Part I: Mia McDonald
Executive Director, Brighter Green
Based in New York, Brighter Green is directed by Mia MacDonald, a public policy analyst and writer who has worked as a consultant to a range of international non-governmental organizations—including the Ford Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, the Green Belt Movement, the Sierra Club, and Save the Children as well as several United Nations agencies, among others—on issues of environment, gender, sustainable development, women’s rights and gender equality, reproductive health and population, and conservation and animal protection. She has published many articles in popular and environmental media, authored a number of policy papers and reports, and has contributed to four books, including Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai’s best-selling autobiography, Unbowed. She is a Senior Fellow of the Worldwatch Institute and has taught in the human rights program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the environmental studies program at New York University. She serves as a director on the boards of Farm Sanctuary, Food Empowerment Project, and the Green Belt Movement International – North America. She received a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a B.A. with honors from Columbia University.
Part II: Lois Dieterly
Lois Dieterly is an elementary-school teacher in Pennsylvania and bakes vegan desserts for a local restaurant. She has been a vegetarian for the last decade and a vegan for four of these years. Dieterly lives with her family outside Reading, Pennsylvania.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food, thank you for listening in today. We have a really fascinating show. I want to just jump right into it, because we have a lot of things to talk about, maybe some things that you really haven’t even thought about. And yes, they’re all related to food in my opinion, so were going to talk a little more globally than we normally do. I’m going to bring on Mia McDonald, who is the executive director of A Brighter green and she is based in NY as is brighter green. She is a public policy analyst and writer who has worked as a consultant to a range of international non-governmental organizations including the Ford Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, the Green Belt Movement, The Sierra Club, Save the Children, as well as several United Nations agencies, among others, on issues of environment, gender, sustainable development, women’s rights and gender equality, reproductive health and population and conservation and animal protection. She has published many articles in popular and environmental media. Authored a number of policy papers and reports, and has contributed to four books, including Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai’s best-selling autobiography, <em>Unbowed</em>. She is a Senior Fellow of the Worldwatch Institute and has taught in the human rights program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the environmental studies program at New York University. She serves as a director on the boards of Farm Sanctuary, Food Empowerment Project, and the Green Belt Movement International – North America. She received a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a B.A. with honors from Columbia University.And I am so honored to be able to be talking with you today Mia. Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Mia: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.
Caryn: Well I visit your website ABrighterGreen.org whenever I can and I’ve seen some of your YouTube videos and this work, is-I’m out of words, it’s amazing it’s overwhelming, it’s inspiring, in some ways very depressing. There’s a lot of things are going on out there but I am glad we have someone like you who is digging in and reporting on these issues.
Mia: You are very kind for saying that, and I have a huge respect for what you are doing as well so I’m really pleased to hear that you’re looking at the website and you find the materials useful. Should we talk a little bit about what the work is?
Caryn: Yes, please, please, please.
Mia: Ok. So one of the projects that A Brighter Green has been working on for the past couple of years,a nd the work will likely continue and its related to what Caryn had just mentioned, is looking through the lens of climate change, the globalization of industrial animal agriculture. And again it’s a big mouthful of words many of you will be familiar, and Caryn you obviously know, with the term factory farming. So basically the increase in consumption of meat and dairy products, and the intensification of the methods used to produce those animals in the rest of the world. We’re specifically looking at the large developing countries. Countries like China India, Brazil and Ethiopia. So trying to really get to the bottom of and document the number of issues. So spanning as I mentioned initially climate change but also looking at issues of public health, resource use you know what does this phenomenon mean for water for land, livelihood and small farmers women farmers certainly animal welfare, issues of equity public health. Some of the diseases of affluence associated with the way we are just skyrocketing. In India there are 40 million people with diabetes is already in China almost 90 million people with diabetes and we know these kinds of conditions are preventable and yet the system we’ve developed in the U.S. unfortunately this intensive production model exploitation of animals of the environment of the climate, is being sent around the world. And so we’re trying to bring that to greater public attention policymaker attention, media attention through a series of policy papers as you mentioned as well as a number of videos. We’re actually about to upload videos for India looking at the dairy and beef Industry which are growing quite substantially even in India despite being traditionally a vegetarian nation there’s a lot of increased consumption around animals.
Caryn: Well this is very depressing Mia, because we’re trying as hard as we can, some of us are just trying to improve things in our own “great country” and people just seem to want to repeat all of our mistakes. And I would like to think that we’re at a point now where we’ve industrialized enough, realize the benefits and disadvantages and now we can hopefully start working on the things that don’t work well and it’s a big fight but I’d like to think we’re getting more information out there about how factory farming is devastating our individual health because we’re eating too much meat and dairy, it’s devastating on the environment because we know it’s a major factor in global warming, it’s horrifically cruel. We know all of these things now and yet why are people copying what were doing it’s just mind boggling.
