Part I – Adrian Butash, Bless this Food Adrian Butash is the author of Bless this Food. A well-known marketing and advertising professional, he studied history and culture of the world at Fordham University. He lives in Santa Barbara, CA. Visit him online at http://www.adrianarts.com.
Part II – Mee Tracy McCormick, My Kitchen Cure!
Mee Tracy McCormick is a Real Food and Autoimmune Cooking Expert, a Community Food Advocate and the author of My Kitchen Cure: How I cooked My Way Out of Chronic Autoimmune Disease and Prevented Cancer with Whole Foods and Healing Recipes.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Here we are it is October 8th 2013 and it’s pretty lovely here in New York the air has got a little chill in it, It’s happening the seasons are changing and we are now officially looking at fall and I’m looking out the windows and the leafs are doing that beautiful color changing thing and I am enjoying it. Well, what are we going to talk about today you know we are always talking about food and one of the things I try and do on this show is connect the dots and help everyone think about our food which is so essential to all of our lives and how it connects to so many things especially health, the environment, and where our food comes from and what do we think about it. I think we don’t think enough about it and that’s one of the things that I do in this show is talk about food and try and stir up some interest on a lot of different topics that are related to food. Well I think we are going to get to core in this next half hour and I want to bring on my first guest Adrian Butash is the author of Bless This Food, a well know marketing and advertising professional. He studied history and culture of the world at Fordham University he lives in Santa Barbara California and his website is Adrianarts.com, welcome to It’s All About Food Adrian.
Adrian Butash: Caryn thank you so much. Looking forward to our chat and say hello to you, you’re staff and your listeners.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you did I pronounce your last name correctly.
Adrian Butash: Yes you did Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you, well. I always want to make sure I get it right. We live in such a global environment and the letters don’t give us enough information sometimes about how they want to be pronounced.
Adrian Butash: Right. My biggest problem with the name Adrian is I often get mailed address to Mr. or Ms. so it comes with a territory.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay well… I’m getting off tangents now but there are some languages with the titles that don’t even suggest gender.
Adrian Butash: True, true
Caryn Hartglass: Yes it doesn’t matter. Anyway let’s talk about food. So, this is a fascinating little book, Bless This Food and I guess originally it came out in the 90s and then you’ve had some reprinting since then.
Adrian Butash: Right, we now have just issued the paperback version and the book is identical to the hardcover, of course it’s less expensive and we’re very happy about what’s going on and the book is surging forward. We have some other plans for the book, we’ve had some suggestions to make it into an ongoing radio show, part of what today is, it’s going to be an exemplar, so again thank you for your interest.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I always want to help do my part to make this world a better place and one of the things that I see as a big issue especially in the United States is we have a huge disconnect with our food, where it comes from, how it’s made. What’s involved from the moment something that is going to be food becomes something and all the manipulations before it gets to our plate and most people have no idea today. Where it used to be such an integral part of everyday life since early humanity most of humanity up until recently and I think it’s to our detriment. So this book I think it’s a great tool to get us to start thinking about our food and then it can open up so many conversations.
Adrian Butash: Well I also salute you with your response for eating and living program and the benefits to the plant based diet because as they look through particularly in my book the history of food always has celebrated plant based foods particularly corn many number of wonderful poems and blessings about corn and plant diet.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m not a religious person, I’m an agnostic maybe an atheist leaning agnostic but I respect everyone’s beliefs and there’s a lot of rich history and culture in the variety of religions and there are things that we can learn from all of them and one prayer that I’m very familiar with is one that’s in your book. It’s on page 28 prayer 5 and at the end it talks about the delicious fruits of the earth and it’s from the Essenes which you write were probably strict vegetarians and it made me think about how many of the prayers really talk about the fruits, or the vegetables or the bread. Most of the time they’re talk about plant foods.
Adrian Butash: Well indeed. One of my classic blessings here it’s from a contemporary father, father John Giuliani and its very short, four lines. “Bless our hearts to hear in the breaking of bread the song of the universe”, it’s exquisite poetry.
Caryn Hartglass: You may know I promote a plant based diet, I’m a vegan, and I encourage everyone to eat more fruits and vegetables because there’s so many benefits in doing so but I noticed that in many prayers like I just mentioned they talk about fruits, vegetables, but I don’t think we see very often unless it’s like a Native American Indian prayer or maybe an Indian prayer were they really talk about the animal that we’re taking.
Adrian Butash: You mean the grievance of eating meet versus a plant based diet?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, how often do we see that in prayers?
Adrian Butash: I don’t see much about meat, I see a lot about the bread because bread is very sacred and corn which is from the millennia the primary food that people would grow and survive.
Caryn Hartglass: Well there could be a number of reasons for that and it could be for a long time humanity ate mostly from plants and it’s only recently that we are eating so many more animal products than we used to or it could be this thing I talk about all the time where we are really uncomfortable with taking the life of a sentient being and don’t know how to deal with it so we just avoid it.
