Part I – Ellen Zachos
Ellen Zachos leads foraging walks and currently teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, where she received her certification in Commercial Horticulture and Ethnobotany. She writes two blogs, which can be found at downanddirtygardening.com and gardenbytes.com and has written numerous gardening books and contributed to publications including Horticulture and Better Homes & Gardens.
Part II – Paul Waldau
Paul Waldau is an educator, scholar and activist working at the intersection of animal studies, law, ethics, religion, and cultural studies. He is an Associate Professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, where he is the Senior Faculty for the Master of Science graduate program in Anthrozoology. Paul has also taught at Harvard Law School since 2002, and in 2014 will again serve as the Barker Visiting Associate Professor on Animal Law.
The former Director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy, Paul taught veterinary ethics and public policy at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine for more than a decade. Paul has completed five books, the most recent of which are Animal Studies—An Introduction published by Oxford University Press in early 2013 and Animal Rights (2011 Oxford University Press). He is also co-editor of A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics (2006 Columbia University Press).
TRANSCRIPTION PART II
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass you’re listening to It’s All About Food and it is a beautiful day, it’s July 30, 2013, and I’m feeling really good, how about you. I just got a beautiful gift that I wasn’t expecting, it’s not even my birthday, it’s just a beautiful day. Gary Null just gave me a copy of his new cookbook Anti-Arthritis, Anti-Inflammation Cookbook, Healing through Natural Foods, Over 270 Different Vegan Vegetarian Recipes and it’s gorgeous, it’s stunning, and one thing that I really love about cookbooks, the ones that I really love I’m going to say are the one that are filled with beautiful pictures. I think every recipe has a picture, it’s really stunning, and one thing he pointed out to me which I want to point out to you, is that this book is printed on recycled paper with vegetable based ink, and they are planting more trees than were required to print this publication, so very exciting, gorgeous book, it’s heavy and now I have to bring it home, but I’m not complaining, Ok, and the other thing I wanted to mention, I mentioned this last week and now I’m really mentioning it because the Swing in Gourmets, my vegan musical cabaret act now has its first food show, it’s sort of a food show documentary, video, it is live online, please go to swingingourmets.com and watch it, it’s 28 minutes, so this is like television, this isn’t one of these quick sound byte things, this is sit back, relax, sip your green juice and watch, it’s fun, and then when you’ve finished your assignment, let me know what you think, email@example.com, that’s where you find me, very good, you got that, I’ll remind you later because it’s really important that you watch this. Alright now moving onto our first guest who is joining me here in the studio, Ellen Zachos who leads foraging walks and currently teaches at the New York botanical garden where she received her certification in commercial horticulture and and Ethnobotany, she writes two blogs which can be found at downanddirtygardening.com and gardenbytes, and that’s with a b-y-t-e-s, gardenbytes.com, and has written numerous gardening books and has contributed to publications including horticulture and better homes and gardens, and I’m looking at her beautiful new book which I got when I was at the book expo several months ago here in New York at the Javits Center, Backyard Foraging: 65 familiar plants you didn’t know you could eat. Okay, welcome to It’s All About Food, Ellen.
Ellen Zachos: Thank you, glad to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, this is a really beautiful book, and just like I was saying about Gary Olson’s cook book, this is also filled with beautiful pictures good enough to eat, kind of makes me want to lick the pages.
Ellen Zachos: I hope it makes you want to go out and forage for the foods and then lick them.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, well, the thing that I think is so important is, I think we’ve lost a lot of our either instinctual knowledge or ancestral knowledge or some kind of knowledge that used to be useful to us, and that was what we could go outside and find to eat, foraging, we talk about humans being hunter-gatherers, well I believe we were foragers because we were hunter-gatherers.
Ellen Zachos: Well I think foraging is gathering, I think it’s the same thing, I think they’re synonyms with each other and I absolutely agree with you.
Caryn Hartglass: And you know today, not only do most people not know where their kitchen is, and they don’t know how to make food, and they barely know how to buy it, and they don’t know most of the vegetables and fruits that are in the produce section, they certainly don’t know what’s out their growing wild that’s edible.
Ellen Zachos: And you know just a few generations ago that was not the case.
Caryn Hartglass: How fast it happened.
Ellen Zachos: And I was hiking with some friends that over the weekend, some foraging friends, and we were talking about, I don’t know why we were talking about this, but we were talking about growing up how we were all fed from cans, and you know, I love my parents, and my Mom is a good cook, but they thought it was perfectly acceptable to open a can of wax beans and serve that to us for dinner, they were awful, but it was I think a sign of prosperity or something. My grandparents were immigrants from Greece, and I know my grandmother knew how to forage, that’s how they fed themselves, but then the next generation was here and they didn’t have to do that, they were like, “yeah, we can just buy cans of food, we have arrived!”.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well and there was a novelty to it.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah and it was I think not a step in the right direction.
Caryn Hartglass: No, definitely not. I don’t know if we’ll ever get back, but one of the things I loved about this book is that there are so many foods out there we don’t even know about them. Our selection of foods have been so filtered down into just a handful based on whatever big ag wants to grow.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah, what they can sell, what they can ship, what they can grow least expensively, that’s what we’re fed.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s really unfortunate. Let’s jump in, we’re gonna jump in and get to know some of these wonderful foods for a minute, now, even before we do, you put some warnings or disclaimers or things we need to know.
