Part I: Kim Barnouin
She is the co-author of the New York Times Bestseller Skinny Bitch, and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, as well as Skinny Bitchin, Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven, and Skinny Bastard. She released her first solo book Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook in October of 2010. She is the founder of her website www.healthybitchdaily.com, a fun and informative green living guide for women.
Hello everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. It is an absolutely gorgeous day here in New York City on March 14th, 2012. I am so happy to be here this hour to talk to you, especially about my favorite subject: food. It’s going to be a good one today, a good hour. So, you know we talk about food and how food affects all life on earth: the health of the planet, the health of ourselves personally, our friends, our families…and certainly effects on the other species that we share this home planet Earth with. We cover lots of different subjects on this show and the one thing that I love is that I get to talk to so many different people who are helping make this world a better place, helping people in so many different ways eat a better diet, a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, raw nuts and seeds. Helping us all move along the food continuum to a better place. A lot of people they do all different kinds of things. Different people appeal to different messages and that’s why…this is a diverse world and it’s great that we have so many different people telling this story, sharing this message in very different ways. OK. So today we have a great guest to start with. We have one of the co-authors of the Skinny Bitch series: Kim Barnouin. She is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller Skinny Bitch, along with Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bitchin’, Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven, and Skinny Bastard. She has a master of science in holistic nutrition. She’s a former model and has successfully counseled models, actors, athletes, and other professionals using the Skinny Bitch method. She lives in Los Angeles.
(Caryn) Welcome to It’s All About Food!
(Kim) Hi there, how are you?
(Caryn) Hi, I’m great. It’s gorgeous here. How is it in California?
(Kim) It’s always pretty nice in California too.
(Caryn) That’s good. I’m really happy to be able to talk to you today. You and Rory Friedman have made quite a sensation in the vegan world and in the mainstream world getting this message out.
(Kim) Yeah, I’m very fortunate to have kind of started from what would be a small community back in 2005 when the book came out to a really big growing and followers from all walks of life and all ages. It’s been translated into twenty-one different languages. It’s really done well and we’re very proud.
(Caryn) Well, it’s interesting. I got into this scene a long time ago. I became a vegan in 1988 and I was vegetarian for a long time before that and things were very different then. There were different books to kind of tell the message but we definitely got some great momentum going in the last ten years or so, and your books are definitely a part of that, which is very exciting.
(Kim) It’s nice to be a part of something that is so big and growing and changing because, you know, you’re right. I think when you were vegetarian and vegan that was such a cute era of hippie, crunchy granola people and it was looked upon so different that you guys really had something going on way back then that took the rest of us a lot longer to figure out. But it’s a nice movement; people are really embracing it. It’s funny. I was just catching up on my TV show Cupcake Wars and they had a whole show dedicated to vegan cupcakes and I thought, “Wow, this is great. We’ve come so far.”
(Caryn) Right. Well, Doron Petersan was the winner of a few of those vegan cupcake wars or “the” Cupcake Wars.
(Kim) It’s such a good thing. I think even there was one contest where the vegan cupcake beat out the regular cupcake with dairy.
(Caryn) That’s right. And it should.
(Kim) Yes, exactly. And it shows that you can have vegan treats that are so great and they don’t have to taste weird.
(Caryn) They don’t taste weird. They can taste normal and I personally think they taste better than normal because when I’m eating, especially after all these years of doing the kind of eating that I’ve been doing and thinking about it, I connect the dots. One of the ways I got myself off dairy a long time ago…you know a lot of people—you know this—say “Oh, I can’t give up cheese and I love my ice cream, etc….I used to think about what it was. I used to think about the cows; I used to think about the veal calves that were associated with the cows that needed to become pregnant in order to make milk in order to get us that milk and then those veal calves, of course, would be slaughtered at an early age. I would think about all of the diseases it was linked with so that milk didn’t taste good to me anymore.
(Kim) That’s a good way to put it. I think a lot of people are starting to get that when you explain to them where it’s coming from, that nowadays it’s not just this cute little cow getting milked by one little farmer and then going straight to your breakfast table but the things that they’re putting into the animals like the hormones, the steroids, the antibiotics. Everything that animal’s getting we’re ingesting too. When people hear that, that’s another thing that sort of makes them scratch their head and think about that a little bit.