Adrian Butash: Right. Well for example this wonderful blessing in here that comes from John Greenleaf Whittier and it’s The corn song it’s a prayer, a blessing about corn if I may just read it a short line.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes please.
Adrian Butash: Thank you. “Heap high the farmer’s wintry hoard. Heap high the golden corn. No richer gift has autumn poured. From out her lavish horn! But let the good old crop adorn. The hills our fathers trod; still let us, for His golden corn, send up our thanks to God!” That’s John Greenleaf Whittier and that’s from the 1800s; wonderful, wonderful prayer.
Caryn Hartglass: I think if people took the time to bless their food, to think about their food, we’d be in a lot better place. If we even just talk about corn, there’s so many horrific things going on with corn today, where there used to be so many different varieties and now we are monocropping here in the United States, we’re really decreasing the diversity of the kinds of corn and then of course there is genetically modified corn and then we’re making sweet sugar corn syrup out of corn rather than using it in its whole healthy form.
Adrian Butash: Understood, understood. Well that whole issue that you’re so expert on; food, and responsible eating and living and processing and the benefits of plant based diets is certainly commendable. I embrace it and it’s also something that’s been the substance of society since we’ve been on this blessed earth.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve dog-eared a lot of pages in this book because there were so many different ones that I really, really enjoyed but when I first picked it up I started thinking about my personal experience with prayers, prayers before meals, saying grace and it’s something that we don’t really do very much in our culture today and the few times that I’ve been at someone’s dinner table where they naturally either closed their eyes, held hands, quietly said words to themselves or said something, often it was uncomfortable.
Adrian Butash: Well that’s a very, very interesting point and one of the reasons I did this book was I wanted to be able to bring the child to the table. As a child can read, you can give this book to a child and suddenly instead of being a quiet member at the table they can be the shining star and it’s a wonderful experience. I’ve had a lot of mails from people about the book and how the children have used it at the prayer before meal.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m reading prayer thirteen Teachings of the Buddha “if beings knew, as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would they allow the stain of meanness to obsess them and take root in their minds. Even if it were their last morsel, their last mouthful, they would not enjoy eating without having shared it, if there were someone to share it with.”
Adrian Butash: That’s a lovely, lovely poem and of course it’s a classic that goes back to the 5th century B.C. one of the things about this particular prayer is that Buddha is under the Bodhi tree so if you think of the tree with its roots in heaven and its branches reaching down through earth with the fruit on the branches, what a wonderful piece of symbolism.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so you had great experience with this book over the years and how do we get this into more people’s hands so that they can say some of these words, kind of reach back into history and forward into the future and realize our connection with earth, air, water, food, all life on earth and have a better appreciation for it.
Adrian Butash: Well of course it comes through the book system which today is now online thank goodness so people like you and your program can promulgate Bless This Food as a wonderful family book that includes children in the circle of experience at the dining table.
Caryn Hartglass: Part of the problem is we got to get people to the table. People don’t know where their kitchen is anymore and they’re not eating at the table very often.
Adrian Butash: Well maybe the book can be the locus of interest. I’m particularly pleased also for example when you’re having a guest at a meal to give the book to the guest and suddenly they become the hero of that meal which is a wonderful experience for any visitor.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I don’t say grace or bless my food but I’m more motivated now to take a moment to think about it. Sometimes I like to on this show and at other times have people imagine or just think for a moment where their food comes, whatever it is. It’s almost a game because today it is so complicated let’s start with a seed and the person involved with planting the seed and all of the people that are involved in nurturing it and growing it and all the machines that are involved and who created those machines and the companies involve with the machines, the fertilizers, there is just so many different businesses now that are involved at every step; harvesting, shipping, packaging, traveling, and then going somewhere else and being transformed into something else and having that packaged and shipped and there’s just so many people in one morsel of food.
Adrian Butash: Well it’s true it certainly is a mechanized and fast industry. It’s essential to get food to everyone but I think one of the things that’s lovely is the motion of harvest and for example I have two prayers in the book prayer 125 and 141 and if I may, one is an English traditional hymn; here “For the hay and the corn and the wheat that is reaped, For the labor well done, and the barns that are heaped, For the sun and the dew and the sweet honeycomb, For the rose and the song and the harvest brought home -Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving!” It’s an English traditional hymn. And with thanksgiving around the corner it’s probably one of the most lovely poems that covers a wide base and may I do Nancy Byrd Turner’s prayer? This is prayer 141, this is very short but it’s lovely “Thank God for home, and crisp, fair weather, And loving hearts That meet together And red, ripe fruit And golden grain, And dear Thanksgiving Come again!” I love thanksgiving, it’s my favorite meal, my favorite time of year.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh absolutely.
Adrian Butash: Partly it motivated me for writing this book if I may I’ll tell you just a brief reason how the book came to be.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes please.
