Rynn Berry, Vegetarian, Vegan and Raw Diets – The history

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Rynn Berry, Vegetarian, Vegan and Raw Diets – the History

Rynn Berry passed away on January 9, 2014. Many of us were shocked and saddened by the news. This It’s All About Food interview is from 2011. His was also on this program in 2009, which was rebroadcast recently in his memory and that can be heard here.

rynn-berry-thumbRynn Berry specialized in the study of vegetarianism from an historical perspective. He authored six books on vegetarianism: The New Vegetarians, Famous Vegetarians, Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism and the World’s Religions, Hitler: Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover, and The Vegan Guide to New York City. His sixth book—Becoming Raw, he co-authored with vegan nutritionists Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis. His many articles, as well as reviews of his books have appeared in Ahimsa, The American Vegan, Vegetarian Voice, Vegetarian Journal, Satya, Yoga Journal, and in newspapers such as The New York Times, The Toronto Star, The New York Daily News, The Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, The London Sunday Telegraph, and the Washington Post.

TRANSCRIPTION

Caryn Hartglass: Hi. I’m Caryn Hartglass. And this is It’s All About Food. Thanks for joining me today. It’s amazing that we’re all here in New York with all the crazy weather that we have been having and snow and sleet and black ice. But we’re here because we want to be here, and we have a lot of great things to talk about. Now you know this is a live call in show, so if at any time you have a comment or question you can call in at 1-888-874-4888, and I’m always happy to take your comments and questions. You can send me an email now during the show—no, not now during the show. I’m not set up for that. But anytime during the week at info@realmeals.org. Okay, my very interesting guest with me today is Rynn Berry, and we had him on this show over a year ago, and he specializes in the study of vegetarianism from a historical perspective. He is the author of six books of vegetarianism, The New Vegetarians, Famous Vegetarians, Foods, Food for the Gods, Vegetarianism and The World’s Religions, Hitler: Neither Vegetarian nor Animal Lover, and The Vegan Guide to New York City. His sixth book, Becoming Raw, which he has co-authored with vegan nutritionist Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis came out in September 2009. He has many articles as well as reviews of his books which have appeared in Ahimsa, The American Vegan, Vegetarian Voice, Vegetarian Journal, Sacha, Yoga Journal, and newspapers such as The New York Times, the Toronto Star, the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, the Times of London, the London Sunday Telegraph, and the Washington Post. Welcome Rynn Berry.

Rynn Berry: A pleasure to be here Caryn.

Caryn Hartglass: Now there’s something missing from what I read because I know that you’ve done some writing for encyclopedias.

Rynn Berry: Oh that’s right. I forgot to mention that. I was commissioned to write the article—definitive article—on the history of vegetarianism in the U.S. for the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, and subsequently it was so well received that they decided to do an Oxford companion to American Food and Drink which appeared two years later, and I was commissioned to do a six—actually seven articles on various aspects of vegan and vegetarian diet.

Caryn Hartglass: Excellent. Well, I think you might be seeing more of these because certainly vegetarianism and veganism is becoming so mainstream. As many people know Oprah just had the vegan challenge on her show this week, and her entire Harpo staff, some 378 people, attempted a vegan diet for a week. And it was an interesting program that she had on about it. It’s just amusing to some of us who have been doing it for so long.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s not a challenge.

Rynn Berry: No.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s easy. It’s no big deal.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And now, for me, it has been, I don’t know, 30-plus years. I don’t know about for you Rynn. But there are so many products in the stores today.

Rynn Berry: Yeah

Caryn Hartglass: That it is so easy.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And on the Internet, so many wonderful free recipes. It is easy. It’s delicious. It is good for the planet. So I want to talk about vegetarian history, but before I do I want to imagine maybe 50 years or so into the future or even 100 years into the future, what do you think historians will be saying about us today? Tricky question.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. I think, you know, this is a watershed period when people in the West are starting to embrace a vegetarian diet in greater and greater numbers. And I think it’s the beginning of this millennium, you know, the third millennium is a time when what I think will be historically significant for the conversion of westerners to a plant-based diet.

Caryn Hartglass: You know, I would like to think at some point the vegetarian diet will be the most popular diet, if not the only diet. And, you know, some say that will never happen, and I don’t think I will ever know what the future holds in 100 years or so. But there have been some articles that have talked about how if we do become a vegetarian/vegan society—.

Rynn Berry: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And we need to because the Earth cannot sustain us growing animals to feed people. It’s not efficient. There is not enough land mass even in these horrific, confined, factory farms. Okay. So let’s say that we do, it’s amusing to think about imagining historians talking about us as barbaric.

Rynn Berry: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Eating animals.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Like what are—what an incredible thought.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: So—.

Rynn Berry: Well, I agree. I think it is the mark of the barbarians and certainly an antiquity that the civilized peoples of the world were vegans and vegetarians. It was the barbaric people, the nomadic people of the step lands and Northern Europe, the Huns, the Germans, the Scythians—these were the meat eaters. And they were very bellicose and warlike people who were constantly invading the southern lands, the fruitful lands of the south—India, Southern Europe, and the rest. And it is reflected in their religious orientation. They had male warrior gods, and the southern people living in south in Southern Europe and Southwest Asia were all, you know, had mother goddesses and—.

