I never do interviews. Whenever someone contacted VeganMoni for an interview my response was always the same..."not interested in exposure." I am always asked how VeganMoni started and I wish I had some awesome story that starts with..."I had a dream.." but that would be false. Unless my dream was to eat and pay bills, then yes, I had a dream-to survive. I have never dreamt of owning a restaurant or being a chef, although I grew up in a kitchen. My mom has been a cook for 40 years at the same place she started in the 70's. She is a natural cook as was my grandmother and great-grandmother. My great-grandmother was a baker and my grandmother created a cenaduria in her car port where she sold food to help make a living. I grew up with my mother taking tamale orders for xmas, going to tupperware meetings and trying to sell Shakley door to door. My mom would also buy clothes, sandals, lipsticks and fashion jewelry from the callejones and would sell merchandise out of her car during lunch to the girls from work. When she wasn't hustling selling food and clothes she would sell fresh squeezed jugos during breakfast and sell sodas at lunch. I come from a long line of hustlers.
VeganMoni will turn six this year and although this story is not about following a dream as it is about surviving, its my story and I won't be ashamed of it. We don't all have the same opportunities and we all make different decision that shape our outcome. I never expected to take VeganMoni on this journey. This journey was not made for us. I never thought of this as a business or as a movement, I simply needed money. I had no clue how to market VeganMoni. I, like most of the people in my neighborhood, sold food out of necessity. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I lost everything. I lost my job. I lost my relationship. I lost all my savings and I lost my dreams.
For a whole year, while I suffered excruciating pain due to my surgeries, I remained stagnant. I allowed this process to occur without self love and I was hopeless. I was forced to apply for government assistance and I would be lying if I said that there was no humiliation attached to that. I had no choice. I started receiving about $400 a month in foodstamps. That first month, I remember, I received more than I did the rest of the months. Thats when I had an idea. I didn't have money, but I had food stamps and survival skills. So, I spread the word and began cooking at pop-ups. It was a success. People respond very well to this whole no meat, no cheese approach to cooking. No meat and no cheese simply meant less money for me to spend on dishes. I had also taken on this new vegan diet, so it perfect. I was doing me. I had come up with a way to make money and also take care of myself in the process. I began to do workshops and delivering meals. I was making ends meet all by myself. Well, with the help of my food stamps. These few hundred dollars a month allowed me to flip my money. I was out of the hole I had been in a few months earlier. With every extra dollar I made a saved a few more to buy equipment. I started buying big pots and pans and replacing all my $.99 plastic containers with BPA free containers. I was so happy. A few months later, I stopped receiving food stamps.
During this time, people would contact me to do interviews. I was super surprised... like..."why me." First of all, I am not doing anything different than the lady on 4th St. is. Second, unless they were also gonna interview all the tamale ladies- I was out. And third, but most important, I refused to get any attention just because I was vocal and kinda well known. CHALE. I knew my food was top-notch, but I also had no interest in climbing any social latter. I just don't have enough fake smiles to pass out. So, I never did an interview. Partly because no one who approached me that made me feel comfortable enough to tell my story, but also I didn't want them to turn VeganMoni into a hip piece about veganism and some revolutionary movement attached to it. I have worked hard. My movement has been about surviving with the deck of cards I had been dealt with. It has been about reaching deep into the roots that have been embedded in me in order to move forward. It was about rising from the fukn ashes when something or someone tries to burn you down.