Part I: Brett Wilcox, We’re Monsanto, Feeding The World, Lie After Lie
Brett Wilcox is a hubby, father, Licensed Professional Counselor and not quite over-the-hill vegan runner. He and his 15-year old cross country champion son, David, will run across the USA in 2014 while his wife, Kris, and daughter, Olivia, crew for them. They are running for a GMO-free USA. Brett is the author of We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie. Visit RunningTheCountry.com for more.
Part II: Del Sroufe, Better Than Vegan
Del Sroufe’s passion for cooking began at eight years old and never faded. In 1989 he went to work for one of Columbus’ premier vegetarian restaurants, the King Avenue Coffeehouse, where he honed his craft as a baker and chef. Sroufe opened Del’s Bread, a vegan bakery, before beginning vegan meal delivery service in 2001, serving eclectic plant-based cuisine to Columbus residents. During this time, he developed what became a very popular cooking class series, sharing many of the delicious recipes he had created over the years.
In 2006, Sroufe joined Wellness Forum Foods as co-owner and chef, where he continued the tradition of delivering great tasting, plant-based meals to clients in Columbus as well as throughout the continental U.S. Sroufe also joined The Wellness Forum as a member where, after a lifetime of yo-yo dieting, he has lost over 200 pounds on a low fat, plant-based diet. He continues to teach cooking classes at local venues like Whole Foods, Community Recreation Centers, and The Wellness Forum. Sroufe is the author of Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, a vegan cookbook companion to the acclaimed documentary Forks Over Knives.
Glen Merzer is coauthor with Pamela A. Popper, PhD, ND, of Food Over Medicine, with Howard Lyman of Mad Cowboy, with Howard Lyman and Joanna Samorow-Merzer of No More Bull!, and with Chef AJ of Unprocessed. Merzer is also a playwright and screenwriter, having most recently completed a screenplay from Mad Cowboy. He has been a vegetarian for 40 years and a vegan for the last 20.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass, how are you doing today? It is December 17, 2013, and it’s a cold one here in New York City. We’ve had a nice dusting, the sky’s white, and I like it. It’s refreshing especially when you’re sitting inside looking outside through the window. Okay, weather is really interesting especially when you think about what we’re doing to impact the weather and if we are indeed having an impact on the weather. There’re all those conversations on global warming and all the things we’re doing to the environment. And there’s something else going on in the world that we need to be talking about. I know everyone on this show talks about genetically modified organisms, and were going to be spending quite a bit of time in the next half hour with Brett Wilcox, who’s the author of “We’re Monsanto, Feeding the World Lie After Lie”. He’s a hubby, a father, a licensed professional counselor, and not quite over-the-hill vegan runner. He and his fifteen year-old cross country champion son, David, will run across the United States in 2014 while his wife Kris and daughter Olivia crew for them. They’re running for a GMO-free USA. And they have a website, runningthecountry.com, and we’ll find out more about that in a moment. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Brett.
Brett Wilcox: Thank you Caryn, it’s so good to be here with you.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, gosh you know, it’s a funny thing, I really believe that if we pay attention, the universe will direct us to where we need to be and the people we need to meet, and the universe did just that. I was looking for people to have on my program, and I found you and your book, and I was really delighted to find out all about you and what you’re doing.
Brett Wilcox: The delight is mutual.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so you wrote this book and we’re going to talk a bit about that. So, basically, you’ve listed a number of different items that are about Monsanto, and you’re actually calling them lies in your book.
Brett Wilcox: Yes, that’s correct.
Caryn Hartglass: And then you discuss them. So my first question is, how is it you get away with doing that in a book, and how is it Monsanto hasn’t come after you?
Brett Wilcox: Well, I think the way I get away with it is by making sure everything I write is thoroughly documented and researched and make sure that everything I am writing I believe is the truth. If I was to write something and misrepresent what I believe or what I think is the truth, I think that could be a problem. As long as I stick with what I believe to be the facts from what I’ve dug up, then I think I’m on safe legal ground there. As far as why Monsanto hasn’t done anything about it, you know, I think at this point I am a very small mosquito. In a world where there are millions of people who oppose Monsanto, we’ve had two global marches against Monsanto just in this last year, I am just one of millions, and if Monsanto wants to go out and rebut what we are all doing, they would do nothing but that. So, they would have no time left. I do believe if I ever get to a point where I’m more that a small mosquito, and our run attracts more attention, it may behoove Monsanto to weigh the pros and the cons of whether they are going to address what we are doing or not. And we’ll see how that plays out.
Caryn Hartglass: I like the analogy to a mosquito because a mosquito is very small and can be very annoying.
Brett Wilcox: Yes, that’s true.
Caryn Hartglass: And could get a lot of attention. And it’s so important for people to realize that we are not insignificant, the work we do is important. And if you ever think that it’s not, just think of a little mosquito in your room when you’re trying to go to sleep.
Brett Wilcox: That’s for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: That little mosquito can really make a point. And if that’s why mosquitos are here, to make us realize how significant each individual is, well then, maybe that’s the good thing about mosquitos, because I don’t know what else they’re good for. Alright, let’s dig in to some of these lies, shall we?
Brett Wilcox: You bet.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, so, I’ve got this big stack of pages here. How many lies are in this book?
Brett Wilcox: 50 lies and this is the first book.
Caryn Hartglass: More lies to come.