Caryn Hartglass: Do you equate meat eating with violence and war?

Rynn Berry: Oh certainly. Yeah. Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And vegetarianism with peace?

Rynn Berry: Absolutely. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Rynn Berry: Although, if called upon vegetarians can be—.

Caryn Hartglass: It can be very brutal.

Rynn Berry: Absolutely. Quite.

Caryn Hartglass: I know a few.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. You know, obviously there are many vegetarians in the Indian Army, and they are capable of defending themselves and—.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, sure. We know many, many physically fit and muscular athletes that are vegans.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. That’s right.

Caryn Hartglass: So just because you are a vegan doesn’t mean that you are not strong.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, that is a fallacy that has been refuted by examples of, you know, our current athletic champions. You know, most of the titleholders in the endurance sports are now vegans, you know?

Caryn Hartglass: Or realizing the importance of plant foods.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Versus animal foods.

Rynn Berry: Absolutely. You know, I guess Carl Lewis is a classic example of a modern athlete who has shattered all the records and holds the record for gold medals won in the Olympic field competitions.

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Rynn Berry: So, but then today and all the, you know, the top triathletes and Iron Man triathlon champions compete as vegans. Dave Scott I think holds the record for over five Iron Mans.

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Rynn Berry: And he competed as a vegan. And it’s just—all the records are falling to the new vegan—crop of vegan athletes.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes.

Rynn Berry: Brendan Brazier is most recently I guess.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Rynn Berry: He wrote the book called The Thrive Diet.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, he has an interesting perspective on it after reading his book where I think he realized the advantage you get from eating plant foods for an athlete is that the recovery period between workouts is shortened.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Which enables the vegan athlete to train more and become better—faster. I like that.

Rynn Berry: And he’s not—not only is he a vegan but he’s a raw foodist.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. And he’s a very nice man.

Rynn Berry: Yes. Right. That’s important. Perhaps vegans have better manners.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Well, I don’t want to go there because I know examples of good people and bad people.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Well, that’s true.

Caryn Hartglass: But I think overall there is—although I don’t know if there has been any studies, although there have been little suggestions about students in school when they’re fed healthier, whole foods, plant foods primarily and less junk foods their behavior improves.

Rynn Berry: Oh sure. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And they’re learning improves. And there have been studies that show that both ways children that are vegetarian have higher IQs, and children with higher IQs tend to want to be vegetarian more than—.

Rynn Berry: Yes. Absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass: So, yeah. I think just like Will Tuttle had put it in his book The World Peace Diet, there are definitely lots of compelling arguments that the vegan diet is definitely a pass towards peace.

Rynn Berry: Oh certainly. Yeah. And, yeah, I agree with you that people’s behavior can be modified in the direction of serenity and gentleness.

Caryn Hartglass: So in history that—.

Rynn Berry: Not only people but animals too. I mean, I have friends who have actually turned their cats, you know, their felines vegan.

Caryn Hartglass: Into vegan.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Now that’s an interesting one. I know plenty of dogs, but I know the cats are particularly more difficult to do that.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. It’s not easy. In fact one has to prepare—for the owner of the restaurant the Peacefood Café, Eric—do you know Eric?

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Rynn Berry: He told me that he rescued two cats.

Caryn Hartglass: And they’re vegan now?

Rynn Berry: And he turned them vegan.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, that’s amazing.

Rynn Berry: Of course he has the resources.

Caryn Hartglass: He’s a great chef.

Rynn Berry: He’s a great chef.

Caryn Hartglass: He can find the recipe that’s going to—.

Rynn Berry: He serves them leftovers from the café. At night he takes them home.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, that’s interesting.

Rynn Berry: And they’ve—he said that they’ve stopped chasing mice after they’ve been vegan for—.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh this is interesting. I’m going to have to interview him on that one.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Because I guess I am not a cat—I’m not an owner or a guardian.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Excuse me for the wrong word.

Rynn Berry: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: Of animals. And those that I know that have cats, especially cats that they’ve rescued, it’s really hard to change their behavior.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. That’s true.

Caryn Hartglass: But it might be easier with newborn kittens to get them on a plant-based died.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: But they also require certain supplements.

Rynn Berry: That’s right. I think choline.

Caryn Hartglass: Choline [speaking simultaneously]. Okay.

Rynn Berry: Right now the cats at Farm Sanctuary are also vegan. But they allow them to—.

Caryn Hartglass: Roam.

Rynn Berry: Forage outside.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, you know, it is an interesting point, but I do prefer to focus on the really big things that are so awful. So, sure, we can talk about cats and dogs. And it is interesting.

Rynn Berry: Sure.

Caryn Hartglass: And who knows where we will ultimately go. I would like to think that the lion will lie down the lamb at some point.

Rynn Berry: Right. Right.

Caryn Hartglass: But right now my mission is to focus on factory farming and make it illegal and get rid of it. I’m not a proponent of grass-fed animals for food, but, you know, it’s so much better than cramming animals in factories. But what people don’t realize, and I say over and over again, if you want to eat grass-fed beef and grass-fed pasture raised animals, you still have to eat a lot less because the Earth cannot grow the quantity of animals that we’re growing today if we don’t confine them. It’s quite simple.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: So it’s about more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. That’s my mantra. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, raw nuts, and seeds.

