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How One Woman is Introducing Vegan Mexican Sweets to a Rural Southern California Desert

Marcie Morlett is showing her community that veganism is delicious—one cookie at a time.

Marcie Morlett is a vegan baker who lives in Imperial Valley, CA. Known for its predominant Mexican culture, the IV isn’t known as a vegan haven, especially when it comes to plant-based desserts. Morlett, however, is changing this perception through Sweet Surrender, her home-based bakery that sells a plethora of cruelty-free muffins, cookies, doughnuts, and traditional Mexican pastries such as conchas and chochitos. Morlett started her business so locals could try her treats and learn that they can follow a plant-based lifestyle while still satisfying their cravings for sweets. Here’s how she’s making a difference in a region where vegan food isn’t easy to find.

Her vegan story
In 2010, Morlett saw a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals YouTube video called “If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls.” Morlett found the images to be atrocious and made a pledge that she would become vegetarian. Morlett wasn’t vocal about her new diet because she was afraid people would think of her in a negative manner, but she knew that she needed to be true to her values and not care what other people said about her decision to eschew meat. The more she thought about her lifestyle, the more Morlett realized that if she was going to do her best to minimize the suffering of sentient beings, she would have to stop supporting the dairy and egg industries. Now, nearly eight years later, Morlett has gone vegan and has been spreading positive messages regarding cruelty-free lifestyles in her community through her organic, plant-based pastries. She finds it ironic and amusing that she went from wanting to keep her veganism a secret to having people now know her as “Marcie the Vegan.”

Starting her business
Morlett started selling her pastries because her friends encouraged her to share her baking with the community. “I went to Instagram and asked my friends what they thought about me selling,” Morlett says. “I got an overwhelming amount of support and positive feedback.” Their support is what encouraged Morlett to get a chief financial officer and a business license. Morlett is grateful for the business help she has received from Jessica Delgado and Ernie Quintero (owners of Strangers West, a restaurant that provides a variety of vegan options in the Imperial Valley). “I was still waiting for my permit, so Ernie let me give away free doughnuts at Strangers for National Donut Day,” Morlett says. Through Delgado’s creation of the Imperial Valley Vegan Nights, Morlett found her first vending outlet. “I’ve been involved with the Vegan Nights since the beginning,” Morlett says. “When Jessica told me she was having a ramen edition for one of the events, she suggested I make almond cookies.”

Her Mexican vegan desserts
Morlett’s parents emigrated from Mexico after she was born. Raised in a Mexican household, Morlett has memories of the Mexican channels playing on the television and eating homemade Mexican food. Morlett wanted to veganize some of the traditional pan dulce she loved eating with her family and friends. “I decided to attempt the concha because it’s a staple at panaderias,” Morlett says. “It was definitely a lot of trial and error, and it’s taught me a lot about baking.” Though veganizing traditional dishes can be a lot of work, seeing her customers taste something that is a part of her culture is rewarding. “So far I’ve gotten wonderful feedback,” Morlett says. “I have established a good relationship with a lot of Sweet Surrender customers.”

Conscious baking
When Morlett was beginning her plant-based lifestyle, she made a point to also follow a whole-foods diet. So, for her pastries, Morlett sticks to as many whole foods as possible and uses the "Conscious Baking" label for Sweet Surrender because she uses only organic ingredients while avoiding heavily processed items such as vegan butters, oils, and refined sugars. Furthermore, some cookies contain cane-sugar alternatives such as coconut sugar or maple syrup (she also has gluten-free options). “I don’t always think about it, but for someone who chooses a plant-based diet, or for those who have to avoid meat, eggs, or dairy for health reasons, I am able to provide a little treat for themselves or their children,” Morlett says.

Where to find her pastries
At the moment, Morlett plans to remain as a home-based business but says she wants to learn, practice, and expand her baking capabilities to provide a wider variety of vegan treats. “There are some additional potential retailer opportunities here in the Valley, so I am also looking forward to selling in more spots,” Morlett says.

Ana Sofia Rodriguez is a vegan teen journalist who likes to write about fashion, culture, and anything else her mind can come up with.

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