(Caryn) I love your story, how you came around to being passionate about food and how you found your way. People love stories like that, especially in the United States where we want to think that everybody has a chance and everybody can make it and everybody can follow their dream. You’re a pretty good example of that.
(Kim) I’ve just been really fortunate and I still to this day always am so grateful of the past that’s been in front of me and what I’m doing. I was just some girl who had dropped out of high school and was sort of lost and trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. I know that I was passionate about helping people in some way but I didn’t know how. Then after being sick myself for quite a few years…I’d just been so frustrated that I said “OK, that’s it. I need to start figuring out what’s wrong with me. I don’t have health insurance. I’m going to start messing with my diet because it’s the one thing I have control over.” So I changed my diet, got rid of a lot of the bad stuff, and slowly I started feeling so much better. A light bulb went off. I knew that I had gotten to something really incredible—that food had the power to heal me so I knew I wanted to share everything that I’d been going through with other people. Obviously a book is a great way to do it. I was waitressing for years and hoping the book would do well and I’m pregnant and I’m waitressing, finishing the book, going to school and fortunately the universe kind of came to meet me and it worked out in a really wonderful way.
(Caryn) I wish that there was a book like this that had been available back in 1988 but part of this book puts together so many other pieces of so many other people who have created all of these transition and helpful products.
(Kim) Yeah, it was really because of people that had done a lot of work, a lot of research, and put a lot of time into studying nutrition and animals and where our food’s coming from. It’s people like John Robbins and David Steinmen; they’d done such great work before me so I really had some wonderful shoes whose footsteps to follow in. They were pioneers.
(Caryn) I’m reading the book—and I’ve used, I don’t know how many of these products but so many of them—and I keep thinking that gosh, it took so many different people. Like one person had to come up with deciding to create a mayonnaise and somebody else decided they’re going to make a vegan sour cream and somebody is going to make a vegan cheese and a vegan burger. They’re not all the same company and a lot of these started as small, little entrepreneurial start-ups. That’s one of the things I was reflecting on when I was reviewing your book and how great that was.
(Kim) There are wonderful products out there and the funny thing is there’s going to be so many more because we just had the natural product expo in California. I didn’t go because I was traveling out of town but people were telling me there were so many vendors and they were introducing so many new vegan food and vegan cheese and really wonderful things. We’re just getting a lot more choices now, which is a great thing.
(Caryn) I was reading an article in the New York Times this past weekend by Mark Bittman, the food writer. I don’t know if you caught it. He was talking about chicken and how we’re now at a point where there are many different faux chickens—these vegetarian chickens—that are, in certain dishes, are indistinguishable from its real counterpart and that he was even fooled—a culinary expert by one of the faux chickens that someone gave him. The point was that if you could have the taste, the flavor, the texture in a food, wouldn’t it be better to get it from a cruelty-free, planet-friendly source?
(Kim) Exactly. And I think once people start to taste, they open their minds and they start to taste these different products and see that they’re not weird. They don’t taste like cardboard. They get so scared at the thought of a “fake” product but they’re getting healthier, they’re getting tastier. And then look, you have no cholesterol, low saturated fat. It’s just an all-around benefit for everybody.
(Caryn) So you’re still studying nutrition. You’re working on your PhD now?
(Caryn) We’re going to be calling you Dr. Barnouin. I like that!
(Kim) It might take me some time but I’m going to get there.
(Caryn) The thing is, there are all different kinds of vegan diets and you could have a very healthy one and a not-so-healthy one depending on what you choose to eat. I personally think that it’s easy to maintain your weight on this kind of diet and much easier than any other kind of diet but it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to be slim.
(Kim) Right. I do get a lot of people that ask me that. “You know, I’ve been on this diet for a while. I haven’t lost any weight. What am I doing wrong?” And there are so many variables in there because you don’t know if they’re eating a healthy diet or if it’s well-balanced. Because when I first went vegetarian, I was happy that I wasn’t eating meat but I was still eating junk food so it didn’t really do me much good. I really had to pay attention to getting the good sources of protein and including whole grains in my diet. It was definitely a two-year progression of really learning how to eat well and incorporating exercise.
(Caryn) Yep. All of that’s important. It’s not just a diet, it is a lifestyle.
(Kim) And that’s what people don’t realize. That it isn’t just…we’re not vegans or following a specific diet like that for short term like, “Oh, we’ve got a high school reunion, we need to drop a few pounds,” which you could do. But it is a lifestyle. It is about being healthy and really incorporating new things into your everyday life for good.
