Part I: Linda Long
Linda Long has had a lifelong relationship with the food industry, starting as a waitress and short order cook at the age of 12 in her parents’ truck stop in Pennsylvania. A home economist who taught high school foods in the early part of her career, and spending a decade in the resort hotel business, Linda has been a committed vegan for over 30 years.
Long has had a varied career in the academic, corporate and media communities, with a strong emphasis in fashion, food and nutritional topics. She writes and photographs for vegetarian magazines, including Vegetarian Journal, American Vegan, VegNews and book covers for other authors.
She is a member of the James Beard Foundation (JBF), International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), Women Chefs & Restaurants (WCR), New York Women’s Culinary Alliance (NYWCA) and American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).
Part II: Charlene Spretnak
Charlene Spretnak is the author of several books that proposed a “map of the terrain” and an interpretation of various emergent social movements and intellectual orientations. She has helped to create an eco-social frame of reference and vision, focusing particularly on modernity, its discontents, and the corrective efforts that are arising.
In 1984 she was the principle coauthor of Green Politics: The Global Promiseand co-founded the Green Party movement in the United States. She is also the author of The Spiritual Dimension of Green Politics (1986); States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age (1991); and The Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature, and Place in a Hypermodern World (1997). In addition, she edited an anthology, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality (1982), and contributed early works to the field of ecofeminism.
In 2011 her book Relational Reality: New Discoveries of Interrelatedness That Are Transforming the Modern World presented numerous recent discoveries indicating that physical reality, including human beings, is far more dynamically interrelated than even relational thinkers had surmised. As examples of the Relational Shift moving through modern societies, she focused on four areas: education and parenting, health and healthcare, community design and architecture, and the economy.
In 2006 Charlene Spretnak was named by the British government’s Environment Department as one of the “100 Eco-Heroes of All Time.” For further information on her work, see http://www.CharleneSpretnak.net.
Charlene can be heard on Progressive Radio Network every Thursdays at 3pm (ET)/ Noon (PT).
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn: Hello Everybody. I am Caryn Hartglass. You are listening to IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD. A very happy, healthy 2013. It is January 8, and I’ve been off for a couple weeks and it’s been nice to take a break actually, and now I am really excited to get back and talk about my favorite subject, say it with me: FOOD, and all that food has to do with our health, the environment and the animals that we choose to NOT eat.
Okay. I wanted to remind you about my nonprofit and my website, ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com and I just posted my top 10 REAL favorite cook books. If you’d like to find out which ones those are, you can go to the web site, you’ll see it right on the front page and it links to many of the interviews I’ve done in 2012 here on the Progressive Radio Network with all kinds of wonderful foodies that have created delicious, healthy, inspiring recipes.
Let’s move on. I have someone very special here in the studio, my friend, Linda Long. She has had a lifelong realtionship with the food industry, starting as a waitress and a short order cook at the age of 12 and her parents truck stop in Pennsylvania, a home economist who taught high school foods in the early part of her career and spending a decade in a resort hotel business, Linda has been a committed vegan for over 30 years. I am going to give her a big round of applause here. 30 years! She got some great credits and she’s the author of Great Chefs Cook Vegan, and she’s got a brand new, baby new book out called Virgin Vegan. Virgin Vegan, The Meatless Guide to Pleasing Your Palate. Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Linda: THANK you, I’m happy to be here. It is a little book.
Caryn: It’s not that tiny actually but it looks like it’s packed with all kinds of worthwhile information so let’s talk about this. Okay, you’ve been a committed vegan for 30 years. Why did you think that the world needed Virgin Vegan.
Linda: Well, I have to give my editor credit for naming it, I really must. I combated it little bit because I was wondering how I was going to go through the rest of my life saying Virgin Vegan. You have to purse your lips and then and you make a smile to say the two words. I went on and on but I have to say they know what they’re doing. Gibbs Smith is the publisher. Well my other book, Great Chefs Cook Vegan is very high end. It was the most elite chefs in the country and it’s still one of the few books if maybe the only book of that level in the vegan bookshelf right now. But what I really want to do is to go to the complete other and have a book that was more like a primer where it was a real starter and all the books I saw the on the market were really full of great information and they really were for beginners, but the people I was talking to a lot, like my doorman here in New York City, a lot of people who just never buy a “book” book, that looks like it’s an awful lot of chapters to read and you have, like the protein section, you have to go through maybe in 15 pages or whatever. This one, my protein chapter is one page, the calcium page is one page and the book is only half the size of a copy paper, although it hardcovered. You know people talk…
Caryn: And it took a long time to put it together.
Linda: It did, because I did video talks to go with it. I’m happy to say that up on YouTube right now is a video I did with you.
