2013-07-19 / People


Show features vegan cuisine
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Betsy Carson Betsy Carson In the Portland area, vegan diners like Betsy Carson have a variety of options at their disposal as new restaurants continue to crop up. In Carson’s neighborhood of Willard Square in South Portland, Scratch Bakery offers vegan sweets such as chocolate cake and banana bread. Across the bridge in Portland, downtown locations such as Local Sprouts Cafe and Roost House of Juice offer vegan meals, drinks and snacks.

But even as more vegan-friendly restaurants start up, the popularity of the cuisine has yet to take as strong a foothold in the kitchen. Carson hopes that’s where she can step in.

Carson, a filmmaker and television producer in South Portland, is the creative force behind “Vegan Mashup,” a cooking show produced by her company Delicious TV. In its first season, “Vegan Mashup” aired more than 4,000 times on hundreds of public television stations throughout the United States, including major markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, Md., and Denver, Colo.

The show features three primary chefs, Toni Fiore of Cumberland, Miyoko Schinner of San Francisco and Terry Hope Romero of New York. The trio is occasionally joined by guest chefs – including Elizabeth Fraser of Portland and Cathy DiCocco of Bethel – to collaborate on vegan meals centered around a theme unique to each episode.

According to Carson, the chefs on the show tear down many commonly held misconceptions about vegan cooking that have created a “stigma” about the cuisine that still remains, despite changing attitudes.

“In some ways people are creatures of habit. They really don’t want to think about it so they’ll throw up an excuse, like it’s too hard or it doesn’t taste good,” she said.

The “Vegan Mashup” chefs put their own personal, vegan twists on traditional classics such as Shepherd’s Pie and BLT sandwiches (made with tofu) in episodes that focus on eating healthy on a budget or cooking for teenagers.

Carson said the show both exhibits the great work of talented vegan chefs and demonstrates vegan cooking can be just as simple as preparing any other meal.

“In my travels I’ve met a lot of vegan chefs and it’s incredible the food they’re making. I just want to show, you’re not losing anything by eating something without animal ingredients,” she said.

The first season of “Vegan Mashup” recently finished its six-episode run on public television. Now, Carson is hoping to receive a little help from fans of the show to cover costs of a second season.

She has established a Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000, which would be enough to begin production on season two of the show.

The Kickstarter campaign is scheduled to run through Sunday, July 28. As of Monday, July 15, donors had raised $4,855 – nearly a third of the $15,000 goal. Unless the goal is reached, that money would disappear, leaving the show, as Carson said, “dead in the water.” But she is confident a second season will happen.

“I’m pretty tenacious. I have a hard time giving up,” Carson said.

For more information about “Vegan Mashup” and contributing to the Kickstarter fundraising drive, visit the show’s website at delicioustv.com/veganmash up/.

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