Em von Euw is the writer, activist, and all around plant-based champion behind the beautiful recipe blog This Rawsome Vegan Life. They are known for mouthwatering raw vegan recipes like these mocha cream tarts, in which they write, “I just need things to be sweet and luscious at all times” (same). But they also use their platform to explore the ways environmental and social justice intersect with food, and how we can approach both with more tenderness.
We talked to Em about allowing their blog to evolve as their values did, their journey with gender and body acceptance, and practical tips for transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle with self-compassion.
Stay sweet and luscious, y’all.
How has This Rawsome Vegan Life changed since you first started writing it in 2011?
I’ve basically done a 180 since then. I started my blog when I was sixteen so I didn’t know anything about anything—I probably still don’t! I was really coming at it as a young person and very heavily influenced by what I had been reading about the raw food movement. My veganism has always been fueled by my concern for the welfare of animals and our planet, but back then I was more focused on physical wellness and my idea of what that was, which has since evolved pretty drastically.
These days I am much more focused on living sustainably and less on my personal physical health. I am interested in the social justice aspects of not eating animals, and contributing less to this plastic frenzy / consumerist storm that we’re witnessing and participating in.
What does living sustainably look like for you?
Right now I am working on treading more lightly and consuming less. That is part of being zero-waste but it’s also part of self-acceptance, self-compassion, non-judgement towards others, and holding reverence for the place that we live, in our bodies and on this earth. Saying goodbye to consumerism is a spiritual practice in a lot of ways. I don’t want to treat the planet unkindly because I am from the planet, I am literally made of the planet. By hurting it I am hurting myself, and by hurting others I am hurting myself, and I don’t want to do that.
I think that as people we want to feel like we’re included and like we’re “doing it right,” and we want to do it right so we can be accepted. That’s reflected in so many ways socially and culturally, and social media is an intensifier of that, so even something like the zero-waste movement becomes commodified with these trendy products where people want to look the part.
When I started going deeper into my spiritual practices I felt like I needed to get rid of all my clothes and just get, like, simple linen outfits. Part of that I think was authentic to my practice but part of it was fully about looking the part. With zero-waste I’ve been noticing that we all want the metal straw and the white mesh fabric bag for our groceries—and that’s fine, that’s not the problem. But I do think it’s something we want to reflect on, and notice if we are just participating in another form of consumerism.
For me, living in a truly sustainable way is about checking my ego and asking myself, “Do I really want this bamboo cutlery because I want to have a low impact? What if the cutlery I have now is fine?” The most eco-friendly thing to do is to keep what we have instead of trying to perform this ideal.
Before buying something I try to ask myself if it’s really in line with my deep ethics and my mission of treading lighter. If I can give up a little bit of my ego I can be okay with the boring tote bag I already have and I don’t need to get a new one.
This Rawsome Vegan life isn’t just about raw vegan food anymore, you also tackle challenging topics like gender and body acceptance. Can you tell me about that evolution?
My journey with gender has been quite a time. I realized that I was a trans non-binary person several years ago and then came out within the last two years. I started my blog thinking I was this young hippie vegan girl and that has completely changed—I’m not that person anymore.
Being compassionate with myself and being on this journey of discovering my gender or lack of gender has always been about accepting who I am and not apologizing for it. I want to care for others in that way too and to see them as they truly are. I want to care for animals in that way and respect their body sovereignty and not kill them in factory farms. It all ends up being connected.
For the most part I’ve had really positive responses to expanding what I talk about—bringing in fat positivity, eating disorder recovery, and being trans non-binary. It’s been 99% positive feedback. But I will get the odd comment like, “What does this have to do with food? I just want a recipe.” I’m a whole person over here and not just a recipe machine.
By continuing to talk about these things I am trying to rehumanize myself and others. Capitalism and consumerism dehumanizes us by separating us into categories of gender, race, profession, etc., but those categories are arbitrary, and I want to understand people as individuals with all of their different pieces. Being a human is messy, it’s not as clean and clear cut as we want it to be. I think talking about mental health, gender, eating disorders, and body acceptance can be a way of healing for all of us—that rehumanization.
Where do you see This Rawsome Vegan Life going in the future?
If you look back in my archives you’ll see I used to post way more regularly, and it’s because I was so enthusiastic about posting raw food recipes. These days, my perspective on food has completely shifted. I’m not that inspired to make the food that made my blog popular in the first place, which is something I need to figure out.
I will probably always be vegan, but I want to be more expansive and inclusive. I would really like to move it in a direction that is focused more on social justice, politics, and living with a zero-waste philosophy. It’s scary to talk about these things, but I think that cultivating self-compassion and interconnectedness with each other and the planet starts with our relationship with food and our bodies.
What guidance would you offer to someone looking to transition to a plant-based lifestyle?
Clearly identify your mission, agenda, and intention for making this transition so you can hold yourself accountable to those things.
Be wary of the wellness industry and “healthy living.”
Be aware of the ways in which the vegan movement can be exclusionary, and recognize the nuances of why some people aren’t vegan, either for cultural reasons or lack of access, because food choice is a privilege and being able to be vegan is a privilege.
Listen to Food Psych Podcast and read The Intuitive Eating Workbook because even people who have never identified eating disorders within themselves could benefit from gaining more awareness of how to relate to food as a vegan in a nourishing way.
Be kind to yourself always, hold your heart gently always. Whether it’s gender or veganism or consumerism, the lines are blurry. There are no definite borders. You can identify as vegan and still have something that has milk in it or whatever, because if your intention is to tread more gently, and to be kind to yourself, animals, and the planet, then you’re still doing that. The egg in the muffin or the fish sauce on the noodles is fine. Beating yourself up about that is not affecting anybody but you, and you don’t need to be mean to yourself.