Caryn: (singing) Laaaaa!
Linda: And it’s perfect to sing because it was in front of Lincoln Center.
Caryn: That’s right, one of my favorite spots on earth.
Linda: A lot of creativity flowing through the air at Lincoln Center. It’s a book that answers those first questions that the first person, that a person might first have when they are thinking, “well maybe I should think about this plant-based thing.”
Caryn: What I like is, and something that I try to do, and I have to underline try because I know I get all wrapped up in whatever I am talking about, but most people are very overwhelmed. They are overwhelmed with all the media sound bites. It’s very confusing and unless you’re really following it every minute with all the studies that are going on, everything here can be very, very confusing. But a lot of it seeps in and so people have a little bit of language about food and they use that all the time even though they don’t know what they’re talking. And I don’t think they need to know either. The thing about eating healthy and eating vegan and I think those are synonymous, eating healthy and eating vegan, well you could eat vegan and not eat healthy, but okay…
Linda: That’s true.
Caryn: … eating healthy vegan.
Linda: Because sugar and flour and all that…
Caryn: Coke and French fries are vegan… But it’s simple. You go to the produce section and you grab the fruits and vegetables, and it’s easy to throw them together and make some delicious food. It’s not hard to eat vegan.
Linda: Well, what I’ve done the book is, under soups and under salads, I did something called the anatomy of a salad and then I did the anatomy of soup. What I’ve done is divided up into what the components are of each of those. On page 60 is the anatomy of a soup. Really anybody can take that page, go to their refrigerator and create their own recipe. But I say – oh I need something from this category and I need something from this category and something that, and before long they have developed their soup. And it doesn’t have to have anything to do with the recipe, actually. As long as they use vegetable broth or water instead of, of course, beef or chicken broth and then a really neat thing to do and this has been my favorite thing for a long time, and I am just so surprised that I don’t see them more often, is that before I start my soup, I’ll see, do I have any almonds or do I have some cashews, do I have some peanuts, raw, not roasted, and not salted, either way you could, but it is best not to, I just grab a couple of handfuls, put it in my blender, cover it with hot water and just let it soak while I am going on to do everything else. When the soup is completely finished, I push the trigger on the blender, and I just let that whip until it’s a cream. Add a little water bit more water if you need to if it looks like it’s getting to thick, it depends what nut you’re using and then just pour it in the soup. And you have the most wonderful creamy, you’ve upped the proteins, upped the flavor. For years I’ve been doing this. People tell me, “you are in my will for this soup.” And I said, “I swear I’ll never be able to make it again.” I used certain components, whatever was in my refrigerator, which vegetables in my refrigerator, what grain or bean was in my refrigerator, whatever.
Caryn: We have a lot of soup recipes on the Responsible Eating And Living website, and like you said, we never make the same soup again. and I know that some people get frustrated because they might read a recipe and say, “well, I don’t have “herbes de provence’ in my cupboard” or “I don’t have a certain herb”, and like you said it’s very flexible, you just need some basics and you really throw together. But I guess for some people when they are starting out they need to follow something.
Linda: That’s why I really did take an effort to write that soup I just described down. And then and I can even be clever if I have peanuts and I have some sweet potatoes and I call it my African soup.
Caryn: I’ve had it.
Linda: Right, I forgot you did! But if I have cashews and I might use white potatoes because it then seems to be a little bit, not that you couldn’t use sweet potatoes because, super food of the world, sweet potatoes, but every now and then I like to be mix it up. And John Robbins does a great one in his book…
Caryn: May All Be Fed.
Linda: … May All Be Fed. He allowed me to put this recipe in this book too. It’s kind of a bisque, white potatoes, cashews and lots of onions and parsley.
Caryn: Well we had a big holiday party at the end of the year on building and then we left for California so we put a bunch of stuff in the freezer and when I got back I took some of them out and I wasn’t sure what everything was. One of them turned out to be a vegetable broth with a little cashew cream in it because I don’t think we wanted to put them into 2 separate containers. We made great soup out of it, just like what you said, it wasn’t even a lot of cashew cream, it was just rinsing out what was lingering in the container that we had used.
Linda: It makes all this flavor.
Caryn: Just lovely, just that tickle or that hint of cream, really ties it all together. It’s important especially when you have some vegetables that have fat soluble nutrients because – I don’t like using a lot of oil but I like using fats that have fiber in it from whole foods, and they help those fat soluble vitamins go down.
Linda: Yes, yes. Well I have done something similar with a veggie burger. When people are starting that’s the first things they think about. I have a section called “Six Ways With A Veggie Burger.” The truth is you can make it very elegant as well with some gravy. I call it a Salisbury Steak with some mashed potatoes and some lovely vegetables and gravy. I’ve also mentioned a stew, a taco, a burrito, of course a regular burger and I might say that you contributed a wonderful recipe for the book, called a V-Blat which has avocado and vegan bacon on it.