Rynn Berry: Right. Right.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so Rynn Berry who is here with me today is the author of the Vegan Guide to New York City, which he just pointed out to me is now in its 17th edition.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: So this is the 18th?

Rynn Berry: Eighteenth year.

Caryn Hartglass: Eighteenth year.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow. And every year it gets a little thicker.

Rynn Berry: That’s right.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s a small book. But it gets more and more.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: It says there is over 100 restaurants in here.

Rynn Berry: Actually we just counted them the other day for the app, you know, it’s now an iPhone app as well as—.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, great.

Rynn Berry: And we actually came up with 122 vegan and vegetarian, and they are exclusively plant-based.

Caryn Hartglass: Vegan.

Rynn Berry: I mean, they don’t have any—they don’t serve any—not even a sliver of fish otherwise they’re beyond the pail.

Caryn Hartglass: The scaly vegetable.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah. You’re right.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, this is really exciting because, well, New York City is the greatest city in the world, and we do have more vegan and vegetarian restaurants here than anywhere else. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Rynn Berry: It’s surprising.

Caryn Hartglass: But, okay, I definitely hope that—well, it is. It is definitely spanning out worldwide, but we have so many choices here. And there was a time when I thought I knew them all.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And I don’t anymore. There’s just so many that keep popping up.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: So I just heard today there’s—.

Rynn Berry: That’s why I put it out every year because it is such a dynamic market. There are new ones emerging.

Caryn Hartglass: I just heard there was a vegan bar in Brooklyn

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Lucky 13 probably.

Caryn Hartglass: Lucky 13. Is that in here?

Rynn Berry: Actually no.

Caryn Hartglass: Because it’s new.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. No, it’s been around for a few years.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, okay.

Rynn Berry: The owners of Lucky 13 opened—they own the Foodswings.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, okay.

Rynn Berry: They acquired Foodswings.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay.

Rynn Berry: Three years ago they purchased it from the founder—founding chef, and they’ve done a terrific job with it, you know. I don’t know if you’ve ever—.

Caryn Hartglass: I was in Foodswings when it first opened early on, and I thought it was a great thing that they were doing, but there was nothing there that I would eat.

Rynn Berry: I know. It’s really—.

Caryn Hartglass: It was vegan junk food.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: It was—everything was fried.

Rynn Berry: It’s—yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: But, you know, if you are going to eat that kind of food why not eat it from plants? Why do you have to torture animals if you are going to have that stuff? But they had like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah. The vegan equivalent—yeah

Caryn Hartglass: And all these fried—.

Rynn Berry: Then they have the corn dogs and, you know.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. And you know when food is prepared like that where it is processed and fried and got all kinds of seasonings, you can’t tell if it is from an animal or not.

Rynn Berry: That’s true. Yeah. Yeah. Sure.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s the crazy part about it.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay.

Rynn Berry: Although people that have a delicate palette can smell the—.

Caryn Hartglass: Maybe. It smells better.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So where do you—where can we find this book? It’s in Whole Foods.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. It’s in the Whole Foods—not all the Whole Foods sell books now. They’ve cut back on their book offerings.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m sorry about that for you.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, but two of them do. So the Whole Foods Chelsea and Whole Foods Bowery. It’s a big seller.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, this is really a convenient thing to have because there are—it’s light and easy to carry around. And when you’re roaming around New York City as a tourist or as a resident there are so many wonderful things to try. I am just going to roll through here because there are so many different ones. I just want to highlight the diversity in vegan cuisine. So we start on the beginning in Harlem because it’s north of Central Park.

Rynn Berry: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And, let’s see, I have been to Café Veg which is West Indian.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. It’s really very tasty.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s good.

Rynn Berry: I like their, they call it, Ital food or I guess it was invented in the Caribbean among those—followers of Haile Selassie you know, the—.

Caryn Hartglass: No, I don’t.

Rynn Berry: Well, they have kind of a little religion.

Caryn Hartglass: And that’s vegetarian?

Rynn Berry: And it’s vegetarian, yeah. The members are obliged to be vegetarian.

Caryn Hartglass: Excellent. And then I’ve been to Raw Soul. Really creative raw food restaurant up there. And Strictly Roots, is that the one where they have all the hot dishes and you can pick?

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Really fun foods there. And the Uptown Juice Bar. Okay. Very good.

Rynn Berry: The owner of the Uptown Juice Bar owns Café Veg, so.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, okay. Branching out.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And then Upper West Side. I just want to stroll through here because I just want to see all the ones that I have been to and all the ones I haven’t been to while I’m here looking through this book. The Ayurveda Café has been around a while.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And they have dairy and vegan options.

Rynn Berry: That’s lacto-vegetarian. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: But you can get vegan there.

Rynn Berry: Sure.

Caryn Hartglass: And then Blossom Uptown Café is near here, and it’s just phenomenal.

Rynn Berry: Terrific.

Caryn Hartglass: And they’re exploding.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Pamela is the owner, and she is very entrepreneurial. She has—now she has I think, is it four?

Caryn Hartglass: Blossom du Jour.

Rynn Berry: Blossom du Jour.