(Caryn) I think it’s easier once you take on that attitude that this isn’t a diet, this is just a way to be.
(Kim) Right, exactly. Then it’s just so much fun. Then it isn’t a short-term fix. You just know, wow, I’m going to make this change and I found this product and it’s so good and it isn’t for the next two weeks. This is for good and I’m going to give it to my family. It’s a wonderful thing to embrace as a lifestyle.
(Caryn) OK, now let’s talk about family. Your husband is French. Does he eat the way you do?
(Kim) He does most of the time but he’s not a vegan because, you know, the French and their cheese. He’d divorce me if I asked him to give up the cheese.
(Caryn) I know. I was serious. I lived in France for four years—with a Frenchman. I never met a vegetarian while I was there. I know they have since come out of the closet and they’re a lot more vocal than they were back in the ’90s. It’s an interesting thing. I thought it was curious that you came up with this particular book, the book Vegan Swaps, because I know in France it really drives them crazy when you call something by a name and it’s not what it really is. You know what I’m talking about?
(Kim) Yeah, exactly.
(Caryn) Like when I would make a cassoulet, a white bean casserole, which traditionally has meats in it, I don’t use meat. I just use all the herbs and Dijon mustard and it has a lot of the flavors. Sometimes I might put tofu or tempeh or some kind of meat analogue but it’s not vrai cassoulet. It’s not a real cassoulet.
(Kim) Right. That’s funny because my husband just maybe three nights ago made the big, white, flat bean cassoulet. So he made two: he made one that had the meat in it for him and my son and then he made one for me that had seitan in it. He was teasing me that mine wasn’t the real cassoulet.
(Caryn) You see, what did I tell you?
(Kim) Right, exactly.
(Caryn) It’s hard for the French. We forgive them.
(Kim) I know. I’m very kind of laid-back in the sense that this is a choice that I made. I met my husband when I was vegetarian. He eats extremely healthy. He works in a restaurant so if he’s going to eat crazy steaks and stuff, he’ll do it there. But I’m not about to break up with someone because they eat meat and I choose not to.
(Caryn) Right. Well, I think the whole point is to get…I was talking before you came on about moving along the food continuum. Here in the United States, and unfortunately it’s happening all over the world now, we’re moving kind of in the wrong direction towards too many animal products and too many unhealthy junk foods—a lot of artificial stuff. We really need to move along that line back to more natural whole foods and more fruits and vegetables. In my personal heart, I would love the whole world to be vegan. I know that’s not going to happen. I would really like to see people get healthy. I’d like to see the environment not be so impacted by factory farming.
(Kim) Right. You know what was interesting? I think it was yesterday there was this news report that came out. I think it was a study by Harvard. It was in the USA Today. They talked about how they had done a twenty-year study with thousands of men. They were studying the effects of red meat and cancer. The study showed that if you’re eating one serving of red meat every single day, it promoted premature death by twelve percent. Any kind of, like, hot dog products or bacon, increased your chance of premature death by twenty percent.
(Caryn) Those are good numbers.
(Kim) Interesting to see that…and these are big, big organizations doing the studies. It’s sort of a happy day for people that…
(Caryn) …who have been talking about it for years and years and years.
(Kim) Right. And even if people do just cut it down from what they’re normally eating, that’s already such a great asset to their health.
(Caryn) I’m not familiar with that study and I will definitely check it out. The thing is—sometimes the unfortunate thing is—when people read they shouldn’t be eating red meat, they swap with the wrong foods. They don’t do vegan swaps, they do chicken and fish and that’s really not a healthier option.
(Kim) No. It’s so true. That was one of the things that I was talking about with another radio station (that) was saying there’s that wonderful campaign Meatless Mondays and I’ve been trying to talk about that with people and say one night a week you can give up your meat, your chicken, your fish and have a nice vegetarian or vegan meal. It gives your body such a break. It’s so good for the animals, the planet, your health. Anyone can do one day a week.
(Caryn) I think so.
(Kim) One day. Come on, people. Try it.
