Interview with Holly Nolly of Vegan Shortcake

Rebecca (left) and Holly (right) of Vegan Shortcake


During my wonderful weekend at Animal Rights 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting Holly Noll, a fellow vegan straight-edger, who, along with Rebecca Bolte, hosts Vegan Shortcake: a “super awesome” cooking show that not only features delicious vegan recipes, but animal rights issues, and “mocktails” or alcohol-free versions of cocktails. I recently spoke with Holly about the show, AR 2012, and her food choices:

TNTSU: I think Vegan Shortcake totally what need in cooking shows right now: healthy, funny, and hip. What’s your goal with the series? Did you put a lot of thought into the “look and feel” or did it come naturally?

Holly: We do put a lot of time and energy into the way that our show looks though I think that process came totally naturally to us. We pride ourselves on having a show that’s relatable, easy to watch, fun and informative. A lot of the reason our show feels so solid, also, is because Rex [Ray] makes the editing/lighting/sound really high quality and spends a lot of time making it not feel so much like a [typical] “YouTube show”.

How did you end up working with Rebecca? She adds so much comic relief to the episodes; was it a natural fit or did you two rehearse any of the craziness?

Rebecca and I actually met, I believe, at an indoor water park and became quick friends. We originally started working on this rad idea she had:a sober drink bar at shows called Teetotal Babes, which I was really into and which bled into our show with the straight-edge drink additions as well. [T]he show idea was brought up to me and I mentioned it to her and Rex; shortly [there]after Vegan Shortcake was born.

We do think a little about the jokes ahead of time, in that we plan out story lines but honestly we’re really horrid when it comes to acting so the stuff that ends up on the final cut of things is the stuff that just came out as a result of hours of laughing over inappropriate jokes and to much coffee. [Rebecca] really balances my constant need for informing [the audience] about boring food stuff with the entertainment value of the show. [S]he also holds down the drinks and is killer at making sure all the behind the scenes stuff happens like getting our show out there and seen by people, [selling] merch, and what not.

Rex Ray’s camera work makes the videos looks really good. What’s it like working with him? What’s the post-production for Vegan Shortcake like?

Rex is incredible. Honestly, we couldn’t do it without him…we tried when he was on an extended leave, Rebecca and I had some attempts at trying to film shows on this little flip camera…results were disastrous! He is a total mastermind. Somehow he pulls off seeing the end result through all of Rebecca and I running around being crazy. He holds the whole show together and – in addition to making it sound and look good – he really creates those linear structures that make the show watchable. I don’t know too much about post production of the show [but] I know there’s a lot of editing and making things all line up, as well as cutting hours of footage.

I definitely appreciate the straight-edge versions of bar drinks, but what do you want viewers to take away from that?

Yay! I’m glad you’re into it! We want to promote a few different ideas with the xvx [vegan straight-edge] “mocktails”. First, we wanted to get across that sober drinks can be complex and interesting, not just sodas and stuff for children as it is often portrayed in mainstream culture. We also really wanted to promote the fact that xvx living is hella fun and doesn’t have to be super serious. Many people outside of straight edge think of going out to clubs and drinking or partying as their primary source of fun. Here we are trying to show that we’re totally sober and stoked.

When we met, it was in the middle of a high energy animal rights conference. What did you take away from AR 2012?

Wow. Yeah, it was high energy, huh? I took so much from that conference. The most notable being the friends and connections I made, with you as well as with many other dedicated and awesome folks. The conference renewed my inspiration to keep pushing forward and was a solid reminder that so many people in so many ways are promoting the same thing I am. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that you’re not alone with your small group of people you know, and that there are tons of ideas out there – so pushing forward with your [ideas] when you see gaps is okay – because there are others who have your back.

I know you personally eat a lot of raw foods, and a few of the recipes are raw or mostly raw foods. Would you comment on eating a raw vegan diet for health benefits?

I honestly believe that it’s best to eat 80% unprocessed, uncooked food; try your best to keep [the] processed food, sugar and processed carbs out of your diet. I think it’s all about balance though, how you feel about your food affects how you digest it as well as how much you enjoy life. It’s also about seasons: in the winter it’s more likely you’ll crave warm food, so reaching for solid options like a baked sweet potato, some sauteed greens with nutritional yeast and pumpkin seed pesto might be better as opposed to the warmer months, where, if you live somewhere with seasons, you might find yourself eating all raw and not even thinking about it.

Focusing on eating high nutrient content, easy to digest, tasty foods is really the primary goal – in my opinion – for optimal health. I also believe very strongly in juicing and smoothies, as they give you the option of eating huge quantities of raw fruits, veggies and greens, very quickly and easily, where many people find it difficult to fit [that] into their schedules. [Juicing] also skips some steps for your body so it can take that nutrition straight to the body as opposed to having to break it all down.

Rapid fire questions!

Favorite vegan restaurant?

SO HARD! Either Blossoming Lotus in PDX or Chaco Canyon in SEA. (I know answering with two is cheating !)

Best current, and past, XVX band:

Seven Generations, for sure.

Most calories ever consumed in one day:

Whoa. I lived in a co-op in Oakland for a while, and one day someone brought home a deep fryer and that night we had a huge garlic inspired deep fried potluck followed by a big game of “what dessert things can we deep fry?” If I were to pick out a day, it was almost definitely that one. Absolutely the worst I’ve ever felt.

Spiciest food you’ve ever made?

