Patti Breitman, Marin Vegetarian Education Group
Patti Breitman is the co-author of How To Eat Like a Vegetarian Even If You Never Want To Be One, and How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty. She is the founder and director of Marin Vegetarian Education Group, a former food columnist for the magazine VegNews. She’s a publishing consultant to many of the vegetarian world’s best known leaders including Howard Lyman, John Robbins, the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s founder Dr. Neal Barnard, PETA’s founder Ingrid Newkirk, Alan Goldhammer and Victoria Moran.
Hi, I’m Caryn Hartglass and this is It’s All About Food. Thanks for joining me today. I’m really looking forward to the show today. I’m always looking forward to my show because I get to talk to so many wonderful people—people who are doing phenomenal things for the planet, working tirelessly to make this place a better world for ourselves and for our children and all life on earth.
Caryn Hartglass: Today I’m going to be speaking with Patti Breitman. I can’t say enough about her. This is a very high energy individual who is tireless and working nonstop for the mission to make this planet a better place for humans and for animals, promoting plant-based diet. She is the co-author of How To Eat Like a Vegetarian Even If You Never Want To Be One, as well as How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty. She is the founder and director of Marin Vegetarian Education Group, a former food columnist for the magazine VegNews and she’s a publishing consultant to many of the vegetarian world’s best known leaders including Howard Lyman, John Robbins, the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s founder Dr. Neal Barnard, PETA’s founder Ingrid Newkirk, Alan Goldhammer and Victoria Moran who will be our guest next week. Patti, are you there?
Patti Breitman: I am here, hi Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, thank you so much for talking with me today. I’m really looking forward to this show.
Patti Breitman: Thank you, it’s my pleasure. Can I say something about EarthSave before I start?
Caryn Hartglass: Oh sure.
Patti Breitman: I just want to say I’m so thrilled to be interviewed on an EarthSave channel because EarthSave the channel because EarthSave, the organization, was the first ever to point out the importance of our food choices in the effect on climate change and now it’s in headlines and everyone’s talking about it but EarthSave was doing this more than a decade ago.
Caryn Hartglass: Weren’t you one of the original volunteers and directors for EarthSave?
Patti Breitman: Not really, no. I had an EarthSave chapter very briefly when the Marin Vegetarian Education Group was floundering we became an EarthSave chapter and thrived again but then things changed and we became the Marin Vegetarian Education Group again. I’ve been a supporter of EarthSave and a member of EarthSave since the beginning and I just think the organization is brilliant because it was the first to start talking about “it’s not just our health, it’s not just the animals”.
Caryn Hartglass: I really appreciate you bringing that up because it’s exciting and frustrating at the same time because we’re reading all this stuff about climate change, over and over. People are talking about it, it’s all over the place and we were talking about it, as you said, twenty years ago when John’s first book came out, Diet For A New America and yet still you don’t hear about animal agriculture and you don’t hear about how the best thing each of us can do individually is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products.
Patti Breitman: I heard a great phrase in the move The Cove. I saw The Cove last night. I recommend it for everyone. It’s about dolphins in captivity and dolphins slaughtered for food. It’s a beautiful movie. I think it’s more entertaining than Food Inc. Anyway, there was a great line in it. Somebody said you’re either an activist or you’re an inactivist. I think just by choosing plant foods, even if we do it just one meal a day—by not having animal protein at every meal we’re all activists.
Caryn Hartglass: A rephrasing of “you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem”.
Patti Breitman: Right. I heard that during the Vietnam War. I like the you’re either an activist or inactivist and people are just eating the same way they ate when growing up because that’s just so familiar and it’s hard to change, to me you’re an activist.
Caryn Hartglass: What I like to do on this show is I like to start out and find out a little bit about the person I’m speaking with and how you got on the path that you are on today.
Patti Breitman: How did I get on the path? I was an editor in New York for Warner Books, a company that doesn’t exist any more. It’s been bought by a French company called Hachette. Anyway we published a book called Fit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond.
Caryn Hartglass: I know that book.
Patti Breitman: That was either 1984 or 1985. It’s amazing to me that as recently as 1984 I had no clue that our food affected our health. It was brand new information to me. I had been eating cottage cheese for breakfast every morning because I thought it was good for me. I hated cottage cheese so I used to drown it in honey so it would go down easier but I thought it was healthy for me. I read that book and I suddenly realized, “oh my goodness, food is powerful”. Food makes a difference in which diseases we get—not even diseases but what ailments happen, acne and obesity and broken nails and split ends on my hair. It was like a miracle. I went on this program because I was editing the book and all of a sudden I lost weight, my skin cleared up, my hair got thicker, my nails stopped breaking. I was just dumbfounded. So that was my first step into vegetarianism was with Fit For Life.
Caryn Hartglass: And that was back in 1984.
Patti Breitman: It was in ’84 that I read the manuscript, yeah. That was brand new news to me. The fact that food had anything to do with health was new to me. Then, when I moved to California in 1986 everyone told me “you have to read John Robbins’ book, you have to read Diet For A New America”. So I read it and my jaw dropped. From the day I finished the book I gave up all the animal products. It wasn’t easy. The first few weeks were hard. All I had to do was keep in mind the images of what’s done to dairy cows and the male offspring of the dairy cows and the fact that they have to stay pregnant and have babies so that the milk will keep coming. All I had to do was think of the cows and it helped me and within three weeks I no longer missed dairy. I have to say it became much easier when I discovered Jo Stepaniak.
Caryn Hartglass: We just talked with her a couple of weeks ago—her Uncheese Cookbook.
Patti Breitman: The Uncheese Cookbook has changed the world for me. It is the most fabulous book, I’ll tell you. One of the reasons I wrote How To Eat Like A Vegetarian was I wanted to tell the world about all my favorite recipes and other cookbooks I love so rather than re-invent the wheel a lot of the recipes in our book are original but most of them are from our favorite cookbooks.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh great.
