TV dinners - the vegan way

Terry Hope Romero is host of "Vegan Mashup," from Delicious TV.
Terry Hope Romero is host of "Vegan Mashup," from Delicious TV.
Posted: April 19, 2013

TV COOKING shows, am I right? They're everywhere, with red meat literal and metaphoric. Front-burner flare-ups and meltdowns, knife-edge competitions, violent outbursts, fireworks, car chases - you name it.

Their "green" counterparts tend to be nonviolent, collaborative, animal-free, veggie-rich and . . . well, not exactly everywhere. And they don't have car chases. Which, on second thought, neither do the mainstream ones.

Point is, however they might have languished in obscurity, plant-based shows are stepping into the limelight. They're getting easier to find, partially because there are more of them launching, but also because big-time distribution networks are stepping up to bring them to your TV.

A lot of buzz surrounds this month's debut of "Vegan Mashup," carried by PBS' Create TV and starring Veganomicon co-author Terry Hope Romero - someone who knows her way around vegan food and especially how to have fun with it. (She also co-wrote Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.) Also featured are Toni Fiore ( Totally Vegetarian) and Artisan Vegan Cheese master Miyoko Schinner.

This first season covers vegan party foods, holiday classics, healthy meals for teens and working within a budget. Speaking of which, Delicious TV has just launched a kick-starter campaign for season two, in which producer Betsy Carson says "we're hoping to shoot a segment in Philly."

Shooting now, right next door in Bethlehem, is "Save the Kales." Jaime Karpovich's show grew out of her blog of the same name, from occasional camcordered cooking-demonstration videos to a professionally shot series with info, interviews and on-location features.

"We focus on small businesses, community members," she said. The next show on TV features Michael's Seitan, whose facility they visit, including the "neat visual of those huge pans" in which the gluten-based protein is made.

"Save the Kales" is seen around here via RCN, and Karpovich is excited that it will soon air in Seattle. With a year of shows under her belt, Karpovich sees the opportunity for veggie shows of all stripes: "I want there to be more shows out there, I want to get the public's attention. If it's mine that does that, great - if it's someone else's, great. I just want to help animals."

Likewise, Christina Pirello, who pioneered plant-based TV back in the '90s, says that her new show, "Christina," which began airing in January over 200 PBS stations, picks up where her first program, "Christina Cooks," left off.

When she started, vegan cooking was still fringe, but "it's become this incredible health-driven lifestyle that happens to include compassion."

"Christina" is also on the Create digital network, showcasing how the Web provides new channels for foodies with good ideas on how to get the word out through fun video. There are other shows that haven't yet made the leap to the airwaves, including one of my faves, "Vegan Black Metal Chef," which turns cooking instructions into heavy-metal recitative. (Here's an annotated list of these shows.)

Inspired to get in front of the camera with your own food show? Philadelphia's community-access channel, PhillyCAM, is now up and running. They've had shows on urban farming, healthy school lunches and Big Tea Party's veggie-friendly "Green Tea Party."

Director Gretjen Clausing notes that though PhillyCAM has "a number of cooking productions in development around healthy breakfast and international cuisine," new participants and new ideas are welcome. Next new member orientation is May 9; can find more info at phillycam.org.

How big will the vegan-TV trend get? "In a perfect world," Jaime Karpovich hopes to see "a network that's all vegan." While that may take a while, you can get veggie infotainment on demand and maybe even get your own show ideas out there. Let's hope they include car chases!


Contact Vance Lehmkuhl at VforVeg@phillynews.com or @V4Veg on Twitter.  

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