Mark Reinfeld, Soup’s On
Mark Reinfeld is an award-winning chef and author or coauthor of six books, including Vegan Fusion World Cuisine, The 30 Minute Vegan, The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East, and The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe—which both Vegetarian Times and VegNews named to their “Top Cookbooks of 2012” lists. He offers culinary trainings and tours worldwide and online at VeganFusion.com. He lives in Miami Beach.
Jonathan Balcombe PhD, Author, scientist and leading animal advocate
Animal behavior expert Jonathan Balcombe is a passionate advocate for animals and their living spaces. Born in England and raised in Canada and New Zealand, Balcombe showed an early interest in animals. His favorite place to visit at age three was the London Zoo and by six he was gazing at insects in the backyard. He studied biology at York University and Carleton University in Canada before getting a PhD in Ethology—the study of animal behavior—from the University of Tennessee in 1991, where he studied vocal recognition and mother pup reunion behavior in the Mexican Free-tailed Bat. He has published over 50 journal articles and book chapters ranging from turtle nesting behavior to the ethics of animal dissection. His 2006 book Pleasurable Kingdom is the first in-depth examination of animals’ capacity to enjoy life. His subsequent books Second Nature, and The Exultant Ark continue to present animals in a new light and presage a revolution in the human-animal relationship. He is currently writing a book on the inner lives of fishes. A popular speaker, Balcombe has given invited presentations on six continents (the penguins are still waiting for him to visit Antarctica). Balcombe is an Ambassador to The Pollination Project, and he serves on several advisory boards, including the National Museum of Animals and Society, the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, and Primates Incorporated. He is Executive Director of the newly-formed Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, in Washington. In his spare time he enjoys biking, baking, birding, and Bach.
As mentioned on the program, here is the link to the
Forthcoming Conference: Animal Thinking and Emotion (17-18 March 2014, Washington, DC)
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everyone. I’m Caryn Hartglass and your listening to It’s All About Food here on a frozen, January 28th, 2014. And we’re going to warm you up today because we are going to be talking about soup and soup is really exciting and your going to find out why that is in a few seconds. Okay. I want to bring out my first guest Mark Reinfeld who has been on this program a number of times has a new cookbook out it’s called The 30 Minute Vegan Cooks Soups. He is an award winning chef and co-author on a number of books Vegan Fusion World Cuisine, The 30 Minute Vegan, The 30 Minute Vegan Taste Of The East, 30 Minute Vegan of Europe and both Vegetarian Times and Veg News named them to their top cookbooks 2012 list. He offers culinary tours worldwide and at online at VeganFusion.com and he lives in Hawaii. Mark, welcome back to It’s All About Food.
Mark Reinfeld: Hey, Caryn It’s great to be back.
Caryn Hartglass: Are you in Hawaii right now?
Mark Reinfeld: I actually relocated in Miami beach.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, We will have to change that bio.
Mark Reinfeld: It just occurred last week, tropic to tropic.
Caryn Hartglass: Miami Beach. It’s not as warm there.
Mark Reinfeld: It’s pretty warm here, does not compare with what you guys have up there.
Caryn Hartglass: But, it’s cold for Miami, I bet.
Mark Reinfeld: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: People get their fur coats out around this time in Miami. And I’m not promoting fur.
Mark Reinfeld: They like bundling up.
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway so you are a little closer by so there is probably some good business down there.
Mark Reinfeld: Yes, I just finished one of those ten day training and teacher traininghere that I offer around the country where I show people how fun and easy it is to include plants in their diet and lifestyle.
Caryn Hartgrass: One of the things that I like that you wrote in the beginning of the book. I’m looking for it here. I should have opened the book and prepared myself for it, page 2, recipes for peace. I love what you say about the time we spend in the kitchen can serve as a metaphor for life outside the kitchen. Let’s just talk about that for a moment because I am always telling people to find their kitchen. It’s something we’ve lost, we don’t know how to make our food.
Mark Reinfeld: Yeah, I think it’s a big step to healing and taking our health back into ourhands you can prepared foods ourselves and it’s really my passion to show people how easy that can be and the skills that you learn in the kitchen like being present especially when you are handling a knife and just focusing on positive things in your life and being grateful for having access to the food and being able to prepare it those things overflow into your life outside the kitchen.
Caryn Hartglass: Alot of people feel stress when they are in the kitchen primarily because they don’t know what they are doing and just like so many things if we want to be good at anything we have to practice, we didn’t learn to walk overnight.
Mark Reinfeld: That’s right. I reallyencourage students in my classes to maintain a positive attitude and I heard a great story about positive attitude a close friend won a handball tournament and when he made a point he said good shot and when he missed a shot he would say good try. It’s the idea of good shot, good shot, nice try, good shot. Just keep moving forward with that positive attitude and don’t beat yourself up if you miss a recipe ingredient or something like that there is usually a way to correct it and like you said with practice you really become an amazing chef.