Patti Breitman: So Jo Stepaniak is a hero of mine because she made it so easy to have the texture and flavor of cheese without the cruelty of cheese.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
Patti Breitman: …and without the saturated fat of cheese and all the other bad things about cheese.
Caryn Hartglass: You bring up an important point: A lot of people have a really hard time giving up certain foods. The thing that worked for me, I think works for a lot of people, is you change the sensation or the feeling you have about that food. So a lot of foods are comfort foods, we get this comforting feeling, but if you look at the food and think of all the horror that’s behind it, you rescript your feeling about it. It becomes automatic.
Patti Breitman: Absolutely. Jo Stepaniak’s book, The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, can give you the texture and the flavor and the comfort and familiar feeling of that food, if it has dairy in it. She has great substitutes. Some are made with beans and some are made with tofu and some are made with nutritional yeast and some are made with nuts. She gives you all those flavors and textures so you don’t really have to give up your favorite cheesy foods. You just give up the cheese itself.
Caryn Hartglass: All the people that I talk about it, we all have one thing in common: We’re all real excited about food and the food that we eat and how fabulous it is. We just want everybody else to get it because we’re having such a great time with the food that we’re eating.
Patti Breitman: Yeah, one of the reasons I wrote the book was because I can’t tell you how many people have either gone to a vegetarian restaurant with me or have had a dinner I’ve prepared for them and they’ve said “wow, this is good I’d eat this way all the time if…” and you can finish that sentence in one of many ways: “…if you would cook for me”, or “if it would tastes like this all the time” or “if it didn’t take so much time” or “if I didn’t have to chop and shop so much”. So I wrote the book for all those people. OK, you don’t have to chop and shop all that much and you can eat this way all the time and it’s not that hard. In fact, I swear if I can learn to prepare food anyone can. I was the worst cook in the world. My sister still makes fun of how bad I was. I once boiled eggs, when I was eating eggs, and I wanted hardboiled eggs and when I took them out of the water and I opened them they weren’t done enough. I didn’t know you could put them back in and boil them longer. I threw them all out. I once baked brownies and forgot to put the vanilla in so I took them out of the oven and just poured vanilla all over the top. It was horrible. It was like pouring alcohol all over everything.
Caryn Hartglass: I see people do that, where they pour rum or something over a cake.
Patti Breitman: This was not rum. It’s the most bitter tasting thing you’ve ever had. Don’t drink vanilla extract plain. The fact is I didn’t know how to cook. I didn’t like cooking. I wasn’t good at it. As soon as I discovered plant-based cooking I was a big enthusiast. I learned everything I could.
Caryn Hartglass: I have not read that book but is your goal to get people interested in vegetarian food? Is it to make everyone vegetarian? What’s the goal in the book?
Patti Breitman: The goal is to get anyone who thinks it’s too hard to give up that image of vegetarian eating. In fact, recipes are not even my favorite part of the book. My favorite part of the book is the front has over 200 lists. They’re not recipes at all, they’re just lists, like ten ways to use your favorite salsa. Buy salsa in a jar and here are ten ideas for how to use it—as a dip, instead of a salad dressing, on a baked potato, a topping for beans, grilled veggies and top it with salsa. We have lists of so many different things—ten different things you can do with chickpeas.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really a good idea because so many people are in this rut where they’re eating the same foods all the time. If they would only just—I hate using that expression—get outside of that little box.
Patti Breitman: It gives people ideas. The book was written to encourage people. Try something new, one new thing a day, a week. If you go to the farmer’s market once a week and buy a vegetable you’ve never seen before. Talk to the guy who’s selling it about how to use it, Google it, go on the computer or use any search engine to find out how do you use rutabaga, how do you use summer squash. Find a new recipe and try it. If you don’t like recipes you can just eat the stuff. So much food is edible that we think you have to prepare.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. I love just raw corn on the cob.
Patti Breitman: Oh yes, it’s delicious if it’s fresh.
Caryn Hartglass: If it’s fresh and it’s a good corn. It’s great raw, you just crunch right into it.
Patti Breitman: I’ll tell you a secret that’s really, really fast. If I’m in a hurry and I have to go in the car and I need something to eat really quickly… I used to use peanut butter and jelly as like a fast sandwich but I’ve improved on that. I still use the peanut butter but I smear it on a collard leaf. Take the center stem out, put peanut butter on a collard leaf and roll it up.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good and you know what’s really good about that? You probably know this but the dark leafy green vegetables are so important in our diet but a lot of the nutrients are fat soluble. So a lot of people eat their salad with a fat-free dressing and they’re not getting the nutrients from the salad.
Patti Breitman: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: You need some fat.
Patti Breitman: The peanut butter is fatty and also if I’m using kale or chard, any kind of salad, I will always add an avocado or some other delicious naturally high fat food rather than the oil.
Caryn Hartglass: So the right fats and the good fats, we need them.
Patti Breitman: Whole food fats. Someone should right a book Whole Food Fats about the joys of olives and avocados and coconut, all the other whole food fats—nuts, seeds.
Caryn Hartglass: We also need the New Fast Food book because there’s lots of foods that are fast that are nutritious. I used to talk about my version of fast food was to run into a supermarket, go to the produce section and grab a few things really quickly, like the bag of pre-washed greens, a bag of raw nuts and maybe some bananas and whatever caught my eye at the moment and run out and eat it. It was fast.
Patti Breitman: I’ve seen there are some recipe books out there about really fast meals. Some of them I think are plant-based. One of my favorite secrets is miso, miso soup. When you go to a Japanese restaurant you have to order it and wait for it and they bring it to the table and you eat it. It takes less time to make it than to order it in a restaurant.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
Patti Breitman: All it is, is boiling water, you boil it first and pour it over miso and stir, that’s it. You can add little cubes of tofu, you can add any chopped vegetables you want but it’s basically hot water and miso.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a lot of flavor in miso and a lot of good B vitamins.
Patti Breitman: Anyway, my book’s recipes are all fast and easy and delicious. We got permission and borrowed them from some of my favorite cookbooks.
Caryn Hartglass: And if people want to get them is that just amazon.com or is there a website you recommend?
