Since 2009, It’s All About Food, has been bringing you the best in up-to-date news regarding food and our food system. Hosted by Caryn Hartglass, a vegan since 1988, the program includes in-depth interviews with medical doctors; nutritionists; dieticians; cook book authors; athletes; environmental, animals and health activists; farmers; food manufacturers; lawyers; food scientists and more. Learn about how we can solve many of the world’s problems today and do it deliciously, here on It’s All About Food.
Part I: Gary De Mattei, Fictions in Culture
REAL founders, Caryn Hartglass and Gary De Mattei discuss the fictions of culture with regard to food.
Part II: Robert Grillo, Farm To Fable
Robert Grillo is an activist, author and speaker. He is the director of Free from Harm, which he founded in 2009 to expose animal agriculture’s impact on non human animals, vulnerable communities and the environment. As a marketing communications professional for over twenty years, Grillo has worked on large food industry accounts through which he acquired a behind-the-scenes perspective on food branding and marketing. Farm to Fable is his first book. He lives in Chicago. For more information, please visit: http://www.freefromharm.org.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and it’s time for It’s All About Food. It’s Election Day here in the United States, and I voted this morning. I was surprised at what an emotional experience it was for me. We live in New York City, in the county of Queens. I believe there are more languages spoken here than anywhere else in the world, and going to our place for voting, you can see the whole world there, people from all over that have come that have come to live here or have been born here. The volunteers were an amazing, diverse group of people, and I just felt this profound connection to history and the fight that many people have been a part of to make life better for everyone, to make it more equitable and just, and I’m welling up right now just thinking about it, and for those of you who are listening to this broadcast in the future, don’t tell us what happens. We’ll find out tonight with the election results. And what many people are talking about is breaking the glass ceiling, especially for women, being able to reach the highest office in this nation as President, and we’ll find out later if that indeed happens. I hope so. But we have a lot more work to do after we break the glass ceiling in order to make things more equitable and just not only for our fellow human beings, but for the nonhuman animals that we share our home, planet Earth, with. And we’re going to be talking about that a lot today. We’re going to be talking about fictions in culture with both of my guests today. I have Gary de Mattei for part one, my cofounder of Responsible Eating and Living, and then in part two we will be talking with Robert Grillo, the founder of Free from Harm and the author of a new book called Farm to Fable. Fiction, fiction in culture – it’s a powerful concept, so I want to bring on my guest Gary de Mattei. How are you today, Gary de Mattei?
Gary de Mattei: Hello, Caryn Hartglass, how are you? How are you?
Caryn Hartglass: I’m good. You voted?
Gary de Mattei: I just got here, yeah! I was going to send this guy over who actually voted before me. It was a big, long line, and he kind of talked like this. He was from Queens, and he says, “You get a free coffee? You get a free coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. The line is about as long as it is when you get a free coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. You ever get a free coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts?” And I said, “Gee, no. I haven’t.” He says, “Oh, you got to go! You got to go to Dunkin’ Donuts. You got to get a free coffee.” And I said, “When do they give you free coffee?” “Once a month! Once a month. So you get a free coffee, and it’s nice. But the line is longer here than it is at Dunkin’ Donuts when they give you the free coffee!”
Caryn Hartglass: Amazing. That’s too funny!
Gary de Mattei: It was a very long line. And for artistic license, I said that I just voted, but I actually got up at 6 a.m. and walked across the street. The polls were open, and the place was packed, and it was, as you mentioned, it was very… It was electricity. It was electrifying.
Caryn Hartglass: Wait a minute, Gary. We’re in New York City. There was ‘electrizity.’ We don’t say ‘electricity’ here.