(Caryn) People say—you’ve probably heard this too—that this diet is not easy. I don’t know. I’ve been doing it so long, I can’t see doing otherwise. It’s not hard for me and I’ve traveled all around the world. Sometimes I find interesting foods and sometimes I don’t. I never thought of it as difficult. I just thought of it as a choice and I couldn’t do otherwise and I’m at peace with that. But the diet really isn’t difficult. What is it that makes people say it’s difficult?
(Kim) They have this preconceived idea that—something so drastic in their mind—that they couldn’t comprehend, “How could I give up all that stuff?” It seems daunting and overwhelming and so different than anything that they’ve known that they put it in this category of, “Oh my God, it’s just so difficult and hard.” But the truth of the matter is I was the biggest junk food eater. I loved meat, ribs, all of that stuff, and I’ve done it. If I can do it, anybody can do it. It’s just a matter of educating yourself to different foods that are out there, finding new grocery stores, finding farmers’ markets, slowly changing the way you’re eating—until it gets to be a new habit. It’s just something that…you’re learning something new. It’s like if you started a new job. You might not be great at it in the beginning but you’re going to learn about it and you’re going to be great at it in no time.
(Caryn) That’s right. I love the way you just followed your intuition to solve a problem because I think we all know inside what’s good for us and what’s healthy for us. We just need to tune in to the frequency.
(Kim) It’s so true. It’s so true. Our body will tell us if we can just listen.
(Caryn) OK. Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps. I’m looking at it now and the first thing that I like about it is the binding.
(Kim) Yeah. It’s a really fun, easy guide that you can put in your purse, put in your bag and kind of flip through, turn it over, keep it on one page when you’re in the grocery store or you’re trying to figure out where to go eat. Just a nice, fun user guide for tons of information.
(Caryn) Right. Very good. And I was very glad to see that you had some of my favorites in here. Now, I have to confess I try to eat whole foods and minimally processed foods as much as possible. I do have a variety of must-have items but I’m not a big prepared food eater, except when I’m traveling. That’s kind of a fun time because when I’m in a hotel and I’m not near restaurants, that’s when I go to a supermarket and I see what’s in the frozen department and see what kind of new vegan prepared meals are out and I get to try them… But one of my favorites is the Trader Joe’s Black Bean Enchiladas. And you had them in here.
(Kim) They are so good, aren’t they?
(Caryn) That’s one of my few when I’m too lazy to make food that I allow myself to have.
(Kim) I’m the same way. I really love to cook. Especially when you have a husband and a kid, you can’t just get something from the freezer section and (say), “Here you go guys. I heated this up in the oven.” I try to…we make things from scratch every day so when I have those foods, it’s the same. It’s a nice, special treat for me as well.
(Caryn) Yes. Let’s see. What’s amazing is there are so many different things in here. I also like that you mention May Wah because I don’t see a lot of people talking about May Wah outside of New York.
(Kim) Yes. They’ve got the most amazing vegan bacon strips. I love them. It wasn’t easy to find this. I had to find a Web site for people to get it. I always tell people, “When you find this, you need to get it.”
(Caryn) They have a store in Chinatown in Manhattan.
(Kim) Of course.
(Caryn) You can see it all and it’s just amazing. I’ve spoken to them. Unfortunately, none of the products come from here. So many of them…meats that are made there, these vegan meats, are like age-old recipes by monks and Buddhists that come from Taiwan.
(Kim) Wow! That’s really neat.
(Caryn) It is! I’m just wondering if we’ll ever learn how to do it. There’s one—I didn’t see in here—that I really love that I don’t have very often because it’s very decadent…it’s a drumstick.
(Kim) Oh. Is it from that same company?
(Kim) I haven’t tried those but I’ve heard great things about them. I figured that if people go to the Web site, maybe they’ll see a bunch of the other products and kind of take their pick from all of their great stuff.
(Caryn) We have some restaurants here that serve them up in a variety of different ways. That’s like the closest thing to the real thing without having the part of the real thing that I don’t like to taste. Really, really good. I don’t have those too often because they’re like too addicting.
(Kim) I think once you find some products like that that you really love, it’s nice to find. I try not to do too many…I don’t do a lot of fake meats but there are just sometimes when a girl needs to have a little riblet here and there.
(Caryn) Absolutely. That just made me think right now that I’m not hearing any foul language in this conversation.
(Kim) I’m trying to be very good.
(Caryn) I didn’t even think about it until just now but this voice in the book doesn’t sound like the same voice.
(Kim) Nope. Definitely trying to be on my best behavior.