Patti Breitman: They can get it from PCRM, Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine are selling it in their store so pcrm.org. That’s one of my favorite organizations– Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. I wanted to mention my favorite part of the book, isn’t the recipes, it’s the lists that I mentioned, but it’s also the section marked “The Life Saving, Time Saving, No Recipe Dinner Formula”. People think you need a recipe to make dinner and everyone’s overcome with “I don’t have a recipe for millet, I don’t have a recipe for brown rice”. Basically we have three columns. Which is the base for the dish, the veggies you can put on top of the base and the toppings. We try to teach people when you’re thinking about dinner, it used to be you want fish, you want chicken, you want beef, what do you want for dinner? Now we’re teaching people to replace that with, do you feel like pasta, potato or grain. You can make any dish around pasta, potato and grain. Sweet potatoes and yams are even better than regular potatoes but any potato is good for you. If you read John McDougall’s newsletter he just sings the praise of the potato.
Caryn Hartglass: I know, ‘pataytah, pataytah’ – he’s the starch man.
Patti Breitman: Anyway, potatoes or any grain or any pasta, preferably a whole grain pasta but even if you just have semolina pasta it’s the base for a meal that’s primarily vegetables and then a topping on top of that.
Caryn Hartglass: And there are even gluten free pastas out there for all the people that are getting hit with Celiac Disease these days.
Patti Breitman: Indeed. You know what’s so interesting to me? More and more pizza places are now offering…at least in the Bay Area, I don’t know about the rest of the world, I know New York and I know the Bay Area now has a number of pizza places that offer vegan cheese on the pizza.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow. I have not seen that.
Patti Breitman: Oh I have. I’ll tell you where to go.
Caryn Hartglass: OK.
Patti Breitman: Rynn Berry has A Vegan Guide to New York City.
Caryn Hartglass: I know one place in New York.
Patti Breitman: The one on Broadway in the 90’s has a vegan pizza. In the Bay Area there are quite a few. In fact, what’s funny I was going to say, now that we have the vegan pizza, I’m hearing people say “yeah but when are they going to have a wheat-free version”. We keep making inroads and then new demands come up. We’re working on it.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s all about supply and demand, that’s certainly true.
Patti Breitman: That’s something else. I’m concerned about shy people who want to eat well. Because if you’re very shy you’re afraid to say to the waiter, “Does that have any butter? Can I have it with olive oil instead?” And you’re afraid to say, “Can you please leave off the chicken, can I just have the Asian Noodle Salad without the chicken, maybe you can substitute some avocado?” The people who are shy don’t ask for what they want so the change can’t happen because they don’t think there’s the demand.
Caryn Hartglass: You bring up a very good point and I talked about this a little bit with Joanne Stepaniak a few shows ago because she has her column “Ask Jo” and a lot of people ask her what to do in certain situations. I’ve seen that a lot. I had mentioned that I had never had a problem because I’m loud and aggressive and I’m not shy…
Patti Breitman: That’s why we get along so well. There are a lot of shy people out there and I recommend—I even mention this in the book—How To Eat Like A Vegetarian. I recommend if you are shy and intimidated asking for what you want in a restaurant try joining Toastmasters. It’s a wonderful national organization that helps you overcome your shyness. It helps you speak to crowds and to other people and it’s very supportive. I know a number of people who go to our local chapter. They are delightful supportive people who are all there to help one another get better at speaking up.
Caryn Hartglass: And you’re going to solve a lot of problems not just your food issues but everything in life will get easier when you learn how to ask for what you need. That’s a really good idea.
Patti Breitman: I’m a big fan of Toastmasters even though I don’t think I’ve needed it. Victoria Moran mentioned something in one of her books—I think Creating a Charmed Life, her last book. She mentions the idea of the free square. In a bingo card there’s a free square in the middle. You don’t have to wait for a number, you just get it automatically, everyone can just fill it in. She said each of us is born with a free square—meaning that we’re each born with something we’re naturally good at. Something that just comes easily to us like some people can sing. They have beautiful perfect pitch voices and they’ve just always been able to sing. Other people say “wow you sing so well” and they say “oh, I could always do that”. It’s whatever you dismiss with an “oh, I could always do that”. Everyone does have a free square. Everyone. And if you can recognize what yours is then you don’t have to waste time developing it or taking courses with or fretting over it. You can enjoy it and put your energy toward learning something you’re not that good at. Like if you’re not a good cook you can learn how to be a good cook. Some people were just born in the kitchen and grew up knowing how to throw things together and others weren’t and they can buy my book. But they may be really good at something else. They may be fabulous gardeners or they may be fabulous runners or they may be natural friends who listen so well. This is all from Victoria, I’m paraphrasing her and she’ll speak to that when she’s your guest. I love all of her books. The idea that we have a free square and speaking happens to be mine. I’ve always been a loud mouth. I’ve always been unafraid to speak my mind. And it’s served me well because I can say “Does that have chicken? Please hold the chicken and put avocado instead.”
Caryn Hartglass: When people are trying to change their diet a lot of other things come up. Things that they’re insecure about in other areas of the world of their lives come up and it makes it more challenging. So if they have issues dealing with their partner or their parents those things are highlighted and exaggerated…
Patti Breitman: Even if they don’t have problems, even if they get along splendidly with their parents, when you tell someone the way they’ve been eating their whole life could be improved, it’s almost like an indirect insult to their mother. Even if they get along perfectly with their mother, you’re saying your mother did it wrong.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Patti Breitman: But we all did it wrong. We learn as we go. It’s a very emotional thing to say “You might want to think about changing the way you eat.” I can give you an analogy not about food that I recognized this morning in my own life. I remember when my father used to cut the lawn at our house. I grew up in a suburb on Long Island and we had a tiny little property. Every house was right against the next one but we each had a small yard in front. My father would mow the lawn and he would leave the grass there when he mowed it, just let it sit. Which is one theory, one way of doing it. Years later, decades later, somebody told me you should pick up the blades of grass after they’re cut and either put them in compost or take them away so the grass will be healthier. And I thought “No way”. When I examined my reaction to someone telling me that I realized it was based on “But that’s not the way it was done in the home where I grew up. That’s not what daddy did. That’s not the way my father did it so it must be wrong.” I’m thinking my father had to be right. I grew up watching the TV show “Father Knows Best”. I realize when you’re telling people about food the natural reaction is “That can’t be right, it’s not the way I did it.” My family was doing it the right way because that’s all I knew.
