We are especially gratified that we are able to reach such a wide audience. Our email inbox is continuously filled with questions and congratulatory comments from people in 200 nations around the globe who visit our web magazine. We currently have over 13,000 subscribers who receive information about our monthly updates.
The big excitement this year at Vegparadise is the publication of Zel's new book Vegan for the Holidays. In November 2012 it was on Amazon's top 100 bestseller lists in three categories: Home Entertaining, Special Occasions, and Vegetables and Vegetarian. Both of Zel's cookbooks, The Nut Gourmet and Vegan for the Holidays, were featured in the Fall 2012 issue of Vegan Health and Fitness, a new national vegan publication.
How It All Began
When we began our online magazine in January 1999 with a do-it-yourself, homesteaded website on Angelfire.com, we did not think of producing an international publication, but had as our goal to become a public service resource for the Los Angeles vegetarian community. We started with these features:
In late summer 1999 we received an offer of sponsorship from VegSource that we gratefully accepted. In August we secured our domain name www.vegparadise.com, and on September 1 made our debut. By then we had added three new features:
During our second year we added a number of new features and found ourselves listed by all the major search engines. At that time we realized that Vegetarians in Paradise was no longer a local Los Angeles web site, but had become a destination for people all over the world. Our readership now blankets six continents.
And Then our Duet Year
In 2000 we began to collect honors. Britannica.com listed Vegetarians in Paradise as one of "The Web's Best Sites" in the vegetarian category. Suite101.com selected our site in their "Top Five Web Sites" in the "Vegetarian Cooking and Lifestyle" category. Their annotation states, "Based in L.A., but a great resource for anyone, this site contains tons of info, including a list of airline vegetarian offerings, a great Vegetarian Basics 101 section, vegetarian restaurant reviews in L.A., tons of links, recipes, cookbook reviews-- wow!"
Many of the features added during the year 2000 have broadened our content beyond the Los Angeles area and have increased our readership. These additions included:
The Baby Reaches Triple Time
During 2001 we continued in our efforts to make Vegetarians in Paradise more attractive, easier to use, and more informative. Recognizing our international readership, we made all of our recipes more accessible to our foreign visitors by including metric equivalents for the ingredients. Instead of an alphabetical listing, the Recipe Index is now by category.
Four new features were added.
A Quartet of Years of Service
In 2002 we we added The Road to Vegetaria (vegan substitutes for common animal products). We gained national recognition by being mentioned on the USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center's Vegetarian Nutrition Resource List. Vegetarian Basics 101 appeared as a web resource for "General Information on Vegetarian Nutrition" while The Road to Vegetaria appeared as a web resource for "Vegetarian Cooking and Foods."
Our investigative reports in News from the Nest were attracting national attention. Our story on the Burger King Veggie Burger, published in our April issue, was read by almost 10,000 visitors by the end of the year. During 2003 it added 5,000 more readers and still gained readers in 2007. Updates on that story continue attract a large audience with over 11,000 tuning in to that story in 2012.
That same year we helped make life easier for our readers wishing to cook grains and beans by adding our Beans and Grains Cooking Charts which continues to be sourced by thousands of readers.
A Quintet of Annums
In 2003 we proudly responded to a request by University of Toronto researchers to include our recipes in their study of the Portfolio Diet as an effective means of lowering cholesterol without drugs. Our biggest boost came that year when we received a special Certificate of Tribute from the Los Angeles City Council.
During the year we added three features:
Our readers have caught the spirit by responding enthusiastically to our holiday meals. One of the holiday meals, A Vegan Halloween Party, was featured on the Librarians' Index to the Internet and brought thousands of visitors to our magazine in succeeding years. In 2005 we followed up with A Bewitching Halloween.
Reaching the Quintet Marker
In 2004 Ask the Vegan Athlete made its debut. In this feature Ironman Brendan Brazier responds to questions relevant to vegan athletes.
During the year we gave permission to the Sierra Club to reprint our Los Angeles Vegetarian Restaurants in their Southern Sierran publication. We continued to update our databases as we added to the magazine's knowledge base.
Columnist William Safire brought us to national attention in 2005 when he quoted from our Donald Watson 24 Carrot Award interview in his article on the word "vegan" in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, January 30.
