Part I: Talia Fuhrman, Healthy Eating: Fun, Delicious, Easy
Talia Fuhrman, daughter of author Joel Fuhrman M.D., has a degree in nutritional sciences from Cornell University. She is on a mission to help people understand that eating healthfully can be fun, delicious, and easy. A lover of cooking and journalism, she understands that disease prevention must be made tasty and easy for even the most newbie nutritarians and basic aspiring chefs. As a freelance nutrition journalist, she writes for Vegetarian Times and VegNews regularly and has her own blog www.taliafuhrman.com. She has written for numerous websites and magazines including www.collegecandy.com, www.crazysexylife.com, www.girliegirlarmy.com and Positive Impact Magazine.
She has put in countless hours studying how food interacts with the body and throughout her teenage years and early twenties you could easily find her curled up on the couch with the latest health and wellness book. A health guru to her friends, Talia has always enjoyed teaching people about how to protect their health and hopes to write, lecture and cook delicious food now and into the future in order to help increasing numbers of people achieve ideal health and feel full of energy all while eating mouth-watering meals.
Part II: Miyoko Schinner, Artisan Vegan CheeseMiyoko Schinner has been teaching, cooking, and writing about vegan foods for more than thirty years. She lives in Northern California and is known for having written The New Now and Zen Epicure and Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional, and owning a very successful vegetarian restaurant in the bay area. Miyoko is host to a new vegan cooking show, Vegan Mash Up
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Repeat after me – it’s all about food! Because why? We know why – it is all about food! Everything that we do on this planet is connected to the food that we eat, our health, and the other animals on this planet that we share out home with. The health of the planet too, it’s related to the food that we see on our plate. It’s September 11, 2012 today. I’m here in Manhattan and it’s a beautiful, sunny day, but there is some heavy-set energy today in memory of what happened to us eleven years ago. We can’t forget that, but there are so many things that we have to keep in our minds at all times and just process with everything we do. Are we doing what we believe in? Are we supporting what we believe in? There are so many things that are out of our control, and we may elect some of our politicians, and others may get through that we don’t agree with, but the thing that we can control is what we do in our everyday lives: what we eat, what we buy, what we do, and the people we share our lives with. Telling them that we support them and we love them and just put all that love out there, I think it will make a tremendous difference. I think that if there are things that are really annoying you, write letters to your politicians, just do everything you possibly can – it matters. That’s underlined. It. Matters. Right, okay, It’s All About Food, and guess what, today we’re talking about food, my favorite subject. I have a very special guest here today: Talia Fuhrman. There are a number of people in this alternative food movement who are creating little – maybe mini-dynasties, in a way. You know, we have John Robbins and Ocean Robbins, his son; and there’s Colin Campbell, his son’s becoming a doctor now. And Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has a son, Rip Esselstyn, who’s written the Engine 2 diet; we have Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé, following in her footsteps. And now we have Talia Fuhrman, who is the daughter of my favorite doctor, Dr. Joel Fuhrman. And you recently graduated from Cornell University?
Talia Fuhrman: I did, and I now have my Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Sciences. And you’re absolutely right; when you’re brought up in a household where you’re taught what you are is what you eat, you can’t help but want to go into this field. I grew up in my father’s medical office when he was seeing diabetic patients and patients who had cancer and autoimmune diseases that the patients believed were incurable. And my dad would cure them. And it’s just a miracle to see yourself struggling with your health – you know, you can’t get out of bed in the morning, or you get migraines, whatever your health problem is – to have it disappear. And that joy in helping people is something so gratifying, I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than that. And if you’re growing up in that environment, while you’re also enjoying the food that you’re eating, how could you not want to go into that career field? That is the question.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I love everything that you’re you’re saying. There are some kids that grow up and they tend to rebel against their parents; now did you ever feel that rebellion at all, or were you just on the path from day one?
Talia Fuhrman: One hundred and ten percent! There was rebellion involved! I’m a twenty-five year-old woman right now, speaking from my gratitude from growing up, and this is where I am at this point. But in elementary and middle school, buying a chocolate chip cookie in the seventh grade was the equivalent of doing drugs -
Caryn Hartglass: Or smoking pot -
Talia Fuhrman: Yeah, smoking pot! I had a little stash of candy under my bed; I went through that phase for sure, and I think that’s natural, as well. But in my case, by the time I was in eighth grade, I had committed to my dad’s way of eating. And eighth grade is young, I think that’s about 13 years old. And you did not want to be my friend at that age because if you were eating a doughnut, I’d say, “I’m not so sure you want to be eating that doughnut with all that partially-hydrogenated oil and saturated fat.” So I also went through the overstepping my grounds where I just wanted all my friends to be on the lifestyle that I was on, and so I went through phases, but I also learned that’s it’s also important to only give people advice when they ask for it. You want to educate people, but you want to make people feel comfortable too.
Caryn Hartglass: What I would like to say is that you want to look good and feel good, and you can do that on this great diet, so people will come to you. They’ll say, “What is it, I mean, you’re glowing and always have energy – what are you doing?”
