Carol Adams, Patti Breitman and Ginny Messina, Never Too Late To Go Vegan
Patti Breitman is an advocate for health and animals, a writer and an expert public speaker. She teaches vegetarian cooking classes in Marin County, CA, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area. Patti is the director of The Marin Vegetarian Education Group and a former food columnist for VegNews Magazine. Her writing is often published on VegSource.com. Patti is the co-author (with Connie Hatch) of How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty and (with Carol J.Adams) of How To Eat Like a Vegetarian, Even If You Never Want to Be One.
Virginia Messina, MPH, RD is a dietitian and public health nutritionist specializing in vegan nutrition. She has a degree in nutrition from Douglass College of Rutgers University and a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan.
Ginny publishes widely on topics related to vegan diets for both health professionals and the public. She has worked as a dietitian for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), taught nutrition to dietetics students at the university level, and was the director of nutrition services for a group of medical clinics serving 50,000 patients in Washington, D.C.
She serves on scientific advisory boards to both vegetarian and professional nutrition organizations. Ginny has twice co-authored the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s Position on Vegetarian Diets, and is co-author of a textbook on vegetarianism written for health professionals and nutrition students.
A long-time vegan herself, she seeks to share the best and most up-to-date information on vegan nutrition and to make ethical eating an easy and realistic option for everyone. She writes about a variety of issues related to health and animal rights on her blog www.TheVeganRD.com and at www.VeganForHer.com. She is also a regular contributor to www.OurHenHouse.org and www.OneGreenPlanet.org.
In addition to her work as a vegan dietitian, Ginny volunteers at the local animal shelter, serves as a board member of a local spay/neuter outreach organization and of the national advocacy group Alley Cat Rescue, and spends her leisure time feeding feral cats, reading, gardening, and learning piano.
Carol Adams: I’m the author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. It’s been called “ground-breaking” and “pioneering” (interesting how our description of books draws from our invasive relationship to the land). Many say it is an underground classic, which I guess means that lots of people know and love it, but it goes unnoticed by the dominant media. Of course, when it first came out, that was slightly different. Then, right-wing reviewers held it up as the latest example of academic excess and political correctness, which was funny to me, because I am not an academic. I used to teach a course I developed at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University on “Sexual and Domestic Violence: Theological and Pastoral Issues” — but very infrequently. Basically, for as long as I have been an adult, I have been an advocate, an activist, someone trying to figure out how do we transform this d*#! world that is built on inequality.
I have published more than 100 articles in journals, books, and magazines on the issues of vegetarianism and veganism, animal advocacy, domestic violence and sexual abuse. I am particularly interested in the interconnections among forms of violence against human and nonhuman animals, writing, for instance, about why woman-batterers harm animals and the implications of this (it’s in my book Animals and Women). Besides advancing scholarship and developing theory in the area of interlocking oppressions, I have created a series of books that address the vegetarian/vegan experience: Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian Survival Guide, Help! My Child Stopped Eating Meat! and The Inner Art of Vegetarianism.
I’ve worked to bring back into print Howard Williams’s nineteenth-century classic text on vegetarianism, The Ethics of Diet. I have contributed prefaces to important vegetarian, vegan, and animal defense books and discovered an eighteenth-century vegetarian work that had never entered the vegetarian tradition.
Because I am so deeply moved by my relationship with animals, I have authored books of prayers for animals for both adults and children.
I am excited that the 20th anniversary edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat will be published next February.
I also write about literary topics, including two “Bedside” books: one on Frankenstein and one on Jane Austen. I am finishing a memoir on caregiving and reading.
Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. It’s March 11, 2014, and it’s time for another hour talking about my favorite subject, food, and it’s going to be fun. I’m going to bring on some amazing experts in the vegan movement, and – I think we got everybody now, so let’s just get the party started. I’ve got with me today, Patti Breitman, Ginny Messina, and Carol Adams. They’ve all been on this program at one time or another before, and they put out a book called Never Too Late to go Vegan. So, one at a time. Hi Patti, how are you?
Patti Breitman: Hi Caryn. Happy to be here, thanks.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. Okay, we’re just doing a little voice check here. And Ginny, you’re with us?
Ginny Messina: Yes I am. Hi Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, and Carol?
Carol Adams: Hi Caryn. Hi Ginny and Patti.
Ginny Messina: Hi, it’s great to hear everybody’s voice.
Caryn Hartglass: Don’t you just love technology? It’s amazing. We’re all in different places, and yet, we’re all in the same place.
Patti Breitman: That was one of the most fun things about writing our book. We’re all in different places, but we were like a team.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. And there are so many different ways to do it. So, let’s all give a cheer for people over 50.
Caryn Hartglass: Wooohoo! I mean who would ever want to be 16 again?
Ginny Messina: That’s true.
Caryn Hartglass: And the good thing is, I think we are all feeling good. All of us. Pretty much.
Carol Adams: Pretty much, pretty much so, yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, thanks to our food choices, where a lot of our peers may be complaining about one thing or another, which we know for the most part are food related
Patti Breitman: Well, we try to be careful about that.
