Sharon Gannon, Simple Recipes For Joy
Sharon Gannon is a twenty-first-century Renaissance woman, an animal-rights and vegan activist, and a world-renowned yogini, author, dancer, poet, musician, and producer. She lives in Woodstock, New York.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass! You’re listening to It’s All About Food because it is all about food! We’re going to be talking about food for the next hour because that’s what I love to do and I hope you like listening about food! It’s September 23, 2014 and fall is upon us. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it’s my favorite season and we’re in it! The air is cool and brisk and just perfect. When this season comes around it’s the opportunity to start mixing up our meals a little bit. I like to keep with the seasons, keep with the flavor of the seasons and that keeps things interesting, although I eat pretty simply all the time. It’s pretty much salads and soups most the time and if that sounds boring to you, I want you to know that it absolutely is not because there are probably a gazillion ways to make a salad with so many different ingredients and the same thing with soups! We’re going to be hearing a little bit more about food and recipes in a few minutes with my first guest, but I wanted to talk about something that I just made which goes really great with the fall season, I think. Food preparation is something that many of us associate with the French. They’ve been pretty much the kings of the culinary world, or at least they like to think so, and many of us like to think so as well. When I was living in France in the early 90’s, it made a great impression on me, even though I was living as a vegan. I learned a lot of things about food preparation and the importance of fresh ingredients and the presentation of the food. It was amazing because I looked at many non-vegan dishes at the restaurants that I ate at and the parties that I went to, the events that I went to, and although I didn’t eat those foods or those dishes, I learned so much just by looking at them and thinking about what I could do – my variation on a certain theme. Something that I just remembered making which I made just a few days ago was a dish which is called Choucroute which is really just sauerkraut and the dish is like a casserole made with potatoes, cabbage, onions, and sauerkraut. Very simple! I threw in a few carrots there. Of course you can put in whatever you like, but it was a very simple dish and I cooked it all in a beer, some water and beer. Beer, like wine, imparts a tremendous amount of flavor in food and it goes particularly well with sauerkraut. I also added some tempeh to this dish and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried tempeh or tried preparing it, but the secret, I think, is marinating it in something which enables it to plump up a little. It gets really nice and juicy and for those that don’t necessarily like the fermented flavor – I like it but some don’t – the marinating really imparts loveliness. So, I made that dish and it was absolutely spectacular and I’ll post that sometime soon on the responisbleeatingandliving.com website! It was so easy and so good and one of the things that I love to do, especially with my partner Gary! We live in New York City and we have a nice little terrace outside and the weather is getting cooler, but it’s still not that cold where we can’t sit outside and eat outside and it’s a wonderful thing! We just continue to amaze ourselves about how fortunate we are and how much we love our food, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about in a moment whenever my guest gets ready because I’m ready for her! She has a wonderful new cookbook coming out and we’re going to be talking about that and I’m very happy to have her here in the studio and to be close to her. I’ve known about her for a very long time and I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her and here we go! So, my first guest is Sharon Gannon and she is a 21st century Renaissance woman. I love that! I think of myself as a Renaissance woman so I feel like I’m in good company right now! She’s an animal rights and vegan activist and a world renowned yogini, author, dancer, poet, musician, and producer. She lives in Woodstock, New York and she is a part of the Jivamukti yoga studios here in Manhattan, which are lovely, and they have a wonderful cafe there which I’m sure she contributed a bit to all the fascinating flavors that we get to sample and taste there. So welcome to It’s All About Food Sharon!
Sharon Gannon: Hey It’s All About Food! Thank you I am so honored. I am so honored to be here, to be in this radio studio, to be even associated in some way with Gary Null and all of the amazing things.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah well there are a lot of wonderful things that happened here and as you probably know, most mainstream media outlets don’t really focus on what I think is important about life. They don’t get to the essentials and we do that here at Progressive Radio Network, and I do it with food and I know that you do it too. So we are here to celebrate your new cookbook!
Sharon Gannon: Thank you so much!
Caryn Hartglass: And what I love about it is it exudes joy and that’s what I’m all about! You know there’s a dark side to the animal rights movement unfortunately, and I don’t like to go there. I mention it because I want people to know I know enough about it, but let’s look at the light, let’s talk about the joy! So let’s start with your cookbook and I love the front cover so let’s just start with that. You had this amazing tea party and I love the feeling of playfulness and joy. Do you do that all the time? Have little mad hatter tea parties?
Sharon Gannon: Often, yes! Yes, I love to dress up. David loves to dress up. We dress up our cats. Yeah, I like a bit of a theater and zaniness and certainly to have fun and you know instill your life with joy. Why not, for goodness sake! I’m a yogi and the aim of yoga is to realize happiness, to realize eternal happiness. So, if you’re not experiencing at least some of that along the way, then I think you should question what path you’re on!
