Spring 2011

    Issue: Spring 2011

    Table of Contents

    • You’re at it again, Johnny Weir—lying, that is. In an online interview by Suzanne Weinstock (February 10, 2011) in Elle magazine online, you not only accuse Friends of Animals of being a “terrorist organization,” you claim we threatened you. Johnny Weir is quoted as saying:

      “I had to have the FBI go with me to the Olympics because there was a legitimate price put on my head by somebody associated with Friends for Animals [sic]. I’m used to it. They’re a terrorist group.”

      No one from Friends of Animals threatened you. It wasn’t true when we called you out for wearing a fox on your outfit at the 2010 U.S. National Championships, and it certainly isn’t true now. Showing concern for the dead arctic fox you wore does not a terrorist make.

      Friends of Animals was hoping you’d have a change of heart about the animals whose miserable lives and deaths you are complicit in. We simply asked you not to wear fur at the Olympics—because you are a public figure and, unfortunately, because some people listen to what you say. That you lost is not our fault.

      Wearing fur (and, yes, other animal skins) is deplorable. It’s vapid and vain—vulgar. Choosing to wear something attached to so much pain and suffering is heartless. Misery will never be stylish.

      Your wanton love of fur only exposes a cold heart. You say “everyone has the right to choose their way”—but tell that to the beaten and bludgeoned, the anally electrocuted. No one chose to die for your sick fur obsession, Johnny Weir.

      Sincerely,

      Friends of Animals

      Please let Elle know that allowing Johnny Weir to spread lies is slanderous. And let’s not forget about the coyotes, chinchillas, mink, foxes, coyotes (and many more) who become fur garments, and appear in the pages of fashion magazines: They live and die miserably. Fur needs to be an (embarrassing) relic of the past:

      Elle Magazine  •  Letters to the Editor
      1271 Avenue of the Americas  •   New York, NY 10020
      E-mail: elleletters@hfmus.com

       

      Open Letter to American Figure Skater Johnny Weir

      January 20, 2010

      Dear Johnny Weir,

      A recent New York Times article discussed your quest for the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics.

      The author mentioned your outfit had a “touch of fox” on the shoulders, and, despite your third place showing at the United States Figure Skating Championships on Sunday, you thought your outfit “looked pretty.”

      Please consider that there’s nothing pretty about the fox that suffered and died to trim your outfit. The beautiful fox was likely anally electrocuted, or may have had its head bashed in, only to serve as decoration for someone’s performance.

      If you buy fur, no matter what size piece, or which animal it comes from, you’re supporting an industry that has no respect for animals.

      You say that you want to bring an “artistic style” to the Olympics, stating that “everyone can do jumps.” But, as past Olympic champions have shown us, style isn’t everything. In addition to skill, you must also have a sense of decorum in order to bring home the gold. And projecting a conscientious view of the planet’s animals is a starting point.

      While you may believe that wearing fur is a “personal choice,” kindly know that the animals you wear had no such choice. The fur doesn’t magically slide off these beautiful beings. Their nightmare begins in the cramped cages they spend their lives in, where they are forced to lay in their own feces, and ends with the first cut in their anuses. Or maybe some animals you wear were caught in leghold traps, and struggled in vain to gnaw off their legs? Either way, there is nothing glamorous or pretty about the cruelty they endured. And it can’t be morally justified either.

      Friends of Animals urges you, for the sake of humanity, your Olympic ambitions and the hopes of all Americans this winter, to stop wearing the skins of animals. Instead, wow the judges with amazing performances. In the end, nobody cares what a figure skater wears. You will only be judged on your performance and the strength of your character.

      Priscilla Feral

      President of Friends of Animals

       

      FoA Challenges Figure Skater
      Johnny Weir to Stop Wearing Fur

      January 22, 2010

      Friends of Animals sent an open letter to Olympic hopeful Johnny Weir.

      The American skater is on a quest for the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. During an interview with the New York Times, Weir boasted smugly that he “looked pretty” in his outfit, which visibly showed fur obtained from a fox on his sleeves.