Caryn Hartglass: So, the first thing I want to talk about is, in this never too late to go vegan concept, when people are older, older than 50, they have a lot of history behind them, a lot of traditions, a lot of behavior. It takes a lot of courage to change. Anyone want to comment on that?
Patti Breitman: Carol can jump in or I can jump in.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, Patti, please jump.
Patti Breitman: Well, I think it takes courage to look at the truth squarely in the eye. That’s what takes courage. If people were willing to look at what happens in slaughterhouses, or what happens on the farms where most of our food comes from, it’s just so horrendous that that to me is much more difficult than switching the diet. I like to think of the vegan diet as a new cuisine. Very few of us ate food from Thailand when we were growing up. It was unheard of. And I like to think of veganism as just another cuisine. It’s like you haven’t had it yet, but you’re going to love it when you try it. And what’s really challenging to me is looking at the truth of where animals and how animals are raised for food.
Caryn Hartglass: But you do have to acknowledge – or I know some people will look at it as acknowledging everything that they have done before has been wrong, and that takes a lot of courage.
Patti Breitman: I wouldn’t use the word wrong.
Caryn Hartglass: I know, but some people think of it that way.
Carol Adams: I think the thing to say is that people have been influenced by their culture. We all were – and that something like veganism comes along and we’re trying to find positive ways to help people see, that what culture said was not always the best thing for us. So, it’s not that we were individually wrong, it’s that our culture is wrong. So, we really – our goal is to be much more liberating about what this is about, and not blaming and not looking back and saying we should have done this we should have done that. We’re saying, here we are with all the strength of our experiences and all the varied ways we’ve known the world. Here’s another way.
Ginny Messina: Great, and one of the things we say in our book is that we can’t change your past, and so it’s not even worth worrying about that. You can change the future and that’s what we want to talk to people about. That’s what we want people to focus on. And that is very liberating and it is empowering.
Caryn Hartglass: Because with teenagers, you know I went vegetarian as a teenager, and in some ways, it’s easier because it’s a form of rebellion, to go against what your parents are doing. I don’t want to do what you’re doing, I’m doing something different. Of course, that was not my motivation at the time, but that’s why I think it’s easier for younger people.
Patti Breitman: I think it’s easy for anyone who wants to make a stand about social justice too. And I don’t want to diminish – yes, there is a learning curve. It’s not easy like snap your fingers and you’re a vegan. You do have to learn a few things if you’re going to do it safely and wisely, and that’s why we have all the information in our book. But the fact is, almost everyone we have heard from over 50, and we did a survey of over hundreds of people, everyone said it was easier than they thought it would be. Everyone ended up saying that, which really surprised us.
Ginny Messina: Yeah, although they did of course talk about some of the challenges, some of the things that you were alluding to, Caryn, about some of the challenges of going vegan a little bit later in life. Instead of dealing with your parents, you’re dealing with your adult children perhaps, or other family members, and these are long time relationships that are suddenly changing around something that is really important, which is food and meals and celebrations. And so people did speak to those challenges, and we addressed those in the book and tried to give people some tools for communicating and for handling some of the issues that might come up.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve actually been really surprised at some older people who have improved their diet and how their children really gave them a hard time. I think anybody that wants to take care of themselves, and when they start living better, it just boggles my mind that some kids will say, “You mean you’re not going to make your favorite dishes anymore?” It’s kind of selfish.
Patti Breitman: Well one of the things we do in the book to make that easier, there are two things we recommend. One is to encourage the child to make them at home. Give her your old recipes if she still wants to eat that way. But also, we talk about veganizing recipes. We teach people how to take a favorite recipe and make it a kinder choice, make it without cruelty, and most recipes can be veganized.
Carol Adams: And the other thing we say is, it’s okay for parents to individuate themselves and meet their own needs rather than a grown up child’s needs. It’s okay for a parent to simply say, “Hey, I love this. I love you. I don’t need to fix what I used to fix just to convey that I love you.”
Caryn Hartglass: Well, what I love, and I’m sure you’ve seen this many times, is that people that do it at an older age, how incredibly good they look after they’ve been doing it for awhile. I’ve seen that kind of white, pasty skin turn into really pink, glowing skin, and certainly losing weight and just the eyes look clearer. It’s just amazing the transformation, how at any age, the body is so forgiving and can jump in once you’re taking care of it, to look great.
Ginny Messina: And we talked about some of the advantages that people can anticipate, some of the health advantages that people can anticipate when they start replacing animal foods in their diet with fiber rich and antioxidant rich plant foods. A lot of people see their cholesterol go down. A lot of people see their blood pressure getting under control. Some people do lose weight, some people don’t, those are different kinds of experiences, but those are nice bonuses that a lot of people who need to lower their cholesterol, who need to reverse their risk for heart disease will gain when they go vegan.
Carol Adams: I think one of the strengths in the book are the three chapters that Ginny wrote, the nutritional expert in our trio, and she has such a wealth of information and conveys it in such a down to earth way. I learned so much and I’ve been a vegan for more than twenty years.
Ginny Messina: Thanks Carol.
Patti Breitman: I think it’s amazing how we can still learn things about being vegan. Thank goodness for Ginny’s contribution because this book teaches you how to be the healthiest possible vegan you could be.
