Part 1 – John Schlimm
Just in time for the holidays, John Schlimm, a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the U.S., brings together the flavor of the kitchen and the fun of the bar in The Tipsy Vegan: 75 Boozy Recipes to Turn Every Bite Into Happy Hour. Showcasing plant-based recipes that feature everything from beer to brandy, he presents irresistibly tasty dishes that are easy to prepare and reveal the wilder side of everyday fruits and vegetables.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and welcome to It’s All About Food! Thank you so much for tuning in and just a little bit of what we do here during this hour on It’s All About Food talking about my favorite subject, food. I’m Caryn Hartglass and I’m the founder of a nonprofit called Responsible Eating and Living and what I like to do is connect the dots and talk about how food affects environment, health, the treatment of animals, but most of all I love to show that we can change the world and we can have fun doing it. The food tastes great and its good force makes us feel great and there’s really no good reason not to eat this way healthy plant based, beautiful, colorful foods. This is ’tis the season to be jolly. This is holiday time and more and more we’re seeing cookbooks coming out, recipes coming out made with all beautiful plant based ingredients to show we can have our cake and eat it too, we can have it all. It’s gorgeous, it’s delicious, it’s fun. We’re just going to continue the party here, I’m going to pour myself a chilled virtual beer and introduce my first guest: John Schlimm, author of The Tipsy Vegan just in time for the holidays. John Schlimm, a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States, brings together the flavor of the kitchen and the fun of the bar. In The Tipsy Vegan 75 boozy recipes to turn every bite into happy hour showcasing plant based recipes that feature everything from beer to brandy. He presents irresistibly tasty dishes that are easy to prepare and reveal the wilder side of everyday fruits and vegetables. Welcome to It’s All About Food.
John Schlimm: Hey Caryn, I’m so excited to be with you and all your listeners, we’re going to have fun with this one for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely, I love your book and I love the attitude and everything about it because, well, I kind of just said, there’s only joy in this food, there’s only fun and it’s about time we started changing the image of plant based food and vegan people.
John Schlimm: That’s right, when I set out, I really wanted to create a party in a book. I wanted you to check reality at page one and just let the party carry you away from there and really redefine what vegan food is. Like you said, that word vegan has become sort of scary and serious to a lot of people, especially those of us who aren’t vegan. I really wanted to sort of plough right on through all of those misconceptions and show that this really can be a very fun and healthy way of eating.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, let me ask you, are you a vegan?
John Schlimm: Yes, yes, and in a small town, in a very small rural town…
Caryn Hartglass: In rural Pennsylvania.
John Schlimm: Yes, so that an interesting perspective you sort of bring to this. I’m surrounded by family and friends who are very ingrained in the hunting and meat eating culture here, so it’s an interesting journey.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, how do they handle you and how do you handle them?
John Schlimm: Well, I think it’s sort of a mutual respect of sorts, learning what makes each other tick, you know. I think for a long time I’ve been sort of a strange figure to these people here and they sort of watch what I do and you know rather than being preachy I sort of just lead by example and quietly and it’s been really interesting since The Tipsy Vegan came out and since I transitioned to this lifestyle a few years ago, I have so many people that come here, coming up to me saying, “You know, we don’t really eat that much meat anymore,” or “We don’t even really like the taste of meat anymore.” It’s almost like this book has helped them come out of the meat cooler as opposed to the closet. It’s sort of like they’re feeling a little more comfortable saying, “You know what, I don’t really want to eat that much meat anymore.” I think that’s fantastic.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny you mentioned people coming out about this. I lived in the south of France for four years in the 90s and I never met a vegetarian. Late in the 90s, somewhere in the early 2000s this veggie pride parade started in Paris and vegetarians were coming out of the closet literally. Now we have veggie pride parades here in New York City and in a variety of places, but there’s a lot of reason to have pride in this choice.
John Schlimm: Absolutely, I wanted to not only create the party in a book but a party that everyone would welcome that, whether you are a lifelong vegan, an occasional visitor, or maybe you’re just hungry. My door is open.
