Kathy Freston is a New York Times–bestselling author with a concentration on healthy living and conscious eating. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ellen, The Dr. Oz Show, and The Martha Stewart Show, and in Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and Self. Freston is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.
Hello everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you, thank you for being here today. I am here in the Progressive Radio Network Studio where I’m happy to be right now. It’s cool and comfortable and clear. I’m looking forward to later, when my second guest will be bringing me some food so that’s going to be a lot of fun. We’ll be sampling some tasty Thai food. I wanted to remind you about some big events coming up. I’ve mentioned it before on the program and the dates are coming up soon. So here’s your big reminder: The Engine Two people, that’s Rip Esselstyn and the whole Esselstyn crew, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Ann Esselstyn, Jane Esselstyn and Rip are teaming up with the Forks Over Knives people and they’re having some great events. There are three weekender events, one is in Dallas coming up very soon, on September 30th to October 2nd. There’s another one in Cleveland October 28th to the 30th and Pasadena on March 24th to March 26th. These are really wonderful opportunities where you get to eat great food. You get to hear very valuable information from all of these wonderful people who are so passionate about healthy, delicious plant eating. I got to deal for you because if you go to responsibleeatingandliving.com, that’s my website, responsibleeatingandliving.com… If you don’t want to type it out you really should get our free app which we’ve had for a long time now. It’s all there on the home page. I will give you $50 off on this weekender and the discount code is REAL50, so check that out. Then there’s the weeklong immersion—this is really wonderful—it’s in Sedona, a place I have never been and long to go. Dr. Klaper and Dr. Lisle will be there in addition to the Esselstyn team. The discount for you is REAL150. That’s $150 off that weekend long immersion. So if you were interested before, the time is getting soon for those events. Check it out.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I am super, super delighted today for this program and for my first guest. Kathy Freston is a New York Times’ best selling author with a concentration on healthy living and conscious eating. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ellen, The Dr. Oz Show, The Martha Stewart Show, and in Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and Self. Freston is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. The book we’re going to be talking about today is The Book of Veganish, The Ultimate Guide to Easing into a Plant-Based Cruelty-Free, Awesomely Delicious Way to Eat, with 70 Easy Recipes Anyone can Make. Kathy, thank you, I’m delighted to have you join me on It’s All About Food today.
Kathy Freston: Thank you for having me, Caryn. I’m so happy to be here with you.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. I’ve been following you for a long time. You are definitely one of our shining leaders and so positive, especially because of one thing that I’ve heard you say many times, is that none of us has to be perfect.
Kathy Freston: Correct. I could not be perfect if I tried and I think that trying to be perfect, like Voltaire famously said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Let’s just shoot for the better and better and continue to lean forward.
Caryn Hartglass: If we were perfect wouldn’t things be boring? There’d be nothing to do.
Kathy Freston: I agree. I agree and that disciplined approach just never works, does it?
Caryn Hartglass: No, so I’m glad you’re putting that out there, all the time and in many different ways. Now the first question I have for you, it’s kind of a grammar question—I’m into language—you’ve coined a few words. A while back you had a book that you used the word Veganist, Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World and now we’re talking about “veganish”. Now are these adverbs, adjectives? How do we use these words and what are the differences between the two?
Kathy Freston: Yeah, well, veganist was about my obsession—“ist”—means you’re just someone who wants to go farther and really become an expert just like an artist or a cellist or a pacifist. It’s someone who’s committed to a certain way of life. So this book, the Book of Veganish, is written for young adults and the young at heart. So that means millennials, people newly out of college, maybe still in college and they’re just getting exposed to these ideas of what it means to eat plant-based versus animal foods. This generation is not big on labels. They really don’t want to be called one thing or the other, whether it’s political persuasion or gender or whatever belief system, could be religious. They’re much more fluid and flexible. I think that fits right in to the whole…my philosophy has always been progress not perfection. I think it really works for this upcoming generation. Rather than call yourself something then box yourself in, it’s all about the “ish”. It’s all about the “ish”.