Mia: Yea I agree with you,and there are certainly days when I find it extremely depressing. I think a couple of things are going on. I mean one is the average person in China and India or even Brazil if they really knew what the US food system and this industrial agriculture has created and especially for animals and meat and dairy products. I don’t think that they would choose that and would say “we want that in our country, give us all of the down sides” that are being documented extremely well in the U.S., but that process of documentation is not as far advanced in some of these other countries and it doesn’t mean that people don’t experience some of these realities. In China water pollution is a huge problem and a lot of that is documented to be from livestock facilities, including factory farms.So you know people experiencing climate change China had a huge drought. India has had failed monsoons in the past couple of years, which is a huge challenge for their food production for their livelihoods, for irrigation, for electricity for a whole range of development realities. So I think on the other side the forces that helped produce this system in the US are looking globally; if they can put a hamburger in the hands of 1.3 billion people in China that’s only going to increase profits and only going to increase their bottom line. Again because these costs are not accounted for. McDonald’s can operate in China, Smithfield can operate in China, Tyson can operate in China; and the unfortunate part of this is where I would say I agree with you was depressing, a lot of the government of these countries actually do support this system and do see what we’ve created the US as producing a lot of food for a lot of people at very low prices and unfortunately see what’s happened in the US as the way of the future, this is modern, this is progress this is what we have to do ourselves to become industrialized nations. But I would say that, again a number of these policymakers I don’t think are really aware of the down sides and for many of them the issue of even the relationship of climate change and animal agriculture is a new topic, because frankly it has not gotten a lot of attention in the global policy arena. And so I think that that’s partly what A Brighter Green is trying to do. but I would say to people listening the work that people are doing in the US on this set of issues is huge in and of itself, but it is extremely important for the rest of the world. Because it’s people around the world who see what we’re doing here so obviously if in the US a critical mass of people begin questioning the system, begins pushing back against the system, which may well be happening. That certainly can have an influence on how the story plays out in India in China in Brazil and even in a place like Ethiopia, which is at a very different level of development, and huge livestock producers. I think we all have to do our work where, we’re doing it, but I think there are a lot of intersections and possibilities for collaboration and solidarity between those of us working in the US and those of us working on the same set of issues internationally.
Caryn: I have a whole bunch of different thoughts and questions. So I was reading in an article on your site, and then you just mentioned how other governments are realizing they can feed a lot of people this way and cheaply. My understanding in the United States is that our meat and dairy products are so cheap because they are highly subsidized and we all pay for them with our taxes. So we’re not even seeing the true cost of these foods, and it would really be a lot cheaper to grow a bean than it would be to grow beef. And yet you wrote, in India the chicken is cheaper than the dal. Is the government subsidizing it as well how have they managed to get the cost so low.
Mia: It’s a great question. Actually some of the ways to get the cost so low, is the green is so relatively cheap. That will likely change as we see changes in world food markets and as India has to import more grain to feed livestock. And that’s a challenge that is facing many countries now. They can’t produce enough grain to feed a burgeoning population of farm animals. That’s one reason. The government doesn’t actively subsidize the industry in the way that we understand subsidies. But they certainly have put national programs in to help the industry. To provide low cost loans to encourage this intensification. Unfortunately even in India with it’s vegetarian heritage, the government sees a growing middle class that has developed a taste for western style food. It’s also being marketed to them incessantly along with other Western products. So their response is, well then we need to produce more chicken or beef-even in India, more dairy products and the governments also have their eyes on export markets and so there’s a distortion here because the full costs are not being born in terms of the cost to the environment, in terms of government easements and subsidies.
India is such a low cost producer of chicken that it’s looking for export markets. So we have a huge irony of a country like India increasing wealth for some but dire poverty and malnutrition for millions of people in India still that may well use its resources: grain, water, land, everything else to export cheap chicken to wealthier countries. When you look at something like that it does feel like we live in a crazy helter, skelter world. We know we do in many ways.
Caryn: In India where they have all kinds of food security issues what would be some of the solutions to feed that population, and I certainly don’t believe it’s making more chicken, but how do we get food to the poor in India?
Mia: Again a very good and a very important question. One thing I think that might not be as well known, and I didn’t know as much about this until I really dug into the research. Even though when we think of an Indian restaurant here in the United States, is a huge array of vegetables, and pulses and just a great variety of food. In India itself that wide variety of vegetables and even sometimes legumes, pulses, beans, lentils are not broadly available to an average poor person, if there is such thing as an average poor person. That relates to you know long time agricultural policy. We can bring in the green revolution here, which really stressed producing a large quantity of specific grains. So wheat, rice, corn, soy production is increasing in India but again it’s not to make tofu it’s really for animal feed so there’s been many decades of an agricultural policy again pioneered in the West and promoted by some of our institutions globally, to poor countries to really invest in these large commodity crops. One could argue that that perhaps has provided India with some food security but in terms of issues of malnutrition in terms of where does the country go, how does it use it’s resources. It still has a growing population, so water, land is under pressure as we speak and that will only increase. One of the things that we recommend is the government really look at food security and prioritize assuring that every Indian can have a variety of nutritious plant based foods. So not basing food security on increasing animal products and the production of animal products really looking at many of the cuisine in India How varying they are in nutritious greens, in legumes and ensuring that people have access to that. Which actually at this point they don’t. That’s one because of prices others because of availability, sometimes because of infrastructure and also because many farmers have shifted to growing these commodity crops, and do not cultivate vegetables, do not cultivate fruit.