Caryn Hartglass: To some degree it is a choice and it does take some energy to put into your life, to get the happiness out of it.
Sharon Gannon: Yeah, it certainly takes some energy and some creativity perhaps and some imagination, but for goodness sake why not!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, why not!
Sharon Gannon: So, we know that the SAD diet – SAD stands for Standard American Diet – the SAD diet of meat and dairy products makes you sad. It contributes to the major diseases that human beings are suffering from today. I don’t need to tell you this or your listeners, but cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. There’s nothing joyful about that. That’s sad and certainly the SAD diet contributes to sadness for the animals that are enslaved and tortured and ultimately slaughtered to be eaten. Certainly it doesn’t contribute joy to our environment. The leading cause of the global climate change which is occurring to us now is raising animals for food. People site fossil fuel, the use of fossil fuel, as the major contributor to the negative climate change, but actually who uses most of that fossil fuel? It’s the meat and dairy industry so there’s a link, I mean you can’t deny it.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s big! How many people were talking about it during the peoples climate march? I was fortunate to go to the 350.org event Friday evening before the march and they had a lot of wonderful speakers like Amy Goodman and Vandana Shiva and it was a spectacular event. Nobody mentioned the impact of animal agriculture on climate change it was just fossil fuels all the time, but I did notice that the food that they served was just a beautiful array of fresh raw vegetables. Stunning! So, I think they know but they don’t want to talk about it because it might affect funding!
Sharon Gannon: Yeah, it’s pretty strange all the hush-hush and the hypocrisy. You know, there is an amazing movie that if you don’t know already, Cowspiracy.
Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve talked to the directors.
Sharon Gannon: Cowspiracy, I’m so proud! Made by a student of mine, a Jivamukti student, Kip Anderson. I’ve seen just about every movie available on vegan-ism and animal-rights and I think this is the best documentary film that has been made to date which shows the link between being animals and dairy products and the devastation of our environment. It’s very well done, it’s entertaining, and it is sophisticated!
Caryn Hartglass: I can’t wait to see it! So, I just saw your little video from the event you recently had at Jivamukti, your tea party event, announcing your cookbook and you have this lovely little stuff. 15-16 minutes with a phenomenal violinist and then you and David come out and do this wonderful presentation. I just, I just loved the whole concept as a performer and an artist. I think it’s so important to use art, I mean it just all goes go so well together. I just loved it! So, I posted it on my Face book page, but I’d recommend people checking it out. It’s just a moment of delight!
Sharon Gannon: That’s awesome! Tim Fain, the violinist that you referred to, he’s also another dear friend of mine and a Jivamukti student of yoga and I think he’s probably the best violinist in the world today! He did the violin parts for Darren Aronofsky’s Blackswan and he did all the violin parts for 12 Years A Slave. He’s been touring with Philip Glass the last two years. Philip has written duets for just Philip and Tim. Please, I hope your listeners check him out. You know, just Google “Tim Fain violin” and he’s phenomenal.
Caryn Hartglass: Just listen, just take a moment you deserve it! Just let that beauty resonate within you and you’ll probably be surprised what you’re capable of doing shortly there after. I think when you take in a lot of beauty you then are able to give off a little bit. I think it magnifies itself. So, I took a bunch of notes when I looked through your new cookbook and I wanted to bring up a few things. Some of them are joyful and some of them not so, lets start with the “not so” and end with the full of joys. I’d like to go that way! So very early on in the book you had a nice discussion about all of the same questions we hear over and over again, like where do you get your protein, and you answered them all very, very nicely. But, something we don’t hear enough of and you wrote, I’m not going to quote it exactly, but about “when it comes to dairy, the bull is masturbated, the semen is injected in the cow’s vagina, and this is all done by humans.” Now, I hope none of you are offended by some of those words, but it is very pornographic and you can actually see some of these things online where they teach people how to do it. Thank you for mentioning that.
Sharon Gannon: It’s called animal husbandry. That should give us a clue what goes on, but it’s definitely, it’s rape. There’s no other way to get around it, it’s rape. We rape those dairy cows. I mean a lot of people don’t really realize that in order for a cow to produce milk – and also it’s a female cow that produces milk – I mean many educated human beings just think cow, male or female, milk comes automatically. No boys and girls, it’s a female cow who is pregnant or who has just given birth to a baby and just like a human woman who is pregnant or has just given birth to a baby, they start to lactate. So, this is what happens and that milk of course is destined for a baby cow. It’s to help a baby cow grow very quickly to a very large size. You wonder why, you know, we have an obesity problem in our human societies among milk drinkers and dairy consumers of not just milk but all milk products and certainly meat.