Caryn Hartglass: It gets right to our foundation.
Patti Breitman: I find it really interesting how resistant people are and then, it’s so funny because once people get the big picture and see the benefits for the planet and for animals and for our own health. Once people make the switch and they’re eating primarily a plant-based diet suddenly we become the most ardent advocates for it.
Caryn Hartglass: I know.
Patti Breitman: The most ardent advocates aren’t the ones who grew up this way they’re those who discovered it after decades of eating animals and suddenly “Oh my God. Now that I’m not complicit I can see what’s really going on. I can bear witness to the atrocities done in my name and I’m going to speak out about it.”
Caryn Hartglass: But it’s funny some of the people that I’ve had really lively arguments with at one point or another then they come over to my side and they become even more passionate about plant-based eating and it’s just amusing to watch but it’s also beautiful.
Patti Breitman: It is beautiful. I think the science is in. There’s no debate really that it’s very healthy to eat…even the people who still eat meat and think it’s ok to eat meat—I don’t agree with that—but people who say that…even they will say eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is the key to good health.
Caryn Hartglass: We’ve definitely moved to a better place. For me it’s not fast enough of course but we’ve seen a lot of progress. There’s more foods in the supermarket that are clearly veg friendly. We have lots of tofu and tempeh and soy milk and other nondairy milks that are available, all kinds of wonderful foods in most supermarkets all over the United States. That’s a good thing and people are buying them. And the word “vegetarian” and “vegan” are not these foreign strange things any more. You know we’ve made some headway where we’re kind of acceptable in the community. There are more movies and television shows—I think because a lot of actors are vegetarian—that say something or include a character that has something with vegetarianism. So it’s getting out there, it’s all good. You’ve mentioned and we might talk more about it, people are more accepting but they’re not willing to go all the way. So there’s still this tentative thing.
Patti Breitman: I’m of two minds about that. On the one hand if everyone who’s still eating the standard American diet went one day a week without animal products that would save a lot of animals. It’s not good enough for me. I’d prefer everyone to go vegan. If you look at the numbers if everyone would just go vegan one day of the week a number of things would happen: We’d save animals; their health would be improved 1/7th because one out of seven days they wouldn’t be running saturated fats through their system and cholesterol. I think what it would do is show them “hey this is pretty good, I could do this more than one day a week”.
Caryn Hartglass: That they could do it.
Patti Breitman: That they can do it. Once people see that they can do it I think they might be encouraged to do it more often. We’ve gone from a period when people said “Ew you’re a vegan, where do you get your protein?” They still say that but we’ve gone from that to “Oh, I’m almost a vegan. I hardly ever eat red meat.”
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Patti Breitman: People now want to be in on it, it’s sort of become cool to be somebody who is not eating a lot of animal corpses. It’s become the thing people want to do. In fact, what’s ticking me off these days is this so-called healthcare debate that’s raging in Washington because I’m an English major and I really admire the use of words correctly. I can’t stand that they’re calling it a healthcare debate. What it is, is who’s going to pay for disease management debate.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
Patti Breitman: Because healthcare looks like broccoli. Healthcare looks like red cabbage. Healthcare looks like a bean burrito. Healthcare looks like a delicious food. Healthcare to me is the outer aisle of the supermarket or the farmer’s market or the natural food store. Healthcare is not about who’s going to pay when you need to repair your body because you’ve abused it. So I think we should be taxing cholesterol. We should be taxing saturated fat. We should be taxing transfat. We should be giving breaks on every kind of insurance to people who don’t eat products that are laden with them.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. It happened with cigarettes to some extent.
Patti Breitman: Look at what happened…everyone has to wear a helmet when they ride a motorcycle. Even people who don’t ride motorcycles pay for the cost of the ambulance in the town or the fire department that responds to an accident. Everyone in town is paying for the hospital whether or not we ever have to use it. Everyone who has insurance is subsidizing those who don’t wear seatbelts or use their helmets when they ride a motorcycle. It’s the same thing with this. We’re all paying the high cost of meat because as a society we’re having so many stents put in and bypass surgeries and bariatric surgery where they staple the stomach or bypass… So many people I know are struggling with issues of clogged arteries and obesity and diabetes. Everyone is treating it like a disease that needs drugs.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s frustrating from so many angles. Number one we know that most heart disease is reversible and preventable along with diabetes. All these people if they just went to a Dr. MacDougall workshop or on their own.
Patti Breitman: Which is expensive though. I mean if you see the movie Food Inc, it’s very expensive to eat a whole foods plant-based diet the way most people have been taught to do it. Rice and beans are cheap and the traditional diets around the world are very, very cheap and those people are very, very healthy. If all you ever ate was sweet potatoes, rice and beans with some broccoli thrown in every other day you’d be very, very healthy. It would get boring but there are so many different ways of preparing the healthy food…I know, I’m preaching to the converted here. I’m preaching to the choir.
Caryn Hartglass: Some listeners are not the converted. They need to hear your enthusiasm and your wisdom.
Patti Breitman: Thank you. I’m very enthusiastic about the power of a plant-based diet partially because I just returned from SummerFest. SummerFest is now my new favorite thing to do in the summer. SummerFest is the annual meeting of the North American Vegetarian Society and it’s held in Pennsylvania on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown, a beautiful campus. I just heard from a lot of people who have been given reports and studies—Michael Greger in particular. He’s the head physician. He’s the physician who works in public health for the Humane Society of the United States. Every year he goes through every published article in any peer reviewed journal in the world on nutrition and he summarizes it. All the findings, year after year after year consistently showing that a plant-based diet is way better than a processed food…a whole foods plant-based diet is so much better than processed food, it’s better than animal-based food. It’s better than fast food. A whole foods plant-based diet really and truly…all the literature is overwhelmingly showing that it’s the right thing to do to prevent a major, major expensive condition—from heart disease to diabetes to obesity to cancer…
Caryn Hartglass: And that’s just the health aspect.