Brett Wilcox: Yeah, there are 50 more that are to come, it’s almost ready to be published.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I think it’s the first one. Monsanto lets us know that they’re really in this business to do good for the world, make the world a better place and feed all the hungry. I know a lot of people that have heard that and believe it, but it’s not really true, is it?
Brett Wilcox: The most dangerous lie that Monsanto tells is the lie that we believe, and this is the deal that they have going on at Monsanto. They take a natural food and they inject it with a bacteria or a virus, they do something to it that nobody wants, except for them, the shareholders, which absolutely no one needs, and then they saturate it with poisons, and then they give it to the marketing team, and they say “sell this”. So imagine yourself being on the marketing team when you get this stuff that nobody wants, and nobody needs, and you have to market that. So the marketing team knows that telling people that these things aren’t all that bad, and doesn’t cause cancer that often, and your kids aren’t going to have birth defects that often, and it’s not really all that bad for the environment, and not all the butterflies are going to die, and not all the bees are going to die- that wouldn’t sell anything. And so you have to go to the opposite extreme in order to get people to buy into this product, and they know what people want. People are good-hearted and they want everyone on the earth to be fed, and to be able to be satisfied with the food that they have. And so they take that, and they exploit that, and they show us pictures of poor Africans who are starving to death and they reinforce the message again and again and again and say that if we don’t do this that millions, or possibly billions of people, will die. So we’ve gone from something that nobody wants, and nobody needs, and is saturated with poison to, we need to do this, because if we don’t, look at all the billions of people who will die. And they sell that lie so effectively that good-hearted people buy the lie, and say “yeah, we need to do this, we need GMO’s because that’s the only way we can keep up with the world’s population growth”
Caryn Hartglass: Now I don’t want to believe that everyone who works for Monsanto believes that they’re lying. I think that there are some people that work for Monsanto and other companies that are making genetically modified organisms for food and for other things; they think they are doing something good. I know I’ve met certain scientists that work for Monsanto or for DuPont or for Syngenta and they really think that, they really believe that they’re doing something good.
Brett Wilcox: Absolutely
Caryn Hartglass: It’s hard to believe that they’re all evil over there.
Brett Wilcox: No, and I wouldn’t want to suggest that. I do recall a man, and I’ve forgotten his name now, but he bought into the stories that Monsanto tells, and he was hired on, and I think he was going to work in marketing or sales, and he got in there and the president or CEO at the time said some great things in the speech, and this man says “wow, wasn’t that speech amazing?”, and his coworkers took him aside and said “don’t listen to that, that’s what we tell the public. We don’t even understand what he’s talking about”. And so, at a certain level there are people who buy into it, and they hire on, and they do believe into it, and they are goodhearted people. Of course you’ve got to be goodhearted, you do believe you have a good product to produce and sell, and it is necessary, but when you get to a certain point, and you read the data, you read the research, and see the biodiversity, and that small scale farming really does do better, perhaps not in yield per acre, but definitely in health per acre, and nutrition per acre, and you see that fewer resources are used, and that more people are employed, the food is healthier, it’s not saturated with poison, – when you get to that point, yeah, it does come down to out-and-out lying.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I am not a fan of genetically modified food, and I don’t know if it’s safe, and I have a feeling that there are probably some health issues connected to it, and I know it impacts the environment in a negative way. I believe all those things, but, I just want to say that because we haven’t had enough, or really any, studies that connect the impact of genetically modified food with long term human health. Let’s just assume for a moment that it doesn’t create a problem. I think it does, but let’s just assume it doesn’t. There are so many other things that are wrong with using genetically modified plants in the environment, and I just wanted to highlight some of it. I think it’s important for people to realize this. People are screaming that we don’t know if these things are safe for consumption, but there are so many other things that matter. For example, genetically modified food encourages all the wrong things in our current agricultural system. It encourages the use of too many pesticides and herbicides. It encourages not rotating fields, and regenerating the life and the necessary organisms, and health and nutrients inside the soil. It doesn’t encourage the use of, well let me just say, it encourages using monocrops, and when you’re growing the same thing, field after field after field, you’re encouraging viruses and poor health and soil, and wreaking havoc on all kinds of life. All of those things aren’t good, and even though it’s given us a great deal of efficiency, and it does for agriculture, we’re now seeing the impact, how it’s devastating the topsoil, and the food that we’re growing isn’t nutritious.
Brett Wilcox: Exactly
Caryn Hartglass: And then, on top of all of that, let’s add to the potential that it’s dangerous for us to eat these foods.
Brett Wilcox: Right
Caryn Hartglass: We’ve got a nightmare.
Brett Wilcox: Right. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories that Howard Vlieger and other farmers tell, how the farmers have placed a conventional cobb of corn on a tree, tacked or nailed it there next to a GMO cobb of corn, and they leave it there for the squirrels to eat it, and the squirrels do eat the conventional ear of corn, but they don’t touch the GMO corn. And Howard, on a first name basis, talks to farmers who either intentionally conducted that experiment, or unintentionally, by leaving a GMO sack of corn in the barn over the winter, next to a conventional sack, and going out in the spring and seeing that the conventional sack is gone, and the GMO corn still sits there. So, animals don’t need a double blind placebo and studies the way that we scientists and humans do, they just somehow know the GMO is not food.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny how they don’t need labels.