Caryn Hartglass: I like it, the “ish”. Maybe we’ll have a few knish with the “veganish”.
Kathy Freston: Exactly. I got to tell you, from my own experience, because I tend to be more relaxed about this stuff, I get a lot of pushback sometimes from activists.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, those angry activists.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, yeah. I think, maybe it’s the vegan police. I don’t know what you want to call them. I get it, people are super passionate. It’s a very emotional thing to suddenly discover what happens to animals and you want to just yell it from the rooftops and make everyone change overnight. I get that, but it doesn’t do any good. I know that when people push back at me, the hardcore activists, it made me want to shutdown. It made me want to just say, “Gosh, I can’t do anything then. So why bother?” I think that that’s the case in a lot of things. I think the idea of just chilling and exploring and making it fun and taking this journey at your own pace, one step at a time, we’re likely to have better success with ourselves as we make these changes, rather than being frustrated and then bouncing back to old ways.
Caryn Hartglass: That works for me. I always like to look towards the light, look towards the joy, look towards the things that feel good and help point people in that direction knowing that in the other direction may be dark and evil and terrible. We know it’s there but let’s go the other way.
Kathy Freston: I totally agree. I totally agree and I think it’s something that we’re more likely to have a success if we take it slowly, then the changes come comfortably. What if I just love the whole idea of being plant-based but I’m freaking addicted to cheese fries? The idea of giving up my cheese fries, it’s game over, I can’t do it. I would say, “Hey, move toward this way of eating and don’t worry if you enjoy your cheese fries every once in awhile.
Caryn Hartglass: And then discover vegan cheese fries.
Kathy Freston: Exactly. Then what happens is you feel so good eating this way otherwise that you do tend to push a little farther and explore a little bit more and then it’s a free choice rather than being shamed into it, shamed by yourself or shamed by activists.
Caryn Hartglass: We have too many opportunities for guilt and anxiety and shame and …
Kathy Freston: We have enough of that.
Caryn Hartglass: Enough!
Kathy Freston: Exactly, exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve been vegan almost 30 years…
Kathy Freston: Oh wow.
Caryn Hartglass: …and the best results I have always had is when I put healthy delicious vegan food in people’s mouths.
Kathy Freston: Isn’t that the truth?
Caryn Hartglass: That’s the biggest selling point. “Oh, I can eat this, this is good. Can you cook for me?”
Kathy Freston: Totally, totally. And you know what I think Caryn, that’s kind of what happens, is people are interested in it and then it’s like, “Ohhh, what am I going to eat?” It’s so primal. It’s so, like, “Oh my God you’re going to take food out of my mouth. I’m going to starve and I’m never going to be able to enjoy the traditions that I grew up loving.” I get that. It’s so much to think about and it’s such an emotional repulsion almost. So if you take that away and you just say, “No, this is going to be a fun exploration. You’re going to try some new things. You’re going to experiment with recipes, check out some restaurants, try a different entrée at your favorite restaurant.” Then the food wins you over because the food is freaking fabulous these days.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes it is.
Kathy Freston: Over the top, fabulous, with restaurants like Crossroads or Gracias Madre or Little Pine or even my favorite two restaurants in the world that aren’t vegan are steak restaurants and they have tofu dishes there. There are all kinds of fantastic food that is just like taking off in the modern culture.
Caryn Hartglass: You talk about swaps in this book and what’s funny to me is there was another book about swaps. It was by the Skinny Bitch duo…
Kathy Freston: Oh.
Caryn Hartglass: …and there was a vegan swaps book. It was a while ago. It was a fine book but the swap concept; I didn’t get it until I read your book.
Kathy Freston: Oh, thank you, thank you. Yeah, there’s always a solution. There’s always something to fill the sandwich with. Something when you’re used to one thing you can always find the other. Even when you’re baking, instead of eggs you can use applesauce or flax. They have egg replacer in the market now. There are all kinds of stuff and it’s just so fun to experiment. It’s really kind of a great, great thing to do with friends and in your community and on the weekends, you know? It’s just fun.
