Mariana Tosca is an award-winning actress with a huge heart. Her tireless efforts to speak on behalf of animals makes her an inspiration to many. We caught up with Mariana recently to find out more about her work for animals and her passion for veganism.
1. What inspired you to go vegan? Was there a particular moment where you made the connection or was it a gradual process?
I had been a vegetarian for the majority of my life, but when I was asked to host a gala for a farm sanctuary fundraiser, I found out how mistaken I was in my belief system. That night I learned the truth about the term free-range farming. I’d always been under the assumption that the animals being used for egg and milk production were leading comfortable, distress-free lives, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
That night I learned that terms such as free-range and free-roaming on egg cartons generally mean that hens are uncaged but may still be confined indoors in overcrowded sheds. For animals raised for meat, the USDA mandates that free-range chickens must have access to the outdoors and free-range cows/sheep must be grass fed and live on a range, but I was told that no other criteria is stipulated, like the size of the range, the amount of space required for each animal, or any guidelines for animal care and handling.
I learned that on dairy farms, calves may be taken away within 2 days after birth. The males are usually destined for veal production and are confined to small crates that are 22″ wide and 58″ long, making it impossible for them to move. That’s done deliberately to keep their muscles from developing so their flesh remains tender. They’re fed a diet of milk powder and water, that lacks adequate iron, to deliberately cause anemia in order to keep their flesh pale. Then after four to six months of this, they are killed.
Hearing that information, and learning that dairy cows are kept in a state of perpetual pregnancy only to be robbed of the milk that their bodies are naturally producing to nourish their own offspring, was enough for me to say, “No more.”
2. There seems to be a lot more media coverage about veganism lately. Are we possibly making some progress? Do you see more people going vegan around you?
I live in a city and country where vegetarianism and veganism are more mainstream than they were even as little as a decade ago. I think we are living at a very exciting time, in terms of how society is becoming more and more open to what was always labeled and judged a “fringe” lifestyle. To be able to fly on an airplane and order a vegan meal and then land in an airport for a connecting flight and be able to find vegan options in a strip of what was once just a long stretch of carnivorous kiosks shows remarkable progress. Veganism has gone from being the shunned, ostracized nerd on the playground to being the coolest, most popular kid in school.
3. Are you involved with any particular animal protection groups?
I am very proud to be associated with a number of non-profit groups who are doing extraordinary things to lessen the suffering of other beings. I serve on the Advisory Boards of these organizations:
Save The Chimps – http://www.savethechimps.org/ – the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary founded by the late Dr. Carol Noon. Save The Chimps is a 12 island sanctuary located on 200 acres in Florida, that is home to hundreds of chimpanzees retired from the NASA space program, bio-medical research and the entertainment & pet trades.
Born Free USA – http://www.bornfreeusa.org/ – the US off-shoot of the UK based Born Free, Born Free USA is a conservation and animal welfare charity that is run by Virginia McKenna. The organisation was founded by Virginia and her late husband, Bill Travers, who starred together in the 1964 film “Born Free”.
DreamCatcher Wild Horse & Burro Sanctuary – http://www.dreamcatcherhorsesanctuary.org/ – a 4000 acre sanctuary in Northern California which was founded and is run by Barbara Clarke, an intrepid and soulful woman whose tireless advocacy for the animals humbles me. DreamCatcher takes in previously rounded up or adopted wild horses and returns them to a life similar to what they experienced in the wild. DreamCatcher also takes in aged or retired domestic horses. Many of the horses at the sanctuary were headed to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico, to be killed for human consumption in Europe and Japan.
ElephantVoices – http://www.elephantvoices.org – a non-profit founded and run by two of the world’s most respected authorities on elephants, husband and wife team, Petter Granli and Dr. Joyce Poole. Their goals are to advance the study of elephant cognition, communication and social behavior, and to promote the scientifically sound and ethical management and care of elephants. They accomplish these through research, conservation, education and advocacy.
National Equine Resource Network – http://www.nationalequine.org/ – a charity founded and run by Shirley Puga, a woman who has been at the forefront of equine rescue work for the last several years. Shirley facilitated the rescue of over 800 horses from situations where they were abandoned, abused, or scheduled to be slaughtered. A key objective of NERN is to fill a critical role of providing resources to new and existing rescues or sanctuaries. Currently many are struggling with high expenses, low donations, and a never-ending supply of horses. NERN wants to help them stabilize their business, and provide tools so they may become more self sufficient.
4. Can you share with us your favourite recipe?
Ohhhhhhh my favorite vegan recipe…….Sticky Fingers Bakery in Washington, D.C. has downright addicting “Cowvin” Cookies which are oatmeal cookie sandwiches filled with vanilla cream. I only wish I could share the recipe with you, but I don’t know what it is. A recipe I do have that is unparalleled is for the Cauliflower Frito Misto from Sublime Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, FL – the BEST vegan restaurant in the world, owned by the glorious Nanci Alexander.
Recipe: Sublime’s Cauliflower Frito Misto
For the Sweet Chili Sauce:
• 1/3 cup water
• 4 teaspoons minced garlic
• 2 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
• 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon paprika
For the tempura batter:
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup rice flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 to 3 cups ice-cold soda water
• 2 heads cauliflower (about 4 pounds total), florets only
• 4 cups vegetable oil, for deep frying
For the garnish:
• 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
• 2 tablespoons chopped thinly sliced scallions
To make the chili sauce: Combine water, garlic and chili flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar, sugar and paprika. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly and is the consistency of syrup.
To make the batter: Combine all-purpose flour, rice flour, baking powder and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of the soda water and mix just until it is incorporated. Do not over mix; batter may be lumpy. If the mixture is too thick, gradually add the remaining soda water until the batter is the consistency of syrup.
Separate the cauliflower florets by breaking them apart by hand; a small stem portion is OK. (Save the core and stem portions of the cauliflower for soup.) Dip the cauliflower florets into the batter until they are evenly coated. Heat oil to 350 degrees in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Deep-fry them in batches so as not to crowd pan, until brown and crispy. Drain well on paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the sesame seeds on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, just until golden brown.
Toss the cauliflower with the sweet chili sauce, and garnish with the sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Serve at once.
Makes 8 appetizer servings.
Per serving: 217 calories, 36 percent calories from fat, 9 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 milligram cholesterol, 32 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams total fiber, 10 grams total sugars, 30 grams net carbs, 3 grams protein, 121 milligrams sodium.
5. Has the vegan diet provided you with any health benefits?
In my view, animal by-products are not the optimum delivery device for the nutrients that my body needs. It’s like using a middle man, instead of going directly to the source. Since going vegan, my mental acuity has definitely become sharper. That has to be my favorite effect of this type of diet. But there have been so many other benefits, as well, like a decrease in my cholesterol levels, a decrease in the mucus my sinuses were producing, and of course, weight loss! Yay!
6. In the entertainment industry, there seems to be several actors and other artists that are going vegetarian or vegan. What do you think it is about these diets that is making them so popular amongst artists?
They photograph better on camera!! Their skin is clearer, their eyes are brighter, the bodies are leaner. What’s not to love?
7. Any final thoughts you would like to share with us?
I think we need to share our food with others who haven’t yet experienced cruelty-free cuisine. That’s how we effectively change the world. And with food, you don’t have to do a lot of talking. There’s never a need to get into all these lengthy arguments, you just give somebody something that tastes great and then they start asking questions. ‘Wow, that’s really meat free? That was amazing.’ And that’s how you help shift perception. Food is the almighty persuader.
Peace begins on your plate.
Thank you so much Mariana for sharing your inspirational words with us and for all you do to improve the lives of animals world wide.