Ellen Zachos: I really just wanted to say at the beginning “Don’t be stupid”. And if you are, don’t blame me. But of course you can’t say that, you could be a little more polite.
Caryn Hartglass: But the things we don’t want to do is we don’t want to grab things that neighborhood animals, dogs and others have peed on.
Ellen Zachos: For example, that’s a good, very good idea.
Caryn Hartglass: And I’m going to go off on another subject, about 10 years ago I was curious about dumpster diving and I went on a few dumpster dives with some people that were doing that and in Manhattan, it’s kind of crazy because there’s so much really excellent food that is fresh and clean and packaged and put on the streets for lots of strange reasons, but we were in a 20/20 piece on television, and they edited in this little dog peeing on a pile of trash. That little dog was not there when we were there, I’ll never forget it.
Ellen Zachos: But it made for good television.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it sure did, but we must think about those little dogs and other animals.
Ellen Zachos: You do, you must think about those, and you must think about, you know, insecticides and herbicides, if you’re foraging in a park or a field, and you must think about what belongs to them, and what belongs to the neighbor on the other side of the fence, and you know, always ask permission if you’re foraging someplace that’s not your land, and don’t forage near a busy highway, think, they’re all common sense things, if you really stop and think about it, they all make sense, these rules.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, so that leaves what.
Ellen Zachos: It leaves a lot, it leaves a lot, I mean, the thing about this book that is, to me, so interesting is, you really can start in your own backyard, cause there’s a lot of stuff that, I don’t know if you have a yard.
Caryn Hartglass: No, I’ve been living in Queens, I have a terrace. But I can even forage on my terrace, because I’ve got lamb’s quarters that just appears out of nowhere.
Ellen Zachos: You can, you can forage almost anywhere. You can forage in Central Park, you can forage in Crospeck Park, don’t let the rangers catch you, but seriously, a lot of the stuff in the park that’s foragable are the most invasive exotic plants there, so really, the rangers should be thanking you instead of writing you a ticket when you’re pulling up the Japanese knotweed because it’s crowding out a lot of stuff that should be there, but in a lot of parks, they have to post when they spray, so you know not to forage there, and outside of New York City, many national and state parks actually allow you to forage, you can take a certain quantity of berries or nuts per day as long as you’re not doing it for commercial purposes, you can’t pull plants up by the roots, but you don’t really always want to do that anyway.
Caryn Hartglass: Hm, very good. Well I’m just thinking it would be really good if we could learn as children more about this because certainly we don’t want children picking foods that are poisonous that they shouldn’t be eating, but also, like I mentioned before, we’ve lost all this knowledge, and we really need to get it back. In the back of my mind, if a crisis happens and we don’t have any more food in our stores, what are we going to eat, and those who know how to forage are going to have a little bit of an advantage.
Ellen Zachos: We’re going to eat each other is what I’m afraid of, but no, you’re right. My sister is always saying “come the apocalypse, they’re are coming to my house, because not only do I have a well stocked pantry because I do a lot of food preservation, that’s kind of my hobby, but also I know what you can eat out there.” That doesn’t mean I can actually, you know, survive for long if society imploded, but I love driving down the road and thinking “I can eat that, I can eat that, I can eat that…”.
Caryn Hartglass: Where did you learn this?
Ellen Zachos: I learned it here, I did not learn it growing up. I’m a gardener by profession. My wild foods, my foraging mentors, one named Leda Meredith, who lives in Brooklyn, she worked for me as a gardener when I started my company and we were sitting around having lunch one day on somebody’s property, I had almost nothing in the refrigerator that morning so I think I had a cheese sandwich, it was very boring and she picked a couple of garlic mustard leaves and put it in my sandwich and it made all the difference in the world and it was free and it was delicious and I was hooked.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s crazy, it’s just amazing, so many different flavors some of them our tongues wouldn’t even know what to do with because they’d be so unfamiliar to them.
Ellen Zachos: But really good, a lot of them. If it weren’t delicious, I would not be interested.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, so I’m looking at the ox-eyed daisy. I’m a particular fan of the figurine vegetables and I know there’s a lot out there that I haven’t tried, that’s page 60, and it’s looking rather tasty.
Ellen Zachos: It is, it’s very tasty, it is very tasty because it’s got a little bit of lemoniness, a little bit of pepperiness to the taste.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s already seasoned.
Ellen Zachos: It is, it’s preseasoned salad and the thing that’s nice about this, it’s also got some succulence to the leaf, it’s a little bit thicker than a lettuce leaf but it’s not super super thick, so it’s got good mouth feel in addition to some sort of internal spicing.
Caryn Hartglass: Speaking of all of that, one that I don’t like, and I think I saw it here, purslane, don’t like purslane and it’s got that mouth feel that I think is very unpleasant.
Ellen Zachos: Are you referring to the latching quality of the purslane, I will give you that, purslane is like Okra on steroids as far as mucilage is for you, but it’s really super good for you, and there’s a way, I don’t know how many millions of ways you’ve tried it, but if you cook it in a certain way, the way Greeks cook it is sort of sauté in olive oil with garlic, and then with stewed tomatoes cooked for a long time, and of course they put in some feta cheese because every good Greek puts feta cheese in everything, and it’s delicious and when you cook it long and slow and with tomato sauce, the stewed tomato, the mucilage goes away, and it’s super super healthy.