Caryn Hartglass: You don’t have to divulge any of your bad stories but how many times have you been in the kitchen and things didn’t work out quite right and then you made it into something else?
Mark Reinfeld: Right. Like sometimes I would leave out a small ingredient in baking like the livening something like that and I would just be left with a solid mass of chocolate or something. Then you could just cut it up and put it in a parfait glass make some vegan whipped cream and serve it as a nice parfait.
Caryn Hartglass: Now one of the nice things in this book is you break apart thecomponents of soup and for some of us that have been making soup for a long time, we don’t even think that way we just throw it in a pot and it just happens. But for people starting out it is really good to think about the pieces because as you mention once you understand all of the pieces it frees you up to be a little flexible if you don’t have one ingredient or another.
Mark Reinfeld: Right, it’s like template like looking at a template of recipes. So by breaking it down like that and you see there’s like a main vegetable part and a part thatwould give it creaminess, a part that may be an ethic spice blend and one part could be the stock. By changing each of those parts you can create a new recipe. In the book there may be a hundred but there may be thousands of recipes contained in book. So I am promoting it as Vegan Soups for the Chickens Soul (laugh) to show people just how satisfying it can be to work with fresh vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds to create these delicious soups.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, Once again we learn that vegan food is not depravation, it is not boring and were just talking about soup right now and in this one book there is over 100 versions and they are all pretty different. There’s lots of variety.
Mark Reinfeld: I also included a section on raw soup which is new. The raw food cuisine which is cutting edge in the vegan food theme. So there is a whole section on raw foods that you could have as chilled soups in the summer, also dessert soups, so it’s a broad spectrum of vegan soup preparation.
Caryn Hartglass: Now soup I don’t know. It depends on the culture of course, in our society – soup gets a bad wrap a lot of the time it’s a food that a lot of people relate to what people eat when their poor. The old fashion stories that we hear in movies the poor people adding the water and thinning the soup and adding like one bone and one thing but soup is not a poor food.
Mark Reinfeld: You brought an idea of the stone soup, adding stones and how you can create soups from anything and it can be taken to a high level of gourmet cuisine and that is something that I strive for people to have this world class, very high levelgourmet experience with meals and recipes that take 30 minutes or less so that is the underlining ideas behind the 30 Minute Vegan series.
Caryn Hartglass: So I love soup and you can see there are so many difference kinds. Dr. Fuhrman for example who is one of my favorite medical doctors is urging people for their basic diet to eat a lot of bean-based soups and salads. Of course, there are plenty of them in here and they are really inexpensive and there are so many different ways to have a bean based soup and so filling and so good for you. Then I remember living in the south of France and all the soups were served like a purée with some kind of cream base always in additional to a meal never a whole meal. And then something that always gets me excited are these Vietnamese noodle soups these giant bowls full with all sorts of things and these are completely difference soups.
Mark Reinfeld: It is a vast spectrum, you can run the gamut and some like the difference between a soup and a pho is generally a pho would have less liquid content so you go to the light broth based soup to the hardier soup so I like the idea of the soup for every season and every climate so with the winter months upon us having the hardier soups like bean soups just the world of vary is possible.
Caryn Hartglass: When I eat in a restaurant, soup is typically something that I don’t care to order and it’s mostly because it is full of salt and some restaurants it tends to be like a cheap item not good ingredients lots of salt and I love soup but I rarely order it in a restaurant.
Mark Reinfeld: Well, you can go home after your restaurant experience and make a midnight snack of soups.
Caryn Hartglass. I can’t tell you how many times, we have done that. Come home and say what are we really going to eat (laugh). So your helping people get over their fear,get into the kitchen and learn how to make many wonderful soups. Now you mentioned the dessert soups and the raw soups I want to talk about those a little bit and I remember seeing a dessert soup on a restaurant menu and never thought about soup as a dessert I have to say, It doesn’t compute to me and yet I will have a smoothie or something which is really a dessert soup in a glass instead of a bowl.
Mark Reinfeld: There are different ways you could present one way you do little shot glasses more like a liquid dessert like a almond milk based chocolate soup, like a watermelon lime soup you just have the fruitand fruit juices blended so we make a fruit creams using soaked cashews so it is getting that sweet satisfaction at the end of the meal so you can have it in a big bowl or a little shot glass like finishing touch on a meal.
Caryn Hartglass: Now I was raw for a couple of years around 2004/2005 and I did venture into making a number of different raw soups and I have to say I haven’t made too many since going back to eating some raw and some cooked. I don’t know why that happened because especially looking in your book there are some really nice things you can eat year around, even in the warm weather but especially in the warm weather, a raw soup can be very nice.
Mark Reinfeld: I think I feel my niche is likeintroducing people to the full spectrum vegan cuisine like heaver like comfortable foods like lasagna, enchilada casserole all the way into the raw food world which is lighter so everyone has their own optimal percentage of raw food, so that varies over time, and climate and the season of life we are in so it’s just making an effort to include those fresh fruits and vegetables in whatever ratios feels appropriate at that time good kinda guiding light with our food choices.