Brett Wilcox: That’s true. They don’t need labels, and Mother Nature cannot read labels. So, we talk about having the GMO corn next to the conventional corn, and Mother Nature, the bees, they’re going to come along and pollinate one way or another back and forth and things get contaminated, and that is one of the really damning truths about GMOs. Once these things are released or unleashed in the environment, they continue to grow and spread. Chemical pollution, chemical contamination always dissipates over time, but biological pollution, in the form of GMOs, spreads and gets bigger, and we have no idea what the long-term effects are going to be on the environment. Nobody knows that, scientists couldn’t possibly say they know that. We do know that we are a piece in the web of life, and when we mess around with the web of life the way we are doing with GMOs, we are really placing ourselves at great risk.
Caryn Hartglass: So, you’ve got 50 lies in this book, and each one of them is pretty intense. I think we should talk about a few of them.
Brett Wilcox: Yeah, let’s do it.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, one that comes to mind is what we’ve done in Iraq.
Brett Wilcox: Yes. That’s one that really doesn’t even get much coverage, from people like myself, who really believe strongly that GMO is not the way to go. Many people still don’t know that there is such a thing as Order 81. And when you get online and google Order 81, and google Iraq, you see how the US government played hand in hand with Monsanto. Monsanto went in on the coattails of the US military, and Order 81 said the Iraqi seed was unstable on uniform and unsafe, or something like that. They said that the farmers needed to start growing genetically modified seed. And that’s what Order 81 is, and that really shows the extent that Monsanto is wrapped up in the US government and military affairs, and how the FDA and the US government are almost the same organization. Beyond the FDA, the State department goes out and actively promotes Monsanto with Monsanto DVD’s and brochures. It’s as if the State department is the marketing arm of Monsanto.
Caryn Hartglass: And did the farmers know that they had to pay for the seeds every year?
Brett Wilcox: It is my understanding that the seeds were given to them out of benevolence the first year or two.
Caryn Hartglass: The first two were free?
Brett Wilcox: Yeah, like a drug dealer, that’s correct.
Caryn Hartglass: So, another scary thing about GMOs and the way our law works today, is that- Okay, it’s bad enough that Monsanto and DuPont and Syngenta, and whoever else is involved in this, it’s bad enough that they’re growing fields, test crops or approved crops, of genetically modified plants, but there’s no protection with the pollen that flows through the air, and those plants that can pollinate and contaminate conventional plants, and some of those plants are even organic plants. And then the seeds from those contaminated organic plants can then be grown on a plot of land that’s considered organic, and low and behold, you have a genetically modified plant, and that farmer can actually be sued for not paying for the patent rights to use those seeds.
Brett Wilcox: Yes. That has been the case up until this last summer when Jim Garrison, with the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, they filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for contamination and they got a partial victory stating that Monsanto could no longer sue farmers for inadvertent contamination. They had been doing it for years, but that’s changed incidentally.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s very good news.
Brett Wilcox: Yes, it is. But the patent issue is just absurd because Monsanto and the other biotech companies, the other chemical giants, they reap all the benefits of the patent but they assume none of the liabilities of the patent, it’s the organic conventional farmers that assume all the liabilities. When these farmers go to the USDA and say, “hey, you approved this, we need compensation,” the USDA’s response is, “buy insurance”. I have a good friend in Oregon, a farmer, and he told me that he had to plow under his Swiss chard, and I said, ”Swiss chard, what are you talking about? There’s no GMO Swiss chard.” He said, “Brett, they were planting GMO sugar beets next to my Swiss chard, and they are so closely related that contamination would have happened”, and he couldn’t take the risk of being contaminated because once you’re contaminated, you go from being able to get top dollar for your crop to getting significantly less because we obviously want to pay top dollar for non-GMO food. And who paid for that (loss)- he did. Even though the government approves it, even though these chemical giants use this stuff, they’re not having to pay for these farmers who are having to plow under their crops to avoid contamination. Or the farmers who are no longer organic, they’ve lost their organic certification, an expensive procedure in itself, it takes years to get back, and they’re just out of luck.
Caryn Hartglass: And, we just need to buy insurance?
Brett Wilcox: Yeah, that is the response.
Caryn Hartglass: Out of theses fifty lies, do you have a favorite?
Brett Wilcox: Well for me, I tend to want to focus on the lies that people are most prone to believe. There’s a lot of lies in there about prop 37, and those lies are recycled with I522 in Washington (D.C.) this last year with the same results. The chemical giants were able to defeat the labeling of GMOs. But to me, the worst lies are the lies that really get into the good hearts of Americans, and we believe them, and my favorite lie might be a lie that‘s coming out in book two, the lie involving golden rice, because the lie is that if we can supplement rice with vitamin A or inject rice with vitamin A, it will save 50,000 kids a month from going blind. And, of course, who wouldn’t want that sort of thing? And so, it’s another one of those lies that opens the door to the whole host of the monoculture corrupt political environmental mass type of agriculture that is what the chemical giants are doing on our farmlands. I tend to focus on that, because those are the things that people need to be most careful of, the lies that get into their hearts and make them pause and think, “wait a minute, maybe this thing isn’t so bad after all”.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to talk a little bit about golden rice and one of the things that people don’t realize when it comes to GMO foods, is that most people are hungry because they don’t have money. They’re extremely poor, they don’t have land to grow food on, or they’re living on land that has been so degraded that they can’t grow on (it), or they don’t have enough water, or too much water, and these are the issues that impact these people. When you think about it, GMO foods can’t help them.
Brett Wilcox: They don’t. They can’t.