Caryn: It’s very good. I have to say that my partner Gary De Mattei, helped me we put that together. He does quite a lot cooking at home. He does more of the comfort, satisfying, man foods, and I strive for the no salt, no sugar, no oil, light, really pure, clean stuff. We have a nice mix. Thank you for including that.
Linda: It’s really good. I love it. What is nice to read for the starter is that, this is really a replacement for the BLT. V is for Vegan; B-L-A-T, the “A” is for avocados.
Caryn: Right. I don’t know what it is but there is this big movement for bacon these days. A lot of people are just going nuts over bacon.
Linda: It’s so sad.
Caryn: It’s a sad thing, indeed, because, okay, it’s NOT healthy and pigs are super intelligent, sensitive beings. They are smarter than dogs and yet we don’t mind cramming them in unhealthy, odor-filled…
Linda: … metal crates
Caryn: … just horrible, cramped, filthy conditions and they’re very sensitive to smell. They are living in this ammonia-filled environment because if we don’t do much with their urine and their excrement in the place where they are. People don’t connect that to bacon. What bacon is, is just really salt and fat primarily.
Linda: Well, the truth of the matter is, I tell a lot of people, “you know, what you like about bacon?” And they say, “well, the taste.” “Well what is the taste?” “Well the taste is smoky.” Ah ha! We can have a smoky taste without ever injuring or torturing a beautiful being. You could even get bottles of smoke, Liquid Smoke, with a little drop or two. You can buy tempeh bacon. You can buy soy bacon and some of these other things.
Caryn: There’s a recipe for coconut bacon that looks amazing, I have yet to make, but it makes sense because the coconut has all that fat, and just salt it and smoke it up and you got bacon.
Linda: You can really have it. Lots of people say, “Oh, I tasted it, I tasted some of the vegan bacons and I don’t like it.” I say, first of all, try all of them because the people like different brands of anything not just vegan products. But the other point is – try it in something because then, you are just going for the taste. Many times I found a friend who likes it in her sandwich but she doesn’t like just to eat it. Which is fine have it that way.
Caryn: Yes, perfectly fine. The other thing is, which you probably know working in different food service environments over your life, is that people need to try a food numerous times before they like it. People don’t realize that because most of the time it happened more little kids, and said,“what’s that, I don’t want that.” Just have a bite of it, just try it, and after 5, 6, 7, 8, times, all of a sudden we’re eating it.
Linda: Yes, I’ve often told people, you know there’s a lot of brands of cornflakes and I bet you don’t like every one. It’s just one of those things where you get accustomed things. I used to hate lima beans when I was young and then I happened to get a lima bean in my mouth when I was a young adult and I said, “Oh, my goodness, this is not what I remember it tasting like.
Caryn: The other thing is when you move to a healthier diet and you eliminate certain things, your taste buds become far more sophisticated and you can taste more things that you didn’t taste before.
Linda: Absolutely. One of the other questions I’m asked, which I’m sure you are too is that how do you order in a mainstream restaurant because so many people really have to eat out with her friends. They are not going to go vegan restaurant every time they go out to eat. I really gave suggestions and some of it was offered to me by, some little hints by a dear friend, Master Chef Erik Blauberg, who had been the 21 club and a lot of wonderful places. He’s a consultant and really shakes up the mainstream world little bit by telling them they have to have vegan options on the menu because vegans eat with meat eaters. If you are not satisfying the vegan, you are going to lose that table top, forever. So that’s really good. But what I’ve done is on page 16, there is a chart that a friend of mine created, Inger Lonmo. She travels around the world as a vegan and lots of different languages. She wrote, she did a little chart of like a pig, a chicken, a fish and even the milk is coming out and there is milk in a can underneath and put little red over those things, so that in any language the chef gets it. Plus it a little humor in the things so that they know. Because lots of people, if you say I’m vegan, I don’t eat any animals products, well, then their mind will kind of go blank. What you need to say immediately after that is what I prefer to eat is, and then mention, beans, rice or any other kind of grain, vegetables, fruit, nuts, then they start to think about what they have to offer you. This can be printed out too. There’s a website for the book called VirginVegan.com with all of the extra recipes. We were over 100 pages, I got very ambitious for a small book so they are going to be on the site and it’s being in the process of being created right now. The website is actually up and the content is being filled. The video talks, even though, you know, I interviewed Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell and Dr. Klaper, a lot of very notable vegan chefs and other cookbook authors, nutritionists and athletes. I just would really, I don’t want to embarrass you on the air, Caryn, but I really want to mention that your video is up right now.