I just saw some research that only about 3 percent of India’s land is planted with vegetables and more than half of its land is planted with these large commodity grain crops that I’ve mentioned. So I think that’s an important facet. I think in terms of public health as I mentioned in the beginning, things like diabetes, obesity are rising extremely rapidly in India, as they are in China. That’s also another issue the government needs to get its hands on more in creating incentives for consumption of healthier food. And that may well mean things like subsidies. So that chicken is not cheaper than dal. Which if you really look at the cost of producing those to the land, pesticides, everything else, it could not turn out that way. That it really makes more sense, even from an economic case, given the environmental case to produce chicken so cheaply. So it’s a false economy at this point, and unfortunately it has multiple ramifications.
Caryn: Well we hear government and corporations talking about solutions to food security all the time. Monsanto is famous for promoting their genetically modified foods, saying that they’re going to solve all the world’s hunger problems. And yet the issues that you brought up in terms of access, distribution. None of those things are solved with any of these newer foods, meats or genetically modified foods. So the same poor people, how do they get any of those foods?
Mia: Right. Absolutely, and that again, to me is government policy, it’s civil society holding governments accountable, demanding more rational, more equitable policies on food security, not allowing these false solutions, that you just laid out, to go unchallenged, because that’s obviously an argument for things like factory farming. The meat and dairy industry will say, look at population growth, there’s going to be 3 billion more people on the planet by 2050, they have to be fed. We can’t have 100 billion free range chickens, we have to bring them all inside. But obviously that is based on an assumption that animal based foods, have to be at the center of people’s diet, and that it’s ethical to do so. And also that there are enough natural resources to produce and support that population of animals. And again, I think unfortunately, even in a country like Ethiopia, where there’s huge issues of land degradation. because there are many, many livestock, principally free range at this point. But there are so many of them, that the land is degraded from overgrazing and also there’s been drought in recent years, much for it. On the one hand the government can see, and there is some evidence that this is the case, well let’s move the animals inside, then we don’t have to worry about them destroying the land. but of course as we see in the United States, one is obviously the cruelty many pollution problems with concentrated feeding operations as they are so euphemistically called. But also the challenge of how are those animals to be fed? The grain has to be produced. Where is it going to be produced, and what kind of ecological and social cost is that. Now I will tell you something that might make your hair stand on end. Cargill a U.S. and actually a global grain giant. Officials from Cargill have been seen in Ethiopia scoping out, is this a place where we could produce grain.
Caryn: Is this a place where we could rape and make lots of money?
Mia: Yes. And grain is principally for animal feed, and biofuels to some degree, and those have enormous ecological and social causes. And as you mentioned previously, the benefits of this kind of development model, of economic model, basically goes to the have’s. The people that already have things, will have more of them. As opposed to spreading the benefits more broadly across the population. And again I think that that’s an issue, that issue of equity that needs more attention and some more sunlight on it.
Caryn: Ok. I am beyond convinced about the horrors of factory farming and how terrible it is, and the idea that it’s expanding is a terrible nightmare because it should be globally illegal to have these places. But then to free-range, free-graze animals, certainly there’s not enough landmass to grow the quantity of animals that are being eaten today. So people would have to eat less, and the trend certainly looks like people are eating more. But you mentioned this thing about land degradation from animals grazing, and I know there’s organizations-you must be familiar with Heifer International. And I don’t know if you have any thoughts about them, but I know that they’re very popular in schools today in the Unites States and appeal to a lot of the sensitivities of very compassionate people who want to help this food security issue. And the idea is to get animals to poor people so that they can have a livelihood, get milk, and help them. Do you agree with this concept, or is there a better way to go?
Mia: Well I think that there are a number of things going on there as well. One thing you mentioned, grazing, and I guess what I should also say, in a number of countries, India, China, many we can name. Because of the pressure on the land, because of the hunger for land, among a growing population, and also large agribusiness is quite keen to plant more soy, or more corn, or more wheat, or more, even biofuel crops. There is a trend to what is called, zero grazing, that you might be familiar with. So actually instead of the cow being out grazing on it’s own, or in a herd for most of the day, that cow would be penned. So it’s not a factory farm, but it basically a cow, or let’s say three or four cows or maybe ten cows, in a small pen. So they basically live in that pen most of their life, and they are fed from either fodder, which could be grass or the different crops that are grown. Or in some cases commercial feed is brought to them.