Caryn Hartglass: I will give purslane a second chance. Another one I found really fascinating is the ostrich fern.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah I love fiddlehead fern.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s very weird looking, strange looking, and yeah it’s kind of a string bean asparagus-y sort of thing.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah, only it’s got a little more density to it, so it’s not, you really, you bite into it, it’s got a little more heft to it as a vegetable. Now, I will say you have to know the right fern. There are some ferns that are bitter and really unpleasant. That’s why, you see that big picture on page 57 there, that shows you what the fern fiddlehead looks like, other fiddlehead ferns have really fuzzy coverings and just don’t look like this at all, you want to make sure you get the ostrich fern, that’s the most delicious one.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I’m not going to have them unless you’re with me and you can taste them for me.
Ellen Zachos: You know, you’re joking, but that’s how you start.
Caryn Hartglass: I would never discover something and say oh looks like page 69 in Ellen’s book.
Ellen Zachos: Except purslane you already know so you could do that yourself.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I discovered purslane when I belonged to a community supported Agriculture group which I don’t at the moment and I encourage people to do that. It may or may not fit your lifestyle because you have to pick up the produce box every week at certain times, and if you’re not gonna be around for a month or two, it’s not as good of a deal, but you do, depending on the farmer, you might get to learn about new foods, and that’s what’s exciting about it, some people may find it annoying but when you’re getting a surprise every week in a box, that’s really fun.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, now, another thing, another thing that surprised me was the spruce. I didn’t know you could eat that.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah, and it’s not just that you can eat it, it’s fantastic, and it can be either sweet or savory.
Caryn Hartglass: I didn’t know that, I mean how would you eat it, who ever thought of biting into that.
Ellen Zachos: I don’t know, I don’t know who thought of it the first time I wish I could say oh that was my idea, oh Caryn that was my idea, I was the one who thought of that, but I didn’t, but Spruce, the thing that I made this year that I love the most was spruce tipped shortbread cookie. And you just grind it up in the food processor with whatever sweetener you’re using, if it’s a sugar or brown sugar, or you’d just chop it up really small if you’re going to do it with an agave nectar or something else, but for a shortbread you use real sugar and it’s delicious that way but it’s also great in savory dishes, you can do it in a food processor with salt and then use that salt on roasted root vegetables, and if you think, how’s that gonna taste, it has almost a citrus-y taste to it when it’s cooked which is not what you’d expect but it’s delicious.
Caryn Hartglass: I guess I’m thinking about rosemary, which is a kind of, tippy, spiny sort of thing. Ok, well that, I’m going to have to find or try somewhere, a look-alike to avoid is the yews, yews are bad.
Ellen Zachos: Yews are poisonous.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s Y-E-W-S, it doesn’t matter how you spell it, you just want to not eat it, and that’s the scary part of this.
Ellen Zachos: That’s why you never eat anything you’re not 100% sure of. That is really the first rule, we said the first rule is dog pee but it’s not, the first rule is never eat anything you’re 100% positive of.
Caryn Hartglass: Dog pee may not be that bad.
Ellen Zachos: It’s probably not as bad as yew is.
Caryn Hartglass: We know, we, those who listen to my show and myself, people who love healthy food, that berries are really important and probably the best fruits out there, and you talk about a number of them here, and I think most of them when you describe them tend to be tart.
Ellen Zachos: Yes, most of them are tart, and that’s the secret, because we’ve hybridized so many fruits and so many berries to be less tart and sweet for our unsophisticated palettes, and the tarter ones are probably the healthier ones. I don’t know why that is though, you probably know more about that chemistry than I do, I know how the tartness if useful to me as a cook, cause it’s an indication of greater amounts of Pectin often, and also, some of the plant chemicals that evolve to sort of keep animals from eating although with berries you want the animals to eat so that they can, shall we say, disperse the seeds, well I was going with the word disperse, but say the word poop if that makes you happy. But yes they are mostly very tart fruits, you know, which are delicious, delicious, if you know what to do with them.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m looking at the June berry.
Ellen Zachos: Which is actually not that tart, it’s just straight off the tree, you can eat that and be very very happy.
Caryn Hartglass: Juniper, and we can eat that, for some reason I thought that Juniper was not to be eaten.
Ellen Zachos: No, first of all, I don’t know what your views on alcohol are.
Caryn Hartglass: Occasionally.
Ellen Zachos: But gin is flavored with Juniper, and Sauerkraut is flavored with juniper.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right, but, that’s where I read it, you can have too many of them I read.
Ellen Zachos: I would love to know that, I don’t know, I use it in a dry rub they’re very strong tasting so you don’t need a lot of them, you could use 6 or 7 berries to flavor an entire quart of sauerkraut, you really don’t need a lot, but this is something you can now buy at Sahadior in a good spice store, is the juniper berries, and I loved to crush up a few and mix them with other things as a dry rub.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok now what about flowers, eating flowers. Occasionally I ate at this one Thai restaurant and they always have this dendrobium orchid on the plate.
Ellen Zachos: I wouldn’t eat those if I were you, not because the dendrobium orchid isn’t safe, but because you don’t know what’s been sprayed on the dendrobium orchid while it was growing. They are edible and if you were growing it and not spraying anything on it, but do you know if the Thai restaurant is going down to the florist, I don’t know.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you don’t know that.
Ellen Zachos: But in general, flowers, to me, are not the most interesting things to eat just because they’re so ephemeral, they don’t really feed me, I’m an enthusiastic eater, I like a little more substance.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, well I wouldn’t make a main course out of it but they have some really lovely delicate flavors.
