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Part II: Talya Lutzker
Talya Lutzker is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Nutritionist, Professional Chef, founder of Talya’s Kitchen Catering Company and the author of 2 cookbooks. She also teaches yoga, cooking classes and is a certified Ayurvedic masseuse. Talya’s passion for holistic medicine and innovative, healthy food sparkles through in her intelligent, warm, fun and inspiring teaching style. Through cleansing programs, cooking classes and one-on-one consultations, Talya helps people learn to love cooking, self-care and eating well.
Yoga and Ayurveda, Talya’s first loves, are the foundations of her many skills and offerings. In the Bay Area, Talya offers Iyengar-inspired yoga classes that focus on anatomical alignment, deep muscular engagement, pranayama and the use of props that protect and deepen the yoga practice. She studied Iyengar Yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India and has practiced under the tutelage of senior and master Iyengar teachers Kofi Busia and Maya Lev for the past 10 years. Talya holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Physical Activities from the University of California in Santa Barbara and is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute’s Leadership Program.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok we’re back I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’re listening to It’s All About Food here we are on January 15th 2013 and now we’re going to bring on my next guest Talya Lutzer and talk about her new book Ayurveda Vegan Kitchen. She’s a certified Ayurveda practitioner, nutritionist, professional chef, and founder of Talya’s kitchen catering company and the author of two cookbooks she also teaches yoga, cooking classes, and is a certified masseuse. Talya’s passion for holistic medicine and innovative healthy food sparkles through in her intelligent, warm, fun, and inspiring teaching style. Through cleansing programs, cooking classes, and one on one consultations she helps people learn to love cooking self care and eating. Well welcome to It’s All About Food.
Talya Lutzker: Thank you Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: How are you doing today?
Talya Lutzker: I’m doing well.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I was just talking with another woman about everything that looks like you’re about: finding harmony through food I love it.
Talya Lutzker: It’s really fun.
Caryn Hartglass: Because there’s a lot of things that I was talking about in the last half hour that are wrong with the world that can be very overwhelming, very frustrating, very depressing and I’m so glad that there are people out there like yourself that are making it fun and making it tasty and making it balanced. That’s what are you vegan is about, finding balance.
Talya Lutzker: Yes, finding balance between your particular constitution and the food that you eat or even the type of yoga that you do or the type of work outs that you do. Really taking into consideration the uniqueness of yourself and then bringing outside elements that are going to calm that or bring more serenity to you.
Caryn Hartglass: What brought you to Ayurvedic food and study?
Talya Lutzker: I would have to tell you before I answer that question directly. I was looking at your website and you were the Executive Director at EarthSave, and when I was in college and I went to UC Santa Barbara but then I moved up to Santa Cruz just for a quarter to see an intern at EarthSave and so I also worked for them.
Caryn Hartglass: That wasn’t when I was there, probably…
Talya Lutzker: No not when you were there but…
Caryn Hartglass: Was that when they were on Frederick Street in Santa Cruz? Funky little house there?
Talya Lutzker: Yes, I loved that and It’s sort of the history of how I came to Ayurveda was I was always really interested in food as a way of feeling not only on a personal health realm but also in a more global way. And when I was in my late 20s I went to become a certified yoga teacher I’d been practicing yoga for about 8 years an when I was at my yoga teacher training we were introduced to Ayurveda it was the first time I’d ever heard of it but I also got sick at my teacher training and the nature of my illness was just severe itchiness and basically a rash broke out all over my body and I’d had some psoriasis when I was younger like around the age of 12 and then again when I was a teenager and again when I was in my early 20s it was never a huge problem it was just sort of a nuisance and when this rash broke out all over my body I just kind of knew what western medicine had to offer and I didn’t want it and yeah not much especially when it comes to skin and a sort of unknown a mystery caused illness like series or eczema. According to western medicine so i just set out on this journey to find a holistic healthcare practitioner and I saw many people but about 3 months into it I met DeAnna Batdorff who is now my Ayurveda practitioner one of my dearest friends, my mentor, she’s the person who wrote the forwards to my book and it was just the Ayurvedic way towards healing made so much sense to me it was somebody looking at me with a laser right into the center of my soul and seeing not just the physical issues but the spiritual and emotional issues that were also feeding the problem and Ayurveda has just been the most amazing godsend to me and I just loved that and in less than 6 months of eating an Ayurvedic diet that was right for my constitution, 85 to 90 percent of the skin rash was completely gone, never came back again. My hormones were more balanced, my mood was more balanced I was emotionally more stable I found my passion for what I wanted to do in the world for up until then I had not had any contact with.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s all about food.
Talya Lutzker: Food was the pathway.