Gary de Mattei: Electrizity. There was a lot of electrizity in the area. It was amazing. But we’re talking about food, right? And how food has a – I love Robert’s title of his book: Farm to Fable. That’s great because fiction and fables and all of these untruths that we hear, and hopefully we’re all going to clear that up today, in addition to having some fun because I’m sure everybody’s a bit stressed out about the world and how things have been going and just be… I know this word is being passed around a lot on social media, but just the vitriol that people are throwing at each other. And the thing that was nice this morning about being in a room full of people – as you mentioned, a diverse group of people – is that everyone was so what I remember being human was all about. Everybody was kind. Everybody was compassionate. They said things like, “Hey, I’ll stand in line all day. This is very important to me. And I know there’s a lot of criticism about one time every four years we vote for President, and people feel that they actually can make a difference, but then the rest of the years everybody just goes back to doing what they normally do. But this felt different to me, and hopefully we can keep the momentum going, and we can keep wanting good things to happen, and I think our job as activists is to let people know that, as you mentioned, there’s so much more to it that we’re not getting, and so let’s try and shed a little light on that, like these myths. Like these fables. Like these fictions, as you said.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I want to say – you mentioned vitriol, and there’s no vitriol here. I often say this, and I try to say it every time, but I don’t always remember: Here on It’s All About Food, we tune in love. This is an opportunity for all of us listening now and listening later to focus on that concept of love.
Gary de Mattei: Right. It’s very important.
Caryn Hartglass: It is very important, and in this moment where people are so divisive everywhere we go, sometimes the only thing that I could do is just envision pure white light around them and find the good because we all have good in us. It’s these fictions in culture that make us adapt and go one way versus another. And that’s where knowledge and education and truth really matter. I think probably as humanity evolved, we looked for reasons for things we didn’t understand. We made up stories. We’re a group of storytellers.
Gary de Mattei: Right, and a lot of the fictions were created to control the populations.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s that, too, yeah.
Gary de Mattei: And a lot of the fiction is also based on fear. For example, with respect to food, which is what the program is about – It’s All About Food – there’s a lot of fear when someone is asked… I just recently, the other day, we were in Florida traveling as you know. You were there, too. And a friend of mine – I got together with some dear friends, old friends from way back when. We all sort of met there, and one of them came up to me and said, “So, you’ve lost so much weight, and you’re a vegan now, but come on. Tell me. Isn’t it true what they say? Aren’t you deplete in protein now because of that? Isn’t there a huge risk of you getting cancer because you eat soy? Isn’t there…” And then all of a sudden there was all of these fears that they have heard that we have obviously done programs about at Responsible Eating and Living, proving that these are just fables. That they’re just untruths. That they’re fiction. But people are still out there thinking that if they adopt a plant-based diet, a vegan diet, they’re not going to get enough protein and it’s going to harm them. I think that’s the big myth right there that keeps popping up. And she was very kind in presenting it to me because she really legitimately, sincerely wanted to know, “Is this true? Am I going to get enough protein if I go to a plant-based diet?” And I said, “Yes.” Look at our program about soy. We’ve done the soy story, and they’re so many things that we – We’re trying to bust all the myths, especially the myth about soy and about protein and about so many other things that people are being told. “Oh, you can adopt the plant-based diet because you won’t get protein and you’ll get rickets.”
Caryn Hartglass: Fear is so powerful, isn’t it? Fear? And I think people are afraid that their foundation will crumble underneath them when they sift in their ideologies, and it’s so hard to hear them. I think the best skill to have, and I’m not exactly sure how to develop it, but to be totally open and objective to everything we see, to kind of wipe away all the assumptions that we have and see things how they really are. That’s almost an impossibility.
Gary de Mattei: Right. Like with this election and the media, for example. I don’t know how many people have been slamming the media. I’m certainly one of the people that is really amazed at how the media’s just gone completely berserk on this whole campaign between the two candidates, and the thing that they really based most of their untruths, their fictions, their fables, on is just – It’s all fear-based. It’s all – The candidates have done their share of it, but the media then just takes it and runs with it to the point where none of it makes any sense. And there’s so much of the watching and the listening that people are doing instead of, like today, getting out in the middle, standing in a line of people, and understanding that, “Wow. It’s going to be up to us to clean up this mess after this election because the media’s going to go on to their next villain. They’re going to go on to their next creation of – showbiz creation. It’s all fiction. And they’re going to create the next villain, and they’re going to create the next hero. They’re going to scare us all into watching and tweeting and Facebooking and Instagramming all of the fears and anxieties that we have in just trying to live our day-to-day lives, but it’s going to be up to us to bring out the brooms and sweep it up, and there’s going to be all kinds of different people doing that. Not just Democrats. Not just Republicans. Not just Independents. Not just Green Party members and the other parties that people want to belong to, but it’s going to be everybody. And so my big thing is, vote with your dollar. It sounds kind of simple-minded, but I’m a simple-minded guy.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s not simple-minded! It’s very profound and powerful.