Caryn Hartgrass: Now I am looking at some the pictures in the middle of the book because the middle of the book has some of the color pictures. There gorgeous. I have to say photographing soup not many think about this it’s not a easy thing to do.
Mark Reinfeld: Food photography in general if anyone has tried, if you get 2-3 shots per 100 you feel like you did a good job. The photographer this woman Amyra Green who did the photography for our first book the Vegan Fusion World Cuisine book she’s the real, really gifted, I am really happy with how the photos came out.
Caryn Hartgrass: Yeah, they are beautiful.The thing about soup is its really hard to see what’s in them because they are usually in a deep bowl and with the photography you need to enhance some of what’s in it by putting it on top so we can appreciate what is in it.
Mark Reinfeld: Right.
Caryn Hartgrass: That is a challenging thing, something that I love to do is you have a curried pumpkin soup I love filling squashes with food either stews or soups.
Mark Reinfeld: Yes.
Caryn Hartgrass: It’s so festive, so beautiful.
Mark Reinfeld: Yeah, I like getting creative with the presentation one thing I like emphazing is it is like a form of art like a form of expression and nature provides us with this palette of colors and textures and flavors that we could work with usually the meal begins with the eyes so I like to create to real visual before people even taste the food.
Caryn Hartgrass: Now the broth is challenging when someone is used to making soup and not vegetarian they usually just reach for a can of chicken broth and really the big flavor in there is salt.
Mark Reinfeld: Right, that posed an interesting challenge because in developing the recipes I want people to solve the recipe and have it turn out amazing and adding a stock really enhances the flavor and at the same time there are so many ranges of stocks available in aseptic packages or powder or both. I use water as a main base then work on flavoring the water with the spices and herbsand the vegetables themselves. I also list some basic stock recipes and then a easy way to have the base flavor is for people to save their vegetables clipping and if you can’t fill a stock pot in 1-2 days then keep abowl or pot in the refrigerator and add your clipping as you go then when you get about 6-8 cups of vegetables trimming then you can prepare the stock yourself when you attend one of my classes that is one of the tips you walk away with how easy it is.
Caryn Hartglass: It is easy, I don’t like wasting food and I live in a apt and don’t compost at this point and time some people may not care about throwing away food but I don’t like it but the amazing thing with soup is you can throw everything in it you talk about your herbs you can chop the stems in as well they have tons of flavor maybe the French wouldn’t do that (laugh).
Mark Reinfeld: They’ll use herbs as well actually interestingly enough just got a coudon blue graduate take my 10 day training so I was able to pick up on a few things and he approved of my stock creation method so you can use there is a wide range of stocks you can create.
Caryn Hartgrass: (laugh) okay let’s see, this happens from time to time – I have something on the tip of my tongue and I swallow it. I think my favorites are my Asian noodles soups the Vietnamese soups especially before I said I don’t order soup except for I have found a few restaurants in San Jose, California that make a wonderful soups that I just love, and just found a restaurant in Manhattan that makes this type of soup, called Wild Ginger. There are a few of them in Manhattan but still best to make them yourself and we have some great recipes to do that to.
Mark Reinfeld: And the noodles are another way to chance the taste of the soup. There are rice noodles and buckwheat noodles that you can use to create different flavored noodle based soups and I included a section of creamy vegan soups and I think that is where the vegan soups shine they really taste like they have dairy in them and there are numerous tricks like adding cashews or macadamia nuts raw or soaked and and blending that in you can also used plant based milk, almond milk, or soy milk to create this creaminess and I would say that pretty much every recipe in the vegan creamy soup section of the book you would be really hard pressed to tell there is no dairy in it.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah, I know that it is just convincing the world that.
Mark Reinfeld : Preaching to the choir.
Caryn Hartglass: No, I did mean to say that in a smug way but underline, I know that and everyone needs to know it because this food is not only better for us it is kinder and gentler on the planet and people who think you can’t live without milk, butter, cheese well you can and Mark you are doing it for us right here in the little book.
Mark Reinfeld: I like that you mention that because for me it does go beyond the food aspect to the implications of good choices and it is my real strong passion to show people that having a plant based diet and lifestyle is not only amazing for their health but also the benefits also some of the atrocious things that going on with the factory farming and pollution and violence that is involved in the factory farming that you can make this incredible cuisine without sacrificing flavor it has all the added benefits that you mentioned.
Caryn Hartglass: Yep. We just want to make it, get rid of all the excuses, people have so many excuses, there is no room for excuses, not with all this great food out there.
