Part I: Jo Stepaniak, Low-FODMAP and Vegan
Jo Stepaniak is the author and coauthor of more than two dozen books on vegan cuisine, health, and compassionate living. Having struggled with IBS for decades, Jo knows what it’s like to feel that no food is safe, even when eating healthy vegan fare.
Part II: Julie Gueraseva, LAIKA Magazine
Julie Gueraseva is the founder of the NYC-based vegan lifestyle magazine LAIKA.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! Hi there! I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’re listening to It’s All About Food, thanks for joining me today! I’ve been telling you that I’ve been in California for a while, I’m still here. For those of you who don’t know I’m normally in New York City–that’s where I live. But for the last few years we’ve been coming up to California around this time and it’s great to be able to travel around and check out the vegan scene on the left coast, and visit some of my favorite eateries–which I’ve been taking a lot of advantage of. Okay, so, I’m very very excited in looking forward to the next half hour because we have a wonderful guest with us, and if you don’t know her, you’re going to find out how many people she has touched and influenced in such a positive way when it comes to veganism and nutrition. My guest is Jo Stepaniak and she is an author and a co-author of more than two dozen books on Vegan, cuisine health, and compassionate living. Today we are going to focus on IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which she has struggled with for decades, and she knows what it’s like to feel like there is no food that is safe, even when eating healthy vegan fare. As a result, we have her beautiful new book, Low FODMAP and Vegan Diet. Welcome Jo! How are you today?
Jo Stepaniak: I’m fine Caryn, how are you?
Caryn Hartglass: It’s a beautiful day here, I’m just bouncing off the walls. I’m feeling really exceptionally good today! [laughter] I wanted to tell you that the last time I spoke with you was seven years ago. You were one of my very first guests on this program, It’s All About Food, and I’m very grateful for that. You gave us a very informative interview and since that time, here on the progressive radio network–on it’s 7th year, we have a great following wonderful audience that has grown significantly. I’ve learned so much hosting this program and just talking to so many wonderful people, like yourself. So it’s good to be able to talk to you again!
Jo Stepaniak: Aw thank you! I feel the same way.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I want to talk about this book that you’ve written, but before we get to that, the bio that I read about you is very small and compact. But you’ve done so many wonderful things for this movement–you were elected for the Vegetarian Whole Team in 2008, you’ve edited so many books, guided so many people in writing their own books, and so much more. You’ve been a vegan for decades, and the thing that amazes me is that (I look at many cookbooks are you do), but you were really one of the founding people who have guided us through so many great recipes. I don’t even know that people really realize that when they’re seeing some of the new cookbooks come out, that you were part of our foundation.
Jo Stepaniak: Thank you, I appreciate that. My books have been around for a long time and I’m honored to think that, perhaps some of the newer authors have used my recipes as a foundation and jumping off point for their innovative ideas. So, thanks! I appreciate that.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re very welcome. It can be frustrating sometimes because as the decades go on, some of the younger generations don’t really realize how they got to where they are today. Things were harder decades ago.
Jo Stepaniak: That’s very true. I know they always get tired of us, older folks, talking about how much harder it was way back then. But, it was and we didn’t have all the advantages, products, prepared foods, and all the information–including the web. So, things are quite different now, and it’s amazing how much progress has been made so quickly.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly, now the thing that I was so surprised to find out is that you’ve struggled with IBS for a while. So let’s start there and talk about that.
Jo Stepaniak: Yes, it’s been actually quite a very long time that I have. When I became vegan, which was–well I don’t want to say, it’s been ages. Longer than many new vegans have been on the planet. But, I had expected to feel better. I think that when most people turn to a vegan diet and vegan lifestyle, they do expect to feel better. But when they don’t, they can be extremely disappointed. It’s hard to find support, because most people actually have the opposite effect. They usually do feel that their health is improved, they’ve lost weight, their energy has risen–when they take on a vegan diet. But when that doesn’t happen, it’s hard to find support. It’s hard to tell other vegans that you don’t feel good, and you don’t know why. When you do tell them, everyone has an answer–everybody is telling you what you’re doing wrong.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Now did you have trouble before you became a vegan?
