|The song Caryn Hartglass talks about with Mark Reinfeld at the end of this program is Phidyle by Henri Duparc. It can be heard below.
Part I: John Robbins
Groomed to follow in the footsteps of his father, John Robbins chose a different path for himself, becoming a social activist and fierce advocate for plant-strong diets and compassionate living. John Robbins is the author of The Food Revolution, Diet for a New America, Reclaiming Our Health, Healthy at 100 and The New Good Life. His life and work have been featured on the PBS special Diet for a New America, and he has won numerous awards for his pioneering work, including the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award, and Green American’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives with his family in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Part II: Mark Reinfeld
Mark Reinfeld is the winner of Vegan.com’s Recipe of the Year Award for 2011 and has over 20 years experience preparing creative vegan and raw food cuisine. Mark was the Executive Chef for the North American Vegetarian Society’s 2012 Summerfest, one of the largest vegetarian conferences in the world. He is described by VegCooking.com as being “poised on the leading edge of contemporary vegan cooking”. He is the founding chef of the Blossoming Lotus Restaurant, winner of Honolulu Advertiser’s ‘Ilima Award for “Best Restaurant on Kaua’i”. Mark is also the recipient of a Platinum Carrot Award for living foods – a national award given by the Aspen Center of Integral Health to America’s top “innovative and trailblazing healthy chefs.
Mark received his initial culinary training from his grandfather Ben Bimstein, a renowned chef and ice carver in New York City. He developed his love for World culture and cuisine during travel journeys through Europe , Asia and the Middle East . In 1997, Mark formed the Blossoming Lotus Personal Chef Service in Malibu , California. To further his knowledge of the healing properties of food, he received a Masters Degree in Holistic Nutrition.
His first cookbook, Vegan World Fusion Cuisine, coauthored with Bo Rinaldi and with a foreword by Dr. Jane Goodall, has won several national awards, including “Cookbook of the Year’, ‘Best New Cookbook’, ‘Best Book by a Small Press’ and a Gourmand Award for ‘Best Vegetarian Cookbook in the USA ’. In addition Mark coauthored The Taste Of The East, The 30-Minute Vegan and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw.
He currently offers online vegan cooking lessons at CookingHealthyLessons.com as well as vegan cooking and raw food preparation consulting, cookbooks, recipe development, cooking classes, workshops, chef training, intensives and retreats in both North America and Europe. If you would like to learn more about Vegan Fusion Cuisine and Mark Reinfeld please visit veganfusion.com.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Here we are, October 9, 2012. I wanted to let you know that during the month of October, which is vegetarian awareness month and also a lot of other things, it’s also the fundraising month for Responsible Eating And Living, the non-profit that I founded. I just wanted to let you know about it: you can visit the website responsibleeatingandliving.com, go to the donate button, and read our “REAL appeal” to find out what we’re up to and how you can help. Also, you can send me an email at any time at email@example.com. Okay? Now let’s get to the program today. We have a couple of great guests and I want to start with our first, John Robbins – groomed to follow in the footsteps of his father, he chose a different path for himself, becoming a social activist and fierce social advocate for plant-strong diets and compassionate living. John Robbins is the author of Food Revolution, Diet for a New America, Reclaiming Our Health, Healthy at 100, and The New Good Life. His life and work has been featured on a PBS special (Diet for a New America), and he has won numerous awards for his pioneering work, including the Rachel Carson award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian award, the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award, and Green America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives with his family in the Santa Cruz mountains, and we’re going to talk about his newest book – No Happy Cows. Hi John.
John Robbins: Hi Caryn, glad to be here with you.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I’m glad to hear your voice. Okay, so let’s talk about this latest book. One of the things I love about your writing is you can talk about some of the worst, most horrific things that are going on in this planet today, and yet you do it in a voice that is so inviting and so calming and so full of compassion. I don’t know how you do it.
John Robbins: Well, I think I learned that when you shut your eyes to reality, you invite destruction. We somehow have to find a way to keep our eyes and hearts open to the anguish that’s taking place in our world if we’re going to respond to it in a healthy way and a positive way and a productive way. And if we don’t do that, if we go into denial and just shut down in the face of things – it’s tempting to do that, but if we collapse, it’s really not acceptance, it’s resignation. We become diminished, and we aren’t able to respond. And I think there is within each of us a desire to somehow use suffering and use the difficulties that are part of our world and part of our lives to become stronger people and to become capable of resilience and creativity and to reply to what goes on that needs to be changed. I’m here really to support people in finding ways to transform the anguish, the difficulty, the suffering, into positive action.
Caryn Hartglass: Well you’ve been very good at that and I don’t even know if you have the idea of how many people you have actually touched and how many seeds you have planted to do this positive action. Throughout history there have been people that have been speaking out about what humans do to other people and other life on earth, and there have always been these great humanitarians risking all kinds of things just to get this information out. I think in our decade, or our century, you are definitely one of those people that they will write about in the future about really stepping up and spreading this message in such a powerful way.
John Robbins: Well thank you, Caryn. I do agree with you, there have been people in history that have spoken for and represented the oneness of life, the interdependence of life, that we aren’t so separate from one another as we are often taught to think. But I think now, the survival of our civilization depends on not just a few people being spokespersons for our interconnectedness, but a lot of us realizing that is an essential fact of our lives, and finding ways to act so that that awareness can spread and develop and emerge into ever-more people. It really needs to become the central organizing force of our society.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk a little bit more about No Happy Cows. I think everyone should pick this book up; it’s really easy to read, it’s got lots of articles in here but they really get to the core of what’s going on in the world today. So the first thing I want to talk about, is when people talk about eating plant foods versus animal foods, the old-fashioned question has been forever, “Where do you get your proteins?” But there have been other questions that have popped up since then, and a big one is this controversy around soy, and you really did a pretty good job of analyzing soy. I thought we might talk a little bit about that – why has soy become such a demon food in some people’s minds?
John Robbins: Well, it has been demonized. And there are, of course, people who are allergic to it, but there isn’t very many. What actually has happened are two things that have made soy problematic: one, is that almost the entire soy crop in the United States today is genetically engineered. It’s Monsanto, round-up-ready soybeans. If you’re going to buy a soy product, you need to get it organic or else it’s going to be – without being labeled as such – genetically engineered. The extent to which our soy crop has become genetically engineered is just overwhelming, other than the organic. So people are having reactions to soy products that they didn’t used to have. The truth is that it isn’t the soy product itself, it’s what we’ve done by genetically modifying the soybeans that is creating these many fold kind of disturbances. Secondly, as if that wasn’t enough, we’ve isolated the soybeans – we’re processing them in all kinds of ways – and we’re isolating the protein and we’re texturizing it, and we’re doing things to it, and we’re taking the oil out of it, and we’re processing that oil, and we’re refining that oil and putting it into things. It’s a cheap product, it’s subsidized by the government, because most of our soy product goes to livestock feed. So it’s heavily subsidized by those interests that want the meat industry and the dairy industry to be able to buy cheap feed, namely cheap soy. So, as it becomes very cheap and is used all over the place and all our processed foods are full of isolated, processed, genetically modified soy ingredients. And people are having reactions to this; people are having responses in their digestive tract, in their immune system, in their respiratory system, they’re having auto-immune response. It’s creating havoc.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s hard to pinpoint the one thing, because people eat so many different things that have all kinds of manufactured foods in them.
John Robbins: It is, it is very hard. But the fact remains that organic whole soy products are fine. And yeah, you don’t want to eat anything but them; you’d be an idiot if you ate nothing but broccoli. But soy is a healthy food. For most of us, a shift from meat and dairy products and eggs as our primary source of protein, including some soy, organic soy products, is one of the healthiest steps we can take. So, the demonization of soy has some grounds, but there is a way to circumvent the difficulties, and that is to buy whole soy, and organic soy products. And then you don’t subject yourself to those problems.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s so many things going on that really make people confused and concerned about our food system and how it’s connected to lobbyist and corporate interest and how it’s not connected to our own personal health. I just wonder how is it we were fortunate enough to get the organic certification, and people argue that there are problems with that too, but at least we know if something has the organic certification label that it’s not genetically modified. We got one little label in there.
John Robbins: Yes, and we got that because a lot of people worked very, very hard for that. And there’s been a lot of efforts to water it down, to dilute it, erode it, to include as organic things like sewage sludge, genetically engineered foods, irradiated foods – those efforts though to water it down have been defeated by the effort of groups like the Organic Consumer’s Association and a lot of other people who have worked really hard. Our political system is quite broken, we all know that, sometimes frankly when I listen to our politicians I feel that I need to take a shower afterwards. It’s really polluted.
Caryn Hartglass: If you haven’t fallen asleep first.
John Robbins: Yeah, the level of truth isn’t very high, usually. And yet, it’s the only political process we have, and it can, when enough of us work hard on it, we can get some things done, and we did in the case you’re referring to. And we do have an Organic Standards board, and we do have Organic Standards certification, and it means something. It’s got teeth and we can trust it.
Caryn Hartglass: So speaking of demons, you talk about the monster Monsanto a number of times in your book. And there’s this proposition in California, number 37, which will go to the ballots in November, about genetically modified labeling, and you’re in California. How’s that going so far?