Caryn Hartglass: Here’s my question for you. My understanding of Ayurvedic is have a heavily combined with dairy foods and you’ve come up with a vegan version and I love it because I’m all about vegan and I have a lot of concern about dairy foods, so how does that work? How is it that Ayurvedic which includes dairy foods, how is it that it considers that balanced and how can you come along and make it vegan, and how do some people react to that who really believe in the traditional principles? Is that a mouthful?
Talya Lutzker: I haven’t actually run into yet any Ayurveda doctors or practitioners who are like I don’t like what you’re doing I don’t think that this is Ayurvedic because you’ve taken out dairy. My approach to this was Ayurveda looks at every food and herb and living thing as it possesses its own elemental constitution and it’s the energy behind that constitution meaning ether, air, fire, water, or earth that give sit its nutritional properties and then there’s also vitamins and minerals which are more individual per food. In a larger scale from an Ayurvedic standpoint we’re looking at the energetics of food and how the energetic of a food can put somebody more into balance or more into an imbalanced state depending on the person depending on the food so dairy in general is very sweet and we really want to think about this as Ayurveda is a 5000 year old science originating from India where the cow is revered as absolutely sacred and I don’t know if you’ve ever been in India but cows stop traffic you go around the cow. I saw a cow in a restaurant and I was just like what. but it had wandered into the restaurant and nobody was trying to get it out it was probably like a big honor that it was in there but the energetic of dairy which is predominantly sweet is going to have a balancing grounding effect on the constitutions of what we call vata and pitta. Vata is the constitution of air and ether that’s very light and dry so the moistening aspect so dairy are helpful for vata and pitta is fire and water which is very hot and oily and the aspects of dairy that are dairy and so really good for the pita dosha which basically means element. what I did was looked at ok so we’ve got this sweet nature from the milk from the oily nature that goes in butter or ghee but where else can I find those same qualities in plant based foods. Well I can find the oily cooling quality on coconut oil which is also a stable oil when you heat it so it’s on par with butter or ghee in that way that you’re not changing a monounsaturated fat like olive oil into a saturated fat when you cook it which we really don’t want to do we’re using a fat that’s already saturated and that is going to have a higher smoke point therefore being more healthy in the long term like coconut oil so that’s the oil that kind of dominates my book in terms of an oil that i’m using for feeding or for making foods hot and then I was able to find that same sweet grounding quality in nuts like cashews and brazil nuts and the occasional macadamia nut.
Caryn Hartglass: Bless those nuts and all that they can do, they’re the best.
Talya Lutzker: And when you soak them and combine them with some lemon juice and some salt and some miso paste, or all different ingredients that complement them it really ends up tasting like cheese so I even have a couple recipes in here.
Caryn Hartglass: Better than cheese!
Talya Lutzker: Better than cheese, it’s such a great alternative to people who are lactose intolerant who don’t want to eat dairy for any reason and for vegans and I just found that while it may not always be a perfect exchange it’s good enough and it really works in these recipes.
Caryn Hartglass: Something I noticed, maybe I missed something, but it looks like there’s no wheat in this book or at least the one hat’s had a pasta made with alternative rice pasta.
Talya Lutzker: You don’t miss that, a good eye on your part. In my personal Ayurvedic practice I have so many clients who are not only having issues with dairy with gluten that it’s become another one of my specialties is helping people navigate through a gluten free diet and a gluten free lifestyle, so I just felt like it would be really helpful to leave my book predominately gluten free, there’s really only a few recipes that contain gluten in the form of barley predominately. And I thought it was also a good marketing point about the book even though my publisher isn’t…
Caryn Hartglass: It should say it on here, it’s important.
Talya Lutzker: I know, I think so too but maybe it’ll come out in the second printing.
Caryn Hartglass: I hate to say this but it’s trendy.
Talya Lutzker: I just was in the meeting this morning where someone told me that the gluten free as a buzzword, as an interest in the general public has gone up another 30 percent from 2012 where it has already made such a huge impact on the industry.
Caryn Hartglass: In some ways it’s scary because people aren’t feeling good and there’s lots of reasons why they’re not feeling good and I think food has a big part of it but more people are discovering when they eliminate wheat, when they eliminate gluten, they feel better. What’s going on with our food supply is scary. And what’s going on with wheat is supposedly the staff of light and I supported most of the recipes and responsible eating and living that are gluten free and I’m having a lot of fun with that, working with different flowers that I had never worked with in my life, bean flowers, nut flowers and other grain flowers, it’s just opening my world
Talya Lutzker: It’s really fun and Ayurveda’s main, at the core of Ayurveda’s medicine is the ability to digest your food completely, that if you have a healthy, vital, vibrant digestive system, the rest of your tissues and organs and other bodily systems are going to respond do that in a positive, more healthy way and so because that’s another, that’s also part of my thinking in making the book predominately gluten free. Although there are people who can process gluten just fine and so I’m not saying that gluten is bad for us it just really depends on can your digestive system process it enough to create a sense of vitality within you. Everyone is different.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s about balance, and you know that. Balance, key word. So many foods on grocery store shelves in the United States in the Western world and more and more in other countries have wheat in it and there’s a lot of reasons behind it and some of it is because corporate power and control of what’s going on. We need balance, we need more recipes, we need more food without wheat.