Ellen Zachos: And there are some that I am quite fond of, like Yucca flowers which are in bloom right now, have a great crisp cool taste to them, and, if you’re like on the west coast, pineapple guava flowers have almost a cinnamon-y taste to them, those are two that I really do like.
Caryn Hartglass: Oregon grape, looks beautiful
Ellen Zachos: Yeah, and that’s one that will pucker you right up.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh gosh, these are all so so beautiful, okay, now we’re here in New York City so what’s going on in Central Park.
Ellen Zachos: Well, first I have to say it’s against the rules to forage.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah I remember wild man Steve Brill talking about his excursions and arrests, and getting, being, ultimately allowed to give tours.
Ellen Zachos: It is technically against the rules to forage in Central Park, although I think if you were picking stuff up off the ground if they were nuts, like, every fall, lets say, from mid-September up until Thanksgiving, under ever female ginko tree, you will see crowds of mostly Asian women, but I’m there too, picking nuts up off the ground, and nobody’s going to stop you from doing that, cause they’re just lying there on the ground, but technically you are not supposed to pick anything in Central Park, so when I or anybody else lead a foraging tour in the park, we are mostly just saying, see this, if you find it someplace else you can pick it and eat it and this is what you can do with it, and honestly, I think that’s mostly for liability reasons, I don’t think the city wants to be sued by somebody who picks a plant and then gets sued because they weren’t paying attention.
Caryn Hartglass: Too many lawyers in New York.
Ellen Zachos: It’s a litigious society and that doesn’t always help us.
Caryn Hartglass: We’re gonna be talking about animal law in the next section, in the next part of this show, and it has its advantages, but, ok, we’ll just move on. Mushrooms, now mushrooms, I’m a big mushroom lover and we’re learning more and more about how nutritious mushrooms are, sometimes I call them natural chemo therapy, because of their phenomenal anti-cancer fighting properties, but you know it could be deadly.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah, and I only put five mushrooms in here, and the five I chose are mushrooms that have no poisonous look-a-likes, and I thought that was very important for people who are just starting out. I’m very fortunate in that one of the best mushroom people in the entire world, Gary Lincoff is a colleague of mine up at the botanical gardens, so I started out studying with him, and he’s also a good forager, cause there’s nothing like touching the actual mushroom.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, somebody that’s been doing it a long time and is alive.
Ellen Zachos: And is still alive, it’s a good sign, but the five that are in here are absolutely foolproof, if you find something that looks like one of these pictures, you are not going to die, unless you have an allergic reaction but you can have an allergic reaction to a peanut or strawberry.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, oyster mushrooms.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah, nothing looks like an oyster mushroom, if you really read the description, if you look at how the oyster mushroom comes out of the wood, it always grows on wood, and you know, but you have to really read the descriptions, it’s not just, you can’t just say, oh look, that’s white, maybe it’s an oyster mushroom, you have to really turn it over and look at it and take a spore print and see how it attaches to the wood.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok
Ellen Zachos: If that sounds like too much work just go to the store and buy your mushrooms.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I would love to do this, just like everything, I don’t know where I’m going to find the time.
Ellen Zachos: That’s the great thing about you know, if you’re walking to work, if you’re walking through the park, you might see 4 or 5 things just on your way into work, that you could eat.
Caryn Hartglass: I always see dandelions, and I often see lamb’s quarters, and like I said somehow it just grows in my pots on my terrace.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah, well it seeds itself so readily.
Caryn Hartglass: And I’m sure there’s a lot of others our there, and my understanding of dandelion was that Europeans brought it over because they liked to eat it and then it became a weed, cause we don’t know any better.
Ellen Zachos: Cause we are too stupid to try it, but it’s delicious, and you can eat the leaves and you can eat the flowers and you can eat the roots, so it’s really a superstar as far as I’m concerned, and good for us.
Caryn Hartglass: So now, what do you do with all these things you’ve got some nice little tips at the end of the book on, preserving advice.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah, because when something, you always want to eat something when it’s at its peak, and that usually means you get a lot of it at once and what are you gonna do with it. Like, right now, blueberries, gallons every weekend I’m picking.
Caryn Hartglass: Where?
Ellen Zachos: Out in Pennsylvania, so what are you gonna do? You can have blueberry pancakes and you can just eat them fresh, but you have to preserve them. So you learn how to freeze and can and dry and do all these things so that you can enjoy the harvest throughout the year.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, one thing I discovered not too long ago was making a jam or jelly, just something really simple from dried fruit, and it’s a no-brainer, I take the dried fruit like a dried apricot for example or anything dried. I add some water to it I cook it until it’s soft I puree it and I put it in jars and that’s it, so I’m imagining this would be terrific. I dehydrate it and when I was ready I could make some jam, or I could just make jam right off the bat.
Ellen Zachos: Well, you could do that too, you could do that too, and the nice thing about jam is that you don’t have to use artificial pectin, cause you just keep cooking it until it thickens to be where you want it to be
Caryn Hartglass: Right, now I’ve made some raw pies from time to time and I’ve used blueberries because when I blend a blueberry it naturally firms up because of the pectin it, but that doesn’t happen with strawberries or raspberries, so are there any other berries that have that much pectin?