      In the letter, FoA President Priscilla Feral bluntly criticized Weir’s love-affair with fur, stating, “Please consider that there’s nothing pretty about the fox that suffered and died to trim your outfit. The beautiful fox was likely anally electrocuted, or may have had its head bashed in, only to serve as decoration for someone’s performance.”

      The Olympic optimist not only parades in full length furs, but has been known to taunt his adversaries by sending them hand-drawn caricatures of animals with x’s over their eyes in retaliation.

      Friends of Animals is urging Weir to stop wearing fur, not only for the sake of animals, but for his own Olympic ambitions. Critics say his admiration for furs have quickly put him in the hot seat and have even over-shadowed his chances for placement in Vancouver.

      “In the end, nobody cares what a figure skater wears. You will only be judged on your performance and the strength of your character,” Added Feral.

    • A day of travel might not be the cat’s meow, but it might be just the ticket for your dog. I take my dog everywhere with me, whether I am visiting family or going to the beach. Unless it’s impossible, Lulu goes too.

      For Lulu, who loves to travel, the journey is more exciting than the destination. This makes it fun for me.

      Perhaps you too are dreaming of a get-away to a dog-friendly destination? If so, here are some tips to get the most out of travel–for both of you.

      Some Essentials to Keep in Mind

      • Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccines. If your travel plans include the great outdoors, or being around new dogs, check with your vet about vaccines such as Bordetella (kennel cough) and Lyme disease.
      • Be sure your dog has a rabies tag, and an identification collar marked with your mobile phone number.
      • Buy a first aid kit for your dog, with tweezers, towelettes, antibiotic ointments, etc. Amazon, the online retailer, sells well-supplied kits for around $20 USD. They are also available at many pet supply stores.
      • Hotels that allow dogs require them to be on flea deterrents.
      • If you are driving with your dog over a national border, you will be required to provide a good health certificate, which can be supplied by your veterinarian. Be sure to have your own passport and identification in order.

      What to pack

      • Have enough food for your journey and all stops. Include extra, in case of an emergency or change of plans.
      • Be sure to pack your vet’s number and any medications your dog is taking.
      • Some dogs get sick when drinking unfamiliar water, so for dogs with sensitive constitutions, fill containers with the water they are used to drinking. As a last resort, you can purchase bottled water.
      • Pack bedding, some towels (for messes), a few toys, leashes, snacks and plenty of bags to collect waste (For biodegradable bags, see www.poopbags.com).

      Travel by Car

      Automobile travel is by far the least stressful way to go, if your dog doesn’t suffer from car sickness. If you need to transport a dog who suffers from anxiety about travel or motion sickness, discuss the issue with your vet. Medications can alleviate most symptoms and provide some comfort for your dog.

      • Have a dog harness for the car. These are sold online and well-stocked pet supply stores. Like seat belts for humans, they provide security in case of a road accident.
      • Be sure the vehicle is well ventilated at all times (keep windows cracked while driving!)
      • DO NOT LEAVE A PET UNATTENDED IN THE CAR — NOT EVEN FOR A MINUTE. Cars can overheat quickly, and dogs can die.
      • Stop every two or three hours to offer your dog a quick walk and fresh water.
      • For travel during warmer months, you can use a pyrex container with a fitted lid for the water bowl; freeze the bowl of water before departure, allowing it to melt along the way. That way, your dog can enjoy fresh, cold water.
      • Consider using a crate for travel if your dog is used to that. Crates can also be safely secured using a crate harness. If your dog is averse to crates, do not use one; it will only make travel more stressful.

      By train or by plane

      Amtrak does not allow dogs except those deemed to be service animals. Nor do Greyhound and other major bus lines. Some North American cities do allow animals on local train transit; you should check each destination individually.

      Plane travel is tricky. Unless it is absolutely necessary, plane travel is not recommended.

      It’s stressful for animals, even those riding in the cabin. In either case they are subjected to long periods without a chance to move around or relieve themselves normally.