Jo Stepaniak: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: You were young when that happened?
Jo Stepaniak: Yes, well I had been a vegetarian before I became vegan. So I had been having a pretty healthful diet, compared to most people, for a long time. But, when you have IBS, first of all, there’s no structural damage to your intestinal tract. It is very difficult and frustrating for physicians and the mainstream medical community to figure out what’s wrong. Only recently, has IBS been getting more attention in the news. The Low FODMAP diet, in general–which is not geared towards vegans, and what makes this book unique has been getting a significant amount of attention in the media recently. That’s awesome.
Caryn Hartglass: Can you tell us what the acronym FODMAP means?
Jo Stepaniak: It is a group of difficult to digest carbohydrates. Everybody, to some degree or another, has difficulty with these particular carbohydrates in foods. The word FODMAP is an acronym full of words that people don’t know and won’t relate to, so it’s just easier to say FODMAP. But it stands for the types of carbohydrates that are problematic for many people with IBS. Just like cholesterol is only found in animal products, FODMAPs are almost always only found in plant foods. There is lactose, which is found obviously found in animal milk, and that is one of the five maps. But, all the others are found in plant foods. That’s what makes being vegan with IBS so very challenging.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, the other thing about all that is we know that in terms of most chronic diseases is that plant foods are beneficial, especially for heart disease and diabetes. A high-fiber plant food diet is what boosts our immune system and lowers our risks. Yet, for most people that discover that they have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, they’re told not to consume fiber and they avoid vegetables, plants, and things that are beneficial. I’ve always found that for all disease and illnesses–except this, plant foods tend to be the obvious answer to give you immediate relief. Yet, this particular illness seems to go against that in some ways.
Jo Stepaniak: Well, in some ways it does. The problem is that the way that IBS works and the way that these short-chain carbohydrates work is that they ferment in our digestive tract, and depending on the type of IBS you have, these carbohydrates can go quickly through your digestive tract, or they can sit and ferment, or they can simply irritate the digestive tract, and cause other problems such as: bloating, gas, pain, and all the things that nobody ever really wants to talk about in social settings. But the key to managing a vegan diet with IBS, is to learn which foods are safe for you and which ones aren’t. So basically, the Low-FODMAP diet, is an elimination diet to start with. So, it can help people with IBS pinpoint their trigger foods. That way, you don’t have to eliminate everything for the rest of your life. You just have to find the foods that are specifically problematic for you. You don’t even have to totally eliminate those. Having a low-FODMAP diet is about learning the frequency and portion size of the certain foods that you can have. So you might be able to have a tablespoon of legumes, but you might not be able to have much more than that. So it’s really about a learning process of what works for you, but the problem in the past has been that we have to be able to figure out what our triggers are. So most people with IBS, particularly vegans with IBS, have been afraid of food–totally. Since we can’t figure out what it is that is causing our problems. There’s so many foods that do.
Caryn Hartglass: This elimination diet that you spoke about I think is really important. The medical community wants to find one fix for specific ailment, and this is where we discover we are all unique, and in many ways, not just with IBS–we’re the best gauge to find out what’s best for us. Very often, through an elimination diet, which can be a little challenging, but will let us know what will work for each of us as an individual–and nobody else can do that.
Jo Stepaniak: Right. Well the thing with the Low-FODMAP diet, and some of the signs that they are sensitive to many many foods they can stick with the diet closely for a longer period of time, but usually people find that there are specific foods that cause them more problems than others. Like you said, everybody is different, and IBS affects each person differently, in fact ALL digestive issues affects each person uniquely. So there is no such thing as “One size fits all” unfortunately, I wish that there were. But there are certain foods that affect people more so than others. Although, again, some people may not have any problems with those. But, in particular, legumes, onions, and garlic are the biggest offenders.