Ellen Zachos: Yes, there are, fruit very widely, but currents and gooseberries are very high in pectin, raspberries, blackberries, not so much, cherries, if they’re sour cherries, very high in pectin, strawberries not so much, apples, very high in pectin, pears, not so much, apricots and peaches not so much, plums have quite a lot, so it really depends on the fruit.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, and have you ever done that, where you pureed blueberries and put them in the refrigerator and it just turns into Jell-O, blueberry Jell-O.
Ellen Zachos: Yeah it kind of looks like this, there was this old Month Python sketch the Blancmange, I don’t know, it was this giant pudding that won at Wimbledon and ate people, but it does, it’s like the blueberries congealed to form this solid, it’s almost beautiful it’s got this jeweled toned color to it and this sheen, I actually do that on an open tarp with some goat cheese and then put the blueberries. Was that for the goat cheese? I like goat cheese.
Caryn Hartglass: Just as a disclaimer here, I do not promote goat cheese consumption but that’s ok, we’re all friends here in plant foraging world, and you get tourists.
Ellen Zachos: I do.
Caryn Hartglass: Tell me about those.
Ellen Zachos: Well I never pick anything illegally in a city park, but I do take people on walks through Central Park, mostly Central Park, sometimes through the New York Botanical Gardens as well, they’re foraging walks, to educate people, to show people what is out there that they might be able to eat, and people will say I’ve got that all over my yard, I never knew I could eat that, and you know, hopefully they go home and actually do something about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, speaking of which, bamboo, we’ve just had a bamboo moment, my brother’s got like an infestation of bamboo in his backyard and I’m thinking, dinner, lunch, breakfast, over and over.
Ellen Zachos: In the Spring though, see that’s the thing it’s in the right season, if you went out there now, bamboo would be not delicious, but if you go out there in the spring when the shoots are just 6-8 inches tall, that’s when you cut them.
Caryn Hartglass: Tender, bamboo shoots.
Ellen Zachos: And very very easy to prepare, you just need boiling water.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, now did you ever have a bad experience foraging.
Ellen Zachos: You mean like a puking my guts out experience?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, what was it with?
Ellen Zachos: Evening primrose root, which many people eat with no trouble whatsoever, I have no food allergies that I know of, I have to try it again, and I will try it again, despite the fact that I really did puke my guts out, but I’ll try it again because I want to know if it’s an aberration, or if it really just doesn’t agree with me, or maybe I prepared it wrong, although I highly doubt that, it’s plausible.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, very good, I mean it happens, I’d like to think that when we have a very vital body, if something goes in that the body doesn’t like, it will get rid of it immediately, and that’s important.
Ellen Zachos: I think it is.
Caryn Hartglass: And a lot of people, their bodies are not vital, because their bodies have given up, because they keep filling it up with processed food, and too much animal food, and a lot of junk, and the body gives up, but I will confess that there are times when I do, is there a technical term for vomiting?
Ellen Zachos: Puking your guts out, that’s the technical term.
Caryn Hartglass: It happens from time to time, and I never know what it is, all I know is I thank my body for knowing because I don’t know and it’s over, just like that, and that’s a vital body. Very good, well let’s not end on that note.
Ellen Zachos: I’m speaking at the New York Public Library next Tuesday.
Caryn Hartglass: Ooh, where is, which one?
Ellen Zachos: At the Mid-Manhattan branch at 6:30 and it’s free so if anybody, yes, free is good, and I’ll be serving foraged cookies at the end, so, if anybody.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good, and you’ll have some books there?
Ellen Zachos: I will have books and I’ll be showing pictures of a lot of these plants so maybe people will be able to say, “I grow that, I didn’t know I could eat it”.
Caryn Hartglass: There you go, well I highly recommend that, and I think it should be fun, how long does it last?
Ellen Zachos: It’s an hour, 6:30-7:30, and then I’ll stick around and take questions of course.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, well great well Ellen thank you very much for joining me here, this has been fun, and I’m just going to start, well maybe, soon.
Ellen Zachos: Do it!
Caryn Hartglass: I’m going to step outside beyond my terrace. Ok, so we’re going to take a quick break now, I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’re listening to It’s All About Food, stay with me, and we will be right back with Paul Waldo talking about animal studies.
Transcribed by Brandon Chung, 8/20/2013
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, we are back. I am Caryn Hartglass, you are listening to It’s All About Food here on July 30th, 2013.
Okay, that was good, I really enjoyed that last conversation about foraging. Now we are going to move onto something that is also very important, and that is Animal Studies and Animal Rights. I am going to bring on my next guest, Paul Waldau, he is an educator, scholar and activist working at the intersection of Animal Studies, Law, Ethics, Religion and Cultural Studies. He is an associate professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, where he is the senior faculty for the Master of Science graduate program in Anthrozoology. Paul has also taught at Harvard Law School since 2002 and in 2014 will again serve as the Barker visiting associate professor on Animal Law. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Paul!
Paul Waldau: Hi Caryn, nice to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, you know I have listened to a number of your interviews and I have been reading your books. And I am just in awe at this very peaceful and non-judgmental tone that you have.
Paul Waldau: What a nice compliment, thank you, and can I reciprocate? I am preparing and I am thinking; I get to talk to Caryn, we are going to talk about responsible eating issues, and I think, “Gosh that’s such an immediate day to day issue that helps condition all of us to be more responsible actors in so many other realms.” So it is really an enjoyable thing to talk about this subject because there are so many creative and responsible ways to address this.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well I always try and find different ways because I know different people are going to respond to one thing or another. Some people appeal to a religious spin, some people appeal to a health spin, or environmental, and there is what got me on this path was not wanting to kill animals.