Caryn: You can’t embarrass me.
Linda: You can go to Youtube and just write in “virgin vegan” and see there are about 8 up so far. I have a whole lot more coming.
Caryn: Oh, I am going to post it on my site. (http://responsibleeatingandliving.com/?p=7323).
Linda: We’ve done almost 50 so far. The reason I am pointing yours out is that because the challenge you had health-wise. It was extremely serious, for a young woman. And as you talk about, sitting in the front of Lincoln Center, as we mentioned before, what you suggest to people to prevent chronic illnesses and for those who have chronic illnesses is invaluable. I mean it was one thing for me to talk to a lot of doctors and all that sort of thing but to talk to somebody who actually been through this, you really moved my heart.
Caryn: Thank you.
Linda: And the inspiration…
Caryn: Well, what’s important to your book, is it really gently, safely, easily opens the door and once people kind of get over that, there is just mountains of information if they want it, if they need it. And if they’re having a health crisis, you know something I learned – there’s a bunch of vegans out there and I might’ve been one of them that felt like I was invulnerable. Nothings could get me because I was Super Vegan Woman. And then you I got advanced ovarian cancer. Nobody gets out of this world alive, I like to say that a lot, just because we are vegan doesn’t mean we’re not going to have issues and there’ve been a number of vegans in the in the activist community that have unfortunately fallen or fallen ill. What I’ve come up with this great information that we put out there when you really put a focus on it you can find ways to heal. There are ways to just eat vegan, eat healthfully and happily and then if you need to up it a notch, to get to a place where you want to be, to get over something, you can do that too. Your book is like the beginning of the yellow brick road, before you make it to Oz.
Linda: That’s what I wanted it to be because I kept recommending some many books, many of them are my friends, to people and they just didn’t get them. And then I thought why is this, and they said. “oh I saw it and it was so much to read.” And I thought, “Ah ha!” All of us have had talking points, we’ve all sat and talked with another friend about being vegan and we know the questions they ask. We know how simple we have to make the answers when you are over dinner perhaps. That’s what 36, going on 37 years of being vegan. I really had a doubt as to how to answer those questions. That’s all this was and when I realized what I was talking to my doorman about was actually working, that he had actually implemented it and that then I realized when Gibbs Smith called me to say, “well we have this idea of doing a beginner’s book or whatever,” and at first I thought was strange because I did that elegant book. They said, “we think that this would be really a good thing on the bookshelf.” And because I had just been thinking about, it was one of those synergy things going on, and so, I said yes. But then all the other aspects started with the website and doing all the video talks. It’s been very exciting.
Caryn: Well I can imagine it’s challenging because there’s more and more information out there diet. We think we know a lot, we really know very little. But to keep it very simple, there is just so much information, it’s challenging.
Linda: Once they start with this book then they will be ready for all those other books.
Caryn: Okay, well we just have a few more minutes left so what else can we point out in here. Now you’ve got everything…
Linda: Do you want me to tell you about a few recipes?
Linda: I know that one of the biggest things is that people want to know is how can you have pancakes? How can you have some of your favored sweets? How can you have a holiday meal? There are books, separate books on all of those issues and I think once they see what’s this book they’ll be ready for all those other books. I am trying to set people up to feel safe to stick their toe in. Then I want to be sure that all those other vegan books sell too because there’s so much offerings right there now. I found my friend Fran Costigan telling me, “Oh you know, I just had my soaked oats,” and I said, “What?” She said, “My soaked oats.” All she does the night before is put some oatmeal in a bowl and put some soy milk on top of it and puts it in the refrigerator. In the morning, if she wants to, she can sweeten it with maple syrup, I love black strap molasses, because it even has a lot of calcium in it. Throw in some nuts and fruit if you want. I thought it sounded terrible until I had it. I can’t believe it. I mean, it’s so hard to go to bed now before I have my soaking in the refrigerator. Thank you Fran Costigan.
Caryn: I think the British do that only with milk, with cow’s milk.