Mark Reinfeld; And it’s just a way of doing our part and alot of people, to create a harmonious existence and alot of people are aware of the benefits of plant based cusine and just not sure on how to go about it andSo I feel it is my mission is to fill that gap thru my online training, through my web site and I travel internationally these longer immersions’ and offering my cookbooks to show people if you heard about plant based cuisine but may not be sure about how to start or what to do I really like showing people how easy it is and how transformative it is.
Caryn Hartglass: Right on. So people can find you at veganfusion.com right?
Mark Reinfeld: Definitely yes that is the website and we do put out a newsletterwhere I send out recipes and upcoming events and tours that I am offering.
Caryn Hartglass: Sounds delicious and it’s good to hear you are based alittle closer to us now.
Mark Reinfeld: Yeah, I am doing training in NY in March and another in Miami in October and now that I am based on the east coast I will be offering more training down here.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we are glad to have you.
Mark Reinfeld: Thank you so much, really appreciate it.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, Thank you, Mark. I love this new book, I am a big soup fan and I can’t wait to dig in a little more to it.
Mark Reinfeld: Please, let me know how you like it.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye. That was MarkReinfeld and all of his 30 minute vegan books are very useful, very informative and very delicious so there are a few things I wanted to talk about before we take a break and move on to my next guest.There are a few things in the news worth mentioning,have you heard about the genetically modified organisms purple tomatoes? Right, I just read about them. There are so many things that make me smile or make me mad and guess what this one does to me. So it seems there was a British scientist who went to Canada to work on this purple tomatoes because in Great Britain they are not togenetically modified organism food friendly and I didn’t know that Canada was but apparently they are working together in Ontario New Energy farms is putting out the purple tomato. And what is interesting about the purple tomato is has been modifed in order to create anthocyanin an antioxidentwhich has been shown in animal studies tohelp fight cancer. The interesting thing it this item is found in fruits like blueberries. Butfor some reason they thought people wouldlike it better in a purple tomato, who doesn’t like blueberries. This is something that I don’t understand, but I do understand because when you create a genetically modified food and you can patent it and when you patent something you have the rights to it you can make a lot of money then from the simple foods that have been offeredto us by nature its kinda hard to patent those thing and I would really like to see our governements support the production of really healthy foods so everyone could have blueberries, blueberries are kinda expensive but they are really worth it. And I don’t know of any children that turn down blueberries or alot of berries. They are always a welcome lovely natural treat. Purple tomatos I wouldn’t mind a hybrid I’m sorry heritage version of tomatoes the funny shaped and purple-red tomatoes those are all great. But genetically modified organismsthe thing about genetically modified foods is number one we don’t know if they are safe I am not saying that they aren’t just saying.Let’s say they are, that there is not a problem with technology by putting the specific gene into one plant or another and we can do it well. What’s wrong is that genetically modified foods encourage us to use all of the bad agriculture systems and processes including using pesticides and herbicidestoxic chemicals that we put into the earth and it also encourages mono-cropping and also encourages large companies owning seeds and having us to have to buy seeds and the interesting thing about our culture these days more and more were specialized in everything we do just think about it in order to get our energy and our water. It’s a great thing, we are now part of a big grid and we all plug in and get our electricity and sure we pay for it month to month but it’s a hell of alot easier then figuring our how to provide our own energy. So we can heat our homes and run our appliances, and use our phones. Right, its great that we are able to get water from our faucets and pretty much get as much as we need. Now there’s a whole othersubject about the water we use and I prefer to distill my water and filter my water but it’s great to live with technology but to do that we need to have certain companies to management these things and pay for that service and it looks like a certain few corporations want to do that with our food.Where they control the seeds, where theycontrol the food supply and I love the conveniences and the benefits that I get from certain forms, but I am uncomfortable with my food supply being controlled. Now if I could really wish I could grow my own food and I think more and more of us should be finding ways to do that especially because as things become more complex and energy becomes more expensive. Being able to access food from local areas I think is going to be necessary in the long term and thinking about if there was some sort of crisis of one sort or another and things shut down where would our food come from? I don’t like to create these doom and gloom scenariossomething to think about and when I think about these genetically modified foods and I think abour companies trying to control our food, it makes me uncomfortable to think about purple tomatoes. But, if you try one you let me know what you think how about that.
And we were talking about soup today with Mark Reinfeld. I wanted to let you know that I just posted on my responsible living website a new thai-based soup one of these that I love love love and the challenging thing is when you go to most Thai restaurants even if you ask for the food to be vegetarian they usually slip in some fish sauce because they don’t equate fish to not being vegetarian and the only real way to get it the way you like it is to make it which is something I did the other day and posted the recipe. I really am excited because it is one of my favorite soups and it’s great to be able to make it at home.