Caryn Hartglass: Everyone’s always hungry.
John Schlimm: My door or book cover as it is is always open to everyone to come on in and just have fun.
Caryn Hartglass: Looking at some very interesting numbers and this should bode well for the sale of your book and that is Vegetarian Resource Group just came out with the results of the Harris Poll, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but apparently 3% of the men in the U.S. are vegan, 2% of women, and those are pretty big numbers for us. It’s definitely increasing and there are many people that are acknowledging they eat less meat, less chicken, less fish, and all of that is great. It’s great for our health, it’s great for the environment, it’s great for the animals, and it’s great for vegan cookbook sales.
John Schlimm: Absolutely, I think documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Vegucated they’ve helped so much, nationally as well as having people like Bill Clinton and Ozzy Osbourne for heaven’s sake come out and say that they’re transitioning to a plant based lifestyle. It’s just a wonderful time to be in this world.
Caryn Hartglass: Your bio says you’ve got a Masters at Harvard, what was it in?
John Schlimm: In education.
Caryn Hartglass: In education, very good, was that a while ago or recently?
John Schlimm: I graduated in 2002 so not too long ago.
Caryn Hartglass: Were you vegetarian, vegetarian-inclined, at all?
John Schlimm: I actually wasn’t but certainly I saw that influence around me there and I think it just sort of added to my own pathway to getting to this point which is great. I think we’re seeing that across college campuses everywhere and it’s so exciting to me that this option is now available to students.
Caryn Hartglass: Well your book kind of has a frat boy party flavor which is kind of fun. I was just wondering about that.
John Schlimm: I actually drank a lot when I was at Harvard, it was a huge party school.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s amazing we all graduate from college, or those that do, because there is so much partying going on. You mentioned in your acknowledgement the thing that turned you over to the big V side was page 266 of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals. I got that book and I’m open to the page and this is an amazing book. When people talk about John Robbins back in 1987 writing the groundbreaking best seller Diet for New America, I think Jonathan Safran Foer’s book is the next of the next groundbreaking book that ties it all together in a really beautiful, human way.
John Schlimm: I absolutely agree, I’m reading through the book and of course just growing more and more horrified, really educating me about that I did not know before and in a beautiful way and I hit page 266 where he’s talking about Thanksgiving turkeys and let’s just basically call it what it is: they’re unloved. That it was that word unloved, I immediately got a highlighter and highlighted it, got a pen and circled it.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m circling it right now.
John Schlimm: I never want to forget that because at its very core, these animals on these factory farms are unloved and that just breaks my heart every day.
Caryn Hartglass: The theme of Thanksgiving is giving and being thankful and feeling all this love and it’s just so much hypocrisy right on the table.
John Schlimm: That’s right and I thought no living being, human or animal should ever go through this life unloved. It was that one word that really just revolutionized my life and I’ll forever be grateful for it. You look at the dedication in The Tipsy Vegan I allude back to that.
Caryn Hartglass: Has anyone else in your family shifted and made this transition?
John Schlimm: Not shifted to a complete plant based diet but it began in a really interesting to see my closest friend who announced eating more veggie burgers instead of beef burgers, instead of chicken they’re devouring those meatless nuggets that you get in stores. They’re slowly getting there and that’s been really fantastic and now they’ll text me pictures of meals they’re making with the veggie burgers, tofu and it’s just an exciting time.
Caryn Hartglass: You grew up in a beer brewing environment which is really fascinating. I’m just curious about that, can you tell us a little bit about it?
John Schlimm: My family is one of the oldest brewing families in the U.S. like you said. Our Straub Brewery here in Pennsylvania was founded by my great great grandfather Peter Straub in the 1870s and so today, we are one of the few remaining breweries to still be owned and operated by the founding family. So the charities we take very seriously and for me it inspired me to write a couple beer cookbooks a few years ago. That was my first foray into boozy food if you will. It’s just been sort of a great and fun ride. I’m always active, I’d work at the brewery which I don’t. My cousins I think that if they put me on the assembly line it would turn into the thing from I Love Lucy with the chocolate factory and it would all go crazy so they’re very happy to send me off to do my book tours and all of that. I’m more than happy to go, but I also do a lot of charity work on behalf of the brewery and my family so we’ve all found our niche.