Caryn Hartglass: This is fascinating to me, primarily because I’m a big fan of Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He has some protocol for dealing with IBS, but his big things are G-bombs: greens, beets, onions, mushrooms, berries, rice, and beans.
Jo Stepaniak: [laughter] A lot of those are high in FODMAPs. Just so listeners know, FODMAPs are real. These have been proven scientifically, test after test, to exist and to exacerbate symptoms of IBS. A lot of times, we want to feel like we are eating the best, most nutritious, most nutrient dense diet possible. So we might follow something like a nutritarian diet, and we don’t feel better. And in a large part, it’s because we are eating those foods that are triggering our symptoms that are high in FODMAPs.
Caryn Hartglass: Are you at peace with your diet, Jo?
Jo Stepaniak: [laughter] Well maybe, yeah, because IBS is unrelenting. I would love to say that I’ve found the secret cure, but I haven’t. I have found ways to manage my symptoms as best as I can, but I still have good days and bad days. I’ve accepted that that’s just the way that it’s going to be. But on my good days, I will experiment more with some of the higher FODMAP food. When I’m not feeling good, then I’ll go back to a more strict low-FODMAP vegan diet.
Caryn Hartglass: What are your triggers?
Jo Stepaniak: [laughter] Everything.
Caryn Hartglass: It just made me think, because you’ve created so many wonderful cookbooks, yet there has been so many challenges along the way.
Jo Stepaniak: Well, I think when people come to veganism, because of ethics, you really want to make it work. You want to do everything in your power, and you just keep trying everything. And I have tried everything. I’ve had IBS for an extremely long time and I’ve tried every approach imaginable from oil free to nutritarian, from raw to food combining, you name it! I have tried it. I have tried fasting. I have tried juicing. I have tried absolutely everything. That’s why it makes me laugh when people say, “Well have you tried this”? The answer is yeah, yeah I have. I wish that I had fewer triggers, but I can tolerate some things in moderation, like higher FODMAP foods when I’m feeling good. But really, right now nobody knows exactly why people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, feel better on some days and not on others. And why some foods are more tolerable on some days, and not on others. It’s difficult. That’s what makes it so challenging and frustrating for people who have it because there are currently no answers. There’s more being found out. There’s more information in terms of physiological changes that are being detected that most of the medical community never thought existed. So that is creating opportunities for testing that allows people with IBS to get a diagnosis sooner, and not have to travel from doctor to doctor–getting nowhere. Once they have this diagnosis, they can start taking action on their own. The personal steps they need in terms of dietary changes, such as trying the low-FODMAP diet. Which has been effective for a large percentage of people with IBS.
Caryn Hartglass: Now what about Irritable Bowel Disease and Crohn’s Disease? I’ve often heard IBS lumped in with those other illnesses. Can you talk about them too? Because you don’t really mention them.
Jo Stepaniak: Sure, Irritable Bowel Disease is different from Irritable Bowel Syndrome in a number of ways. But symptomatically they can be very similar. Their structural damage to the intestines, depending on which type you have, whether you have Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. That can be detected through examination. With Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you can have an examination, such as a colonoscopy, and there will be no visible structural damage. These diseases, the IBD, the inflammatory bowel diseases are progressive. They are also very difficult to control, however, mild forms of IBD can be very similar to IBS in terms of symptoms. People with severe IBS might even be more symptomatic and have more struggles with path of daily living, than people with IBD. So right now, the very recent view of the gastrointestinal community and physicians, is that digestive orders are spectrum diseases. So, they can be all across the board. Regardless of which type you have, it can range from mild to severe.
Caryn Hartglass: I know that the drugs that they use for Crohn’s disease, for example, can have tremendous side effects and increase the risk of cancer, So that’s a very scary road to go down.
Jo Stepaniak: There really has been no good solution and no headway into finding causes of IBD in the last fifty or more years. And the only solution, which are pretty typical of the conventional medical community has been new drugs. There has been really no ways to control, manage, and figure out the cause of inflammatory bowel disease. There has actually been a little more progress with IBS then there has been with IBD in the very recent years.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve read about worms and fecal transplants.
