Rynn Berry specialized in the study of vegetarianism from an historical perspective. He is the author of six books on vegetarianism: The New Vegetarians, Famous Vegetarians, Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism and the World’s Religions, Hitler: Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover, and The Vegan Guide to New York City. His sixth book—Becoming Raw, he co-authored with vegan nutritionists Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis. His many articles, as well as reviews of his books have appeared in Ahimsa, The American Vegan, Vegetarian Voice, Vegetarian Journal, Satya, Yoga Journal, and in newspapers such as The New York Times, The Toronto Star, The New York Daily News, The Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, The London Sunday Telegraph, and the Washington Post.
TRANSCRIPTION (Updated 1/14/2014):
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody. It’s time for IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD. I’m your host, Caryn Hartglass. One thing I like to do on this program is to promote the work of many people in the plant-based – whole foods – sustainable – cruelty-free food movement: doctors, nutritionists, chefs, authors, activist, foodies.
Last week I mentioned the passing of Robert Goodland. I invite you to visit my website, ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com and read more about that great man and listen to my interview with him in the archives.
Unfortunately, just a few days ago we lost another, Rynn Berry.
Rynn Berry specialized in the study of vegetarianism from an historical perspective. He is the author of six books on vegetarianism: The New Vegetarians, Famous Vegetarians, Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism and the World‚Äôs Religions, Hitler: Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover, and The Vegan Guide to New York City. His sixth book‚ Becoming Raw, he co-authored with vegan nutritionists Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis. His many articles, as well as reviews of his books have appeared in Ahimsa, The American Vegan, Vegetarian Voice, Vegetarian Journal, Satya, Yoga Journal, and in newspapers such as The New York Times, The Toronto Star, The New York Daily News, The Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, The London Sunday Telegraph, and the Washington Post.
I loved reading his work, quoting him often, especially when it came to famous vegetarians in history or those who are believed to have been vegetarians. I learned from Rynn, for example, that both Hitler and Einstein were NOT vegetarian.
I met Rynn over 15 years ago when I was with EarthSave International. Rynn spoke at a number of my monthly dinner lectures in New York city. He was always engaging, sharing fascinating stories and historical facts. He spoke intelligently, humbly. He treated everyone with respect and never stooped to idle gossip. A few times I bumped into him at Bonobo’s, a raw food restaurant that unfortunately is no longer in business) and we had an opportunity to break bread (actually kale salad) together. More recently we’d catch up at the VeggiePride parade in Manhattan. I can’t imagine not seeing him there this year.
In memory of Rynn Berry I am going to replay an interview I had with him in 2009 on vegetarian history. I hope you enjoy it.
Caryn Hartgrass: How did you get started? I always like to ask all my guests how they got started.
Rynn Berry: Well, I was a teenager when I embraced a vegetarian diet. And being an amateur historian all my life, I was impressed by the number of famous people, geniuses, super athletes who gravitated to a vegetarian diet. So I decided to try it, especially when I learned of the ethical aspects of vegetarianism and the animal excrete adrenaline in anticipation of being slaughtered that plus the inspiration of famous vegetarians of the past that actuated me to become a vegetarian.
Caryn Hartgrass: So that is interesting a lot of people seem to be interested in what celebrities are doing.
Rynn Berry: Yeah.
Caryn Hartgrass: Whether it is good or bad, they don’t all have the best reputation but some of them are really impressive and so some vegetarian websites like to list celebrities that are vegetarian. I don’t know if all of them really are. But, you know it doesn’t matter if people are a hundred percent of one thing or another that fact is the ones listed are near vegetarian or vegetarian for all the reasons that you mentioned. So let’s go back in history and talk about about some of the original vegetarians.
Rynn Berry: Well in antiquity, in the west the first historical vegetarian of which we have written records was Pythagorous.
Caryn Hartgrass: oh, of the Pythagorean theorem.
Rynn Berry: Oh you being a chemical engineer, you certainly would know that.(laugh)
Caryn Hartgrass: He was a smart guy.
Rynn Berry: Smart guy, yes as most vegetarians are. (Laugh) and it was actually a tenant of the Pythagorean society that one be a vegetarian to progress spiritually and intellectually.
Caryn Hartgrass: How long ago was that?
Rynn Berry : He flourished in the 6th century BC.
Caryn Hartgrass: Ok.
Rynn Berry: So that was sometime ago. About 2600 years ago.
Caryn Hartgrass: Do we know much about it? Did people accept his premise? The idea of vegetarianism?
Rynn Berry: He was very influential, master of the great thinkers. Ancient Greece and Rome were shaped by his thinking, his influence.
Caryn Hartgrass: Okay. Let’s move forward a little bit.
Rynn Berry: In fact let me just add Pythagorean was actually the term of art for vegetarian until mid 19th century when the neologism vegetarianism was coined.
Caryn Hartgrass: So we could call ourselves Pythagoreanians?
Rynn Berry: Yeah Neo-Pythagoreanians. (Laugh)
Caryn Hartgrass: I like that. (Laugh). I am going to use that.
Rynn Berry: And actually it had more of an ethical component to it then the word vegetarian. Because Pythagoreanian really implys veganism so there is an ethical dimension to it that the term vegetarianism lacked.
Caryn Hartgrass: Right, not just food related.