Caryn Hartglass: A couple of my college buddies, I have a masters in chemical engineering so we used to always talk about how things were done. We were always fascinated by beer foam. We would always get into lots of discussions about beer foam and there’s quite a lot of technology behind beer foam.
John Schlimm: Well the whole thing is such a chemistry and in fact just in the last few years the brewery has installed a lab to test the beer and everything and I just walked in there and it just blows me away how fantastic it is. My mind doesn’t work in that direction but I can certainly appreciate what goes into it.
Caryn Hartglass: Has anyone ever asked you, I’ve gotten this question a few times when I tell people I’m vegan, some people question they ask, “Is yeast vegan, can you eat yeast?”
John Schlimm: I haven’t actually gotten that question. I pretty much get, “Well what can you eat?”
Caryn Hartglass: That’s a tiring question, but it just shows how our minds have been so programmed around animal foods that we can’t even imagine spaghetti with tomato sauce as vegan.
John Schlimm: It’s very simple and again, The Tipsy Vegan I hope will show people we indeed eat a lot and we indeed eat quite well.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk a little bit about this book. One thing I like about it is we need more guy-oriented books in the vegan world. There’s a few of them that have come out and I just love books that come out that appeal to different groups of people because I’m on the mission to get everybody loving plant foods and anyway we can do it is great and so there are different niches that appeal to different people. This would definitely appeal to a certain group of people, the fun ones.
John Schlimm: Yes, the party people as you call them.
Caryn Hartglass: People have been cooking with alcohol for a very long time and one of the things that I like about it, I don’t like to use oil very much when I’m sautéing and so alcohol, wine, is just a wonderful thing to add flavor to food and to sauté in.
John Schlimm: It absolutely is and especially this time of the year when all of us are getting tons of bottles of wine and everything else as gifts some of which you may not exactly want to drink is perfect for cooking. It doesn’t have to go to waste, you don’t need to regift it, you may not even want to regift it, you can use it to cook with. So it is fantastic for all those gifts that we’re going to be getting.
Caryn Hartglass: Were you always into cooking?
John Schlimm: I’ve always been into eating. I’m not a chef, I love to eat and I think it’s really from that perspective, the perspective of the eater and the perspective of the host or hostess that I write these books and have the most fun with them. I think that’s why they have the bent that they do. Both my parents are fantastic cooks so I grew up watching them and learning from them. Now I’ve just sort of put my own spin on it.
Caryn Hartglass: Certainly looks like you know what you’re doing, the pictures are beautiful and the recipes are pretty tasty.
John Schlimm: Of course, getting to the book, they have to be the best recipes of the lot because I really want people to enjoy them.
Caryn Hartglass: One of the ones that I’m looking at, you’ve got some really cute two little titles here, the hangover tofu omelet with sautéed chopped bell pepper filling. Omelets are something that we don’t see very much in the vegan world because it’s somewhat of a challenge but this looks like a pretty good recipe.
John Schlimm: There are only going to be two or three tofu recipes in the book because, again, I wanted this book to appeal to a really broad range and I think a lot of vegan cookbooks they rely so heavily on the standby tofu, tempeh, seitain, but at the same time for all those people who say, “Enough tofu! I don’t like that.” I wanted to show, this is the way you will definitely like it.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny, the first time I ever had tofu I was in college and this is a very long time ago, and I wanted to like it and it was all in my head, I made this dish and I mashed it until it was practically invisible but it was just something, this thing inside that went “ugh tofu.” It’s really rather childish the way we respond to food that we don’t know about.
John Schlimm: That’s true but you know I’ve loved tofu from the first time I’ve tried it. So I’m one of those rare creatures I think because you just don’t find too many people who have liked it from the start. They’ve either had to acquire the taste or find that one recipe that they love. My first foray into tofu occurred even before I transitioned to a plant based diet. There’s a favorite Chinese restaurant of mine here and I’ve always loved to eat the Hunan chicken. So I went in and said, “Could you put the tofu in instead of the chicken?” and they did it was the most amazing dish. Now even you asked about my friends and family, when my friends go with me, they order as well, so I said to the waitress, you really need to put this on your menu.