And then another thing I wanted to encourage or just think about. We’re a very internet based society today and I know myself I am buying more stuff on line, I am limiting to face to face communityinteraction and once in a while I have to go to the post office although I try to avoid it at all costs and did you know that postage justwent up again it is 49 cents to mail a letter. And occasionally have to go into my bank even though I try to do most of my banking online, but when I talk to an individual face to face sometimes I am really surprised and I had a few of these experiences recently. I had a teller ask me about my business and I told them about responsible eating and living and it opens up a whole dialogue and I start giving my plant food lecture and more often then not the people are receptive, I learn how little people know about food which is always surprising to me and I am always happy to give them information. But my point is we were taught as kids not to talk to strangers I think as adults we can kind of intuit who the strangers are we can talk to its really good we open up to people and let them know about plant foods especially sharing with friends and family. I was in a food store a few weeks ago and a women starting asking me about apple juice and with the door open, I managed to turn her attention away from apple juice and over to the dark lefty greens section and produce section telling her about how important those greens are. Anyway, if you have any questions or concerns about food please email me at , email@example.com and we can have a conversation I am going to finish my green juice take a little break….
Transcribed by Donielle Zufelt, 2/12/2014
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass, and we’re back! It is January 28th, 2014, and this is our second part of the program today. And how are you doing? I didn’t ask you that earlier, I wish you would let me know! By doing that, you can email me at info@RealMeals.org. I love to hear from you, I love to hear your comments and your questions, I learn so much. And like I was talking earlier about community, well, if we can’t meet face to face we can certainly meet online and have a conversation. I like to think that we are not really alone on this planet, we are not really alone, we are all part of some same big, mysterious something, energy, universe, and it’s important that we realize that. We all breathe the same air, and are living on the same Earth. There’s a lot to that, and we tend to kind of think within our own little bodies and there’s a lot more to what’s going on. I want to bring on my next guest, Jonathan Balcombe. He is an animal behavior expert and a passionate advocate for animals and their living spaces. He was born in England and raised in Canada and New Zealand. He showed an early interest in animals. His favorite place to visit at age three was the London Zoo, and by six he was gazing at insects in the backyard. He studied biology at York University and at Carleton University in Canada before getting a PhD in ethology, the study of animal behavior, from the University of Tennessee where he studied vocal recognition and mother-pup reunion behavior in the Mexican free-tailed bat. He has published over 50 journal articles and book chapters ranging from turtle nesting behavior to the ethics of animal dissection. His 2006 book, Pleasurable Kingdom, is the first in-depth examination of animals’ capacity to enjoy life. His subsequent books, Second Nature and The Exultant Ark, continue to present animals in a new light and presage a revolution in the human-animal relationship. He’s currently writing a book on the inner lives of fishes. A popular speaker, he has given invited presentations on six continents. The penguins are still waiting for him to visit Antarctica! All right, welcome to It’s All About Food, Jonathan!
Jonathan Balcombe: Thanks for having me, Caryn!
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, so have we gotten the phone technology all worked out there?
Jonathan Balcombe: Well I’m on the phone now, the Skype didn’t work for some reason, I’ll have to figure that out next time.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, okay. And currently you’re the executive director of The Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy in Washington.
Jonathan Balcombe: Yes, I’m transferring into that position, there’s some flux going on right now, but yes, that is a new role for me.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, good, well I’m glad you’re in it! Okay, so you do some really interesting work, something that not a lot of people pay attention to, and we certainly should be. Let’s start in the very beginning. You say that at the age of three you loved the London Zoo. How do you feel about zoos today, Jonathan?
Jonathan Balcombe: Mixed. Sadly zoos are some of the few places some urban people get to see animals, but really are they seeing of the real animal? I mean, a tiger in a zoo, for instance, is not a tiger. I mean it’s physically that animal, it’s got the genetics of a tiger, but it doesn’t do anything like a tiger, it doesn’t behave like a tiger. So an animal like that, large predators, would be an example of a group of animals that are totally unsuited to being in any kind of captive situation. And I think that applies to, I would say, the majority of animals kept in zoos today, and there’s obviously a preference for the charismatic
mega-vertebrates, the larger ones, which ironically are the ones that shouldn’t be there because they need more space to live. So I’m very troubled by zoos, but of course I wasn’t thinking about any of those things when I was a little kid going to the London Zoo.
Caryn Hartglass: Of course not. Yeah, I used to enjoy going to the Bronx Zoo when I was a kid in New York. Are you familiar with Martin Rowe’s book, The Polar Bear in the Zoo?
Jonathan Balcombe: I know of it, I haven’t read it yet. I like Martin and his work.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well, what it talked about is framing, and how we perceive things in a frame of reference. And I think what you’re doing is helping us see things beyond the frame, and think outside of the box, or whatever cliches we want to use. And in understanding animals, to the best of our feeble ability, it might help us understand ourself and the world around us.