Rynn Berry: Right, not just food related. Whereas the term vegetarianism has been distorted and it’s become associated with strictly dietary interests.
Caryn Hartgrass: Yeah, well as a vegan, I use whatever I can to get people interested.
Rynn Berry: Anything that is legitimate.
Caryn Hartgrass: If it’s the environment or we talked last week with Richard Schwartz about Genesis 1:29, how it’s in the bible. But for me it’s definitely an ethical thing too. Okay, so let’s move a little forward in history and who’s the next one we are going to talk about? Jesus maybe?
Rynn Berry: Well, yes Jesus.
Caryn Hartgrass: Was Jesus a vegetarian?
Rynn Berry: Of course, Pythagoreanous has his counterpart which was Buddha.
Caryn Hartgrass: Ah, Buddha.
Rynn Berry: Both were roughly contemporary.
Caryn Hartgrass: And the Buddha was vegetarian?
Rynn Berry: Yes, the Buddha was vegetarian. That is the first precept of Buddhism. Hymns are non violence to all living creatures and his followers were required to take vegetarianism vow.
Caryn Hartgrass: So, how..do you know how Buddhists kinda loosened up there? Because not all Buddhist today are vegetarian.
Rynn Berry: That is true. Scholars like Phillip Caplow put it down to westernization that rather pernicious influence that westernization has had on the religious of Asia.
Caryn: Everything really.
Rynn Berry: …The very strict and adhering to the first precept and following the vegetarian diet with the growth of the west, with the might and power of the west, people have unfortunately adopted western eating habits as a way of imulating the success of western culture.
Caryn Hartgrass: Do you see the Buddhists at all talking about going back to to their roots especially with global warming or anything like that?
Rynn Berry: ..I think it is definitely a trend.
Caryn Hartgrass: Okay, good. So now can we talk about Jesus? (Laugh) Was Jesus a vegetarian?
Rynn Berry: I maintain that he was. And in my varies books I make a case for him being vegetarian. After all it was difficult not to be a vegetarian in ancient Israel. The average person lived on a plant based diet out of necessity, out of economic necessity animal flesh was a luxury food and Jesus certainly emphasizing simplicity of living would have had to be vegetarian but also had ethical precepts very similar to those of Buddhism in which thou shall not kill is really the first is really the first commandment of the asees of which he belonged. All the evidence suggests that he was a vegan.
Caryn Hartgrass: Right, and he protested with the slaughter in the temples.
Rynn Berry: Right. Probably he probably what got him killed as he was protesting the animal sacrifice in the temples. You know at that time people would go into the temple and purchase an animal and the priest would butcher it, then it would be roasted on the alter and shared out among the worshipers and so animal sacrifice was connected with flesh eating, soon as he did that he was brought up on charges and executed.
Caryn Hartgrass: And the rest is history. (Laugh)
Rynn Berry: And the rest is history(laugh).
Caryn Hartgrass: Oh gosh, so who else can we talk about in history that’s interesting.
Rynn Berry: Who I think is interesting and impressive figure is genius who ever lived the man for which the word renaissance man was coined.
Caryn Hartgrass: Leonardo Da Vinci.
Rynn Berry: Leonardo Da Vinci his name was synonymous was genius he became a vegetarian as a teenager probably influence by his friend Zior Astro who was a vegan.
Caryn Hartgrass: Do we know what he ate, Leonardo Da Vinci?
Rynn Berry: He ate very frugally, we have his accounts, the things he bought in groceries. Simple recipes. He lived on salads, fruit not elaborate dishes. It didn’t diminish his strength he was because he was deputed to bend a horseshoe with his bare hands.
Caryn Hartgrass: hmm.
Rynn Berry: He was probably the only person in Italy that could do that.
Caryn Hartgrass: I didn’t know that. Now how about Albert Einstein? He is on a lot of celebrity websites as being vegetarian.
Rynn Berry: He is one those.
Caryn Hartgrass: He was also a super smart guy.
Rynn Berry: He was, but I did the research and alas he simply wasn’t a vegetarian. The word vegetarian was never mentioned in any of his biographies.
Caryn Hartgrass: Why do you think he gets attributed.
Rynn Berry: He did, A vegetarian society that he gave ringing endorsement for vegetarianism, and played lip service to them without actually putting it into practice. He married his second wife for her prowess in the kitchen and it wasn’t vegetarian. (Laugh) he suffered from gastric complaints later in life.
Caryn Hartgrass: He ate too well. That’s okay, I imagined that he was so in his head and he needed someone to feed him.
Rynn Berry: At least he realized it wasn’t the ideal lifestyle and certainly promoted orally and in writing but couldn’t bring himself to practice it.
Caryn Hartgrass: Another famous person that gets noted for vegetarian who isn’t or wasn’t is Hilter.
Rynn Berry: That’s very true.
Caryn Hartgrass: How is that, that everyone claims that he was vegetarian?
Rynn Berry: Well, you know it’s rather a juicy paradox to toy with. Especially historians In fact the worlds leading authority on Hitler, Sir Ian Kershaw stoutly maintains in his most recent biography that he was a vegetarian.
Caryn Hartgrass: Did that come out after your book?