Talia Fuhrman: We literally are what we eat. It’s incredible if we’re eating kale and other green vegetables and drinking the green drinks – you can literally see a brightness in our face, so you know when somebody’s eating healthfully, and you know when somebody’s eating the Standard American Diet, you get breakouts, you look paler, you don’t have that glow. It’s remarkable. It’s a sign of health when you do.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so I just want to hear more about the rebellion a little bit, because this is a thing a lot of parents go through with young kids, and a lot of them just give in. They give into the pressure. The media and marketing companies know this, and they cater a lot to children to brainwash the children to make them want the toy, make them want the colorful whatever it is, the sugary-sugary thing, and the parents give in because they can’t handle the whining. So you started school, I imagine, in Kindergarten or whatever, and you must have been exposed at an early age to junk.
Talia Fuhrman: Yes. It’s all about balancing act. At home, my mom only had healthy food. There were no cookies, obviously. But outside of the home, she’s wasn’t around when I was in school, lunch hour, so I could eat whatever I wanted. So all she could do was teach me about nutrition, and then I’m left on my own. And she basically treated me like an adult, and she respected me, and I think that’s the most important thing you can do if you’re a mother for your child, is that you teach them the proper foods to eat and you make them natural, wonderful, healthy foods at home that they like, and then outside the home, you leave it up to them to make the right choices. And my mother also knew that I liked pizza at school lunches, so maybe every other Friday when they would have their special pizza come in from Domino’s or whatever, she wouldn’t forbid me from having it, she wanted me to continue to be like all the other kids – there’s a right and a wrong and I think you can overdo it as well, so I’m so grateful to my parents for not being so overly fanatical that I rebelled even more.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good. And your siblings have gone through similar paths as you?
Talia Fuhrman: I would say so; some earlier some later, it’s different for everyone, but I have two younger sisters, one is a freshman in college and the other is a senior in college, and we all love the way we eat now. We all just couldn’t be more thankful, so it worked out in the end.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good. Okay, so now you go to college and you’re studying nutrition, and a lot of interesting people have come out of Cornell University, so what did you think of the program?
Talia Fuhrman: There’s obviously so much benefit from going to Cornell; you learn not just about nutrition, but also how food is processed in the body, what happens when you take a vitamin pill, how many people are on food stamps, etc. I learned a lot about the psychology of what we eat, more than I did about what we should be eating. I’d say three out of the four years were spent taking chemistry classes, working my way up in microbiology and calculus, and a lot of it is a weeding-out process; it is Cornell University and a tough school, and a lot of the people in my major were going into medicine. So I have to say that I enjoyed it and it taught me work ethic, but as far as what do we eat in our everyday lives to prevent diseases, that wasn’t what it was about at all. It was actually very conventional at the time, the food guide pyramid – instead of the MyPlate – was still around, so we were taught the food guide pyramid. Cornell has a prominent Animal Sciences department, and they’re a huge fan of dairy and ice cream. We have a famous ice cream bar – not exactly healthy for you, right? So any professor that taught that dairy products were harmful, there was going to be backlash involved. So I can’t say that the advice I was given about what to eat was accurate.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Did you have any rebellious moments while you were in college with any of you professors?
Talia Fuhrman: It was tricky because I did want to get those As. So sometimes I would go to office hours to try to talk to them one-on-one about what they think about The China Study, what have they heard about Dr. Campbell and his work, and that didn’t get me far with a lot of my professors, honestly. And many of them were overweight and had health problems of their own, which I find very ironic.
Caryn Hartglass: Anyone that you’re learning about nutrition from, or someone you go to when you want medical care – if they don’t look healthy, why would you want to listen to them?
Talia Fuhrman: It’s all too often. Now, my dad says he didn’t take one nutrition class when he was in medical school. And what does that say about our country?
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it shows a number of things, but I’ve heard that there’s a little more nutrition being offered in schools today than before, but I don’t think it’s a whole lot. And the other thing is that your father is a genius. I mean, he’s learned so much and he knows so much about nutrition, and I just wish there were a lot more of him to go around.
Talia Fuhrman: And just those classes that are taught, I took a few of them in high school. They’re government-based, and what’s recommend by the government is – you know, where do they get the money from? It’s from the meat and dairy industry. It’s full of propaganda and it’s not exactly what the science shows; it’s money, obviously. So it’s a step in the right direction when we’re offering courses for adolescents; it’s teaching them to think about what they’re putting in their mouths, but it’s not the right information we need. And obviously, given that heart disease is the number one killer in America and that breast cancer rates are increasing, it’s one of the most significant problems in this country and it costs so much money that it’s a huge investment to teach people about what they eat for their health reasons, economically, quality of life – it’s such a tragedy that my father’s information isn’t common knowledge.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, it is a tragedy. It is a tragedy indeed, and like you said before, you can’t just tell people this information; they have to want to hear it. So often, especially when I see people that are sick – and I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nutritionist, and I know that I have information that can save their lives – and yet they’re so closed to wanting to hear because their doctor didn’t tell them that information; it really is tragic. What about the kids – what about the young adults – that you were going to class with? Did many of them feel like you did? I mean, I’m sure you talked outside of class about health and nutrition; were they on the same path as you, or a different one?