Caryn Hartglass: Blossom Café. Blossom Restaurant. And Cocoa V.

Rynn Berry: Cocoa V.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I really like Cocoa V.

Rynn Berry: Which is a chocoholics delight, right? They specialize in chocolates.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. And then you can go to Café Viva for pizza.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. But it’s not a—.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s not vegan.

Rynn Berry: It’s not a thoroughgoing vegan pizza parlor. I’d love to see one—.

Caryn Hartglass: That was vegan. Yeah.

Rynn Berry: Like in New York. Maybe, you know, there is one just over in Boston. So we may get one soon because Boston also had the first vegan ice cream shop. You know, and now we have two.

Caryn Hartglass: Which one is that?

Rynn Berry: It was called Wheelers.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, it wasn’t a brand. It was just a shop?

Rynn Berry: No, no. It was open by a black man, and he was the first to do it I think to pioneer a vegan ice cream parlor.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow.

Rynn Berry: And now there are two in New York. So it seems that—Boston seems to be a trendsetter in that regard.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. And that’s—it’s definitely a fun thing to be able to go and get ice cream. Why not? In a cone.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Have you been [speaking simultaneously]—I’m sure you’ve been—?

Caryn Hartglass: I’ve been to Lulu’s.

Rynn Berry: Lulu’s. That’s the favorite.

Caryn Hartglass: And she is lovely.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, Blythe and her husband—I guess her partner Derek. He’s from Ireland, and he has a decided brogue. He actually—he’s a cabinetmaker. He built the whole interior.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. It’s beautiful.

Rynn Berry: From scratch, yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: I like the brick wall. And—.

Rynn Berry: And it looks just like one of those ’40s—1940s or ’50s—.

Caryn Hartglass: Ice cream [speaking simultaneously].

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Traditional ice cream shop with double PE, you know?

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Shoppe.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And then there are more fast food places popping up.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And, again, this is not my kind of food.

Rynn Berry: No.

Caryn Hartglass: Because I’m into more raw, more healthy, less processed.

Rynn Berry: Sure, sure.

Caryn Hartglass: But, you know, we live in a processed world. And if it’s going to be processed, it might as well be plant based, and some of them are healthier than others. So there’s these falafel places like Maoz that is popping up.

Rynn Berry: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: There’s a bunch of them now in New York.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Quite a few. There’s a—.

Caryn Hartglass: And that’s falafel and a salad bar and—.

Rynn Berry: I guess the latest is what’s called Shroom. It’s in this neighborhood actually.

Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t been there. What have they got?

Rynn Berry: It’s another Israeli falafel shack as they call them.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay.

Rynn Berry: It’s lacto—again, it’s lacto-vegetarian, but—.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. I haven’t collected any numbers, but there are more—there seem to be more hummus and falafel places popping up everywhere.

Rynn Berry: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Not just—I’m not just talking about vegetarian. There is just like an influx.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Any—do you have any ideas of why that is?

Rynn Berry: How many?

Caryn Hartglass: Or why that’s happening? I love that food, and I love it because there are more plant options in these places.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass: Even when they’re serving meat.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Well, most of the owners are Israeli. And it’s near Eastern, you know, Middle Eastern food. It is not peculiar to Israel. I mean, you can find it in any Arab country.

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Rynn Berry: But they seem to be more in the forefront of opening these places.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. It’s great. It’s really great. More plant foods.

Rynn Berry: And the joke is that, you know, you don’t have go to Tel Aviv to have a meal because you can go to the local falafel shack.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’ll tell you the best—I’ve been to Israel several times, and I worked for an Israeli company, so I’ve had a lot of falafel and a lot of hummus and a lot of their other dishes.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: But I think the best Middle Eastern food I ever had was in Evanston, Illinois.

Rynn Berry: No kidding? Wow. How did that come about?

Caryn Hartglass: It’s just—I don’t know why it was so good, but it was. I ate there a lot. Okay. Soy and Sake, I haven’t been there, and it looks really lovely. They have a lot of those meat analogues there.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. It’s really—the food is extraordinary there. And it’s the first vegan sushi bar in the U.S. or in the world as far as I know.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, vegan sushi bar.

Rynn Berry: But I didn’t give it a thumbs up.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay.

Rynn Berry: For the reason that they have an aquarium.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh no.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, okay. They weren’t thinking everything through there.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. So you see all those [speaking simultaneously].

Caryn Hartglass: Okay for those who aren’t following what we’re saying, usually in an aquarium there are live fish, and they are imprisoned actually when they’re in an aquarium.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Certainly.

Caryn Hartglass: Some may not realize that. Just imagine you living in a big box filled with water or not.

Rynn Berry: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: So for a group to be making meals specifically that don’t have fish—.

Rynn Berry: Exactly.

Caryn Hartglass: You would think that they would get it. Okay, oops.

Rynn Berry: So, you know, I would have given them a rave review and thumbs up, but they spoiled it by having an aquarium—fish tank.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Well, we do the best we can.

Rynn Berry: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: What I love is—.

Rynn Berry: So that just shows that they’re—by way of showing there is sort of an ethical component to the Vegan Guide, you know, I don’t just rate them on the food alone, but, you know, do they have fish—captive animals in the restaurant, you know like fish or birds?