Rynn Berry: Yes it did, unfortunately. In fact the London telegraph queued or the London Times queued him about my book and he (Sir Ian Kershaw) said “to assert that Hilter wasn’t a vegetarian is utter nonsense” but, the trouble with people like Kershaw is they are not vegetarians themselves so they don’t know what constitutes a vegetarian diet. They think if you eat vegetables five days a week and meat the…
Caryn Hartgrass: Or you eat the feathered vegetable or the scaly vegetable (laugh).
Rynn Berry: Or the swimming vegetable. And in Hitlers case it was the liver dumplings that he loved.
Caryn Hartgrass: Ah, but liver dumplings there not meat.(laugh)
Rynn Berry: Thats right. So he admits that Hitler ate and had a weakness liver dumplings or had a weakness for liver dumplings. But that is pardonable, So one can be a vegetarian and eat liver dumplings according to Ian Kershaw.
Caryn Hartgrass: Okay, so much for Hitler. (Laugh). So let’s talk about some of the books that you wrote. At little bit about New Vegetarians.
Rynn Berry: Yes, that was actually my first book. It was a collection of interviews and biographies of famous people, prominent contemporary vegetarians. People like Isaac Bashevis Singer who I’ve interviewed. I had the honor of interviewing him.
Caryn Hartgrass: You did.
Rynn Berry: I did. He was very dedicated to his vegetarianism. And said he wanted to be a vegetarian all of his life but his parents wouldn’t let him become a vegetarian (Laugh) it was only late in life that he did but then he took to it with…
Caryn Hartgrass: Okay. Who else?
Rynn Berry: There was Dennis Weaver, prominent actor. He appeared in alot of situational comedies no dramatic series on television like Gunsmoke which was the longest running western…adult western they called it. I think it still holds the record for the longest running adult western. He played a very memorable character on that program. He told me he was portrayed as a meat eater, but he always ate flesh substitutes.
Caryn Hartgrass: Now if they did that show today, maybe they would be more apt to admitting there was a vegetarian in that macho group.
Rynn Berry: Yeah, I think it is a littlemore realistic.
Caryn Hartgrass: Because I find on television and in movies that there is alot more openness. There is always vegetarian or vegetarian comments included in the script. Which is a good thing but I think some of it is because there is a lot of vegetarians in the entertainment industry, they are trying their darnest to get the message out however they can.
Rynn Berry: Well, you know Hollywood personalities celebrities want to look their best and they want to stave off the aging process.
Caryn Hartgrass: There is nothing better then green to do that, salads, salads, salads no calories, and lots of nutrients.
Rynn Berry: That’s right. And are usually in the vanguard of the dietary and cosmetic trends. For that reason. I think Weaver was the first actor of his generation to become, first television actor to become a vegetarian.
Caryn Hartgrass: So you say that you wrote some animal rights related plays. What were they about? I didn’t know that, Is that new?
Rynn Berry: Right, it is new. We have been performing them every summer at summerfest.
Caryn Hartgrass: Ok, give me an examples one of them and what it is about.
Rynn Berry: Well, probably the most popular one is about the life of Leonardo Da Vinci, takes place in the palace of the Mona Lisa is a noble women she commissioned her portrait him Leonardo Da Vinci and they have this dialog about the merits and demerits of vegetarian diet.
Caryn Hartgrass: It’s a two person play?
Rynn Berry: Yeah, it’s a two person play. Well actually the butler makes a brief appearance. He actually fetches a horseshoe for Leonardo to bend.
Caryn Hartgrass: So what have the critics said about this?
Rynn Berry: Well we perform them at the American Vegan Garden party last year. And there was actually some journals present.
Caryn Hartgrass: I would like to read them.
Rynn Berry: We should do some on the air. (Laugh)
Caryn Hartgrass: There is an idea or maybe we could film a version and put on our ()TV. How is that?
Rynn Berry: Excellent. They have actually been performed on the air in Texas. Janis Bloom, I don’t know if you know Janis.
Caryn Hartgrass: No.
Rynn Berry: Janis, Go Vegan Texas.
Caryn Hartgrass: Oh right.
Rynn Berry: We did a couple of plays there on the air.
Caryn Hartgrass: Yeah, well whatever it takes, there is certainly more and more information, more books on vegetarianism, on why to go vegetarian. ..there are certainly more and more cookbooks which is wonderful and some of them are outstanding.
Rynn Berry: Superb.
Caryn Hartgrass: Exciting. Certainly in NYC we got a wealth of places to eat, wonderful restaurants. But threatre we need more threatre. (Laugh) I like that idea.
Rynn Berry: (laugh)
Caryn Hartgrass: So you have a new book, Becoming Raw.
Rynn Berry: Coming in September.
Caryn Hartgrass: I know that the coauthors Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina have written Becoming Vegetarian and Becoming Vegan. So this is like a third in a series.
Rynn Berry: A trilogy.
Caryn Hartgrass: Neither of them are raw.
Rynn Berry: No, but they are actually incorporating more raw into their diet as a result of their previous book, which is called Raw Revolution which they did with Cherie Soria. I don’t know if you know her. She founded the Living Light Institute.
Caryn Hartgrass: Ok, so what’s the history behind the raw foods movement.
Rynn Berry: Actually it has a rather History. It started in the 1830’s with the Sylvester Gramm of all people.