Talia Fuhrman: It was definitely mixed. Most of them were taught nothing about nutrition. They came from families where, maybe they were an Italian family and made a lot of meat and pasta dishes – most of them came in with no knowledge about true nutrition. And so it was mind-blowing to see a lot of these friends taking Adderall to study late in the evening, pulling all-nighters or going to the dining halls and eating hamburgers and french fries – and these were going to be the future dietitians of America. That was most of my classmates. Then, after years of going to school there, I sought out friends who had the same philosophy that I did – and I found them, there was a handful. They’re my best friends now, and they obviously did this research on their own, not everybody lives in a family where it’s just handed to you on a silver platter. So I respect these friends like no other because they’re so passionate about it. They read the books on their own. They’re self-taught. And that’s remarkable. So they are out there, but I’d say one in ten people in my class was a vegan, or as my dad says, a nutritarian, you eat for nutrients.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, it’s going to get better but we have a long way to go. And you are a part of that getting better. Okay, so you write occasional posts for different blog sites, and you just wrote a post that I thought was very interesting: on body odor. What motivated you to do that?
Talia Fuhrman: Well I had just read the biography of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was a vegan, and he also wasn’t a fan of bathing because he believed that his vegan diet left his natural body odor a pleasant, more delightful smell than his fellow Standard American Diet eaters. So I was wondering if he was onto something there because I’ve had roommates in college who ate – especially the guys – a lot of the steaks and the meats and then just processed white flour products like pastas and cereals and one of these roommates was so memorable – he smelled so bad, I would have to open the windows after he took a shower. And I knew that it had to do with his diet and what he was eating. I know that a lot of guys, even if they shower, I’m sorry, they still smell. I’ve also interacted with people who eat a nutrient-rich diet, and they don’t have that terrible body odor, so also in my own life, I was noticing a trend. So I decided to look into it, and I did find a study that showed that women, when they smelled the body odor of men who were vegetarian for only two weeks (they put the men on either a vegetarian diet or a non-vegetarian diet), and the women 100% of the time preferred the odors of the vegetarian men. And this was the only study that I found on it, but it was very remarkable.
Caryn Hartglass: It sounds like a very gross study, actually.
Talia Fuhrman: It does.
Caryn Hartglass: Women had to sniff the different pads of odors with men on them.
Talia Fuhrman: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, we have a call!
Talia Fuhrman: Excellent.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh great, so I have a few things I want to talk about on that subject, so let’s talk to John from new Jersey. Hi John, welcome to It’s All About Food.
J: Hi, how are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Great.
J: I had a question. I’m a big fan of Dr. Fuhrman myself. I have several of his books and DVDS and -
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, we love him.
J: -amazing, amazing. But I also delve into a lot of information on 100% raw vegan as well, not just the majority of raw vegetables and then a little bit of cooked. So I was wondering if the young Dr. Furhman there had a chance to delve into a lot of that information as well.
Talia Fuhrman: Absolutely, I know I can answer this question easily. Some nutrients are absorbed more efficiently when they’re cooked, and some are absorbed more efficiently when they’re raw. And oftentimes, when people go on a raw food diet, they can’t get enough calories unless they’re eating a lot of nuts and seeds. So you might be eating a lot of raw green vegetables and other vegetables, which is great, but how are you going to get the rest of your calories? Because those green vegetables are just so low in calories, it’s just you can’t live off of them. Versus a cooked diet in which you’re eating beans, because beans are so important for long-term health. Those most of the time have to be eaten cooked. And what about tomatoes, for example? They’re one of those foods that when you cook them, the nutrient absorption is actually enhanced. If you look at tomato sauce, for example, it’s a nice, rich red color, versus sometimes a raw tomato which is paler in color., and when you see the rich color, that’s a sign that it’s higher in nutrients. And some mushrooms, for example, are actually toxic when they’re eaten raw, but when you cook them , they promote cancer prevention. So my dad likes to say, 50% of your vegetables should be cooked, and 50% eaten raw. Because if you cook more of your vegetables, you can eat more of them at one time. Kale, for example, you cook it and chop it up with a nice cashew cream sauce, and it’s delicious, and there’s nothing more nutritions than that. Raw vegetables are fantastic, but ideally you’d want to supplement them with cooked foods as well. There’s a lot of myths out there about the raw food diet.
Caryn Hartglass: Just like every kind of diet, if you’re choosing to eat meat or fish or if you’re vegetarian or vegan or raw, there are variations on each one of those diets, and some of them are healthier than others. And even on a raw food diet, some of them eat entirely fruit. I know one or two people that look like they’re doing okay, but for the most part, I don’t think that most people thrive on all fruit. And then others, like Talia was saying, need to add more fat to their food to feel satisfied. So it may vary between people.
Talia Fuhrman: Right. But sometimes health problems show up years later, so people eating a raw food diet with primarily fruits, they could be okay for a few years, and then suddenly feel weak or have a nutrient deficiency. My dad is often seen as not just with 100% raw eaters, but sometimes with vegans who don’t supplement properly, or they’re not on a nutrient-rich vegan diet – you have to be careful when you go on plans like these. Because you could feel good int he moment, but not later.
Caryn Hartglass: You just said something – a lot of times in magazines and news articles, even sometimes some science articles, when they talk about vegetarian/vegan diets, they always say that you have to be careful when you’re having a vegetarian/vegan diet. But the thing is, you need to be careful just period. We’re learning more about nutrition, we all need to pay attention because most people are sick and they’re on a meat and junk food based diet.