Caryn Hartglass: Well it’s an odd twist but the Chinese were originally cooking with more tofu than they were with flesh. Moving to the United States, everything has been so flesh oriented that they’ve adjusted many of their recipes that probably originally were with tofu. So there’s something that you have in here that I’m really nutty about and I’m looking for what you’ve called it, the fried avocado. What was that?
John Schlimm: The classic party starters?
Caryn Hartglass: It was like a breaded fried, here it is: the fried avocado came to town. This is a crazy, crazy recipe. I love cooked avocado. It has such an incredible flavor, it’s almost like crack to me. I don’t do it very often because it’s just too crazy but you don’t see cooked avocado very often.
John Schlimm: You don’t and it’s such a brilliant food and I think it’s another one that some people are just kind of afraid of. My solution was let’s add a little tequila and make it a little less frightening for people. That’s actually one of the recipes people on Twitter and Facebook are telling me they are really enjoying that recipe so that makes me feel good. Anytime tequila’s involved, it can’t be so bad.
Caryn Hartglass: Are you a big drinker? Just curious.
John Schlimm: I may have to plead the fifth on that one. When I go out, I do love to drink. I love extra dirty vodka martini. Of course I love beer, my family’s brewery does a dark beer which I’m just over the moon about. Really, when I go out, it’s dirty vodka martinis. In fact, I just spent the last weekend in New York which I think is where you are, you’re from New York, celebrating my birthday weekend and when I eat with friends and when I left I don’t think there was a drop of vodka left in the city. We had a good time.
Caryn Hartglass: This is the greatest city in the world and probably the greatest place to find all kinds of food including amazing vegan foods. Did you go to any of our wonderful restaurants?
John Schlimm: Yes, in fact my friend cooked me a, I hope I get the name correct, to a fantastic Indian restaurant called <a href=”http://www.tiffindelivery.us/” target=_blank”>Tiffin Wallah</a>? Or Wallah Tiffin, one or the other.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s so many of these here in New York.
John Schlimm: I can’t even tell you where it is because when I’m in New York I just follow my friends.
Caryn Hartglass: Is it vegetarian?
John Schlimm: Yes, the whole restaurant is vegetarian. I kept going down the menu and I kept asking the waiter, “now this doesn’t have any meat in it does it?” and my friends are like this is a vegetarian restaurant.
Caryn Hartglass: Sometimes we’re ingrained in that habit. When you’re in a place that’s all vegan it’s sometimes incomprehensible but it’s delightful.
John Schlimm: Especially coming from a small town where when I go to a restaurant here, even the salads are loaded with meat so they kind of look at me funny when I say, “Can you just not put the fish, or the steak, or the chicken on the salad and give me the green.” and they’re just like, “what?”
Caryn Hartglass: Slowly, slowly information’s getting out that we need to eat more vegetables and salad’s healthy but somehow salad isn’t healthy unless it has grilled chicken on it. I don’t know there that message came from but it’s very popular.
John Schlimm: Or overload it with French fries which are certainly vegan enough to eat that I’ve never ended up with French fries on top of salads.
Caryn Hartglass: Beware because French fries can have beef flavoring and all kinds of nasty things. I’m looking on the Barnivore site (www.barnivore.com) which you mention in your book as a place to discover which alcohol and beverages are vegan because not all alcohol is vegan, you talk about that in your book. I see Straub Beer on the vegan friendly list, was it always vegan friendly?