Carol Adams: Because we don’t want to ignore the fact that this book was written for current vegans as well. This book covers issues that current vegans, who are over 50, might not know, or might want to know more about. This is where the richness of the nutritional chapters – also we have a chapter on caregiving, which is often something over 50 find themselves doing, caregiving of older relatives. So we really try to speak to current and about-to-be vegans.
Caryn Hartglass: It was very current and Ginny, you mentioned, I think, three of my favorite current subjects in the nutrition world and I thought we might touch on each of them. One is this thing about beans and resistance starch. I’m just so in love with it. Can we talk a little bit about that, because people need to hear more about the magic of beans and what they’re doing for us.
Ginny Messina: Yea I know, people ask me often if they can be a low carb vegan, and my response to that is you can cut some of the carbohydrates in your diet if you want to, if that makes you happy, if that makes you feel better, but don’t cut out the beans. They’re carbohydrate rich and protein rich and just packed with all kinds of things that are good for health. And one of the things that they contain is that resistance starch, which is a type of starch that is resistant to digestion. And so it travels intact through your intestines, and it slows the absorption of glucose into the blood stream, which is really good because that keeps your glucose levels more gentle and even. They raise kind of gradually, which is what we want. That is associated with lower risk for chronic disease. And it also impacts the population of bacteria, of microbes, in your intestines, and it impacts that population in a good way that again, reduces risk for chronic disease. So beans are just really wonderful. They are the only food in the world that packages fiber and healthy starch and protein all together. And so I am very enthusiastic about beans and I’m glad to hear you are too.
Caryn Hartglass: I am, and I always bring up beans when people ask about food combining, because I say, beans have everything in them and somehow we manage to be able to digest them. So, I’m not too concerned about mixing too many foods together.
Patti Breitman: We cover that myth about food combining in the book and we talk about other myths because people think that athletes can’t be vegan and people think vegans have to worry about nutrients in every meal and people think it’s too expensive and people think that it is too hard. There are so many myths floating around about veganism, and the only people who believe these myths are people who haven’t tried it yet. We encourage people to just jump in and try being vegan for a day. One day a week, or one meal a day, just say everyday that I am going to have a vegan lunch. Or there is a book out by Mark Bittman called, Vegan Before 6. His breakfast and lunch everyday is vegan. People who try it see that there is really nothing to be afraid of. It’s a wonderful cuisine and most of these myths, all of these myths, are just fads, are just myths.
Caryn Hartglass: Well Patti, you bring up a very interesting point and that’s fear. I keep learning more and more how so many decisions are made based on fear, and it’s really a sad thing, and being informed and educated really can help make the world less scary.
Carol Adams: I think the things that we want to say here is that you could be vegan a day, a week, without knowing anything new. Yes, there’s fear of learning new stuff, but you can begin this without actively having to learn much, because all you have to do is examine, what am I already eating that’s vegan? Spaghetti marinara, some wonderful vegan vegetables, roasted vegetables, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunch, oatmeal at breakfast. One of the things we are trying to do is empower people to realize that between what they already are eating and what could be veganized, and the cuisines that are perhaps in their neighborhood or in the city near them, they are going to, sort of, have their palettes explode with possibilities. So again, we want to emphasize, and a friend of mine came to my talk last week in Dallas, and she said, “I went home and I told my husband, ‘We could do it one day a week. We could do it two days a week,’” – for people to see, it’s not a huge step. It’s a lot of small steps that are inviting, wonderful, and delicious.
Caryn Hartglass: So, I wanted to talk about two other nutritional things that you brought up that I’m really excited about, and that is, this study that came out recently about carnitine. And Ginny was just mentioning about how the beans feed the microbes in our gut in a good way, working as probiotics, and the carnitine works with microbes too in a really fascinating way. Can you tell us a little bit about that.
Ginny Messina: Well, yea I think that that was an interesting study. There were some very, very brave vegetarians in that study who agreed to eat meat for the sake of science.
Caryn Hartglass: I was surprised to read that and I gave them a lot of credit.
Ginny Messina: Yea, I know, I don’t know if I could do it, but it was great that they did because it gave us good information about the fact that the body does – that the colony of microbes in the gut does change in relation to what we eat, and it is different between meat-eaters and vegetarians, and it affects the way we metabolize other compounds like carnitine. And that impacts disease risk. So that’s really important because we think of meat and we think of saturated fat and cholesterol and it doesn’t have any fiber, and those things are all true and those things are not especially good for you, but there are aspects of diet, of animal foods, that are not quite so obvious, that are new areas of research, and they really do impact health in negative ways. And that was something really interesting that came out of that study.
Patti Breitman: I want to point out something else that Ginny taught me in the book. It’s not just about what we stop eating that’s harming us. When we start eating all the plant foods, including beans, but the greens and the vegetables and the fruits and the – everything we are eating, we’re crowding out the foods that aren’t good for us. And the foods we’re replacing them with are so good for us that the net gain is more than just the benefit of giving up the animal product. When you give up the animal products, there’s a benefit, but by adding all these healthy plant-based foods in their place, there’s an even greater benefit.
Caryn Hartglass: I like that. Crowding them out.
Patti Breitman: Was that more Bekoff’s phrase, I think?
Caryn Hartglass: I think so.
Carol Adams: No – it’s Eric Marcus.
Patti Breitman: Eric Marcus, yea, but it’s a great concept because you really don’t want to think of it like renunciating other foods. You’re just crowding them out with better choices, and these better choices are so beautiful to look at and so delicious to eat.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I want to talk a little bit about fashion. Carol, you mentioned wearing cowboy boots in Texas. And, I just got myself a pair of vegan cowboy boots and –
Carol Adams: In New York?
Caryn Hartglass: I was giving a climate change talk to 200 cattle producers in Nevada this past week. I wasn’t sure if it would be a good thing if I wore cowboy boots or not, but now I am so glad I did, because I was very well received, but it’s important to look a certain way, I think, when we’re conveying a message to fit in in every way we possibly can so that people can be open and receptive to what it is you really want to talk about.
Carol Adams: Well, I never got my cowboy boots to fit in. I got them more to say, “Look, even this can be vegan.” So, I don’t know that I’m a good example of deciding to fit in. I think the most important thing is that we are at peace with what we’re doing. I don’t think it matters so much what we look like as what our affect is. If we are happy, relaxed, willing to talk to meat eaters but recognizing they’ve got a lot of anxieties, incentives, and that we don’t have to sucked in. Yes, I wear my cowboy boots around Dallas, but you know, sometimes I’m in Birkenstock, and – you know, it really depends.
Caryn Hartglass: There are vegan Birkenstocks?
Carol Adams: …Yeah, there was one non-leather Birkenstock that I had from years ago, but they don’t make them anymore, because people didn’t wear them enough to wear them out.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, and you mentioned earlier about the section on caregivers, and this was really a good section. I had never read – I don’t think anyone’s really touched on this one and connected the dots so well about kindness and compassion. Because, as vegans go, especially the younger ones, there’s a sort of anger that goes around, especially when the veil is lifted and we realize what is going on in the world around us. It can make anybody really angry, because of all the cruelty that is going on, but anger doesn’t really get us very far. And when we have to take care of people, well you might talk a little bit about that, Carol, about being a caregiver and not having expectations about changing the way people think.
Carol Adams: Well, I guess what I would say is, I entered my life as a caregiver never wanting to change them really, or never expecting to. When you’re a caregiver, you’re responding either to a crisis in which you are quickly mobilizing as fast as you can to respond to what health needs that has emerged: a broken hip, for instance, a broken leg. Or you’re responding to a chronic problem: heart disease, or in my case, Alzheimer’s. And so, the most important thing I found was always to have a sense of being prepared with my veganism. I knew that I had to hit the ground running, so I always took, prepared things, I made sure I picked up food on the way to the house, in case I never got out for 10 days. Who knew what was going to happen? But the most important thing was that the love we are sharing with our care receiver is directly related to the love we feel for the world and the animals. And they’re all of a part, and we might not accomplish everything in a day with most of the things we need to do for ourselves, but every day we could be vegan while we are caregiving and know that that is how we are connected with the outside world, even if we’re seeing only the four walls of a hospital, or the four walls of a house, where our care receiver lives. So for me, veganism was a huge affirmation, a huge connection, that always reminded me that I wasn’t alone, even if I felt alone.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so Patti. You have had tremendous energy for so long as the ultimate being and cheerleader. And – well it’s true you do so many wonderful things. Now, you regularly do food demos for people?
Patti Breitman: I do. Yes, I do them frequently. And I usually pick one or two easy recipes that anyone can do and to show how easy it is.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, and what typically – well, who comes to your food demos?
Patti Breitman: It really depends on who’s putting them on. If it’s at a bookstore, the public comes, and that’s the most exciting thing. I’m going down to Palm Springs at the end of April, and I’m doing the weekend of the 26th and the 27th of April. I’m doing two demos: one at the farmer’s market in Idyllwild, and one at a – no it’s a health food store in Idyllwild, and a farmer’s market in La Quinta. And that’s just the public who’s shopping in farmer’s markets, and I’m going to show them how beautiful the produce is and how you can shop it up and use it instead of chips for fabulous dips that I will demonstrate making.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, and you probably just blow them away. They’re like “I didn’t know I could do that!”
Patti Breitman: It is much easier than people think. I bring some of these dips to parties and potlucks, and people are like “Oh my god, what kind of cheese is in there?” and I go, “It’s not cheese. It’s lemon juice and it’s nutritional yeast, and it’s basically ground up cashews.” And they’re like, “Oh my god, I will never eat cheddar cheese again! It’s so delicious and so easy!”
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, we have to talk about cheese. I’m glad you brought that up. Because cheese – well clearly humanity is addicted to cheese. I mean you wouldn’t get the responses you get about people who cannot give up their cheese if they didn’t have some sort of…chemical addiction to them.
Patti Breitman: I think there is a chemical addiction. I think Neil Barnard talks a lot about that. There are casomorphins that are released in the brain when we eat cheese that make it addictive. But I want to say two things about that. First of all, we have an entire page and a half, almost two pages, on how to give up cheese. And I’ll let Carol talk about that. But, we also tell people, if you say, “I could never go vegan, I can’t give up cheese,” what about everything but the cheese? Can you give up the eggs? Can you give up the milk? Can you give up the ice cream? People think it’s all or nothing, when in fact, you can start making choices towards a kinder diet and toward a healthier diet without having to go all the way.
Carol Adams: I think the other thing is for people to realize how great pizza is, even if it doesn’t have cheese on it. When I became a vegan, that’s the first thing I did, I just started ordering double veggies on pizza without cheese, and I discovered that we really don’t know pizza well if we’re depending on cheese to convey the texture and wonderful taste. Ginny has –
Caryn Hartglass: Right, and that’s some of the limitations we have to culture and the food that we become accustomed to because when you go to Italy, there’s all different kinds of varieties of pizza or focaccia with pizza dough, with all kinds of toppings on it that don’t have cheese.
Ginny Messina: And not just Italy. If you come to California, we have that. We have that in California too. There are pizza places that don’t use cheese.
Caryn Hartglass: But now, we’re having exciting happenings in the world of industrial foods where we have Kite Hill. Have you all tried Kite Hill?
Ginny Messina: No.
Patti Breitman: I didn’t like it. I did not like it at all.
Caryn Hartglass: Aw, you didn’t. I liked it. What kind did you try?
Patti Breitman: I don’t know. It was a Whole Foods market and they don’t even market it with the non-vegan cheeses. I couldn’t find it and I had to ask someone and they said, “Oh, that’s for sale among the dairy cheeses.” I didn’t like it at all. I thought it was overpriced and not that tasty. The cheeses in our book, I think, are way better, tastier, more satisfying to make. Maybe I never liked that kind of cheese when I was eating dairy cheese. But, it tastes like a sour and bitter thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, it tastes like a mild mozzarella.
Patti Breitman: It tasted to me more like Brie, kind of bitter to me.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm, maybe that was a different flavor. Anyway, I’m excited that they’re coming out and they are expensive. I think it’s a supply and demand thing. The price will probably come down as they make more of them. But there are lots of different varieties that are going to be coming out. And I love making the cashew-based or the almond-based cheeses at home, but a lot of people out there just don’t know where their kitchen is and they don’t know where to start.
Patti: Well there’s also Daiya cheese made form tapioca that melts and comes shredded. They now have it in blocks, which I don’t like nearly as much but it comes shredded and it will melt on a sandwich or a pizza, so Daiya cheese is widely available. There’s two books out for people who want to give up cheese. Two entire books on to make your own very easy easy easy non diary cheese and one of them is like the Bible that’s been out for years called The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak.
Caryn: Oh I love that.
Patti: I love that book too, I swear by it. I don’t call it cheese when I serve it, I call it a dip or a spread and people are blown away by it, but it mimics the flavor and textures of cheese but also the new book by Miyoko Schinner called The Artisan Vegan Cheese which has fermented cheeses in it that are so much like real cheese like the Kite Hill version some I don’t like because they’re just too intense and I didn’t like the dairycheeses that were that intense.
Caryn: Yeah I made the mozzarella in her book and it does taste a lot like the Kite Hill version. It’s got those bugs in it that people like.
Patti: The bugs that are for your floor I guess, there’s no cruelty, that’s the difference. Without cruelty I can still eat cheese but we can take out the cruelty and that’s a big message.
Caryn: Oh amen to that and also it’s better for our health.
Carol: I wonder if Ginny could say something about umami here and how umami is functioning in influencing our sense of what we can and cannot give up.
Ginny: I think that umami is a huge factor here. I don’t really believe that people are addicted to cheese per se, and I like to be a little careful about that because we don’t want people to think that they’re going to be going through these horrible withdrawal symptoms when they stop eating cheese. I think that the bigger factor is when people stop eating cheese they are missing this umami taste, this taste that we supposedly have receptors for on our tongue. Cheese is very rich in umami and I think that that’s something that really attracts people to eating cheese. Also the creaminess, the texture of it, there are a lot of different factors there. The good thing about this is that we can replace all of those, Patti talked about making the dips or the cheese dips out of ground cashews, out of blended cashews and that replaces that creaminess that we’re looking for with cheeses. It really helps with the texture. Then using ingredients like sun dried tomatoes, or roasted peppers or nutritional yeast, which Patti mentioned also in her dip. Those are all really rich in umami, so when we start using ingredients like that to make dips and spreads or just to put on top of pizza, we’re getting that umami flavor that we’re missing form the parmesan cheese or the mozzarella cheese and I think that that makes a huge difference. So that’s something that we talk about in our book about all of these ingredients that have umami and as you’re weaning yourself off of cheese, if you start using more of these ingredients in your cooking, it really can make a difference and make you miss it a lot less.
Caryn: I’ve heard miso too in that mix.
Ginny: Miso, yes, tons of umami, yeah.
Patti : One of the things that made me give up dairy, almost overnight when I learned about it was the inherent cruelty of dairy production. The inherent cruelty of taking the baby cow away from the mother as soon as it was born because humans want the milk. There was something so wrenching and so not right and so unjust about that that when I read about that, that veal calves are the male offspring of dairy cows and we don’t want the calves to be suckling from their mothers, that we need the milk for humans for profit. That made me so angry and so motivated that overnight I gave up cheese, which I was very very very very reluctant to do until I learned that.