Caryn Hartgrass: I thought it started in the Garden of Eden. (Laugh)
Rynn Berry: Well yeah, but this is strictly the American version of the raw foodism. It does have..as you say it goes back to the Garden of Eden and beyond. (Laugh) but you know the American branch of raw foodism starts in the 1830’s with Sylvester Gramm and he actually prescribed a raw food diet in his lectures there was a cholera epidemic in the 1830’s everyone who followed his raw food diet survived unscabed.
Caryn Hartgrass: Wow. So that is interesting. And that is documented.
Rynn Berry: That is documented and he also promoted it in his book Lectures in Science Nutrition which came out in the late 1830’s.
Caryn Hartgrass: I didn’t know that.
Rynn Berry: Yeah.
Caryn Hartgrass: Ok, well then what happened?
Rynn Berry: Then, it was taken up by another fellow Bernard McFadden who was one of the great industrial magnates of the turn of the century and started a whole chain of vegetarian restaurants and published…
Caryn Hartgrass: That were raw?
Rynn Berry: That were raw and cooked. He himself was a raw foodist.
Caryn Hartgrass: And so when did it become really Hollywood and popular?
Rynn Berry: Well it hasn’t yet. But has had its proponents. People like Gaylord Howser who was a raw foodist of his time. Paul Bragg.
Caryn Hartgrass: Oh, Paul Bragg of Braggs amino acids.
Rynn Berry: Yes he was a raw foodism vegan ..then ..unfortunately be lost his way.
Caryn Hartgrass: So what can we learn about reading Becoming Raw?
Rynn Berry: Well, I am responsible for the historical piece.
Caryn Hartgrass: Have you read the whole piece?
Rynn Berry: I have not read their contributions yet. But I am working on the final final edits of my historical section. Their books never sell fewer then a 100,000 copies so…
Caryn Hartgrass: Excellent.
Rynn Berry: So it is going to be widely consumed.
Caryn Hartgrass: Good, Do you know what the purpose of the book is supposed to be?
Rynn Berry: To provide as much information historical and nutritional about the raw food diet as possible. Because it is kinda virgin territory.
Caryn Hartgrass: Just like any diet there are different kinds of vegetarian diets. Certainly somebody could be vegetarian by living on french fries and ice cream. Then vegan, there could be a junk food vegan diet and is there a junk food raw diet?
Rynn Berry: There is a spectrum of diets..of raw food diets…at one end of the spectrum there is sproutarian diet advocated by…originated luckily by Ann Wigmore and her Viktoras Kulvinskeas People of that elk.
Caryn Hartgrass: I have been to her place in Puerto Rico.
Rynn Berry: Puerto Rico, yes. So that is a one end of the spectrum then and the other end of the spectrum are the fruitarians the fruitagores exemplified by Dr. Douglas Graham and Dr. Herbert Shelton then along the continuum and I am embarrassed to say there are even raw carnivores, instinctos ..and they eat raw animal flesh.
Caryn Hartgrass: I am scrunching up my face right now because it is not very appealing.
Rynn Berry: Right, everyone complains of the stench of the living quarters of the instinctos and their kitchens because it is revolting. (Laugh) Just wanted to point out that they do exist and do have a following.
Caryn Hartgrass: Raw milk and raw meat.
Rynn Berry: Raw milk, raw cheeses and raw fish…
Caryn Hartgrass: Okay, let’s get back to the raw fruits and vegetables and raw nuts, raw seeds so there are the sproutarians, the fruitarians and..
Rynn Berry : And researching the book I was rather astonished to discover that many of the sprouts ..some of them are rather toxic.
Caryn Hartgrass: Like buckwheat sprouts.
Rynn Berry: Yes, buckwheat sprouts exactly and even alfalfa sprouts have trypsin inhibitors.
Caryn Hartgrass: Should we should not be eating them?
Rynn Berry: Having done the research (and) would sort of caution people against it.
Caryn Hartgrass: Broccoli sprouts?
Rynn Berry: Those are really good, but humans have no history until recently of consuming alfalfa sprouts for example.
Caryn Hartgrass: We have no history.
Rynn Berry: No.
Caryn Hartgrass: Right, ok.
Rynn Berry: Of course, Brenda and Vesanto are doing the definitive research on this.
Caryn Hartgrass: I have some alfalfa seeds at home that every now and then I sprout just looking at these this morning thinking I should finish them up…maybe not..
Rynn Berry: I have a good friend Rick Brownstein that has written a book called Sprout Garden and takes the precaution of cooking his sprouts.
Caryn Hartgrass: That’s interesting because I like to sprout the larger things lentils and mung then just like to to do a flash sautéed in a wok with some onions, garlic and ginger so it doesn’t really cook them to long.
Rynn Berry: Yeah, you have to cook them for as long as 10 minutes or more because of the typsin inhibitors and other inhibitors they contain.
Caryn Hartgrass: So why would someone want to be on a raw food diet.
Rynn Berry: Well, because the nutrients are bio available and one of the arguments of raw food against eating cooked food is the vitamins and nutrients are killed by the cooking process above say a 120 degrees is deleterious to nutrients and vitamins that are heat sensitive. That is the main arguments for it, that we want to have as much nutritive proportions of the food as possible if heat deanimated the food and colagates the proteins.