Patti Breitman: That’s just health, exactly. EarthSave pulls it all together.
Caryn Hartglass: Because everybody has climate change on their tongue. The United Nations in 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization comes out and says 18% of human-induced global warming is caused by animal agriculture and scientists are believing it’s actually more now. There are so many reasons—health, environment and also those precious animals.
Patti Breitman: I want to point out too it’s not just factory farming which is the worst culprit—it’s disgusting, it’s despicable—I’m ashamed that as a human we’re doing this to animals but even the small scale so-called humane farmer or organic farmer. The very idea of animal agriculture to me seems misguided. It just seems misguided. And people say “I only eat happy meat” or “I only eat meat that’s humanely raised”. I say there’s no such thing. I think it’s a huge oxymoron to say humanely raised meat because even on the most so-called humane farm those animals are artificially-inseminated, the cows give birth over and over and over again so that they’ll give milk for a dairy farm, say. They’re still killed for meat. We’re raising animals, we’re bringing them into the world, we’re raising them and killing them so we can eat their flesh. There’s something not humane about that. Also the so-called laws that protect animals aren’t enforced. So even if you’re buying so-called free range chickens that means by law that they’re allowed to wander but they’re still in huge shed with tens of thousands of birds. The roof has to open for a few hours a day so they’re exposed to some sunlight. Yes it’s better than the caged birds but marginally so.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s not running around freely clucking away at a big grassy field with their friends.
Patti Breitman: They can’t scratch the way they naturally do. They can’t spread their wings the way they naturally do. They can’t establish a pecking order or take baths in the dust the way they normally do. Every natural instinct is still thwarted on these birds. When it comes to eggs, the hens that lay eggs, even the so-called humanely raised ones still come from hatcheries. The hatcheries still have no use for the males. If this is the hatchery that is producing layer hens to lay eggs, even if those hens are raised so-called humanely, the males as soon as they’re hatched are killed immediately. They’re either suffocated or ground up to be part of dog food or cat food or other pet food. They are of no use to the laying industry. So there’s cruelty inherent in animal agriculture even if it’s so-called humanely raised. It breaks my heart to see so many people who 20 years ago when they learned about the abuses of the animal industry would have said “I don’t want to do that I’ll become a vegan” now they say “I’m only going to eat humanely raised food”. That’s a very successful phrase that’s been introduced into the culture but it doesn’t represent reality. If you really want to be humane it’s good to ask somebody…when someone says to me “I only eat humanely raised food” I say tell me more about it. What’s humane about the process? Try to put the onus on them to explain why is that humane?
Caryn Hartglass: Right. I really agree with that approach because a lot of us can get so angry so fast and all of our emotion pours out and we attack and that totally turns the person off. If you just start curiously asking them I think they realize they get themselves into a circle. They can’t answer the question.
Patti Breitman: It’s a complicated issue for most of us because it is so deeply ingrained that milk is good for us. We grow up with it. Our mothers fed it to us. We think it is just so natural. The dairy industry spends billions of dollars every year to make it that ingrained in us.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes and they have done a phenomenal job.
Patti Breitman: An extraordinary job. They get the prize. They are the absolute best brain washing I have ever seen in my life, the best advertising campaign sustained over five or more decades. They’re phenomenal and yet…and yet…it’s such a cruel practice. Just in terms of taking the baby from its mother so that we can have the milk intended for the child.
Caryn Hartglass: I will never forget listening to Sesame Street when I was young and there was a show on dairy cows and the line was “the cow makes much too much milk for her young calf to drink.” Making you feel like there was this abundance of milk the cow was churning out so the little calf would drink and then there’d be all this leftover good stuff for us. Wrong.
Patti Breitman: It’s just so sad to me. It’s heartbreaking. When people start looking and seeing—it’s hard to do that while you’re still complicit, it’s hard to do that while you’re still loving the products in that industry—but when people really do look and see what’s really involved it’s not hard to give it up.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve had a lot of discussions about people asking about humane meat and from an environmental standpoint and what I thought of it. At one point I just had to do the math so I figured out the landmass that was required to raise animals “humanely” where they could be grazing the whole time and not be confined in factories. There is nowhere near the landmass necessary to grow the animals that we do today to do that in a “humane” fashion. Even if people were to eat meat (I hate using this word, can we come up with another one?) “humanely” they have to eat less. The bottom line is…
Patti Breitman: That’s what I said, if everyone on the planet gave up meat one day we’d be one seventh of the way there and it would make a huge impact.
Caryn Hartglass: If we got rid of factory farming—which should be illegal—tomorrow…
Patti Breitman: There’s a town in Ghent in Belgium that actually is making one day a week vegetarian, all of their public schools and all of their government offices are now required to go vegetarian one day a week because they know the impact it’s having on the environment—of eating meat.
Caryn Hartglass: There are a lot of exciting things happening in Europe, actually. So it’s exciting to hear about that.
Patti Breitman: What else is happening in Europe?
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it was during the Veggie Pride Parade in New York that I got to interview this one—what do they call her—she’s a member of the government in the Netherlands, and they have a Party for the Animals, Marianna Thieme.
Patti Breitman: You mean one of their political parties?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. And she got voted in, so there’s one representative, in the world, who is a political voice for the animals.