Caryn Hartglass: If we really want to help people, we need to help them grow food, and that means land has to be made available, land needs to be nurtured. I’m a big believer in knowledge and technology, and I think there are some good things about technology, and some not so good things, but we can take all the things that we’ve learned, and take them to people who need them, and we can show people how to nourish their soil, how to enrich it with nutrients, and they can grow, for the most part, things that are native in their area, and can nourish themselves from those plants that want to be there. And they talk about bringing in golden rice, which is supposed to support these children with vitamin A and necessary nutrients, well, why can’t they just grow the crops that are native there and would naturally want to grow, and show them how to nourish their land and find ways to make them do what nature wants to do in those locations, instead of creating this frankenfood.
Brett Wilcox: Yes, so beautifully stated. Tufts University was conducting research on golden rice in China, and they’ve gone in there to do research to see whether it really did have the Vitamin A that they were talking about and see whether it had a measurable difference with the kids. The thing is, the GMO rice, the golden rice subject, was so sensitive it was considered too sensitive to tell the subjects that that’s what they were being tested with. When that came out, the misuse of ethics involved in that, the study was shut down. So, imagine that we’re presenting a solution to people but we don’t even dare tell them what the solution is because it’s too sensitive, or, in other words, it’s too offensive. People don’t want to consider that, they don’t even want to go there, and yet they’re trying to sell that to the world as the solution that’s going to solve blindness, and you can’t even tell the subjects that that’s what they’re being tested with. It’s absurd. It’s not the rice that needs to be modified, it’s the political and economic system that needs to be modified.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, amen to that. So, let’s talk about some good things. You’ve decided to run. Really, you have a video, and I watched it, and where can people watch this video?
Brett Wilcox: We, right now, my son and I are running across America, starting January 18, from Huntington Beach, California, and we have a fundraising campaign, it’s live right now, it’s at indiegogo.com. Type in GMOs in the Indiegogo search bar, and you’ll see a list of campaigns that come up, including ours. You’ll see a picture of me and my son, and the name of the campaign is Running for a GMO-Free USA. When you click on that link, it takes you to our campaign video, and the video does a great job of explaining the run, and why my son is so passionate about running across America, and where the roots of that came from, as well as the mission, and that is the GMO-Free USA, and the GMO-free world mission that we’re embarking on.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I really enjoyed the video, it was really well done, and it’s really inspiring to see young people talking so intelligently and showing their concern for the future of our planet. Sometimes we have to look to the young people because the older people seem to forget what’s important. The real essential things that matter.
Brett Wilcox: So well stated. My son’s been a vegetarian for years, and he sensed some things about life, and the secret nature of life, earlier than I did, and he led me down the path, and now he’s going to be leading me down the road. He’s a cross-country champion runner and I’m a 52 year old man who hopes that I can tie a rope to him and keep up with him.
Caryn Hartglass: You know, when I contacted you, I didn’t know you were a vegan.
Brett Wilcox: I am vegan, and I’ve been vegan for a year and a half. My family is vegetarian.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well congratulations and thank you for that. Now, I’ve been vegan for over 25 years, and a vegetarian for longer, and on this program I do promote eating a plant-based diet. I’ve talked to a lot of different people about the benefits of plant foods, and so it was just an extra bonus when I contacted you, because I had no idea what your food choices were. Not everyone who is against GMO foods chooses to not eat meat.
Brett Wilcox: That is true. The cool thing about this issue is that, regardless of what our food choices are, I don’t know that there is any group out there that would say, “Yeah, GMOs are the answer, and that’s what I need to sustain my body, and that’s what I hope other people eat”. Nobody’s saying that. We’re all on the same page when it comes to GMOs.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m trying to think if I knew anybody who said,” yeah, yeah, yeah, give me a big bowl of genetically modified food”.
Brett Wilcox: Nobody has ever gone to the store in search of GMOs.
Caryn Hartglass: Excuse me?
Brett Wilcox: Nobody has ever gone to the store to buy GMOs.
Caryn Hartglass: But, you know, they have gone to the store to buy foods that are inexpensive.
Brett Wilcox: Yes
Caryn Hartglass: And when foods aren’t labeled, and maybe even if they were labeled as genetically modified, I think a lot of people would go for the cheaper price.
Brett Wilcox: Well, the cheaper price, inexpensive, is really an illusion. Most cheaper prices are there because the very foods that we shouldn’t be eating are subsidized throughout the food system, the agricultural system. We have always subsidized the chemical giants, the huge agribusiness farms, we subsidize what they produce so that it can be sold cheaply to the dairy and meat industry, so that they can produce what they do very cheaply, and that’s subsidized. So, it looks cheap on the grocery store shelf, but it is not cheap. We’ve paid for it several times through our taxes. We pay for it several times through our insurance as well.
Caryn Hartglass: You know, I didn’t mention this before but, when I was talking about all of those things that were wrong about growing genetically modified food that aren’t connected to whether they are dangerous to consume or not, I think you mentioned in the book, but, most of the foods that are grown, that are genetically modified, soy and alfalfa, they’re used to feed animals.
Brett Wilcox: Yes
Caryn Hartglass: And they thwart this habit we have here in the US, and more and more in other countries, of consuming too many animals.
Brett Wilcox: Yes. A fraction of our corn and soy is fed to human beings. Most of it is fed to cars in the form of methanol, but poor people can’t drive; and a good share of it is fed to livestock, which poor people can’t afford to eat. So the whole idea that Monsanto and the chemical giants are producing food to feed the poor doesn’t play out because it’s feeding an agricultural system that’s wasteful, both the ethanol and the livestock industry are extremely wasteful, and we could feed two or three times the earth’s population with what we’re currently producing if we actually grew healthy food and ate it directly instead of feeding it to cars and animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I like the idea of not relying on foreign sources for energy, especially foreign oil, but I don’t think people realize that it takes quite a bit of energy to make ethanol from corn, and it’s really an inefficient process, and it really doesn’t have a lot of benefits.