Gary de Mattei: But it’s true that we have the power, yet we are made to feel powerless by groups like the media. But in reality – The whole idea, the thing that got me started on this was – and this connects with food, and I’ll just get to my point in a minute – we feel powerless, and so when we powerless, we feel that our only choice is to consume. That’s going to make us feel better. When we feel like we don’t have anywhere to turn, we go out and buy something, and so the media’s there to sell us stuff. For all intents and purposes, they’re there to sell a product and in doing so they have to keep us glued to a story, to a fiction, to an untruth, and it has got to be exciting, and it’s got to have drama and conflict, and it’s got to have all of the elements of a good story. And so even if it’s based on truth – now we’re not quite sure where the truth begins and where the story takes over, so then there is that commercial that comes in and it tells us, “Everything’s going to be okay if you buy this product.” Products are going to be sold to us, and then so it’s this vicious cycle. But we, in reality, have the power. We can just stop buying things.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s what I would love to see. Everybody, just. Stop. Buying. If everyone didn’t buy anything for one day, do you know how much power we would have?
Gary de Mattei: It’s possible. That’s why the stock market shows you that how volatile that simple concept is. And so, that’s how much, much more general, these are, I’m speaking in generalities now. Very broad strokes here. This is just coffee talk, the free coffee.
Caryn Hartglass: Coffee talk! Let’s talk about holidays.
Gary de Mattei: Yeah, because the segue here is – Then the other big myth is about the big holiday that’s coming up or fable, that a turkey is important for Thanksgiving. You have to kill a bird, and we all know – Well, not all of us.
Caryn Hartglass: Not all of us.
Gary de Mattei: You and I know, and Mr. Grillo knows, that that’s just a big lie.
Caryn Hartglass: The turkey appears later on the scene. It wasn’t originally the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Gary de Mattei: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s such a romantic fable that the poor pilgrims who had starved and suffered the winter before now, thanks to the Native American Indians, had a reasonable harvest and they were celebrating and everyone was happy, and then later on we go and just wipe out that entire race of people.
Gary de Mattei: Right, and there’s so much happening now the truth finally coming forward that you can have a lovely Thanksgiving feast, a huge Thanksgiving feast, without a bird. And we have a great Thanksgiving show that we’ve just put back up that we filmed a few years ago, and it has some incredible dishes. And we’ve just gotten better and better at doing this, and every year – we’re not going to be home for Thanksgiving this year, we’re actually going to be with my family in California – but we’re going to make some of these incredible dishes, and I can’t wait.
Caryn Hartglass: Let me tell you some of my favorites for me. I know Thanksgiving traditions – and there’s another fun word, ‘tradition’, which we’ll blast later – we all have different traditions based on our family and our culture and our environment and, my Thanksgiving, I like to have apple pie. I like to have pumpkin pie. And after decades of vegan-izing and gluten-free-izing, I’m very happy with the apple pie recipe we have and the pumpkin pie recipe we have for Thanksgiving. We even have a savory pumpkin pie, not just a sweet one.
Gary de Mattei: Yeah, that’s amazing. But everybody talks about the main event. You have to have this big, dead bird on the table that’s stuffed and, okay, you want to have something to present. You want to have a main event for present, and so we did this thing with a red kuri squash with polenta stuffing. It’s on our website. It’s amazing. It’s gorgeous. And if you’ve ever had a – It looks kind of like a pumpkin, but it’s more like a pumpkin that you would find in The Hobbit. It’s got this really cool color to it, and it’s really attractive, and they come in all shapes and sizes, and we stuffed that with this amazing polenta stuffing, and it’s gorgeous, and you can still pour the gravy all over.
Caryn Hartglass: You can slice it. That’s what’s great about it.
Gary de Mattei: You can slice it, the stuffing is right there, and you were talking just a minute ago about these traditions, and what we are trying to do at Responsible Eating and Living is we’re trying to rescript the traditions. We’ll still get enough food, but the other thing is, is connect the dots to that bird. That bird feels. That bird is a living, breathing creature, and we aren’t connecting those dots because we aren’t shown how horrific the conditions are. Of course, they give you another myth now that it’s ‘free-range’, and it runs around, and it has this lovely life before it gets its head chopped off, but that’s such a myth.