So my understanding is that some of the heifer project, especially the ones that have cows and goats and sheep, is that those animals would actually be part of a zero grazing system. So a place like Rwanda, a woman might have a couple cows, but they are basically penned in, so on animal welfare grounds, we can say, well that’s not very good, in terms of raising animals for food, we can also object to that on many levels, but it is no longer a free-range animal anymore. I think the argument that Heifer makes, I think it is appealing to people, because it seems low cost. It seems like a charitable endeavor. I have talked to people at Heifer. One thing I should say, is that the scale of Heifers effort at this point is not enormous so in terms of, if we look at trends of factory farming and intensification the Heifer animals are a drop in the bucket.
Mia: Nonetheless I think that there are certainly questions about the Heifer model, in terms of animal welfare, also in terms of environment. Because in a place like Rwanda, where I know Heifer is quite active, and I’ve heard some great things about their program there, But Rwanda is a very densely populated country. And already there is a huge shortage of land from people who want land to grow crops, or produce crops on a small scale level. So to bring a significant population of cattle or to add to the population of cattle in a place like Rwanda strikes me as problematic. In terms of, how are those animals going to be fed? What are the trade-offs in producing feed for those animals versus producing feed for people. Another trend of course, and I think Heifer is part of this, I don’t know exactly for sure. Is in many of these countries there are indigenous breeds of animals, but they have not been bred to be milk machines, or dairy machines, or egg machines, but as agribusiness comes in, and as the Western model comes in, those animals are being replaced by Western bred animals.
Mia: Holstein cows that produce, ten, twenty, thirty times as much milk as an average Indian cow would. Again we know they’ve been bred, we know they’ve been manipulated to do that. So that’s a challenge ethically I think. But also they need to be fed, so much more to maintain that level of production. So again in terms of an ecological footprint, it’s much, much heavier. So I think that to question some of the programs of Heifer and others on those grounds is also legitimate. We also have global warming, and so we know cows contribute a lot to that. A factory farmed cow contributes more because it’s being fed more. But as these breeds from the U.S and Europe become embedded in agriculture in developing countries, the emotions per animal is also going to rise. That is the logical challenge. That’s what I would say on that.
Caryn: Ok. I like it. There’s a word that you use in one of your papers, “soyanization”, it’s something I haven’t seen before I don’t know if it’s a very popular world, but can you talk about what that is?
Mia: Yea. Thank you for that and I think we put the word in quotes because it isn’t a term of common usage. But “soyanization” is a phenomenon that has been identified, principally in Latin America so far, where much of the agriculture, or the agriculture economy is increasingly dominated by soy. So Argentina is a huge producer of soy, which has crowded out diversity of other crops. Also tied Argentina so closely to global trends in demands for soy, prices for soy. There’s been a lot of criticism among farming communities in Argentina, of why has the government and agribusiness, promoted this “soyanization” because it has multiple down sides. We’re losing diversity, when the soy price falls, farmers are really burdened. They could be burdened by debt, there’s a huge amount of chemicals and pesticides used to produce soy. There’s obviously GM soy, roundup ready soy that is becoming increasingly popular, produced by Monsanto. So the critiquing is so heavily tied to soy. We see a similar phenomenon in brazil, where the production of soy is rapidly increasing. And again just to underline a point that we’ve been talking about through the program so far. This soy is not for the tofu eaters of the world. It’s for livestock. But it becomes a bit of a vicious cycle, so that’s why the term “soyanization” is used and why it’s increasingly criticized.
Caryn: Ok. Now I’ve been reading lots about things going on in Africa. And I read something about Hillary Clinton, saying that we should be giving them more funding to help their food security issues. And I’m just wondering, how much is the funding from the United States involved in any of these projects, and are we doing good things for food security, or are we helping to support the corporations that are continuing these problematic ways of making food?
Mia: I think we’re doing both actually. It’s interesting because when you see Obama, who has been on his tour in the Midwest talking to farmers and talking about, I want to help farmers. Sometimes we hear him say it, sometimes we don’t actually hear it. but part of that process is opening markets for U.S. farm product. Now on the one hand we might say, “that’s great.” If an apple grown in Washington State can go to China that’s good, but for climate change implications, that’s a complex topic. But part of that is increasing markets for U.S. beef, for pork, for chicken, for soy, for corn. So in that way U.S. policy is promoting one could say intensification of animal agriculture, rising meat consumption in countries over seas. A couple years ago there was a big fight between the U.S. and South Korea over beef, and South Korea had banned that because of fear about Mad Cow Disease. There was some criticism that the Korean government was trying to protect Korean beef producers. Again many issues going on. But Tom Vilsack the current Secretary of Agriculture, paid a visit to Korea, and one of his main points was trying to reopen that market for U.S. beef. And as we know in the U.S. that is going to be absolutely almost all feedlot raised, factory farmed meat. So that is a problem. And when Hilary Clinton traveled some places, sometimes there are agribusiness executives along on those trips, whether it’s Monsanto, Cargill or others. That’s certainly a negative part of it. On the other hand, I would say, from what I understand, and I am actually not an expert on U.S. food policy in terms of aid for developing countries. I do think there is a growing awareness in some of the inequities in how agricultural funding has been doled out in the past years, that it has tended to go to large producers, that there is a crisis of food security in poor countries, in Africa, in Asia, and other regions, and that there is a refocusing on some of these core issues of how do we really create food security that is ecologically sustainable. Now I think that that process is probably in the early stages. How far that goes, how long that goes, I couldn’t say at this point.