Adrian Butash: Okay. Thank you. I was in Harvard Square one day doing work, this is back in 2008, it was about this time a year and I decided to want to find this book so I went to the Widener library which is 21 universities connected around the world. Long story short I typed in the query for this book and it kept coming back consult the Mahabharata and all these obscure tracks that I heard about but it wasn’t certainly wasn’t going to read and I had that ding dong moment I think I’ll write this nice little book and that’s how it came about, couldn’t find what I wanted.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I like a lot of different things about it and one of the things we are having a problem with, I don’t want to bring politics up but obviously I’m bringing it up, we are having this thing right now with our two parties democrats and republicans and they can’t agree they can’t come to the table and align on things that they agree upon, and this could be a step and there are just so many references about sharing and that breaking bread concept. We all share so many essential things and if we could acknowledge that and be grateful for that, I think we could move forward in so many ways.
Adrian Butash: Well I agree and that’s words well said. the other thing that I like about some of the prayers I found while reading this one last one is the companionship that comes from having friends at the table and prayer 57 is from Ch’eng-Kung Sui dated in 273 A.D. that is a thousand seven hundred years ago but listen to this is wonderful “I sent out invitations to summon guests, I collected together all my friends. Loud talk and ample feeling: discussion of philosophy, investigation of subtleties, tongues loosened and minds at one hearts refreshed by discharge of emotion.” That’s to me so lovely I mean Chinese culture is the oldest living civilization in the world and here they talk about having friends over and good discussions. There is nothing about religion here it’s all about the friendships that come with people over and …….
Caryn Hartglass: “And tongues loosened,” I love that line.
Adrian Butash: I’m sure by psychism, “…hearts refreshed by discharge of emotion,” that notion is so beautiful you want to get your peace out and share it with the people at the table with you. so the book is a wide ranging examination of why we should be thankful, how to bring children to the table and give them a role and you realize that throughout history blessing food and being thankful for survival has been integral part of this wonderful existence on earth.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. I grew up on Long Island near Huntington where Walt Whitman was born so I especially enjoyed prayer 77 by Walt Whitman. “How beautiful and perfect are the animals, how perfect the earth and the minutest thing on it. What is called good is perfect and what is called bad is just as perfect. The vegetables and minerals are all perfect and the imponderable fluids perfect. Slowly and surely they have passed on to this and slowly and surely they pass on, I swear I think there is nothing but immortality.”
Adrian Butash: That’s lovely, I’m also from Long Island, I was raised in Hempstead and know Huntington well and your part of the world, but now I’m in California the land of the eternal sun here and I actually do love it.
Caryn Hartglass: I call California the promise land.
Adrian Butash: Go west young women go west
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah so I’ve lived there a number of times and I may get back there again but just like all places things change.
Adrian Butash: Well that’s true if I may say one other thing in the book I have two signed blessings. American sign language including one for a child and so that is another aspect of the book the Grayson sign language ASL American sign language an adult Grayson, a child’s Grayson, I’ve got a lot of mail over the years on how much fun it is to pass the book around and have a child do the blessings by American sign language it’s pretty easy to do.
Caryn Hartglass: I like that and I think I’m going to bring this along to Thanksgiving which I think is many people`s favorite holiday and certainly in the vegetarian vegan community it is the major holiday because we are so food obsessed in this community and there are some symbols that come with the holiday and we choose to change for obvious reasons but I think it’s because many of us are so focused on food and the importance of food and where it Comes from and how important it is to be thankful and so frustrating to know how many people today are suffering from poor health because they are not being mindful about their food and what it is they are eating and what it is they are putting in their bodies and if they were grateful for where it came from and thought about where it came from and what was in it and whether it was real or not. I mean these prayers these blessings talk about real food they are not talking about manufactured food and that’s what we are thankful for the real food.
Adrian Butash: Caryn if I just may say one other thing, in the back of the book I have Bless This Food the short tittle in 19 languages and it’s really fun because for example in Latin which I do not speak Benedicat et hoc sub is bless this food and in Spanish Bendita sea esta comida and in French Bénis cette nourriture. You can say, you can memorize 3 words in a different language you can be a hero at the table.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s a lovely thing and not just say “hello, goodbye” and “where are the toilets?” but you can say “Bless this food” I really like that. So I just wanted to talk a little bit more about you just because going to your website adrianarts.com I see that this isn’t food related but it’s lovely and I thought worth mentioning so you do sculpture and I love music I’m a singer and certainly appreciate all things musical and see these beautiful sculptures you’ve done in the shape of a piano.
Adrian Butash: Right. I did those a number of years ago and I saw maybe 3 or 4 sculptures 36 in marvel or granite a custom order and adrianarts.com has my activities and I’m actually going to New York in about a month. I have a 6-foot piano sculpture at Steinway, and we are going to decide what to do with it, probably donate it to Lincoln center or something big but is very interesting and pianist like Billy Joel and some others have my sculptures. So the piano is something I was raised with we had two in the house. We had a concert grand and an upright piano. one of the things about ideas and creativity in our artistry which you know well is, your mind is input with images and important things to you emotionally but you can’t process that until years and years so this is something that was in my psyche as a child the piano and eventually I did a sculpture of it and the sculptures are copyrighted.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I’m looking at some of the pictures and there is something really lovely about the shape of a piano, in ways I never thought of before, it’s somewhat heart shaped.