Caryn Hartglass: I do know. I do know because I sit down for every meal almost with my partner Gary and we look at each other, eating this delicious food and we think we’re the luckiest people in the world because we have the best food right here.
Kathy Freston: So colorful and it’s so hearty. Frankly I look back at the way that I used to eat which is very standard American diet—a piece of chicken, some rice, some peas, some broccoli, whatever. Now I look at that and that is just so boring, like seriously boring, dead food.
Caryn Hartglass: Dead.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, it is. Now I look at my plate and it is chock full. I’m not really a salad person unless it’s super hot outside. I like really hearty, filling food and I love comfort food. It’s just that my comfort food has shifted from fried chicken and mashed potatoes to grilled seitan or …
Caryn Hartglass: …and mashed potatoes.
Kathy Freston: Exactly, exactly. It’s the same, a lot of protein, a lot of healthy carbs, not the processed stuff and I don’t miss anything.
Caryn Hartglass: I read a lot of books especially for this show, food related, lots of how to do vegan, all different kinds. For example, last week I spoke with Mark Hawthorne who has a very serious, excellent book out called Vegan Ethic. It’s like an encyclopedia of all the issues you want to think about when you’re thinking about raising animals for food versus raising plants for food and then animals for all other purposes. He hit like every issue. It was inspiring but it was deep. Then I read your book, which you explained, is focused on younger generations, teens and young adults, written with Rachel Cohn, who apparently, I think she—I’m going to give her a lot of credit for this—it’s written so well. I can really see it appealing to that audience and yet you seem to cover just about everything in a way that’s easy.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, we didn’t want to over saturate with facts and figures…
Caryn Hartglass: …but it’s all there.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, it’s all there without being laborious. I think we all read so much now, online and newsletters and everything. We wanted to just get to the point, get the talking points, give you enough research so that you know what you’re doing is right and backed up by studies and academia and stuff like that but it doesn’t weigh you down with too much information. It’s just enough. Yes, Rachel is my… I can tend to be a little wonky and nerdy and wanting to fill things up with…it’s like, “here’s another thing, just so you know, it’s one more thing.” She really was great at just making it very, very easy to take in the information.
Caryn Hartglass: Very easy and yet at the same time obvious, so if you’re reading it I’d like to think you’d get it quickly.
Kathy Freston: I hope so.
Caryn Hartglass: And then want to act.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: You have a number of testimonials in here. I have to admit, this may have been my most favorite part of the book. I just want to read it, if that’s ok.
Kathy Freston: Of course.
Caryn Hartglass: “My 90-year-old grandmother lives in Queens and she has lived in New York all her life. On one of my most recent visits, she and I were waiting for the elevator in her apartment building. We had just had a lovely meal in the building café and she was asking me about veganism and noticing that I had requested no cheese on my salad. I answered her questions and then she said something amazing, ‘You know ever since you started this thing I stopped eating so much meat. I guess I started to see a face with my food.’ This to me is still one of the most remarkable statements I ever heard regarding transition and diet. If a 90-year-old Jewish New Yorker with the taste for beef and gefilte fish can change, anybody can.” Lydia, New York, New York
Kathy Freston: Isn’t that the greatest?
Caryn Hartglass: I live in Queens with all of those 90-year-old grandmothers. I see them all the time.
Kathy Freston: Well done.
Caryn Hartglass: That really is remarkable.
Kathy Freston: It’s funny because the younger generation is sort of bringing up the older generation. They’re pushing forward at a rate that’s so much faster and they’re making it easier and they’re cutting to the chase. Again, they’re really chill about it. They’re not dogmatic. They’re not bossy. They’re not about strict rules. The older generation is like, “Oh, that kind of does make sense.” They’re just sort of leading by example. They’re having fun with it. I love seeing two people that far apart in age just really have the light bulb go on. It’s awesome.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah and for all of those 90-year-old grandmothers living in Queens who want to go this way I have a great vegan gefilte fish recipe just for you.
