Maribeth Abrams is a nutritionist, cooking instructor, public speaker, corporate chef for Vitasoy USA and spokesperson for the North American Vegetarian Society. Known for her enthusiastic demeanor, Maribeth has appeared on radio and television discussing food and nutrition, hosts the cooking DVD Tofu 1-2-3 with Olympic athlete Carl Lewis, and is the author of the cookbook Tofu 1-2-3, the forthcoming 4-Ingredient Vegan, and the column Ask Maribeth in Vegetarian Voice Magazine for which she is also an associate editor. Maribeth provides nutritional counseling for weight loss, detoxification, food allergies, and healthy eating for the treatment and prevention of various diseases. She is a Certified First Line Therapy Lifestyle Educator. Maribeth received her Bachelor’s Degree from Emory University, her Masters Degree from Georgia State University, and her nutrition training from the Global College of Natural Medicine. She is board certified by the American College of Drugless Practitioners.
Caryn Hartglass: I am Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Good afternoon. And thanks for joining me. You’ve got another delicious adventure today, a delicious show. And I want to talk today with our guest Maribeth Abrams who is a nutritionist cooking instructor, public speaker, corporate chef for Vitasoy USA and spokesperson for the North American Vegetarian Society. She’s known for her enthusiastic demeanor and has appeared on radio and television discussing food and nutrition, hosts the cooking D.V.D. Tofu 1 2 3 with the Olympic athlete Carl Lewis and is the author of the cookbook Tofu 1 2 3 and also 4-Ingredient Vegan, which we’ll be talking a little bit about in the show, as well as the column “Ask Maribeth” in Vegetarian Voice Magazine for which she is also an associate editor. She provides nutritional counseling for weight loss detoxification through allergies and healthy eating for the treatment and prevention of various diseases. She’s a certified first line therapy life style educator. She received her bachelor’s degree from Emory University, her master’s degree from Georgia State University and her nutrition training from the global College of Natural medicine. She is board certified by the American Collage of Drugless Practitioners. Maribeth welcome!
Maribeth Abrams: Hi thanks Caryn and nice to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m really looking forward to talking with you because I’ve been all over your website and looking through your cookbook and you’re somebody that I want to know. You’re doing wonderful things.
Maribeth Abrams: Oh thank you Caryn and you know what I am absolutely blessed to have my occupation overlie over you know just correspond with my passion, my occupation and my passion. it’s a really great thing to be able to do.
Caryn Hartglass: Now. What I want to do is start from the beginning. And I want to know how you got so involved in this passion for food and helping people get healthy.
Maribeth Abrams: You know I love that question.
Caryn Hartglass: We all love telling our story. Even before we tell it I want to know, I want to tell you why I ask it and you know it’s an obvious question but I think people need to know that we’re all real people, you know that we’ve all had real experiences and that when we hear individual stories we can relate to them and know that we can make a differences too.
Maribeth Abrams: Yes. Yes. Absolutely! About twenty years ago when I was living in Atlanta I took a course, an Adult-Ed course called Going Vegetarian and in that course it was a three evening course and the first few sessions we learned about the environmental impact of diet. We learned the ethics involved with where our food comes from and we also learned about the health benefits of a plant based diet and the third evening was a potluck dinner, a vegan potluck dinner, we all need stuff to share the recipes and the whole thing after taking that course , that was a big, I became vegan soon after taking that course and it was a real, it was a it was a defining time for me going through that and I moved up to Connecticut a few years later and decided that I wanted to start teaching a similar class in my own community here in Connecticut. At the time I was a stay at home mom when moved up to Connecticut just so I you know I have some time right and so I started running this class through adult-Ed and modeling it after the class that I had taken in Atlanta and I noticed that attendance was not as high as I would like it to be. The class was called Going Vegetarian just like the class in Atlanta was called and it was really, it was people who were already thinking about becoming vegetarian or vegan that were attracted to the class so it wasn’t really didn’t seem like it was appealing to the mean stream and so what I did it after about a year or two was, I changed it to just doing cooking classes where I didn’t call them the good cooking classes, they were names like cholesterol free cooking for a healthy heart. You know lactose free, delicious food for people who are lactose intolerant. You know dairy free food for people who are lactose intolerant or you know high fiber meals you know thirty minutes or less. All kinds of things like that. All the classes were very good and they were still the Britain single time I offered them and I realized after a short amount of time that I could give out the exact same nutrition information that I would be giving out in that previous class in the format of the cooking class and it was the information was going to a much wider audience for example, somewhere in the class somebody would always ask well if we’re you know it granted this is really great for our heart there’s no meat in it though, how are we supposed to get our protein? Then I would explain how somebody gets their protein if they are living completely honestly and based diet and so that information you know would get would get out and then it usually sort of on the tail of that would be the whole cholesterol I mean I’m sorry the whole calcium issue everything people would always ask, you know what about the calcium the writing and I realize that pretty much all of the nutrition information that would have been given out in that educational class could be given out in that cooking class to a much wider audience those cooking classes sensually grew into more nutrition classes for example companies would come and have me do like a Lunch and Learn presentation. You know during this time I was attending all of the annual conferences from the North American Vegetarian Society and reading a lot of books, I was working for the North American Vegetarian Society and I had to do a lot of book reviews for them so I would be forced to you know, in a very nice way to really stay up on all the research and I was educating myself this whole time. So my nutrition talks we get more and more valuable to everybody and so eventually those I wanted to be able to work with individuals. Instead of just doing all these group presentations and so I went back to get my credentials to become a nutritionist and that was about four years ago.
Caryn Hartglass: Great well people certainly like it when you have credentials. And it’s a good thing to have all but there are plenty of people with a lot of credentials that still don’t know much about nutrition unfortunately
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah that’s the irony that’s true.
Caryn Hartglass: But you touched on so many interesting points and I think people have a fascination with food and we are, so many of us love food and unfortunately we’ve gotten lost. We are like that lost heard and we’ve gotten so far away from the kitchen and knowing what goes in our foods and how to prepare foods and and then we hear all of these horrible sound bites from the media about nutrition that are so out of context very often that people are so overwhelmed, so confused, and for some strange reason and I don’t know exactly what where it all comes from people hang on to a few key words; protein, calcium, cholesterol, after a while got a lot of press. Some people are more familiar with omega three fatty acids old of them no idea what they are yet and you know they they have a combination of fear and curiosity and ignorance. It’s really fascinating actually.
Maribeth Abrams: It is one of the things that I do with my clients because usually the information that I give them is so different from what they’ve been spoonfed from society, from the time that they’ve grown up. I invited them to kind of like do an experiment, like let’s see how you feel after a week of not consuming any dairy. Let’s see how you feel when you increase your vegetables are about five times more than what you’re used to you know. Let’s see how you feel when you add some beans and take away some of the meat. All of that and I really monitor how people are feeling and as long as someone’s feeling good. It’s been my experience that they want to keep going. Another thing that I’ve been doing lately is giving people pH tests strips. They can really easily at home test the pH of their urine to sense of where their body is and to show them that there really is some kind of an inner change going on as they shift more and more to a plant based diet and even if they’re already in a plant based diet how to further alkalis the body. For even further prevention of disease. It is something I’m really fascinated with and it’s actually kind of fun. Like let’s see how high I can get my pH today you know because we want to have a pH in our urine that’s between seven and eight and you know see what happens if you eat a whole thing a cabbage.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s a great really I mean it’s really clever the pH strips are a lot of fun. They’re relatively inexpensive you can shop around online for different ones. But I have an engineering background so I love collecting data and this is a great way to really make some correlation to what you’re eating and what it’s doing in your body.
Maribeth Abrams: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good. Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. We have a lot more to talk about but I’m going to have us take a quick little break and what I want you to do Maribeth is this. Hang up so we can call you back and maybe we’ll get a little clearer line.
Maribeth Abrams: Sounds good
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so we’ll be right back
Maribeth Abrams: Great.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re your listening to It’s All About Food and I’m here with Maribeth Abrams and we are here to offer you any information about nutrition answer any questions you might have. you can send me a quick e-mail that I can respond to send it to email@example.com or I know you’re online listening so you can easily send an email if you have a question. Okay Maribeth.
Maribeth Abrams: Hi Caryn
Caryn Hartglass: Okay think we got a better we are connection.
Maribeth Abrams: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good so you were with the Olympic athlete Carl Lewis in a cooking D.V.D.
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah that was fun.
Caryn Hartglass: What was that like?
Maribeth Abrams: It was great you know around that time, a very good friend of mine came to me and she said that she was planning on producing a tofu cooking video and she asked me if I would like to be in it and I said absolutely, and so we work together to do the cooking video and this friend of mine her name is Diane Wagemin of Divine Treasures Chocolate in Manchester, Connecticut. It’s actually like a vegan oasis. It’s very cool. Anyway she had a dream one night, she said I dreamed that Carl Lewis was in this D.V.D. and I thought well that’s interesting because he actually has a vegan cookbook you know he’s worked with Dr. McDougal. You know he’s very interested in this topic I think and so she was able to track him down and we ended up going out there to do a bunch of filming, out to California. And it was wonderful. It was a great experience, it was fun. We took a little run together, he didn’t really. It was just the purpose of the photograph. But he’s really into health, into a real healthy diet, not just with not just a healthy version of the standard American diet but what I would consider to be a true healthy diet.
Caryn Hartglass: One of the reasons why I bring it up is people have a tendency to pay attention more or listen about nutrition when either their doctor is talking or when a celebrity is involved.
Maribeth Abrams: And that was the reason why we were happy to be able to have him be a part of that and in the D.V.D. He talked about how he felt it was his vegan diet that gave him the extra edge to win all those gold medals in the Olympics. I don’t know what year, it was it was it was way back when. but he not only just one tons and tons of gold medal but he was named Olympic Athlete of the Year and then Olympic Athlete of the Decade as well and apparently the entire track team at the time kind of took notice of what he was doing in terms of how the way he was eating and everybody kind of got into eating the high vegetable diet at that point.
Caryn Hartglass: Right and the point is you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete, but if you want to live a happy healthy life with long longetivity and quality living and feeling good plants are your friends
Maribeth Abrams: It is so true and you know even as a nutritionist you know and I’ve been into this for a long time and I’m sure that all the listeners will understand what I’m saying here. No matter where we are on the spectrum of healthy eating there’s always a little bit of room for proven we like to take these baby steps like we hear about the food that’s really good to eat or maybe a food we should cut back on and we want to do we want to keep moving in that direction adding more rye cetera et cetera. And one of the things that I’ve done over the past few years is I truly have increased my pure vegetables higher and higher and higher than they’ve ever been. I do that because I feel like I’m getting older and I need that as I want to say young in my body biologically so it’s not uncommon for me to cut a purple cabbage in half and shot that thing up and eat it for breakfast. This I have a little bit of a weakness for Annie’s Goddess Dressing and I like to sprinkle the dual and the nutrition flakes on top also.
But I feel so good when I eat a very large volume of vegetables. Especially all the dark green vegetables and I advocated to everybody
Caryn Hartglass: Here’s to cruciferous vegetables. My favorite of the greens. We can’t, we literally can’t eat enough of them and when we’re full from all the fiber that’s when we’ve had enough.
Maribeth Abrams: Exactly. It’s like all the sudden something just shuts off. It’s like I’m done now. There’s really no concern about over eating.
Caryn Hartglass: Just one quick question. Tofu 1, 2, 3 you don’t have to eat tofu if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat tofu if you have an allergy to soy. But let’s talk a minute people always ask what I’ve heard is an unhealthy food there are problems with it. And I try and bring this up a lot on the show just because enough people aren’t talking about it but you know can we talk about soy being healthy food
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah absolutely it’s a topic that I know a lot of people are interested in and it always comes up like what’s the story with soy? Is it bad? Is it good? I want to you know reiterate what you just said nobody has to eat it. You don’t have to eat soy in order to be vegetarian or anything like that. The way that I view it certain soy foods enable me to prepare certain foods that my family really likes. For example they love having a chocolate cream pie once in awhile and I can do that with silken tofu. It would be difficult to make something like that without it. I mean it’s certainly possible that you know little more of a challenge so it gives me a little bit of flexibility. So it’s nice to be able to have it once in a while. In terms of just living on it like people who have soy sausage in the morning with tofu scramble. Or a veggie burger at luncheon and some grilled tofu at dinner. I would say that that falls into the category of not varying your diet quite enough. I mean if you’re eating that much soy, which comes from soybeans, you’re not eating a lot of lentils or black or white beans or kidney beans so you want to keep it really varied. The other thing is you want to avoid processed food as much as we can so things like this a cut out in everything might be really useful when someone is transitioning toward a plant based diet, or if just want to have fun. Like you want to have a vehicle to eat all that sauerkraut, mustard, you’ve got to have a fake hotdog.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah at least on July Fourth.
Maribeth Abrams: But aside from that, having soy once in a while is really not problematic. You know assuming you don’t have an allergy. You know you haven’t been told that it’s going to cause some problem for you by your doctor. What most people seem to really want to know about though is the estrogen. What about all the estrogen in soy and there’s so much information kind of pro and con on it. But what I have come to the conclusion for myself with this is the fact that the estrogen in soil are very very weak compared to the estrogen that our body makes naturally. And the amount of estrogen that our body makes is going to depend on how much fat we eat. And or how much fat is on our body. So if we have a lot of fat in our body or for eating a lot of fat, we’re probably going to be making a lot of estrogen. And that’s it is pretty strong stuff and it can contribute to estrogen fed tumors, for example breast cancer.
Now our cells have estrogen receptor sites on them where the estrogen floating around in our body can kind of you know lock onto and go into the cells but if we have this weak estrogen floating around our body, It instead will latch onto those estrogen receptor sites there instead. Locking out the harmful stuff and according to researchers that’s the reason why people who grow up in cultures where soy is consumed and the fat is very low overall tend to have less breast cancer and it’s even been suspected that adding soy to a diet here in this country can actually block out some of that harmful in the manner that I just described. So even though there’s a lot of research kind of showing both ways that’s what I’ve really kind of settled on because it makes sense to me.
Caryn Hartglass: And I think most of the research actually sways towards the fact that soy is healthy and does work towards preventing cancer rather than promoting illness. But like you said there are there’s healthy soy and there’s not so healthy soy and we have to really be clear about that we can’t just dump it all in the same bucket/ so organic non-genetically modified tofu, Tempe, edamame, soy milk, and these are all healthy simple foods. The ones that are highly processed with that the isoflavones and them sort of protein…
Maribeth Abrams: Oh the soy protein isolates
That’s the word I’m looking for thank you. Those are problematic and if you eat a lot of them and you use those ph strips, you’ll see how your urine gets a little more acidic
Maribeth Abrams: The thing that always interests me or fascinates me I should say is when some people who eat say chicken every day and say oh my God you know I eat chicken every day but you know God forbid I have a little bit of soy because of the estrogen. And I think to myself you know the chicken that you’re eating is causing you to produce estrogen that is very harmful. It’s really you shouldn’t be afraid of the soy while eating the chicken and it also interests me that that doctors out there will say oh don’t eat the soy, don’t need the soy but they won’t tell somebody not to eat the chicken. I don’t understand that at all.
Caryn Hartglass: You know I’m with you on that one. It’s really crazy, but there’s a lot of crazy misinformation going around about a lot of different things. Anyway so Tofu 1, 2, 3 I haven’t had the privilege to see that book, but tofu can be magical and it’s wonderful in sweet dishes, it’s wonderful in savory dishes. It can have so many different textures, and take on the flavor of so many different things. I personally don’t want to live with it.
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah so here’s to tofu.
Caryn Hartglass: Can I share a funny story with the tofu cookbook? I eat tofu maybe once a week, that’s kind of about how often I eat it and when I was working on the recipes for that cookbook I had tofu just about every day for that year and by the end of the year I was really tofu-ed out if you know what I mean. And you know it takes a while for a book to actually get published, once you deliver the manuscript. So it probably was about a year later that the book actually came out and at that time I started doing a lot of cooking demos. I’d be invited to groups years ago presentation things like that and so I revisited the recipes at that time I really barely touched any of them during that year after submitting the manuscript so I’ll never forget going to this vegetarian group I’m pretty sure it was The Vegetarian Group of Northern Connecticut.
I decided to make the loaded nachos. There’s a recipe in Tofu 1, 2, 3 called loaded nachos and I decided to make that for the cooking demo and I cooked everything I didn’t have anything made in advance for this recipe. I just made everything on the spot. I got ready to serve it right before serving it, I tasted it before giving it out to everybody in the audience and I said this tastes really good I’m not kidding.
I was amazed, and ever since then I have to say that the loaded nachos recipe has been my favorite recipe in that entire cookbook. It’s a cheese sauce that you put on top of chips and you know you add your guacamole and all that stuff on top of it, but I just love that cheese sauce. That’s an example of the textures and everything. I mean this is a rich creamy cheese not something that people always think of when you think what I could make with tofu.
Caryn Hartglass: I went vegan a long time ago so I don’t have this thing with cheese where I really missed it or I really feel like I need it. But a lot of people do. That’s one of the things that I can’t live without cheese. But there are so many wonderful ways to make cheesy things and now there are more and more products that you can buy that are plant-based cheeses.
Maribeth Abrams: Yes, I like the more homemade things one example is a recipe from 4-Ingredient Vegan. It’s called white bean nachos spread, I think that’s what it’s called. The four ingredients are white beans, salsa, nutritional yeast flakes and cashew butter. And it all goes in the food processor so the white beans become the base and they barely have any flavor at all it’s just a nice sort of you know sturdy base. The salsa makes it taste Mexican. The nutritional yeast flakes makes it taste cheesy and the cashew butter gives it just a little bit of richness. And so it has sort of the consistency of hummus but it tastes like a cheese spread. You know that’s just an example of one of the things I mean I have kids and so I like making kind of stuff like that for them and also cooking for people who are not vegetarian or vegan and I like them to see that they can have these really delicious taste. You know that they wouldn’t necessarily miss cheese as a result of
Caryn Hartglass: Well you know a lot of people’s palates are very numbed at this point because of all the processed foods that they eat that are loaded with salt, sugar and fat. And a lot of the cheese that’s used in at least fast food and some restaurant food is really low quality. And so when you come along and make a lot of the healthy plant based alternatives and not only do they taste good but so many people are used to low quality cheeses, that these substitutes are just so much more flavorful and superior
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah you know it’s really funny just to illustrate that point that you just said I have two children aged thirteen and sixteen and they’ve been raised vegan and they’re really good eaters. They like a lot of natural foods and everything. One day my son, this is about two years ago my son, inadvertently stuck his hand into a bag. I don’t know what they were some kind of cheese doodle nacho flavored… I don’t know what the heck they were but he took a bite of it. I think it was a nacho flavored chip with cheese and he tasted it and he said to me, mom I think there’s something wrong with those chips that taste like they are spoiled. You know he was like holy cow what is that flavor. You know and this is like a number one product in our country right he was disgusted by it you know. This is a really this is a really pure experiment because he put his hand in there totally innocently.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay you have two children and they’ve been raised vegan, and they’re thirteen and sixteen now. How did you do it? Do they occasionally have things that aren’t vegan outside of the household?
Maribeth Abrams: Well the first couple years it was easy because you know we were with the kids all the time. When I ate lunch at a park you know all that stuff. I’ll never forget it you know it’s really funny I even I even wrote an article about this for vegetarian voices years and years ago but it was the first time that my daughter was invited to a mainstream birthday party and I think she was probably three and it took place at one of these indoor places with the tubes in the party room and you go in with the ball pit and the whole thing and they serve pizza at these parties. So this is the big deal this is like I’ve been doing this with her for three years you know am Are we going to be able to survive the birthday party and what I decided to do was to bring her own pizza and just wrap it in some for foil and discretely take it out at the last minute and she would know, I mean it wasn’t like she didn’t know she was a vegan at that point but I was going to just let her know. I was going to bring and she to have it you know if she wanted it and it was just I was thinking about it was everybody going to say are the other kids going to point and say we’re a pizza looks yucky. You know I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go. So the big day comes and we are there in the party room and the kids are bouncing off the walls everybody’s drinking soda. You know it’s just a crazy scene in there. I give her pizza. I don’t even think she noticed, let alone the other kids. Nobody even was aware of what anyone else was eating. Half the kids were on the floor under the table.
But since that time I took the approach with my kids, when you’re not in the house you know if you’re invited to a party it’s really up to you what you choose to eat. And they understood why we were vegan and I mean I started educating with that. I educated then for those reasons from the very get go. So they knew why they were vegan and if they were going to a party, I would say just letting you know I called the mom, they’re going to be having pizza and chocolate cake. It’s your business what you eat while you’re there. You can either eat those foods just letting you know there is an egg that came out of a chicken in the cake. There might be some milk that came out of a cow in the cheese on the pizza. If you want I can send you with your own chocolate cake and your own pizza that doesn’t have any cow or chicken stuff in it. It’s up to you. And they would always say I’d rather take my own stuff. Yeah so that’s kind of how we did it and To this day I feel like they’re kind of proud to be vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s the unusual story because, and you’ve got some great kids it sounds like. But probably there was an influence there but many children are so swayed by what’s going on around them.
Maribeth Abrams: I know. I have to say, you know I think I must have had some luck on my side. I can’t really claim all the credit because to claim credit for all the good you got to claim credit for.
For whatever reason things fell into place. But we didn’t want a television. You know we would watch videos we didn’t have the commercials and the other thing. I remember teaching them when they were about two is what commercials are like. We would go somewhere and we’d watch a commercial and there’d be some kids playing with some trucks and it looks like the trucks are going by themselves even other kids will match boxing and the kids are having such a blast and after the commercial we would talk about it. Like wow that bot was playing with the cars and how did he look. Oh he looked like he was having a wonderful life and he was playing with the best toy in the world. Here’s a little car, here’s a matchbox car can you make it do everything that the T.V. did? Well no. They make it look really exciting they do all that so that you tell your mommy you want to buy it. All they want is your money. They don’t really care about anything else. We used to actually analyze these commercials and we have the opportunity and I think it needs them look at commercials very skeptically and they don’t want to be suckered into anything.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s brilliant. You taught them analytical thinking at a very young age yet they could really be.
Perceptive and mindful about what they were seeing.
Maribeth Abrams: And you know all kids are different. I mean my kids happen to be extra remotely analytical, cognitive people and so that really worked for them. Thank goodness because that was really the only thing I think come up with. I’m sure that there are different ways to appeal to different kids.
Caryn Hartglass: You probably know this but there have been lots of studies that show that intelligent children tend to become vegetarian and vegetarian children tend to have higher I.Q’s. It goes both ways here. Intelligence and vegetables.
Maribeth Abrams: Yes I can see why and of course I just got to throw in a little thing. There also breastfeeding and I don’t know if there’s a correlation right now with you know mothers who are vegetarian with breastfeeding and everything but I do know that the longer a child breastfeed that they’re going to be smarter.
Caryn Hartglass: The breastfeeding we know more and more is very very important. But there’s also information about the quality of a mother’s breast milk based on what she eats and there for example a meat eater is shown to have higher levels of toxins in her breast milk.
Maribeth Abrams: Oh yeah. This is an incredible topic. I think a lot of people are not aware of this, but we store toxins in our fat and one of the few ways to eliminate that is through our breast milk. So of course cows have toxins stored in their fat and when they nurse or milk or whatever you want to call it, if it’s going into a bottle that humans are going to drink, the humans are consuming the toxins that were previously stored in the cow’s body. The other thing with the toxins meaning they’re stored in our fat and they bio accumulate. I mean after a lifetime of eating foods that contain toxins we store up more and more and more and more in our fat. So when a woman goes to breastfeed, she’s been storing all the toxins in her body in her whole life and she let that go in her breast milk. The thing is that plants don’t bio accumulate pesticides the way meat and dairy and eggs do. But conventional apples conventionally grown apples are not going to have as much pesticide in them as conventionally raised meat. You know it’s interesting the strawberries get a really bad rap like oh my God you know conventionally raised strawberries it is true, that they are loaded with pesticides but it’s nothing compared to conventionally raise animal products.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree but ideally it’s best to eat organic locally grown plant food. And we want to support all of that so that those businesses are the one sort of grow, making that quality food more available for everyone. But meat, chicken and fish they’re all loaded with all kinds of toxic contamination that they cumulate and concentrate so one bite of that stuff is so much worse than a conventional fruit or vegetable.
Maribeth Abrams: Absolutely. I want to reiterate what you just said too. You’ve got to go with organic, it’s critical. You just have to. If someone out there though is eating, you know going to Burger King and Hardy’s and coming home and saying oh my God I won’t touch that strawberry. They’ve got to take a look at the meat that they’re eating that’s causing tremendous harm in terms of pesticide.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so what motivated putting together this new cookbook, 4-Ingredient Vegan?
Maribeth Abrams: You know remember the cooking classes I was telling you about? See you know its nice size these classes. And they would usually take place in my own community at least in the beginning and so you know months later, weeks later, years later I would bump into people in the supermarket who I had seen in my classes and you know they would tell me Oh I still make such and such you know I really love that recipe and I realize that not surprisingly it was a really simple easy recipes that people just lived on. Those are those are the recipes that became part of everyone’s, every day weekly repertoire of what they made for dinner. So I started to focus more on those kinds of foods. I’m an easy chef anyway. That’s kind of my thing you know. I don’t do gourmet. One year at the vegetarian Summerfest I did a cooking demo called I think Four Ingredient Wonders and it was just food that only contained four ingredients. And the Jo Stepaniak from the Book Publishing Company she was there and she said you know Mary Beth that is an awesome idea for your next book and that was really all I needed to hear. I just sort of ran with it and put together a proposal but an example, I remember way back, in one of the recipes that I did at that demo was. The lentil walnut pate. Which is lentils, sautéed onion, walnuts blended together with a little bit of Vegenaise stirred in and it just makes this really wonderful pâté and another one I did that day was what the idea is to sort of make mashed potatoes but out of a bunch of white beans to it that are mashed and you mix it all together and at the time my kids were really little and they loved mashed potatoes and I just made that. And you could make as much of it as you want you know. And I think you need that roasted garlic in it too. And that was really good.
Caryn Hartglass: Yummy. That’s a clever thing to do with kids. Say they turn their nose up at a lot of things and say I don’t like that because they don’t know what it is, not familiar with it or it might have a texture that they’re not familiar with and the trick is to find a way to disguise the food or change the texture so that it seems familiar to them. And then they learn how to eat new foods.
OK so I just want to talk about a few recipes that I like in this book. OK I’m a tahini nut.
Maribeth Abrams: Oh yeah I love tahini.
Caryn Hartglass: And it actually comes from a seed. Tahini is a butter made from sesame seeds, it’s like peanut butter only it’s a little more beige in color and it’s from ground sesame seeds and it is so good for so many things, sweet or savory. And you have a halva recipe with pitted dates, tahini, cashew butter and vanilla. Now halva is an ancient treat made from sesame seeds and usually with sugar or honey and it’s a very simple dessert. It’s like how would you describe it, it’s like a hard but melt in your mouth…
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah it’s almost like a dry paste sort of. You have to try it. You know I remember growing up, my family is Jewish and especially at Passover somehow there’d always be a tin of halva. The end of the meal and it was the only time a year that we ever ate. I have no idea where it came from I would never see it and the rest of the year but it was such a special treat.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah and it is and it’s very simple and you have a simple recipe here that uses even better ingredients. So it’s like up a notch.
Maribeth Abrams: There’s another tahini recipe I want to point out. I don’t know if it’s one of the ones you flagged or not but there’s a recipe in there called sesame cabbage. It’s one of my favorite recipes in the whole book. It’s steamed cabbage and then you make a little sauce with tahini and miso and a little bit of water. And just put it right there on top of the steamed cabbage with pepper and it’s outrageous.
Caryn Hartglass: Well here’s the thing you can take lots of vegetables and steam them so you’re going to get all the great nutrition that you need from them, with very little calories and then you add some of this wonderful sauce. And that’s really it makes a different anything delicious. There are just a few ingredients for me that make things fabulous. So what are they? Sautéed onions, garlic, lime juice and tahini. Together or alone but they they all like enhance the flavor of foods. Tahini’s definitely a big one.
Maribeth Abrams: Speaking of the sauces I just have to give a little plug for this cookbook that I don’t know many people know about it it’s called The Saucy Vegetarian by Joanne Stepaniak. It’s a fabulous cookbook. It’s just all sauces so you just need to get a few things together and throw them in a bowl or put in a blender and it’s amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: So what I like about it and I’m going to say the same about your cookbook is that it’s like a training book. Where you kind of get the hang of things with ingredients you may not be familiar with and they’re just a few ingredients and really simple and so many variations. So if you use it like a training book, the sauces again, The Saucy Vegetarian, you kind of get the hang of it so that afterwards you can do it on your own really.