Caryn: I think a lot of people have once they’ve realized that, most people don’t realize that or know or, it’s not something that gets a lot of…it’s not talked about enough.
Patti: There’s a multimillion dollar industry telling you the opposite, that cows are happy.
Caryn: Yeah, happy cows.
Patti: Yeah, happy cows and milk is good for you and cheese is good for you, and it’s all vats of myths that needs busting but there’s no money behind busting it.
Caryn: Now you have a section on soy, there’s all those myths out there and your book really covers most of it very well. The protein myth, the soy myth, the calorie myths, there’s just too many myths. Soybeans are just beans.
Patti: That’s right, all beans are good for us. I just saw something on Michael Greger’s nutritionfacts.org about the money that the soybean industry has to promote the soybean versus the other bean industries. Soybeans are very good for us, but all beans are very good for us.
Caryn: Are soybeans that different from other beans?
Ginny: They’re actually very different from other beans because they’re a source of isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens and that’s really kind of the crux of the whole discussion about soy because there’s this myth about the fact that these isoflavones in soybeans act like estrogen in your body and the reality is actually quite different. They have a slightly different chemical structure than estrogen does, and they bind to different receptors in the body than estrogen does and a lot of tissues they have exactly the opposite effects of estrogen, in some other tissues they have no effects at all, tissues for estrogens have big effects sometimes, isoflavones have no effects sometimes. When we start doing a comparison of soy isoflavones to estrogen in different parts of the body. We see that these compounds are just totally different. You can’t look at how estrogen acts in the body or how it impacts tissues and say that isoflavones are going to do this too, but that’s really the kind of the core of the whole discussion about soy foods. It’s kind of unfortunate because soy foods do have these isoflavones actually have some health benefits. We see for example that young girls that are eating soy foods and are getting these isoflavones at the time of puberty or in their teen years, they have a lower lifetime risk of breast cancer. Women who eat soy foods, women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer who eat soy foods have a better prognosis, so it’s really too bad that people are avoiding these foods because there’s a big misunderstanding about what these isoflavones do.
Caryn: So human estrogen is very different from plant estrogen. Is there a different name for plant estrogen than just calling it a plant estrogen? You may have seen this but I’ve read different blogs and very often they just say soy has estrogen in it. You don’t want to eat it because it has estrogen, and everyone’s just assuming it’s the same as human estrogen.
Ginny: I think it’s because of the simplistic terminology. The term estrogen really refers to a whole group of compounds. These are all compounds that are different types, they’re estrogens in plural. They’re all different. The hormone estrogen, estradiol, that’s in our bodies, is just one type of estrogen. That’s where some of that misunderstanding comes in where people think that plant estrogens are the same as the estrogens in mammals. I don’t know what we can do about that because they are all parts of this particular chemical group.
Carol: Ginny I was asked at my book signing about women who’ve had breast cancer, that they were being told they should not eat soy. Have you heard that?
Ginny: Oh yeah, that’s actually, women have been told that for quite a few years. Now this new research has come out and the research has been done in both China and the U.S., suggesting that women who have had breast cancer actually do better when they’re soy eaters. I know that organizations like the American Cancer Society say that there’s no reason for women to avoid soy foods if they’ve been treated for breast cancer. So we’re seeing a change in some of these national organizations but I don’t think that message is getting down to individual doctors. That’s going to take awhile.
Patti: May I introduce a tone of cynicism just for a minute. This is not representative of our book, but I just want to ask a question of the three of you. Is there any reason to suspect that the beef industry is behind propagating the myths that soy isn’t good for us because people think they need their protein and they associate protein with beef and the soy industry doesn’t want us to think that soy foods are good for us? Am I totally being cynical or is there any reason to suspect that?
Ginny: Well it would make sense, I guess. I’m sure they’re happy that people are so fearful about soy foods. I’ve never seen any, I don’t know of any evidence that they’re behind it, but it’s a reasonable suspicion.
Patti: Yeah, I just have a suspicious mind and I think some of these myths won’t die despite all the good science that soy is good for us. I’m thinking who stands to benefit by people not believing it. The people who are selling alternate kinds of protein in the form of animal flesh
Ginny: It’s unfortunate that a lot of the myths are embraced by some natural foods kinds of communities and even some vegetarian communities, so that’s unfortunate but it’s certainly difficult for everyone to weed through the myths and the truths about soy foods. It’s complex, there’s a lot of misinformation out there.
Caryn: I think it’s hard for us to be objective all the time and if you want to promote beef, you’re going to look for opportunities to support your case and I think that’s what’s happening more than anything else.
Patti: It’s a good rule of thumb to follow the money. You can ask who stands to benefit if we believe this. With veganism, the only people who stand to benefit are the consumers. There’s not any big organization behind us or big industry trying to make a buck on our choices.
Caryn: You know that’s a good point and there are some people whose livelihoods, this isn’t big ag. or big corporations, but there’s some people whose livelihoods depend on growing animals and killing them and selling them. There needs to be an alternative for them if they want to get out. There’s nothing that our government doesn’t support a transition from leaving the dairy industry or meat industry to go organic plant industry or something like that. If anyone really did want to change, when their livelihood depends on it, makes it even harder.