Jo Stepaniak: Yes, fecal transplants have been successful. They’re not very appealing, but they have been successful with some people who have inflammatory bowel disease. They have not been tried, at least on any large scale, with people who have IBD. I can understand why because our quality of life when you have IBS is deeply affected. But IBS does not progress- you don’t have a risk of cancer or IBS turning into IBD. IBS is not life threatening. So if we eat a food that triggers us, we just feel pretty rotten for several days. But, with people who have IBD, their disease is generally progressive. Occasionally people go into remission, and that’s awesome and that type of remission can happen for years. But, that doesn’t happen that frequently and the disease can progress and it can become life threatening. It can require major surgery. It’s extremely serious in that regard.
Caryn Hartglass: So we’ve heard about IBS, and we’ve just touched upon Crohn’s Disease and IBD. Now, let’s go to the bright side and talk about your book and the recipes. Because, I like to say, every time I’ve restricted my diet going from an omnivore to a vegetarian, vegetarian to a vegan, and then a vegan to a raw vegan for a while… Every time I restrict foods, I discover a whole world of other plant foods that I never thought about trying. I’m not sure if it’s the same way with eating low-FODMAP, but there are many many foods that are safe.
Jo Stepaniak: Absolutely! I’ve found that too. I find it kind of exciting to look for alternatives. How can I satisfy my taste when I can’t have certain things? So that was the fun in creating the recipes for this book. To think about what I can’t have, what isn’t available commercially, and how can I create something to fill that gap? For instance, Ketchup– people love ketchup. It’s a wonderful condiment, but it contains onion and garlic. People love sriracha sauce, that’s a fabulous condiment these days, but it contains tons of garlic. So, I came up for options for both of them, that I think are equally tasty and incredibly easy to make. They’re delicious and last a really long time in the refrigerator. [laughter] Which is important if you’re not going to make them that often. I came up with a wonderful chili paste, herbal seasonings, and spices–all kinds of things to fill the gap that are there when you have to restrict your diet. Especially, in terms of garlic and onion. Both of them are indigenous. They are in everything. If you go to any store and look at any prepared foods, the deli, the frozen items, the packaged foods, veggie burgers, cheese alternatives– you name it, they have garlic in them. It is so difficult for people with IBS to find solutions that don’t contain foods with those savory items.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m thinking of the Jane Cuisine, where they don’t believe in using onion and garlic, is there any connection between IBS and the Janes?
Jo Stepaniak: [laughter] not that I’m aware of. Although Janes in general–there’s a movement towards veganism. But Jane’s in general, have dairy products in the package. They don’t get away with that one.
Caryn Hartglass: But I just wonder, what the real reason is for not eating onion and garlic from centuries ago.
Jo Stepaniak: From what I understand, and I am not Jane. But, from what I understand between the connection of not eating onion and certain strict Hindus–for instance the Harikrishnas, they do not use onion and garlic either for spiritual reasons. They would probably be able to explain a whole lot better than I could, but it has to do with making your mind work in a way that it shouldn’t. It’s not very spiritual in terms of how active it is. So I will let someone from those backgrounds explain that.
Caryn Hartglass: So you have in the cookbook, some of your favorite go-to comfort foods that are safe?
Jo Stepaniak: Oh, I think they’re all comfort foods because that’s what I’m big into to. When you’re not feeling good, you really do want something that’s going to make you feel soothed, comforted, and loved–because you don’t want to feel deprived. I try to make everything high in flavor, soft and tender, just really appealing–whether you’re feeling great or not. There’s all kinds of different recipes to, I have: coconut curry, Indian style chard, potatoes, carrots, smoothies, short ribs, BBQ sauce– but all low in FODMAPs and all mild enough that they won’t inflame a sensitive digestive system.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m very glad to see that kale and collard greens are on the safe list.