Talia Fuhrman: Education is power and we have all the resources to educate ourselves. I have learned more about proper nutrition going to my local Barnes and Nobles than attending Cornell. Cornell was rigorous and you got your basic education, but the true science that we need, you can just pick up a book.
Caryn Hartglass: Speaking of going to Cornell, one of the things you really want is that piece of paper saying you graduated because that’s very important in today’s world.
Talia Fuhrman: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Steve Jobs did not have that piece of paper!
Talia Fuhrman: That’s right.
Caryn Hartglass: But he was really very smart. I wanted to say one thing about him, and that is some people will say he was on a vegan diet, so why did he die?
Talia Fuhrman: I question that myself, and Doctor McDougall has a fantastic article that I read online that talks about this very subject. And it seems as though Steve was exposed to toxic chemicals working with computers at a very young point in his life. Obviously we don’t know all the reasons why he developed cancer, but cancer is something that starts in the body when you’re young and doesn’t manifest itself in a cancer diagnosis until, let’s say, 30 or 40 years later. It takes that one DNA mistake and then it blows into a tumor much later on. So the vegan diet may have helped him live longer. He might have died much younger with that cancer. So it could have only been helpful, not harmful. Who’s to say what actually happened? But that’s essentially what the McDougall article says.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well we don’t know, but there are some things that we do know. And certainly an anti-cancer, superfood, immune-boosting, nutrient-rich diet is going to help anyone, but there are so many other factors to our health and well-being. A lot of it is emotional, and certainly environmental, and something can get out of balance and then you really need to step things up a notch. So with Steve, I don’t know a lot about him, but I do know that he worked very hard, so maybe he wasn’t focusing enough on his sleep and mental attitude, there’s just so many different factors.
Talia Fuhrman: Right, there’s just so many different factors and you could be a healthful vegan or an unhealthful vegan. And for example, there’s something that many vegans do is isolated soy protein, this is the processed, isolated product from the soy protein. So I’m not saying that edamame or eating tofu or soymilk is bad, but when you see on an ingredient list, “isolated soy protein,” it actually promotes cancer, just as would other animal products. And this is something that processed vegan foods, or if you eat at a vegan restaurant, we don’t know what Steve was eating. And he could have been eating processed foods, who’s to say.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. So we just have a few more minutes, so I just want to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.
Talia Fuhrman: Well, I couldn’t be more passionate about my future career, obviously, just from you speaking to me, but my long term goal is to go to Culinary School at the Natural Gourmet Institute, working to make healthy food taste delicious, and also to get my Master’s and eventually become a dietitian. So, to become a chef and a dietitian, and currently I’m working on a body image book – We Love Ourselves on the Inside and the Outside, so what to eat to get clear skin, as you were saying before, how do we prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia in later years, how do we feel good every day while we’re young, but also what does it mean to feel good about yourself on the inside? So it tackles the psychology of feeling well, because you could be eating this way, you could be slim and fit, but if you’re insecure, that’s another component altogether. So it’s geared toward young women.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, young women need this message.
Talia Fuhrman: Yes, so that’s my big project at the moment. But who knows what will happen in the future? You can work in the present, but you never know what will happen.
Caryn Hartglass: So when you want to have something decadent, if it ever happens, or for a birthday, for example, what do you have for a treat?
Talia Fuhrman: It’s funny you say that because my weakness is dark chocolate, so I definitely understand temptation.
Caryn Hartglass: But dark chocolate has some nutritional value.
Talia Fuhrman: Dark chocolate is great; it’s the other ingredients in dark chocolate like the sugar, and maybe if it’s made with dairy product, and the high fat. But yes, cocoa is quite healthy and I use it in a lot of my recipes. I’m a huge fan of baking and I use unconventional ingredients like, actually, beans instead of oil, and it gives the recipe a wonderful moistness. And I promise you can’t taste the beans at all, and I only use dates or bananas or figs or other fruits as sweeteners, and I make fantastic brownies and muffins with strawberries and blueberries and blackberries and all sorts of great treats that are pretty much guilt-free. And even my friends who don’t know a lot about the way I eat love them.
Caryn Hartglass: Well we definitely need more of that.
Talia Fuhrman: Actually, the Eat To Live cookbook is coming out in a few months, and it has some of the recipes I just mentioned.
Caryn Hartglass: I was wondering when we were going to see an Eat To Live cookbook.
Talia Fuhrman: Oh yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: So we have to mention that Eat To Live has been on the New York Times bestseller list now for about 55, 56 weeks I think?
Talia Fuhrman: It’s crazy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, this is really inspiring that so many people are interested.
Talia Fuhrman: I couldn’t be more thrilled. And now my father has a new PBS show on Superimmunity, his other book, and I couldn’t recommend that more. For anyone who’s read Eat To Live, Superimmunity is a fantastic addition. I read it when it came out, and I learned so much. So, gotta drink that elderberry juice when you’re sick.
Caryn Hartglass: Elderberry juice? I’ve never tried that.
Talia Fuhrman: Right?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Oh, you know, we haven’t talked about your health. Do you get colds, and what’s your health like after growing up on this nutritarian diet for so long?