Caryn Hartgrass: I am not going to tell anyone what I think or what is right or wrong or worst and it is definitely a an option. I just want people to eat more fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. I’m a real big believer in Dr Fuhrman and his diet which is a largely green diet, raw, streamed and juiced he said that when you stream some of the greens some of their nutrients are more absorbable when cooked as well as the lycopene in tomatoes when it is cooked. But, then the arguments becomes do we need more. I am going to stop there and not give any answers. That is another show.
Rynn berry: Yeah.
Caryn Hartgrass: (laugh) Unless you want to give your two cents on that.
Rynn Berry: No, but I think more and more people are becoming interested in the raw food diet.
Caryn Hartgrass: We definitely need to eat a high percentage of raw foods our diet, no question about it. And I can’t say enough, we eat a lot of salads and there is nothing like fresh crunchy great lettuce when you add a bunch of other things. We have salad for breakfast among other times, salad is great. You have written entries into the Oxford food and Drink Of America.
Rynn berry: Yeah.
Caryn Hartgrass: How did they find you? or How did you find them?
Rynn Berry: I am a member the Culinary Historians of New York, they contacted me thru the Culinary Historians.
Caryn Hartgrass: What is the Culinary Historians Group of New York.
Rynn Berry: That is the people whom have written books on culinary history and belong to the society and they have lectures, obviously not vegetarian, it is very ecliptic of people of all food persuasion recently they had a lecture there on the history and evolution of the television food program. Evolution of the television chef.
Caryn Berry: Like the food network.
Rynn Berry: Yeah, like Julia Child and some of the earlier chefs.
Caryn Berry: So, how has their response been to some of your information. Do you have an opportunity to share?
Rynn Berry: Oh, yes well sort of… kept me off the stage (laugh). When I first joined in the early 90’s they were much more enthusiast to hear me speak but not recently they for some reason have shyed away from the topic.
Caryn Hartgrass: Do you know Linda Long? She written the cookbook Simple and Easy I think.
Rynn Berry: Sure about the ..collected vegan recipes from all the great chefs of the country.
Caryn Hartgrass: So what she has told me is all the chefs that she talked to realize the importance of including vegan items on their menus. Because, there’s more business that way and not that everyone is vegan but in parties or groups of people there might be a vegetarian or a vegan and if you can’t go to a nice restaurant and have everyone be happy then that is not a good thing and they are realizing that to please all of their customers. And they realize the importance of it and that is one thing about the book. I would think your group might realize that at least.
Rynn Berry: Yeah, I think they are feeling threaten or defensive by me.
Caryn Hartgrass. And they should(laugh).
Rynn Berry: (laugh) Yeah, exactly in the early 90’s when I first joined it wasn’t so menacing I guess, but now it is threatening to become mainstream so (they are) a little more guarded about it.
Caryn Hartgrass: Well it’s going..definitely going to be mainstream for so many reasons one is the environment can’t sustain the current diet, the sad American meat centric diet. It can’t sustain it, our health can’t sustain it, so more people are realizing they need to eat more fruits and vegetables it’s just enviable we know that. So the smarter chefs will start to incorporate that and you’ll be more in demand as well.
Rynn Berry: I hope so. (Laugh) remember her saying that some of the chefs were quite disdainful of veganism but nevertheless they provided her with interesting recipes and realized it is enviable about the movement can’t just ignore it.
Caryn Hartgrass: Right, let’s go back to religion and touch on all of them a little bit and there history, so the Muslim religion is there some vegetarian history with them?
Rynn Berry: Well I maintain in the book even the abrahamic religions Judaism it’s offspring Christianity and Islam they all have vegetarian roots and even in Islam there’s no evidence that Muhammad ate animal flesh in all of the biographical literature of Muhammad there is not one instance and they are very meticulous in his eating habits never once does he consume animal flesh.
Caryn Hartgrass: So where does the Ahal premise come from?
Rynn Berry: Well, kinda an interpretation. He himself was actually very compassionate towards animals forbad causing them misery, or torturing them, or hunting them.
Caryn Hartgrass: I don’t understand how in any religion, how meat eating is acceptable. I just keep going back to all of their premises about compassion and it just doesn’t make any sense.
Rynn Berry: The fathers, the Patriarch of Judaism were vegans probably and early Christianity, Jesus and his followers I maintained were vegans, the Essenes, Ebionites were strict vegans trying to abolished temple sacrifice…abolished animal sacrifice.
Caryn Hartgrass: Right that was a step in the right direction but, could have gone a little further.
Rynn Berry: Exactly.
Caryn Hartgrass: Could have gone many ways.
Rynn Berry: (laugh) Right, but I think it has all been overlayed by political…
Caryn Hartgrass: Right none of the religions are really pure to their foundation so there is a lot of greed and corruption and the food portion is a part of it.
Rynn Berry: Exactly the church has fallen away from early early founders of monastic orders were vegan like I St Francis, St Anthony and the early monastics were vegans.
Caryn Hartgrass: Did any of them get prosecuted because of their veganism?
Rynn Berry: Well, yes actually the Franciscans were, After about 100 years after Francis demise they started prosecuting Franciscans for their humble lifestyle because they considered them to be heretical. (laugh)
Caryn Hartgrass: Are you familiar with the hallelujah diet?
Rynn Berry: Yes, very much so.
Caryn Hartgrass: Do you know how that came about?
Rynn Berry: I mentioned him in my book ..mentioned them in my raw food history of the US, the founder George Malkmus, he was afflicted with cancer and he claims to have cured himself thru the raw food diet.