Paul Waldau: And also you’d find in education the same thing, and if you’re a good educator you are so sensitive to the fact the students in front of you arrive and they want to share but they often arrive with very personal and distinctive pasts. Though part of the task of an educator in this area is listening to them to say, “How do I take this person’s talents and let them flourish as much as possible?”
Caryn Hartglass: Well that is indeed a skill, a great skill to have. Okay, so let’s jump into this, I’ve been talking about animal rights a bit on this program and I’m going to continue for the next few weeks. One of the things I was thinking about, is that we seem to be, I like to visualize things, and I think about like a time line or a line of where the human consciousness is on this subject and we were talking last week about those that are way, way out there in what some people call “the extreme” and saying that the only type of activism is the all-or-nothing approach where we tell people it has to be one way and nothing else. And then there are those in the middle that allow for small steps, and I think in how important all of that is, in order to move the general feeling to a better place.
Paul Waldau: I think you’re right, that it takes a lot of different attitudes to constitute a social movement and a lot of different approaches, some circumstances do require us to go to the root, which is the meaning of the word “radical”. I don’t think violence is ever justified, I think that’s by far the most important position because so much of what animal protection people do is about stopping violence and it’s pretty hard to use the tool you’re protesting against as part of the protest. And everybody knows there are complex situations like self defense where some kind of force is needed, but I think on the whole the really important principle is to avoid violence, because that’s the problem. It’s no simple task of course, because the people who have privileges or the business that want to make profits in tough ways aren’t going to give up those privileges, so how do you move them? Well we need a lot of different approaches to convince them change is important for all of us.
Caryn Hartglass: I was going to bring this up later, but I’m going to bring it up now. There are a small amount of people that believe violence is necessary and a few of them unfortunately, in somewhat violent act had precipitated some laws that came out and that make it even more difficult for us to protest today or at least to uncover things that are going on in factory forums.
Paul Waldau: Yeah the recent decision just in the past couple days on AgGag laws has been pretty good where people recognize how incredibly unfair, not only do they harm the non-human animals but they harm the right to speak freely about what is actually happening in the world. Industry’s powerful, they can lobby to get the very narrow minded and favoritism oriented laws like that. But Caryn, last year there were very important AgGag laws that passed, now we have to undo that, but this is the storm that every social movement goes through, it’s sort of a pendulum swinging back and forth and the hopeful thing is that people stay the course, not having to go back to responsible eating. That really is the day to day encounter that we have with so much of the world around us, environmentally, animal-protection-wise and that’s just something that people start there and they start to see how important it is to get to the other areas as well.
Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned this a lot in your book, in one way or another, but responsible eating sure is important, but many people think they’re responsible, many people think that they are compassionate and yet they don’t have a clue, either they’re not educated or they’re so close minded that they don’t even acknowledge everything around them. And you talk a lot about what the animal perceives, and we have no clue what other animals perceive, we can barely understand what our partners, and our parents and our children are thinking, let alone other species.
Paul Waldau: Yeah that’s a really important note, in the most recent book the Animals Studies book, puts right up front that the task has to be for us to humbly seek out other animal’s realities, their communal realities, their individual realities but also to admit that is a limited success here, we have big brains and we’re wonderful when we’re humble but often on this area we’ve not been. So seeking that out is important. I’m sure the way for us to go through this is education but so much of our education has really dumbed people down. There’s a very famous saying by a man that said “People are not born stupid, they are born ignorant, they’re made stupid by education.” Of course he was talking about a bad kind of education, our job is, it’s up to us, can we turn our education system to help us with our limits and send humility versus making us arrogant and even unaware of the world.
Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned at one point, I believe it’s in Animal Studies, The People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn’s great book and that’s just one book that I believe should be in all high school students’ history classes. I learned so much about it, and not just what was in the book, but it’s just a great example of how we are taught to see things a certain way.
Paul Waldau: And not only was Howard Zinn a great man but he also does us a great service in showing how the history that we learned was this rather one dimensional, very narrow minded kind of history and if the history has treated other humans so badly Caryn, and it really has and this continues of course today. But he helped us see this much better; he models for us that you can be honest about history, even it’s ugly parts, in a constructive way, to say “Come on, let’s see this and let’s try to stop this.” And that’s very pertinent to what we do to the other living beings, besides our own species members. Often when I write, I’m really quite interested in the point that listen, if somebody’s really for animal rights, since humans are primates and mammals, and thus animals. Animal rights is a position that says these important and complex beings deserve protection, and human’s locked in there, this is for me, a win-win situation. But most of us know, it’s often a polarized debate and people pretend that animal protection people don’t like humans. Almost everyone I know who is an animal protectionist, really sees the value of protecting humans just as fully.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, when you understand what’s behind animal rights and understand exploitation is wrong, that causing pain and suffering is wrong, it is wrong for humans and wrong for other non-human species. We understand that.
Paul Waldau: And there is a wonderful set of arguments to be made about, listen of course it’s better for the non-human animals if we realize what you just said but it’s almost amazingly good for us if we develop our own moral character and strength and muscles. What happens when we ignore that, is our moral muscles, as it were, begin to atrophy and you loose the ability to be sensitive, not just to non-humans but humans as well. Just by taking responsibility in your day to day actions. I actually believe humans are remarkable animals, remarkable beings, but only when we’re humble. When we’re out there being arrogant about how important we are and the world was designed for us we are rather ordinary and ugly, to be frank. So to me, there is a win-win situation for living in a much better world.