Caryn Hartglass: A huge myth. And another myth is that these birds are dumb, and yet there are more and more studies that show that in some ways they’re smarter than us.
Gary de Mattei: I think so. There was a really profound moment that we had in Florida – bringing Florida back up again – where you and I were trying to take this romantic walk along the beach, along the pier, our first day there. It was nice, nice weather, and we saw these men on the beach pulling in these nets and dumping these beautiful, silver, gorgeous fish onto the sand, and they were flopping around, and I looked over at you and I said, “I can’t even believe how I feel right now. I feel sick.” And you said, “Yeah, it’s because you’re watching these creatures suffocate.” And from that point on, it was just… My mind was just going nuts because I thought, ‘I’ll never be able to walk on the beach again and not feel like an activist.’ And then we tried to take a walk a couple of days later on a pier, and we thought, ‘Okay, here’s this beautiful pier, and we walk through this restaurant to get onto the pier, and there’s like fifty people fishing and chopping up fish for bait and just – It was like the theme from Psycho was being underscored. It was like [Psycho theme] and all of these close-ups of all these former dead fish were – I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. It was very strange, and I’ve only been a vegan now for less than ten years. It’s going on ten years in 2017, and these were things that I used to do, and I used to feel nothing when I did them. Now when I see other people doing them, it just tears me apart.
Caryn Hartglass: Sometimes I feel responsible, maybe even guilty, that I help in opening the eyes of people. People say ignorance is bliss. If you hadn’t made this switch and had this epiphany, you could happily walk along a beach and see a bucket of suffocating fish and not think twice about it.
Gary de Mattei: No, I’m really happy where I am now in a very abstract, paradoxical way. I’m much more – I think everybody is – What I’m getting at is everybody would feel this way, too, because I was a big, big eater of animals before I became a vegan, and I was a hundred pounds heavier. Everybody has their own story. Mine was weight. Other people, it might’ve health. But mine was literally weight. I just had a big, keyword big, problem with weight and eating. And it wasn’t that I ate junk. I just ate a lot of food. I have Italian ancestry, and food is – Italians do food. It’s just – You don’t have just a simple, little meal. You have a truckload of food, especially at all the holidays, and a lot of that has to do with meat and salamis and all of these traditional foods. And breaking that habit, immediately the weight started to come off, and people ask me now, “Do you have a diet that you can give me?” And I say to you, and I’ll say it until I’m green in the face, “Diets don’t work. I’m never going to give you a diet.” What I did was I stopped eating animals, and I adopted a plant-based lifestyle. I guess you could call that a plant-based diet, but it’s so simple. Just cut out all of the animal products and watch the weight come off. Sure, Oreos are vegan. Sure, there’s a lot of products now like vegan butters and things that will make you fat if you just eat those, but you’ve got to understand that there are certain things that, again, people are going to market to you that’s going to tell you, “Eat this! It’s vegan!” Even the vegans are doing it now, where they’re making these products that are just unhealthy.
Caryn Hartglass: We’re back to the myths again, and there are many, many food myths, and one of the biggest food myths – because people are so busy, and people want to eat better, and they want to eat healthier, but they feel overwhelmed. Their lives are so busy. They don’t have time, and they don’t have skills. They’re not difficult skills, but they don’t know what to do in the kitchen, and they’re attracted to these myths about recipes that can be made in ten minutes or things that can be done so quickly. To make food and make it healthy requires planning, preparation, organization, and practice. You can make food quickly once you’ve got a hang of it, and you prepared things in advance.
Gary de Mattei: One thing about Responsible Eating and Living that you have to understand is we’re not a for-profit organization. We don’t make any money, per se, right? We’re not here to make money. We’re here to give you the truth, so it’s going to take you a long time to prepare food that’s going to be satisfying for you if you don’t have any skills in the kitchen. But if you stick with it, the truth is, you’re going to feel a lot better about slow cooking as opposed to getting a meal done in ten minutes. I don’t even know of a meal that can be cooked in ten minutes, even if it’s taken out of the freezer and put in the microwave. It’s going to take you at least two or three hours of your life to get that meal into your freezer because you’re going to have to go shopping. You’re going to have to buy gas. You’re going to have to take the subway or wherever you live. You’re confusing time with what you deserve. You deserve to spend that amount of time, whatever time it takes, to prepare this meal that’s going to nourish your body as well as your spirit.