Caryn Hartglass: I know some people might want to make a joke and think ‘don’t the bowls like to be masturbated I mean why not’ but actually if you see how they do it, they have to restrain these animals because they don’t want a human doing what they do to them with all this metal and machines. It’s really obscene and only humans can do this.
Sharon Gannon: It’s obscene, it’s perverted, it’s ugly, it’s slavery. It’s slavery! So, if we ourselves value freedom, then we should not condone slavery.
Caryn Hartglass: Right! Now the next thing, I never heard this before. Maybe I have and I forgot about it, but wanted to mention, ‘that a true omnivore is an animal where they don’t have cholesterol buildup like dogs and cats so you can feed them all kinds of food or animals with cholesterol and they don’t have the same cardiovascular diseases like we have.’ So many studies – and I mean I certainly don’t condone these types of studies – you’ve seen animals in laboratory situations and so they’ve done this. Research scientists have fed dogs just pure cholesterol for a long period of time and they have discovered that those dogs do not have hardening of the arteries, they do not have heart disease, they can process the cholesterol. Where as if the same thing is done to us or we do it voluntary, most of us, yeah, we have a heart attack! So this implies that we’re really not meant to be omnivores!
Sharon Gannon: We’re really not meant to be omnivores, that’s a biological fact. That’s not just a theory, that’s a biological fact.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, now I’ve watched some of your videos and I want to talk about anarchy. You call yourself an anarchist and I know a lot of people are very fearful about that word. I think you’ve brought a lot of beauty to it. Can you talk about anarchy?
Sharon Gannon: Thank you so much, ah thank you so much! My spiritual teacher Swami Nirmalananda who lived in India called himself the anarchist swami and before I went to India I called myself an anarchist. I was very politically active and a member of the Libertarian Book Club here in New York City, and etc. etc. So, when I went to India and I said to him, “You’re an anarchist, an anarchist swami!” and he goes “Yes self rule.” I’m like, “yes,” and he goes, “No no no, Sharon, self with a capital S. That means the divine self, not the ego self.” So, that was a tremendous wake up call and I realized that true anarchy is when you can become an instrument for the divine will and the divine will is a compassionate will, the ability to live your life so that you enhance the lives of others. That’s true anarchy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and I love that! I think part of the problem we have today is many people are sleepwalking to a certain extent. They’re following, they’re not finding their own truth and leading themselves from that truth.. We see all kinds of violence and pain and suffering as a result.
Sharon Gannon: Yeah, it’s called self-centeredness and our culture promotes. You know, we cant help it. We certainly have enough information out there to free ourselves, ferment, and to wake up if we truly want to wake up to a more joyful life. We do have to remember the best way to go about that is not to blame others and not to complain about what others are doing but to discover “What can I do? What can i do to make this world a more joyful place? What can I do to enhance the lives of others?” Think big, “What could I do to even enhance this planet?” Think even bigger, “What could I do to enhance the solar system? What could I do to enhance the universe?” That’s fun and we should have fun. Why not have some fun with our lives?
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely! You know, we don’t have to solve all the world’s problems but we can make one contribution and not focus on, like you said, the complaining!
Sharon Gannon: Right, ‘I’m not getting enough, how about me! Me, me, I, me, mine!’
Caryn Hartglass: Or just focusing on all the things that are wrong in the world rather than focusing that are right! I think Sharon Gannon is right and Jivamukti, I want to talk a little bit about that because that is just a beautiful contribution to this planet, helping so many people!
Sharon Gannon: Thank you so much! Jivamukti is a sanskrit word and it means ‘living liberated’. Living liberated means that you live in a way that you enhance the lives of others. It means compassion. It’s a method of yoga that where enlightenment is the goal through compassion for others. So, yoga teaches that what’s realized in the enlightened state is the oneness of being. That we’re not separate, that we are eternal, and that we are a part of, you could call it God, you could call it cosmic awareness, you could call it eternal being and the nature of that eternal being is satcitananda. Truth, consciousness, but mostly bliss, mostly bliss. So, a jivanmukta, the state of Jivamukti, is that stage where you are living with that as your aspiration.
Caryn Hartglass: Now a lot of people do yoga as a form of exercise, but there’s a lot more to yoga that most people don’t know anything about and I think it’s a very critical piece of it. The yoga, the exercises are great and some, how do I say this, some people just leave those other parts aside for one reason or another like the food, diet, and the spiritual part of it.