Talia Fuhrman: I have so much energy every day and I rarely get sick. But we can’t prevent getting exposed to viruses, especially in the wintertime and obviously when you’re living in dorms in college. So I would occasionally get sick maybe once every few years, and I would recover faster than my friends would – but that’s not to say that I never, ever get sick. So if you’re eating well and you do get sick, we’re all human, but you rebound faster because your immune system is stronger.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, sometimes those effects that happen to us is our body’s way of purging something that doesn’t belong.
Talia Fuhrman: That’s a great point. Fevers are a sign of detoxification, so we don’t want to take medications to reduce the fevers, we just want to ride it out naturally and drink and eat lightly when we’re sick.
Caryn Hartglass: And do you travel much?
Talia Fuhrman: I travel all the time.
Caryn Hartglass: What’s the food like when you get to travel, how do you manage that?
Talia Fuhrman: You know, it’s not hard, and I don’t understand when people tell me, “Oh, I can’t eat this way because I travel all the time,” and this or that. You know what, there’s vegetables everywhere, and if you go to a restaurant and tell them that you want spinach or broccoli or whatever, without salt or oil, obviously it’s not going to taste as good as what you could make for yourself at home, but you can find it. There’s often make-your-own-salads at fast food places now; I always bring snacks with me just in case. Larabars are great, or other dried fruits and nuts. And I pack fruits like apples and oranges and other goodies. But it’s not been hard for me at all. Once you educate yourself and you know what foods are healthy to eat, you just make it a lifestyle and you make it work for yourself.
Caryn Hartglass: I just thought of something amusing to me. I did a water fast about ten or twelve years ago, it was supervised by your dad. So now whenever I don’t see food at an event or something that I want to eat or that I can’t eat, and people look like they’re starving and they want to eat something, I know I can go three weeks without food, so I don’t have to eat here.
Talia Fuhrman: That’s such a good point, because when you eat healthfully, you don’t go through withdrawal symptoms of the toxic meal you just ate, and my dad calls it toxic hunger when maybe two hours after you eat a hamburger or something, and you feel nauseous and you get a migraine and you have to eat again, and that makes the symptoms go away. But I agree, I could just last all day without eating. And I get hungry, but it’s just a mouth and throat sensation, and it’s a pleasant sensation, actually, and it makes it better when you do eat. It’s like I don’t have to immediately get food in my stomach.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you’re not crazy.
Talia Fuhrman: Mhm, no.
Caryn Hartglass: No. We’re not crazy! Well, thank you so much for joining me on the It’s All About Food podcast.
Talia Fuhrman: It was great to talk to you and great to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: This has really been fun and I can’t wait to see what you’re going to come out with next – books and recipes and everything yummy and delicious.
Talia Fuhrman: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been a joy.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you’ve heard another episode of It’s All About Food. Join me at ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com and have a very delicious week. Bye-bye.
Transcribed by Sarah Brown, 1/25/2013
Caryn Hartglass: We are back. Again, I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. It’s September 11. 2012. And thank you for joining me today. I want to remind you, my website is responsibleeatingandliving.com. Responsibleeatingandliving.com. The acronym is REAL because what I talk about is real food for real people, that means all of us. And we have lots of wonderful recipes and videos and all kinds of things. And all of my shows are archived up there at responsibleeatingandliving.com. I hope you visit and visit often. We like to see you there. And send me email: email@example.com. I’d like to hear from you and I’m there for it. Questions, comments, anything you need, if I can help, I will.
All right, this is too exciting and I’m just going to roll right into it. We’re going to be talking about cheese! Say cheese! Vegan cheese! Everybody says when they want to give up dairy that they can’t give up cheese! How many times have we heard this? Too many times. Well, here we go, we’ve got the solution and it’s right here in my hands. I can’t wait to talk about it. Artisan vegan cheese, from everyday to gourmet. We are going to bring on Miyoko Schinner, who has been a vegetarian for more than four years and a vegan for more than half of that time. She’s the author of the New Now and Zen Epicure and Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional. Miyoko has been teaching, cooking, and writing about vegan foods for more than 30 years and lives in Northern California with her husband, children, dog, cat, and pet chickens.
Welcome to It’s All About Food again, Miyoko!
Miyoko Schinner: Hi, Caryn! It’s nice to be on the show again.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, thank you! Well, what I’m looking forward to is just talking to you alone because the last time, the show was a little crowded when we were talking about the vegan mash-up and it was too many great voices all at once.
You know how exciting this is that you’ve come up with this book. It’s like everybody’s screaming about it in your world.
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. It really is. And in my kitchen it continues to be exciting because I’m always working on new recipes for new cheeses.
Caryn Hartglass: As you mentioned in the introduction, this is based on lots of things and work that other people have done. We’re evolving in so many ways, as a species, and we’re evolving with cheese making, which is something that’s gone on for a long time. And why not evolve to using nuts and seeds in order to make cheese instead of animal excretions?
Miyoko Schinner: Absolutely, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: I mean, why not? I think…I hope you realize it, now and in the future, but I really think this is groundbreaking. I think is going to be the foundation of a lot of future products. I hope we see them sooner than later. But I think this will really move people forward in making all kinds of wonderful different vegan cheeses.