Brett Wilcox: No, no, it’s a huge environmental cost involved in ethanol.
Caryn Hartglass: So, other than running across the country, what should we be doing?
Brett Wilcox: I love that question because people say “Brett, we can’t all run across the country”, and that’s true, and not everybody has that desire or interest. My answer to that is,“find your calling, find your mission”. If you feel that this is an important issue, whether you feel it is or not, it is because we all eat food. Find what your mission is and find out how to best share that. I believe that the reason that we have an awareness today is the internet. That has taken away the control that the media has on our minds. We can go to the internet and we can google Order 81, and all the other things related to Monsanto, and the chemical industry. And so, with the access to that information, we’re then free to say “wow, this is amazing. We can talk to our grandmothers, we can share, we can like, we can tweet”. There are many musicians who have made songs about this and put it out on the internet. And so, whether you read or write or speak or paint or make music, whatever it is- find the way that appeals to you, that calls you and make a difference- according to the way it works out for you.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. And of course if we want to avoid consuming them, the best thing to do is buy organic.
Brett Wilcox: That is absolutely the best and safest way.
Caryn Hartglass: Or grow your own.
Brett Wilcox: Yes, which would be organic at home.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, because even when there is no labeling when you get a food that is labeled organic, that has that little code, that five digit code that starts with a 9 that means organic, you’ll know that it’s not genetically modified.
Brett Wilcox: Right
Caryn Hartglass: Wow. Well Brett, I can’t wait to read part two, when is that coming out?
Brett Wilcox: Well, the goal is to have it out before the next march against Monsanto, which is May 24, 2014. I only have a few more lies to finish up to get that book done, but I’m not going to make any promises because we are going to be on the road and we’re going to be speaking to people as often as possible, getting the word out there as often as possible, and I feel like we may want to emphasize the run because we have seven months on the road, which is a huge opportunity to draw media attention. You know, there are many platforms that just speak for media attention. My son is going to be the second-youngest person to ever do this run, we are the first father and son team.
Caryn Hartglass: How old is he?
Brett Wilcox: He just turned fifteen in November.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you have a map of where you’re going?
Brett Wilcox: We have a more-or-less map. I haven’t placed it on the internet, but we’re starting in southern California, and we’re going along Route 66(ish), and we’ll be turning up towards St Louis, and we’ll definitely be going through St Louis because that’s the headquarters of Monsanto. We’ll also hit D.C. because that’s the other headquarters of Monsanto.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good. Well I hope to see you somewhere along the way.
Brett Wilcox: That would be wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s really a good thing you’re doing because, I’m sure a lot of my listeners are pretty tuned in with what’s going on with genetically modified foods, but most people aren’t. We do not have enough media, we don’t have enough information in our faces on a regular basis, talking about whether they’re [GMOs] good or bad. Nobody’s talking about it.
Brett Wilcox: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: We need to have this conversation a lot.
Brett Wilcox: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: Well Brett, I want to thank you so much for joining me today on “It’s All About Food”, and people can visit runningthecountry.com and go to that Indiegogo site if you want to help support them in their project to run the country.
Brett Wilcox: Thank you so much, Caryn, it’s been a pleasure.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, good luck to you.
Brett Wilcox: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, are you motivated to do something like run across the country to stand up for something that you believe in? What are you inspired to do to stand up for something you believe in? It’s really something when we see what some people are doing, and we all need to do more. I keep thinking I’ve got to do more. And what I’m going to do right now is take a break, and then when we come back, we’re going to relax and talk about some delicious food with Chef Del Sroufe, who’s got a new cookbook called Better than Vegan, believe it or not, better than vegan. So we’ll be right back.
Transcribed by Melanie Ostrander, 4/13/2014
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass, we’re back with It’s All About Food on a very cold and chilly and wet, December 17, 2013 here in New York City. Gosh, it’s looking pretty dreary outside, but that’s good; I like change and I’m sure that we need the snow for one reason or another, so I’m just not going to resist. I am going to put on my warm clothes when I go out and enjoy it. Now, we’re going to bring on Chef Del Sroufe, who has a new cookbook out called, Better Than Vegan: 101 Favorite Low Fat Plant-Based Recipes That Helped Me (meaning Del) lose over 200 pounds. Del Sroufe has worked in vegan and vegetarian kitchens for more than 23 years, most recently as chef and co-owner of The Wellness Forum Foods: a plant-based meal delivery and catering service that emphasizes help, minimally processed food. He teaches cooking classes and is the lead author of the best-selling cookbook: Forks Over Knives. The cookbook is also contributing recipes to Food Over Medicine by Dr. Pam Popper and Glenn Mertzer. Welcome Del! Welcome back to It’s All About Food!
Del Sroufe: Yeah! Thank you for having me back! It’s good to be with you.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so first I wanted to tell you, do you know where I am today?
Del Sroufe: Well,I know that it’s cold there. It’s not much warmer here by the way.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m sitting in Linda Long’s home.
Del Sroufe:(gasps) Linda, I love her! Tell her I said hello.
Caryn Hartglass: yeah, she was very excited when I said I was going to be talking to you.