John Robbins: I’m traveling all over the state – I’m driving and flying all over the state these days – doing fundraisers and events for Proposition 37. It is leading in the polls right now. Unfortunately, the LA Times came out yesterday against it. The Grocery Manufacture’s Association, which sells a lot of processed foods, put a lot of pressure on the times. They represent their biggest advertisers. So, money talk: Monsanto was pouring money into this, as was the Biotech Industry Organization, as is Pepsi and Coke; these companies that use high-fructose corn syrup which is made from genetically modified corn, and other sweeteners made from genetically modified corn, they don’t want people to know which foods are in fact genetically modified; they don’t want labeling. So the money is very – they’re outspending us about 20 to 1. And yet, the polls show it passing still, so it’s gonna be a fight. I think it has a very good chance. And really what it comes down to is the right to know. We’re not trying to outlaw genetically modified foods. We’re just trying to give consumers the right to know which foods are and which foods aren’t genetically modified. And in this case, I don’t think ignorance is bliss; I think ignorance is subordination. Subservience to Monsanto’s plan to control the food supply without anyone raising a finger, or raising an eyebrow, or certainly preventing their efforts from succeeding. They want to profit and exploit the food supply, and they’re doing so, and this is a way to stop them, they know that. Monsanto is really a terrible company, and I’ll just give you one example. When the first genetically engineered product entered the food supply, was Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone that they sold to dairies, large dairies, who would inject it into the dairy cows, and the result is the cows would give much more milk. Their udders get quite enlarged, some of them almost drag on the ground; they get distended, full of pus; they get mastitis, inevitably, which is an udder infection. It is so predictable that cows injected with bovine growth hormone with get mastitis, that when Monsanto delivers the genetically engineered hormone to the dairies, in the same package come the antibiotics Monsanto also used to treat the mastitis which, invariably, the cows develop. It makes them sick, and then residues from those drugs end up in the milk, pus ends up in the milk, possibly even more significantly, antibiotic resistant bacteria build up in the milk, and this is undermining our medicines. There are a lot of reasons to not use the hormone is dairy production – but what happened was when Monsanto introduced this product and got the larger dairies to use it, some smaller dairies refused to do so. They put it on their labels, accurately, “Not Made With Bovine Genetic Growth Hormone,” or “BGH Free,” or different phrases that accurately told the public that their cheese or their yogurt or their ice cream wasn’t made form cows that had been injected with Monsanto’s hormone. Monsanto then sued these dairies for the crime of informing the public accurately that they weren’t using the product on the grounds that by labeling their products accurately, they were unfairly stigmatizing Monsanto’s product. And although that may somehow seem like a ludicrous and absurd argument, Monsanto is so big, and they’re such thugs, honestly, that they bully and intimidate the dairies and the dairies would go out of business trying to fight Monsanto’s legal machine.
Caryn Hartglass: And Monsanto always wins.
John Robbins: Monsanto would win because they’re so big and so powerful, financially. So they fought the right to know by literally exterminating those small dairies that tried to do things in a natural way, and to let the people of the public know that they were doing that. And they stopped suing dairies now just because there’s so many doing it, but it just is an example of how committed they are to fighting our right to know. And then the current example of course is the California proposition. Earlier this year, both Vermont and Connecticut came within a hair’s breadth of passing legislation and putting it into effect that would have mandated labeling of GMOs in their states. In both cases though, Monsanto threatened to sue the states. In one case it was a governor; in the other case it was a key representative on the committee. They backed down because they didn’t want to settle the citizens of those states with the legal bills that would be required.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just amazing how they get away with it.
John Robbins: Yeah, they actually intimidated states. Now, Vermont and Connecticut are small, relatively speaking. California though – the size of California’s economy is massive compared to those states, and that is not a tactic that Monsanto can get away with in the case of California. In California, also, interestingly, is one of the remaining states that has this ballot initiation process which can be misused – but in this case, it’s the right use of it – and if it passes, which we’ll know on November 6th – and I’m working my butt off, Caryn, to get this passed – because if it does get passed, it’s going to set a precedent for the country.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
John Robbins: California’s economy is so big that it could spread through the whole –
Caryn Hartglass: So much of our food comes from California.
John Robbins: That’s right, that’s right. And that’s why Monsanto is spending tens of millions of dollars on this.
Caryn Hartglass: Crazy, really crazy. Well, that’s humans for you. I want to believe like you said earlier that we all have it within us to do positive action, but many of us live in denial. And somehow that drug of money can influence so many people in not very nice ways. All the stories, all the articles, are very good in here – the one that really got me is the chocolate story. I remember when you first wrote about slavery and chocolate, maybe a decade ago; I’m not sure how long ago it was, but I was not happy to read the updates.
John Robbins: I know, well, there’s a more recent update that you will be happy about.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh good, I need some good news.
