Vegetarians in Paradise proudly presents its 24 Carrot Award to Vegetarian Times for being an invaluable resource for the vegetarian community for almost 30 years. We are also honoring Laurel Lund, editor, for reshaping the publication for the 21st Century.
What follows are the questions asked by Vegetarians in Paradise (VIP) and the answers by Laurel Lund (LL).
VIP: Could you briefly tell us the events surrounding the founding of your magazine?
LL: Vegetarian Times (VT) started as a one-man operation. In the early 1970s, Paul Obis recognized a growing interest in vegetarianism, and in an attempt to provide a forum for vegetarian ideas and in an effort to reach out to other vegetarians, he founded VT in 1974. The first issue was a four-page typewritten newsletter distributed free at Chicago-area health food stores.
VIP: In 2004 the magazine will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. What types of activities and features are you planning for the occasion?
LL: Although our plans for 2004 are not yet complete, know that we will pull out all the stops for this special anniversary!
VIP: What is the mission of Vegetarian Times? How has the magazine changed during its years of publication?
LL: VT introduces our readers to a unique vision of the good life that only begins with good food. We help them discover that their lives can be richer, longer and healthier as they explore fresh new ways to stay physically resilient, intellectually aware and emotionally centered. They are introduced to new ways to enjoy themselves, their friends and their families through original ideas for travel, entertaining and fine dining. In 30 years of publishing, VT continues to provide readers with recipes for fabulous vegetarian cuisine and updated news to help them make informed decisions that affect their health, wellness and lifestyle.
VIP: What are some of the significant highlights in the history of your magazine?
LL: Distributing the first 300 issues of VT (1974); cashing John Lennon and Yoko Ono's check for a three-year subscription (1979); featuring Fred Rogers and Michael Jackson on the cover (1983); making our own headlines with a Time magazine story on VT and vegetarianism (1988); introducing readers to Linda McCartney's fabulous veg recipes (1990); publishing Vegetarian Times' Complete Cookbook (1995); making the pages of Time (again!) in its in-depth cover story about vegetarianism (2002).
VIP: What is the circulation of Vegetarian Times? What growth have you experienced over the years?
LL: VT has a readership of more than a million people worldwide. We've enjoyed more than 1,000 percent growth since founder Paul Obis published and circulated the first copies of VT in 1974.
VIP: What is the audience or demographics of the publication? Do you have any statistics revealing the ages, sexes, and locations of your readers?
LL: Most of our readers are highly educated, middle-class, professional female homeowners aged 35-55, although we've seen tremendous interest in veg cuisine in recent years from both men and college students. It's no surprise to us that our best-selling markets are states on either coast, and we're encouraged to find growing support from readers in the predominantly meat-and-potatoes Midwestern states.
VIP: How long have you been editor? What other jobs in writing and editing have you held?
LL: I have been Editorial Director for both Vegetarian Times and Better Nutrition, which is provided free to health-food store consumers nationally for 1 1/2 years. Prior to that I was editor of Delicious Living, a competitor of Better Nutrition; founding editor of Natural Home; editor of Colorado Homes & Lifestyles; founding editor of Mountain Living; executive editor of HOME; furnishings editor of Better Homes & Gardens; and editor of three special interest publications and many custom publications under the Better Homes & Gardens publishing umbrella. It's been a long and wonderful profession--and one I truly love!
VIP: What changes have you made in the publication?
LL: I was hired to relaunch VT starting with the May 2002 issue, and there is hardly anything I didn't change! The entire look of the magazine was updated to give it a contemporary upscale feel, and the editorial outlook was changed from a cause-based, "tree-hugging" magazine to a more mainstream food publication that deals with readers' health and wellness in an upbeat, positive manner. Each issue includes the latest health and food trends, travel, ethnic and seasonal foods, and caters to the holistic health--body, mind and spirit--of our readers.
VIP: Your board of directors includes prominent members of the vegetarian community. What roles do these people play in your magazine?
LL: Our advisory board members--Drs. Dean Ornish and John McDougall, Moosewood Cookbook author Mollie Katzen and nutritionist Suzanne Havala Hobbs, to name a few--are terrific resources for us when planning and researching articles. It's great to know these industry leaders are available to us with just a quick call or email.
VIP: What recent trends have you noticed in vegetarianism?
LL: The hottest trends today are organics, vegetarian teens, veganism, and significant interest in meatless meals from people who eat meat as part of their diet.
VIP: Could you tell us about the Vegetarian Times kitchen. Does your staff test every recipe you publish?
LL: Food Editor Alexandra Greeley is a one-woman cooking show in the VT test kitchen! She creates original recipes, which, of course, the VT staff tastes--we would have it no other way! Alex takes into consideration all of our questions and comments about each dish, then goes back into the kitchen to tweak the recipes to ensure readers get the healthiest, best-tasting, best-quality recipes possible.
VIP: We noticed that beginning in 2003 you began publishing the first vegan column. Do you plan to add more vegan features?
LL: We've had a tremendously positive response to Marie Oser's column, "Vegan Gourmet," which debuted in the January 2003 issue. The vegan buffet featured in our December 2002 holiday feature also was a huge hit--so, yes, we're listening to our readers and planning to offer more vegan recipes as readers demand.
VIP: What are some of your personal goals for the publication?
LL: My personal goal for the publication is to make the word "vegetarian" an adjective, not a noun--to bring the principles of a healthy meatless diet to the mainstream where vegetarian cuisine no longer conjures up "granola" but simply great tasting, good-for-you cuisine!
VIP: What advantages has your internet website provided to your magazine? What is its primary function?
LL: Vegetariantimes.com provides a secondary avenue with which to engage our magazine readership, as well as offering opportunities to serve an audience who may not subscribe to the magazine. In addition to an archive of articles and recipes, web readers can find information on advertiser products, books and other products, and can sign up for a weekly recipe email. Vegetariantimes.com allows readers to reach out to the VT staff through recipe submission, letters to the editors and online surveys.
VIP: Is your staff predominantly vegetarian?
LL: Of course!
VIP: Are you a vegetarian? What events led you to that choice?
LL: I became a vegetarian primarily to honor every living thing, but today it's also about maintaining optimum health.
VIP: What do you predict for the vegan movement in the next ten years? What do you see as your role in that movement?
LL: I predict that veganism will gather even more momentum in the coming years, and, as always, we have led and will continue to lead any movement toward plant-based diets.
VIP: Do you find time to enjoy the pleasures of home cooking? What are some of your favorite dishes?
LL: In managing two editorial staffs and traveling a great deal, my professional duties don't allow me as much time as I'd like to cook. However, when I do, I enjoy making various risottos, homemade French bread and all manner of original salads and fresh vegetables-not to mention Alex's terrific VT recipes! And I make a mean chocolate truffle cake with raspberry sauce!