Maribeth Abrams: Yes. You know I am so happy that you mentioned that. It’s one of the things that I like to think about with this cookbook is that once you’ve made the recipe once you don’t really have to read the recipe again if you want to make it a second time. To me that’s just that’s the best kind of cookbook because I mean I don’t know about other people but I’m not going to be reading a recipe every single night. Most of the stuff I make for dinner I just do from the top of my head and its because I made certain dishes over and over again over the years and I know what I like and what’s easy and what tastes good and you don’t need to measure like half an onion or whatever. And that’s what I was aiming for with these recipes. If almost all of them that you would not have to follow the recipe after making it once.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so if you’re one of those people and I don’t know how many there are, but I’d say maybe a third up, to half of the population are kind of lost in terms of what to do in the kitchen. This is a good book to get your feet wet. If you want to get healthy or just you want some more ideas. This is 4-Ingredient Vegan and it’s by you, Mary Beth Abrams along with and Anne Dinshah and I really really recommend it.
Anne Dinshah. I didn’t bring her up before but she helped you with this book.
Maribeth Abrams: Yes Anne contributed about twenty recipes to the book.
She cooks differently from the way that the way that I do and I think it added a really nice variety. She’s got some things in there made with filo dough. Some really interesting desserts. She’s got a lot in there but there are like a good twenty recipes that she contributed and I think it really helped to round out the book a lot.
Caryn Hartglass: Of course Anne’s claim to fame, she has her, own of course but her parents founded the American Vegan Society and they’ve been leading the way for decades. Helping people learn about why plant foods are so important.
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah it’s really nice. Anne comes from a vegan family. It’s fantastic and you know that actually just reminded me, my own family is kind of unusual. In that not only are my kids vegan but my sister is also vegan and her husband and all of her kids. And my parents, while they don’t identify themselves as being vegan I would say that ninety nine percent of what they put in their mouth is vegan. I think that my dad probably has clam chowder once a year and that may be the only thing he does that deviates. So I’m really fortunate to be living in a in a vegan family where all of our family dinners are vegan, all the holidays are, everything. My parents have a boat and you know all the food in the boat is vegan. When they’re racing and other people are on the boat even if my sister and I aren’t there it’s all the vegan lasagna and vegan chili, vegan soups. I’m just really proud of them and proud to be you know in their family.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I want to talk about that a little more. I’m pretty fortunate too in that my brother and sister are vegan and my brother raises his children vegetarian and my parents and I’m absolutely convinced that they eat a lot healthier since they’ve been in the circle of vegan. And we have my mother’s really great in the kitchen and she’s come up with lots of great vegan recipes just because she really wants to please. But there are a lot of people that aren’t that lucky and really are frustrated within their own family, the challenges they have with their partners, with their children at work they feel really intimidated and what do they do?
Maribeth Abrams: You know and there are so many different ways to approach it but my own take on it is it’s more important just to be nice and to be loving with the people that you’re with. Even if what they’re doing is very frustrating to you. I don’t know anyone who became vegan because someone told them that they should. It was usually because they read a book or they watched a film or they were around people that they like that were eating vegan and they became interested in it. But when if someone you know is bossy to somebody and said oh you’re not, you’re doing it all wrong, your food is gross whatever. People, I don’t believe really become vegan for those reasons, so if you are interested in kind of spreading that vegan message I believe that you’ve just got to be the nicest person that you can be and be able to answer people’s questions intelligently if they ask.
Caryn Hartglass: Do it with love. Do it with joy.
Maribeth Abrams: Do it with love. Do it with joy. And have a lot of good food around. The one time I think it’s difficult for people though is Thanksgiving. You know as a vegan person living in a non-vegan world we’re exposed to meat you know and or I should I say in this instance we might even view it in animal carcasses all year round. Seeing you know people tables, on the menus etc. but Thanksgiving is a celebration of peace. And on that particular day I think it’s harder for vegans to sit down and celebrate that joy and peace when there is a carcass of a harmed animal on the table.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah there’s so much hypocrisy at that point.
Maribeth Abrams: And so I can understand why a lot of vegans do not want to be with their family on Thanksgiving. It’s just too difficult. And like my family for example, we just open it up to whomever wants to come you know. There are always a lot of vegan people that come because it’s just to difficulty with their family on that particular holiday. And the ironic thing is that the other family members who are not vegetarian or vegan, they’re looking at it from the complete opposite like on all day is this should be the day of all days that you can eat with us you know. Because this is a day that is a family day you know it’s a family holiday. So there’s a lot to it when it comes to Thanksgiving.