Jonathan Balcombe: Well I’m encouraged that more and more scientists are also thinking outside of the box. And just one example, Vladimir Dinets, he’s a Russian national, he’s at the University of Tennessee now, he just got his PhD last year, and such are his discoveries about crocodile behavior that I believe he’s published 12 or 13 scientific papers on his findings from his PhD research just in the last year or two. I’m delighted today he’s coming to speak at a conference for organizing in Washington, DC in March. I hope we can come back to that in the Conference of Animal Thinking and Emotion, and he’s going to be presenting his latest findings on crocodile behavior, cognition, maybe even emotion, meaning, not suggesting they don’t have emotions, whether he’s talking about that. A recent discovery of his is that crocodiles use tools.
Caryn Hartglass: Uh oh, we’re in trouble!
Jonathan Balcombe: Yes, well, certainly if you’re a heron you may be in trouble because what they do is they carry
twigs on their heads and then, they only do this during the time when herons and egrets are breeding, so it’s time sensitive and location sensitive. And they bring these sticks and float them below the rookeries of these nests, and the nesting herons, well you can guess what they use to build their nests out of. And there’s a real premium on sticks at that time of year. The heron comes down to get the stick, and you can figure out the rest of the story. So it’s quite remarkable behavior from an animal that is so often dismissed as a cold blooded, unthinking, automaton reptile.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Hello humans, we have some competition with tool use! I know humans thought that we were special in that area, and we keep coming to find out more and more that other species are using tools too.
Jonathan Balcombe: Well what I think that we can say is, we are special, but we’re certainly not unique in that we use tools. Other animals use and manufacture tools and it’s a good example of a long list of things that we did used to think were unique to humans, but we had to strike a lot of things off of that list. But I think we do tend to be intellicentric, we love to focus on animal intelligence and cognition because we feel like we’re so very smart. But animals are good at what they need to be good at. We all evolve in different pathways, ways that suit our way of living. And I think it’s really short
sighted of us to demean or reduce animals because they may not function cognitively in the particular ways that we do.
Caryn Hartglass: I have a copy of your book Pleasurable Kingdom. It’s actually a signed copy, I was fortunate to receive it when I was at the PCRM Gala in 2007 in Washington, I think they gave it to all the attendees there.
Jonathan Balcombe: They did, that was a fun event.
Caryn Hartglass: Were you there?
Jonathan Balcombe: I was.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh! Okay, I was there too!
Jonathan Balcombe: I was a peon doing work in the background.
Caryn Hartglass: Well it was an interesting time for me because I was in between major surgeries for advanced ovarian cancer, a subject we can talk about at another time, and I thought I was done but I wasn’t done and I was really uncomfortable during that event. And I was so looking forward to it and looked for all the ways I possibly could, to seek pleasure that evening in order to focus on the pleasure and not on the pain. You talked a bit about pleasure and pain in your Pleasurable Kingdom book with respect to animals.
Jonathan Balcombe: Yes, just a little bit.
Caryn Hartglass: Just a little bit! Unfortunately it’s a funny thing the way we focus our understanding in the scientific realm. We’ll do experiments on animals and inflict pain on them in order to see different things, but we don’t want to really want to acknowledge that either they feel pain or that they feel pleasure.
Jonathan Balcombe: Yes, it’s a very strange imbalance that we’ve had, with a great deal of attention and time and effort in research paid to the study of pain. There are some 25-odd journals published today, scholarly journals, that actually have the word pain in the title of the journal. These journals are dedicated to the study and understanding of pain. Now on one level it’s understandable because pain is an urgent issue, it’s a very major issue that, well anyone who’s suffering from it, pretty much everyone would want it relieved. But isn’t it interesting that there are no journals on pleasure, and yet pleasure plays such an important central role in our lives and our motivations, and the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis: what we eat, what we wear, the kind of work we do, where we go for entertainment, etc. And when I thought about animal pleasure, I was just stunned to realize that there really had been so little attention to it. I’ve spent 10 years studying biology at three different universities, and I don’t recall a single occasion where anything was discussed about animal pleasure, about animals’ capacity to derive pleasure. I mean, scientists have talked about reward and that sort of thing in kind of an evolutionary context, but even that is a fairly little-thought-about phenomenon. But really, pleasure in that kind of conscious awareness sense where you seek out good feelings, really we’ve kind of missed the boat on that. So I was very inspired to delve into that subject and it’s been a really rewarding and ironically interesting subject to pursue.
Caryn Hartglass: I loved hearing about the crocodiles and the twigs. Do you have some favorite examples of animals seeking pleasure and experiencing pleasure?
