Part I – Ruby Roth
Ruby Roth is an acclaimed activist, artist, former teacher, and author whose children’s books have been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Huffington Post, The Washington Times, Change.org, Glamour, and Wired as well as on The Today Show, FOX, ABC, CNN, and other major media outlets. She first discovered children’s interest in veganism while teaching art at an elementary school. Complementing her degrees in art and American studies, she has researched animal agriculture, health, nutrition, and the benefits of a plantbased diet for nearly a decade. Her first book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, was published in 2009. A vegan since 2003, she lives in Los Angeles.
Part II – Brian Patton
Brian Patton is author of The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home and The Sexy Vegan Cookbook. He is also executive chef for Vegin’ Out, a vegan food delivery service in Los Angeles. As the quintessential “regular dude” vegan chef, he started posting instructional cooking videos on YouTube as his witty, ukulele playing alter-ego The Sexy Vegan and quickly gained a large following. Visit him online at http://www.thesexyvegan.com.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I
Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. Here we are, it’s August 13, 2013 and what I love about today here in new York City is it’s a rainy day. It’s not raining right at the moment, but what’s really nice about these summer days is that I find they are quiet. I live in an urban area right next to a playground, and though it’s nice to see the kids having fun, screaming and laughing, making a lot of noise – when it rains, all of a sudden everything gets so peaceful, and I really appreciate the contrast. Today is one of those nice days. And it’s always good to find something nice about rain, right? Some people call it liquid sunshine. I just think it’s a good time to be peaceful. Okay, let’s bring on the first guest today. This is Ruby Roth, and it’s her third time on It’s All About Food. She has a new book out, V is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind. She’s an acclaimed activist, artist, former teacher and author whose children’s books have been featured in the Huffington Post, The Washington Times, Glamour, and Wired, as well as on the Today Show, FOX, CNN, and other major media outlets. She first discovered children’s interests in veganism while teaching at an elementary school, teaching art. Complementing her degrees in art and animal studies, she has researched animal agriculture, health, nutrition, and the benefits of a plant-based diet for nearly a decade. Her first book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, was published in 2009. A vegan since 2003, she lives in Los Angeles. Hi Ruby, how are you today?
Ruby Roth: I’m good! I’m so happy to be back with you!
Caryn Hartglass: I’m glad you’re here too! I know we’ve been having some cyberspace challenges here, so I hope we don’t have any during this hour because that would not be fun. Let’s just press on! So… one of the reasons why I like having you on the show – and this is not one of the important reasons – but I always read the books of authors I talk to, and yours are very easy to read.
Ruby Roth: I always say, “So easy, even adults can understand them!”
Caryn Hartglass: But that gave me time to enjoy the pictures and kind of ponder the concepts. Okay, so – you write children’s books, but they’re not your average children’s books. There is a special message in here, and I think it is a very important message. But I’m sure you get a lot of controversy behind these books.
Ruby Roth: Sure, they’re the first vegan and vegetarian books for children that address factory farming and the environment and the emotional lives of animals – how our food affects that whole world. And yes, they have definitely ruffled some feathers, industry feathers. But they are definitely finding the people they are meant for, and the population of vegans and vegetarians has just grown exponentially in the past few years.
Caryn Hartglass: Are there any other children’s books that talk about factory farming?
Ruby Roth: Not that I know of; I’ve never been able to find one, and that’s how my books came about. I was searching for one to share with my students who were very curious about my eating habits, and I couldn’t find one. Everything that I found was about a talking animal or a talking vegetable, and I knew these kids just weren’t going to relate to that. That’s not how I spoke to them, you know, in the sugar-coated voice. So that’s how these books came about.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, I want to talk a lot more about that. I just pulled up Goodreads a little while ago and searched for books for vegetarian and vegan kids, and this list of 77 came up – yours was number 2. The Lorax by Doctor Seuss was number one. Great book, but the next one is yours, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals.
Ruby Roth: Good, because I feel that by sugarcoating and avoiding speaking to kids directly about what’s at stake with animals and the environment, I think we’re just putting off what we should be learning as young people.
Caryn Hartglass: Here’s the crazy thing: there’s so much violence out there. There’s so much violence in children’s media today. So why is it okay to have all kinds of shoot-em-up videos, all kinds of superheroes out there saving the world again from evil – so many different dark concepts, and yet we cannot expose the darkness in what’s really going on.
Ruby Roth: I think it’s because those video games don’t push us to make any changes with ourselves. And I think change can be very scary for people – especially when we’ve been born and raised and bred to think that the Standard American Diet is endorsed by doctors and healthcare professionals, and that it’s totally normal. It’s a real shock to a lot of people to realize that they’re been a tool in someoneelse’s game, and that we haven’t actually made a conscientious decision about our food most of the time. So the other part of that is that veganism is still pretty new to the mainstream, and I think that a lot of people think the vegan diet is the Standard American Diet minus meat and dairy, which leaves nothing upon nothing. The fact is that people throughout history have practiced plant-based diets and thrives. We have our own pyramid, per se, and everything we need in it.
Caryn Hartglass: One thing I believe in is telling the truth, being honest, empowering our youth with the truth, but also showing them as adults that we’re doing what we can and we expect them to do the same – that we’re working to make this world a better place, it will be their responsibility to make the world a better place, and they need to know what the issues are so that they can work toward those things.