Patti Breitman: That’s fantastic. One of the things that really shocked me as an adult is I always presumed that if people saw an injustice in the world, they would do something to correct it. I always just presumed that people would not tolerate injustice. And I’m kind of heartbroken that it’s not necessarily the case. So it’s interesting that we approach some people with “you have to do it for the environment” and we approach other people with, “it’s not far to animals” and we approach other people with “you can save on medical bills and save on drugs and save on all of these diseases just by switching your diet.” It just breaks my heart that people are so slow to come around to it because we’re so ingrained in what’s familiar.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to get back to The Cove. And I’m going to lead into it by saying that part of the problem is that we’ve become very numbed by the media. We see so much violence, and with the technology today, they show all of this detail that we don’t need to see of the knife wounds and the blood gushing out and all of the bullets and we just get so numbed. You know me, I’m into theatre, and I prefer seeing theatre that leaves a lot of it to your imagination and it’s so much more powerful rather than seeing it. But we see all of this gore and all of this detail and it’s numbed us. And so now there are some movies coming out that are showing us a little different picture about what’s going on in the world. And you wanted to talk about The Cove.
Patti Breitman: I want to talk about The Cove because I grew up watching the TV show Flipper.
Caryn Hartglass: We all did, yes.
Patti Breitman: Yeah, we all did. Anyway, so Ric O’Barry was one of the stars of Flipper. He was Flipper’s major friend and trainer in the show. And he’s in this movie talking about how he has spent the last four decades trying to undo the damage that the TV show Flipper has done. People were so enamored with the dolphin – we think they’re always smiling and they’re always happy – it just happens to be the way their face is shaped! They are miserable in confinement, absolutely miserable. And when he did the Flipper show there were only two Sea Worlds in the United States, and now there are dozens of them all over the world. Dolphins are captured every year to be trained for all these entertainment parks and it’s so cruel to these animals because they can use sound the way we use sight. They use sound to see where things are and how things are and he describes how sensitive and how brilliant they are in the film. They can tell if somebody is pregnant; they can tell how far you are and they can tell how big you are – all from bouncing sound off you like a kind of radar or sonar, rather. Anyway, he talks about how insane they go in captivity. And they’re so intelligent, which is why they’re so trainable. It’s just sickening, but the movie, I was afraid to see the movie—I was afraid I would be too disgusted to watch it. It is so dramatic and suspenseful and entertaining. It’s really a fabulous movie. The only difficult part was the last ten minutes does show what happens to the dolphins who are captured and not chosen for entertainment. When they’re killed for food, you know about it through the movie but it’s actually shown in the last ten minutes of it. But it’s such an important film – to watch this Ric O’Barry – to see the lengths he’s going to try to get the world to pay attention to how cruel these practices are. It’s a beautiful movie, and that phrase, “You’re either an activist or an inactivist” really got to me. And I thought, all it takes to be an activist is to go to the website, savejapandolphins.org. It’s free; it takes no time at all; you send a letter to the president of the United States and to the Japanese embassy protesting the killing of dolphins. It takes about a second. You get to the website, it says, “I want to send the letter.” and you fill out your name and email, you say “Send.” That’s it. So there’s a lot you can do, even if you don’t want to see the movie but I highly recommend the movie. Savejapandolphins.org. It’s such an entertaining movie, though! I was afraid to watch it – I was afraid to go; I thought it would be gore and guts and blood. And except for the last ten minutes—and I closed my eyes for part of it, I will admit that—most of it is a suspenseful, intriguing, exciting adventure. If it were James Bond, everyone would go see it. But it’s real!
Caryn Hartglass: I definitely want to see the movie and everyone should go and see it. There are a number of different films—some of them are cartoons and some of them are real documentaries–that are starting to bring out what we’re doing to the environment, what we’re doing to a lot of other precious species, in a way that even… what was that cartoon with the penguins…
Patti Breitman: Oh, what was that, it was adorable.
Caryn Hartglass: It was about how they were running out of fish.
Patti Breitman: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: So there are a lot of them that are bringing up these very important points. I think it was in The Dominion… I forget where I read it… What the Japanese government response to our activism towards saving the dolphins is that we’re hypocrites because we’re torturing all of these other animals in factory farms, be it cows and pigs and other things. And I agree with that, and I want to save everything!
Patti Breitman: Of course, of course.
Caryn Hartglass: So I just wonder: how do we deal with that?
Patti Breitman: First of all, I don’t know if you know what mettā is; “meta” in the poly-language is “loving kindness” and it’s a practice of sending loving kindness. It’s sort of like a prayer but it’s not religious, it’s more wishing people well. Anytime you say, “May you be well,” “may you be happy,” “may you live in peace,” “may you be free of internal and external harm,” anytime you wish well-being to someone else, you’re sending mettā. And I learned this in my meditation practices.
Caryn Hartglass: I believe in that. I didn’t know it had a name, but I do that.
Patti Breitman: Mettā is loving kindness practice and you can send it to yourself, you can send it to the animals, you can send it to anyone who’s in need, or you can just send it to every living being, regardless of whether they’re harming animals or they are the animals being harmed. You could send it to everyone and everything. Anyway, the thought came in my head this morning with, “What can we do in the face of so much cruelty? What can we do in the face of so much degradation to our planet and to our bodies?” And the phrase came to me: “It’s about mettā and money.” Send mettā and if you can, send money. Whether you have money or not, you can send mettā. Everybody can just take a deep breath and send loving kindness to the world itself, to every being, any tree, any thing living, any thing alive. Send wishes for well-being, and feel that we’re part of the system. See the problem is that we grew up thinking man was at the top of some kind of hierarchy, when really we’re just one part of a web. We put so much attention and emphasis on the intelligence of humans because it’s a certain kind of intelligence and it’s the one we have, but really other animals have intelligences that are totally different from ours! But in their own way, they could do things we could never do! Who’s more intelligent: the people who can blow up the world a hundred times over, or the dolphins who can seek people in danger and help save them, or who can live for hundreds of thousands of years without ever…the same animal has existed in nature for tens of thousands of years without changing significantly because they’re such good survivors, and they’re such good community members in their communities. It’s just interesting. So I thought: we can send mettā to everyone, we can send money where we can to help. One of the books that I think is the best book written this year is by Jeffrey Mason, the guy who wrote, When Elephants Weep and The Pig Who Sang to the Moon. His new book has a very unfortunate title, but it’s a brilliant book. It’s called The Face On Your Plate, and it [the title] is turning a lot of people off. I bought the book to give to friends and they won’t even take it as a gift! They don’t want to read it because they know it’s going to be too gruesome.