Caryn Hartglass: Gary, we just have a few more minutes and I wanted to get back to Thanksgiving and talk about the three sisters, which is a favorite food combination of mine: squash, corn, and beans. It’s a beautiful, almost poetic, way. These three foods, the plants corn and squash and beans, support each other in growing and then go so well together in dishes. That is what should be the feature for Thanksgiving: the three sisters.
Gary de Mattei: Exactly. And it’s also an amazing play by Anton Chekhov, who was an environmentalist and a vegetarian, so check him out. There’s a great play on Broadway that we are actually going to go see tonight called The Cherry Orchard. It was his last play and so yes, the three sisters definitely and you know what Caryn I can’t even believe we just talked for a half hour and I didn’t even get to half of the stuff I wanted to talk about, but you need to get to talking to Robert Grillo about Farm to Fable. It’s an awesome book, and he’s much more articulate than I am, and he can get much more passionate about – I’ll think he’ll agree with some of the things that I’m saying and that you’re saying and even elaborate more on it and so I’m going to go get ready to go see Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.
Caryn Hartglass: Good, I can’t wait. I’m going, too. Okay, thanks, Gary, see you later!
Gary de Mattei: Happy holidays, everybody. Happy Thanksgiving if I don’t talk to you until then and keep listening to Responsible Eating and Living’s brilliant woman, Caryn Hartglass the activist.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you.
Gary de Mattei: I would vote for you if you were running for President, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you, Gary.
Gary de Mattei: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. I’m not going to. I’m too smart!
Gary de Mattei: Bye-bye! Bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye! That was Gary de Mattei, the cofounder of Responsible Eating and Living.
Transcribed by Jessica Roman, 11/18/2016
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: And now let’s move on to part 2 of our It’s All About Food program today because I understand my guest is on the line. Robert Grillo is an activist, author, and speaker. He is the director of He is the director of Free from Harm, which he founded in 2009 to expose animal agriculture’s impact on non-human animals, vulnerable communities, and the environment. As a marketing communications professional for over twenty years, Grillo has worked on large food industry accounts through which he acquired a behind-the-scenes perspective on food branding and marketing. Farm to Fable is his first book. He lives in Chicago and more on Robert when you get a chance visit FreeFromHarm.org. Robert, how are you today?
Robert Grillo: I’m doing great, how are you Caryn?
Caryn Hartglass: Good! So we spent the last half hour kind of setting the scene, talking quite a bit about fictions in culture.
Robert Grillo: Okay.
Caryn Hartglass: Which you talk quite a bit about in Farm to Fable.
Robert Grillo: Indeed.
Caryn Hartglass: Indeed you do, so my first question is did you vote yet?
Robert Grillo: I did, I got that over with this morning. I go in and out of there pretty easily.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, good. It was a very emotional experience for me.
Robert Grillo: Is that right?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I wasn’t expecting it to happen but I was in the voting booth and I just started to well up with tears and I could barely read the ballot.
Robert Grillo: What do you suppose is behind that?
Caryn Hartglass: Well I just felt like a culmination of history of decades, hundreds of years of activists and people working for rights and some kind of empowerment and getting rid of exploitation. You know, women didn’t have the right to vote and now we do and hopefully we’ll have a woman president. And so many things in the last few decades have changed in terms of racism and homophobe-ism and I’m just seeing the next big thing is specie-ism and kind of clearing the veil from the eyes and seeing non-human animals for what they really are.
Robert Grillo: Yeah that certainly is our last great struggle I think. Of course the others continue and still need our attention too because you know we’re not living in a perfect world, right? But yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Can we laugh about that for a minute? Yeah my partner Gary he likes to say sometimes that humans are a poorly designed prototype. We have a lot of flaws. So let’s talk about Farm to Fable and the arts are very important to me. The creative arts I feel like they are one of the best means that we have to get points across. And so one of the first things you mention in the book is the movie The Matrix.
Robert Grillo: Yeah!
Caryn Hartglass: Which when I first saw it I think my jaw was hanging during the whole film. It was so profound and the person I went to see it with, I don’t think he even got it. But there was so much in that film, so powerful, just in terms of how we perceive the world around us and how it isn’t real.