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Rynn Berry: That can certainly—.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s the thing. The vegan diet, when compared to a vegetarian diet, the vegan diet is really not just a diet. It’s a lifestyle.

Rynn Berry: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: And it incorporates more than just food, and we talk about that all the time on this show.

Rynn Berry: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay.

Rynn Berry: So if they’re displaying, you know, feathers or whether it’s in the interior—that also counts against them.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I am—I have—there are restaurants in here I have never seen before, so Raw Star.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: A raw West Indian cuisine.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Now that’s like—I want to say an oxymoron almost because most Indian food is cooked and way over-cooked.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s West Indian—in other words, Caribbean.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so like the stuff the other restaurant in Harlem [speaking simultaneously].

Rynn Berry: But it’s more—it’s raw—a raw interpretation of Ital food. And he—the fellow who owns it—whose name is Mobi, and he’s a disciple of Aris LaTham, a legendary raw food, gourmet raw food chef who used to have a place in Brooklyn and is now, I guess he is now in Brazil actually.

Caryn Hartglass: So, and then there is Rock N Raw. Is that another raw restaurant?

Rynn Berry: Yeah, that’s right. That’s—.

Caryn Hartglass: So how many raw restaurants do we have in New York?

Rynn Berry: Over—I think about 12. I counted them.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow.

Rynn Berry: And the reason—to get to 12 I count the little raw food bar at Westerly. I’m sure you’re familiar with that.

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Rynn Berry: That sounds as kind of—because you can actually have a meal there.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. They have the raw lasagnas and the raw deserts.

Rynn Berry: Right. There’s some delicious raw entrees, and you can always supplement it with the raw snacks that they sell in that little nook in the back of the store, you know.

Caryn Hartglass: This is really incredible. And in addition in this book there are advertisements by people that have products like Parma, vegan Parmesan.

Rynn Berry: Right. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And, oh my God, I’ve never seen this—soy gelato. Soy gelato by mail. We ship anywhere in the U.S.A. Blackwell’s organic, soy gelato and fruit sorbet.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: At Whole Foods, and you can get it by mail. Gelatobymail.com. Now that sounds interesting.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. And we even have a raw food restaurant that is in cyberspace actually on the back. You can order by—they ship it by FedEx. So you can order anywhere in the country, and they’ll ship you a vegan meal.

Caryn Hartglass: Who is that?

Rynn Berry: It’s called Veggie Brothers.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I’ve heard about them.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. There’s actually a page devoted to them. Do you want me to show you?

Caryn Hartglass: No, I want to find it. No you find it.

Rynn Berry: Okay. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: You also list juice bars—while you’re looking for that page.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And what I wanted to say about that, which really amazes me is there are many, many juice bars in New York City, and I’m grateful for that because I juice every day. And if I don’t do it at home I have to get it out there. Okay. Cyberspace VeggieBrothers.com. Check that out. Shipped frozen to your door. They have—I’ve been to their website VeggieBrothers.com, and it’s amazing the choices that they offer. So here’s an option. I wonder how long it takes. I mean, certainly it is not going to get to your door that night when you want it.

Rynn Berry: No.

Caryn Hartglass: You have to plan, but there are a lot of options.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, you have to plan ahead.

Caryn Hartglass: But back to the juice bars, there are many juice bars, and you list some of them in your book.

Rynn Berry: My favorite is, you know, Liquiteria—the greens Liquiteria.

Caryn Hartglass: And they’ve been around for along time.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, what amazes me, when I think of California—.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: I think—I think the image is in general is that they’re healthier, and they eat healthy food, and that they are all vegetarian, and that they juice. And you know, it’s not true. You—it’s so hard to find a juice bar in California. They just aren’t out there. And yet you can find them all over New York City.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. The same is true of restaurants—vegan restaurants. There aren’t so many as one might think.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. They might have an option on the menu, but there aren’t as many that are exclusive.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, exactly.

Caryn Hartglass: And personally I prefer going to the exclusive ones.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Because you know their kitchens are clean. And you know that, oh a little bit isn’t going to get into your dish.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. There’s no cross contamination and no migration of food particles and—.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so we’ve talked a little bit about this raw food diet, and you’re one of the co-authors on Becoming Raw. And I’ve talked about this a few times on this show, and it’s a big book. And it’s worth bringing up many times because it is filled with all kinds of great information.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah they are North America’s leading nutritionists Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis. They hail from British Columbia.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. And so they are the leading nutritionists in the United States in addition to Canada or—?

Rynn Berry: Well, in North America.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. They’re both great.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: So, what did you contribute in this book

Rynn Berry: Well I contributed the history of the raw food movement, which is quite venerable because—.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, let’s talk about it.

Rynn Berry: Yeah it goes back to—to Sylvester Graham actually. He is credited by Herbert Shelton and other natural hygienists with being the first hygienists or the first proponent of a raw rood lifestyle.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, as I remember, Graham crackers were sort of indirectly named after him.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Named for him, yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Because he was promoting whole wheat and whole grains.

Rynn Berry: Yes. Whole grain.

Caryn Hartglass: But he was on a primarily raw diet?