Caryn Hartgrass: What kind of cancer did he have, do you know?
Rynn Berry: I think it was throat cancer not absolutely certain.
Caryn Hartgrass: ok so what..I am not that familiar ..just heard alot about the hallelujah diet and it sounds great. But I don’t know how it got started.
Rynn Berry: So he swears by it and he wants to return to injunction in Genesis 1:29 to eat herb baring seeds, what is essentially a vegan raw food diet. He is very devoted to that message.
Caryn Hartgrass: What kind of religion, what’s his background?
Rynn Berry: Well he has his own sect now hallelujah. What ever that is? Grown out of Baptistism or Methodism not sure which. (Laugh)
Caryn Hartgrass: But he has quite a following.
Rynn Berry: He does and he trains ministers and…
Caryn Hartgrass: Now is it a vegan diet?
Rynn Berry: Thousands of ministers…yeah it is a vegan. 80/20 raw food diet. So 80% uncooked, 20% cooked he has trained thousands of raw food ministers. Some of them even have a presence in NY he has a fellow that has these hallelujah acres potlucks every Sunday there mentioned in my Vegan Guide to New York.
Caryn Hartgrass: I don’t have the latest, mine is several years old. I need to upgrade.
Rynn Berry: (laugh) Sure, yeah.
Caryn Hartgrass: Are you familiar with any of the food network chefs doing any vegetarian or vegan food? or If any of them have been approached? Any of our vegan chefs to be on any of the food shows?
Rynn Berry: The woman who a cookbook Molly Katzen, She is vegetarian. Decidedly not a vegan and she emphasizes that. She prepares eggs, dairy so she is a ovolactovegetarian.
Caryn Hartgrass: It always has to go in small steps, it can’t hit anyone over the head.(laugh) What is that?
Rynn Berry: So many gifted chefs in the vegan movement aren’t being given a platform yet but I am sure there time will come.
Caryn Hartgrass: So what about the rest of the world in terms of vegetarianism. Are you familiar with where things are in different places moving any faster?
Rynn Berry: Well, still the majority of people in the world are vegans are forced because they live in third world countries and they can’t afford a meat based diet people living in Somalia and Darfur live on a substance diet, their vegans of necessary, but in countries that aspire to be first world or second world (as) in India and China, rural Chinese. In the China study ..predominately vegan.
Caryn Hartgrass: Although that is changing unfortunately.
Rynn Hartgrass: Yes, but there are these vegan empiricism in Buddhism refrain them from becoming ravenous carnivores (laugh). India is losing vegetarianism it is sort of the cradle land of vegetarianism.
Caryn Hartgrass: Why is that happening?
Rynn Berry: Again, because the are emulating the powers of the west, they were invaded by the British.
Caryn Hartgrass: And that left a Mark.
Rynn Berry: That has had a very unfortunate effect on their dietary preferences.
Caryn Hartgrass: So is there anything inspiring to people, that are inspiring to a vegetarian diet or helpful words?
Rynn Berry: I agree with you that it is simply an inevitable trend, the planet can’t simply sustain these meat centered diets. And I think people are becoming green, very fashionable to be green ultimately commitment to be green is a vegan diet.
Caryn Hartgrass: Why don’t most environmentist get that (laugh)?
Rynn Berry: That seems to be the last shoe to fall they don’t seem to grasp that.
Caryn Hartgrass: There were some young people leafleting outside don’t know what it was for. Alot of times they are environmentist out there and when they come up to me the first thing I say to them is are you a vegetarian? And alot of times their not, then I say well that is what you need to do.
Rynn Berry: That is the single most agregous source of population is the slaughterhouse and the allied industries.
Caryn Hartgrass: And it is the easiest thing. We don’t have to change any laws everybody can do it in their own home.
Rynn Berry: Absolutely, one can make the biggest contribution by simply obtaining from animal flesh, the biomass of cattle and intensely grown animals for slaughter is contributing to the greenhouse gasses more so then any other industry.
Caryn Hartgrass: The greatest thing about a vegetarian diet especially the vegan diet is the food and everyone I know that is vegan is really passionate and obsessed with food that were deprived. We are excited about food. Many that I know say they want to open a restaurant or write a cookbook, everybody wants to share what they discovered and food is fabulous it opens the door to so many different things. Rather then grabbing a burger and fries all of a sudden you have colorful vegetables, spices, nuts, and seeds. Phenomenal. Vegan Guide to New York City…Where did you get the idea for that?
Rynn Berry: Well it started out in the early 90’s with Candle cafe, Caravan of Dreams…
Caryn Hartgrass: Caravan of Dreams…
Rynn Berry: Candle cafe was around at that time…Quantum Leap…
Caryn Hartgrass: Quantum Leap, were they around at that time?
Rynn Berry: I didn’t include them in my guide because they served fish. Mine is the first totally vegetarian guide we don’t include restaurants that serve even a silver of animal flesh. That means nothing. It was the first guide and still the only guide that is just vegetarian.
Caryn Hartgrass: Yes, Some of them are veg friendly.
Rynn Berry: I won’t name the other competing guides that are several years out of date. (laugh) that claim to have veg friendly.
Caryn Hartgrass: It’s not veg friendly…
Rynn berry: (laugh) Veg friendly is meaningless. No, it is not veg friendly.