Caryn Hartglass: There are other social movement that are moving forward and not in the places where they’d ideally like to be: civil rights, women’s rights, sexual rights, racial rights, etc. But the difference with Animal Rights is that these non-human species don’t have a voice.
Paul Waldau: Yeah there’s a powerful Austrailian group called Voiceless which is precisely looking at that point. For me, the harms we’ve done to women, disfavored races, all sorts of marginalized human groups, children for heaven’s sakes, when we become sensitive to them it just enlarges our capacity, one of the interesting things about compassion is that it isn’t a hyper-finite capacity. The more compassionate you are, you recognize how you can move that forward and be caring across the species line, protecting local dogs, local cats, wildlife locally. That really tunes you up for how important compassion is and that easily comes back inside the species line repeatedly. So for me, in our classes we constantly affirming that animal protection is about protecting all of the living beings on Earth as much as we are able to do and that will always benefit humans because we’re surely among the most complicated animals even if we are obviously not the single one that matters. But we definitely matter, so animal protection has a good message for humans as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Well it is very exciting that there are more and more Animal Studies courses at the university level, I remember when I was going to school back in the seventies, I don’t remember, well there were a handful of Women’s Studies classes, but I don’t remember any Animal Studies. And how has that changed over the decades?
Paul Waldau: These days there are literally hundreds and hundreds of Animal Studies classes, individual classes, you could go to the Animals and Society Institute and see the list. It’s really impressive! But what we’ve done in the past five years or so is move to the level of creating whole programs where people can not just have a single course, and those single courses are really important, but if they’re important imagine what happens when somebody over a sustained period of time with others who are doing this as well get the chance to encounter these issues to nurture their own understanding in others and if all of us in the community work so much better than we do as individuals if we’re really doing things with good will. Those programs have started to emerge and the Canisius program has got wonderful dynamics, so do some of the Animal Law classes like the one at Harvard, it’s such a pleasure to teach because the students are so involved for all the right reasons. Nobody takes that class because they’re trying to make more money, they take it because they care, and you’re in a class Caryn, and people care like that, which happens in the graduate program and the Animal Law classes. Well sometimes your job as an instructor is to just nurture them and then get out of their way, they’re so talented you just want to see where they’ll take it. It’s fun education when it’s working really well.
Caryn Hartglass: Right early on in your new Animal Studies book, I’m going to read here that this introduction to animal studies touches so many fields: history, cultural studies, education, natural and social sciences of many kinds, political studies, law, philosophy, critical studies, literature, arts, comparative religion, ethics, sociology, public policy studies, social psychology, geography, anthropology, archeology, criminology. It’s amazing.
Paul Waldau: Well it’s humbling to hear that, I’m obviously not an expert in every one of those, I was certainly writing about each one of those. For me, the whole task was something wonderfully interesting happening in all those fields on the animal question and how could we coordinate and cross fertilize so the last geographers have done wonderful work, talk to sociologists, talk to the law people, the religion people, talk to philosophers, etc. but that often doesn’t happen in the modern university and we need that multifaceted interdisciplinary approach. That sounds awfully intellectual but it’s so common sense that literature and art have something to say. So how do we get these participants to talk to each other, if we do I think we’ll see how really ancient and deep this concern is and if we do it again, Caryn, our educational system can be so much more remarkable than it is right now.
Caryn Hartglass: Well when I think about exploitation, and when I think about what we do to animals, it’s so disheartening on so many levels but then I think there are so many species that have so many skills and so many talents that we really take for granted and if we really respected them for what they knew and knew how to do, we would be so far ahead in so many fields.
Paul Waldau: Yeah, what a wonderful world it would be if we’d all been educated. I was just reading someone in preparation for this, who talks about how important it is for us to educate children, but frankly we often educate children, that to be an adult you have to put away those childish things like caring about animals. Oh really? I don’t think that’s right, you find great figures, like historically the Buddha, for example, you find wonderfully in Albert Schweitzer contemporary people like Jane Goodall, really stunningly interesting people have at the center of their lives these deep concerns about other living beings. And it is the way I think of an integrated person, in terms of again, you could talk your table choices, your other consumer choices, your treatment of the local wildlife or just your awareness in general of how history shows us how many people cared about this issue. It’s a question of being gentle, one of my favorite quotes is this one from Thich Nhat Hanh, he’s talking about the question, is there is a path to peace, and he says, “There is no path to peace, peace is the path.” I think yes, in a way, nonviolence in the world, not crazy nonviolence, self-defense in some situations but this very caring deep-seated commitment to non-violence is an important, how would you say, possibility for us.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m really curious about the students who take your classes, what disciplines are they studying and what makes them interested in taking your course, I imagine some of them might want to be lawyers, but there must be other fields.