Adrian Butash: Well it has that very seductive curve that if the piano is up the left side is straight and the right side is very lyrical it echoes everything that is designed in the world.
Caryn Hartglass: I like it a lot.
Adrian Butash: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so anything else we can talk about in Bless This Food before I let you go?
Adrian Butash: Well, I think you’ve covered the subject very nicely and wanted to thank you very much and I’ve been to your website and seen the good work that you are doing and I support you with the benefits of the plant based diet and I’ve got quite a few of food blessing that cover your domain and I’m particularly proud of the fact that I get a lot of mail about children being able to read at the table the book including the classic hand printed thank you Mr. Butash, you know the letters going both ways, the letter from children that the parents have use the book to force the child or to suggest to the child that they write to the author which is something I don’t utilize as an adult to write to an author.
Caryn Hartglass: And many people still don’t do that to this day but it’s a lovely thing and you probably like receiving mail.
Adrian Butash: Well of course it’s always a surprise to see the envelope return addressed with a name you don’t know.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh what is this, and somebody saying lovely things, who doesn’t like that.
Adrian Butash: Well also particularly if it’s handwritten, everything today is so mechanized and printed and we can throw the trash mail away just by looking at how the envelope is formed but there is nothing like handwriting and talking one-on-one, human-to-human, it’s something lovely that this book is shown me and given me great, great satisfaction with.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes so I recommend everyone to get to their table more often first find your kitchen make some lovely food invite some wonderful people and sit down at the table, put your smartphones away no texting of your prayers. Look at each other hold everyone’s hands and really think about where your food is coming from. It just may change everything for the better.
Adrian Butash: Well let me close again on Father Giuliani “Bless our hearts to hear in the breaking of bread, the song of the universe.” That is such a beautiful blessing and again I believe Father Giuliani is in Bridgeport, Connecticut. So a lot of my prayers are thousands of years old but good old Father Giuliani did a very lovely prayer that’s likening bread to the song of the universe, exquisite poetry.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food, Adrian and lets bless all of our food and get this message out there it’s so important.
Adrian Butash: Thank you Ms. Hartglass I loved your program and your interview.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you, all the best. It’s time for a little break so let’s bless this program shall we, we are talking about food and be grateful for all thing we can take the time and learn about so that we can all make a positive difference on this planet why not? So we are going to come back in a moment and talk to me Tracy McCormick she’s got a very compelling story about how she healed herself from Crohn’s disease with my kitchen cure, we’ll be right back.
Transcribed by 1/17/2014 by Alma Zazueta
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: Okay we are back! Welcome back everybody, this is Caryn Hartglass and you are listening to It’s All About Food. And what are you thinking about? How are you at this very moment? Good? That’s good! You can always send me an email at email@example.com; we can have an online email conversation. Ask your questions, make your comments, tell me what you think, tell me how you’re feeling, what’s new, what’s old, what you’re grateful for, and something about food! I would love to hear from you. And of course, we were talking about my website on the last part of the program. I have a nonprofit, it’s called Responsible Eating and Living. Responsibleeatingandliving.com is the website, and we’re doing lots of fun things up there with food! Okay so, let’s move on… and my next guest is Mee Tracy McCormick. She’s a real food and autoimmune cooking expert, a community food advocate, and the author of My Kitchen Cure – How I Cooked My Way Out of Chronic Autoimmune Disease and Prevented Cancer with Whole Foods and Healing Recipes. That is one great mouthful and we’re going to be hearing a lot more about that in the next half hour. Welcome to It’s All About Food Mee Tracy McCormick!
Mee Tracy McCormick: Thank you for having me. How are you today?
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome! I want to know more about your first name Mee.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Mee. My name is Mee. When I was a little girl my name was actually Megan, and my mother would introduce me to people and she would say, ‘This is Mee-gan’, and people would say, ‘Hi Me-gan’! And I would say it’s not ‘Me-gan’ and so Mee stuck. It became my nickname and then it has followed me everywhere. And still today I’ll explain it to people and they’ll say ‘Oh, okay Me-gan’ and it’s like they didn’t hear me. It’s like saying your name is Chrissy and people call you Christy.. you know, its okay…
Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny, I was asking my last guest how to pronounce his last name and I tried to be sensitive about it because we identify with the sound of our name and when it’s not pronounced correctly or written correctly… my name’s Caryn with a C and how often do I see it written with a K. I’m all about paying attention and being mindful so I was just kind of interested because I’d never seen that name before – Mee.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Yeah, and I guess it had a lot of… I didn’t know but it would be… there were times when I didn’t like that nickname but it just sort of stuck around and I guess it has relevance.
Caryn Hartglass: It works, it works in this book!