Sharon Gannon: I’m very aware that some people do these things but, you know, I have to have faith that everybody is doing the best they can and I’m really not into spending a lot of my precious energy complaining about what other people do or what they’re not doing, or they’re not doing good enough. I’m just trying to do a good job myself and it seems like we have a lot of students . I mean we have a very large New York school with 500 students a day and we have schools in London and Germany and Moscow and South Africa and Mexico and Canada and Japan. So, a lot of people are gravitating towards this style of yoga and that shows something good!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, very good! I was at the Jivamukti venue, about just one in particular, 5 years ago. It was the 10th anniversary of Lantern Books, that wonderful man! They’re having a 15th anniversary tomorrow in Brooklyn and my next guest is a Lantern author so I’m just trying to connect all the dots here!
Sharon Gannon: That’s wonderful! Lantern is an incredible publishing house and they’re all about compassion and all about progressiveness and certainly aligned with your philosophy here!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah and another thing I love is every time I go to the café there, there’s always somebody that I know that I’m happy to see. It’s just a lovely meeting place! Alright, why this cookbook?
Sharon Gannon: Why this cookbook? Well these recipes have been kind of sitting in a notebook for many years. I would cook and then if the meal was a hit with my guest who came for dinner I would make sure I wrote all the ingredients down and then I would try it out again and to try to get the recipe right. All the recipes that are served at the Jivamukti café in New York City are in this book, so I want to share those with everybody because I get so many requests. “How do you make that tempeh? How do you make the spicy tempeh? What’s in the love smoothie? What do you make instead of tuna salad?” and you know, “What’s in the Maharini Dal?” and etc. etc. So I love to cook and I love to share the recipes with others and so this is a way for me to do this on a larger scale than just among my family and friends.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, well most of them are pretty simple and if, like I always like to say, if you organize yourself – it takes a little time – but once you have all of the staples in your kitchen, the right grains and beans and utensils and herbs and spices, and you have them and it’s not hard to get them then it’s easy. You just kind of grab what you need and put everything together with some fresh vegetables and fruits and it’s very simple. Oh yeah, and the right stuff!
Sharon Gannon: It has to be simple for me because I am a very, very busy person and if I can’t make dinner in less than an hour I feel I failed. So, it has to be simple!
Caryn Hartglass: And a lot of foods that you have are very comforting. You have a lot of soup recipes. You have a celery soup recipe, delicious mung bean soup, lemon lentil – I love lemon and lentil mixed together, that’s a really good one – cream of broccoli soup, which is where you split peas as the cream, brilliant! And why not? I’m so into beans and the amazing things that we can do with beans, which are so good for us! What else did I want to mention? Oh, you have a meatball recipe! That’s probably the most complicated!
Sharon Gannon: Yeah, that’s true! That is probably the most complicated but the meatballs are worth it, the vegan meatballs!
Caryn Hartglass: I mean the picture in the book is just stunning! It just looks like beautiful spaghetti & meatballs and who doesn’t love that!
Sharon Gannon: I think the tablecloth, the red and white checkered tablecloth, does it justice.
Caryn Hartglass: Now this is really hard for me right now because I didn’t eat enough before the show and talking about delicious food is always challenging! Now you have one thing that’s really your own, I think, which is your Spirulina Millet?
Sharon Gannon: Yes, that’s the signature dish out served at the Jivamukti café and it’s something that I kind of created, put together, like God I don’t know, 40 years ago! I feed it to my cats, they love it. I’ve even heard that parakeets love it. Everyone seems to love it. Okay so it’s millet with flaxseed oil. Very simple! Flaxseed oil, spirulina, millet powder and soy sauce or you can use Bragg’s Aminos. So, you mix it all together and you can just eat it as a side dish, main dish, you can put it on crackers and has a kind of a caviar kind of taste. I mean you’re not going to find that in any other vegan restaurant, now anyway.
Caryn Hartglass: And then the other thing, the last thing I want to talk about because we’re almost at the end are your gravies, which are bean based! Genius! They’re good for you. Everybody loves gravy and it’s so comforting and creamy.
Sharon Gannon: So the food in Simple Recipes for Joy is hearty fare for the most part. I mean of course there’s like a lot of light things, salads and smoothies and clear soups, but there’s a lot of hearty fare! My partner David can’t live on cucumbers and celery so he wants something substantial and so yeah, a lot of hearty fare!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, how do you handle a hungry man? Simple Recipes for Joy and that’s simperecipiesforjoy.com?
Sharon Gannon: Yeah, we have a lot of fun things on that website! A lot of videos and how to stuff and celebrities and yeah it’s a fun website!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, Sharon this is been a joy for me!
Sharon Gannon: It’s not just a simple joy; it is huge joy to be invited on your show!
Caryn Hartglass: Thanks for sharing! Okay, we’re sharing with Sharon and now we are going to take a little break and be back with pattrice jones! Stay with us!
Transcribed by Cassandra Madonado 10/14/2014