Interview: Rania Hannan

Rania - selfMost of the interviews at Weird! Why Aren’t You Vegan? are with people who are unique and different (read: not vegan). This has the normal people (read: vegans) feeling a little left out. So, to appease the masses, once in a while we feature a regular old, nothin’ special, run-of-the-mill vegan.

Today, we talk with my friend and former colleague, who has since embarked on a journey throughout the Americas in a house with wheels. Wheels!

Also, before becoming vegan ten years ago, she somehow survived on a diet of animals for 21 years. She’s magic, and we have a lot to learn from her.

Please welcome Rania Hannan!

What is your name?

Rania Hannan.
[Editor’s note: It’s pronounced RAHN-yuh and rhymes with lasagna.]

Rania - TVTell us about yourself. Not now though; tell us what you were like at age 13. Yes, I’m serious.

Picture this: pink and black braces, pink and black wristband, pink and black Converse. You’re probably thinking of some cool, Avril Lavigne-esque skater babe, right? No. Instead, what you had was an awkward Arab girl with hair so frizzy my bully once referred to me as “Anne Hathaway in Princess Diaries before she got cute.”

I was really angsty for all the normal teenager reasons. But I’d say a big part of that was struggling with my ethnic identity. My parents immigrated to the US from Syria and we had a pretty constant battle about me not relating to our culture at all. I liked listening to Death Cab For Cutie and sitting alone in my room, journaling what I thought were some of the deepest thoughts in the universe. I didn’t want to sit around with their loud friends and eat tabouli.

They always told me I’d grow up and appreciate my culture and they were very right. 13-year-old me definitely would have rolled her eyes at that last sentence.

Do you do your own laundry? If so, describe your process and tell us what your biggest laundry mistake has been.

Honestly, my biggest laundry mistake is that I’m not rich. I live in my campervan and just spent the last two months in Baja, Mexico. There, you just drop a giant garbage bag of your laundry off with someone and pick it up the next day- all for $10 max usually. And the way they fold everything so compactly for you! It was paradise. But now that I’m in the dumb US again, I’m sure it would cost at least five times that price. So I’m back to laundromats.

What TV or movie character do you identify with the most and why?

As much as I want to say Liz Lemon (loveable nerd, awkward, silly, stress eater), she’s way too invested in her work for me to be her. I hate work and doing boring stuff. My therapist says I do this thing he calls the “Daria defense.” I can be pretty cynical and disillusioned, but at the end of the day I’m just a baby who puts up walls because she’s scared of being rejected.

Rania - SequoiaDo you share your home with any animals, human or not? Tell us a funny story about them.

Yes! My dog, Sequoia. She’s a 12-year-old husky/Akita/sheltie mix. She’s stubborn and a little bit cold, but the love is there. She’s my little Lucille Bluth (another great TV character I aspire to be someday).

Something I’ve noticed as Sequoia ages is that she just cares less. The other day, she stole a bag of treats off the counter and when I noticed and scolded her she stopped for a second, looked me in the eye, and kept chewing. And a few weeks ago, she stole this fancy schmancy loaf of bread I had just bought off the counter (yes, I know I need to stop leaving food on the counter). I came back to my van and found it on the ground with one bite taken out of it. That was really the most insulting part. Like my freshly baked artisan bread wasn’t good enough for you?

Some readers have indicated they’d like to know about your veganism. That seems weird to me, since being vegan is the norm and not very interesting, but here goes nothing.

When did you become vegan and what motivated you to do so (aside from the fact that being vegan is pretty much a given nowadays, and that there are a hundred reasons that support the decision and none against it)?

This January marked 10 years for me! The book Eating Animals and then the documentary Vegucated really had an impact on me but I still wasn’t fully ready to go from vegetarian to vegan. And then one day I watched a video of a mother cow chasing after a truck that had taken her calf and I was officially done with anything animal-derived.

What is your favorite meal? It can be real or made up.

I love Thai food to the point that it annoys my friends. Whenever we’re deciding on a place to eat, my suggestion is always Thai. Restaurants are almost always able to make a dish without fish or oyster sauce.

What food item do you always have in stock in your kitchen?

Nooch. I won’t even type out what that’s slang for because everyone should be aware of it by now. It’s good on everything.

As a vegan, are you more lead-by-example or would you also consider yourself an activist? If so, how? If not, what’s the thing you *really* think when people refuse to live by your great example?

I worked at a vegan nonprofit for over three years but I’d still consider myself more of a lead-by-example type of vegan. I weirdly like it when someone tells me, “Oh, I didn’t even know you were vegan.” I don’t want veganism to be this thing that makes me Other. I think it should, and eventually will, be the norm, and I just want to show others that my lifestyle isn’t any different from theirs. Nothing makes me cringe more than, “You’re vegan? That must be so hard!” It’s not, and showing people that it’s so easy and accessible you couldn’t even tell I was vegan is something that’s really important to me.

What is the easiest thing about being vegan?

Guilt-free eating. And I don’t mean that in the low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb “guilt free” bullshit kind of way. I mean that I’m making the most ethical choices I can when I sit down to eat.

Out of the one and only reason it’s hard to be vegan (the people around you, of course), who is the worst offender and why?

My mom, for sure. Ten years in, she still thinks it’s a phase. Middle Eastern cooking is very meat-heavy and I think she takes it personally that I don’t eat most of her food. But over the years, she’s started to veganize some dishes for me, which I appreciate!

Song: “Golden” by My Morning Jacket
Recipe: Vegan Pad Thai by The Buddhist Chef
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