Rynn Berry: He, himself, did not practice it. I mean, he was a vegetarian, but he recommended it as the ideal diet. We call it the Edenic diet—the diet of the, you know, the primal couple, Adam and Eve.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, them.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Those guys. So he was recommending that we—that America embrace the original diet that was followed—that God had created that humans follow.

Caryn Hartglass: And this was about what time? 18—something?

Rynn Berry: He flourished in the 1830s and ’40s.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. So this is a time when there was no Internet.

Rynn Berry: No, no, no.

Caryn Hartglass: And no television.

Rynn Berry: No. Right.

Caryn Hartglass: And so how did this information get around?

Rynn Berry: Well, he was—he lectured widely, and he was a great stump of orators, and he traveled the country. He came to fame during the cholera—right after the cholera epidemic in the 1830s. And he urged people to eat lots of fruit and vegetables as they, you know, prophylaxis against cholera, you know? This is contrary to the received wisdom of the time—doctors urging people to avoid fruit because it harbored the deadly bacillus. So he—but people who followed his diet actually came through it unscathed.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow.

Rynn Berry: So that’s how he made his reputation. And then he was in demand as a speaker, and his books were best sellers and—.

Caryn Hartglass: Now I imagine that he did receive some negative feedback from stuff he was putting out?

Rynn Berry: Oh yeah, I mean he was—.

Caryn Hartglass: What was the medical community like back then?

Rynn Berry: Well, just—they were very resistant to his preaching. And of course he was urging people—.

Caryn Hartglass: What has changed?

Rynn Berry: Very little.

Caryn Hartglass: Actually what has changed since that time? It’s becoming a little more—people are more aware of it and are more accepting of it than before?

Rynn Berry: Well, as you just mentioned, the Internet and mass communications has made it easier to disseminate the information. So it’s no longer the province of a few.  You know. It is being widely, I mean, we have bestselling books on the topic. I was in Barnes and Noble the other day and Borders and notice they have whole sections devoted to vegan cookbooks.

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Rynn Berry: And even raw food books.

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Rynn Berry: And I think I have to give credit to the women who wrote, if you pardon the expression, Skinny Bitch. They were certainly in the vanguard of making it popular and putting it—.

Caryn Hartglass: Do you think that was one book that really—?

Rynn Berry: That was a very seminal book. I mean, and also Alicia Silverstone’s book.

Caryn Hartglass: Is that doing well?

Rynn Berry: It’s—yeah, I think it’s a bestseller.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s good.

Rynn Berry: I think the Skinny Bitch book was really pivotal.

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Rynn Berry: Because I know a lot of women read it. And women, of course, still shape our dietary preferences in the kitchen.

Caryn Hartglass: You know, I haven’t read the book.

Rynn Berry: And the thing about it is that it has a very graphic account of animal slaughter, and, you know, that—ordinarily that would be an athima to a cookbook, you know—no one wants to read about intensive animal rearing and animal slaughter. But they are very, you know, Canada they have it right in their opening sections. And so I think that has had a huge impact.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, sometimes we need to hear things over and over and over and over before we’re willing to really let it sink in I think. And so we need more books saying the same thing maybe packaged in a slightly different way.

Rynn Berry: And they’ve done it. I think they have five variations or more on the Skinny Bitch theme. They have Skinny Bitch in a Kitch, Skinny—what is it? Skinny or bastard.

Caryn Hartglass: Right—for guys.

Rynn Berry: For the male counterpart. They have Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven or something—you know—so.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m open to all of it. Whatever it takes to appeal to the different communities we certainly have different religious angles—the Christian vegetarian society.

Rynn Berry: Absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass: And the Jewish angle with Richard Schwartz and the Jewish vegetarians. What about the Muslims? I’ve been looking. Are there books out on vegetarianism or—?

Rynn Berry: They seem to be a little behind in the matter of vegetarianism. You know, the Sufis are a vegetarian sect—the esoteric sect of Islam is vegetarian. There are many, but among the Muslims en masse there’s very little vegetarianism unfortunately.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Unfortunately.

Rynn Berry: But that’s not atypical of the Abrahamic religions. They all tend to be somewhat carnivorous unfortunately.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Looking back in history, how did that happen? I know you have a book out on—.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, Food for the Gods.

Caryn Hartglass: On the religions.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, the religions.

Caryn Hartglass: Because most of them, as I remember, did have a vegetarian foundation.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Originally, of course, among the Abrahamic religions, of course Judaism and its Essene beginnings, and it’s purported that Jesus was an Essene. And he was a member of an anti-sacral sect that was trying to abolish animal sacrifice from the temple. And they were trying to recover a vegan Torah because it’s their belief that the original—the Jews originally were vegans and that the Torah had been corrupted by the animal sacrificing cult—the Eremites and the Levites. It does have—the Abrahamic religions do have this pristine vegan saga, and traces of this can be found in Genesis of course.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, right there [speaking simultaneously].

Rynn Berry: Adam and Eve—the Edenic couple.

Caryn Hartglass: It tells you right there in Genesis. What is it—1:29?

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: That we should be eating plant foods, and it’s just right there. It tells it like it is. And I’ve had numerous conversations with different people that believe in the Jewish faith. And some of them believe that they’re instructed to eat meat.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. But that’s— they believe it of course because, well that’s –

Caryn Hartglass: It just doesn’t make sense when you put it all together. I’m not a religious person, so maybe I shouldn’t be the one to speak, but when you have—in one of your top ten laws, “Thou shalt not kill,” what does that mean?