Mee Tracy McCormick: It’s about being authentic, that’s for sure!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, you have a very very compelling story and I want to touch on some of that in the next half hour, whet people’s appetite because they should know about it and read about it and learn from it. We’re in a very bizarre situation right now in the United States with ‘Healthcare’ or ‘Disease-care’ or whatever you want to call it, and shall we get it funded or not and those who have it and don’t. And there were interesting parts in your story about the medical profession, some of it good, some of it not so good. But one of my messages on this program that we can talk about is how we take responsibility for our own health and what we can do to do that.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Right, yeah, I mean that’s really what my story is about. We can point our fingers at the medical community and doctors and nurses and get upset with them when they don’t fix us, but it’s not really… what I think has happened is we have turned our doctors into gods, and we go to them and we expect them to fix us. There’s a lot of expectation on them. And now, they’ve become so accustomed with our expectation and our image of them being gods that they can only see one way of us fixing ourselves and that’s through them. Recently, I had someone who asked to review the book and they were a little snarky and they said, ‘How can a woman who is not a doctor, not a nutritionist, not a scientist, find a cure in her kitchen for a disease that scientists can’t? How is that possible?’ That statement is the problem in our society. We are told that unless we are uber-educated, that we’re professional chefs, or nutritionists, or doctors, or scientists, we cannot do anything for our wellness. We can’t participate in our wellness because we’re not educated enough or we don’t have the wealth for it. That statement that that man made is exactly the problem. So what’s happening is, as we take our power back, our personal power back, and we can do it via the kitchen, we’re shifting our total relationship with our lives. And it’s not just with our food and our health, but it’s with the world that we’re living in. The community that we live in, the way that we parent, and the way that we interact as a society.
Caryn Hartglass: I can understand to some degree how we got here. I talk about it all the time. We’re all very busy and involved in our jobs and our family and surviving, and convenience is a very attractive thing. And we’re made to believe things are convenient, that may or may not be convenient, but we’re convinced they are. And we are attracted to it and that means unhealthy food, fast food, restaurant food, food that we think is food that isn’t food, and then we get sick.
Mee Tracy McCormick: And we pay the price of time either now or later, because either we pay the price of taking our time, slowing down, cooking real food, planning out meals, budgeting our check books, organizing our lives, or we pay the price of time later, when our time is cut short or our time is lost in suffering in pain and discomfort, and chronic disease. So the time conversation and convenience, it’s sort of like – you may be okay right now but it’s going to catch up to you. I used to think, ‘Well, maybe you’ll get sick’. But now it’s not ‘maybe’ someone is going to get sick, it’s when. It’s not an if, it’s when. And it’s changeable. Chronic disease doesn’t have to exist.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s interesting. A lot of people are thinking that themselves, that they will get sick at some point. It’s just accepted. And that’s just so wrong!
Mee Tracy McCormick: It’s crazy right. And it’s a doomed saying, and I just agree on all comments – yeah well! But it’s a doomsday situation that is preventable but it takes a lot of personal responsibility. It takes a lot of commitment to owning your entire life and it’s not just the pill that we want from the doctor. We want everything easy, we want everything cheap. It’s just the phase that our society has been in and I really believe we’re coming through it.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about chronic diseases. We’ve got a long way to go in terms of people getting this message, but I personally think, in terms of heart disease and diabetes, we still have a long way to go but more people are speaking out about the power of nutrition to prevent and reverse these things. More and more people are getting it. Autoimmune diseases are next and they’re getting more press these days. People are starting to understand a little bit that so many different symptoms are related to autoimmune diseases and the mysterious bacteria – good bacteria, bad bacteria – sometimes good, sometimes bad, it’s a whole new bag of worms. And Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, are in there and you’ve had experience with this and I know other people who’ve had success in turning it around. It’s not information that’s out there enough.
Mee Tracy McCormick: No. First of all, with autoimmune disease, there are 75 million people with autoimmune disease. There are more than 100 autoimmune diseases, and once you have 1 autoimmune disease, you are susceptible to acquiring up to 100 of them. Those 100 diseases are everything from Type 2 diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, Crohn’s disease, celiac, psoriasis, vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis – those are all umbrella-ed under the autoimmune disease blanket. Once you have one of them, you can have many of them. So what it’s really about isn’t just – there can be a cure for one of these diseases. It’s really about bringing the body back into balance. There are a lot of doctors right now who are starting to look at it and they understand that there are some links to the autoimmune diseases. It’s environmental exposure, depending on where you were raised, where you live, where you work, where you spend a chunk of your time, and what was around you environmentally chemical-wise. It’s like a perfect storm that happens with people, and that will influence the type of autoimmune disease you get. Then your body’s constitution, the body that you inherited. In my family, I inherited a weak link in the intestines. So what was I exposed to – that was another pinhole in my immune system – what bacteria and viruses was I exposed to? That’s another big pinhole. So Crohn’s and colitis, and celiac disease, which is the allergy to wheat – and when people have celiac disease, by the time they find out about it, they’ve done a lot of damage to the lining of their intestines. So people stop eating gluten. What happens when you stop eating gluten, that doesn’t heal you. That stops the damage from continuing. But then you have to rebuild the lining of the intestines and you have to bring the body back into balance