Caryn Hartglass: They know what it’s going to be about. We know inside… inside we all know what’s going on.
Patti Breitman: Right, people don’t want to see it. But I recommend that book for the chapter on fish and other animals of the sea, speaking of The Cove. He does the best thing I’ve ever seen done in a book about animals: he talks about fish and what we know about fish and how they interact with each other, and the communities they create, and the intelligence they have. We’re so used to human intelligence as being the only intelligence of value, but he talks about the intelligence of fish, and their memories, and all the myths about fish. It’s just an astounding chapter. I haven’t read that in any other book.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I haven’t read his. It’s on my list. But I read the series, Chicken Soup For Your Soul, (not that we really want to push chicken soup) but it’s not about chicken soup; it’s about lots of different stories that – they’re uplifting, heartwarming stories. One of those in the series is about ocean life, and there are numerous stories in there that are hair-raising and chilling and beautiful because the people talk about the relationships they’ve have with fish, and the incredible things fish—not mammals in the sea, but fish—have done with humans. It’s really worth reading, but it really shows you there’s intelligence, there’s sensitivity, there’s emotion in these animals that we don’t relate to at all.
Patti Breitman: I’ll have to check that out, because The Face On Your Plate by Jeffrey Mason really was beautifully written, but it’s not a series of anecdotes. It’s more about what has been documented as scientific. It’s more what people have found from researching fish; it’s not individual anecdotal stories. So it’s nice to know there’s a collection of the stories out there.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, now this book, their focus wasn’t to tell people not to eat fish, but that was the message that I got. I also got it from the movie Finding Nemo. The one line that I got from that movie was, “Fish are your friends, not food!”
Patti Breitman: Well you know what, I can’t understand how so many places that show off fish as beautiful, brilliant, entertaining creatures have seafood restaurants right next store. You go to the Monterey Aquarium, and they have lists of which fish are safe to eat. It’s just sick to me that we celebrate the animals, and then we eat them! I don’t get it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, there’s a lot of that craziness when there are health organizations or cancer organizations that are doing fundraisers and they’ll serve you steak and lobster, or just high-cholesterol, high disease-promoting foods.
Patti Breitman: I know. Is that because they’re getting their funding from those organizations? There’s the Beef Board and the Egg Board and the Cheese Board – are they supporting the ACS? Are they giving money to these organizations?
Caryn Hartglass: Probably.
Patti Breitman: I don’t know. But it is maddening when here we are… The head of the American Cancer Society (ACS) himself, a few years ago said sixty to eighty percent of all cancers can be eliminated with lifestyle changes.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
Patti Breitman: And that includes not smoking, and not running the saturated fats and animals proteins through your system.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, it’s huge and the sad thing is, all that money that goes into trying to find cures to things we already know how to prevent could be focused on the things that we don’t know how to manage.
Patti Breitman: Right! There will still be people who get cancer but it’ll be a tiny percentage of the people who are getting it now.
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway so the bottom line: either by giving mettā, or whatever you want to call it—
Patti Breitman: Sending love and kindness.
Caryn Hartglass: Sending love and kindness, or meditating… The point is, change is up to us as individuals, and I can’t say enough. I think, certainly, it’s important to lobby the government and send letters. But the government isn’t going to change until we change. The laws aren’t going to change until the people demand the laws to change. And it’s up to us as individuals to make the change. And sometimes we feel so unempowered, but it really is as simple as putting out good energy to the world. The impact is huge.
Patti Breitman: It’s huge, and we do vote with our dollars. So every time we go to the supermarket, if we just fill out a little form that says, “How about some more organic grains?” and put it in the suggestion box, or talk to the manager of the produce department and say, “How come I’m not seeing collard greens here?”
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. I tell people all the time, talk to the manager of the store. Tell them what you want.
Patti Breitman: Exactly. They want to please their customers. And even if you don’t go to stores, go to the farmer’s market. Go see how beautiful plant-based food can be! It’s colorful, it’s crunchy, it’s delicious, it’s full of life-saving nutrients. I love going to farmer’s markets and talking to the people who grew it. And picking up something weird-looking! When I moved to California it was like going to the Wizard of Oz in the movie. I go, “Oh my God! I’ve never seen half these fruits in my life!” And I would hold something up and say, “What is this?” They go, “Oh, that’s a star fruit.” I go, “How do you eat it?” They’d show me, and they’d cut it and they’d demonstrate. I go, “Wow! Thank you.”
Caryn Hartglass: I get ridiculously excited just being in the center of a lot of fresh, colorful foods and fresh herbs and all the fragrances that you get from all of these very ripe, full of energy foods.
Patti Breitman: I want to put a plug-in also for green smoothies. You taught me about them – you were the first person who told me about green smoothies and now I’m addicted to them. Every morning for breakfast now I have a green smoothie. It’s just like a smoothie that you already know about, which is a banana and any other liquid—it can be soy milk, it can be orange juice, it can be water. But add dark leafy greens! I add collard greens and arugula and parsley. I once asked you, Karen, what kind of greens you use and you said, “Whatever I have!” And I thought, “Well that’s weird,” and now I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’ll go through the refrigerator and go, “Good! I have arugula! And here’s some parsley, here’s some collard greens!” I’ll make a shake with a banana and blueberries and lots and lots of greens and water. I’ve been putting plums in lately because a friend gave out lots of plums from his plum tree. Any fresh fruit you have on hand, with dark leafy greens, and water, a banana, and flax seeds. Oh my goodness! It’s the most delicious breakfast I’ve ever had in my life. I sip it all morning long; I love it! I totally love green smoothies. There’s a woman, Victoria Boutenko, who wrote a whole book of recipes of green smoothies.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s an amazing thing because a lot of people don’t like greens, and here’s a way to get your greens. As I mentioned before it’s important to have fat when you eat your greens, so the smoothie should have the greens, a fruit to sweeten it, and something fatty like an avocado, maybe a little coconut milk. Or some nuts you could throw in and blend with it. And then, the thing is, you have it and then you’re good to go for a long time because it’s filling and delicious. You’re satisfied – it’s amazing! So many people go, “Oh I’m hungry at ten o’clock.” And I tell them, “Have a piece of fruit.” If you’re hungry eat something healthy! But anything green really satisfies you to a deep level because you’re getting nourished.