Caryn: So we are pretty much at the end of the half hour, and maybe you could sum things up, or tell the listeners some things that they could do, and some inspiring things. To make a brighter green place.
Mia: If people would like to come to the website and read some more about the issues I discussed. So we have these policy papers as well as these short versions of them, policy briefs and the videos that Caryn mentioned, looking at India, China, brazil and Ethiopia. So you can get a sense of how these issues that you may well know quite a bit about them in the United States, are playing out in these different countries. In these large important countries, we should care about because of their size, their influence, and also because millions and millions of people live in them and we’re all obviously living on the same planet. I would also say to educate oneself about what’s happening globally, can be quite important as people have conversations in their own arenas in the United States. Whether it’s with colleagues, whether it’s with policymakers, whether it’s with media. To try to bring greater awareness. We’ve seen these things in the United States. This intensification, this commodification, the downsides of it. It’s happening globally and we also need to be aware of that. Even if we aren’t working on it actively, I think there are a lot of areas for information exchange.
Caryn: I’m thinking of one more thing that I wanted to mention. I know you’re familiar with T. Colin Campbell’s work The China Study. It’s just so frustrating, because he worked with the Chinese, and studied so many and discovered all their great health benefits in those that at a lot of vegetables and less meat, and now we see their health is degrading so much over there, with al the diabetes you’re talking about.
Mia: I agree with you, and unfortunately that’s not inspiring, but his work is.
Caryn: But his work is getting attention here now, so that’s very hopeful.
Mia: And I was in China earlier this year and my colleagues and I also talked about Colin Campbell’s research. I would say, it’s probably not as well known in China as it could be among this generation of policymakers. And I know that he is working on that, and others are working on that. And I think there is unfortunately a huge power of meat and dairy association with affluence, with modernity, with the vision of progress, that I do think government officials are very entranced by. And that’s where I think it is up to many of us to try to sort of take the scales of their eyes, and show them what the reality is.
Caryn: Well we still have that a lot here too, that same image. That is changing a little bit with popular celebrities that are starting to talk about plants, as being healthy and being slim and giving us longevity. But a lot of people still equate meat and dairy with making it.
Mia: Precisely and unfortunately that association, which probably has roots somewhere in many cultures, but has been amplified by the role of meat and dairy in the U.S. culture and economy unfortunately. Now in terms of inspiring. I would say that even if I talk about the global litany of ills around this set of issues, there are people in China, in Brazil, in India, who are working on this from different angles. Whether it’s animal welfare, water pollution, food security, there are a number of vegetarian restaurants in china, and the number is increasing, and a number of the people who actually own those are activists on this set of issues. So to me that is encouraging.
This is a global challenge, many people in the U.S. have done some important work on this over the past twenty years. And it’s great to see that getting attention. And Caryn as you say these issues getting more media focus and more popular currency. So on the one end, yes we have a huge challenge and the train is out of the station globally. But there are people in the rest of the world, in the developing world, who are aware, who are working on this. And I think what I want to explore further, and I hope other will as well. Is looking for the ways that we can share information, that we can support each other so that we can be in a network of solidarity. So experiences here have reliance in other countries, and similarly experiences in other countries have relevance for what we do here, and how we understand ourselves and our world in this set of challenges.
Caryn: Thank you so much Mia. Mia McDonald, Executive director of A Brighter Green. Please visit the website BrighterGreen.org, and download those wonderful position papers, there’s a lot of great information there. If you’ve got kids in high school that need to report on the environment, this is the place to get a lot of wonderful information, and we need to be sharing it. So thank you so much.
Mia: Thank you so much. I enjoyed it.
Transcribed by Josh Nisenfeld, 7/25/2013
Caryn: Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. And we are about to be in our second part of today’s show, and I am going to bring in Lois Dieterly, who is a former baker and currently elementary school teacher, living outside of Reading, Pennsylvania with her family. And her book Sinfully Vegan has recently been re-released with new recipes. And we’re going to talk about that now. Lois welcome to, It’s All About Food.
Caryn: How are you doing today?
Lois: I am doing fine. How about you?
Caryn: Ok. There’s lots of reasons to eat plant foods, and I don’t know if you’ve heard any of the earlier part of the show, but a lot of it can be really overwhelming when we think about what is going on with animal agriculture today, and it’s impact on the environment, and sometimes it’s so overwhelming I don’t even want to think about it. And the good news is, we can think about all kinds of luscious, delicious plant based treats, and save the planet at the same time.
Lois: Absolutely. People say to me, “I couldn’t be vegan, I like my food to taste good. They don’t know how wrong they are. I’ve done so many
delicious things to eat, that are safe for the environment, and much healthier for your body.
Caryn: Well this is what I like talking about most. I love talking about food and I love talking about the real gooey,
Lois: The good stuff!
Caryn: Now your book is called ‘Sinfully Vegan’, and I don’t think it’s a sin to eat this food at all.
Lois: No. It looks sinful, so we call it that.
Caryn: Well a lot of people like to think they’re doing something wrong.
Lois: I’m a vegan with a sweet tooth, and I didn’t want to give it up. Frankly when I first started being vegan, which was about 15 years ago. The baked goods were just starting to come out, people were experimenting. There definitely wasn’t much commercially, which is why I came out with this book, just to help share what I learned, so that other people could eat it too, because I like sweets.
Caryn: Well I’m always talking about people getting back into the kitchen, and it’s to make anything. The savory foods or the sweet
foods. It’s so important to know what’s in your food, and know how to make it. And Especially if you’ve got kids, they love making things
in the kitchen.
Lois: Right. And I think going back to your last show, I was listening to that. And I was interested in T. Colin Campbell’s work, and the one thing that stuck with me is
that he said, “eat as close to nature as possible, and that’s why people do have to get back into the kitchen. It’s ok to eat sweets, so it doesn’t have that funny
stuff in it that you can’t pronounce.
Caryn: People have no idea what’s in their food. There are so many wonderful recipes in your book, and they are made with
ingredients that people know how to pronounce, they know what they are, they are recognized from plant sources. And gosh it’s
scary sometimes, when you eat a loaf of bread, or a cookie,if you can read the letters, because a lot of people have problems
seeing small print today.
Lois: Right and that’s why I get a magnifying glass, there’s nothing I don’t read the ingredients on.
Caryn: And Just hydrogenated oils. You talk about oil in your book, and you do it in language that people can understand, which is
very important. We don’t have to be rocket scientists to understand how to eat healthfully.
Lois Right. But it is confusing, so I try to explain it on a level-like you said- so people can understand. Because I’m just an
average person, so I explained it that way. To the average person picking up a cookbook, this is what it means to you. So you
know how to eat healthy, because there are so many oils out there, and not all of them are bad. I think we threw the baby out
with the bath water, with this fat-free stuff, and that’s not healthy either.
Caryn: Well I’m a believer in eating foods that are minimally processed, or minimally refined. Personally I like to get my fats
from raw nuts and seeds, avocado, whole coconut, and then occasionally when I have a treat, I will use earth balance margarine,
or olive oil, some simple organic oil. I don’t eat a lot of them, but sometimes if I’m having a treat, I want it to taste good.
Lois: Right and be healthy. That’s what I try to say in this book. There are still desserts and you can’t eat them without abandon,
they are much healthier, but they are a treat.
Caryn: Now I just want to talk about-. There’s a lot of recipes in here, and there’s certainly a lot that would satisfy, a lot of
different tastes. But a few that I found interesting, or amusing. You have a banana cannoli. Can you talk about that?
Lois: Sure can that’s one of my new ones. I was kind of flirting, with the almost raw food type thing. I don’t know a lot about raw foods, but that’s where this inspiration came from, and I do like cannolis. So that’s where that came from, and I had been playing around with avocado, and discovered how it makes such a creamy base. So I was playing with that. The chocolate has a strong flavor to go with that. Avocado makes a wonderful base for a whipped cream. So it has that chocolate avocado cream on the inside of it, and then the shell is just simply dehydrated bananas. So it’s very simple and it’s much healthier than a regular cannoli, and I found it delicious-and all my tasters. It’s just very different, easy and delicious.
Caryn: I haven’t tried it yet, but I am definitely going to check that one out. I just love the whole idea of it,and I haven’t seen anything like it.
Lois: It’s different. My daughter lives in California, so I get a bit of the western ideas from her. So we sit down and we brainstorm, and she’s a foodie also, we talk food. And she’s very much into the healthy things, but she gets that whole different mindset from California. There is much more of a raw-food influence, the Tex-Mex, or the Mexican food, -her husband is from Texas, that’s where the Tex-Mex comes from- but a whole different idea. So we were just spinning a whole lot of ideas around and that’s where it came from.
Caryn: You’re currently an elementary school teacher?
Lois:Yes I am.
Caryn: And what grades do you teach?
Lois: Fifth and Sixth, intermediates.
Caryn:That’s a very interesting age.