John Robbins: Just this week, just a couple of days ago actually, Hershey’s finally agreed to end slavery – well, not buy cocoa – in African fields where child slaves are used. And Hershey’s has been the last big chocolate company to hold out against us, and it has been a big deal that they have finally agreed. Now, we’re going to have to watch over them and make sure that they keep their word, but the fact that they made the commitment, up until now they have refused. People may not know what we’re talked about, but I’ll just say real briefly that a good deal, about 40% of the world’s cocoa, comes from the Ivory Coast – a very poor African nation – and unfortunately, tragically, a large amount of child slaves are actually used in the cocoa fields there. They are abducted from their homes in adjacent countries or stolen or in some cases purchased; there are promises made to their families which are not even remotely what takes places; it’s an ugly, ugly, brutal story of children being not just mistreated or abused, but literally enslaved and killed in the production of chocolate, this food that we associate with pleasure and happiness. It’s just one of the tragedies that’s taking place on out planet today. But there’s been a lot of people trying to expose this, and educate people, and particularly to get the large cocoa companies in this country to stop sourcing there, by using their buying-cloud, to eliminate this practice. We’ve been working at this for many, many years, and we’ve gotten some headway. Hershey’s was the most intractable country; for some reason they just wouldn’t do the right thing.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just mind-blowing to me – the people in the top positions who are clearly affluent and have power, how they support something like this; I just don’t understand it.
John Robbins: They see things so strictly through the balance sheet. They justify it that it’s their responsibility to their shareholders, that profit is what they’re in business to produce, and they don’t look at the larger bottom line of the impact on the world. But when their own shareholders start to demand change and they fight it, well on whose behalf are they fighting it on? The shareholders are demanding the change. And that’s what we’ve done with Hershey’s and we’ve finally got a shift here.
Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s really good news. I have so many memories about Hershey’s – and of course I haven’t had any Hershey’s chocolate in a long time, a very long time – but as a kid on Halloween, when we got a Hershey bar in our trick-or-treat bag, that was a major score; that was the best thing you could get. And then my parents took us for a trip to Lancaster County, and the Hershey factory is there – it was so delightful to see these giant vats of gooey, luscious chocolate just churning away, and the little soldiers of candy kisses – just lovely memories – and to know that’s all sprinkled with pain and suffering of children.
John Robbins: Yeah, you know, I love dark chocolate in moderate amounts, and I get it organic – by the way, if it’s organic, you know that it’s not slave-grown or slave-produced in any way.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good news.
John Robbins: Yeah; I also get fair trade chocolate when I can, because that’s an additional positive thing. But getting it organic simply means that it won’t be tainted by slavery. And dark chocolate has many wonderful nutrients and nutritional benefits. You’ve got to be careful though, because as chocolate gets more sugar in it and more fat added to it, like in milk chocolate. But dark chocolate is a pleasure that i allow myself to enjoy.
Caryn Hartglass: And we all should.
John Robbins: We need healthy pleasures.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
John Robbins: I think we need to have pleasures and things that enrich our lives that don’t destroy us, don’t impair our ability to live with power and resilience and creativity and joy – and don’t have impacts; their production systems aren’t exploiting the world or damaging the environment or harming people or brutalizing animals. We can have healthy pleasures that are produced in a way that has harmony and respect for life. That’s where we need to go.
Caryn Hartglass: Tell me about the Food Revolution Network.
John Robbins: Well that’s a powerful thing. We have over 35,000 members now; something that my son Ocean and I have created together. People can learn about it at foodrevolution.org. We’re doing some remarkable things; we’ve had twelve different New York Times #1 bestselling authors that I’ve interviewed in the last little while; we had a summit where we had over 35,000 participants; we’re basically trying to spread the word about what a healthy diet really is. If you get more and more of your nutrients, your proteins, your fats, your carbs, and all your vital chemicals and vitamins and antioxidants and all the wonderful things food can give you to make your life healthy and good from plants instead of animals, very often, the health-giving properties are enhanced, the negative properties are diminished, the environmental effects are much more positive, there isn’t the cruelty that’s involved in meat-production. There’s just so many benefits to moving to a plant-strong diet. You feel better, you’re leaner, we reduce our risks of heart disease and cancer and diabetes and obesity and so many of the other problems – dementia, and other problems that plague our society today. And we feel better; we’re stronger our minds our clearer, our emotions are more serene, workable – and instead of our bodies being something we drag through life, they become the ways that we express ourselves and fountains of understanding of one another. There’s a possibility for the growth of empathy, and higher consciousness, frankly, on a plant-strong diet. This is one of the secrets that people don’t talk about. When you start eating a plant-strong diet and get away from these animal fats that clog up your bloodstream and weigh you down, your mind becomes sharper and more lucid. Your energy goes to a higher frequency; your energy to empathize and connect with other people, with other beings, increases. What happens through all of this is that your engagement with life goes to another level, and you actually become a more conscious person; a more awake, more aware person. I think that for a lot of us, that’s part of the purpose of life; that is really what is fulfilling and joyful.