Jo Stepaniak: They’re my favorite foods! When it comes to low-FODMAPs, dieticians and physicians are often saying that you really do need to have a dietician to guide you through the process so that you don’t get deficiencies in any nutrients. But we also hear that same thing when we become vegans, and people say well you’re going to be missing out on so many nutrients. What though? I ask myself what. Because I look at what I can have on a Low-FODMAP vegan diet, and you can have a lot. But it’s just knowing what. There are plenty of safe fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds–there are even a couple safe legumes in the right portion size. So there is really not a lot we are missing out on in nutrition. But it is understanding the portion that isn’t usually a trigger for most people, finding out your specific triggers–but there are lots that we can have. The primary challenge is prepared foods and eating out. Those are the biggest hurdles.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I understood that. My heart was breaking for all people that are suffering from IBS and living in this modern social world. The restaurants and prepared foods manufacturers are getting better when it comes to all kinds of allergies, nuts, all kinds of allergies. But, they’re not there yet with onions and garlic.
Jo Stepaniak: They are! I keep trying to reach out, but nobody seems to be listening right now. In Australia, where this research was conducted originally and where it’s emanated from. They actually have a low FODMAP map insignia, for food products–just like we have for vegan products. Here it’s not really controlled by any one organization, but they do have that for low-FODMAP foods in Australia. It would be wonderful to have something like that here in the United States.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m sure it will come, hopefully sooner than later! Thank you once again for leading the way with food, with your latest book, Low FODMAP and Vegan Diet.
Jo Stepaniak: Thank you Caryn!
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, thank you for joining me again, and feel good! Okay.
Transcribed by Victoria Nguyen, 8/4/2016.
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: I would like to just briefly talk a little bit about what’s been going on with me. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been traveling around California, both last month and talking with Joe who’s been vegan for so long, it makes me think about the vegan restaurants and products that were available ten, 20, 30, 40 years ago when some of us were looking around for them. And I was recently at the Staff of Life market in Santa Cruz, and I used to go there in the ‘80s and ‘90s when I lived in California, and there was nowhere else to go for vegan food. And they had wonderful treats and desserts and sandwiches. It was always such a special place, and I was driving around Santa Cruz a few days ago, and I saw their new building that they moved to in 2011, and I went in and I was really delighted and surprised that I still felt this magical feeling in there. They just have a lovely atmosphere, and even though we’re fortunate enough to have so many more grocery stores, supermarkets that have wonderful vegan products today, I was glad to feel that there was still something special at the Staff of Life market. Okay, let us move to my next guest, Julie Gueraseva, the founder of LAIKA Magazine. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Julie. How are you?
Julie Gueraseva: Hi, I’m great. Thank you so much for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. So I want to hear more about your vegan lifestyle magazine, LAIKA. It’s especially fun to talk to you now because I was just talking to Jo Stepaniak. I don’t know if you know of her, but she has created so many cookbooks and really created so much groundwork for many other cookbook authors and chefs to build upon. She had so many great cheesy recipes and saucy recipes decades ago, and I’m just seeing so many – so much evolution from her, so it’s kind of fun to talk about that. And now we’re talking to you, and you have this new great magazine and talking about all of the new vegan entrepreneurs and people that are out there moving this movement forward.
Julie Gueraseva: Yeah, so LAIKA is essentially what you’re describing. It’s a showcase of the vibrancy and how relevant and contemporary the vegan movement is and the magazine, in particular LAIKA, what’s a little unique about it is that it has a really wide range of content. So there’s profiles of really compelling individuals within the vegan movement, celebrities who are very outspoken about being vegan like Kat Von D who’s on the cover of the newest issue, which is the 6th edition. So the magazine is young, but it’s now on its sixth issue, and then alongside of that, there’s very candid and unflinching, investigative stories, investigative journalism and reporting on animals, the situation they’re in and also the complexity of their lives. So it’s presenting animals in a whole new light, alongside human beings, so it’s showcasing the vegan lifestyle and its incredible range that includes food and travel and fun stuff like that, as well as activism, animal rights activism and the lives of animals. So it’s really showing the whole experience in a really immersive and compelling way that’s essentially what a mainstream magazine like Vanity Fair would do for human-interest stories as a whole. So it’s just – at the end of the day, it’s an interesting magazine with very inventive, engaging stories on a wide range of topics that just happen to be vegan, which to me, is the vegan experience in a nutshell. It’s full of interesting people who live interesting lives, who, in many ways, are just like everybody else, but it’s just that their lives happen to be – they happen to live their lives fully without relying in any way on the exploitation of animals. So it’s really a new kind of cutting edge model for living, which I think history of humankind is really pushing us towards as world events are showing.