Robert Grillo: Right, that’s why that movie makes such a great metaphor for the subject of my book. And I have an interesting little anecdote to tell you, the Wachowski brothers who are actually from this neighborhood that I live in, and you know they made Sense8 the Netflix series…
Caryn Hartglass: Which I love!
Robert Grillo: …now they’re making a new episode of Sense8 apparently. They opened a studio like right behind my house, like across the alley. So I have the Wachowski brothers right there, and I started seeing this woman with, well, what to me looked like a female with all multi-colored dreadlocks, and she was walking her dog every morning. It didn’t occur to me, and then I finally realized, that was Lana Wachowski. And so the next time I spot her I’m going to go running after her, I’m going to say, “you know, hold on I got to say hello, I need to introduce myself, I love what you guys do.” And one of these days I’m going to catch her in the neighborhood.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well give her a hug for me!
Robert Grillo: Will do. So yeah The Matrix is all about humans losing control of their own destiny and they become oppressed by the intelligence, the artificial intelligence that they created in a way, and they don’t even know it in The Matrix, a lot of them don’t even know it.
Caryn Hartglass: There are many myths that we have been able to overcome and understand are myths and not realities, through education, through knowledge, through science, through research. What was so moving for me today is voting for a woman for President of the United States and it was not that long ago here in this country where women were perceived as incapable of making decisions or having the ability to vote. Men used to say, “Why do women need to vote? They wouldn’t know what to do.”
Robert Grillo: Yeah, exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: And, you know, unfortunately that’s still true in some other countries but it’s the power of education and knowledge to get rid of these myths, and there are so many myths that are tied to non-human animal exploitation.
Robert Grillo: Yeah, in fact you know the one you talked about how women were viewed, there’s a section of my book where I talk a bit about misogyny and how the same kind of attitudes about females of other species, the same kinds of humor and negative attitudes about them are very familiar to us. You know, like there’s a series of ads in this trade journal, or trade magazine, for a pharmaceutical product that helps dairy cows produce a lot more milk. And the headline for the ad reads, “If she can’t stay pregnant, what else will she do?” So it’s like, this is their role in life, their role is to produce babies and milk, and if they can’t do that then what value could they possibly have?
Caryn Hartglass: Produce babies and produce milk for humans, not even for their own kind. And then if they can’t do that they are of no value to humans. On the same subject of cows, there’s been a lot in the news with this presidential election that has to do with sexual harassment and groping and most people have no idea the liberties we take in dairy farming in terms of abusing animals with artificial insemination. Every time I read how we accomplish that, it is obscene, it is bestiality, it is pornographic, and yet it is routine and accepted.
Robert Grillo: Oh yes, and it never wears off. I mean you see a lot of different footage of that, and it’s not just the dairy industry but it’s just breeding in general. Like if you look at how they arouse the female pig so that they can insert semen into their vagina, excuse my blatant language, but I mean that’s what they’re doing, they’re arousing them so that they can receive the semen. And they’re ejaculating males, they’re doing this to turkeys, it’s how turkeys are reproduced. Males are ejaculated, their semen is collected, and then it’s inserted into the female vagina and they take the bird and they turn her upside down and they put her into this lock. And birds hate being turned upside down like that, it’s totally disorienting to them. It would be inefficient to let them reproduce on their own even if they could, and the sad tragic case of turkeys of course is they’re too big to mate.
Caryn Hartglass: You just hit on a word, inefficient. And efficient is one of my most hated words these days. We do so many things in the name of efficiency, and it’s another myth. Efficiency is not always what’s better.
Robert Grillo: That’s right, that’s for sure. And I kind of look at the word effective that way to. I think effective has a kind of marketing jargon kind of tone, which I think we should think about more because of course we want to be effective in what we do but we also want to be truthful, we also have other qualities that we need to convey and they can empower us in our message. Those are things that I hope, you know, I have touched on in the book.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I want to talk about humane farming, humane agriculture, free-range eggs; this kind of terminology that is more appealing to some people. And I think a lot of my listeners, because I know a lot of my listeners are not vegan or vegetarian, and I appreciate them listening to this program and wanting to eat more plant foods, but many of them justify because they are kind and caring that they want to choose animal foods that are produced more environmentally sustainably and in a kinder way. You book breaks all of that down. Can we just touch on that a little bit?