Del Sroufe: Awwww, I’ve never had that opportunity. I want to sit in Linda Long’s home.
Caryn Hartglass: (laughs) Well, if you do come here sometime, she’ll make you some really wonderful soup.
Del Sroufe: No, I know that.
Caryn Hartglass: So I just want people to know, Linda Long’s been on my show before, she’s the author of Great Chefs Cook Vegan a ground breaking book where all of these highly renowned chefs -conventional chefs- cooked vegan, presented lovely vegan meals in her cookbook Great Chefs Cook Vegan. And then she came out with Virgin Vegan,and your baked tofu recipe is in her Virgin Vegan.
Del Sroufe: That’s right! Yes it is.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
Del Sroufe: I got to test the recipes for her Great Chefs Cook Vegan, it is a gorgeous cookbook.
Caryn Hartglass: It is a gorgeous cookbook, and it’s also in French.
Del Sroufe: Ah, mais oui!
Caryn Hartglass: Ah mais oui parce qu’il faux avoir un livre comme ça, en français.
Del Sroufe: Vraiment, vraiment.
Caryn Hartglass: So anyway we’re having a little vegan love fest here and I just wanted to let you know that and if you came here, what I wanted to say is I’m sure Linda would make you a lovely soup. She made me a energized kale soup today that was very, very nice.
Del Sroufe: Very good.
Caryn Hartglass: Alright Del, you have a story.
Del Sroufe: Probably more than one, but one big one.
Caryn Hartglass: A big story, so let’s just get a review of that because I think people’s eyes pop wide open when they hear things like this.
Del Sroufe: I think one of the most amazing thing that really surprised people you know, I was vegan back in 1997 and by the year 2001 I had gained over 200 pounds. Now I can’t blame vegan diet per say, but I can blame the kind of vegan diet that I was on. I ate a lot of high-fat food and processed foods and there’s several food that you don’t even really think about. You know, beer’s vegan, potato chips can be vegan, donuts can be vegan, avocados are vegan and full of fat, lots of concentrated calories and it added up pretty quickly for a guy that was already a big guy.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Del Sroufe: I weighed over 475 pounds at one point and I did it pretty much on a strictly vegan diet.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, I’m just like how do you get around when you have all that to bring around with you?
Del Sroufe: Well, I am a strong guy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you do develop a lot of muscle.
Del Sroufe: Yeah a lot of muscle going on there. But you know, it was actually hard. I remember in 2001, I had a vegan bakery, I closed it because I was exhausted of course, and I started a personal chef service, but I remember I would get up in the morning and cook for two hours and then go and sit down for an hour, go and lay down for an hour and that was my life. And so you know, it was a very difficult life and, well, the funny thing is it kind of creeps up on you and you don’t realize that you’re doing less and less, you’re less social, you’re less out in the world. I wasn’t exercising like I used to. I wasn’t doing any of the things that I used to do and then all of the sudden one day I realized, all I did was sit and watch TV when I wasn’t working. I was recovering from being overweight.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you found Dr. Pam Popper and it’s between the two of you, you got on her plan for food and you lost a whole bunch of weight.
Del Sroufe:I did. I lost over 200… I lost the 200 that I put on.
Caryn Hartglass: And how long did that take?
Del Sroufe: The first 200 pounds came off pretty easily I’d say, I did it slowly so it took me about 3 or 4 years and then the rest of it is coming off a little more slowly. One thing you have to remember is losing weight is about 70% diet and the rest of it is exercise, so I’ve had to really kick in into the exercise. I’m in the gym with a trainer 4 days a week now and I’m losing about a pound and a half a week and I think in the next four/five months, I’ll be down to my ideal weight and a much happier guy.
Caryn Hartglass: I can’t wait to see the photos!
Del Sroufe: They’ll be out there, I promise!
Caryn Hartglass: Now when you’re very large; over 400 pounds. Can you exercise? Can you move around once you decide you want to be on the path to lose weight? When can you start to really move?
Del Sroufe: Well, if you work with a good trainer, I did start exercising some 6 years ago, but I had to go at the pace that my body could handle it. In fact what started the whole thing in the first place is I fell and I broke a bone in my foot and it just wasn’t going to heal so I actually started just doing as little as possible so I did more stationary bike than actual walking up and down the stairs or a treadmill kind of activity more upper body weight training and you slowly add to that as you can. Just recently, I added boxing, fitness boxing, to the mix and it’s really been amazing, the difference it makes in terms of not only weight loss but my energy.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well this is all very inspiring, now there’s another piece here then I want to get to the cookbook but the other piece about weight is if there are emotional issues.
Del Sroufe: Oh yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: I mean we don’t just put on weight, there are reasons behind it and I think we’re all individuals and everybody’s got their own story but clearly you have to address those emotional issues too.
Del Sroufe: Yeah, in fact I teach classes now to help others do just that very thing. It was sort of a big light that came on when one day I sat down with a therapist because I was just tired and depressed and we started digging in to all of that and it’s pretty amazing how strong the emotional drive for eating can be you know so if you’ve used eating as a way to do several things. For me, it was eating pushed back emotion, a way to hold down emotion. It was a way to keep me quiet . You know growing up at the time when that was what you were expected to do. And it was a way to deal with boredom or frustration. I mean almost every situation became a situation for eating. Family celebrations are all about food and when I was bored, I would eat; when I was angry; I would eat, so you know you have to learn to recognize what’s going on with your emotional being as well as your physical being and start having different conversations with yourself.