(Caryn) That’s OK. We don’t mind.
(Kim) Some stations are OK with it and some aren’t.
(Caryn) I think we’re cool. You can relax.
(Caryn) How old is your son?
(Kim) My son is five.
(Caryn) That’s a great age.
(Kim) He is a foodie already. My husband cooks. I cook. We’ve just been cooking with him since he was a baby.
(Caryn) Which is so important.
(Kim) It is. I think that’s why he’s into food because we’ve always included him on making…we’d stick him on the counter and give him things to do. Now he has a stool and he stands next to us and helps us. I just finished a baking book and he was literally with me with the standing mixer pouring things in for me. He’s definitely got an amazing palette and he’s willing to try anything. We’re very proud.
(Caryn) Kids need to be involved with food from the beginning. I’m sorry that home economics and other food programs aren’t in the schools. We need to bring them back; we need to develop them. Kids, when they’re introduced to food—healthy food, how to make food—at a very young age, they’re just so better off for their future.
(Kim) I so agree. And you’re right about home ec. That’s such a shame because I remember having it when I was in school and it was so much fun. So many times you hear stories like Jamie Oliver’s where he’s showing different vegetables to kids and they don’t even know what it is. That’s very disappointing that they’re not more involved in what they’re eating and knowing what is going to be on their plate.
(Caryn) OK. So, one of the titles is Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, one of the Skinny Bitch series. I’m always talking about getting people back in the kitchen. How do we get people to prepare their own food?
(Kim) I know, I know. This is one of the reasons I ended up doing a second cookbook too, The Ultimate Everyday Cookbook because I wanted people to say, “OK, I’ve got a couple different cookbooks. I want to try some new food. I’m going to get in there and have some fun.” I think it’s important for people to…even if you think of it economically. You’re spending so much money when you go out to eat when you can get a few ingredients at the grocery store and put together a really fresh, delicious meal that you’ve created from start to finish. People just need to make it fun. Include your friends, include your family, turn on some good music. Have something to drink—whatever it might be and just try to have fun with it. It’s funny. When I took a couple cooking classes, a lot of people were telling me because the economy got so bad, they needed to learn how to cook so they were enrolling in cooking classes.
(Caryn) I always like to look at the bright side and there’s all kind of good things that come out of bad economies: a lot of innovation and people start to eat better because they can’t afford to eat out. That doesn’t always happen because some people go for the $1 meal and some people go for the really cheap food. A lot of impoverished communities, they go for the beans and the grains. That’s really a good foundation of food.
(Kim) It is. And when you focus on that being your staple then it makes a good strong foundation for everyday eating and gets you in the habit of making better food choices.
(Caryn) Does your son know about the Skinny Bitch?
(Kim) He does…a little bit.
(Caryn) I was just curious when he was going to learn about that.
(Kim) He’s not too sure what mom does but I get to be home with him when I’m working. Sometimes I kick him out when I have work to do from my office but he likes to do whatever it is that I’m doing. No, he doesn’t get it too much yet.
(Caryn) Well, I’m always talking about how we could really change the world with media, with the image, because people are so influenced by what the media tells us: newspapers, television, movies, and celebrities, and this whole image. I don’t know who came up with the title but it’s really terrific. It really appeals to so many people on so many different levels. I’m so glad you came up with it because it really just helped to move us into the mainstream.
(Kim) Thank you. I appreciate that. People either love it or they hate it. It was really just for marketing because selling a vegan diet isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It wasn’t back then even in 2005. We just wanted to really make it funny and grab people’s attention and then you hit them with all of your information in the book.
(Caryn) Right. I always say, “Don’t read your press; weigh it.” It got you a lot of attention and that’s a good thing. The information that’s in the books is great. Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food and thank you for everything that you’ve been doing and you’re going to keep doing.
(Kim) Thank you so much for having me and thanks for your discussion on healthy eating as well.
(Caryn) OK. Have a great day.
(Kim) You too. Bye-bye.
(Caryn) Bye. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’ve been listening to It’s All About Food with Kim Barnouin who has a new book: Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps. For more great healthy tips and all kinds of things on plant-based living, visit my Web site: responsibleeatingandliving.com. We’re going to take a quick break right now. We’ll be back with Amie Hamlin of the NY Coalition for Healthy School Food.
Transcribed by Jennie Steinhagen, 1/22/13