A Sextet of Information
In 2005 we proudly added one new feature, The Nutty Vegan, the working title for Zel's cookbook scheduled to be published in the spring of 2006. This page included recipes, quotations. nut facts, and health information, Now renamed The Nut Gourmet, to reflect the new title of the book, the page has additional information about the book and purchase details as well as reviewers comments.
During the year we researched and printed three stories about Emes Kosher Jel and their fraudulent efforts in marketing their Kosher Jel they claimed to be vegan. We paid for laboratory tests that proved the product contained more than 50% animal ingredients. Our letter to the Illinois attorney general led to the company declaring bankruptcy and going out of business.
Gannett News Service made us quite proud when they featured our magazine in an article about web resources for a "turkey-less Thanksgiving." Their story read:
Playing the Septet
With excitement and trepidation, we began 2006 by introducing our Vegetarian Survival Kit that spotlights our readers' suggestions on preparedness for emergencies and disasters. The project follows up on a suggestion by one of our readers. By the end of the year over 30,000 people, hopefully, had obtained information to help them be better prepared for the next disaster.
We were also honored to be featured in a Gannett News Service column called Versatile Vegetarian. In the story, writer Liz Kohman described the beginning of Vegetarians in Paradise and gave information about Zel's cookbook, The Nut Gourmet. The story also contains a Hazelnut and Mushroom Curry recipe from the book.
In November 2006 we received an email from Stephen Morris of Green Living with a request to reprint one of our articles:
"Green Living is a small independent publication that serves "friends of the environment" in our local area. We've recently selected garlic as our graphic symbol."
When we received the book The New Village Green in 2007, we opened it to find this statement from Editor Stephen Morris: "You'll find garlic lore and legend in tasty factoids throughout the world of The New Village Green. It's our vegetable of default. Why have white space when you can learn something new about one of nature's most intriguing creations garlic! Garlic information was provided by Zel and Reuben Allen, publishers of Vegetarians in Paradise, a monthly internet magazine (vegparadise.com)."
As we thumbed through the book, we found 26 pages that featured garlic quotes from our VIP article, "Garlic--Stinking Rose or Revered Medicine." All were shaded gray with the white garlic symbol. They ranged from small boxes to an entire page. The full story can be found at http://www.vegparadise.com/news71.html.
Significant changes and updates occurred during 2007. For the benefit of our Los Angeles readers we added two new features:
Just when we thought the Emes Kosher Jel affair had been laid to rest in 2005, CNBC producer/reporter Elizabeth Jensen reopened the investigation that led to "A Puff Piece," a report on CNBC that initially aired in May 2007. Our few minutes of fame occurred when we we appeared on the program to discuss our role in the Emes matter.
Into the Nonet
In 2008 we headed toward that magic tenth birthday. Our readers may not have noticed the redesign of the website because the changes were very subtle. We are grateful to Eric Brent of Happy Cow for his time, expertise, and effort in making these changes posssible. This revamping now allows our readers to bookmark any of our features, an impossible task previously. The new format allows us to change our table of contents and our footnote links with ease.
The year began with a barrage of visitors on January 8 when BoingBoing, a website that describes itself as "a directory of wonderful things," decided that our Vegetarian Survival Kit was worthy of mention.
BoingBoing Editor David Pescovitz began the survival entry by writing, "Vegetarians in Paradise has a [Vegetarian Survival Kit] page outlining what a vegetarian might need in his or her survival kit to prepare for hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, or the coming apocalypse. Some of the suggestions are from a book that sounds like a lot of survivalist fun, titled Apocalypse Chow: How to Eat When the Power Goes Out. The majority of tips come from the site's readers." Other blogs picked up the posting that brought thousands of readers to our website to read "snarky" comments by people who hate vegetarians. For more information, see http://www.vegparadise.com/news73.html
What a surprise to find a review of our publication on Yelp, a social networking, user review, and local search web site reaching over 10.6 million people each month! The reviewer wrote the following complimentary remarks:
"This site is Vegetarian Central! Not only is it a source for all the veg restaurants in the greater L.A. Basin area, it's a source for: organic foods of all types and where you can get them; recipes; nutrition information; L.A. resources (eateries, markets, veg yellow pages, farmer's markets); book reviews; directories; environmental activism and even spirituality. If you're a vegetarian or are thinking of investigating vegetarianism, this is your starting place!"