Jonathan Balcombe: Yes, from a sort of rigorous, scientific perspective, I think the work of Jaak Panksepp is among the best with rats. He also will be speaking at our conference. He noticed that rats would, when they’re young especially, they play, they wrestle, they flip each other over, they tickle each other in the belly, and various sort of behaviors. When you put a bat detector next to them, you notice these ultrasonic chirp sounds.They are 50 kilohertz, a specific frequency, and rats also are known, now that we have equipment that we can detect this stuff, to make sounds at about 22 kilohertz, which is sort of negative. So if they’re chirping at 22 kilohertz, they’re probably not very happy about what’s going on. It may be associated with pain or distress, whereas if they’re chirping up in the 50 kilohertz range, essentially it’s the rats’ way of saying, “Wow, this is delightful. I’m really enjoying this!” And when they tickle each other and play, they do this. He then decided, let’s measure this! So they set up the bat detectors, and then they had rats in two groups. One group was petted each day at a certain time on the neck and then put back in their enclosure, and then the other group were flipped on their backs and tickled. And they found at the end of a few days of that, the rats who had been petted on the neck would come to the hand so they appeared to like that. The rats who had been tickled ran to the hand four times as quickly, and made seven times as many of these high-pitched chirps. So a simple, very quantitative study, he and his team have since done a number of other studies to present more information about what’s going on. But the real, the take-home-message is that they’re not just doing something that may be adaptive, and an adaptive basis for play behavior, but they’re enjoying it. It’s fun for them, it feels good. And I think we can all relate to that, we know what it’s like to play and tickle when we’re kids or when we’re grownups.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t like being tickled.
Jonathan Balcombe: Well, most people don’t. Tickling is sort of aggressive and unpleasant, depending on the context and how it’s done. In any event, all indications are that these rats are having a blast when they do this.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. It’s just incredible how little we see and how framed in we are by our own experiences, how so many of us just refuse to see or acknowledge what’s going on around us. And fortunately with technology and some tools, we can perceive some of the things that we don’t even have the senses for.
Jonathan Balcombe: Yeah, well, technology does allow us to, that’s right, to advance some of our understanding. I mean, pet scans, and FMRI’s, functional MRI’s, where you can actually see a brain in action. Another speaker at our conference, Greg Berns down at Emory University, they have trained domestic dogs who are very malleable and trainable, they respond to us, you can train them to sit still. And so they have them sitting still, fully awake, and an FMRI machine looking out, sitting comfortably, and getting treats in return for the right behavior. And they then present them with pictures or with stimuli, and they see how their brains respond. And they find, low and behold, they’re finding that their brains respond emotionally, the
emotional lighting up of their brain mirrors those in the human brain in terms of response to particular emotive stimuli, stimuli that you would expect to cause an emotional response. I’m looking forward to learning more about that when he comes to speak at our meeting.
Caryn Hartglass:Can you give us more detail on that meeting?
Jonathan Balcombe: Yes, it’s called The Science of Animal Thinking and Emotion, and it’s on March 17th to 18th here in Washington, DC at Gallaudet University. And if people go online and just, well I guess I should probably give you a URL before the end of the presentation, and then they can go. But it’s presented by the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, so if people Google the “HSISP”, for short, and then “conference in Washington, DC”, I mean it’s bound to come up. Or “animal thinking about emotion”, any of those terms will bring up the page where people can get more information, and if they wish they can register.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, great, well you can send me a link later after the program and I will include it in the post for this program.
Jonathan Balcombe: Okay.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, great. And, okay, what I want to know is: You’re talking about some of this wonderful work that’s going on. Who’s funding it? Are there particular organizations or universities that fund this sort of information? And I’ll tell you what I’m trying to get at, because usually the funding only comes from organizations that want to profit from things and rarely do we see things just from the joy of learning something.
Jonathan Balcombe: Yeah, well…I mean, it’s a good question and I can tell you, going back to the rat example, Jaak Panksepp, and I’ve talked to him about his, this research, and he was unable to get any funding for that. He tried and tried, and because it was outside the comfort zone of science and funding, its like, “Well, what do you mean pleasure in rats?” There was a lot of skepticism and disbelief that there would even be such a phenomenon. And so really what that says is that what is revealed by science has to go through a filter, and the filter can really skew what you find out. There’s not funding for some of the most interesting stuff from the perspective, from my perspective, animal emotion and that sort of thing. I mean, and that’s changing, that’s getting back to the change we’re seeing. It’s because as you get an accumulation of information that animals are doing stuff that we used to think they didn’t do, then there’s more interest. So I’m hopeful that the funding for that sort of study will begin, will be growing. But really, it is challenging for scientists who want to really think outside the box.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well what I’m thinking, one of my motives, is to get people to understand about animals and how incredible they are and how intelligent they are, in order…
Jonathan Balcombe: So do I.
Caryn Hartglass: …so that people don’t exploit them and don’t eat them, because there’s so much more to them than using them as food! But when I think about the science that would go on that would be supported, I think it would probably be from universities or companies that want to learn how to manipulate animals even more, so that they can have them happily walk up to the plank to slaughter, or whatever.
Jonathan Balcombe: Well not all research is of that ilk. I mean, this guy Dinets who’s been doing the crocodile stuff, the mirror imaging of the dog brain, I mean that’s…I suppose in the grant proposal there is some language in there to the effect of how this might be applied, but that, even then, it might be to improve the human-companion-animal relationship or something like that. I mean, it’s not always with a commercial bent. And so…
Caryn Hartglass: Good!