Caryn Hartglass: I love that. Let’s push more towards that. And the beauty in your magazine and about the vegan lifestyle is that there is no deprivation. We can have it all, and we can have more than it all. That’s how I feel about it. I’m continually telling people when it comes to the food. You don’t know how good you can feel.
Julie Gueraseva: Yeah, exactly. In fact, I would say contrary to the stereotypes, it’s not a lifestyle deprivation. It’s a lifestyle of liberation, freedom because you’re widening your horizons and your experiences in ways you didn’t know existed before. After you untangle yourself from all these status quos that actually limit our experience on this planet as human beings, we’re constantly putting kind of restrictions on ourselves in many ways on how we interact with the rest of the world and being in touch with your feelings, which is also very stifling. As a vegan, you get to experience life fully and you’ll allow yourself to experience your full range of feelings as a human being, which includes compassion and empathy and kindness, all those basic human emotions that we’ve kind of denied ourselves.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really good. It’s almost – when we remove the toxic food and the food that’s coating our arteries and clogging our brain, physically we’re clearing, we’re detoxing, but it’s also a clearing and detoxing and a clarity giving experience for our emotions.
Julie Gueraseva: Yeah, exactly. It’s a very multi-faceted experience.
Caryn Hartglass: Right on! Go vegan! Period. Now you just have a few issues out. You’re new and I noticed in the seven years of doing this program every week, talking to many different wonderful people, I have learned so much. And I’m wondering what have you learned since you started this magazine?
Julie Gueraseva: Oh my gosh, so much. I was actually thinking about that today is that as a result of doing the magazine, how much I’ve learned about everything from like animal sentience, the depth of their emotional world to cutting edge activism techniques to how to approach talking to people about veganism, about the vegan movement in different parts of the world, what’s happen. It’s sort of like I really intentionally go into material for each issue that is also new to me because I want to learn new stuff. And with every issue, I’m just astounded by the wealth of information that is just – it’s so just enriching and just gorgeous information that I come across. Like discovering that there’s a vegan scene in central and Eastern Europe and Prague and Warsaw that’s really dynamic, and they do interesting things there with their animal rights organizations that we might not be doing here. So the magazine is also a really intentional kind of vehicle for cross-pollination of ideas and experiences so that someone – it has an international – it’s available internationally. It has an international readership, and it’s content, although primarily dealing with topics, stories dealing in the United States, there’s also tons of stuff from other parts of the world. So it’s really bringing together the global vegan experience, which is really fascinating.
Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned animal sentience before, and I love hearing these stories about other species. I was just talking with Jonathan Balcombe a few weeks ago with his new book, “What a Fish Knows.”
Julie Gueraseva: Oh yeah, oh yeah. That’s a great book.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s such a great book, and I especially love the way he wrote it because I think it’s very approachable, very appealing to even those people who are fish eaters. They’re just lovely, amazing stories, but then I hope those that read it can make the leap. Fish are your friends, not food, everybody.