Patti: Well the Civil War was fought of the same issue. Our livelihood, our way of life, we need the slaves to grow the cotton, there’s always going to be a change towards greater justice and when it’s the animal’s turn for getting greater justice, there might be people whose jobs have to change, or whose careers have to change. I don’t think the fact that people might lose their job in farming should ever be a reason why we shouldn’t move towards a plant-based diet.
Carol: But people have lost their jobs in farming because of the integrated nature of factory farms so that farmers are really merely contractors to agribusiness so it’s not we’re coming along and knocking something out, it’s already been knocked out. I think one of the bravest examples I’ve ever seen of what transformations are possible was a tempeh factory in a reclaimed slaughterhouse.
Patti: Wow, where was that?
Carol: It was in the Midwest in the 1990s and I wish I had kept more information on it. It was like we are not taking away jobs, we’re creating new and different kinds of jobs. The whole fact that there are so many different vegan businesses flourishing these days, they have to employ people, they have to, the more successful they are, the more people they employ. One of the things that the Quakers knew before the Civil War was that a boycott was an effective way of saying no to injustice. I like to think of veganism as in part a boycott of an unjust system for people who work in it. The people who work in slaughterhouses and for the animals who are being killed. We’re boycotting that and through that boycott, creating a demand for new kinds of products. So we’re never just turning our back on something, we’re turning our front towards something. We’re always caught in a dynamic movement of change.
Caryn: Amen to that.
Patti: I think you need to write another book, Carol.
Caryn: Couple more things. There was a new study that came out, you may have seen it earlier this week, in Cell Metabolism, about animal protein in people from 50 to 65, this is a never too late to go vegan reason, that too much animal protein causes increase in mortality, diabetes, cancer. Anybody see that study?
Patti: I didn’t see the study, I saw the headline from CBS news about it.
Caryn: Yes, Ginny?
Ginny: I saw the study, I hate to throw cold water on it…
Caryn: I heard mixed things about it, that maybe it wasn’t as good as it seems
Ginny: It wasn’t, it really wasn’t a very good study. I think that we need to be careful about that kind of stuff because there were a whole bunch of rebuttals to that study from different scientists and they were really good rebuttals, saying why this study wasn’t particularly good. Also, it was an epidemiological study that was published in a journal called Cell Metabolism which raises some red flags for me which is not where you would want to publish an epi study. Turned down from other journals. I think there’s so many reasons to avoid animal protein from a health perspective because it’s usually packaged with things like cholesterol and saturated fat and things like carnitine that we talked about. It doesn’t have fiber. There are just so many reasons why replacing animal foods in a diet with plant foods is going to be good for you. I don’t think that this was a great study but it doesn’t matter too much to me because I still think that we have the evidence on our side that vegan diets are the only ethical way to eat. They are the best for the planet and you’re always going to enjoy better health when you start eating more whole plant foods. Even though I wasn’t crazy about that study, I still think we’ve got lots of evidence on our side for vegan diets.
Caryn: And what about Al Gore? What about Al Gore? We’ve been talking about him for a long time because when he came out with that inconvenient truth, we were all screaming how come you’re not talking about the animals Al? He’s made quite a turnaround recently.
Patti: I only read one reference to him going vegan and it was sort of tucked away casually in an article about something else. It just said Al Gore recently went vegan, but I haven’t heard anything from him on the subject. Has anyone else?
Caryn: He was recently interviewed and he said about a year ago he was curious about it and just figured he’d try it and he liked it and he stuck with it.
Ginny: There’s a little meme that’s been making its way around Facebook and one of the things that he said was that he just wanted to experiment with it and he felt better after he started eating a vegan diet. One of the things that he says that I thought was really interesting was that he said I felt viscerally better. Which to me, maybe he felt physically better, maybe he felt like his health improved, but I also sort of, and maybe I’m just reading into this because it’s what I want, I kind of felt that he was saying that the big picture, he felt like he was doing the right thing. It just felt better to him. I don’t know if anyone else read that comment that way…
Carol: Yes, definitely. I thought it was an interesting choice of words and I’ve been wondering about him because of that one little mention that we all heard a few months back. It’s good to get a little clarity on that.
Patti: It’s the whole Clinton administration. Bill went vegan first, so maybe there’s hope for Hillary, maybe there’s hope for more people.
Caryn: That would give the republican party a whole lot more reason to not like the democrats. As if they don’t have enough already.
Patti: I think that whether Al Gore went vegan or not, certainly there was a problem with him talking about the environment without including the analysis on meat eating but I think one of the things he was trying to say in it’s never too late to go vegan is really not about celebrities and it’s not about politicians, it’s really about the choices you can make now that make you feel better, make you more connected to the Earth and to animals, make you know that you’re adding to compassion in the world, so one of the things we did is we interviewed a variety of vegans over 50, listened to their stories and to show the variety of ways in which vegans are living in this world now. One of the things I love about the book is the way different vegans speak about their lives and what it meant to them. People have told me that’s their favorite part of the book, is reading people’s stories.
Ginny: I’ve heard that too and the people who’ve shared their stories with us were so honest about their struggles and their joys of being vegan and I think when we were writing the book it meant a lot to us to read those and to be able to use them. I think that that was a really special part of our book.