Caryn Hartglass: I like to tell people that they don’t know how good they can feel by just changing what they eat. They don’t even know!
John Robbins: I know, it’s so true – they don’t know, and they won’t find out, and it so frustrating when they don’t find out because they won’t make the shift to just experiment and try it for a while to see how it works for you and what it does for you and what you might gain from it. The entrenched interests that keep us believing that we must eat animal protein to be healthy, there are no scientific ground for that; it’s just marketing, it’s just the entrenched interests of industry. We need, deeply, an actual liberation for ourselves. We need to extract ourselves form that captivity and become free people.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s happening in the United States – I’m very happy for the Internet because that’s the way this message is getting out at an exponential level, more people are catching on; the thing is that it’s not catching on, really, outside the United States. Certainly in Europe, there’s a lot going on, but we see as the developing nations become more affluent, they’re starting from the point where we were a long time ago; they’re not using the most state-of-the-art information.
John Robbins: I know, it’s sad – they’re following in our footsteps on this path of destruction. Just to give one example that I’m very familiar with, Baskin Robbins now has more stores in Tokyo than it does in Los Angeles, which is where it originated.
Caryn Hartglass: And when were Asians eating dairy?
John Robbins: Exactly; it’s not part of their traditional cuisine. And in fact, most Asians are lactose intolerant. It’s not a part of the food supply that they grew up with and evolved with at all. They get all kind of health problems as a result, but they like the taste. Right now, KFC is making more money in China than it makes in the United States.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
John Robbins: All of these fast food enterprises – Taco Bell, KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Baskin Robbins – all of them are going to Asia because there is a huge market there. Their advertising is massive. I am interviewed often by publications in those countries who are trying to raise awareness. And I say to the people, as an American, as a member of the Baskin Robbins family, even, I implore you – don’t buy Baskin Robbins, don’t buy any ice cream or feed it to your kids, because it will make them sick and fat; it will make them unhealthy; it will undermine the beauty of their lives and it will reduce their self-esteem; it will make life harder for them; and it’s not worth it for the momentary pleasure of eating that dessert.
Caryn Hartglass:And there are so many other wonderful plant-based desserts out there that aren’t doing any harm to the planet or to our bodies.
John Robbins: They really are. And ice cream, in particular, if you are an ice cream junkie – and I was at one time, it was a long time ago, but I was, and probably at the level that most people would not be able to grasp – but I did eat ice cream for breakfast growing up. But there are many frozen dessert now that are made without dairy – some of them are coconut-milk based, almond-milk based, and they’re so much better for you. They don’t have the dairy products in them, so they don’t have the allergenic responses that you get to the dairy proteins. They don’t have the saturated fats, they types that are in dairy that cause so much trouble. They’re really better for you. They don’t involve cruelty to dairy cows and veal calves and so forth that is implicit in modern industrial dairy production, so there are so many advantages to them – and frankly, when you make the shift, they taste better.
Caryn Hartglass: I hear that all the time. My friends that are moving to more plants and less animals, they talk to me and tell me how foods that they used to love, when they try them again as a treat, they don’t feel good or taste as good. We could talk about this all day John, and I usually do, but it’s the end of this segment and I would like to thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. Everybody go and get No Happy Cows – let’s go and make all the cows on this planet happy!
John Robbins: Thank you, Caryn. Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay! I’m Caryn Hartglass; you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. We”re going to take a very quick break and in a minute we’ll be back with Mark Reinfeld and the Taste of Europe.
Transcribed by Sarah Brown, 3/19/2013
TRANSCRIPTION PART II.
Hello there. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food on October 9th, 2012. How are you today? I’m doing pretty well. It’s that autumn thing going on here in New York and it’s beautiful. It’s a little wet but we like it. I wanted to mention again that it’s time for the Real Appeal. Responsible Eating and Living, the nonprofit that I founded just a little more than a year ago, is having its fundraising month where we ask all of our supporters to help us out a little bit so that we can keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve got lots of great videos, food shows, travel shows, all kinds of recipes. We keep adding new recipes almost daily. Lots of wonderful information up there: responsibleeatingandliving.com. Please visit and visit often. OK. Do you know that according to LA Weekly in an article that just came out it’s calling 2012 the year of vegan cookbooks? And we just heard recently that vegan is mainstream in Los Angeles. This is all really, really good news. And the good news is the food is incredible and it’s just getting more and more incredible because we have great people coming up with great recipes, restaurants, cookbooks, etc. And now I’m going to be talking with Mark Reinfeld who is the winner of vegan.com’s Recipe of the Year award for 2011. He is the celebrated chef of The Blossoming Lotus restaurant and is the award-winning author of Vegan Fusion: World Cuisine and the co-author of The 30-Minute Vegan and The 30-Minute Vegan: Taste of the East.