Linda: Oh do they? Then I had a chef from Great Chefs Cook Vegan in Grand Rapids, Josef Huber. He made an elaborate chocolate-stuffed French toast, rolled in Rice Krispies. Well, the recipe goes on forever but I simplified it and made it something so easy to do. That was another one, that would be like a Sunday brunch. And then for holiday, I have been making a cashew nut roast, it’s a terrine which means it’s in a loaf pan, and you put half of the mixture and then put a different picture for the middle, not quite as high, layers, and then another layer on top and then you are done. Well Rose Elliot, who is great vegetarian cook, kind of the Martha Stewart vegetarian cookbook authoring in England, and I got her book at Harrod’s a long time ago and I’d made this for many, many years. And I bought any book she’d put out. Well I don’t I email her, see if I can contact her, that I can use this recipe that I’ve used every year for 20 years. Now we are good email pals. I feel like I have my rock star, my fancy vegan cook, well she’s not vegan – vegetarian, but mostly vegan. Even that is on page 164 and I highly recommend it because it’s so easy to do. And then I mentioned the sweet, there’s some peanut butter cups that, my friend Jane Bell, the home economist in Columbus, OH gave me and and she truly makes these in a few minutes. You can use a little cookie-cutter to actually make them look like cups or just cut them into squares. Let me tell you, I don’t have time myself to the little round cookie cutter, I just cut them in squares and get them out of pan and eat them. There’s just a lot to offer that is a variety. But I tried to choose things that are familiar, that you could then substitute.
Caryn: Right, like how easy it is to make gravy.
Linda: Oh my goodness. A bouillon cube, and then throw in some cornstarch water and then people don’t really, don’t do anything else.
Caryn: Because what they don’t realize this when they’re using chicken stock for example, what they are getting out of it mostly is salt.
Linda: Now bouillon cubes, I really like to mention one of my favorite was is a very salty and so I tend not to use, I use a little bit more water than I’m supposed to and I’m not sure that it really changes it all that much. But they do put out bouillon cubes that have flavorings in it and even herbs without salt. So that’s a good one to get, and then salt it your liking. Don’t be put off by, all the bouillon cubes have too much salt, get the one without salt.
Caryn: Well this is where it gets overwhelming again because people go to a vegan diet or are curios about a vegan diet for lots of different reasons. So if you’re curious just because you’re curious, then get this book, make all the recipes and venture out and buy whatever other ones. But if you’re having a health crisis, let’s say, that’s a different focus and you might be thinking about eliminating sugar, salt and oil.
Caryn: If you want to lose weight, that’s the different focus. If you just don’t want to kill animals, well you know, you could be fine with Coke and French fries although I don’t recommend it. It really depends on what you focus is. The thing is with vegan food you can have what ever you want.
Linda: Oh, when I did Great Chefs Cook Vegan, and that I kept remembering one of the great chefs of the world actually is Vongerichten, Jean-George Vongerichten. He said to me you mean I can use any plant food? And I thought he was about to tell me, “oh, but that’s so limiting.” When I realized his next breath was, “oh my goodness,” his hands in the air, and they are wide apart and he says, “Where do I begin? Such a vast area!” And then he says there are only a few animals and we get tired of cooking the animals, there is only a few things to do with those animals. But when you tell me plant-based food – so what I say to people is, the standard American diet is what is limiting. Take a look at what you eat in a week and tell me and then repeat it week, after week, after week. Some people have almost the same thing every day, every day. That’s limiting.
Caryn: I just did a crazy thing. Well, it’s not a crazy thing. I like things organized and one of the things about eating so that your satisfied is to plan ahead and organize – make sure you have the right ingredients, the write this and that. It can be really simple in one pot with a few pans, but if you want to follow a recipe it’s helpful to have a well-stocked kitchen. And I just recently I bought all these tins, and I invested in bulk organic herbs and spices. I’ve got everything now this great cabinet and it’s really a lot of fun. Because you can use the same ingredients, like you said, the mirepoix, the carrots onions and celery and put different herbs and spices and you have completely different dishes every day, just on how you season it.
Kinbda: Yes. Once you take the first step in and then follow one of my recipes or anyone else’s recipes then you start to see what adjustments you could make. And I am surprised how lots of people even in the beginning, they’ll look at a recipe and say, oh I don’t have this, maybe I’ll substitute thus and so. That’s very nice, it’s very bold for some. Others have do it exactly the way recipe says. But once you feel the confidence then you start to see, oh well that’s a vegetable, or if it’s corn, well I could probably use lima beans too or I could use edamame, you know, soybeans. Or I could use, whatever’s on hand. Especially chili. My goodness you don’t have to use kidney beans you can use black beans you can use all kinds of other beans as well. And there is a recipe in there for a black bean chili from my high school friends in Chambersburg Pennsylvania, Bobbi and Tom Boock, and they have a restaurant there. And so I’ve been trying to get them to include vegan options on their menus because it really does bring in people who are not vegan.
Caryn: Linda, thank you for joining It’s All About Food, for writing this great book and if you are still a virgin when it comes to food and haven’t stepped out into the vegan world, this book is for you. You are definitely going to enjoy it: The Meatless Guide To Pleasing the Palate. VirginVegan.com. Okay, take the plunge. I am Caryn Hartglass and we’ll be right back with Charlene Spretnak, she’s another Progressive Radio Network host and we will be talking in just a minutes.