Caryn Hartgrass: …serving other things…
Rynn Berry: Right, also dangerous because of cross contamination.
Caryn Hartgrass: I feel confident in eating at a restaurant that is a vegan kitchen.
Rynn Berry: Absolutely and we have the luxury in New York of not having to compromise ..be able to dine with friends and not have to settled for so called vegetarian friendly restaurant they can take them to Candle 79 and have the most delicious gourmet meal.
Caryn Hartgrass: Yes, beautiful atmosphere beautiful food we are hoping to have our next ..television show will have a spot on them, so phenomenal, there the desserts everything it’s great there.
Rynn Berry: You know a place like Hangawi or Franchia, exotic places.
Caryn Hartgrass: I love those restaurants for many reasons first it is so usual to have vegetarian Korean but it’s not…
Rynn Berry: They are impeccably vegan.
Caryn Hartgrass: Right they are impeccably vegan I spent…I took five trips to Korean back in the early 1990’s-2000’s, engineering trips worked with Hyundai and other companies and there is just one restaurant in Sol that I dream about it was all vegan the most expensive dish on the menu was like $13.00 and they would put like 25 vegan dishes out in front of you all of these wonderful things. But what I love about Hangawi and Franchia food, the food isn’t very salty because the food in Korean tends to be very salty, but really inventive stuff and the owners are really friendly.
Rynn Berry: I love ..they are absolutely dedicated to veganism and also the atmosphere..Franchia like a royal Korean tea house.
Caryn Hartgrass: We love tea and they have so many wonderful ones.
Rynn Berry: Serene, otherworldly atmosphere.
Caryn Hartgrass: That’s the motto you walk in and you forget you are in New York City so calm.
Rynn Berry: It’s a great place to mediate over a meal.
Caryn Hartgrass: Are those some of your favorites?
Rynn Berry: Actually Franchia, Is rated number one in the city. In my lexicon they are number one.
Caryn Hartgrass: What are so other favorites?
Rynn Berry: Well, we mentioned the candles, I like caravan…Angel the guy that runs…
Caryn Hartgrass: Caravan has a great selection of food, great selection it’s almost like a diner, the food is excellent quality. There salads are phenomenal and I can also get a green juice.
Rynn Berry: Yeah, wonderful I love the lovers salad and the angels salad those are my two favorites.
Caryn Hartgrass: Now there were some new ones that have come out recently. What are the new restaurants? I know I am out of touch.
Rynn Berry: We have the first vegan ice cream parlor in the world.
Caryn Hartgrass: Where is that?
Rynn Berry: It is in the same mall as Caravan on 6th street.
Caryn Hartgrass: What’s it called?
Rynn Berry: It’s called Lula’s sweet apothecary.
Caryn Hartgrass: I didn’t know about that.
Rynn Berry: It’s a real fun place.
Caryn Hartgrass: Were going tomorrow.
Rynn Berry: You really should. They have two types of ice cream, nut based and soy based.
Caryn Hartgrass: Fabulous, Oh, that is so exciting. What else is new?
Rynn Berry: There’s some other great places. Wild Ginger is open, that’s another great vegan place. They opened a second branch in Brooklyn. Food Swings is under new management, I don’t know if you have been there.
Caryn Hartgrass: I went there a long time ago.
Rynn Berry: They installed a bathroom, which is nice it’s the one thing they lacked.
Caryn Hartgrass: It’s great, but is not really what I want to eat because I’m in to the healthy foods. Why can’t people who eat a lot of fried chicken and fried food eat that food. You can’t tell the difference.
Rynn Berry: Yeah, first bonafide vegan fast food place. It’s New York’s contribute to the fast food restaurant. There’s nothing like it in the world, you have to make a little trek to get there but it’s worth it.
Caryn Hartgrass: Yeah, little out of the way (laugh) what else do I like? Well, Blossom is also…
Rynn Berry: Everyone likes Blossom, there is actually two Blossoms now.
Caryn Hartgrass: Yeah, two. There is one close to here. I haven’t been to..the one uptown. Manhattan is a great place for food.
Rynn Berry: Of any city of the world.
Caryn Hartgrass: There have been a lot of documentaries, changing the subject a little because I am just getting too hungry talking about the food (laugh). There have been a lot of documentaries coming out about vegetarianism food, I just saw Meat the Truth last week which was great. There are people like Michael Moore for example that talks about alot of things. When is he going to get it?
Rynn Berry: Yeah, I know.
Caryn Hartgrass: It would do him a lot of good.
Rynn Berry: He could have saved himself alot of time doing that documentary on health care.That would solve all our health problems…
Caryn Hartgrass: In so many ways I like to tell people if we could reduce the preventable heart disease, adult onset diabetes and 60% of cancers caused by diet then all of our research dollars could go into the things that are not preventable things or things like paralysis, things thru accidents that were could learn…
Rynn Berry: Regenerating the spinal cord.
Caryn Hartgrass: Exactly, so unfortunately we dump so many of our research dollars into things we can prevent.
Rynn Berry: Yeah, unfortunately that research money is being swandered because the answer is right before us. Colin Campbell with his china study that is unassailable research. Medical research demonstrating of a plant based diet is our salvation.
Caryn Hartgrass: So as a historian, How did we get here, how did we get to this crazy awful place?