I’m a total baby when it comes to spice, honestly! I recently my dad made me this harrisa crumble over beets that had this insane spice but it grew with smokiness and was complex so I loved it. I like spice with flavor as oppose to just a kick in the face.

Are you a fan of the Vegan Black Metal Chef?

Yeah, I think he is funny and awesome, though I don’t really keep up with it too much. I think it’s a great niche and it’s exciting when anything promoting veganism goes viral.

What’s next for you and Rebecca? Will Vegan Shortcake continue on or do you have other projects planned?

Vegan Shortcake will absolutely continue! Look forward to episodes on [vegan] bacon, BBQ and greens! I am also building a protein bar business, writing a “cook zine” series, brainstorming a few other books, as well as a few ongoing columns for AMP magazine and Vegan Warfare. I’m also hoping to get back to school and get certified in nutrition soon.

Anything else you want to add, promote, or dis:

We just put out our latest episode on Bananas at, so check it out as well as my upcoming articles in AMP magazine [and] I love feedback and hearing from people so feel free to email me at holly[at] veganshortcake [dot] com.

Closing still from the video

Photos: Vegan Shortcake YouTube & Facebook pages.

The Spark and The Breakdown

The Spark and The Breakdown

It is hard to predict how dancing will happen at any hardcore show. Sometimes certain  regional scenes (California shows, for example) will affect how people dance, for example. Most hardcore songs, whether Straightedge-inspired or not, have set structures. In most cases, there is a part of the song known as the breakdown, which occurs either in the middle or at the end of a song. Prior to the breakdown, the song builds in intensity, which can be felt by dancers and seen in the intensity of the dance. The breakdown provides all of the potential energy needed for intense dancing to occur, but, like a stick of dynamite, it requires activation energy to make it kinetic. This “spark,” which lights the fuse, so to speak, occurs usually at the onset of the breakdown. It is important to note that the spark may occur once the song begins and/or at the breakdown, depending on the song’s pattern of intensity.

The spark is usually provided by one person who decides to dance (more) intensely before anyone else. This person often enters the center of the pit or dance floor and, almost immediately, others follow suit. “Jeremy,” a Straightedge dancer, describes a spark at the onset of a song: “Commonly, to relieve the tension and ignite the “spark,” kids will start dancing as soon as the band starts playing…People will start running back and forth and getting other people fired up. For most people, heavier parts (breakdowns) will excite people and make them get more into it.”

At most shows, the spark can be observed with a careful eye on the crowd and ear on the music. One can feel the music and crowd energy building in intensity, as evidenced by the speed and/or style of dancing and the rhythm of the song. This came through in the participant observation area of data collection. In addition, since dancers are often familiar with the songs being played, he or she who decides to provide the spark usually knows as well as feels when to begin. Once the spark occurs, the mass of dancers seems to take on a life of its own, much like the coalescing tightly bound shoal of minnows rising within a convection current. Viewed from afar, they both seem to act as one larger organism.

The spark is quite a powerful phenomenon. Tensions vary in quality and quantity from show to show and within a show, as do reactions to sparks, as “Chris,” a non-Straightedge dancer explains: “I think that most of today’s “moshers” are always waiting for the same two people to start of the pit and get things moving. It’s a shame that at heavier shows that same “spark” will usually bring out a fight or two.” The above quote demonstrates that sparks do not always yield the same results and therefore can be indicators of a change in intensity of activity, but not exactly what nature of activity one can expect.

From “Identity Maintenance Through Emotional Release and Rejuvenation: A Link Between Hardcore Dancing and the Straightedge Collective Identity” by Michael Lance.  Michael submitted that as his Master of Arts thesis in 2007 at Wayne State University, and I was interviewed for the thesis. I had pulled it up the other day randomly and though the above was interesting. Those who have been to hardcore shows can relate to “the spark.” You can view/download the thesis here.

Photo: Joey Houle

No Project Too Small

My Dad had taught me that no project was too small to merit all of our energy. That everything we did reflected on who we were. That everything was art. That we could turn something boring into something meaningful. That we construct our own universe, brightly colored and covered in glitter if we want, with our own hands. That we defined our reality. And my Dad and I did and do just that together.

From “Martians” by fellow vegan-straightedger Davin on Elladelphia. She’s a great writer who also screams for the hardcore band xKingdomx.

Ruiz reflects this sentiment in The Four Agreements:

Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Every day we wake up, we should ask ourselves – are we doing our best? Are we using our energy to “turn something boring into something meaningful?” It can be tough, sometimes, to make decisions, to follow through, and to act the way we know is the most right. It can be hard work. But the difficult and risky ventures in all our lives can often lead to the greatest rewards. I struggle, too, but inspirational passages such as these remind me to never give up, and keep on living.

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

-Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.

The Resistance Army: Pro-Veg, Atheist, Revolution Tees

At the suggestion of @loimp I befriended @veganstraightedge on Twitter – seriously, what a great username – and found The Resistance Army. The site has a plethora of incredible t-shirts with straight-forward messages about the immorality of meat and dairy, the wacked out idea of god, and the simple act of “revolution.” While there isn’t a lot of up-to-the-minute news on the site (and the project has been handed over to Boing! in SLC), the ideas are on-point, and the logos beautiful.

I’ve created a set of 8 wallpapers based on the still in-print designs which you can view below as 16:10 ratio JPGs. The set of 8 can be downloaded here:

Thanks to Shane Becker for creating this awesomeness. Now go start something!