Miyoko Schinner: I certainly hope so. That was my intent. I’ve been asked by people, “Why don’t you just make them and sell them?” But I really want to be able to give people the tools to do it themselves in their own kitchens. A lot of people can’t even get the commercially available cheeses as they are right now. But one thing I want to point out about the cheeses in my book that are different from what might be commercially available in vegan cheeses is that my cheeses are all cultured. You’re absolutely right; I took a tip from a lot of different people, lots of different processes that are already out there. The raw foodists completely inspired me with their culturing nut-based cheeses but then just took it a few steps further. Instead of just making a basic cashew cheese, like, “Why couldn’t I just turn this into Cheddar or Gruyere?” Or if I did this, if I tweaked it this way, or I added this or I cooked this, or I cultured it longer, or to get a dry, hard cheese, “What if I air-dried it, juts like a regular cheese?” because that’s what you do with the harder cheeses like Parmesan; they’re all air-dried for months and months and months.
Caryn Hartglass: I really want to think that more people are going to find their kitchens. I know we’ve gotten so far away from most people making their own food on a regular basis in their kitchen. And there’s a certain amount of movement back there, with food choices and people wanting to save on the cost of eating out, lots of different reasons, and just wanting to get healthier. So I’m always saying, “Find your kitchens, folks!” But other than making salads and soups, vegan cheese is another level away. And it doesn’t look like it’s really complicated but it’s a little time consuming; it does require some organization and a place to store things while you’re waiting for them to grow.
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah. In terms of time consuming they’re absolutely not instant cheeses. Although there is a chapter for practical, instant ones that you can make; if you just can’t wait, things you can make in a day or in a few minutes. They are available; there’s a chapter for that in my food. But there really isn’t a lot of hands-on time for any of the cheeses. It’s really just a matter of waiting and that waiting can be anywhere form 24 hours to several weeks. The beauty of the cheeses is that they gain their sharpness from the culturing process, just like regular cheeses do. A lot the commercial cheeses or a lot of the recipes that were available for vegan cheeses before involved getting that tang or that sharpness by adding something like lemon juice or vinegar. And then it really doesn’t taste sharp, it just tastes a little bit tangy. And what I really want to do was to let nature take its own course. So that’s what you have to do. Sometimes, depending on the cheese, you might have to wait a couple or days or you might have to wait a few of weeks, depending on the texture and the flavor and the degree of sharpness you want. And then again, a lot of these cheeses actually taste better after they’ve been in your refrigerator for several months. They continue to age in your refrigerator. It’s kind of fun, it’s exciting. It’s definitely more work than just going out and getting a package of something.
But I think you’re right. There is a movement towards getting back to the kitchen. I know that I make so much more myself now than I did. I have three kids and they’re all older now, but when they were little I started buying … I remember the day I was shocked. I shocked myself when I went into the store and I bought a jar of marinara. I couldn’t believe it because I’ve never done that in my life. I’ve always made everything from scratch: bread, vegan mayonnaise, everything.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, but you get tired.
Miyoko Schinner: I just got tired and worn down, just making food all the time to feed all these mouths. Now, they’re older and I’ve got more time. I’m sort of back in the kitchen now. My husband grows vegetables and so from the harvesting to making my own jams, breads, vegan mayonnaise, even vegan butter now, cheese, everything. Everything just … there’s less packaging. My daughter gets upset about it, like, “Why do we have so much garbage? Look at all these packaging!” And every time you go to the store, if you’re not buying just produce at the farmer’s market there’s a lot of packaging to deal with so …
Caryn Hartglass: I’d like to point out: most people do these things obviously for convenience and they’re overwhelmed and they have a lot of work to do but these fast foods, these convenient foods, if you really look at what it took to get them to your home, there’s nothing fast or convenient about them. There’s a big price …
Miyoko Schinner: it just didn’t happen in your home, that’s all. It happened somewhere else.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. I mean, there were factories and people and processing and energy and lots of stuff goes into it.
Miyoko Schinner: Yes, absolutely. I find a calm in my kitchen when I’m doing all this stuff. It’s sort of like meditation for me. I certainly didn’t that way when my kids were little so I sympathize with the millions of women out there, men out there that trying to raise a family and put a decent meal on the table.
Caryn Hartglass: Small children, teenagers, they all take a lot of… a lot of, I don’t know, everything. Rejuvelac. I’m really curious about this. I just got this book so I haven’t made anything in it but I’ve tried … I once went to the Ann Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico and I spoke on the environment and things like that. And I got to taste some of the food and things they were doing there and then I came back home and I thought, “I’m going to make Rejuvelac” and I couldn’t do it. I failed miserably. So I’m going to follow your instructions and make some with some brown rice, I think. But here is one of the questions I have. So what it says here is you put the grains in one-quart glass jar. Add water to cover; I can do that. Place a double-layered cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and secure with a rubber band; I can do that. I sprout stuff all the time; I do the same thing. Let the grains soak for eight to twelve hours. Great. Drain. And here’s the question: Add enough water to moisten the grain but not so much that they’re immersed in water. How much is that?
Miyoko Schinner: Well, it’s really not an exact science. Just until they look wet and …
Caryn Hartglass: So I rinse them and then drain them and then they look wet but there’s no real water in there?
