20 Minutes with Pia Li Grau of PiaPlants
What started a year ago as a personal side-project became an Instagram-account with a loyal following. Pia Li Grau of PiaPlants shares her insights into plant-based cooking by posting quick and easy-to-make weeknight-recipes and little playful illustrations. In doing so, she and her account are as genuine and authentic as a Gucci-bag with serial number. PiaPlants shows that healthy and vegan recipes don't have to be complicated, one-sided or expensive. With 15- to 30-minute recipes, she does not only regularly safe our evening-routines but also expands our culinary-horizon into different cultural travels. Besides baba ghanoush, her feed includes the famous Chinese Lo Mein dish, matcha affogato ice cream or Tumeric pancakes. Don't expect fine dining recipes à la Tim Raue at this account, but get in the mood for down-to-earth everyday-heroes with a heart.
Nele Tüch: You created your Instagram cookbook Piaplants because you didn’t feel like skipping through the pages of a physical cookbook after a long day of work. For Instagram however, you always had a minute. Do you want to keep Piaplants online or could there be an actual book in the future?
Pia Li Grau: The concept of Piaplants was based on quick, accessible vegan recipes to break with the assumption that a plant-based lifestyle is much more work than a mainstream diet. The idea was to help people cook more plant-based meals in an artful way. Nevertheless, there will be a printed version someday, with the same simple, easy vibe like the slides on Instagram.
"Every time someone is sending me a message or a picture of their food It makes me incredibly happy."
NT: When you started the project, did you ever imagine it would get so much attention?
Pia Li Grau: No, I really didn’t. I started Piaplants about a year ago and the love and support I have received since then overwhelmed me. I could not be more thankful. Every time someone is sending me a message or a picture of their food It makes me incredibly happy.
NT: What is your favourite 'I’m exhausted and I don’t have time' weeknight recipe?
Pia Li Grau: Nori rolls. It’s basically just wrapping veggies into a leaf and dipping it into soy sauce or tahini. Extremely fresh, easy and satisfying!
NT: A go-to recipe to impress someone?
Pia Li Grau: I like to impress with a good salad. Many people have a stereotype image of salads in their head and if you break with that and use many fresh ingredients, toppings and a good dressing, people are usually quite impressed. A good Arabic Baba Ghanoush with some crispy bread also always does the job.
NT: Where to go out for food in Berlin?
Pia Li Grau: My go-to is Contho at Hasenheide. The seitan there is crazy good. Another favourite is Brunch at Beba in Martin Gropius Bau. I love the modern and fresh atmosphere there.
NT: One topic you can’t stop talking about?
Pia Li Grau: Music! It’s my main source of inspiration and something I could not live without.
NT: Where do you get your recipes, are you creating and cooking every single one of them?
Pia Li Grau: Yes, I cook every recipe I post. Usually, the recipes are inspired by non-vegan recipes. I then think of plant-based alternatives to make them. But I also have days on which I just walk down the veggie market, buy vegetables and see what I end up with.
NT: What are you doing when not working on Piaplants?
Pia Li Grau: Next to my work on illustrations for Piaplants and illustration work for other people, I’ve lately been into gardening. The quarantine time made me start my own vegetable garden. It is so cool to see the plants grow and work with the hands in the soil.
"Berlin doesn’t belong to anyone, it’s open. People from all over the world have their homes here and you can learn stories and traditions from all different cultures."
NT: Why Berlin?
Pia Li Grau: Because it doesn’t belong to anyone, it’s open. People from all over the world have their homes here and you can learn stories and traditions from all different cultures. That inspires me. I love the roughness, the freedom and the general vibe here. It makes me feel free.
NT: Personal leeway (Freiraum) What does it mean for you and where can you find it?
Pia Li Grau: This is going to sound cheesy. But I find it when I’m painting. With music on my ears, in the sun. That's when I'm most free, that’s when I’m most happy.
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