During 2008 we did major revisions of the following nutritional information pages:
Zel hit the radio airwaves for interviews about her book The Nut Gourmet. John Schumacher, co-host of the "Potluck Cafe" on station WTMA in Charleston, South Carolina, wanted her to share her expertise on nuts. Louie Free of station WASN in Youngstown, Ohio, interviewed her to find out more about the health aspects of nuts as well as her role in publishing Vegetarians in Paradise. Free also included her recipes in his blog. Zel made three appearances on Free's program, "Brain Food from the Heartland."
More than 6000 people each month accessed our most popular page, Los Angeles Vegetarian Restaurants. Other pages that receive a large number of hits are Protein Basics, Recipe Index, and Vegetarian Food Companies, all averaging between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors each month. By the end of 2008 our readers could find over 1000 entries in the Recipe Index. The restaurant listings have become the most accurate, up-to-date information source for Los Angeles vegetarian restaurants on the internet. Not only do we meet people who tell us they constantly use this page for suggestions on where to eat, but we also are thankful to the many readers who email us information about restaurant closings and new restaurant openings.
Closing Out the Decade
During the last year of the first decade of the 21st Century we found ourselves swept up into the social networking maelstrom. In June we sent out our first "tweet" and have a sizable number of people who choose to receive our less-than-140-character Twitter messages. We realize we'll never have as many followers as Ashton Kutcher or President Obama, but we are enjoying this way of keeping in touch with our readers.
Our Facebook page debuted on the net in December and slowly accumulated fans. The photo albums contain pictures of Zel's culinary creations on Vegetarians in Paradise and in The Nut Gourmet.
In January Zel inaugurated her NutGourmet Blog that, of course, focuses on her interest in nuts. The blog is a potpourri of nut recipes, facts, quotations, and nutrition information. The blog features Nut Traditions in Afghanistan, Nuts in the Bible, nut studies, and color photos of Zel's recipes. It is linked to Vegetarians in Paradise as well as Facebook and Twitter.
Recognizing that our Airline Vegetarian Meals database was no longer relevant in this era where many domestic airlines no longer offer special meals, we sadly removed this page from our magazine. What was once one of our most popular features, this page no longer had much value to flyers within the continental United States.
During the year Zel again was interviewed on the Louie Free "Brain Food from the Heartland" radio show WASN AM 1500 in Youngstown, Ohio. She also was interviewed by Lisa Henderson on Veggin' Out . Her recipes were reprinted regularly on Health World Online.
In September reporter Clare Sayas interviewed us for the story "Veganism provides healthy LA lifestyle" that appeared in the USC Daily Trojan. "To people like the Allens, the conscious decision to nix animal products from their diets is a form of personal expression," she wrote. "Citing animal activism, a greener way of life, and morality as reasons to become vegan, the couple also noted a more pronounced societal consciousness about the origins of food within the past decades."
HealthCastle.com, "The largest online community run by registered dietitians," reprinted Zel's recipe for Beetcakes. For Thanksgiving 2009, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine again featured her recipe with photo of the Thanksgiving Torte. Perhaps, it may become an annual tradition.
The most unusual reprint request came from Japan. Students wanting to enter a Japanese university will have to read an excerpt of Garlic's Mystical Powers from our article, "Garlic -- Stinking Rose or Revered Medicine," to demonstrate their proficiency in English.
Beginning a New Decade
Our twelfth year of publication began with an unhappy thud. We were blocked from communicating with our slightly more than 1200 subscribers because we were labeled as spammers by our own internet provider and other email services. We described our dilemma in our article Vegetarians in Paradise Encounters Spam Blockade. As we related in the story, we had to turn to a paid email service to be able to reach our readers to inform them about our latest additions. Instead of being a complete downer, hiring the email provider resulted in the subscription box that now appears on every page of our magazine. This visibility brought us to almost 7000 subscribers as we entered 2011.
During 2010 Vegetarians in Paradise went viral with over 800 followers on Facebook and more than 300 following our Tweets on Twitter. We're not in Lady Gaga's league with over 7 million followers on Twitter or Barack Obama's more than 6 million, but we're gaining on them.
In January we received two requests to reprint or cite articles that we published. One was our story "Tropicana Is Bugging Your Juice" in the book, Please Don't Cry Mother Gaia. The other request came from the Cornucopia Network of New Jersey to reprint our review of The China Study.