because now you have an autoimmune disease. And you have to look at preventing other autoimmune diseases. And keeping the immune system in balance. And how we do that is in the small intestine because the small intestine is where the root of our immune system is. Our intestines are the root of our body’s tree, that’s our root. Like a tree planted in the earth, if the roots get sick, then down goes the tree. That’s the same thing for us. Balancing the healthy bacteria, unhealthy bacteria, like you just said, keeping the balance there, supporting the body with a rotational diet, making sure the lining of the intestines is healthy and well, nothing is leaking, nothing is seeping, and that the villi are completely cleaned off and strong so that they can receive the nutrition from our food – that’s where our immune system is – those villi in our small intestine grab the nutrition. And when they’re not supported because they’re mowed down by too much wheat, too much dry crunchy food, covered in mucous from excess dairy, and then the bacteria level is out of balance in the small intestines, you have the unhealthy bacteria and if you eat a diet high in sugars and fats and hard to digest foods, then you have a major weak link. So then the perfect storm comes together, what were you exposed to, what bacteria and viruses, and what environment do you live in, and what is your stress. Because when our stress is elevated, it throws the gut flora off and causes gut inflammation. So that is key. And all that Crohn’s and colitis are is an imbalance of bacteria. You get a really unhealthy dose of harmful bacteria a couple of times, and once you have it a couple of times, you have some super bugs in the gut and gnaw off the lining of the intestines. And in my case, I didn’t know, and I just kept eating a food-rut diet. I love processed food, I grew up in a food desert, I grew up on food stamps, and I didn’t know any better. And when I made my way out of the food desert, went into the world, went to school, got a job, had enough money to buy food, I bought the food that I craved, the food that I lived on as a kid – processed chemical foods. And with autoimmune disease, the immune system is in overdrive. So it’s trying to fight all the things that the immune system is exposed to every single day. A hundred years ago, we went to sleep at night, we didn’t sleep on flame retardant beds, we didn’t sleep on carpeting, with chemicals. We didn’t have paints and all the varnishes and we didn’t sleep with our cell phones and our laptops on our bed, and we went to sleep and our immune systems rested. And in the morning, we ate a rotational diet because we had to eat seasonally. And we supported our bodies with real food. Well, now, we don’t eat much real food, and we eat lots of foods with additives and preservatives. That sends the immune system into hyper alert and it goes – woot woot what is that! So these warrior cells that are meant to work a very small percentage of the time are working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they never rest. That’s autoimmune disease.
Caryn Hartglass: Our bodies are pretty amazing in what they can do and they are designed to eliminate toxins. We’re just over-burdening them beyond what their capabilities are.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Absolutely, and we’re not supporting them in any way. We do not support our bodies. And in fact, the only way we think we’re supporting our bodies is extreme exercise. We do extreme exercise. We work out 2-3 hours a day. We go to the gym and we think that we’re going to be okay. But what’s happening is maybe we’re okay on the outside, but we’re not supporting the major muscle which is the intestines. No one is working out for their intestines, very few people. We also eat. We work out so we can eat as opposed to eating so you’re well enough to work out.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, if I work out a little longer, then I can have that piece of cake.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Yes, we view real food and healthy food as punishment! Because we’re like oh I ate cake yesterday and French fries, I better eat this today! We have a really warped relationship with eating supportive foods because we view them as punishment.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, until you’re on the other side, it’s really hard to understand.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Until you go down, or you watch somebody go down. And that’s where we are right now. We’re already hit the tipping point. You know, if 75 million people in this country have autoimmune disease, 2 out of 3 men are going to have cancer. It’s an absurd number. These numbers are so high; it means everyone has someone who’s not well. And children are growing up in a culture watching chronic disease. So when I was a little girl and my mother was very sick, she was the only one who was sick. I remember one person in my town being sick but her. And now, my girls, I sit with moms at the dance studio or at the park, and there’ll be 4 women, 3 of them including me and that 4, have something.
Caryn Hartglass: Yep, and they think it’s normal.
Mee Tracy McCormick: And now it’s becoming normal. And I was thinking about that today too, we’re just kind of like… like you said about cancer, ‘Oh well, we’re going to get it!’
Caryn Hartglass: Your story is very compelling and it’s … I want to say it’s fun to read. There’s romance involved and all kinds of different things that make a story good. But I’m thinking that your story is not unique and that many people are going through something similar and that’s the scary part of it because most people don’t find their kitchen. And with Crohn’s disease, with Irritable Bowel, most people are given cocktails of all of these pharmaceuticals that are going to do more damage than good.
Mee Tracy McCormick: They do. They really do more damage.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s one part in the book I wanted to mention, and again I want to say, I’m very grateful for the medical community. They saved my life. I had advanced ovarian cancer and I know that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the surgeons. They did what they did. But at the same point, they also tried to kill me, so you have to be so careful! And you talked about, at one point, you were living in Mexico, you came back to Los Angeles. You were on a mission to find out what was wrong with you; you went through a battery of tests. You told the doctors you weren’t going to leave the hospital until you found out what you had and then you got a second opinion and after they sent the camera down your intestines and really didn’t find a whole lot… later on, this other doctor was at a conference and saw the slide and told you that it was yours and everything was inflamed and I’m thinking how did the doctor miss it?
