Punk Rock Foodie Interview: Charles Romanus, The Angry Vegan
LOS ANGELES, January 20, 2014 — Not all punk rockers are vegans and not all vegans are punkers, but there does seem to be a lot of punk rock vegans. Charles Romanus is a vegan and a punker. Unfortunately for Charles, there were not very many choices when it came to buy good quality vegan foods that also tasted good. As a big fan of pasta, Romanus started working on a vegan pasta sauce. The result is The Angry Vegan. A pasta sauce that vegans will love and carnivores will never suspect of being vegan.
Kevin Wells: What made you want to start a vegan spaghetti sauce?
Charles Romanus: Just the need for substantial food that was vegan, but had a meat substitute in it. I always thought, before I was vegan, that vegans were these dark, skinny hippies that dined on twigs and grass, you know I mean? I wanted something, I’m a foodie, so I wanted something more substantial. I’m Italian, so I’ve always made pasta sauce, my own version. When I became vegan, I got a meat substitute back then that was on the market really the only one. I started my recipe with that.
KW: Had you been working in the food industry prior to this?
CR: No, just a home cook. My family has been in the restaurant business. They’ve owned restaurants, but I’ve never been a part of it.
KW: Is this your own company or do you have partners?
CR: It’s by myself. I started it about nine years ago. I started it myself, I’m still standing and I’m ready to go to the marketplace.
KW: What was the trial and error process like when you were developing your sauces?
CR: The first one was great! I took a basic red sauce recipe, just my own, and built on that. I added some brown soy protein, and just, you know, herbs and spices, garlic, thyme, red wine, you know?
KW: How many sauces do you have?
CR: I have three. I have the Bolognese, which is the original, the spicy Bolognese and then I have a spicy sausage red pepper and a creamy mushroom.
KW: Where can people find your sauce?
CR: Well, they’ll be able to find my product line in Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Mother’s Market, and Sprouts. I will probably be coming to shelf late fall, it’s looking like.
KW: Do you feel that your sauce can make the leap from a sauce that attracts only vegans to a sauce that meat eaters could get behind as well?
CR: Absolutely. That’s the thing. It’s kind of a food that bridges the gap between the conventional dieter and the vegan diet.
KW: Have you given any carnivores a blind taste test to see which they prefer?
CR: I have done many. Every one I have taste the sauce is usually a carnivore and I never tell them it’s vegan. They eat and say it’s the best sauce they’ve ever had. Then I tell them it’s vegan sausage or vegan brown meat, and they just can’t tell the difference. It’s pretty rad.
KW: Why are you angry?
CR: The anger is born out of compassion for all living things. I’m just kind of bummed our society is the way it is; the exploitation of animals and our irreverence for the planet as a whole. We’re doing it to all of its inhabitants. I think it’s a shame. But if you got a sufficient substitute, as far as food goes, which there is nowadays. There’s so many other ways to get protein than from animals. It’s just, to me, it’s a no-brainer. I feel until recently, I think that vegan food has been boring and bland and uninspired. I just think a lot of the companies that are coming out now, for vegan food, are dynamite products.
KW: Why do you think there such a large population of vegans and vegetarians within the punk community?
CR: I think it has a lot to do with the mindset of the anarchist or the punk rocker; free thinkers, out of the box, unconventional mindset. At least for me, I can only speak for myself, I just looked at the state of affairs. I’ve been disgruntled with everything from the way we treat our planet to the animals we exploit for food and products and it doesn’t make sense to me.
KW: How long have you been a vegan?
CR: Seventeen years, it was a lot tougher then than it is now, that’s for sure. There were a few products on the market, kind of a halfway decent cheese and a decent meat replacement and you can make a lot of stuff out of that. When I grew up, my family had a health food restaurant and it was all carob and honey and food I was not into, health food. [laughs] Things have changed. I think the natural food industry has really picked it up, as far as the plant-based product line. There’s a lot of really good ones out there.
KW: Can you tell me a little about the design of your logo?
CR: The concept is from Food Not Bombs, it’s a real grass roots anarchist type of outfit that goes aroundand feeds homeless people and disaster victims worldwide. It’s a pretty cool graphic, it’s a fist holding a carrot.
In addition to launching The Angry Vegan, Charles Romanus also works to save animals via his organization, Santa Barbara Animal Rescue.
Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News and also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music, and food. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball