Part I – Adrian Butash, Bless this Food
Adrian Butash is the author of Bless this Food. A well-known marketing and advertising professional, he studied history and culture of the world at Fordham University. He lives in Santa Barbara, CA. Visit him online at http://www.adrianarts.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Here we are it is October 8th 2013 and it’s pretty lovely here in New York the air has got a little chill in it, It’s happening the seasons are changing and we are now officially looking at fall and I’m looking out the windows and the leafs are doing that beautiful color changing thing and I am enjoying it. Well, what are we going to talk about today you know we are always talking about food and one of the things I try and do on this show is connect the dots and help everyone think about our food which is so essential to all of our lives and how it connects to so many things especially health, the environment, and where our food comes from and what do we think about it. I think we don’t think enough about it and that’s one of the things that I do in this show is talk about food and try and stir up some interest on a lot of different topics that are related to food. Well I think we are going to get to core in this next half hour and I want to bring on my first guest Adrian Butash is the author of Bless This Food, a well know marketing and advertising professional. He studied history and culture of the world at Fordham University he lives in Santa Barbara California and his website is Adrianarts.com, welcome to It’s All About Food Adrian.
Adrian Butash: Caryn thank you so much. Looking forward to our chat and say hello to you, you’re staff and your listeners.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you did I pronounce your last name correctly.
Adrian Butash: Yes you did Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you, well. I always want to make sure I get it right. We live in such a global environment and the letters don’t give us enough information sometimes about how they want to be pronounced.
Adrian Butash: Right. My biggest problem with the name Adrian is I often get mailed address to Mr. or Ms. so it comes with a territory.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay well… I’m getting off tangents now but there are some languages with the titles that don’t even suggest gender.
Adrian Butash: True, true
Caryn Hartglass: Yes it doesn’t matter. Anyway let’s talk about food. So, this is a fascinating little book, Bless This Food and I guess originally it came out in the 90s and then you’ve had some reprinting since then.
Adrian Butash: Right, we now have just issued the paperback version and the book is identical to the hardcover, of course it’s less expensive and we’re very happy about what’s going on and the book is surging forward. We have some other plans for the book, we’ve had some suggestions to make it into an ongoing radio show, part of what today is, it’s going to be an exemplar, so again thank you for your interest.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I always want to help do my part to make this world a better place and one of the things that I see as a big issue especially in the United States is we have a huge disconnect with our food, where it comes from, how it’s made. What’s involved from the moment something that is going to be food becomes something and all the manipulations before it gets to our plate and most people have no idea today. Where it used to be such an integral part of everyday life since early humanity most of humanity up until recently and I think it’s to our detriment. So this book I think it’s a great tool to get us to start thinking about our food and then it can open up so many conversations.
Adrian Butash: Well I also salute you with your response for eating and living program and the benefits to the plant based diet because as they look through particularly in my book the history of food always has celebrated plant based foods particularly corn many number of wonderful poems and blessings about corn and plant diet.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m not a religious person, I’m an agnostic maybe an atheist leaning agnostic but I respect everyone’s beliefs and there’s a lot of rich history and culture in the variety of religions and there are things that we can learn from all of them and one prayer that I’m very familiar with is one that’s in your book. It’s on page 28 prayer 5 and at the end it talks about the delicious fruits of the earth and it’s from the Essenes which you write were probably strict vegetarians and it made me think about how many of the prayers really talk about the fruits, or the vegetables or the bread. Most of the time they’re talk about plant foods.
Adrian Butash: Well indeed. One of my classic blessings here it’s from a contemporary father, father John Giuliani and its very short, four lines. “Bless our hearts to hear in the breaking of bread the song of the universe”, it’s exquisite poetry.
Caryn Hartglass: You may know I promote a plant based diet, I’m a vegan, and I encourage everyone to eat more fruits and vegetables because there’s so many benefits in doing so but I noticed that in many prayers like I just mentioned they talk about fruits, vegetables, but I don’t think we see very often unless it’s like a Native American Indian prayer or maybe an Indian prayer were they really talk about the animal that we’re taking.
Adrian Butash: You mean the grievance of eating meet versus a plant based diet?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, how often do we see that in prayers?
Adrian Butash: I don’t see much about meat, I see a lot about the bread because bread is very sacred and corn which is from the millennia the primary food that people would grow and survive.
Caryn Hartglass: Well there could be a number of reasons for that and it could be for a long time humanity ate mostly from plants and it’s only recently that we are eating so many more animal products than we used to or it could be this thing I talk about all the time where we are really uncomfortable with taking the life of a sentient being and don’t know how to deal with it so we just avoid it.
Adrian Butash: Right. Well for example this wonderful blessing in here that comes from John Greenleaf Whittier and it’s The corn song it’s a prayer, a blessing about corn if I may just read it a short line.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes please.
Adrian Butash: Thank you. “Heap high the farmer’s wintry hoard. Heap high the golden corn. No richer gift has autumn poured. From out her lavish horn! But let the good old crop adorn. The hills our fathers trod; still let us, for His golden corn, send up our thanks to God!” That’s John Greenleaf Whittier and that’s from the 1800s; wonderful, wonderful prayer.
Caryn Hartglass: I think if people took the time to bless their food, to think about their food, we’d be in a lot better place. If we even just talk about corn, there’s so many horrific things going on with corn today, where there used to be so many different varieties and now we are monocropping here in the United States, we’re really decreasing the diversity of the kinds of corn and then of course there is genetically modified corn and then we’re making sweet sugar corn syrup out of corn rather than using it in its whole healthy form.
Adrian Butash: Understood, understood. Well that whole issue that you’re so expert on; food, and responsible eating and living and processing and the benefits of plant based diets is certainly commendable. I embrace it and it’s also something that’s been the substance of society since we’ve been on this blessed earth.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve dog-eared a lot of pages in this book because there were so many different ones that I really, really enjoyed but when I first picked it up I started thinking about my personal experience with prayers, prayers before meals, saying grace and it’s something that we don’t really do very much in our culture today and the few times that I’ve been at someone’s dinner table where they naturally either closed their eyes, held hands, quietly said words to themselves or said something, often it was uncomfortable.
Adrian Butash: Well that’s a very, very interesting point and one of the reasons I did this book was I wanted to be able to bring the child to the table. As a child can read, you can give this book to a child and suddenly instead of being a quiet member at the table they can be the shining star and it’s a wonderful experience. I’ve had a lot of mails from people about the book and how the children have used it at the prayer before meal.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m reading prayer thirteen Teachings of the Buddha “if beings knew, as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would they allow the stain of meanness to obsess them and take root in their minds. Even if it were their last morsel, their last mouthful, they would not enjoy eating without having shared it, if there were someone to share it with.”
Adrian Butash: That’s a lovely, lovely poem and of course it’s a classic that goes back to the 5th century B.C. one of the things about this particular prayer is that Buddha is under the Bodhi tree so if you think of the tree with its roots in heaven and its branches reaching down through earth with the fruit on the branches, what a wonderful piece of symbolism.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so you had great experience with this book over the years and how do we get this into more people’s hands so that they can say some of these words, kind of reach back into history and forward into the future and realize our connection with earth, air, water, food, all life on earth and have a better appreciation for it.
Adrian Butash: Well of course it comes through the book system which today is now online thank goodness so people like you and your program can promulgate Bless This Food as a wonderful family book that includes children in the circle of experience at the dining table.
Caryn Hartglass: Part of the problem is we got to get people to the table. People don’t know where their kitchen is anymore and they’re not eating at the table very often.
Adrian Butash: Well maybe the book can be the locus of interest. I’m particularly pleased also for example when you’re having a guest at a meal to give the book to the guest and suddenly they become the hero of that meal which is a wonderful experience for any visitor.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I don’t say grace or bless my food but I’m more motivated now to take a moment to think about it. Sometimes I like to on this show and at other times have people imagine or just think for a moment where their food comes, whatever it is. It’s almost a game because today it is so complicated let’s start with a seed and the person involved with planting the seed and all of the people that are involved in nurturing it and growing it and all the machines that are involved and who created those machines and the companies involve with the machines, the fertilizers, there is just so many different businesses now that are involved at every step; harvesting, shipping, packaging, traveling, and then going somewhere else and being transformed into something else and having that packaged and shipped and there’s just so many people in one morsel of food.
Adrian Butash: Well it’s true it certainly is a mechanized and fast industry. It’s essential to get food to everyone but I think one of the things that’s lovely is the motion of harvest and for example I have two prayers in the book prayer 125 and 141 and if I may, one is an English traditional hymn; here “For the hay and the corn and the wheat that is reaped, For the labor well done, and the barns that are heaped, For the sun and the dew and the sweet honeycomb, For the rose and the song and the harvest brought home -Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving!” It’s an English traditional hymn. And with thanksgiving around the corner it’s probably one of the most lovely poems that covers a wide base and may I do Nancy Byrd Turner’s prayer? This is prayer 141, this is very short but it’s lovely “Thank God for home, and crisp, fair weather, And loving hearts That meet together And red, ripe fruit And golden grain, And dear Thanksgiving Come again!” I love thanksgiving, it’s my favorite meal, my favorite time of year.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh absolutely.
Adrian Butash: Partly it motivated me for writing this book if I may I’ll tell you just a brief reason how the book came to be.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes please.
Adrian Butash: Okay. Thank you. I was in Harvard Square one day doing work, this is back in 2008, it was about this time a year and I decided to want to find this book so I went to the Widener library which is 21 universities connected around the world. Long story short I typed in the query for this book and it kept coming back consult the Mahabharata and all these obscure tracks that I heard about but it wasn’t certainly wasn’t going to read and I had that ding dong moment I think I’ll write this nice little book and that’s how it came about, couldn’t find what I wanted.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I like a lot of different things about it and one of the things we are having a problem with, I don’t want to bring politics up but obviously I’m bringing it up, we are having this thing right now with our two parties democrats and republicans and they can’t agree they can’t come to the table and align on things that they agree upon, and this could be a step and there are just so many references about sharing and that breaking bread concept. We all share so many essential things and if we could acknowledge that and be grateful for that, I think we could move forward in so many ways.
Adrian Butash: Well I agree and that’s words well said. the other thing that I like about some of the prayers I found while reading this one last one is the companionship that comes from having friends at the table and prayer 57 is from Ch’eng-Kung Sui dated in 273 A.D. that is a thousand seven hundred years ago but listen to this is wonderful “I sent out invitations to summon guests, I collected together all my friends. Loud talk and ample feeling: discussion of philosophy, investigation of subtleties, tongues loosened and minds at one hearts refreshed by discharge of emotion.” That’s to me so lovely I mean Chinese culture is the oldest living civilization in the world and here they talk about having friends over and good discussions. There is nothing about religion here it’s all about the friendships that come with people over and …….
Caryn Hartglass: “And tongues loosened,” I love that line.
Adrian Butash: I’m sure by psychism, “…hearts refreshed by discharge of emotion,” that notion is so beautiful you want to get your peace out and share it with the people at the table with you. so the book is a wide ranging examination of why we should be thankful, how to bring children to the table and give them a role and you realize that throughout history blessing food and being thankful for survival has been integral part of this wonderful existence on earth.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. I grew up on Long Island near Huntington where Walt Whitman was born so I especially enjoyed prayer 77 by Walt Whitman. “How beautiful and perfect are the animals, how perfect the earth and the minutest thing on it. What is called good is perfect and what is called bad is just as perfect. The vegetables and minerals are all perfect and the imponderable fluids perfect. Slowly and surely they have passed on to this and slowly and surely they pass on, I swear I think there is nothing but immortality.”
Adrian Butash: That’s lovely, I’m also from Long Island, I was raised in Hempstead and know Huntington well and your part of the world, but now I’m in California the land of the eternal sun here and I actually do love it.
Caryn Hartglass: I call California the promise land.
Adrian Butash: Go west young women go west
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah so I’ve lived there a number of times and I may get back there again but just like all places things change.
Adrian Butash: Well that’s true if I may say one other thing in the book I have two signed blessings. American sign language including one for a child and so that is another aspect of the book the Grayson sign language ASL American sign language an adult Grayson, a child’s Grayson, I’ve got a lot of mail over the years on how much fun it is to pass the book around and have a child do the blessings by American sign language it’s pretty easy to do.
Caryn Hartglass: I like that and I think I’m going to bring this along to Thanksgiving which I think is many people`s favorite holiday and certainly in the vegetarian vegan community it is the major holiday because we are so food obsessed in this community and there are some symbols that come with the holiday and we choose to change for obvious reasons but I think it’s because many of us are so focused on food and the importance of food and where it Comes from and how important it is to be thankful and so frustrating to know how many people today are suffering from poor health because they are not being mindful about their food and what it is they are eating and what it is they are putting in their bodies and if they were grateful for where it came from and thought about where it came from and what was in it and whether it was real or not. I mean these prayers these blessings talk about real food they are not talking about manufactured food and that’s what we are thankful for the real food.
Adrian Butash: Caryn if I just may say one other thing, in the back of the book I have Bless This Food the short tittle in 19 languages and it’s really fun because for example in Latin which I do not speak Benedicat et hoc sub is bless this food and in Spanish Bendita sea esta comida and in French Bénis cette nourriture. You can say, you can memorize 3 words in a different language you can be a hero at the table.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s a lovely thing and not just say “hello, goodbye” and “where are the toilets?” but you can say “Bless this food” I really like that. So I just wanted to talk a little bit more about you just because going to your website adrianarts.com I see that this isn’t food related but it’s lovely and I thought worth mentioning so you do sculpture and I love music I’m a singer and certainly appreciate all things musical and see these beautiful sculptures you’ve done in the shape of a piano.
Adrian Butash: Right. I did those a number of years ago and I saw maybe 3 or 4 sculptures 36 in marvel or granite a custom order and adrianarts.com has my activities and I’m actually going to New York in about a month. I have a 6-foot piano sculpture at Steinway, and we are going to decide what to do with it, probably donate it to Lincoln center or something big but is very interesting and pianist like Billy Joel and some others have my sculptures. So the piano is something I was raised with we had two in the house. We had a concert grand and an upright piano. one of the things about ideas and creativity in our artistry which you know well is, your mind is input with images and important things to you emotionally but you can’t process that until years and years so this is something that was in my psyche as a child the piano and eventually I did a sculpture of it and the sculptures are copyrighted.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I’m looking at some of the pictures and there is something really lovely about the shape of a piano, in ways I never thought of before, it’s somewhat heart shaped.
Adrian Butash: Well it has that very seductive curve that if the piano is up the left side is straight and the right side is very lyrical it echoes everything that is designed in the world.
Caryn Hartglass: I like it a lot.
Adrian Butash: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so anything else we can talk about in Bless This Food before I let you go?
Adrian Butash: Well, I think you’ve covered the subject very nicely and wanted to thank you very much and I’ve been to your website and seen the good work that you are doing and I support you with the benefits of the plant based diet and I’ve got quite a few of food blessing that cover your domain and I’m particularly proud of the fact that I get a lot of mail about children being able to read at the table the book including the classic hand printed thank you Mr. Butash, you know the letters going both ways, the letter from children that the parents have use the book to force the child or to suggest to the child that they write to the author which is something I don’t utilize as an adult to write to an author.
Caryn Hartglass: And many people still don’t do that to this day but it’s a lovely thing and you probably like receiving mail.
Adrian Butash: Well of course it’s always a surprise to see the envelope return addressed with a name you don’t know.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh what is this, and somebody saying lovely things, who doesn’t like that.
Adrian Butash: Well also particularly if it’s handwritten, everything today is so mechanized and printed and we can throw the trash mail away just by looking at how the envelope is formed but there is nothing like handwriting and talking one-on-one, human-to-human, it’s something lovely that this book is shown me and given me great, great satisfaction with.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes so I recommend everyone to get to their table more often first find your kitchen make some lovely food invite some wonderful people and sit down at the table, put your smartphones away no texting of your prayers. Look at each other hold everyone’s hands and really think about where your food is coming from. It just may change everything for the better.
Adrian Butash: Well let me close again on Father Giuliani “Bless our hearts to hear in the breaking of bread, the song of the universe.” That is such a beautiful blessing and again I believe Father Giuliani is in Bridgeport, Connecticut. So a lot of my prayers are thousands of years old but good old Father Giuliani did a very lovely prayer that’s likening bread to the song of the universe, exquisite poetry.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food, Adrian and lets bless all of our food and get this message out there it’s so important.
Adrian Butash: Thank you Ms. Hartglass I loved your program and your interview.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you, all the best. It’s time for a little break so let’s bless this program shall we, we are talking about food and be grateful for all thing we can take the time and learn about so that we can all make a positive difference on this planet why not? So we are going to come back in a moment and talk to me Tracy McCormick she’s got a very compelling story about how she healed herself from Crohn’s disease with my kitchen cure, we’ll be right back.
Transcribed by 1/17/2014 by Alma Zazueta