the filmmakers. The impact on the environment was one thing that inspired me to go vegan. However, I think the biggest thing that made me want to go vegan was learning about where milk comes from – I learned this at the festival as well. Believe it or not, I lived on this earth for 30 years without knowing the answer to that question.
What does veganism mean to you?
For me, veganism is about non-violence. I think violence starts with thinking it’s OK to kill another species because it’s less than us, and I don’t think that violence is disconnected from violence towards other humans. I don’t want to participate in that, and veganism shows me that I don’t have to. It represents a clear path to a better and kinder future.
Describe a normal day in the life of Alex.
Right now my life is a bit out of the loop because I just finished a year of teaching in China and I’m trying to start an online business as an English teacher. Prior to this I was travelling a lot, and now I want to be an entrepreneur to make my lifestyle more sustainable.
A normal day these days starts off with meditation and yoga. I have so much to get sorted I really have to center myself before I go on the computer, otherwise I may end up in some Facebook wormhole. Then I work on creating content for my site to share with learners hoping they will like my teaching materials and book a lesson with me. I also spend a huge amount of time researching social media strategy. At some point, I walk the dog.
On days like this, I’m quite terrible with lunch. Sometimes I’m really bad and I skip it. However, if I do that I usually have a really nice dinner and I take my time cooking. I don’t really like to take shortcuts when it comes to cooking. Even if the meal is 2,000 steps, I’ll do it. Simplicity isn’t really my jam when it comes to cooking. After that I usually watch a movie with my family.
What food best describes your personality?
Tapas. The more variety, the happier I am. Think the ones they serve in Europe, especially Spain, where the tapas are meant to satisfy your appetite not obliterate your wallet.
Sweet or savoury?
Savoury all the way!
What is your most memorable dining/eating experience?
This price fix meal I had in Rioja, Spain with my best friend Rochelle, who I can’t often see because she lives in California and I’m in Pennsylvania (a 3,000 mile difference). You got a four-course meal and a bottle of wine for 15 euro each. The vegetables were so fresh. The food in Spain is supremely underrated.
What is your favourite song/album to listen to in the kitchen while cooking?
I just turn on a jazz station on Spotify. Either that or some samba. I am learning Portuguese so I love to listen to Brazilian music.
What is your speciality dish?
Kale butternut squash salad. I veganized it from a dish that was insanely popular at some NYC farm-to-table joint.
If you could invite 3 people (historical or current) to dinner who would they be?
Jim Henson, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Meryl Streep.
What would you serve?
The kale salad and Chef Chloe’s butternut squash, apples, spinach, and caramelized onion pizza with white bean garlic sauce. Either that or the Po’Boys from Afro Vegan. They’re so good.
Where is your favourite food destination?
Fin Fine, an Ethiopian restaurant near the UC Berkeley campus (where I went to school) that has the best food I’ve ever eaten. All the vegan food is prepared in a dedicated dairy/meat free area and all the veggies are organic. It’s a restaurant that’s improved over time, believe it or not.
What is your favourite thing to eat on a hot summers day?
I’m really weird. I eat a lot of stuff that most people wouldn’t on hot summer days. I have also baked in 35 C degree weather as if it were nothing. I guess a salad.
On a cold winters night?
I should just say the answer all year round is pizza and burgers. Let’s be honest here.
Describe your perfect day.
Wake up, go for a run on the beach. Eat some sort of healthy green smoothie. Work on a screenplay, blog or other artistic project. Get lunch with a friend. Go on a hike in the nearby forest. Write some more. Cook an amazing meal for friends, family, and boyfriend that we’ll eat outside while enjoying some natural wine. Alternatively, I would be travelling. I want to go back to Italy and Thailand most of all. Really want to take a cooking class in Chiang Mai.
You’ve been asked to contribute a recipe to an upcoming cookbook. What is it?
A Mexican/African-American fusion. Grilled tofu with okra and mole sauce served over grits. Wait, why am I not making this right this second?
If you were a vegetable what would you be?
How do you think we can each make the world a better place?
I think people need to stop eating animals and meditate. I am now a believer that if a person deals with their internal demons and takes care of themselves, the energy they send out into the world inspires others to do the same. So much of what is wrong with the world these days has to do with negative energy and unresolved issues being pushed from one person to another. At this point it’s a bit of a shit storm, but people can stop the pattern if they’re given the tools.
What is your guilty pleasure?
You’re on death row and it’s your last meal. What do you eat?
Ethiopian food at Fin Fine!
What are your plans for 2016?
I am going to get my business going enough so that I can temporarily or maybe not so temporarily relocate to Australia in January 2017.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for interviewing me. It means a lot. Loved answering these questions!