Kathy Freston: Gefilte fish, mm.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s a special…acquired taste.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, I think you have to grow up loving it. It’s probably like the vegemite sandwich or something.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s a fish, very fishy. Let’s just go over briefly to Robin Robertson’s wonderful recipes.
Kathy Freston: Is she amazing, or what?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Kathy Freston: I have been a fan of hers for so many years. This woman knows how to make comfort food. She is a chef that just has a knack for tapping into your love of tradition and comfort. It’s so good.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just about all here. So before we get into Robin’s, I just want to acknowledge and mention, you mentioned cashew cream before and Chef Tal Ronnen and Crossroads. He is another vegan god chef. Cashew cream is so simple, as you describe in the book and it goes on everything.
Kathy Freston: Everything! I don’t know if you’re like me but I just want creaminess. I just want creaminess in my soups. I want sauces. I want a delicious sort of drink like a smoothie. Not even a smoothie, just something delicious and cold and sweet. I mean cashew cream spaghetti sauce, Alfredo, everything. It is so inexpensive and easy and …
Caryn Hartglass: …and good for you. No guilt.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, protein, everything. It’s fantastic.
Caryn Hartglass: I almost don’t want to say this but cashew cream is pretty perfect.
Kathy Freston: I know, it is. Believe me, I sing it from the rooftops. “You guys have to try this.” I know there’s so many people like me and we’re addicted to that cheesy feeling. It’s like that creamy-cheesy thing, know what I mean? So knowing that you can create this at home is just a godsend.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s making me think about something for a minute. Let’s talk about cheese. So many people say, “I can’t be vegan because I can’t give up dairy, I can’t give up cheese.” I’m thinking the cheese that people love the most isn’t really the sophisticated hard cheeses that you get in fine restaurants from France or whatever. It’s that melty, gooey stuff.
Kathy Freston: I have to say I like pretty much any kind of cheese, the sophisticated hard, the cheese gooey, the pizza stuff, the stuff in the burritos, pretty much anything but that’s the good news now…
Caryn Hartglass: It’s easy to make the melty gooey soft stuff.
Kathy Freston: Totally, totally. You’ve got the high end ones on the market like Kite Hill…
Caryn Hartglass: …Miyoko
Kathy Freston: Exactly, so you can have Miyoko and Kite Hill and all that stuff and you can also have Daiya melted on your pizza and Follow Your Heart on your toast. There are just so many good cheeses out there.
Caryn Hartglass: Can I just acknowledge that you pronounced “Daiya” correctly?
Kathy Freston: Oh did I?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, everyone wants to call it “die-ya”.
Kathy Freston: Oh, yeah, well, “to-may-to”, “to-mah-to”
Caryn Hartglass: I learned that it’s “day-ya” and you know how I remember it? My friends John and Deo Robins, I always think of Deo and then I say “day-ya” instead of “Day-yo” and that’s how I remember how to say it.
Kathy Freston: Perfect. Love it, I love it. I’ll have to remember that.
Caryn Hartglass: Even Deo calls it “die-ya”.
Kathy Freston: It’s so good though.
Caryn Hartglass: It doesn’t matter what you call it, right? You call it “day-ya”, I call it “die-ya”, let’s call the whole thing off.
Kathy Freston: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: Eat vegan cheese.
Kathy Freston: As long as they exist out there I’m so happy.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. Do you have a favorite in here?