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Hey, I am Caryn Hartglass, you are listening to It’s All About Food. Happy January 8, 2013. Once again I want to tell you also on my website Responsible Eating and Living. I’ve recently put together my best real reads for 2012; some of the books that I’ve read and the authors that I’ve interviewed. I have posted my 5 favorites and not all of them were published in 2012, they just happen to be books that I have read in 2012, so they are my best reads. I recommend going to that link because some of those books were really outstanding. In fact one of my favorites of the favorites was Peter Seidel’s Invisible Walls, While We Ignore the Damage We Inflict on the Planet and Ourselves. I really learned a lot and it was pretty inspiring. Okay, now I am going to bring on another Progressive Radio Network host, Charlene Spretnak is going to join me in this half. She is the author of several books. A propose a map of the terrain and an interpretation of various emergent social movements and intellectual orientation. She has helped to create an echo social frame of reference and vision, focusing particularly on modernity, its discontents and the corrective efforts that are arising. So much on her, she has written so many wonderful books. Her most recent one is Relational Reality, new discoveries of inter relatedness that are transforming the modern world. We are going to talk a little bit about that now.
Caryn Hartglass: Charlene, Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Charlene Spretnak: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: I was looking at the Relational Reality book and all the different topics that you covered and I don’t know how you fit it all into one book. Each one of those chapters is like books, several books.
Charlene Spretnak: That is true because so much is happening right now about this. I put it in the context that in the last quarter of the previous century there were a lot of best sellers about discoveries in certain areas of science. First is was physics and then chaos theory and then complexity studies and each of these books said well now that these discoveries have shown that the world is not mechanistic its really dynamically interrelated this is going to ripple out and change all our institutions and our systems of thinking. We can look around and see that didn’t happen.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Charlene Spretnak: I think it’s because those discoveries were too abstract for most people to relate to or pay much attention to. I started thinking actually about 10 years ago; maybe I am never going to see this shift into the relational understanding of the way the world works in my lifetime, but then I started noticing small articles in the newspapers starting around 2004. There is a whole wave of new discoveries which we are still in the thick of. A lot of them are about physiology. They are also in other areas. They are very concrete, very accessible. They are changing, really changing all the institutions.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good news.
Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, so that is why there is so much in this book and after this book went to press in 2011 of course the story just kept breaking so that is my radio program all together now, actually tracking this relational shift. I have guests on from different areas where it’s happening, there was an article in the New Yorker October 22, the whole microbiology, the whole field of microbiology is moving to the relational model and off the mechanistic model. They always said with the mechanistic lens, that if you have a virus or bad bacteria in you that makes you sick. Now they have found out that is not at all how it works.
Caryn Hartglass: I was fascinated by that when I read it.
Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, isn’t it amazing?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Charlene Spretnak: And they say if we compare a well group of people and a sick group of people say with Cohn’s disease or diabetes or obesity or asthma; it’s not that the sick group is lacking, let me put it the other way: it’s not that the well group is lacking a bad bacteria, both groups may have a bad bacteria in their system, but the well group has the good bacteria that suppresses, it works in relationship and suppresses any damage the bad bacteria can do. So now they say, they literally say we see now it’s not like a war. Medicine should not be viewed as a war against pathogens. It should be like ecology tending a forest or tending to fields. All we need to do is design these probiotics with the right good bacteria that the person is missing instead of going in there and carpet bombing the whole system with these broad spectrum antibiotics. That’s how extensive the shift is. It’s really happening everywhere.
Caryn Hartglass: I like the concept of connecting the dots. Everything is related and also the fact that things that we learn on a macroscopic scale are so similar to what is going on a microscopic scale. War on any level is not a good thing; war against our body, war against individuals, war against countries. We need cooperation, we need to work together.
Charlene Spretnak: And also the fact that medicine trained all the young doctors to just sneer at nutrition if anybody asks them, oh should I be eating something because of this illness that I have. They would glare at you like, stupid peasant what are you talking about. Now, just a few that I mentioned in the chapter on health and health care and relational reality, they are finally really acknowledging that food has only preventative powers, but curative effects as well. So with all of these different diseases now, they do say food is going to help you if you follow these certain diets. For instance that ketogentic diet it’s a four to one or three to one ratio of fat to protein and carbohydrates. That has been found to control seizures in patients with epilepsy that is resistant to medication. And anti-inflammation diets can control symptoms in a whole range of chronic diseases in midlife and old age. The low glycemic diet is now used to treat macular degeneration. The low fat weight loss has been found to reduce the chance the people with pre-diabetic syndrome that will go ahead and develop type 2 diabetes. Mood disorders, especially involving sugar cravings, they respond to dietary changes. So this is a big shift in mainstream medicine to look at food that way.
Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned you don’t know if you are going to see these changes in your lifetime.
Charlene Spretnak: Now I do.
Caryn Hartglass: We see changes, but I am often frustrated at how long it’s taking.
Charlene Spretnak: That’s right.
Caryn Hartglass: Because there is so much information out there and even with the internet it’s really hard to get it so people are convinced that it’s creditable. It’s going to take a long time. So we can go back in history and look at things that happened 100, 200 years ago and say oh, okay those thing happen in that didn’t take too long, but while we are living it, it seems like an eternity.
Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, well that is one of the things I wonder about in the book too because when we on to the mechanistic model, after the scientific revolution, which was in place by the end of the 17th century and throughout the 18th century was called the new mechanical philosophy based on the new science and it changed all the institutions the way schools were designed even garden design in France and the way the economy was theorized, everything like a machine. So I started thinking if it took a hundred years then shouldn’t it go faster now because of all our high speed communications? We are past the 100 year mark of Einstein’s first two papers that said the world really is not like what we think. It is not mechanistic clockwork. So it is going longer. Because of these new discoveries it’s really getting attention and as I say it’s not only around the edges this time, its smack dab in the middle of places like microbiology.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you sound very upbeat and positive and I like to keep a very positive and upbeat feeling myself because we have a choice in life. We can be miserable or we can be happy and it’s a choice, it’s a perspective and it’s a lot better to feel good than to feel bad. Putting that aside, do you feel optimistic because with the economy the way it is and the choices that are being made and our government. It just seems that we keep making one mistake after the next. So many things for the environment let’s say could have happened around Jimmy Carter’s range that we didn’t choose to do and we wouldn’t be here today with all these problems, but we didn’t make the right choices.
Charlene Spretnak: No we didn’t and it sounds like you are much younger than I am, but people my age are just grinding our teeth because even when a good thing happen , we tried 40 years ago to get that to happen. So I totally get that frustration and it is very maddening with what’s going on in Washington because we can’t get any of the votes for the public good as long as every vote is corrupt and the direction of needing the police the big donors for campaign contributions. Without campaign finance reform every vote is corrupt and we never get the votes for the public good.
Caryn Hartglass: Right
Charlene Spretnak: Even saving the future generations from this horrible extreme weather that is picking up speed more and more every year; can’t even get those kind votes, like a carbon tax. Yeah, it’s very exasperating what’s going on in Washington.
Caryn Hartglass: Now this concept that you have, I haven’t read any of your writing and I am definitely am going to dive in very soon because this all looks phenomenal. This whole relational concept, just an example, I forget when it was, but we had a big movement to eliminate acid rain and to seal the ozone layer so we didn’t have a hole and there was quite a focused effort in government and technology to make improvements there. I want to believe we can do the same thing relatively quickly if we all focused and got in line together.
Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, well I look back at that and it was really a matter of those particles that were going up from aerosol cans and heating, cooling systems I mean. So I guess those were kind of small, although everyone had them in their houses they were big by number, but not a huge part of the manufacturing sector and so they were able to be muscled and say change the way you, the cooling fluid you are using and replace pumps to replace all the aerosols on all the household stuff. There is just so much bigger players right now meaning the whole oil and natural gas industry. I think it’s just appalling that they are actually putting us on an export model now to wreck the country. So not only are we self-sufficient, but beyond that these people could just trash everything so they could make money exporting oil and natural gas with the fracking.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just too big. The problems are too big.
Charlene Spretnak: Until we get so the parties aren’t desperate for those big campaign contributions nothing, I think, is going to move; although, we have seen that when people really turn out at the poles that gets their attention. Money couldn’t buy the votes they thought it could last time because people, working people, people who were really going to be affected, just woke up and turned out at the poles. We always have that if we can organize well enough.
Caryn Hartglass: What do you recommend people do on an individual level because for me that’s where I know we have control. We can do things personally ourselves. We don’t need laws to change in order to do things in our own lives to make this planet a better place.
Charlene Spretnak: Well, we can and that’s important. It’s hand in hand with the structural changes. The lifestyle changes are very important. For one thing you can connect your personal changes, choices that you’re making without effects your community, and your region and the country. I just want to say, I wanted to fit this in somewhere.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, Now is the time.