Patti Breitman: So many people look at it and say, “I can’t drink that,” but once they taste it they’re telling all their friends, “Taste this! You got to taste it!” There are houses for sale in my neighborhood and some of them have a sign outside that says, “Must See Inside” because it doesn’t show well from the curb…I feel like I want to say that about green smoothies: You got to taste it. Don’t judge it by what it looks like; you got to taste it.
Caryn Hartglass: The way I usually like to end the show is to talk about what my guests like to eat. So we’re on that path already but do you have some other favorite recipes, favorite foods?
Patti Breitman: One of my new favorite recipes is a salad dressing or dip, which is basically half miso and half tahini with some lemon juice or lime juice, and lots of water. I just mix it in a bowl with a fork or with a little whisk. And it’s absolutely delicious. It almost has to have a little more tahini than miso, and it reminds me of the dressing in Japanese restaurants, and I use it as a dip for carrots or for any other chopped vegetable. I also use it as a salad dressing and it’s delicious.
Caryn Hartglass: The thing is, once you have the hang of it, it’s easy. And you just have to get past that little bit of resistance.
Patti Breitman: That’s why my book, How To Eat Like A Vegetarian Even If You Never Want To Be One, is to get people over that resistance. It says, “Look this is easy, this is familiar, this is delicious. Here’s how you do it.” And, really and truly, the recipes in here are all easy and delicious. And we borrowed them from some of my favorite books. Part of it is that you don’t need recipes. That’s another thing I love. Once you get the hang of it you can just sprinkle some Bragg’s Aminos or some seasoned rice vinegar or some miso and lemon juice. Tahini and lemon juice all by itself is a fabulous salad dressing. Tahini all by itself is a fabulous dressing.
Caryn Hartglass: I have a serious tahini addiction, and people have been living on tahini, which is a puree made from sesame seeds, for thousand of years. It’s very popular in the Middle East and it’s spread all over the world. But have you noticed the price has gone up significantly on sesame tahini?
Patti Breitman: I have noticed it’s gone up, but I still think it’s worth every penny of it.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just wondering what that is, is that just the price going up on everything?
Patti Breitman: I don’t know. But I know I can’t live without it. I absolutely love it.
Caryn Hartglass: You don’t need a lot of it – a little goes a long way.
Patti Breitman: Exactly. When I was a kid and there was company coming the first thing my mother would say is, “Put the coffee on.” You have to have coffee if somebody’s coming to visit. Now my first thought is, “Got to have hummus in the house.” I have to have tahini on hand all the time because I have to make hummus. If somebody’s coming over I got to offer them some hummus.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I think hummus has really been elevated to an important place in Western society. It originated, I think, in Turkey—somewhere in the Middle East—and in Manhattan, for example, there are hummus restaurants popping up all over. And not Middle Eastern or falafel based – they’re hummus based. I don’t know where this phenomenon came from, but it’s fascinating.
Patti Breitman: That’s exciting!
Caryn Hartglass: You can find hummus in all of the supermarkets. Most children love hummus. It’s great for kids because it has the bean-based protein from the garbanzo bean, it has the fat (which kids need) from the sesame tahini, and it’s got nice lemon juice in there.
Patti Breitman: Let me tell you something else, Karen, you don’t have to buy it in plastic. You can make it in about two minutes with a food processor.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good point. It’s very easy to make.
Patti Breitman: Right. And when I saw the can I got from Trader Joe’s that said, “Product of Turkey” I realized I bought something that was shipped from Turkey to California so that I can make hummus. The beans are a lot cheaper to ship than a can full of water and salt. So now I soak beans and use those. You don’t even have to cook the beans. You can make a raw hummus if you cook the beans for at least two days. They start sprouting and you can make a hummus with it! It’s delicious. A little lemon juice, a little tahini, a little garlic and some chickpeas. It takes about a minute in the food processor and it’s out of this world. And you don’t have to buy the plastic container.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s just another shift – getting past that hump – because some people think, “Oh, it’s so complicated.” But all you have to do is put some dried beans in a pot of water and leave it alone for a day or two. Just leave it alone, and then come back to it and cook it. It’s ready to go!
Patti Breitman: There’s nothing wrong with buying it in the plastic, but after you get addicted you can save a lot of money by switching to the homemade version.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. And the nice thing about the homemade version, too: most of the hummus that’s for sale has preservatives like sodium benzoate or something else in it that I don’t really need in my hummus.
Patti Breitman: And I don’t use the olive oil; It’s made with olive oil traditionally but I leave the olive out and I just use water; It’s fantastic!
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Water, sesame tahini, lemon juice, garbanzo beans. It’s fantastic, I agree with you.
Patti Breitman: You can add roasted red peppers to it, too, or you can add olives, or parsley, cumin. You can doctor it up any way you like.
Caryn Hartglass: Throw some pine nuts on it – one of my favorite things.
Patti Breitman: Oh my god, I love food and I love hummus! And I love this show! So thank you so much for the opportunity.
Caryn Hartglass: This was really fun, Patty. You brought up so many good important points. I hope everybody gets to check out your book, go see The Cove, eat a lot of hummus, spread a lot of mettā, and it will be a beautiful place.
Patti: Thank you. Bye bye, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: This has been It’s All About Food. Next week we’ll be speaking with Victoria Moran, we mentioned her a little bit today, she’s the author of Creating A Charmed Life, and this has been It’s All About Food. I’m Caryn Hartglass. Thanks again, and I’ll be back next week. Bye bye.
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly 11/7/2014 and Mekala Bertucci 11/24/2014