Rynn Berry: In the Ahimsa-based religions of Asia like Hinduism and Jainism, the injunction against killing applies to all beings—it’s the first—first commandment in Jainism or Buddhism is Ahimsa.

Caryn Hartglass: Respect all life.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Respect all life.

Caryn Hartglass: Now I don’t speak those languages, but did they say it in the affirmative that way—respect all life versus do not kill?

Rynn Berry: Oh there’s—non-harming is how—ahimsa means non-harming to all living creatures. So I think we in the West would do well to emulate that position—that moral position, you know, that one should—that all life is sacred and that ahimsa trumps all the other commandments. Unfortunately we don’t have that in the Abrahamic. And “Thou shalt not kill” really doesn’t extend to all living creatures.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, we don’t know that.

Rynn Berry: No.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s the thing. I mean when I [speaking simultaneously] “Thou shalt not kill,” okay, I get it. Don’t kill. That means don’t kill. Does that mean don’t kill all white men? Does it mean, you know, just Jewish men and women? Does it mean adults and children? Does it mean—it doesn’t say. It just says, “Thou shalt not kill.” To me that means period. No killing.

Rynn Berry: Sure, well I agree. I think that, you know, it should be the first commandment. And as in the ahisma cultures it should trump the others. But unfortunately it has been, you know, it is number six, not number one. And as it has been interpreted it applies only to members of ones tribe and not to all living creatures as it does in the Ahimsa-based But of course, you know, the Ebionites—the Essene sects would have argued that it should be the first commandment. In other—in Matthew there is—Jesus actually does make non-killing the first precept of Christianity. So—.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Back to this Becoming Raw and the history that you’ve contributed to, so did you start basically with the history in North America?

Rynn Berry: North America. Of course there is a deeper history. I mean there’s—.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, sure, I mean if we go back some 10,000 years or whatever.

Rynn Berry: To the—well, yeah. Aboriginal—.

Caryn Hartglass: Before we had fire.

Rynn Berry: Aboriginal people of the Americas were not all carnivores and not all eaters of cooked food.

Caryn Hartglass: Are there any communities today that eat primarily raw and not cooked food?

Rynn Berry: In North America? Well, just—I don’t think among the indigenous.

Caryn Hartglass: Or around the world?

Rynn Berry: Perhaps some indigenous tribes in South America.

Caryn Hartglass: Some things that people don’t think about, okay, I eat raw and cooked food. I did two years complete really raw, and I enjoyed it. And I have no problem with it. There are some places in Africa, other places, poor communities, where the woman in particular who is preparing the food in their small hut or home have all kinds of health issues related to cooking food because the fumes are maintained inside, and there’s just a lot of pollution involved.

Rynn Berry: Absolutely. And carbon monoxide.

Caryn Hartglass: And it’s something really serious. If they only realize that they didn’t have to cook their food.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: It would be a lot simpler.

Rynn Berry: Well, it’s, you know, cooking food has always been regarded as conferring status on food, you know?

Caryn Hartglass: Conferring status on food?

Rynn Berry: You know, high status. Higher status. And also animal flesh, of course, has traditionally been a high status food. And I think that is changing now from a cultural eats, you know, meat is now being frowned upon as a food. It’s losing its caste so to speak.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so let’s go past Graham. Then what happened?

Rynn Berry: Well, after Graham, of course, there were some bona fide American eccentrics like Bronson Alcott, you know, who started a raw food community in Massachusetts—fruit alliance. It was the first—.

Caryn Hartglass: He was related to Louisa May Alcott.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, exactly. Her father. Her father. Yeah. And he—.

Caryn Hartglass: Was she vegetarian?

Rynn Berry: Yeah, she was a vegetarian per force. I mean, she had to be because she was raised—she had no choice. As soon as she became an adult she rebelled and started eating meat.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, oops.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, which is why she didn’t have such a very long life. I think, you know, her father outlived her.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh wow. She’s the author of Little Women.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Among others, yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: I remember reading that.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: As a young girl.

Rynn Berry: Yeah—she’s—so that was another raw food community that he started. And then there is a place in California called Joyful News. It’s another raw food commune. And then I guess the next, you know, even the Seventh Day Adventist were somewhat raw. I mean, Ellen White had these visions. And Dr. John Harvey Kellogg—.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah, he’s probably turning over in his grave.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. He was very sympathetic to raw food eating, and he encouraged his patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium to eat mostly raw. And he himself was something of a raw foodist.

Caryn Hartglass: So how did this—?

Rynn Berry: There’s this intertwining of religion and raw foodism, which is quite remarkable.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Because people connect it to Adam and Eve.

Rynn Berry: Exactly.

Caryn Hartglass: And they want to eat like they are in the Garden of Eden.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, and in the West it’s the Edenic diet I think it’s—Graham I think was the first food in North America to try to call people back to the Edenic diet. And ever since, you know, ever since he raised it as a clarion call, I mean, these raw food groups have been wanting to revive the Edenic diet. And that is true even today. You have the American Essenes, you know, like Gabriel Cousins, David Wolfe considers himself to be an Essene minister—the Viktoras Kulvinskas is also an Essene figure. Cherie Soria is another Essene. They are trying to revive this pre-sacrificial Christianity. So it’s remarkable how the religious components—that there is this religious component to our dietary preferences.