Lois: It is an interesting age. And I love- I’m not in the classroom anymore, I’m a math remediation person- but I used to love being in the classroom, because I would teach nutrition, and I would introduce the students to a more plant based diet, we had parties, we would make food together, healthy dessert, snacky things, like fruit salad and put it in an ice cream cone with coconut sprinkles on top or something. So it was a fun food, and that’s where some of the things came from in the chapter, not just for kids, that are fun kinds of treats, but I like them too.
Caryn: When you were making these treats with the kids, were you explaining why you were not using dairy and eggs?
Lois: Absolutely. They really knew where I was coming from, and tried to understand it. This was new to them, and they were very curious
as kids will be at that age. So we had a lot of nice dialogues about that, and they were very eager to try things. That aged child likes to try new things, and they were open.
Caryn: Did any of them go home to their parents, and say I don’t want to eat these foods anymore? Like meat, and milk, and eggs.
Lois: Some of them told me that they did. I don’t know. I didn’t have any parents coming to me, one way or the other. But some of them
had announced that they were going to stop doing that, and that they loved eating this way. I did actually have some parents come in years later, and they said they remembered when I had done some of those things and they did like that. Now whether or not they changed their way of living, I don’t know. But I hope I opened their eyes that they are willing, now to explore it.
Caryn:Now some of the problems today with food in schools- ok the food we have is just horrific, refined and too much sugar, and wrong fats etc. And a lot of people bring food into the classroom. And more kids are now sensitive to wheat, peanuts, and there are just so many more allergies coming around. I’m not sure if when you were a teacher you were exposed to any of this, but how do you handle that?
Lois: It’s a difficult problem, and I think schools are starting to change now, and not allowing as many foods to be brought in. And we don’t have at our school, peanut butter anymore, because of some of the allergies. It’s a difficult problem because of all the sensitivities.
Caryn:And they’re not all the same, there are so many different ones.
Lois: But schools really have to, in my opinion, start addressing the healthy foods. I know I had an issue with my school. And I did address it, I had written a seven page letter to them, because they were talking about healthy breakfast, but they were giving the kids french toast sticks, and fruity flavored cereal, with fruit drink on it-all the kids were pouring the fruit drink on it. It’s just not a healthy breakfast, so either give them a healthy breakfast, or at least don’t call it a healthy breakfast. Because we’re in the position of being educators, and we have to set an example and help kids.
Caryn: Yep. I got a little distracted here because I was looking at your orange creamsicle smoothie. When I was a kid I used to really love those creamsicles. Those frozen pops with the orange sherbert coating, and the vanilla ice cream inside.
Lois: I love them! That’s where that came from. I love that!
Caryn:And so I’m looking at this, it’s so simple. It’s just crushed ice, orange juice, vanilla vegan milk and vanilla extract. And I’m thinking, not only would it be a great shake, but you cold probably put it in those molds and make a nice frozen pop
Lois: Yes. I do have a section on some freeze pops, but any of the smoothies you could freeze as well. I have some that are just fruit purees, a little bit of the tofu cream swirled through it, which you can, but you don’t have to do. I just love those in the summer
Caryn: I don’t drink a lot of orange juice because it doesn’t feel- I get a little sensitive, but I think if I made it like this, and just sipped slowly on it- I think I’m going to try it very,very soon.
Lois: One of my favorite recipes in here, that I have all the time, at this time of year, because you can get the organic cherries and not too outrageously expensive it the chocolate cherry ice cream. It’s frozen bananas, frozen cherries, and just a little bit of water and cocoa. You just spin that up in a food processor. I love it. And I put chopped up almonds on it as well. Because I like crunch in my ice cream, but it’s
such a treat, like soft serve ice cream.
Caryn: The amazing thing is, not all of these recipes here, but many of them have just a handful of ingredients and are really simple to make. Some are a little more involved, the Boston cream pie, and some other things, but most of them are really easy,
and just amazingly good. And I always like to encourage people to have these things. Because they can be healthy and they really satisfy
those crazy-sweet cravings that we have. And there is really no reason to have all that junk that’s out there.
Lois:Right. Absolutely. My recipes run the gamut from very simple and very healthy, to more of the fancier ones, to some that are still vegan, but they are not quite as healthy, with the ingredients that are in them. But it’s to satisfy everything, some are definitely treats, others you could eat every day and it doesn’t really matter. So it’s trying to satisfy everyone.
Caryn: What’s it like being vegan in Reading, Pennsylvania? I haven’t been there in a very long time. I went to college in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and I had some friends that were from Reading. That was a long time ago. And I remember reading not being as sophisticated, I would say as New York City.
Lois: Well it’s the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, so that’s the meat and potatoes, and lard in the pie crust, and that type of thing. So I tend not to use
the word vegan here, I just tell people I do not eat any type of animal product, and I have severe dairy allergies. That’s the way I explain it the times I do go out to eat, so I get people to take me seriously. So it is definitely a challenge to eat out here.
Caryn:They’re still doing the lard in the pie crust?