      Animals placed in the aircraft baggage or cargo holds are sometimes loaded together with large cases and boxes or other animals, to endure less than ideal ventilation and temperatures. So many things can go wrong — including, worst-case scenario, the animal getting lost by the airline. If an emergency requires you to transport an animal by air, remember to get a health certificate from your veterinarian; for air travel, it’s required.

      There are precise rules about the size and style of the carrier your animal is required to travel in, and how to position such items as food and water containers that come with the carriers. Food and water needs will depend on how long the aircraft will be in flight and on the ground. If your animal ever must be transported by air, call the airline well in advance and know the list of rules to follow. International travel involves specific health procedures upon arrival at the destination: be sure to learn the details before you consider any such trip.

      Finding a place to stay

      I am guilty of going where I can impose on a friend or family member. This also means having friends who enjoy the company of a rambunctious, senior Boston terrier — who tries very hard to be a perfect house guest (all she wants is someone to play ball with)!

      But most people have to find pet friendly hotels. This is getting easier than ever before. Even many bed-and-breakfasts are pet-friendly — ask!

      Here’s a list of pet-friendly hotel chains in the United States (most of these hotels also can be found worldwide, with the same policies):

      Best Western: 1-800-780-7234

      Choice Hotels: 1-877-424-6423

      Hilton Hotels: 1-800-445-8667

      Holiday Inn: 1-800-315-2621

      La Quinta Inns & Suites: 1-800-753-3757

      Marriott: 1-800-450-4442

      Motel 6: 1-800-466-8356

      Studio 6: 1-888-897-0202

      My last piece of advice: try to make sure your dog is on her best behavior. Are you sure she won’t bark as soon as you leave the room to go ride roller coasters at Disney World or hang out on the beach in Miami? As much as you can, take your dog with you on your jaunts. When you can’t, make sure she gets plenty of exercise before you leave the hotel room — and don’t forget those toys! (Those Kong toys work wonders when stuffed with peanut butter — providing hours of enjoyment.)

      And do leave your mobile number with the front desk of the hotel so they can get in touch with you immediately. I learned this the hard way after Lulu barked non-stop when I left our bed and breakfast to go to the beach without her.

      With a little planning and preparation, your trip can be a vacation — for everyone involved.

    • Cheers

      Cheers to State Sen. Don Harmon , D-Illinois, who supported legislation that bans monkeys as pets — effective this past January. Sen. Harmon was quoted as saying, “As cute and cuddly as monkeys can be, people should not have them as pets.” Here at Friends of Animals, we couldn’t agree more!

      Please thank Sen. Harmon for supporting this ban — and encourage him to support other pro-animal legislation:

      1243 N. Woodbine Ave. #102
      Oak Park , Illinois 60302
      E-mail: info@donharmon.org
      Phone: (708) 524-2006 Fax: (708) 386-4099

      Cheers to Norway, the first country in the world to prohibit clothing made from fur during a fashion week, as reported the Internet site Scandinavianfashion.net.

      Paul Vasbotten, general manager of the Oslo Fashion Week, called the decision a “natural choice” to “increase ethical values in fashion.” Fur-free designer Fam Irvoll and the Norwegian advocacy group NOAH–which organized demonstrations and gathered anti-fur pledges from more than 200 designers, models, managers and photographers–have driven this success.

      Cheers to China , for officially banning circuses that feature animals. The Telegraph, a British newspaper, reports that the ban went into effect January 18. This is huge news for the animals who spend their lives in cages, tormented by humans and forced to perform.

      Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, also reports that the number of mink that China farms and kills has decreased significantly. As recently as 2006, the Chinese government was killing about 18 million mink per year. Currently, the number is around 9 million. Here at Friends of Animals, of course, we’d like that number to reach zero!