Charlene Spretnak: Food. The title of your show I think is so great because more and more I come around to that It’s all about food. I was telling someone about the community based economics model that has always been the green parties economic platform and building up trade in a town, a city, a region, trading with the states around you; not that there is anything evil in long distance trade, but you’re really vulnerable if you’re basing everything upon conditions in some distant place and it’s not ecological to be shipping everything around the world, so you’re much more secure with keeping money circulating in your region. We talked about this, I would give talks to both middle class audiences and activist groups and inner city groups and everybody would say, well it sounds really interesting, but where is this working Charlene? The best I could do was talk about certain projects, places like Eureka, California had a number of community based economy projects going on successfully, but not a whole town really given it their all. So it didn’t really get much traction until the farmer’s market movement. It just really took off and got spread all across the country in all kinds of neighborhoods, city , suburban and country; then through the food markets, through the local farmer’s market, people started getting what it means to support local businesses and that if you buy from a local person they’re going to be putting the money into the community. They hire local accountants, local fine painters, local truck drivers, instead of sending it out to distant corporate headquarters.
Caryn Hartglass: It is all about food.
Charlene Spretnak: Some farmer’s markets have people who come and sell things that they have made that aren’t food. They are almost like market days, old European market days. So really the whole idea, the reason people kind of get community based economics now, came out of the food market.
Caryn Hartglass: Right
Charlene Spretnak: We didn’t get that. We couldn’t figure out that food was the catalyst.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. I appreciate you telling me that because I personally do believe it’s all about food and that’s why I talk about it all the time, but I’m looking at the chapters and the outline for your Relational Reality book and I’m thinking I could probably link every one of these items listed here with food, because I think everything is related to food. At least through my rose colored glasses. Yeah, the farmer’s market is really an amazing thing and it’s a great place to start. It’s the community.
Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, and once you get the idea if we had a greenbelt for farms around the town we wouldn’t be vulnerable to what happens on the industrial food grid far away. I think it’s really an idea that people are not associating with left or right or anything, just common sense.
Caryn Hartglass: Common sense, gosh, what a concept. It requires thinking which I think is challenging for a lot of people.
Charlene Spretnak: Yeah. A big step is, as you know, getting the local institutions to buy from the local farms. The public school cafeterias, the county court house cafeteria, any kind of tax payer funded operation that buys food should be buying at least a certain percentage that could increase a bit every year, from the local sources.
Caryn Hartglass: There is so much going on in the world and I appreciate that we are now a global economy, we are connected with the entire world and there is so many things going on everywhere and many of us in the United States are more privileged in terms of the stuff that we have and the things we have access to than most other parts of the world, but that said I really believe in getting involved in our own communities and strengthening them as much as possible.
Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, I think it’s such a, I won’t say desperate, it’s a very serious time. People need to work, as you were mentioning, individual choices, how’s this going to effect the community. They also need to put their time or effort or at least send the check in to organizations like www.350.org who are really trying to organize public opinion for the global climate disruption. We really need to show up and be present on all levels right now.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. It’s a hard time because a lot of people don’t have that extra cash to give away, but if you don’t have extra cash maybe you can find a way to volunteer.
Charlene Spretnak: Well that’s what 350 says. Bill Mckibben did a tape for fundraising and he said even more than money, we need money, even more than money we need you to turn out. They are having a big demonstration I think in front of the white house in mid-February, President’s day Monday. They want that also replicated in all the cities across the country. There are lots of ways people can get involved and be counted, that’s the thing. The opposition, coal and oil needs to not be able to think oh, we’ve got them all divided and they are apathetic and it’s not a problem anymore. They can’t really fight when the numbers turn out.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, Is that really the best way to make a difference because I know that I have participated in some rallies and there were thousands or hundreds of thousands and then nothing happened and it was frustrating and it keeps you from wanting to go out again. Letter writing, I know, when you send out an actual letter on a piece of paper with a stamp on it seems to hold a lot of weight. What do you think the most effective form is?
Charlene Spretnak: They have a formula and they multiply it. Like if they say one constituent wrote a letter that really means 22 hold the same opinion in the district. They have formulas for how to interpret it. So it does definitely count more than your one letter. I definitely have felt that and I come back to what Gandhi said when someone asked him in the middle of the independence struggle which lasted decades in India when they were trying to get the British raj out of India and someone said to him, what good could it do that I, one person, could do anything in this giant campaign and Gandhi said yes, you are absolutely right, nothing you could do as an individual makes the slightest bit of difference, but it is absolutely essential that you do it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, every drop in the bucket fills the bucket.
Charlene Spretnak: You don’t know the effects and we don’t know where critical mass is. So it’s just a matter of throwing your weight on the side of the angles and there is just important work to be done to stop the destruction.
Caryn Hartglass: Charlene, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. You can hear more about Charlene and her work every Thursday at 3 pm here on the Progressive Radio Network or go to her website www.charlenespretnak.com and read all of her books. Thank you, Charlene.
Charlene Spretnak: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Have a great week. I am Caryn Hartglass and you have been listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me and have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Mary Schings, 3/5/2013