Robert Grillo: Yeah. As a precursor to humane watching, I devote a chapter to humane watching in my book, but before I talk, you know the reason why I introduce consent as a fiction before is because consent is the precursor. It’s the foundational fiction that we need to believe in, in order to then have discussions about humane treatment. So consent is the idea that animals are willing participants in whatever it is we’d like to do with them, and if we believe that then it’s just a matter of how we treat them, abuse is no longer an issue, it’s off the table. So that’s the assumption today, the discourse is not about whether use is a problem, but just how we treat them in the time that they’re allowed to stay alive. So that’s something that, you know, we need to break down for people too, that the reason why we even believe in something called humane or some forms of humane treatment is because we’ve assumed that animals don’t mind being used and that’s a terribly problematic thing right there.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup. When you used the word willing participants it’s just chilling to me because humans do that to each other too. You know when we talk about the rapes that are going on college campuses there are some people that believe that other people are willing participants in a sexual activity when they’re not, and they just believe it and just go, even they’ll get violent about it, but they believe in their mind that the other person really wants to do what they are doing. It’s a myth.
Robert Grillo: I look at that as kind of sometimes blaming the victim, like you know there’s a section in the book where I talk about different kinds of victim fictions and one of them is of course blaming the victim and well the victim that’s what they’re here for, that’s what they were born into this world for. Or even just the other day when it comes to human groups that have been exploited, I listened with disgust to the video from the Young Turks that interviewed this Trump supporter, this arrogant young white boy, man, that said that it was a proven fact that African slaves were better off being slaves here than where they came from. I was flabbergasted.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a lot of lies that people believe right now and this presidential election has exposed a lot of that, and what people want to believe once they hear it. They don’t even want to look further to see if it’s real or not, you can easily go to Snopes.com and debunk so many things that are out there but people don’t even want to do that, they want to believe. You brought up in the book you talk about replacement versus reduction. Can you explain that a little, and is one better than the other?
Robert Grillo: Well in an age, I think, when placement is just as easy or easier for people to follow in terms of a transition to a plant-based diet, to me reduction no longer makes, it pretty much makes reduction absolute to me because if we can introduce people to products that are just replaceable products and recipes and meals that they already enjoy, then where does reduction come into this? It seems like we should be focusing on the products that are easy to replace.
Caryn Hartglass: You know in some ways we do that with technology, with other countries that are, you know I don’t know what the right words are to use anymore because there are no good words but we use developed versus developing, and for some countries that are not as advanced as we are technologically as they get into the technological world they tend to kind of jump to newer technologies right away and skip some of the steps, because why not? And yet when it comes to food and diet, the western world is exporting an unhealthy animal-based, junk-food based diet to the rest of the world and I keep asking myself, why can’t we just skip all of those bad steps and get right to what’s best and replace with what’s best and not with what’s not good?
Robert Grillo: Yeah, that would save an enormous amount of suffering on so many levels. I think about that too.
Caryn Hartglass: So I found, towards the end of the book, you talk about non-profit organizations and marketing. And I really enjoyed reading it because I think about these things all the time, and you know as a small non-profit we think about what our approach should be, fundraising is exceptionally difficult; my partner Gary and I, we do not want to sell our souls to the devil, we’re really rooted in what we believe in and want to share the truth, but that doesn’t do very well financially. And very often different organizations may dilute their message in order to make it more powerful, dilute their campaign in order to reach a broader audience, and I’m glad that you discussed that a bit in the book although I don’t know if there is an ideal or right way to go or what the solution is.
Robert Grillo: Well what I basically point at I think in my book is that marketing is not really a tool that serves us because first of all people are so weary of marketing. People are already distrustful of marketers, and mainly because the animal exploitation industries have used marketing and deceptive tactics as their principal tool of deception. So for me I try to point at strategic communications, which I think is just a term I use that points to something broader. I don’t think we need marketing and I don’t think we need to get our cues from corporate marketing. I think we have incredibly powerful stories for the work we do. Our cause has incredibly interesting people and wonderful stories, and if we become better storytellers and better communicators we can accomplish what we want to do and what we need to do.
Caryn Hartglass: You brought up a really good point about metrics, and this is another thing that really frustrates me. You know I come from an engineering background, I come from a corporate background, I understand metrology and metrics and needing to quantify your yields in order to show that your process is improving and your methods are improving but it’s hard to do that with the work that we’re doing. And many of the grants that are out there to apply for want measurable, tangible factors that you can show that your work is valuable. Donors like to see that, and it’s difficult. That’s all I have to say.