      Please contact the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. to thank them for their recent strides and also to encourage China to do more for animals:

      Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States
      3505, International Place, N.W.
      Washington D.C. 20008
      Phone: (202) 495-2266
      E-mail:chinaembpress_us@mfa.gov.cn

      Cheers to veterinary surgeon and zoologist Andre Menache , who has called for an end to the use of primates in toxicology testing. Citing the fact that primates — torn away from their families and natural habitats — are tortured before they are even experimented on, Menache has unequivocally stated that any research is invalidated by the fact that primates in captivity are under great stress; they often literally go crazy. Menache rightly points out that scientists already have access to human DNA, which provides reliable scientific data. Menache also seeks EU legislation to ban the practice.

      Menache is the director of the non-governmental organisation Antidote Europe. Please offer your thanks and encouragement for a complete ban of animals testing:

      Antidote Europe
      c/o Andre Menache
      25 rue Jacques Callot
      Perpignan 66000
      FRANCE

      E-mail:info@antidote-europe.org

      Jeers

      Jeers to actor Liam Neeson, who has signed on to star in the new movie “The Grey.” The highly improbable story follows a crew of oil rig workers, led by Neeson, who are left stranded by a plane crash in the Alaskan tundra. According to various reports, the men end up in the hunting zone of a pack of “rogue wolves.”

      Not only is it extremely rare for wolves to attack humans, but this movie could have dire consequences for wolf conservation efforts that already suffer setbacks due to misinformation and propaganda.

      Tell Neeson not only that you won’t be seeing his farce of a movie…but you will be telling others to avoid it as well:

      Rogers & Cowan
      Pacific Design Center
      c/o Liam Neeson
      8687 Melrose Avenue
      7th Floor
      Los Angeles, CA 90069
      USA Phone: (310) 854-8100

      ARG
      c/o Liam Neeson
      4 Great Portland Street
      London W1W 8PA
      UK Phone: +44 (0)20-7436 6400

      Jeers to Blake Montpetit , the co-owner of Tiffany Sports Lounge in St. Paul, Minnesota; Montpetit planned to show his support for his favorite football team, The Greenbay Packers, by roasting and serving a black bear to bar patrons during the game against the Chicago Bears in January 2011. Although plans to actually serve the bear were shot down by the health department, Montpetit promoted the event as a photo-op for patrons — a chance to get your picture taken beside a roasting bear!

      Montpetit’s behavior is juvenile, revolting and stupid. We hope you’ll let him know:

      Tiffany Sports Lounge
      c/o Blake Montpetit
      2051 Ford Parkway
      Saint Paul, MN 55116-1932
      Phone: (651) 690-4747
      E-mail:

      bmontpetit@tiffanysportslounge.com

       

      Jeers to Janet Jackson, Miranda Lambert and Clay Walker — all of whom are performing concerts as part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The rodeo is a despicable spectacle that sells macho acts of domination as entertainment. The animals forced to perform in rodeos endure the pain of flank straps, electric prods and other sadistic methods of torture.

      Please let these recording artists know that they are supporting violence and torture, and subsequently you won’t be supporting them:

      Janet Jackson William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
      9601 Wilshire Blvd.
      3rd Floor
      Beverly Hills, CA 90210
      Phone: (310) 285-9000

      Miranda Lambert William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
      9601 Wilshire Blvd.
      3rd Floor
      Beverly Hills, CA 90210
      Phone: (310) 285-9000

      Clay Walker
      Paul Freundlich Associates (PFA)
      285 W. Broadway, STE. 630
      New York, NY 10013
      Phone:(212) 334-6116
      Fax: (212) 334-.6336
      E-mail:
      dcarberry@pfamedia.net

    • Christina Kobland is president of Native Return , LLC (www.NativeReturn.com), a Pennsylvania-based for-profit company that works with landholders to create self-sustaining native plant communities. These offer habitat for indigenous wildlife, including animals in severe decline.

      Christina is working to preserve a wildlife habitat and corridor connecting Whitemarsh Township with the city of Philadelphia. I’m delighted to introduce Christina to ActionLine readers through this interview.

      Describe why you founded Native Return and what goals you have for your business?

      Concerned by the loss of wildlife habitat, I founded Native Return, LLC with the goal of convincing others to share their land with wildlife.

      Ninety-five percent of natural lands in the United States have been converted to agriculture, cities or suburbs. The resultant loss of biodiversity has disastrous consequences for us all.