Caryn Hartglass: Welcome to It’s All About Food, Mark.
Mark Reinfeld: Hey Caryn. Thank you so much for having me here.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. And thank you for writing your latest cookbook, Taste of Europe.
Mark Reinfeld: Well, it was a joy to write it so thanks for picking it up.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know about everyone but I have my romance with Europe. I lived in the South of France for four years. I’ve traveled all over and I love it there.
Mark Reinfeld: Yeah. That theme really strikes a chord with most of us here in America to go back to the old country.
Caryn Hartglass: And it always disturbs me a little bit when our American culture kind of gets in a little too much over there because I really love the way some of the countries live to some extent: the architecture in many places is beautiful, the way they take their time, that whole slow food movement thing, making food beautiful, really caring about quality ingredients. I don’t want to lose that.
Mark Reinfeld: It’s a very special place and it’s really good to experience it so that when you come back here you can bring a little bit of it back into your everyday life.
Caryn Hartglass: The great thing is that it can all be vegan.
Mark Reinfeld: Amen. It’s surprising that now, like you mentioned the year of the vegan cookbooks, is just incredible how easy it is to pretty much create the full array of world cuisine in a world-class way that’s using all plant-based products.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just thinking of this right now but it’s sort of coming around full circle where when people were starting eating vegetarian we looked towards ethnic foods because there were a lot of other countries that ate primarily plant-based although they would add small amounts of meat or fish but the food wasn’t incredibly interesting. Now we’ve kind of come all the way around and we’re going back to all of those international cuisines outside of the United States and finding out how to do their best dishes vegan.
Mark Reinfeld: Yeah. I fully agree that if you do look at most indigenous cultures that essentially a majority of the diets were plant-based and the animal products were more as a condiment. We go a step further and show how the full spectrum of cuisine can be created with plant-base. I love to use a lot of the ingredients that are local to the different countries and all of the fresh herbs and vegetables that most of us are familiar with and just combine them in a way to recreate these European classic dishes.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to talk about the challenge of promoting the vegan diet and promoting vegan food. Specifically I think it’s not just about presenting beautiful dishes and making varied dishes and making them taste good but people that are coming to this diet are coming to it more for…I want to say not just for tasty food. They’re coming to it because they want to be healthy; they want to feel good. Some people have allergies. There are all of these different issues. It seems more of the cookbooks that I’m reading are taking more of these things into consideration. In some way…I don’t want to say apologetically, it’s just there are so many more parameters to keep in mind, not just taking out animal food. Because the people that are attracted to these kinds of cookbooks are far more savvy about what they want in their food.
Mark Reinfeld: I feel that it’s really a whole…this is like the “whole being” diet where you’re looking at not only satisfying all of the tastes and flavors that you’re looking for but also having it nourish you on all these additional levels. This kind of food is good for you and it’s also good for the planet. You could…like John was mentioning there’s benefit upon benefit. There’s the flavor that’s amazing and then you start looking at the health benefits, which are incredible, and you see the ripple effect out into the environment and also just creating a more peaceful world here by relying on plants instead of animals for our sustenance.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to delve into the cookbook a little bit. But before I do I want to ask you a few more questions. You did the food for Summerfest this summer?
Mark Reinfeld: I did. That was definitely one of the highlights of my culinary career. It’s one of the largest vegetarian conferences in the world. It’s a five-day event held annually in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It’s three meals a day for over 700 to 800 people a day so it’s definitely a large-scale operation.
Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t been there in a few years but one of the things that I noticed was the people attending were very particular about their food. They knew what they wanted and they wanted a lot of it. These vegans could mow.
Mark Reinfeld: It was definitely a discriminating crowd to say the least. We had a gluten-free station, a raw station, an oil-free station, a pizza station, a hot bar, a few salad bars. It was full on.
Caryn Hartglass: And that’s part of what I was talking about with the challenges because there are people that are looking for more than just food without animal products. Some want oil-free, some want salt-free, some want wheat-free. It’s quite a plate.
Mark Reinfeld: It’s surprisingly easy. That’s the approach I like to take is I see myself as someone that really helps demystify the art of vegan food preparation. More and more people are learning about vegan foods: what they are and what the benefits are. I feel like my role is to demystify the “how to” part through the cookbooks I write and also I offer workshops and trainings around the country to just show people how easy it is to accommodate any dietary need that they might have.