Caryn Hartglass: Well it’s very symbolic of the whole vegan, non-vegan scene because I think those that don’t want to eat the turkey are really relating it to a really bigger picture of exploitation and pain and suffering and here we are being thankful for everything that we have. Why do we want to abuse something in order for us to be thankful? It really doesn’t make sense and then on the other hand those that connect food with their culture and their family and tradition and upbringing and have a really hard time acknowledging the truth behind some of those things that they’ve always found so comforting and beautiful. It’s it’s a challenge.
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah and I’m sure that your listeners are familiar with United Poultry Concerns, Karen Davis’s organization and I know that she’s written on the subject and she has a lot of you know very wise things to say on the subject.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah I know I did talk to her some while ago but she’s recently revised the book. I’m looking. Do you remember the title of it?
Maribeth Abrams: You might be talking about More Than a Meal. There are several books that she, many books that she’s written.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. I’m just looking in my little library right now to see if I could find the title. Oh my goodness.
Maribeth Abrams: The Poultry List Potpourri?
Caryn Hartglass: No. Oh gosh. Oh well you’ll have to check my archives and look for her but she’s done a lot of great work for the birds.
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah and I suspect that we’ll see more written on that by many people because I see it as a topic that will bring growing awareness as more and more people become vegan and not just for health reasons but to make this a more peaceful world.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well let’s just talk about a couple of things that are in the news that kind of related to all of this. So you’ve heard about the egg recall that came up a couple of weeks ago?
These eggs, millions and millions of them are tainted with salmonella. And I’m reading a bunch of articles on it and one of them is trying to calm the public and what to do about it. But the thing that just irks me is the one part that says how eggs become contaminated and I’m reading here from Business Week, “The F.D.A. is still trying to determine the cause of contamination involved in the recall but unlike sources including rodents are contaminated feed…” This is so ridiculous. We know the cause is these poor birds living in filthy, cramped in humane horrific conditions where the filth just spreads.
Maribeth Abrams: Yeah it’s ridiculous that it’s even being questioned as to where it comes from. I mean we hear about these stories of inhumanity where like a dog has been kept chained up in a dog house or a person is locked in a closet or whatever and they have to spend you know two weeks in a hospital afterwards just getting healthy after living in their own filth. Just imagine if you had a whole bunch of people living in a closet, or like five dogs crammed in a doghouse you know for two years. I mean it’s crazy. Of course there’s going to be sickness. The shock is that there are more recalls. That’s the total shock.
Caryn Hartglass: It is. It is.
Maribeth Abrams: I’ve been under the impression that almost all the eggs are tainted it is for whatever reason this particular batch was tainted enough that people actually started getting very sick of course.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right well there’s a lot of food borne illness. A lot of it isn’t explained. People are sick all the time I hear you know all the time I got a stomach bug or something say something that wasn’t good for them.
Maribeth Abrams: And you know I remember that, back you know twenty plus years ago before I became vegan it was not uncommon I don’t know once or twice a year to be out sick for like two or three days. You hear people say oh yeah it’s coming out both ends. It was just sort of par for the course, yeah you know I think I ate something last night. It was bad fish, bad chicken, whatever. That has never happened ever since I became vegan and I think it’s because if you taste a bad vegetable you know it immediately. And know it instantaneously. It’s not a hidden thing the way it is with animal products.
Caryn Hartglass: Right that’s a really interesting. Occasionally and I don’t want to get really gross here, but occasionally I’ve eaten something and you know it could have been highly seasoned so it wasn’t that obvious but if my body doesn’t like it, it sends it right back out. Yes it’s going to reject it. I know I feel bad you know for a few minutes, it comes out and I’m done. It’s not like I have a stomach bug. And so the vitality in someone who’s eating healthy foods becomes really strong. And some people may take that the bad way where they used to be able to eat poor quality foods and not feel bad. They don’t realize the cumulative effects over time whereas someone who you know has that vitality because they’re always eating quality foods, when something bad goes down they’ll feel bad for the moment.
Maribeth Abrams: You know I have so many clients that have changed their diet you know no dairy, minimal or no animal products. They really purify themselves and inevitably they will eventually eat a piece of cheesecake or they’ll have some eggplant parmesan or they’ll have you know some kind of a meat product and they will be sick for a couple of days. Anywhere from like one to two days they’ll feel low energy. It’ll take them a few days to get back on track and they come in and tell me what happened. And it’s basically Congratulations you have purified your body to the point that it will reject that stuff that you put in it now. And then they know they’re staying off it because they know it doesn’t agree with their body.
Caryn Hartglass: Well we’re out of time and this is been really fun. I love talking about food and especially with someone like you who is on the same page as I am. Please visit Maribeth’s website, I’m going to spell it; m a r i be t h a b r a m s.com, maribethabrams.com
Check out the book 4-Ingredient Vegan. Lots of yummy delicious things in there. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Maribeth Abrams: It has been my pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. Have a delicious week. Bye Bye.
Transcribed by Swetha Ramesh, 4/14/2017