      We are disconnected from the natural world. There is a certain amount of wisdom gained from experiencing first-hand the web of life, from dipping one’s hands in a stream for a drink.

      We don’t live in nature any more, and it has taken its toll on us, I believe, adding to the levels of depression we see in today’s society. Worse still, we are losing the ecosystem services that biodiversity provides. Biodiversity purifies our air and water, recycles our wastes, builds our top soils, pollinates our crops. Without biodiversity, we as humans cannot survive. So even those who have no interest in wildlife need to understand biodiversity’s importance.

      My goals include educating the public about these matters, and restoring large ecosystems to provide habitat where it didn’t exist before, including creating important wildlife corridors.

      What types of projects isNative Returnworking on?

      We are currently working on a school project replacing non-native plants with hundreds of native species that support wildlife. It is wonderful to draw the attention of young people to the importance of native plants in reversing the growing loss of biodiversity.

      We are also specifying the plant material and maintenance protocols for the Philadelphia Water Department’s first Stormwater Model Basin Retrofit project, replacing typical mowed lawn with native plants. Again, this benefits wildlife and will also prevent large amounts of stormwater runoff because native plants have deep and extensive root systems adapted to area soils.

      Our airport work is very interesting. With it I am doing the antithesis of what I do elsewhere. Airports typically manage wildlife by killing what enters their property because of the dangers to aircraft. I am doing a long-term project here in Philadelphia creating habitat the wildlife doesn’t like, so they stay away, thereby protecting both people and the wildlife.

      What do you think of the plan to eliminate most of the geese within seven miles of the major airports around New York City?

      I view what they are doing as an unnecessary, knee-jerk reaction that will not solve the problem.

      Native Return’s approach to manage wildlife for airports is to include plant species that geese or deer do not like, so they choose to locate elsewhere. Our proactive, sensitive-to-the-wildlife methods happen to be much less costly, as well as environmentally beneficial, and educational to the public.

      In addition to operating your own business, you are also advocating to protect wild habitat. Describe what you and East33.org are working on in Whitemarsh Township, Pennsylvania.

       East33.org is working to protect the wild lands and wildlife around Miquon, Pennsylvania from “human encroachment.” That term may sound harsh, but it is not meant to. Human beings diminish biodiversity with most current methods of land management.

      Oddly and wonderfully, our urban environment in Miquon, right on the edge of Philadelphia, is home to many local rarer species, like bobolink which migrate from Argentina, breeding populations of Eastern box turtles, and the American woodcocks, with their unusual mating dance in March.

      I address the overuse of fragmenting, intrusive trails, and other practices more obviously disruptive like the agriculture that’s now all the rage in urban areas.

      I think most people who vote for open-space monies to protect habitat would be willing to set aside areas without human access, just like the state and federal parks do. There are so few wild places left like the steep slopes of Miquon. We have taken so much. It is time to give back.

      One focus ofNative Returnis to create and manage habitat for animals. Why did you choose to foster living spaces for animals when some other organizations are seeking to remove certain species (such as deer) from the wilderness?

       The simple answer? I love wildlife. It is part of my persona, and I believe it to be a great gift. There are ways to coexist with large populations of animals that don’t involve cruelty and killing. It takes ingenuity and empathy.

      We have killed the top-line predators, and continue to, so our ecosystems are out of balance. This is not the fault of the animals whose populations consequently increase. Humans are peculiar creatures at times. They pride themselves in their compassion toward one another yet at the same time do some pretty despicable things towards wildlife and domestic animals.

      My biggest pet peeve right now is with environmental organizations that claim to protect wild lands and wildlife but destroy habitat (with farming, for example) and also sanction the killing of wildlife. I think donors would be appalled to know how their charitable donations are sometimes used.

      It is one of the main reasons I started East33.org: supporters should know that when they contribute to wildlife and their habitat, it will go to that and only that — not agriculture, not hunting, and not large administrative expenses.

      Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge with us, Christina.