Robert Grillo: Oh yeah, it is, it’s definitely some things are more easily measured and other things are of course far too difficult, I think, to use a corporate or business kind of model to measure. And so if it’s a matter of measuring how many conversions you have on your website, how many subscribers become donors, that’s a usual measurement to tell you something about the success or impact of your organization. But in terms of trying to measure this approach over that and saying that we can tie this approach with certain results, it can be a far more difficult task and it’s problematic because of all the different variables that have to be considered, it’s almost an impossible task.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup, anyway, we press on. I’m just one person and I’m doing what I am doing because I at this point can’t do anything else. It’s not that I’m not capable, I mean there are many other things that I do, but in terms of my advocacy this is what I have to do. And that is to educate continually about veganism. I got into this decades ago, almost 30 years ago as a vegan and even longer as a vegetarian because I simply didn’t want to kill animals, period. And it’s been a long journey to discover that it’s much more than that, it’s not even the slaughter, it’s the abuse, the exploitation, there’s just so much horror. Yeah, okay. Who’s this book for Robert?
Robert Grillo: What’s that?
Caryn Hartglass: Who should be reading this book? Who did you write it for? Who’s your audience?
Robert Grillo: Who did I write it for? I look at two different audiences. I think that in one sense you know you talked a little bit about the closing chapter, you know the closing part of the book, that was definitely for people like you and I that care about the issues and are kind of struggling, grappling, exploring different ideas and approaches and looking for ways to have a stronger impact and make more of a difference. I think overall the book is for animal advocates or activists but also for the general public because the way I look at the book is it’s needed because there’s so many books on why vegan and answers that question and so many great speakers and authors and books about that and we need those but there’s not that much out there that shines the light on the rest of society and says well why not, you know why wouldn’t you be vegan. These are the reasons; I mean the fictions that are perpetuated out there are keeping us on track with consuming animals and regarding them as commodities. So we need to really examine and challenge that I think, and shine the light out there so that people can see what’s wrong with all of these stories that we’re being told.
Caryn Hartglass: The last thing that I wanted to talk about is the idea of perfectionism with respect to being a vegan. I’ve heard so many people, and I know that they respect me, I know they look up to me as friends and colleagues and family, and they come to me sometimes for recipes or advice, if they’re in a health crisis what they might do, but so many of them will say, “I could never do what you do. I can’t be like you.” I am not a perfect person, and no one has to be.
Robert Grillo: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I mean that’s one of the most damaging fictions I think out there for us, is the idea that we’re perfect because we’re not. I mean living a vegan life is a wonderful step in the right direction, it has an immense advantage considering proportionate to the difficulty, which it’s not for most of us. I mean the benefits are incredible, the step isn’t that big. Most people think that that’s the most you can do for the planet and animals, and I say that’s the least we can do. The least we can do is not inflict suffering, gratuitous suffering on animals, when we could easily avoid it. The most we could do would be a lot more than that, you know, we have so many other issues that have to be addressed like pollution and plastic bags and things that are a lot more complicated to solve that would reduce suffering in the world. But going vegan is the logical first step to me, it’s like the least we can do.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s not difficult, and it is so delicious. So just before I let you go, tell me or share with me some of the delicious things that you’ve been eating lately.
Robert Grillo: I recently finally discovered that I should be using the cashew parmesan on almost everything, like whenever I make a pasta now or any kind of dish I’m sprinkling this stuff on. It just makes everything taste ten times better.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Now is this one you make yourself?
Robert Grillo: Yeah, I found it’s like nutritional yeast and raw cashews and salt of course. I’m kind of like using a mortar and pestle sometimes just because I want a certain consistency so it’s not too fine.
Caryn Hartglass: Ah, beautiful. Robert that’s a great way to end the show! Cashew Parmesan. Thanks for joining me on It’s All About Food, Robert Grillo, the author of Farm to Fable. I really appreciate you joining me today and writing this book. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food, thanks for joining me, visit us ResponsibleLivingAndEating.com, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, go out and vote if you haven’t in the United States, and have a delicious week. Bye bye!
Transcribed by Lydia Dearie, 12/5/2016