Caryn: People love stories, people love individual experiences, it certainly makes it an easier thing to read when you’re talking about [nutrition] and thing that can be a little dry to read personal stories makes all the difference.
Carol: Last week I met Donald Moy whose story is after chapter 8. He came to the book signing and he was just such a lovely person to interview and I invited him to say a couple words and he said so it turned out that after Carol interviewed me, everyone was going to know that I was over 50 and it was so cute but he again there’s a famous saying by George Bernard Shah when he turned 80, he was a long time vegetarian, and everyone said to him well you don’t look 80, and Shah said, well actually this is what 80 looks like. I was saying to Donald well this is what over 50 looks like, this is what people don’t realize, that you can look this great because you’ve liberated yourself into a way of living that’s, you’re not having visceral crises like Al Gore said.
Caryn: That’s just like when people see someone who’s slim and probably at their ideal weight and everyone’s going they’re too thin, they’re too thin! Because we’re used to seeing people being overweight all the time.
Patti: It breaks my heart when I teach my cooking classes, so many people come who have already been diagnosed with a heart condition or cancer and they’re trying desperately to change their ways but I wish I could tell people don’t wait, don’t want until that scary diagnosis. Change your ways now before it’s too late. Even if you have a disease, your odds are recovering for it and living long after it are greatly enhanced when you’re eating healthy plant based foods.
Caryn: You’ve got more than 75 recipes in this book and vegan cuisine is just over the top these days, it’s just totally expanding and there’s so many great books out there. How did you choose which ones to put into your book?
Patti: Before we get to that I wan to point out that not every vegan likes to cook and so we have lots of ideas and foods and recipes for people who don’t cook, but we teach you how to eat vegan even if you’re not going to cook, so I just want to say that before we talk about recipes.
Caryn: Okay, that’s probably most people. People like watching food shows and watching people cook but they really don’t want to do it themselves.
Carol: One of the things that we did, Patti and I were originally going to write a book called What Do Vegans Eat? and we had answers from more than 200 people and some of them described meals that people raved about and I had written to them and said would you send me the recipe. When we interviewed people for this book, when they talked about meals that people raved about, we said would you send us the recipe. So some of these are recipes from long time vegans who have tried these recipes, made them as their favorites and we felt they had done a lot o testing on recipes and they were very reliable. We wanted to include these sort of representative, down home, delicious foods. We also wanted to include foods that were among the ones that Jimmy recommends for people to be eating. Ways to cook leafy greens, ways to include beans in your diet, and then we had a third section where we wanted to show people how to veganize some of their favorite foods. We have vegan ricotta, vegan parmesan, mayonnaise, we wanted to have every kind of appetizer, soup, salad, dessert, represented as well and before we knew it, we had more than 75 recipes.
Patti: Way more, we had to cut it back for space in the book.
Caryn: I’m not surprised, I love my food, I love vegan food. I’m a foodie and there’s just too many great dishes out there. There’s just too many great dishes out there that have to go through the trouble to grow plants and grow animals and slaughter them to feed people that create all kinds of environmental degradation. It’s just nutty.
Ginny: It really is nutty, you’re right. The choices for people whether they like to cook, or whether they don’t, or they just want to cook a really fast meal. It’s really unbelievable when I go through Pinterest and see all of the recipes or food ideas that are on there, or you just do a Google search, it’s really just incredible. Vegan food is just amazing.
Patti: I want to mention something a friend of mine is doing and he’s taking pictures and sending it to me because he’s so excited. He’s moving toward a moving diet after a heart episode and he said what helps him not have any kind of cravings is he keeps beautifully colored bowls all over his kitchen with different vegan snacks in them, so he’ll have some walnuts, he’ll have some raisins, he’ll have some pumpkin seeds, he’ll have some dried cranberries or figs, or dates. He just keeps different foods around the kitchen so when he wants to eat something there’s something healthy to grab.
Ginny: That’s a great idea,
Patti: Yeah, I love that.
Caryn: I think that means we just need to plan ahead and be organized and be prepared and that’s how we can be most successful in everything, especially changing our diet. When you’re hungry you’ll grab anything and you want the right thing to be there.
Carol: Speaking of being well prepared, we want to tell your listeners that we do have a website: nevertoolatetogovegan.com and it does list all our book signing events and where we’ll be speaking so if people want to catch Patti doing a food demo, or Ginny talking, we’ve got a list of where we’ll be when on the website.
Caryn: Okay, I didn’t know that, I’ll update my page on you and put the website in there. that’s good news. Well thank you all of you for joining me. This is a wonderful book, probably a great Mother’s Day present, a Father’s Day present, a good present for someone that has everything except knowing about the things that they should be eating. It’s a very very good one, thank you for doing it.
All: Thank you for having us on.
Caryn: I just wanted to say this was The View vegan-style!
Patti: Well thank you for the opportunity to be one of those stars on The View!
Caryn: That’s right, we need to have one of those, there are some wonderful women in this movement and you are it.
Patti: It takes one to know one Caryn.
Transcribed by Transcribed by Dorene Zhou, May 28, 2014 and Meichin, May 20, 2014