“I’m Indian, my parents are from India. There, cows are very much sacred, so many people are actually vegetarian. Much of my family members, including my immediate family, grew up vegetarian. I always said that I could never go vegan because I could never give up cheese. But once I had pet cockatiels, my view on animals changed. I knew how much I loved my cockatiels which were a bird, basically like chickens, so how could I continue to eat chicken?”— Neha, from Peanut Palate
I had so much fun chatting with Neha, from Peanut Palate on her passions around education – both in tutoring and vegan content creation. She loves to share recipes and information that teaches others the many benefits of a vegan lifestyle. She is also dedicated to telling the stories of others in her Birds, Donuts, and Everything In Between podcast and she helps her audience navigate a plant-based diet on a budget through her Tofu Talks podcast and vegan blog.
What year did you decide plant-based living was for you? And can you share a bit about how you made the switch, what immediate actions did you take? Is there anything that stands out from your childhood, as it relates to family life and eating habits?
“I decided to go vegan in 2014. I had read a lot about the lifestyle on PETA’s website and learned so much about what cows and chickens go through, to give us eggs and milk. I didn’t feel that I should contribute to it anymore. I’ve been cooking and baking since I was 11 years old and still have a recipe book where I wrote everything down – it’s always been a passion of mine. As far as my process – as a kid, I technically was a meat-eater, but in 2012 I decided to go full-on vegetarian then in 2014, I decided to go vegan. Because I loved baking and cooking so much, people recommended that I consider creating a vegan blog where I could document my progress and that’s how Peanut Palate got started.
Through trying the blog, I continued to try to test more plant-based recipes. I began replacing butter with coconut oil and instead of using regular milk, I’d use soy milk. I also purchased egg replacers to help me along with my baking. These days, since first going vegan, there are way more options – so now I use chia and flax seeds a lot in my baking. Also, I slowly transitioned my diet to a vegan lifestyle, it didn’t happen overnight – I would still occasionally eat cheese and ice cream but eventually, I stopped and now I’m fully vegan.”
How long does it generally take you to create content for your blog? What does your recipe testing process and publishing generally look like?”
“My Instagram feed is all recipes and I read a lot of them. I try to read recipes and see how I can add an interesting twist or flavor – creating something new. I also have a list of notes where I write down all of the recipes I want to try in the future to inspire me – my list has like 500 recipes right now that I know I want to try. Sometimes I also Google search something like, ‘French cuisine – best dishes’, and I’ll find the top 10 recipes and try to veganize them. I also focus on finding accessible ingredients when I recreate recipes to make it easier for my audience who may not have access to things like vegan cream cheese. I usually will then test the recipe, getting the taste and texture down. From there, I recreate the recipe again at a later date and spend time taking photos of the recipe…it’s less messy. Separating your testing and recipe days is so helpful!”
Neha’s thoughts on IG Growth: “Ok, so, in January of this year, I only had 500 followers, so I’ll share what has helped me grow significantly, as it relates to my process over the past eight months or so. My account on Instagram has significantly grown, with over 8,000 followers, I’ve learned it’s important to engage and post quality, content, consistently. Last November I invested in a Canon camera, figured out how to use it, purchased photography equipment, and learned how lighting works – as it relates to food photography. I am self-taught and I continue to spend a lot of time researching what works with backdrops, food props, etc.
If you were to win one million dollars, what would you do with the money?
“Right now, I would probably invest some of it because as you know, housing is unaffordable. With the other portion, I would give it out to select organizations. During Covid, India was hit very hard and hospitals were increasing the cost of oxygen tanks. People needed help but couldn’t afford it. “
Do you think you’ll ever have a cookbook or cooking course? And, how can people support you?
“Yes, I think so in the future. I have researched and learned that many people who have a cookbook tend to have around 50,000 IG followers, just so they can gain traction for their first book. I know that if you are going through a publishing house then you want to have enough people buying your book. I am focused on growing my audience and connecting more with people. For now, there’s nothing in the works but I am hopeful about the possibility in the future.”
“As far as support, I would really love it if everyone could tune into and share my podcasts (Tofu Talks and Birds, Donuts and Everything in Between. They are each focused on helping people – whether with their career decision-making or on how to live a plant-based lifestyle. Even if one person hears something on my podcast (Tofu Talks) and decides to choose a vegan lifestyle, it would make a big difference.