Mee Tracy McCormick: Yeah, I’ve never talked to that doctor since. I should give him my book. I went and found a second opinion and Dr. Leo is an amazing doctor. And the reason he’s such an amazing doctor is he listened to me. He didn’t jump to conclusions and ideas and throw things at me. He really listened to me, he really supported me, and he was looking to see what was wrong with me. And he did, he found a giant hole in my intestines. And had he not found it, I don’t know what would’ve happened. My intestines probably would have ruptured. Because when you have an alteration of the total circumference like I did, as large as I did, it was like a rubber band ready to break, or a thin thread. And changing my life, and changing my plate, and changing my fate, it’s been the greatest blessing ever. And yes, there are millions of ‘me’s out there. And when I wrote this book, I wrote it because I kept hearing this voice that said ‘you got to tell ‘em, you got to tell ‘em, there’s a million me’s, there’s a million me’s’. And I wasn’t able to help my mother. My mother had Crohn’s disease and she had a horrific experience with it in the 80’s and she died at 39 years old. And I watched her as a little girl. I stood in the corner and I watched her bleed to death.
And when I got sick, I thought, I’m not going out like that and what changed it was, my daughter was 5 years old and she was looking at me, and I couldn’t get off the floor, I couldn’t stand up. And I thought, ‘Oh no!’ I saw myself in her, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to find another way’. And I’m so glad that I did. I don’t know how long I’ll be well for. I don’t know how long we have to live on this earth. But I know that in the last 5 years, I’ve really done something grand as a parent. The thing I’m most proud of is taking responsibility for my health and done my best to work towards my own wellness and my children have seen that and I don’t think I could have taught them a better lesson.
Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned something that I think is really important, and that is this voice in our head – we need to listen to ourselves, because there’s so much that we know intuitively that we need to believe in.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Yeah, we have to listen to ourselves. People can call it God or whatever they want/ I’m comfortable with all of it. Put it all on the table. Name it what you want.
Caryn Hartglass: You don’t want to be intimidated by a doctor.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Never.
Caryn Hartglass: And if your doctor is intimidating you, you need to find another doctor. You need to be with a team of people that you trust, that you know are on your side, that you resonate with.
Mee Tracy McCormick: You really do. And the last doctor that I saw was great. I said to him, ‘Look, I’m doing the food, I’m feeling so much better. I’m seeing a Chinese doctor, I do acupuncture. I just did it today, I’ll still do it, I’ll do it forever. And he really wanted to do a final procedure that was super dangerous and he wanted to give me drugs. And I said, ‘I think that I’m going to do this food for a full year, and if it doesn’t work then I’ll know it didn’t work and then I’ll be back.’ And he said, ‘Here’s my card. If you need me, come see me.’ I said, ‘Thank you so much, and I hope I never see you again…’! And I’ve never seen him again! He was great because he didn’t intimidate me. He heard me out. And I moved forward. I think it’s so important to find a doctor that can hear you, support you, and you can find your voice, and you work with them. And if I ever get super sick and I can’t get up off the floor, of course I’ll go to the hospital and of course I’ll, with grace and gratitude, receive whatever medical care I need, but as long as it’s preventable, and I can do my part, I’m doing my part.
Caryn Hartglass: What the medical community is really good at these days is diagnostic testing.
Mee Tracy McCormick: It’s amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: Some of it we do a little too much of…but it’s good to find out what’s going on inside. Use whatever eyes that are out there, MRI and CAT scans and all kinds of different tools, colonoscopies. If you have a problem, you need to find out where it is, and then you can decide what to do about it. But diagnostic tools are really powerful. Now you‘ve dealt with a lot of doctors and dieticians in your quest to get well and some of them were not very respectful about your plan.
Mee Tracy McCormick: No, they weren’t at all. That’s another thing, when you decide to change your life pattern and you say – I’m going to do this food protocol, I’m going to try it – be prepared. Eating real food is kind of bizarre to most people and a lot of nutritionists and dieticians are not caught up into the modern thinking of food and how it works for the body. They’re still thinking about calories and fat content. I don’t think about calories ever!
Caryn Hartglass: Amen!
Mee Tracy McCormick: Never do I look at the calories because everything I’m cooking doesn’t come in a box that tells me about the calories. I don’t think about fat content at all. I think about healthy oils versus hard to digest oils. Because if it’s hard to digest, then it’s not absorbable and it’s going to block my absorption and I’m not going to be at my greatest potential. So I look at healthy oils and no calorie and I think all about nutrition. And oh yeah, I’ve had to spank a few nutritionists. I was like, ‘Listen…’ and their whole thing was about why I don’t understand. How can you get the right amount of calories if you don’t eat cheese burgers? I was like ‘what’? And I do eat burgers now y’all… I meant … grass fed burgers, once in a blue moon. But it’s like, ‘Are you serious’? Because I’m eating a plant based diet… We’re in the change. The tipping point already happened. If you go to a nutritionist and she doesn’t have a clue about sea vegetables and leafy greens and how they support the body, go find somebody else.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, another point that you mentioned, I don’t think you came out that specific about it but it was really clear in your descriptions of these people. If people you’re going to for health information and guidance do not look healthy themselves, run in the other direction.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Right, because you want to walk somebody who walks their talk. That was the whole deal. I hadn’t been to a gastroenterologist’s office where everybody in the office was bright and shiny and and healthy and happy, and I kept thinking, what are they eating? And that was the sign – they didn’t know. That was a mega woot woot!