Caryn Hartglass: now do you know or do you have an opinion about if you want to lose weight, if fasting, juice fasting or water fasting would be a good way to jumpstart it or do at any point during the weight loss period.
Del Sroufe: You know, I did it actually. I did a five days fast early on and ended up having some physical problems with it because when you do a fast, if you don’t do it correctly you can end up killing the beneficial gut floor which is all over the news right now and so I ended up two years later finally realizing what was going on and getting on to a regimen probiotics to sort of address that issue, but we recommended only under a strictly supervised condition so you can be monitored because it can actually be dangerous especially for people who are on medication, imagine if you are on high blood pressure medication or even diabetes medication, for some of us, it can be really dangerous to do a juice fast cause it really does change what’s going on in your body when you do that.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you have collected all kinds of toxins in your body and your fat and you’re letting it go at a very accelerated rate when you’re fasting and sometimes all of that can really be overwhelming if it gets released in the blood. It gets released in order to come out as you’re detoxing and for all kinds of stories.
Del Sroufe: Yeah and again, going back to the emotional thing that goes on, I mean when you change your body’s blood sugar composition for example, it’s a mood changer so you’ve got to be willing and able to pay attention to what’s going on realize there’s a couple reasons you’re feeling what you’re feeling both physically and emotionally and be ready for that so I did it under supervision. I did it with dr. Popper but we didn’t think about the gut floor issue until much later when I was just having problems with energy so be ready for that and do it very carefully.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, be ready but don’t be disappointed just keep on and if you want to get to your ideal weight the best way to do it is with these great nutrient-dense vegan foods.
Del Sroufe: I think the other side of it is you know this is a long term, for me a life time thing and so the way that I’m eating now is the way that I’m going to eat for the rest of my life and part if what aren’t into most of the time is if they do a diet, they think they’re going to do it, lose the weight and go back to the way they ate before that’s not going to happen because what happens is the weight comes back.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Del Sroufe: So you’ve got to find a permanent solution and this diet I think is it because the nice thing is I don’t go hungry.
Caryn Hartglass: And the food is delicious so let’s jump into your cookbook!
Del Sroufe: Sure!
Caryn Hartglass: One thing I noticed about a lot of the offerings in here is they are the comfort foods that a lot of people want to go to which you don’t typically see in a book that’s going to encourage weight loss.
Del Sroufe: I made it a goal when I started this whole project that I wanted food to taste good and I love the food that I grew up with, I just didn’t want the fat and the animal fat and the animal protein and all of that. I don’t need that anymore so there are other ways to make food taste good without that and that’s kind of of what I look for. The spices I grew up with and those kinds of flavors and those ingredients and you know there’s a corn bread stuffing in there with a baked tofu and it’s one of my favorite holiday dishes.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, does that looks good!
Del Sroufe: It’s comfort food at its best and the mushroom gravy is rich without fat, so it’s doable and possible to have a lot of the foods that we talk about, but we can have them in a healthy way.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so you’ve got pizza recipes in here and burritos. You’ve got a mushroom bourguignon.
Del Sroufe: And ice cream! Ice cream!
Caryn Hartglass: Ice cream! You’ve got gnocchi, scalloped potatoes. I mean, these are things that you don’t normally think are even on a vegan diet even on a celebration, occasional foods.
Del Sroufe: Yeah, but you know we have a thing, take scalloped potatoes for example, we think potatoes are this evil demon carb, bad carb and if you look into Dr. John […] 12:57 and anybody in the plant-based world, it’s not the potato that’s bad, it’s what we do to it. By the time we soak it in fat and fry it and add avocado with sour cream or butter and all those things, of course it’s an unhealthy food, but the potato itself is a life giving nutrient-dense food that’s filling without being calorically dense and so I found a way to see from that and make it taste good and remind me of a dish that I grew up loving.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay now, let’s talk about cauliflower.
Del Sroufe: Yeah, I know one of the most popular things I’ve got, the feedback I’ve got is about the cauliflower purée in the book.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah I mean, I’ve seen all kinds of different ways to veganize or reduce fat in creams and I’ve never see cauliflower purée and you’re using it for so many dishes in here. Amazing!
Del Sroufe: You know where it came from? I used to make this roasted cauliflower bisque back in the day it had oil in it, but we roasted cauliflower with shallots and whole garlic cloves and olive oil, and then puréed that all and added soy milk to it, i think I was making it vegan by then. I added soy milk to it to make it a bisque. One day I was tasting it before I had really done a lot to it and it tasted amazing, just with the cauliflower with some salt and pepper and you know, you could use this for a lot of things and I can’t eat a lot of soy, my body kind of doesn’t tolerate it very well so I was looking for other ways that had the cream sauces without the fat and it’s fat free.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, now I love cauliflower just the way it is. Not raw but I like it steamed or cooked.
Del Sroufe: Yeah, me too.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s delicious plain so, on one hand I think why would want to do just to cauliflower, but one the other hand I mean, it’s just genius you make mayonnaise with it and all kinds of creamy bases for soups and sauces, it’s just cauliflower!
Del Sroufe: It’s just cauliflower! Yeah, I know.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s good for you, cauliflower is so good for you.
Del Sroufe: It’s a very healthy healthy food but you know it’s also, I call it health by deception so if you’ve got kids at home that just don’t like to eat their vegetables, you can purée it and sneak it in there and tell them, “it’s cream sauce honey, it’s cream sauce.”
Caryn Hartglass: Right, well that’s genius.