Miyoko Schinner: No, no, there’s water in there. To be quite honest, I’ve been very sloppy in my Rejuvelac making …
Caryn Hartglass: Well, sloppy’s good, if there’s room for sloppiness.
Miyoko Schinner: It’s turned out anyway. So I’ve made it with a little like half an inch of water above it as well as just barely … just touching the surface of the grains. And the only difference that I’ve found is that different grains take longer or shorter. And there’s a commercially available Rejuvelac you can buy in many parts of the country and I think they use wheat berries. And I do use that sometimes. But I’ve done it with brown rice, done it with quinoa. Rye berries apparently work very well. I’ve never done it with rye berries but apparently that works really well. Just because I can’t seem to get rye berries for some reason, I don’t know why. But I’ve been kind of sloppy and it’s generally worse off.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. I don’t know why I had a miserable time. I only tried it once or twice and now I’m just … It’s not working and I gave up.
Miyoko Schinner: The reason I use Rejuvelac as the probiotic in the recipes, and it’s not … I actually also use non-dairy yoghurt as the thing that gets the culturing going as well too. So there’s some recipes that don’t use Rejuvelac at all if you go through the book. But the reason I use that is because a lot of the raw food cheeses, they’re not cheeses, will use a powdered probiotic. And what I found is that a lot of the powdered probiotics are actually not vegan because they’re grown in a dairy base. And two, they’re really expensive. It can be $25 for a tiny little bottle. And I want my book to be accessible to as many people as possible all over the world. In many parts of the world you can’t get a bottle of probiotic so I thought …
Caryn Hartglass: You can buy a probiotic and it can all be dead. That’s another problem.
Miyoko Schinner: Yes, that’s true. And I’ve also use probiotic bottled…I’ve used them before and sometime they just don’t work. So I found that if you find a recipe for Rejuvelac in there and you can buy whole grain, anywhere in the world. You can get some kind of whole grain. You can sprout that and turn that into Rejuvelac.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s genius. I just love the concept and I can’t wait to do it. This whole probiotic thing, it’s important to have them. We need probiotics in our gut. The powders are expensive and I like the idea of making it fresh. It’s got to be better.
Miyoko Schinner: Yes, yes, yes. Absolutely. I have to admit sometimes I need to make a cheese and I don’t have time to make the Rejuvelac. I go to Whole Foods and I buy a bottle. But I usually have some that’s homemade, sitting around but I run out when stuff like that happens.
Caryn Hartglass: And then the other thing about making yoghurt, I’ve made soy yoghurt before. The last few times I’ve tried it, it didn’t work out so well. And now I know I need to … because it’s always so thin. But the cashews you add to the soy milk, that helps.
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, there’s a couple of ways to doing it. I actually have a video on YouTube. If you go there and Google my name, Miyoko Schinner Home Made Yoghurt, you can watch a video where I show you how to make it. I came up with that little trick of adding the raw cashews to the soymilk to enrich it because I’ve found that the commercial soymilks, I’m sorry, the commercial non-dairy yoghurts like the soy yoghurts, to be a little bland. The only reason they stick is they stick them with tapioca and some other stabilizers.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup, gum.
Miyoko Schinner: So if you want to make traditional, homemade yoghurt that sticks by itself, you can do it two ways: you can either boil down the soymilk for about fifteen minutes so that it’s reduced by about 1/3 and then you can make a really nice, rich, creamy soy yoghurt that way, or you can just throw in a handful of cashews into a quart of soymilk and puree that and then use that to make your yoghurt.
Caryn Hartglass: I can’t wait to get started.
Miyoko Schinner: Oh, good! I want you to get in your kitchen right now. Get off the phone! Get off the radio!
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’m going to the store right after this and buy the things I need. And I promise, I’m going to do those things.
Okay, and then not only do you have cheeses in here. I found the basic routine is pretty similar here with your different recipes, some of them have really lovely flavors, and by culturing them, shorter or longer, you get different flavors. You use some oils to give some of your cheeses a more melty-er feeling. You got hard cheeses and just about anything you want to make. The cream cheeses look outstanding.
Miyoko Schinner: I know there’s a lot of cream cheeses on the market. But one thing I can say about the commercial vegan cheeses is that the first ingredient, most of them, is oil. And then there’s sometimes soy protein or soymilk, or … and then it’s just basically … it’s oil with maybe with a little bit of some sort of protein and then stabilizers. And to me, that doesn’t seem like a whole food. I really like to have food … I want to be eating mostly whole food. And I’m not as pure as your last guest but I do engage in what Chef AJ calls the evil trinity, salt, sugar, and oil, on occasion. I definitely choose what I eat sometimes with my taste buds. But for the most part, about 95% of the time, I do like to have a whole foods, plant-based diet, not eating processed vegan food.
Caryn Hartglass: We really need to go backwards as we’re going forward in time. Backwards in terms of using whole foods, getting all the chemicals out of our foods. I have this crazy chemical engineering background and yet I hate all the chemical-engineered foods that just shouldn’t be. I personally, in most of my foods, I avoid oil and salt. But then I like to have some toppings and things that… And that’s where some of the fat and salt are because it’s just like a garnish; it’s not that… the whole food is laden with oil and salt and that’s where this cheese is wonderful.