Caryn Hartglass: Really really important. And not obvious to most people but you want to go to someone who walks the walk and looks healthy, in many ways. Not just in their weight, in their skin, in the clarity of their eyes, and also in their personality. Because I think unhealthy foods can make you an unpleasant person.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Oh sure. They shut down your ability to be expansive. You really want to find someone who’s got an expansive point of view. And that’s my food concept. I started out rigid macrobiotics, I moved…. I was completely vegan for some time. I just kept having to learn more and more and more and I kept finding that there are so many different diets and the red thread is the real food. And it’s eating in rotation and in balance, and being a mindful eater, and that’s the key component to wellness via food. And for me, there just isn’t one way, there’s many ways to get well. And when we start getting stuck and we think we have the way, look out, ‘coz you’re getting ready to trip. Because there’s just not one way, there’s many ways. And that has been the key to me remaining well. It’s expanding my point of view, taking everyone’s point of view, taking a look at it and integrating what works for me, shifting things around constantly, and changing my mind. Changing my mind – right now I have tofu recipes in my book. I’m not eating any tofu right now. Is tofu the evil devil? I don’t think so, but I also don’t do dairy. Do I think dairy is the evil culprit and that’s why we’re sick? No, it’s not one thing that’s made us sick.
Caryn Hartglass: I do, I think dairy is evil!
Mee Tracy McCormick: Well, I don’t eat it because I can’t digest it and my kids don’t eat it and we have more cows than anybody I know and nobody eats dairy on our farm. But that’s a conversation but to make dairy the villain will become a limited point of view and you’ve got to look at a bigger picture and you’ve got to look at your food excess and your food combination.
Caryn Hartglass: Likely, we all need to align on a few very key essential points that we need to be eating whole minimally processed foods, mostly plants. We have not scientifically proven what the ideal diet is at this point. But we do know that it should be primarily plants. I’m personally a vegan for ethical reasons, and environmental, and everything else. But if we all at least move to this place of primarily plants, then we could move further and get better at it.
Mee Tracy McCormick: I agree, everything 100%. Absolutely. And that’s the whole thing. So I’ve kind of been moving into this world of food advocates and food conversation and I think that we just have so much self judgment about our food, about what we eat, what we serve our families, how we eat it, and we get really rigid in our points of view. I just keep trying to expand. I keep trying to hear everything and learn as much as I can.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you give classes and help people learn about how to prepare food, which is crazy amusing to me because people don’t know how to prepare food, they don’t know where their kitchen is. They get all kinds of scary. And I laugh because I see this all the time in Manhattan, all these gorgeous kitchens with all the greatest stuff and never touched!
Mee Tracy McCormick: I live in Malibu, the kitchens are bigger than the house, and no one cooks.
Caryn Hartglass: No one cooks.
Mee Tracy McCormick: I do. I run community kitchens from Malibu all the way to the hood in Nashville, to Music Row in Nashville, into rural communities. And this year, we have intentioned to open 18 community kitchens across the country and I teach people how to cook real foods from scratch. Everybody comes in; we set up folding tables, butane burners. It’s all plant based. Chopping boards, cutting knives, aprons. I cook with upwards of 150 people for a dollar a person and we all break into stations and we cook. And I have food angels that cook with me and lead each recipe and then we sit down and we eat a meal that heals. It’s just fascinating because when I started out, I thought I only needed to go out into food deserts. But…
Caryn Hartglass: It’s everywhere.
Mee Tracy McCormick: It’s everywhere. I’ve been living part time in Malibu and I can’t tell you, I almost feel like, the wealthier the household, the harder it is. Because you have options. It’s really easy to go to a rural family, and the holler in Tennessee and say, ‘This is what you all got to eat’, and they’re down, because they have a limited amount of money, and they still have a relationship with farms. They still remember their grandmothers making black-eyed peas. In urban cities, you have a lot of sort of know-it-all mentality, ‘I’m already doing it’, and it’s a little more complicated.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, Mee, thank you! Mee, you, Mee Tracy McCormick! My Kitchen Cure is a great book. Lots of wonderful information, you’ve really done your homework here and I’m so glad that you’re well.
Mee Tracy McCormick: Aw, thank you. And thank you so much for letting me share. Your platform is amazing and I’m glad to be a part of it.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you! Do you have a website?
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food!
Mee Tracy McCormick: Have a fantastic day! Bye!
Caryn Hartglass: You too, bye-bye! I’m Caryn Hartglass and this has been It’s All About Food. Have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Jyothi Parimi, 12/10/2013