In an effort to improve the health of members, the editor of the monthly publication of the United Methodist Church in Oakland, California asked our permission to use some of our recipes that would appear in a column called "Soul Food Vegetarian."
Healthy Theory blog celebrated Saint Patrick's Day with the article "Awesome Irish Recipes For Vegetarians." The blog linked to our story Erin Go Bragh and That's No Blarney that contained a full menu for the holiday including Zel's recipes for a hearty Potato, Onion and Leek Soup made with vegetable stock and an Irish Soda Bread that uses unsweetened soy milk in place of the traditional buttermilk.
Readers across the country could join Zel's culinary journey across Afghanistan with her article "Camels and Caravans: from Afghanistan to the Vegan Table" that appeared in Issue 1, 2010 of the Vegetarian Journal. The story featured vegan versions of seven traditional Afghan dishes. Her article has been featured on Vegetarian Resource Group website during 2010.
Taste TV, aware of our listings of "Los Angeles Vegetarian Restaurants," sent us an email inviting us to contribute a quote and a photo for their 1st edition of their guidebook, The Cafes of Los Angeles: A Guide to the Sights, Sounds and Tastes of LA's Cafe Society.
Exciting and quite flattering was a request by Cengage Learning to reprint our article, "Dirty Dozen May End Up on Your Dinner Plate." The article appears in their publication At Issue: Is Organic Food Better?
In November we responded to reporter Susan Kuchinskas who was looking for alternatives to the Thanksgiving turkey. "Thansgiving Torte and Mushroom Gravy" was featured on the website Family Goes Strong. with a link to the NutGourmet Blog.
Heather Mills gave us a terrific Christmas present with her comments in the Vegetarian Star article "Heather Mills Christmas Dinner Tips and Ideas for Every Holiday."
"When a site like Vegetarians In Paradise has recommendations for every major holiday of the year, you don't even have to bother searching for recipes.
"The Dreaming of a White Christmas menu gives recipes for dishes like vegan Holiday Snow Quiche with Broccoli Garlic Sauce, Steamed Green beans with Water Chestnuts, and Winter Wonderland Coconut Pie with Raspberry Sauce or Sugar-Plum Spiced Nuts for desserts.
"And if you're celebrating another holiday during this time of year, like Kwanzaa, there's advice here too. You may be tempted to double holiday dip and celebrate twice in December with African Peanut stew, Pumpkin Soup, and Mustard Greens with Tempeh Bacon.
"For New Year's ideas, Halloween, Mother's Day and even Cinco de Mayo, visit Vegetarians In Paradise."
SupremeMasterTV devoted an entire day filming Zel Allen and Diana Friedberg preparing a special vegan Hanukkah dinner. Featured in the film were Stuffed Cabbage, Potato Latkes, Tofu Sour Cream, Pear and Cranberry Compote, and Chocolate Wafers. The broadcast was divided into three fifteen-minute segments shown prior to and during Hanukkah. The three segments are archived on Supreme Master TV and found their way to YouTube. Links to those videos are now available by visiting http://www.vegparadise.com/cookingwith1312.html
Our thirteenth year was far from unlucky. By year end we had increased our number of subscribers to 10,700. During the month of November we were delighted to learn that we had surpassed 2 million hits during that month. Our visitor total for the year exceeded 1 million, and we were averaging over 100,000 visitors monthly.
In the social media world there were over 1625 people on Facebook who like Vegparadise while over 1000 people followed us on Twitter. On Twitter there were almost 50 lists that included our postings.
In the spring of 2011 we were ecstatic when Book Publishing Company accepted Zel's vegan cookbook for publication in 2012. The working title is Gone Vegan for the Holidays.
Zel also made news when in August Vegetarian Journal published her article "Chile Sin Carne" that featured vegan versions of classic Chilean dishes. She will appear in the magazine again this year with the "Mushroom Tale Reveals a Surfeit of Tasty Health Benefits." She has continued to submit articles and recipes to HealthWorld Online Health World Online. She began submissions to the website in 2009.
In September, Zel was featured in an examiner.com interview that was prompted by our free vegan cooking demonstration at the La Galeria Gitana, an art gallery in San Fernando, California. In the interview Zel discussed the nutritional value of nuts in connection with her book, The Nut Gourmet. She also explained our transition to veganism and the health benefits that have occurred for both of us.