John Schlimm: It has been. It’s interesting, I hadn’t really even thought about and I don’t think a lot of people have, whether alcohol is vegan or not before I really got into writing this book. I just assumed what could be in vodka or wine or beer or whatever until I learned some beers and wines are processed using fish bladders and other nasty things. So not necessarily about what the ingredients are but how it’s actually made. Then I thought oh my gosh I hope our beer in the brewery is vegan. So I slowly typed in the name and it came up vegan friendly, oh thank goodness I would have had a serious talk with my cousins up there. I actually afterwards did call our new brew master and said I just want to confirm that this is correct and he’s like, “Yes, there are no animal products used,” and I’m like “thank goodness, that’s going to save us face.”
Caryn Hartglass: You bring up a very good point and something that I like to talk about a lot on this show: we really need to be mindful about so many things. There’s just so many things we take for granted. We don’t know what’s in our food, we don’t know how things are made and when that happens horrible things can happen. Using egg whites or fish bladders to make alcohol beverages when clay or other natural plant, not animal things can be used. How did we get there? Who thinks of these things?
John Schlimm: Well it just blows me away that specifically, with the alcohol, that there are still companies that would use animal products when there are so many others that don’t and it would seem to me it’s quite easy to not use animal products and I think it’s really to their detriment and they’re sort of cutting off what could be a huge chunk of their audience by doing that.
Caryn Hartglass: As the seven and a half million of us become more savvy about what’s in our alcohol, it’ll make a difference. I still think most people and most vegans probably don’t realize a lot of their wine and beer, or some of it isn’t.
John Schlimm: I agree, I don’t think they do and I think that in sort of a gentle way, The Tipsy Vegan will sort of start alerting people to pay more attention to the alcohol that they’re consuming and cooking with.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t want to be the vegan police, but I love people to enjoy themselves and not worry about it, but it’s really when we talk about the big pictures of what people want to eat plant based foods, I think this is a small piece of a bigger puzzle so I wouldn’t sweat over it if you’re having wine and you’re not sure whether it was distilled with egg whites or not. I don’t think that’s a big deal. But it’s certainly great that there’s a website you can go to: barnivore.com to check it out.
John Schlimm: I completely agree.
Caryn Hartglass: So where do you want The Tipsy Vegan to go?
John Schlimm: I want it to go to every party in the country because I want people to just have fun, fun, fun with it. Again on Twitter and Facebook, I hear from so many people that they’re using this book to set their menu themes for their holiday parties. I actually just did an exclusive holiday cocktail party for vegnews.com. I know a lot of your listeners listen so they can go to that they can see a special menu that’s not in the book on there. People are telling me that they’re using, since the book is a great little small book that fits in stockings and backpacks, they’re giving the book as a host and hostess gift this season.
Caryn Hartglass: Perfect size, perfect season, it’s really fun and it’s great because it’s not a scary book that non vegetarians would be scared about. It’s humorous and it’s all good, well done!
John Schlimm: There’s nothing scary about me, I just want to have fun and party.
Caryn Hartglass: We love VegNews, we were selected as one of the ten nonprofits you need to know about this year in the best of 2011 so I like to share that and spread that around and repeat it over and over. Well John, thanks. This is great and it’s great talking to you, perhaps one day we can share a vegan beer.
John Schlimm: Oh I’ll bring some of my family’s that we can share. I wish you and your listeners a happy holidays and I hope that they’re also quite buzzworthy.
Caryn Hartglass: But don’t be a tipsy vegan and drive.
John Schlimm: No, no! Be a responsible tipsy vegan. Stay over wherever you are, then you can imbibe even more.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I don’t think people can get too sloshed on any of these recipes there’s really just small amounts and they just make it fun and flavorful.
John Schlimm: That’s right, absolutely. Of course every chapter starts with a cocktail but that’s where you have to watch.
Caryn Hartglass: Well very, very happy holidays to you. Is there a website people can go to for this book and others?
John Schlimm: Absolutely, they can go to johnschlimm.com and there they can [interact with me] also with Twitter and Facebook.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, have a very, very, tipsy, happy holiday! Thanks John!
John Schlimm: You too, Caryn, thank you so much.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’re listening to It’s All About Food, we’re going to take a little break and then we’ll be back with Terry Hope Romeo and Isa Chandra Moskowitz talking about Vegan Pie In the Sky.
Transcribed by Meichin, 7/27/2013