Kathy Freston: You know I’m a big protein person and I again, probably veer off of the vegan-speak out there that you don’t need a lot of protein. You don’t, for medical reasons, you don’t. We get plenty, plenty of protein. There’s no protein deficiency. That said, I work out really hard and I am vain and my hair is important to me and I just love protein-centric recipes and foods. So one of my favorites is on page 134, the Red Bean and Sweet Potato Hash. Anything with sweet potatoes I’m so happy with and this has the red beans so it’s like a one dish meal that you can have. It’s like a big bowl of sweet potatoes and beans with wonderful spices and herbs and everything. If you wanted to add more you can grill up a piece of tofu or a piece of Beyond Meat, throw in some broccoli, whatever you want to do but it’s just so good and so protein-rich.
Caryn Hartglass: You know I don’t think you need to slam the protein too much because number one, animal protein is pretty much all protein but when you’re eating plant protein, it’s got good carbohydrates in there. It’s like balanced naturally.
Kathy Freston: Exactly, exactly. It gives you so much energy. The healthy whole carbs like sweet potatoes… Okinawans are one of the blue zones, the longest living people in the world, especially the women, and they eat sweet potatoes all day long. They have them for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner. It is one of the longevity foods in the world. I like it because it’s not only fiber but it’s tasty, it’s kind of sweet, it’s so hardy and it’s just one of those things that you know you’re doing your body good.
Caryn Hartglass: Is everybody hungry yet? You should be. Talking about all this food always makes me very, very hungry.
Kathy Freston: I know, me too. I’m a foodie, I love food. I’m like you, when I sit down I’m like “Oh God, I love this so much. I love this food so much. It’s so damn good.”
Caryn Hartglass: Love this food so much. Now another good thing that I like in this book, it works for me, is you break it down, simplify things because people are so confused, “What do I eat? I don’t know what to eat.” People don’t even realize that so often they eat vegan as it is without even realizing it because most people don’t know what’s in their food to begin with. But you break it down, protein, starch, veggie and flavor boost. That’s a really nice way to think of it.
Kathy Freston: That’s the thing. So much about the sauces or the spices, are like how do you make it taste good? You got to find the things that make you happy. To me, I am so fine in the world as long as I have garlic, olive oil and salt. Honest to God, I could just live on that, put that on just about anything and I’m happy.
Caryn Hartglass: A little cashew cream? Done.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, exactly, cashew cream. Some people like cashew cream, some people like a peanut sauce, some people like a little sweeter. Once you have the flavor boost. The things you know you can add to just about anything, the food just comes alive, you know? And it’s pretty simple.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, the last thing I want to mention is the photographs in this book. Now I think all cookbooks should have many color photos. I don’t think it should be any other way. Unfortunately because of cost or whatever some people don’t have, as many and I like when they’re throughout. This is a very colorful book, lots of wonderful pictures.
Kathy Freston: Nicole Axworthy was our food stylist and photographer and she’s just fantastic. You can tell she loves it.
Caryn Hartglass: You want to lick the pages.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, and it’s simple, you can see how simple the food is to make. It’s not one of these fancy things that take you three-quarters of your day to shop and figure out how to make it. They’re pretty darn fast, like ten minutes, twenty minutes, to make this stuff and most of the stuff is, you know, either in your cabinet already or available in your local grocery store. You don’t even have to go to a health food store for it. So it’s really good stuff and Nicole just captured the recipes perfectly.
Caryn Hartglass: Perfectly. She did.
Kathy Freston: Yeah, I’m looking through it right now and …
Caryn Hartglass: You should be pretty proud. This is a great book. And for kids going off to college and teens in high school this would make a great gift.
Kathy Freston: And any adult…
Caryn Hartglass: …any adult. Because it’s easy to read.
Kathy Freston: It’s the ultimate guide to just sort of finding your way into this way of life.
Caryn Hartglass: Kathy, this was delight, delight, delight, pure delight. Thank you.
Kathy Freston: Thank you Caryn. I love talking to you.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, take care.
Kathy Freston: You too. Bye.
Caryn Hartglass: That was Kathy Freston, author of the Book of Veganish. Please look for it. It’s beautiful, stunning, fabulous. Can’t say enough good about it and I love it and full of comfort food.
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 9/18/2016