Jonathan Balcombe: …I’m encouraged to see that there is a fair amount of research that’s exploratory and doesn’t have to be justified by someone making a profit.
Caryn Hartglass: Chickens are, I think, the most popular meat these days, and I think it’s on the rise as red meats go down. I think somewhere along the last few decades people got the message that red meat isn’t so healthy, but then they got the message that chicken’s a better choice.
Jonathan Balcombe: Yeah, but even then, in the US, chicken consumption is dropping. The USDA itself estimated that half a billion fewer chickens would be consumed by Americans in 2013 than in the last few years before.
Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s good news, we just have to get that message to China.
Jonathan Balcombe: Yes indeed. Globally we’re not going in the right direction.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Jonathan Balcombe: Part of the problem of that is, more humans, more mouths to feed. And I write about that in my book, Second Nature.
Caryn Hartglass: We’re the problem!
Jonathan Balcombe: Yeah, I mean, it’s a real elephant in the room, human overpopulation, and
that’s just not being addressed by politicians anywhere.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and oh gosh I was reading something this past week, it was either the New York Times or the New Yorker, those are really the only two things that I read other than books. But there was some study about humanity around the world, and I mean this isn’t new information, but the more we educate different populations, and as women become educated and more useful in society, the population goes down because the families decide to have less children and they don’t need as many because they’re not dying of hygiene issues or malnutrition or whatever. And that’s really what we need to do, provide more education, and populations naturally go down.
Jonathan Balcombe: Yeah, and it’s not anti-human to say that. I mean, and I think that may be why politicians don’t get on that horse.
Caryn Hartglass: More is not better.
Jonathan Balcombe: No, and of course it’s coming back to animals. I mean, the more humans there are, the less space there is for animals to live, and that’s also a direct impact we have. I mean, habitat loss, biodiversity loss, that’s a direct result of more and more humans living on the earth.
Caryn Hartglass: And we need other species on this planet, not just humans.
Jonathan Balcombe: Yeah, even that, that’s anthropocentric thing to say, but it’s a reality. It’s pro-human to want biodiversity. It’s not anti-human to want us to curve our numbers and to make more space for animals to live and other organisms to grow.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, we don’t acknowledge that enough, and I think scientifically we’re just learning the importance of certain bacterias, for example, and bacterias in the soil, and bacterias in our gut, and there’s a lot of life out there that we can’t live without.
Jonathan Balcombe: That’s true.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, let’s see. We just have a couple of minutes left and I brought up the chicken thing because I wondered if you had any good chicken stories. Or bird stories, because birds are so incredible and so kind and so intelligent, and we often don’t give them…
Jonathan Balcombe: I often talk about chickens and they’re fun to talk about. I mean, I was making some notes before our conversation, just a couple of really recent things in the news are an example of tool use. And crows and herons, they will use crumbs, drop them on the water to lure fishes in and catch the fish. It’s interesting on two levels. One is tool use because of using the food as tools, but also restraint, delayed gratification because the crow, and for that matter the heron, could just eat the bread or the crumbs right away. And the herons don’t typically eat bread, but crows would. And yet they’re planning ahead, they’re going to forgo the food, the food that I have now immediately, because I can use it to get a bigger prize. But I want to add something about fish because I’m writing a book about fishes now. And the fish are turning the tables. This is an example of fishes that have actually catched birds in midair. Tiger fish in Africa were recently filmed, documented, you can see a rather grainy Youtube video of a tiger fish swimming, must have swum, very rapidly under water, and leaps out and grabs a flying swallow from behind in the air, which is pretty amazing physical coordination and I would say probably planning. And then catfish in a lake in France, for some years now, have been swimming into the shallows and grabbing pigeons who are coming in to drink in the shallows. The pigeons are a bit nonchalant, and they shouldn’t be, because there’s about a 28% mortality rate…
Caryn Hartglass: Oh!
Jonathan Balcombe: …when the fish grab the pigeons.
Caryn Hartglass: We don’t think about it that way, the fish grabbing the bird.
Jonathan Balcombe: We generally don’t think of it that way, but it cuts both ways, and one of the reasons I’m writing a book on fishes is because they are well, A, extremely exploited by humans in huge numbers, and B, very misunderstood. There’s some great science on fish cognition that is now coming out, showing that fishes have complex social lives with Machiavellian
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, Jonathan, great, I wish we could talk a lot more about it. This is a subject that deserves a lot more time, but we’re at the end of the program. So thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to meet you in person real soon.
Jonathan Balcombe: Thank you for having me!
Caryn Hartglass: And thank you again!
Jonathan Balcombe: Okay, until next time. Bye!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, bye bye! That’s the end of the show, and have a delicious week! I’m Caryn Hartglass, this has been another It’s All About Food! Bye bye!
Transcribed by Emily Roberts, 2/13/2014