    • Lagusta Yearwood is a self-described rabble-rousing chef-turned-chocolatier in love with deep flavor, ethical sourcing, farmers, the food poor people around the world have always eaten, lactic acid fermentation, and noodles. In no particular order. Lagusta is also the owner of Lagusta’s Luscious — an all-vegan, completely decadent and utterly delicious chocolate business, located in New Paltz, N.Y., that creates other-worldly truffles, bonbons and other chocolate delicacies.

      Lagusta has also partnered with Friends of Animals — producing a handmade rosemary sea-salt caramel; $10 from the sale of each box supports the advocacy work at Friends of Animals.

      This interview took place in December, 2010 — while Lagusta was enjoying her annual family visit to Hawai’i as the east coast was pummeled by snow.

      Dustin Rhodes: Let’s get the million-dollar question out of the way: how do you pronounce your name?

      Lagusta Yearwood: Ha! Well, it's a combination of Leonard and Augusta, so it's La-gus-ta, with a “gus” in the middle, not a “gu,” does that make sense? If I spoke Spanish it would definitely be La-gooo-sta, but nope. 

      It’s kind of like the name equivalent of quinoa — another word I’ve heard pronounced a million different, cringe-inducing ways.

      Totally! Or tempeh! Or seitan! Oy. 

      Or, let’s not forget vay-GUN! You are a student of literature turned chef turned chocolatier. How exactly does that happen?

      I blame Carol Adams. In college I brought her to my school to give her Sexual Politics of Meat Slideshow, and afterward talked to her a bit about the fork in the road I was facing: should I go to graduate school to study eco-feminist literary criticism (a field of study so tiny there had only been a handful of books written about it), or should I go to cooking school? She told me she thought the world needed vegan chefs more than it needed professors writing dusty books analyzing poetry through an eco-feminist lens that no one was going to read (she phrased this all much more charitably), and my path was set.

      I started out as a savory chef, but the precise and fascinating world of chocolate is where I feel most at home. 

      Chocolate is often associated with slavery. But your business, Bluestockings Bonbons, goes a long way in terms of producing an ethical and artisanal product. Can you talk about that?

      Because I started out as an animal rights activist (I became vegan when I was 15 and was involved in the animal-rights world throughout high school), it's important to me that my business is focused on seeing all elements of chocolate production equally—not only not using animal products, but making sure the chocolate I use is fairly sourced and has never been involved with sickening practices like child slavery. I work closely with my chocolate supplier, TCHO, who are just as passionate about these issues as I am. TCHO's sourcing manager personally visits the areas where their beans are produced and has set up innovative bean-to-bar practices to ensure that the cacao farmers not only are being paid a fair wage for a fair product—but also know what chocolate tastes like and how to make it. Amazingly, most people who pick cacao beans have never tasted chocolate! 

      Also, I'm really proud of the environmental aspect of the chocolates–99% of my ingredients are organic and/or local, and all my boxes are made of 100% vegetable-ink-printed 100% post-consumer recycled paper. We wrap our gift boxes with this beautiful compostable, vegetable-dyed ribbon, too. It's really hard sometimes to find eco-friendly packaging solutions that are somewhat chic, so a lot of my time is spent researching things like recycled-plastic trays to hold the chocolates in their boxes. 

      Because I have this activist background, it's been easier for me than for most business owners to give these considerations weight. I started out knowing nothing about how to run a business, so I didn't know that I shouldn't have been (from a purely capitalist standpoint) focusing on the things I was focusing on! I just focused on the things I cared about and hoped the money stuff would work out. And in time I got better at the business stuff too. 

      You are making a rosemary sea salt caramel, and donating 50% of the cost to the advocacy work here at Friends of Animals. First, thank you. Second, how on earth did you learn to create such a delicious and creamy caramel that’s dairy-free?

      Yeah! I'm so happy to be doing this collaboration with you! I so adore the work you're doing. 