Caryn Hartglass: It actually—right, it is because in the different religions, I mean, maybe it’s not written in the law, but there are so many traditional foods that come with holidays.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Sure.

Caryn Hartglass: And that’s—that makes it really difficult for a lot of people when they want to adopt a plant based diet, deal with the cultural issues. Their families think they are rejecting the trends—the tradition. You know, what’s wrong? Did I do something wrong in raising you that you don’t want to participate in this?

Rynn Berry: Especially the Abrahamic like Christianity, Judaism, Islam—it is considered almost a violation of a religious taboo to be eating—not to be eating flesh or cooked flesh. And then we have the Hallelujah Acres ministry you are probably familiar with.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, how are they doing?

Rynn Berry: Well, they seem to be thriving actually.

Caryn Hartglass: Now they’re promoting vegan diet or near vegan diet.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, I think it’s 80% raw.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Excellent.

Rynn Berry: 20% cooked. Apparently the—again, the minister who runs it claims to have cured himself, you know, of his cancer by adopting a raw food diet—the Edenic diet he calls it. The diet that—.

Caryn Hartglass: Adam and Eve ate.

Rynn Berry: Adam and Eve. So, again, we are back to Graham and the Edenic diet. Graham was a minister—a Presbyterian minister, so that’s the thrust I guess to return to the original diet. And, you know, there is something to be said for that.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so in this book, Becoming Raw, it’s really fascinating what’s in here because it really goes into detail about how you can get all the nutrients you need from raw food, and there are tables in here that compare all the different vitamins that you get from a variety of different raw foods. There’s a discussion on enzymes because there’s a lot of language that raw food has used, and some of it isn’t very scientific. And so it makes some of the science minded people roll their eyes like what are they talking about because raw foodists will talk about their food being alive or the enzymes being live or dead. And those aren’t really the official chemical terms to discuss them. And so there’s a nice chapter in here about the great enzyme controversy.

Rynn Berry: And also the—there’s a discussion of the Kouchakoff’s discovery that the white blood cell count, you know, rises when you eat—after one has eaten cooked food. You know, I’m sure you’ve heard this.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, yes, I have heard that.

Rynn Berry: And Brenda Davis said that, you know, it seems a very cogent argument. It sounds very persuasive, but it hasn’t really been—.

Caryn Hartglass: Proven.

Rynn Berry: Proven—yeah. Because, well, there’s no funding. Who is going to put up the money to do a pure based study on—?

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, especially when there’s no money to be made.

Rynn Berry: Yeah, exactly. She said it sounds very convincing, but it needs to be tested.

Caryn Hartglass: So here’s something I’m thinking of that I haven’t really thought before, but we hear a lot of information in the media, in magazines, on television, on radio etcetera about pharmaceutical drugs that can solve a lot of problems and about different products that we can buy, and those are the things that get promoted because there’s a profit motive, and yet—despite all of that—the vegan message is slowly getting out there. And there really isn’t a profit motive. There are some entrepreneurial people that are out there that are creating vegan products and great for them, but basically the message is getting out because it’s a true message.

Rynn Berry: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: A vegan diet is healthier than a meat based diet. And animal foods, animal agriculture is devastating to the environment where growing plant foods is not. And that message is slowly getting out there, and so when people are listening and not knowing what to believe because there’s so much information out there, I would always consider—is there a profit motive behind this message? I am here as a volunteer, and all I want to do is educate people about healthy plant foods and help people have less pain and suffering and live long, happy, healthy lives.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. So, well the profit may not be monetary, but, you know, there’s certainly a health—.

Caryn Hartglass: A spiritual profit or a healthy profit or an environmental profit.

Rynn Berry: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: You contributed a recipe in this book?

Rynn Berry: Yeah, I think two recipes.

Caryn Hartglass: What were they?

Rynn Berry: One of them it was the three melon salad. Three-melon salad, which consists of a portion of honeydew, chopped honeydew, and chunks of cantaloupe, and chunks of watermelon.

Caryn Hartglass: And it’s beautiful. Beautiful colors. Fresh.

Rynn Berry: Yeah. Lovely to—well that’s another thing about raw foods.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s beautiful.

Rynn Berry: It’s colorful, yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: As compared to most meat and dairy products.

Rynn Berry: A slab of dead flesh.

Caryn Hartglass: Which are beige and dull.

Rynn Berry: And gray and [speaking simultaneously].

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, that’s the end-of-the-show music. So, Rynn, thanks for joining me today. Please check out the books The Vegan Guide to New York City if you are a New Yorker or you are going to be in New York any time soon, and a great book to have on nutrition is Becoming Raw: The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets. Thank you for joining me. I’m Caryn Hartglass. This has been It’s All About Food.

Transcribed 1/21/2014 by Margaret Christiansen

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  1 comment for “Rynn Berry, Vegetarian, Vegan and Raw Diets – The history

  1. Don Fewox
    April 21, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    I don’t have much to say, just thank you for this interview…

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