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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Local Author Promotes Vegan Sweets

Local Author Promotes Vegan Sweets:
Hannah Kaminsky offers 
healthy dessert recipes
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – When you think of a book signing at a mainstream bookstore franchise, most imagine the author will be a conservative looking, plainly dressed type. Hannah Kaminsky, with her lace-up boots, four-inch heels, black attire, multiple piercings and reddish hair, shatters that notion.

The 22-year-old Fairfield-based author was on hand early Saturday afternoon at Barnes & Noble bookstore, 1076 Post Road East, to introduce and autograph her new book, “Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season.” She also offered a few samples of her baked treats, including five-spice snaps. The book is her second; “My Sweet Vegan” was her first, introduced in 2007.

“I had a lot of friends that were vegetarians and I thought that was interesting, and toyed with joining them as a fun thing,” said Kaminsky. “But then I did research into animal rights and the industry and, after a month, went straight Vegan and haven’t looked back. That was 8 or 9 years ago.”

Kaminsky’s mom, Margo, who was on hand for the signing, said she was concerned when Hannah first started pursuing a Vegan lifestyle. “I was worried she wouldn’t get the proper nutrition, so we met with a nutritionist to ensure that,” she said.

Five years ago, Kaminsky started a blog, centered on crafts at first and the various handicrafts that she also enjoyed doing. “Then I got into cooking and baking,” she said, “which seemed like its own craft. As I got more comfortable with baking, which I learned through trial and error, I started creating recipes. Then I got entirely lucky and a publisher approached me to create my initial book, which was about Vegan baking in general.”

Kaminsky describes her new book “Vegan Desserts” as seasonal, focused on the ingredients and some of the nostalgia around baked goods at the holidays and certain seasonal periods. “For summer, I have an Ant Hill Cake, which is essentially a yellow cake with chocolate sprinkles inside, that makes you think of picnics,” she said. “For the Fourth of July, I have a red, white and blue layer cake, made of different berries and whipped frosting.”

The young author said Vegan cuisine is becoming more mainstream and accepted, though there’s still a stigma. “In Fairfield, though, there are three restaurants that have a Vegan focus,” she said. “One of those is Health in a Hurry on the Post Road, where I work part-time as a cook.”

Besides the book signings and cooking, Kaminsky continues to blog, trying to put up three new entries a week, bakes almost every day and is finishing her studies at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. “I’m schooling myself online,” she explained.

For the moment, though, she is just trying to encourage people to think about Vegan baking and try something different. “Years ago, Vegan desserts weren’t as good, and that may have stayed with people,” she said. “They’ve become much improved due to recipes being fine-tuned. It’s about learning from the past and not making the same nut loaf.”

Mom Margo said she’s not a Vegan herself, but admires Kaminsky’s passion. “She’s very inspiring and has convinced many of my friends that Vegan desserts are good,” she said. “Often I would bring samples into my workplace, which were embraced and changed a lot of minds about Vegan food.”

Stepping up to purchase a book, Alberto Mignucci of Westport said he was impressed that someone Kaminsky’s age has written two successful books, with another on the way. “She’s very prolific and passionate about providing healthy food choices to the public,” he said.

Scooping up a five-spice cookie, another passerby, Cal Kish, said, “I’m not a Vegan, but my wife is kind of one and teaches yoga. These spice cookies are excellent. If I didn’t know it had a Vegan base, I would be none the wiser.”