      The caramels! I'm madly in love with them. Honestly, here's the secret: Don't use fake crap. I don't use any “replacement” ingredients in anything I do: No soy butter, no margarine, nothing filled with junk that coats your tongue in a freaky way. Most often I use coconut butter and coconut milk where other fine chocolate companies use cow milk and butter. Coconut products are a ton healthier than fake butter, and because they are so pure and unadulterated, they have a cleaner flavor.

      By the time this article comes out, I should have more caramels up on the website. Very exciting! 

      You’ve been an independent business owner for quite a while now. That must be liberating and stressful in equal measure?

      Yep. I'm madly in love with working for myself, but it certainly has challenges. Particularly when I realized that in order for the business to grow, I had to become a boss. A boss! A hardcore feminist loner-girl like me really had trouble with that. But, happily, I've had the best helpers in the world, amazing women who really helped me become a better boss just as I helped them learn about the stubborn world of chocolate. 

      And what about the chocolate itself? I’ve heard you say you aren’t personally obsessed with chocolate. What is it about chocolate that’s compelling, inspires your creativity?

      I think about that a lot, and I think it has something to do with being vegan — and being a perfectionist.

      I was never interested in science in school, but working with chocolate has made me want to learn more about the chemical properties and how chocolate functions so I can trouble-shoot more accurately. I feel like I can keep learning and working on mastering the chocolate world forever, which is a nice feeling. 

      It's just the definition of creaminess and decadence. I love that this most luxurious of foods is naturally vegan.

      Milk chocolate was invented to sell more chocolate at a cheaper price, by stretching it out with milk. I love telling people that milk chocolate isn't “real” chocolate; dark chocolate is the only real chocolate! (That said, I've made a vegan milk chocolate that I'm going to be rolling out soon. It's pretty tasty!)

      Every time I put chocolate blocks in my tempering machine and look at them melting into that giant pool of liquid, my heart starts beating a little faster. It sounds a little snobby, but I really feel like an artist and chocolate is my medium. 

      That said, as you mentioned, it's sort of a secret that I don't personally adore eating chocolate. I think this is an asset. I can taste the ganache fillings for the truffles and know instantly if they have enough of the flavorings or not, whereas everyone else in the kitchen gets caught on the “yum!” factor. I love making people happy with chocolate, even if I'm slightly mystified by why everyone loves it so. 

      Those caramels though, they are my Achilles' Heel. I could eat them all day. 

      At the end of 2010, you decided to close down your meal delivery service. Why have you decided to focus exclusively on the chocolate?

      Because making chocolates is fun, and endlessly chopping onions is not!

      Well, really it was because I'd been doing the meal delivery service for nine years, and I was a bit burnt out on it. I loved my clients and I had become really good at the business aspect of it, and I cherished my relationships with all the amazing farmers in my area (upstate New York), but chocolate was just calling me. The chocolate side of the business had increased, and running two full-time businesses was really wearing me out, even though I did have great helpers.

      The change was bittersweet (chocolate pun!), but I'm hoping in time I can devote the energy I used to invest in menu planning to writing some sort of cookbook.

      What’s it going to be like cooking for yourself now and not everyone else?

      I'm a bit scared of it, actually. I started going out with my partner, Jacob, when I started cooking, 13 years ago, so he's never really cooked for us (he's an amazing prep cook and kitchen cleaner!) and I'm a bit worried that with no pressure to make balanced meals for my clients, I'll make peanut noodles (noodles are my weakness), or just kimchi and rice–super easy things we always have in the house.

      I asked Jacob what he wanted for dinner the other night and he said pierogies. I told him that we were going to both have to get used to simpler meals for a while–no pierogies from scratch! I'm sure in time I'll miss the elaborate meals I used to make for my clients, though. And with so much sweetness on the chocolate side of things, I'll need to get my hands dirty with savory pasta dough and things now and then. 

      Is it true that you might be opening a retail chocolate shop?

      I've been working on buying a commercial building in New Paltz for quite some time. The plan is to renovate it and open up a tiny little (secretly vegan!) chocolate shop.

      Right now I rent a commercial kitchen that's not open to the public, so this is a very exciting step. It's going to be amazing!

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