Talya Lutzker: Absolutely, yeah, for me it was like an added bonus of the book when I was writing it so thanks for noticing.
Caryn Hartglass: I pay attention. I want to talk about a few recipes in here so I am a big fan of tea and hot beverages. I live in New York, it gets cold and one of my favorite things to do is just sit and just have a warm, hot beverage and you’ve got some great recipes in here. I’m a big fan of chai, and you’ve got a recipe for chai here that looks great. And then you have a few others and they all seem to have a little bit of ginger in it. Can you talk about ginger from an Ayurvedic point of view?
Talya Lutzker: I love ginger. Ginger is almost triangular shaped and when they see a triangular shape it means that it’s an herb that is going to typically balance anybody. So there’s three doshas, three basic Ayurvedic elements in Ayurvedic medicine, vata, pitta, and kapha ginger is going to balance all three of them for the most part. Sometimes ginger if it’s too hot like if there’s too much of it that is really hot like especially in the form of dried ginger it can be a little too pungent maybe for the vata dosha or a little too heating for the pitta dosha so they have to pay attention to how much they take of ginger and in what form, but for the most part ginger is an anti-inflammatory, circulatory, herb so it’s going to increase and increase blood flow, making blood flow stronger and more vital and it’s also going to help with any sort of -itis in the western medicine so as an anti-inflammatory food. I really love to just add it for that little bit of kick that it gives, a little in flavor but also in energy, because another thing that I don’t focus on in my book very much at all is forms of caffeine and I’m in such a-I feel like just love food so much I’m such a foodie and yet I call myself the health conscious foodie because I just love to feel good when I eat and feel good all the time.
Caryn Hartglass: Shouldn’t we all want that?
Talya Lutzker: Again, I just think that everyone’s so different like I meet people who they have such strong digestive systems that they eat whatever they want and they never have problems so I can understand their perspective of, “why should I try to eat better?” I like what I’m eating and I’m not having any issues.
Caryn Hartglass: I know that there’s a lot of different people out there. There are a handful of people not many but a few people that live a very long life and they’re doing everything that we think is wrong and that’s a mystery, let’s not talk about them. I think a lot of people who are not eating well have lost their vitality, their body’s just given up and they may not notice that the food is causing a problem but at some point they’re going to fall apart and fall apart badly, but that’s my opinion.
Talya Lutzker: I agree with you when I see that too, but sometimes it’s just they’ve got to hit 40 or 50 before that starts to happen and the symptoms have to be uncomfortable enough for them to want to make the change. Anyway, going back to ginger. Ginger has this sort of warm invigorating action in the body. It gives us energy, so that’s why I’ve included it in a lot of these drinks especially if they’re a warm drink to be taken in the morning. When the drink should be taken at night, I mean ginger’s not going to keep you awake, but it’s going to improve blood circulation which studies have shown actually help us relax more when we do start to unwind at the end of the day.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s a really powerful food because, because of all of those properties it can energize you, make you feel really warm inside and that warmth, can give you energy, or it can actually relax you and make you feel cozy when it’s time to go to sleep.
Talya Lutzker: And usually it’s showing you exactly what you need. It’s not some arbitrary sometimes I feel this way and sometimes I feel this way. Your body is responding to it naturally and showing you actually you could really relax right now that would be in alignment with what you’re needing, or wow let’s give you energy we’re ready for it and here it is. It’s also a great digestive herb so I’ve included it in a lot of my recipes because as a tridoshic digestive carminitive and just a digestive tonifier. Tt’s a good one to think about when we’re wanting to make hot drinks or all different kinds of food really.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a lot of really lovely recipes in here and what I like is that some of them are almost conventional but you add different spices to them that make them new, almost. We just have just a few seconds left really, where can people find you on the internet.
Talya Lutzker: They can find me at talyaskitchen.com and my book is available everywhere books are sold.
Caryn Hartglass: That sounds pretty good, well all the best with that I think it’s a really lovely book, thank you for writing it.
Talya Lutzker: Thank you Caryn, thank you so much for having me on your show.
Caryn Hartglass: I think i’m going to go and have a cup of Ginger Tumeric tea now. Ok, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you can visit me on my website, responsibleeatingandliving.com.
Transcribed by Meichin, 3/12/2013