Julie Gueraseva: Yeah, and that’s what I try to do is every animal related feature in LAIKA, I really aim to kind of humanize animals like there’s a story in the new issue called Enduring Bond that’s all about really close friendships between animals, and I deliberately brought together stories from a multitude of sanctuaries from around the world. There’s two international sanctuaries and five from all over the United States, and it’s just mind-blowing the types of stories and the photographs that show the closeness that these animals experience that is so much like the human experience that you read that, you see that and you read those stories, which show the process of animals bonding; how they get to know each other; how they kind of gravitate towards certain kinds of animals like they click with some, they don’t click with others, just like people do. They grieve over loss in a very overt way, just like human beings. So our experiences, we have so many commonalties, which is what the theme of the new issue is, which is the unity issue, which explores the commonalities between human beings and between us and the animal kingdom and planet Earth and the importance of being unified.
Caryn Hartglass: Unity is a great concept right now. As humans, we’re still struggling unifying with our own species. We’re struggling with borders around countries. We all share the same home, planet Earth. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, and yet we’re still struggling with being unified within ourselves. This refugee crisis, the Brexit, the vote that just happened. We need unity.
Julie Gueraseva: Yeah, so that was sort of – it was a very organic kind of result from – resulted from just living, seeing what’s happening around the world, and also as a vegan movement, it’s so important to be unified. And I think really the core of unity is just really honing in our commonalties. The most important things that tie us together. We all share the same values at the end of the day, and those same values are important to animals, like happiness, feeling safe. Safe from harm, enjoying your surroundings, valuing freedom. Those very basic needs without which we can’t live and which we all need. That’s what unites us, and we can provide that for each other just by simply respecting one another. So it’s really about kind of striving for coexistence, which I think is the only way we’re going to all survive on this planet. It’s the only way our planet is going to survive is if we learn to coexist. So I think it’s really important to put this kind of – those kinds of messages out there. This is my way of doing it with the magazine and we can all do it every single day.
Caryn Hartglass: Again, I’m going to say I love this unity concept. I’m going to go with it here for a little longer. Even vegans have challenges being unified within our own community. There’s a lot of anger and we – it’s just something we definitely need to work on, but the idea of realizing all the things that we have in common on this planet is the only way we’re really going to make connections. I’m thinking right now, I think it was two years ago, I was invited to speak to 250 cattle producers the night before a bull sale, and they were having a conversation about animal agriculture’s contribution to global warming, and I went as the lone vegan. I was decked out in all my vegan cowboy wear, and I was trying to think: how can I have a conversation with these people and have them hear me? Which is really – that was my goal. I wasn’t expecting them to change. I just wanted to be heard, and I focused on the things we all wanted. We all want clear air and good food to eat, and we all want good health, and we want peace. It was really important to make that connection because I don’t think we can make change or move at all until we all hold hands and realize what we all share, what we all want. Unfortunately some people will say, “Well, what I want is bacon.”
Julie Gueraseva: Yeah, you know, it’s a complex thing, and there’s a multitude of approaches. I really believe in a diversity of tactics, and I believe in kind of disarming people with kindness and listening to them. Try and understand them because people get so defensive. I mean food is probably the most personal, the most controversial topic, possibly one of the most controversial for sure, ever. People take it very personally. They see it as like a personal freedom, but if we take a step back and we just recognize that these are just society’s status quos and social norms that have been imposed on people that are not necessary. We just kind of deconstruct the situation, then it becomes a little easier to manage so that if someone is coming at you with the bacon jokes, you kind of realize, well, they’re still under that state of kind of not seeing clearly and subscribing to these outdated status quos. But this is where I come in and I help them to come out of that, and that’s another thing I’ve learned through the magazine is just different techniques and different approaches. There’s so many different ways to handle it, but I really have so much – I’m just an optimist by nature but also because of my background, I was born in Russia. I grew up still under the Communist – when the Communist regime was still intact, and I lived through that system falling apart. So I saw with my own eyes a whole regime that was so ingrained in society just come tumbling down. And now that I’m vegan and having been vegan for about eight years and everything I’ve learned, I think back on that and I realize anything is possible. You think it seems farfetched. Don’t assume that it’s not possible, so I don’t underestimate anybody. I believe that most people are capable of seeing the light, so to speak. It’s just that some require a different approach. There are different approaches. I’m thinking more of like let’s get to the tipping point. Let’s go to that ten percent, and after that, I think momentum will really take over.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Well, I think it’s part of human nature. Most of us are followers, and once we reach that tipping point, then yes, we will have this great momentum because people will follow. And many of us in the first world or however we call ourselves, developed, I don’t even know what the PC word is today…
Julie Gueraseva: Western society.