Rynn Berry: Well, my own theory is the arothoeses always adopted a carnivores diets. We all want rise socially, to emulate our betters, climb up socially, social betters think that is at the base of it and in the Asian countries they look up to use for guidance because we have economic hegemony, and they want to adopt our diet as well there is a caustic relationship between diet and success that isn’t true it’s taken thousands of years but now certainly in the west the care carnivores diet has taken over but it has started to reverse itself.
Caryn Hartgrass: Do you think it will take a thousand years?
Rynn Berry: No, no I think it has reach a critical mass and it has become dachas to eat enormous quantities of animal flesh, the trendsetters the intellectuals are taking on a plant based diet.
Caryn Hartgrass: Are you familiar with Star Trek and the history of Star Trek?
Rynn Berry: I might have to profess ignorance on that.
Caryn Hartgrass: Okay(laugh). I just wonder because it’s my understanding is that they are vegetarian the people on the Enterprise and all…
Rynn Berry: It was rumored that Captain Kirk was a vegetarian.
Caryn Hartgrass: The actor or the character?
Rynn Berry: Both I think (laugh).
Caryn Hartgrass: Why I wanted to bring it up even our astronauts have to eat plant based foods because they are high in nutrition and don’t take up a lot of space.
Rynn Berry: Good point and if they colonize other planets they are going to be compelled to live on plant based foods because they can’t ship cows into outer space.
Caryn Hartgrass: Right so it is definitely food for the future as well as the food for right now.
Rynn Berry: And all of the medical evidence is pointing that direction.
Caryn Hartgrass: Do you have any recipes in your books?
Rynn Berry: Well, I do actually in my book Famous Vegetarians I have recipes from all the great vegetarians past and present even with Pythagoreanous I reconstructed his favorite dishes from references in the biographic literature and then among contemporary vegetarian such as Paul McCarthy they were kind enough to supply me with their favorite.
Caryn Hartgrass: What was Paul McCarthy’s favorite?
Rynn Berry: One of them was Ms. Mack pea soup something like that, something that he adored.
Caryn Hartgrass: Oh the British like their mushy peas (laugh).
Rynn Berry: (laugh) …people are interested…
Caryn Hartgrass: Do you have any desire to do a cookbook yourself or stick with history?
Rynn Berry: Well being something of a raw foodist my recipes are pretty simple now. For the forthcoming book Becoming Raw they asked me to contribute a recipe for a three melon salad which was very well received everyone tested it. Oh this is superb.
Caryn Hartgrass: Three melon. What is that?
Rynn Berry: You take a watermelon and you cut a quarter of into chunks, then you take a quarter of a cantaloupe cut into chunks, then a quarter of a honeydew, combine three melons into a salad. Then you make a dressing out of the a few chucks of the three melons, add some dates and a banana and a little lemon or lime juice then you blend in a blender and that forms the sauce, then you pour over the salad then add pecans.
Caryn Hartgrass: Oh nuts too.
Rynn Berry: Yep, very satisfying food. Gourmet raw food.
Caryn Hartgrass: Very simple.
Rynn Berry: Yes, very simple.
Caryn Hartgrass: You know I like to tell people when they are transiting to a healthily diet that they should think about being in the Garden of Eden, and the produce section is the only section they should think about and you know alot of people relate to the Garden of Eden really nice kinda euphoria peaceful atmosphere it’s easy when you think about eating simple foods. Grab an apple and eat it or now I like to grab a bag of lettuce you know the kind in the bag and that is my chips.
Rynn Berry: Very good.
Caryn Hartgrass: it’s really easy to eat simply.
Rynn Berry: Green chips, yeah.
Caryn Hartgrass: So we have been talking to Rynn Berry today and he is the author of numerous books I would highly recommend them. I will repeat them again. New Vegetarians, Famous Vegetarians, Food for the Gods, Vegetarianism and The Worlds Religions, Hilter Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover, and The very very important and well needed The Vegan Guide to New York City. Where can you pick up The Vegan Guide to New York City?
Rynn Berry: Well, they sell it in most of the chains stores. It is a best seller at Borders in Columbus circle and Barnes and Nobles even the Strand bookstore. It is a best seller at the Strand you can even get a discount there.
Caryn Hartgrass: Then maybe I will get my new one there you have a new book coming out. Becoming Raw with co authors Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina. Really looking forward to that. Do you have an upcoming speaking engagement, or somewhere people can hear you talking?
Rynn Berry: Yeah, going to be at they Vegetarian Summer Fest.
Caryn Hartgrass: Vegetarian Summer Fest, great event outside in Pittsburgh, in the summer.
Rynn Berry: Johnstown, Pennsylvania, site of the great flood.
Caryn Hartgrass: Okay, Where can people find out about that is that the NAVS website.
Rynn Berry: Yes, North American Vegetarian Society if you punch in Vegetarian Summer Fest 2009, the whole program will come up.
Caryn Hartgrass: Great event. Well, thank you so much for joining me it has really been fun.
Caryn Hartgrass: Thanks for listening to that 2009 interview with Rynn Berry. I am so glad we have the technology to allow people’s voices to be heard even after they are gone. Here’s to you Rynn. We all miss you. That’s the show for today. Make the most of every moment while you can and, have a delicious week.
Transcribed 1/27/2014 by Donielle Zufelt