OnlineDatingSites.net included Vegetarians in Paradise in the article "25 Online Resources for Making a Romantic Dinner." The entry read, "Vegetarians In Paradise--If you are cooking for a vegetarian, but aren't as knowledgeable on the subject as you could be, Vegetarians in Paradise features articles covering not only recipes but breaking news and information on the ethical, scientific, environmental, and physiological motives behind taking on a vegan or vegetarian diet."
To emphasize we're truly an international publication, Viet Nam An Chay, a vegan website in that country, lists us as a resource.
Fourteen Exciting Years
During 2012 we continued as a go-to place on the net with over 1 million visitors accounting for over 20 million hits by people accessing almost 2 million pages from our web magazine. In most months of the year the website averaged over 3000 visitors daily. Those visits represented people not only from the U.S., but also from countries around the world. In November, for example, we recorded visitors from Singapore, Brazil, Ukraine, Viet Nam, Tonga, Australia, and Thailand, some of the 137 nations with people coming to www.vegparadise.com.
In the social media realm we joined new web phenomenonen Pinterest and have accumated more than 575 followers who are accessing our 25 boards that include diverse picturesque topics like Vegan Favorite Recipes, Famous Vegan Athletes, Vegan Christmas Delights, Vegan Sexy Men, Vegan Beautiful Women, and more. There are close to 3000 people on Facebook who like Vegparadise while nearly 1450 people follow us on Twitter.
During the year Zel and Reuben have been bringing the healthy vegan eating message to the Los Angeles community by teaching hands-on cooking classes at Glendale College Community Services. This was our ninth year of teaching for the college with our students preparing Zel's original vegan recipes in cooking rooms at a local high school or middle school.
We took the same hands-on cooking experience on the road by offering classes at local Los Angeles County libraries. Despite the less-than-ideal kitchen facilities in the libraries, we brought our own cookstoves, utensils, and equipment to make the cooking and eating experience complete. Thanks to the generous cooperation of the friends of the library in Agoura Hills, Topanga, La Crescenta, and Malibu these classes were free for those attending.
One big surprise during the year was our non-dairy creamers story, written in January 2003 in "News from the Nest," became a popular destination in 2012 with almost 1500 visitors in November and over 1100 in December. The story Non-dairy Creamers Are Not What They're Quacked Up To Be explained that that many of these creamers contained a form of casein, a milk derivative.
Another "News from the Nest" story originally written in April 2002 and updated in January 2005 explained Burger King's feeble attempts at marketing their BK Veggie Burger Patty. The story was in our top ten visitor pages from April through September 2012. During those months it amassed a total of 11,148 visits.
"Tropicana Is Bugging Your Juice" also had a long shelf life on Vegetarians in Paradise. We initially published the story in March 2002 when we explained carmine food coloring. Carmine is derived from the cochineal beetle, a scale insect that is crushed to create this red dye.
We updated the story in March 2006 with "FDA Proposes Labeling Cochineal." At that time we wrote, "The FDA has not decided to ban the food colorings because there is no "significant hazard" to the public. The agency refused to require manufacturers to disclose the colorings are made from insects and plans to consider labeling prescription drugs that include colorings sometime in the future."
Our May 2012 story, "Starbucks Is Seeing Red; They Got the Message We Announced Ten Years Ago," revisited the cochineal issue. The story detailed Starbucks' plan to replace the cochineal in all of their products with a tomato extract called lycopene. Our "News from the Nest" web page with its updates attracted almost 4,500 visitors in March and April of 2012.
Two radio interviews featured Zel and Vegan for the Holidays in December. Animal Voices Radio in Vancouver featured Zel in the second half of a one-hour holiday show on December 21. A copy of Zel's book was awarded to one of the listeners. Donna Sebo of the Donna Sebo Show on BBS Radio Station One interviewed Zel on December 24 to discuss holiday recipes from Vegan for the Holidays.
Keep in Touch
As always, we depend on feedback from our readers to add new features and improve on existing ones. Don't hesitate to email us. We love the comments, suggestions, and kind words we receive from you. Your notes of praise we receive almost daily are very heartening and spur us on to make this publication even better.
Once again we want to express our appreciation to Jeff and Sabrina Nelson of VegSource for their kindness and generosity that provide the opportunity for us to reach this vast audience. We never imagined it would be possible.
Health and Joy,
Zel and Reuben Allen