Miyoko Schinner: And I’m with you. I don’t cook with a lot of oil and salt either, generally speaking, but what I found with my cheeses is I try to make them as oil-free as possible but I couldn’t get them to melt unless there’s some oil in it. But the first ingredient isn’t oil; it’s something else, like the soy yoghurt. And there is enough oil in there to get them to melt but nutritionally, they still stack up much better than their dairy counterparts of the stuff you get at the store. But most of the other cheeses, 90% of the cheeses in the book do not use oil at all because I try to avoid it. They’re based on relatively healthful ingredients.
Caryn Hartglass: I think it’s wonderful. In this whole vegan movement, there are so many different voices promoting so many different things. Anyone that chooses to eat vegan, even if it’s Coke and potato chips and French fries, shouldn’t have to apologize for not wanting to eat animals. That’s a beautiful thing and everybody should be doing it. And for those of us who want to pursue a healthier lifestyle by eliminating all the artificial chemicals and ingredients to improve our health, that’s just another great step. But I love the fact that we can have these cheeses and they’re made from wonderful ingredients. This is just a brilliant thing. I can’t wait to get started.
And then you’ve got some desserts going on here on the back. Tiramisu, which looks fabulous.
Miyoko Schinner: That tiramisu recipe uses an egg white made out of flax. It’s a flax seed …
Caryn Hartglass: I saw that, flax seed meringue!
Miyoko Schinner: And it whips up just like egg whites. It’s just amazing. Now, you can’t bake with it but you can fold it into mousses and things to lighten it up. You can make a chocolate mousse and make this flax seed egg white thing. I mean, it’s just incredible when you whip it up; it looks just like egg whites. It’s got the same texture. Unfortunately, you can’t bake with it but it’s great to fold it into things to lighten it up.
Caryn Hartglass: And the amazing thing is, flax seeds come with so many good things for you.
Miyoko Schinner: Yes, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know why more people aren’t jumping on all of this faster. Okay, so you don’t have any immediate plans on making any of these cheeses yourself? For sale? For manufacturing?
Miyoko Schinner: Well, I’ve been in business before. But I am entertaining certain things. I’m considering going into the restaurant business again and that’s something I’m entertaining.
Caryn Hartglass: Here’s a thing for you. I’m sure you’ve thought about all of this. But when you first came on the scene, and I will never forget it. I told you this the last time we spoke. But I remember the restaurant Now and Zen. It was near Japantown. And then there was…. Right? It was around Japantown, San Francisco? Somewhere around there? And then I was so excited when I was flying on United to have the Now and Zen cookie. The thing is, you were one of our forepersons, I don’t want to say forefathers. But the timing, people weren’t ready yet. And now people are really, really … So it must have been painful for you in that time. You didn’t have the Internet; you didn’t have all these access to marketing. And now the time is really ripe, ripe for vegan cheese by Miyoko.
Miyoko Schinner: Yes. We definitely … When I started, I was always constantly explaining to people why I didn’t use dairy or eggs and why I didn’t use sugar because when I had Now and Zen we didn’t use any kind of sugar either. And I still don’t like to. I typically use natural sweeteners, I guess, that can be qualified as sugar by a lot of people, but maple syrup and that sort of thing. So the time is right now and I am ready! I’m ready to take off. I’m hoping that this cheese goes somewhere. I love to teach. That’s one of the things that is most important. That was one of the things about manufacturing I really didn’t like, was this sort of unilateral. I’m just putting food; I’m just distributing food. But there was no …
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but people really want this. People really want vegan cheese. Now, I just was curious: when you’re growing things, bacteria, have you ever had any batches go bad or are there safety concerns we need to keep in mind?
Miyoko Schinner: Yes. And that’s something that’s very, very important that I should state is that, this is not an exact science. Different temperatures, how clean the equipment you’re using, the ambient temperature of the room, the humidity, all of that comes into play in how your cheeses perform. And so, if you’re working at a 90% humidity and a 110%, middle of summer, your cheeses are going to culture much faster and they can go bad much faster as well too. So there are things that you have to watch out for. It’s not as simple as providing a recipe for making a pasta sauce or something. It’s a little more complex.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. It’s an art.
Miyoko Schinner: It is an art. And you really have to watch these things. It would be wonderful if I went into manufacturing I have to figure out some sort of uniform temperature that they would all be cultured in and I’d have to have something like a cave or something like that, where it’ll be temperature-controlled and all of that so you could sort of predict the outcome of the product. But the fact is, I give a range on how long you should culture these cheeses because it depends. Even in my own kitchen, sometimes the sharp cheddar takes 48 hours and sometimes it takes 96 before it’s ready.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I know somebody’s going to do it. I know some people are going to start doing it. It’s just a question of when and we’re all evolving now and vegan cheese is there. And so thank you, thank you for getting the cheese ball rolling.
Thank you, Miyoko for joining me again on It’s All About Food. All the best to you with artisan vegan cheeses. I can’t wait to dig into it.
Miyoko Schinner: Thank you, Caryn, for having me. Bye!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, bye! I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’ve heard another episode of It’s All About Food. Join me at responsibleeatingandliving.com and have a very delicious week. Bye-bye!
Transcribed by Dianna O’Reilly, 1/31/2013