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With international readership, Chickpea keeps a full plate

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As one of just two people behind Chickpea Magazine, Cara Livermore always has a full plate. The Rochester-based vegan quarterly publication — which Livermore runs with her partner, Bob Lawton, who handles sales and shipping — is a collection of recipes, stories, and articles from people around the world. But it's Livermore that pulls the threads together.

Cara Livermore and her partner Bob Lawton started the vegan quarterly Chickpea Magazine out of their home in 2011. The publication, which is about to release its 25th edition, has grown to have an international readership. - PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • Photo by RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • Cara Livermore and her partner Bob Lawton started the vegan quarterly Chickpea Magazine out of their home in 2011. The publication, which is about to release its 25th edition, has grown to have an international readership.

Her typical day goes something like this: In the morning, Livermore cooks recipes submitted by the magazine's contributors, then plates and photographs the food, edits the photos, cleans the kitchen, works on layout and design, and answers customer service emails for a couple of hours. Finally, she preps the recipes for the next day.

"Everything you see in the magazine, I've touched," she says. From the layout and lettering to design, photography, and recipe development, Livermore is the creative engine behind the magazine she and Lawton launched in 2011. Available in both print and digital format, Chickpea is stocked in stores as far away as Sweden and Japan, and locally at Hart's Local Grocers, Little Button, and Useless Objects.

Livermore has a BFA in drawing and illustration from SUNY Oswego, where she also studied photography and design. After graduating in 2009, she found she was creatively burnt out from years of college art classes, and started getting into food and cooking. Around the same time, she and Lawton moved into their first apartment together and decided to go vegan for environmental, health, and animal rights reasons. Livermore chronicled their transition to veganism on Tumblr with a blog called hipsterfood, posting photos of her cooking, and engaging with other vegan bloggers. Within eight months, Livermore says, hipsterfood had 30,000 followers.

But Livermore wanted to create something larger. She disliked blog maintenance — online comments, the inevitable Internet troll — and was seeking something more inclusive for the vegan scene. Livermore says that after a year, her photos and recipes had both improved, and it was time to move on.

Cara Livermore and her partner Bob Lawton started the vegan quarterly Chickpea Magazine out of their home in 2011. The publication, which is about to release its 25th edition, has grown to have an international readership. - PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • Photo by RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • Cara Livermore and her partner Bob Lawton started the vegan quarterly Chickpea Magazine out of their home in 2011. The publication, which is about to release its 25th edition, has grown to have an international readership.

The first issue of Chickpea Magazine was funded through Kickstarter and published in fall 2011, with its namesake legume on the cover. Livermore and Lawton wrote and photographed much of the content for that first issue themselves, though they also had contributions from vegans who had followed them from hipsterfood to the new publication. Chickpea now has around 100 contributors, and Livermore says she consistently receives more proposals than she has room for.

Picking up an issue of Chickpea, it's apparent it's not a typical magazine. It's printed on heavy, sturdy paper — more like a coffee table book than the slippery, glossy magazines at the checkout aisle. There are no advertisements; the 96 pages of the latest issue are filled with nothing but recipes, photos, reviews, articles, stories, and city guides from contributors all over the world. All of Chickpea's revenue comes from print and online sales ($5 for a digital issue, $20 for print), with 100 percent of that revenue going to pay contributors. Neither Livermore nor Lawton draw a salary from Chickpea — Livermore does freelance work on the side as Serif & Script Co., and Lawton has a day job — though Livermore is hoping to pay herself in 2018.

Though Chickpea is created by vegans, Livermore is on an ongoing mission to get non-vegans involved as readers. Remembering the reactions of her friends and family when she adopted the lifestyle, Livermore says she and Lawton try to be diplomatic about their lifestyle, not prescriptive.

"The way we speak is how we'd have liked to be spoken to when we went vegan," she says. Chickpea's brand of veganism is one that nearly anyone can try, she says, and doesn't delve much into specialty niche products that the average consumer might not be familiar with. "It's not all psyllium husks," Livermore jokes, referring to the plant-based fiber often used in vegan recipes as a thickener.

For Livermore personally, a vegan lifestyle has expanded her horizons. "A lot of people think veganism is about taking things away," she says. "But creativity comes from limitations." Livermore says that going vegan forced her to learn how to cook. She challenges herself to incorporate different vegetables and spices each week, something she never would have done when she ate a limited diet of pasta with cheese and chicken tenders, she says.

Currently, Livermore produces Chickpea Magazine from her home in the South Wedge. Along with her freelance work, Livermore teaches classes on photography and food styling at the Rochester Brainery, and participates in craft and publishing fairs, such as the Vegan Shop-Up in Brooklyn and the Handmade Holiday show in the Wedge. When asked how she manages to produce a quarterly publication and keep up a busy freelance business on top of it, Livermore says she's become a master in "time hacking." Case in point: while being photographed for this story, Livermore was in the kitchen making curried squash soup and maple chai banana bread. Both recipes are slated to appear in Chickpea's 25th issue.

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