Paul Waldau: There are some who want to be teachers at the elementary level, the secondary, or in the university level and get Ph.Ds some want to go off, one of our students in our program is going onto Oxford, others want to be lawyers. But frankly, many of them will start non-profit, some will start profit businesses where they want to use the effects of doing modern business in an ethical way to help out with the problem. For example, you can see someone providing ethically sourced fast food, think what a wonderful contribution that could be. Many of them want to do sanctuaries to provide protection for the many different kinds of animals. I think to answer the question, what do they do? They do everything, and part of my job as the principal recruiter is to just find out where this person is, it’s almost always female, in the entering class of 20 there were eighteen females and that’s pretty standard these days in Animal Studies courses unfortunately. I think we’re better off if it were a little more balanced but frankly the way it’s going has been so good I don’t want to complain but we’ll be better of when we come back to being a little better gender balanced. But what do they do, they do everything, some of them are literature, some of them are forty or fifty years old and are simply lost. Finally a form of education they care the most about and they’ll do this with abandon. And Caryn, that’s what makes it such a good educational dynamic inside the class, these are talented accomplished people helping to educate each other, like sometimes, I said earlier, my job is to just step aside, get out of their way, help nurture them, but really see the energy is the real genius here.
Caryn Hartglass: As you mentioned before humans have done some pretty awful things and continue to do awful things to each other and to animals, I think probably the worst thing we’ve come up with is the confinement of animals, CAFOS, the factory farming of animals for food. I just have to pause when I think about it, I can’t really think about it too much because it’s so overwhelming.
Paul Waldau: The numbers are just so mind numbing that you loose what’s happening and people say, “I don’t want to know” but the thing is, they do know.
Caryn Hartglass: We all know.
Paul Waldau: We all need to make the choices that stop that kind of immorality.
Caryn Hartglass: So you talked about veterinarians and some of them who work with these factory farms treating animals that are going to be slaughtered at some point, living in excrement and filth and are diseased. And there was one story with one who, maybe he wasn’t a veterinarian, but he came up with a solution to cure some of the pigs.
Paul Waldau: Yeah, the Animal Rights book, the 2011 book, somebody who worked in a big factory farm healed the pigs on his own because he came from a ranch where that’s what they would’ve done and he was disciplined. He bought the medicine himself, he was disciplined, but he eventually got his job back and told never to do that again.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, he was reprimanded. What I wondered is I thought that veterinarians for the most part got into the field because they cared about animals.
Paul Waldau: Yes, well I taught vet school where I worked for a decade educating over a thousand veterinary students in ethics, I think ninety plus percent do come for that reason, now they don’t always go out the door with that because interestingly individual vets many of the entering veterinary students are beautifully committed to healing but the actual veterinary profession through it’s big professional organization in the United States, through it’s administrators in the schools to be very focused on grants which come from the federal government often, or big businesses and so they are not driven by the same kind of motivation that leads someone to go into vet school, it’s like “I want to help heal.” Okay, so those two values co-exist in vet school and it’s a tough place for somebody uncomfortable with big scientific grants that do a lot of harm. And so veterinary medicine is a very complicated world but individual values, almost everyone I’ve ever met has, if you tap, most vets are women these days, if you touch them in a good way you can see their heart clearly, clearly, wants to be in a good place and often is, many of them are profoundly good healers but the question is how do we get those vets in charge of big national veterinary medicine? That’s a big challenge.
Caryn Hartglass: Certainly the news centers on sensational stories, and I’ve read a number of them about veterinarians who will drug race horses in order to get them to perform better even if they have a lot of inflammation, and don’t really treat them appropriately because it’s all about the money.
Paul Waldau: This is an issue, and it’s an issue in this profession which is a big part of how our society addresses non-human animals, goes forward and veterinary medicine I have great hopes for but it was complicated working there for ten years. Powerful forces, not being really interested in the ethics side just in the financial and scientific breakthrough side. Okay, scientific breakthroughs are important but not at any cost, we don’t experiment on humans to get scientific breakthroughs, but we do a little bit sadly, but we roundly repudiate that generally. And the question is when will we move to a position of protecting more kinds of living beings from this sort of thing and moving to other kinds of science, which is difficult to do, but you can do them, without having to harm these living beings in such tough ways.
Caryn Hartglass: I look forward to that and I don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime but it’s something to hope for. So we just have two minutes left, do you have an animal story where you were touched by an animal?
Paul Waldau: I grew up in Southern California and I grew up in an area where there were dolphins and I talked to a local scientist and he said “We don’t know much about them,” my brothers and I learned to watch them from the cliffs and Huntington beach, and then we learned swim with them, and eventually I learned to kayak with them. But once when one came up to me while I was in the water, I had swum out and I could see them coming down the coast and it came up to me and looked at me. I had such a sense of “Oh my, there’s a light on,” the animal was right next to me, and then it darted away. It got away. But that experience to me as what somebody calls an epiphany where I realized there are other beings that have just as much of a light on as we do and to encounter them, I was in that being’s space and I was ever thankful for that individual dolphin coming up and interacting with me in that way.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s very very special, if only we’d open our eyes to see everything that is out there.
Paul Waldau: Yes, yes, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Well thank you Paul for joining me, for all the books you’ve been writing and all the people you’ve been educating that is tremendous work, thank you so much.
Paul Waldau: Thank you Caryn, thank you for the opportunity here and also for the program it’s really a major contribution, thank you so much.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you. You’re listening to It’s All About Food, that was Paul Waldau and you may look for his books Animal Studies, Animal Rights: What Everyone Needs to Know, very good reading. And please visit Responsible Eating and Living.com that’s my non-profit, and either at that site or the SwinginGourmets.com site you can visit, and watch the new video The Making of Swingin’ Gourmets: Making of Real American Barbeque, it’s twenty-eight minutes so find a comfortable place and take the time to watch it I think you’ll enjoy it, please let me know by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Anna Smith, 8/5/2013