Caryn: I’m sorry to hear that. I thought lard went out a long time ago, oh well.
Lois: No. It’s in the farmers markets and all that. That’s the way it’s done.
Caryn: What about organic food?
Lois: That’s starting to be more available. There are some places at the farmers market that do deal in organics, so that’s getting a lot easier. Some of the larger grocery stores are carrying a better supply of the organic food, so that is getting much easier to get. I think that
is important, it’s just much less stress on the body, I feel when you are eating organic.
Caryn: Right. On your body, and also the environment, there’s a lot of farming in Pennsylvania, and with herbicides and pesticides, it gets into the solid, it gets into the water, and then it gets into our bodies.
Lois: Right it’s like dominoes. It’s something that we really should start getting away from, and I’m glad to see that there is a much bigger interest in the organic gardening, and farming in Pennsylvania.
Caryn: Well I want to tell you, I live in New York City, and I was in-I think it was a Barnes and Noble the other day, and I saw your book. I like to see vegan books like that in major cities, and everywhere else.
Lois: That’s exciting.
Caryn: What’s exciting nowadays is, most of the big bookstores-if they are still in buiness have actual vegetarian and vegan book sections.
Lois: Right, they are getting larger all the time, I’ve been noticing as I go by and look at them. I think it’s also interesting, I see that my book is on Kindle so they are getting them out wirelessly as well. I thought that was exciting. I don’t know how many cookbooks because I didn’t really look in that section, but I was looking for something else, and it came
Caryn: Are you planning any other cookbooks or is all your great work in this one?
Lois: I don’t know. I’ve been talking to my daughter about doing one, a collaboration, where we would do eating healthy, cheaply.
Caryn: A lot of people are really interested in that.
Lois:Exactly! You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Because we talk about this, about how easy it is to eat healthy, eat those good vegetables, lentils for example. And you really don’t have to spend a lot of money to feed a family. That’s something that we throw around, but at this point, no firm plans.
Caryn: Well it’s an important topic from a lot of angles. Number 1 we know that a lot of the food in the stores today, the prices are not real prices. The meat and dairy products are- we’re not paying for all of the expense to make those foods at the cash register at the store. A lot of the money is from our tax dollars, because they are highly subsidized. And so we are paying for those foods even if we’re not eating them. Even still, buying beans and rice- beans and grains, they have always been the foods that many impoverished people ate and it’s nourished them, and kept them going for centuries, and these foods are still very inexpensive and very nutritious.
Lois: And they can be delicious, you just have to know how to make them. Lentils you can make in almost no time. Quinoa
that’s another one of my favorites, which is not very well known around here anyway. I just love it, and it’s so easy to do so
many things with just those two things.
Caryn: I do love quinoa and I love how easy it is and I love how nutritious it is. My only concern is, we don’t really know how to grow it in this country.
Lois: That is a problem, you’re right. There’s an area-I read- somewhere out in the Midwest that they grew it.
Caryn: They are trying to in Colorado.
Lois: Yes that must have been where it was. And I remember thinking, that is a downside.
Caryn: Yea can we grow enough quinoa for the world? I think if we spend time with that problem, instead of genetically modified food, or how to factory farm more efficiently, I think we could figure out how to grow more quinoa sustainably.
Lois: I know we could. And I think that would be a much better use of the brain power in this country.
Caryn: Anyhow I want to encourage people to check out Sinfully Vegan, there’s just too many yummy recipes in here. And I want to thank you for speaking with me today on It’s All About Food. Thank you.
Lois:Ok. Thank you for having me.
Caryn: Ok we have just a couple minutes left, and I wanted to talk about a couple of things. Number one I want to
invite you to visit my website www.responsibleeatingandliving.com it’s a brand new non-profit that I launched a little over a month ago, and I’ve got a couple of blog entries that I invite you to read. Most recently I posted a letter I sent to Hilton Hotels. I was at one of their Hampton Inn suites recently and talk about their complementary breakfast. Because although it’s great when people offer all kinds of free food and it’s certainly nice when you’re at a hotel, when you get up
in the morning and have a free buffet. What’s not so nice is when the food is not healthy food. When it’s all refined sugary
products, and you can’t find non-dairy milks, no soy milks, there’s non-dairy creamers which are filled with hydrogenated oils. Everything
has high fructose corn syrup in it. The peanut butter isn’t just peanuts, it’s high fructose corn syrup, and other unnatural ingredients. This is when a free breakfast really isn’t free. There’s too many prices involved, devastation to the environment, cruelty to the animals, and this food is not healthy to eat. And so I’m hoping that Hilton takes notice to my letter, and I invite you to read it, and please do the same. Write the businesses that you frequent, if they are not doing things the way you think they should be.
Ok well thank you very much. I think this has been a really interesting show with Mia Mcdonald of A Brighter Green, and Lois Dieterly with Sinfully Vegan. I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food, have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Josh Nisenfeld, 8/12/2013