Caryn Hartglass: OK. So now let’s go to Europe.
Mark Reinfeld: Let’s go.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s go. I want to go. You start out talking about Italian food. Then we go to France. We go to Spain and then the United Kingdom and Ireland and Germany and then a bunch of other countries. Everything is really incredible. There’s certainly a lot of Italian food in here because they do make a lot of plant-based options naturally.
Mark Reinfeld: I’ve done quite a bit of travel in Europe that began over 20 years ago and I find that Italy was definitely one of the most vegan-friendly places to be. It was naturally reliant on a lot of fresh vegetables and fresh herbs and the sauces for various pastas that were vegetable-based.
Caryn Hartglass: Here’s a kind of bizarre way that I looked at food around Europe. I used to work as an engineer in the semiconductor industry. I did a lot of traveling and I would visit different customer sites in different countries: in Italy and in France and in Scotland and Germany, if I can remember all of the places I’ve been. But the thing that stood out for me was the cafeteria food in the Italian companies was incredible and it was so above and beyond everywhere else. The tables would have mineral water and olive oil on every table. Then the standard fare that you could always get, and this wasn’t even the main entrée of the day, but they would have shelves of room-temperature grilled vegetables—the antipastos. You could get eggplant or zucchini or just lovely, grilled plain vegetables. They always had several sauces, like a marinara and something else. They always had plain rice and a pasta. It was beautiful and it was real.
Mark Reinfeld: That’s one thing you see as the cultural role that food plays also and the emphasis on, like you mentioned earlier about the slow food movement, just really taking the time to appreciate the gift that food is for us and to really celebrate and honor the ritual of it and really put a lot of mindfulness into it.
Caryn Hartglass: Then I have a specific romance with France because I lived in the South of France for 4 years. I learned so much there. I was a vegan when I lived there and I learned a lot about food, not from eating it but just from looking at it because I didn’t eat much of the things that they served.
Mark Reinfeld: The markets and the gardens. Another emphasis is the daily…if you notice the refrigerators are usually a lot smaller over there because they’re making these daily or every other day trips to the markets or little specialty stores to keep things fresh.
Caryn Hartglass: People just seemed…oh, I don’t know a better word than romantic. It was just so lovely the care. I would have a friend, for example, she would just wrap up a little sachet of lavender for me just as a little gift. And then the tisanes. People would be drinking just a light tea sometimes with thyme. So simple.
Mark Reinfeld: It’s a beautiful thing to experience.
Caryn Hartglass: And you mentioned the cliché of a woman walking with a baguette. You see that all the time still today. People go to the bakery.
Mark Reinfeld: The past definitely comes alive over there. It’s really an amazing experience. It’s still a Western culture. I love world travel. I’ve been traveling for over 20 years and going to other Western nations. There are still a lot of similarities and yet you see these little differences that make a big impact on the quality of the day.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. I just want to underline what you just said because it really is important. These places are like states in the United States. They’re not large and yet they really have very unique, different flavors, styles, and presentations. I just want to keep that. We just have a few more minutes. I want to touch on…I appreciate you wrote in the Spain section…I haven’t been to Spain very often but I always had a terrible time eating. I spent a lot of the ’90s in Europe and I know things have really changed in the last 10 years with vegetarian and vegan food all over Europe. But you talk about “Beware of the Spanish Tortilla.” It’s really an omelet with eggs in it. I didn’t know that.
Mark Reinfeld: Really? Yeah. That’s a subtle or not-so-subtle surprise if you order tortilla and you got an omelet instead of what we’re accustomed to.
Caryn Hartglass: And you have a recipe for Bangers and Mash, which is pretty popular in…I’ve seen it in Scotland actually and I had a vegan version when I was in Edinburgh once.
Mark Reinfeld: Right. That’s with mashed potatoes and I used vegan sausage and this really nice gravy that is served. Again, the effort was to do a full spectrum of recipes that touch on a lot of the classics that people are familiar with as well as introducing new recipes that utilize traditional ingredients.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. There are just so many really yummy things in here that I really am looking forward to trying. You know, nobody can say that vegan food is boring.
Mark Reinfeld: No. Actually, I also give out free recipes on our website for people that want to check that out as well. I have a newsletter where I send out free recipes and more info on the vegan lifestyle and classes and workshops and things like that.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s veganfusion.com?
Mark Reinfeld: Yes. It’s veganfusion.com. In keeping with what John was saying, just really emphasizing the imperative nature of looking at how we grow food and what we’re eating as a way to really affect incredible, positive change on the planet. Again, my role is to show how amazing the food could taste. If people are listening and looking for a virtual tour of Europe, they’ll find it in the recipes of Taste of Europe.