Del Sroufe: Well, thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you’re not eating a lot of soy foods but you do have a wonderful baked tofu recipe. I mentioned the one that you have that’s in “Virgin Vegan.” Your baked tofu recipe is here in this book as well. Making your own baked tofu is the only way to go.
Del Sroufe: Yeah. Yeah, I think most people have a bad experience with tofu in restaurants and some of the pre-package cooked foods that you can buy. I’ve been making my own tofu dishes. If I could, I would eat tofu just about every day. I love it that much and I’ve really am rarely disappointed with the dishes I make with it, so it really is and it’s not that hard to do.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly! That’s the point, it’s not hard.
Del Sroufe: If you have the recipe, it’s 5 minutes to the oven and that’s it.
Caryn Hartglass: You can marinate it with anything you like and just bake it. It’s genius!
Del Sroufe: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: I was hooked for a while on these baked tofus that you find in the store, Whole Foods has them, Trader Joes has them. I’m really dropping back on the amount of salt that I consume and those are really too salty for me.
Del Sroufe: That’s the joy of cooking it for yourself is you get to choose the amount of salt. I’m the kind of guy that’s not a religious cook in terms of if you don’t like something about the recipe, I tend to play with the recipe more than to be so strict about them and I think that’s how people should look at food and it makes it much more exciting.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! Make it your way.
Del Sroufe: Make it your way.
Caryn Hartglass: I will say, that the French are provably having some heart attacks over your sweet and sour ratatouille.
Del Sroufe: Well I know, but the cauliflower sauce in my first cookbook Forks over Knives cookbook is a vegetable sauce so they’re probably not speaking to me to at all. I’m unapologetic about it because you know, if you look at the fact that two-thirds of us are having the weight problems that we’re having, I think we’ve got to do whatever we need to do to not only make food taste good, but to make it healthy.
Caryn Hartglass: Well this is get thing about French cuisine and I think there’s something really to good about it is when food has a name, it’s usually made a certain way.
Del Sroufe: You’re right
Caryn Hartglass: So the traditional ratatouille is made a certain way and it has a certain amount of ingredients and that’s it and if you change it, then it’s not ratatouille.
Del Sroufe: Not ratatouille, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And I made a tarte tartin, which is like an upside down apple pie for those of you who don’t know and I’ll be posting that recipe very soon on my website. It’s a treat it’s very decadent, and it’s sweeter than most things that I consume but I just had to make one and I made it glutton-free and vegan, but I just remember reading about it on some French website where it said if you serve it with ice cream, if you serve it with whip cream it is no longer a tarte tatin. You can not call it that and they’re really strict about the ingredients in food which I can appreciate because when you serve something in France with a name, you can pretty much be guaranteed if it’s a vegan dish like ratatouille that it’s going to be that way.
Del Sroufe: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: And I always take comfort in that when I’m traveling.
Del Sroufe: Yeah I’m probably not a popular guy in a lot of places because I believe in making everything your own.
Caryn Hartglass: Well yeah, well that’s just not French. Now I make a cassoulet all the time. I hear them screaming at me cause my cassoulet is not a traditional meat-laden cassoulet, it’s just a lovely white bean dish with a mustard sauce.
Del Sroufe: Well the first and only cassoulet I’ve ever made was actually a Daniel Boulud’s recipe. He makes a white bean cassoulet that’s vegan and absolutely delicious I set up the olive oil, I leave it alone and make it as it is. It’s a very healthy dish.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay let’s get back to comfort food, you have a parsnip mashed potatoes recipe here and let’s just talk about parsnips for a moment.
Del Sroufe: Okay.
Caryn Hartglass: Parsnips don’t get a lot of press.
Del Sroufe: Right
Caryn Hartglass: And they have so much flavor!
Del Sroufe: They have a lot of flavor and when you’re going for the fat free thing, when you’re looking for ways to make food creamy, mash potatoes by themselves without the butter without the cream can be a little starchy, so I try to find ways to cut back on that and parsnips do a great job of it and it adds flavor, tons of flavors to mash potatoes, so you could just do purée or mashed parsnips or you could add it to any recipe you like but they do a really go job of sort of helping the potato along.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah I’m sure you’ve told people to do this but it’s so good to go to a produce section and if there are things that you don’t know what they are just bring them home and figure out what to do with them because it will only add so much interest and diversity and there are a lot of interesting roots out there that can turn into some really flavorful things.
Del Sroufe: Yeah the potato is not the only root vegetable. There are amazing, amazing foods out there that deserve your attention that’s for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah yeah well, Del thank you so much for talking to me today. I really enjoyed it and I’m going to tell Linda that I had a nice time with you.
Del Sroufe: Well thank you for having me and tell Linda I said hello and I look forward to some soup.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay let’s have her make you some of that so you’ve got to get to New York some time.
Del Sroufe: All righty.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay take care
Del Sroufe: Take care bye bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye bye. All right just before we go, I wanted to mention that we were talking about genetically modified food and for all you New Yorkers out there you might check out the campaign GMO free New York so there’s a genetically engineered food labeling campaign and we really need to contact our New York assembly members and senators to push the passage of the bill a-3525 and s3835. This is really important and wouldn’t it be great if we had a law to label food here in New York. If you need to know more about it you can email me at inforealmeals.org or contact the New York get food labeling campaign other than that, thanks for listening to ” Its All About Food” today and have a delicious week bye bye!
Transcribed 12/28/2013 by Jeanina Savannah Co