Caryn Hartglass: Excuse me?
Julie Gueraseva: Western society.
Caryn Hartglass: Western something. Anyway, we have so many conveniences. People don’t want to give up conveniences. They don’t want to change, and when they begin to see that they can have it all, as I mentioned before, and it’s easy and they don’t have to change very much, then they’ll go for it naturally.
Julie Gueraseva: Yeah, exactly. It’s just kind of like nudging people a little out of their comfort zones, and yes, change can be scary, but change is also really exhilarating. People just don’t give it a chance, so it’s just a matter of luring people over that line that they’re afraid to cross before they even realize that they’re on the other side, and they’re enjoying themselves. So yes, it’s a huge challenge. I’m not under any illusion that it’s not a huge challenge. It is but I believe that it’s doable. It has to be. It has to be because I don’t think –
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so the newest issue, where can people find it?
Julie Gueraseva: So people can get it at LAIKAMagazine.com online, and then it’s going to be available in about a week, a week to ten days on newsstands around the country and internationally and various independent bookstores. So they can just check the site and check various social media pages that the magazine has. On Instagram, the handle is LAIKAMagazine and Twitter and Facebook, it’s Facebook.com/LAIKAMagazine to keep up with the latest stuff. We’re going to be putting out more exclusive behind-the-scenes videos from our cover shoot and other fun stuff. Yeah, I’m really proud of this issue. I think it’s really inspiring and uplifting. It’s really going to move people and move them to action.
Caryn Hartglass: Great, and can you tell us a little bit more of some of the features that are in this magazine that you didn’t mention earlier?
Julie Gueraseva: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So there’s the feature with Kat Von D. She’s the vegan tattoo artist, and she a cruelty-free makeup line that she’s making vegan. And we photographed her at Farm Sanctuary, so she’s with all these beautiful rescued animals. It’s a really beautiful story, a really inspiring story. And there are travel stories on Prague, Warsaw and Vancouver. There’s a feature on coyotes, foxes and wolves. There’s sentience and how they’re persecuted unfairly, even though many people don’t realize they’re actually cousins of the domestic dog. There’s a really awesome feature that I love about – that’s a series of conversations between vegans from different generations, vegan trailblazers like Marc Bekoff and vegan teens. So they exchange really interesting perspectives and ideas on vegan history and vegan future. It’s just another – it ties in with the unity issue and another example of cross-pollinating ideas. I think it’s really important to get the perspective of different generations. There are really beautiful food stories. There’s a really beautiful food story that’s really kind of – it ties in also with the unity theme, that’s really vegetable forward and inspired by the bounty of the planet kingdom. There’s a really wonderful interview with activist Marc Ching, who is fighting the dog meat trade in Asia. You may have heard. There’s a really poignant interview with him and a feature on Tony Kanal who’s the bassist for No Doubt. He’s a vegan musician and activist.
Caryn Hartglass: Julie, that sounds great. I’m very excited to hear about it, and we’re out of time. So thanks for joining me so much and the best of luck with LAIKA Magazine. Julie.
Julie Gueraseva: Thank you so much for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, you’re welcome. That was Julie Gueraseva. Be well and I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. I just wanted to mention before we go, at ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com, my non-profit, we just hit day 500 of our daily blog, What Vegans Eat. So I hope you’re reading it, enjoying it and we post every day what we eat here in my family at Responsible Eating and Living. Recipes and ideas for you. Hope you’re enjoying it. Thanks for joining me. I’m Caryn Hartglass and remember, tune in live here at Progressive Radio Network. Tuning in love and have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Alison Rutledge, 8/6/2016.