Caryn Hartglass: I definitely agree. You have some praise at the beginning of your cookbook and I just wanted to ask: Is Cher a vegan?
Mark Reinfeld: I am not sure what her current lifestyle choice is but I did a couple of private chef gigs for her in California. A very amazing woman.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow. Good for you.
Mark Reinfeld: That was fun.
Caryn Hartglass: Seems like you’ve been all around. I spent a little time in Germany and I was in Munich but in a very small part of Munich and I was near a small market not where any of the major ones were. I practically lived on cabbages, potatoes, and onions for two months.
Mark Reinfeld: Right. Germany was one of the more challenging countries to come up with recipes though, again, with how vegan analog products have come so far that there are these meat alternatives that are not necessarily health foods but that are helpful when people are transitioning away from animal products. There’s a lot of wurst, like bratwurst. I like to say it’s an aptly named wurst because they’re really not very good for you. The plant-based alternatives are a lot better way to go.
Caryn Hartglass: And the other thing is beer. I love to see that you use beer in some of your recipes. I like cooking sometimes with beer and wine, especially if I want to keep something oil-free.
Mark Reinfeld: Yeah. I enjoyed working with the various beers and wines in this book. One of my former chefs at the Lotus and close friend Patrick Remser did a full section on wine and beer pairing for vegan foods, which is an interesting topic in itself.
Caryn Hartglass: Can you talk a little bit about when you give a training class, what that’s like?
Mark Reinfeld: Sure. I love showing people how easy it is to create these world-class meals. Lately I’ve been doing weekend workshops and 10-day trainings in Hawaii and on the West Coast and I have some events planned on the East Coast and in Europe as well. Basically it’s like whatever your skill or confidence level is I can show you these very simple techniques that are very empowering for people so that they find even after a 10-day training that their skill level and confidence level have really gone to totally new levels. It’s amazing to watch the transformation and people feeling that they can take their health back into their own hands and prepare these life-giving foods for themselves and their families.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m always telling people to find their kitchens.
Mark Reinfeld: Right. That’s a good place to start.
Caryn Hartglass: People don’t listen very often.
Mark Reinfeld: You see the role that food plays, especially when you travel, and that it really is one of the main things that unites humanity: food and the ritual. My feeling is that if we could bring consciousness and awareness into how we partake of that fundamental human activity that it will have this ripple effect into all other aspects of our lives.
Caryn Hartglass: I like that. I like that very much. So what’s next for you? Are you going to another continent?
Mark Reinfeld: I actually have an event planned in Belize in December. I do these vegan culinary tours where I go with small groups of people and we experience the local culture and prepare foods together. Belize is coming up in December and then I’ll be returning to Europe next summer. Also I’m working on the next 30-Minute Vegan book, which will be 30-Minute Vegan Soups and Stews, which will have over 125 recipes from around the world of different soups and stews and condiments that go with them.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s just talk about the 30-minute vegan concept for just 30 seconds. I know people have very busy lives and they are kind of daunted by cooking because they think it takes a long time so there are a number of cookbooks today that want to stress that it’s quick to make most of these meals. To some extent when you have a skill you can put a meal together relatively quickly.
Mark Reinfeld: That was the guiding principle for coming up with this: the idea of the 30-minute vegan. Most people can wrap their mind around spending a half hour getting a meal together so I’ve just designed the recipes in a way that really goes back to these simple, basic techniques that create a lot of flavor but don’t take too much time in the kitchen. Virtually all of the recipes you can create these gourmet-quality meals in less than 30 minutes.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s good. But people still have to get their feet wet. There’s a certain amount of organization involved; you talk a little bit about it in your book. People have to be thinking ahead because you can’t just open a book and get started. Most people, if they are new to this, they don’t have any of the right ingredients in their refrigerator or in their cupboards and they may not have the right tools. In everything in life it takes organization and planning.
Mark Reinfeld: Baby steps. I think the first thing is just a willingness and an awareness that it’s a direction you want to go in your life. If I had to sum it up I would say it’s a lot simpler than people think it is.
Caryn Hartglass: Mark, I want to thank you. We’re at the end of the program. I want to thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. I said I was living in the South of France earlier and one of the things that I loved was the fields where all of the herbs would just grow naturally and you could walk through them and the sun would bake on them and the fragrance was just intoxicating. So I thought just as a nice way to end the show…I’ve done quite a bit of singing and I have a piece that is going to play from a French composer, Duparc, called Phidyle and it talks about those things, about the clover and the thyme and the sunlight and the fragrance around the paths so that’s how we’re going to end the show today. Thanks for joining me Mark Reinfeld. Taste of Europe. Go to veganfusion.com. I’m Caryn Hartglass. Thanks for listening.
Transcribed by Jennie Steinhagen, 3/25/2013