Ruby Roth: I think that a big issue at school, or even with parents, is that we tell kids, “You can change the world, you can be anything you want to be.” And we don’t give them any solid foundation of what either of those really means. So I think we need to discuss the motives and what’s really at stake, and I think that kids are totally open and capable of understanding. My experience in the classroom proves it. They are not only eager to learn why someone would not eat animals, because they love animals, but they are eager to take part in something that creates solutions.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. This isn’t exactly the same subject, but I was raised with honesty. My parents always let us know what was going on: the good things, the bad things. If there were money issues during different periods, we were aware of those periods. There was nothing discussed in hushed tones that the children shouldn’t hear. I think that’s really important, because kids perceive everything, and when you’re keeping secrets, that just breeds distrust and fear. So I really commend you for being honest in your books.
Ruby Roth: I think that kind of education lasts a lifetime, no matter where you apply it – the building of critical thinking and questioning – lasts throughout a child’s life, in their professions and in their family life. There’s a much bigger, broader spectrum of benefits than just the practical aspects of health and animals in this lifestyle.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t have children; I don’t know what books they are reading today; all I remember are Dick and Jane and Spot. But I have a feeling that some things have not changed, and I have an idea that some of those idyllic images of animals and farms are probably still the same.
Ruby Roth: Sure, and not only have they lasted throughout the years, but meat and dairy industries know they must reach children in order to maintain their status quo in the marketplace. One of the responses to my book coming out, I’ve heard in trade magazines that they want to come out with their own books targeted at schoolchildren, to make sure that meat and dairy are normalized with children. So it’s active, it’s intentional, and it’s organized.
Caryn Hartglass: Well one of the problems is money, and many schools don’t have enough, so they accept free materials, and they get a lot of materials from these big food companies who want to promote their products. They do it in a very covert way, almost. So I imagine if they do create these children’s books that it’s only going to make things worse.
Ruby Roth: Yeah, and those will get right into the schools for that reason.
Caryn Hartglass: I was at the Book Expo in New York a few months ago, and one of the great things about being at a book expo is that there are so many free books you can get. It was my first time, and a friend of mine said, “You absolutely must bring a suitcase, a wheelie.” So I thought, okay, this is a great opportunity for me to collect children’s books! I thought I would get a whole pile for them because they love to read. I grabbed a lot of books, and before presenting them to them… well, I ended up not presenting them with any of them. Because in all of them I found something that was offensive – either it was violence, promoted some sort of darkness or had the kids eating foods that I don’t think kids should be eating.
Ruby Roth: I think it’s interesting to use those materials anyway and then use them to make a discussion. Kind of like how your parents did with you, how you said they included you. I think that way you are exposing them to this other side, but they are going to be exposed to all these issues as they grow up anyway. So this way they are getting the opportunity to think critically and maybe to read between the lines of messages that are directed at them. So I think it makes a difference, even when you go to the grocery store and you’re shopping with your kid, to point out why all the junk food and the candy and the cereal are on the low shelves – they’re at kids’ eyeballs. They’re placed there by companies to trick you into wanting it. So then kids try to wrap their brains around this game that is played in the marketplace that they play a role in.
Caryn Hartglass: So in other words, teach your children critical thinking at an early age.
Ruby Roth: Yeah, I think we shouldn’t avoid difficult issues or topics, but rather invite them and use them to teach our children.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m still trying to teach some of the adults that I’m around about these issues. I’m like, “Look at what you’re being marketed to buy! Think about it!”
Ruby Roth: My newest book, V is for Vegan, is only 26 sentences long, so it’s the shortest read yet.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s see, I wanted to talk about a few of those sentences…like this one: “I is for insects not happy in jars.” That brought back so many images to me. Unfortunately, as a kid, I wasn’t too supervised, and I think it’s good that children have a certain amount of freedom, but I used to play a lot in the backyard and in my friend’s backyard. We would do horrible things to insects. We would take the alcohol out, I would dissect them… and I’m really sorry I did all those things. But kids are encouraged to collect insects in jars.
Ruby Roth: That’s true, and I think that even before they are encouraged, they are really interested in this animal. But I think it’s so common. Even one of my last book signings, this boy came and he had a moth in a box; he was so excited to show me. Actually, Rory Freedman of Skinny Bitch was there too, and we explained to him that the moth might be happier if he let it go, and that he needed to let it go. I think he got it.
Caryn Hartglass: I was recently at a young child’s birthday party, and one of the gifts he was given was a jar to look at insects. It was actually a toy that was packaged that way.
Ruby Roth: I think, I was saying before, that we need to take that interest and make them think critically about it. This is an animal and it wants to breathe and live and be in nature where it’s supposed to be. I think that education in childhood, that normalcy and thinking from someone else’s point of view, will make a big difference later on.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t make a big issue about honey. But in your book, you say, “H is for honey, food for bees when temperatures freeze.” That was something I didn’t think about before. I mean, I don’t eat honey, but what happens there with honey in the wintertime?
Ruby Roth: Because the bees are pollinating during the summers and the springs and when it’s not icy cold out, they take the food that they make, the honey, and it’s not only used for food but also to insulate the hive, so that they don’t freeze to death. I made this issue more about the bees than the honey. I know that there are some vegans out there who call themselves “beegans” because they do eat the honey but no other animal product. But in any case, I think the bee colony death crisis that we’re having all over the world is a real issue everyone needs to be aware of. Bees need our special protection at this time.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Clearly, we’re doing a lot of bad things, and it’s like the canary in the mine shaft with the bee. I think we’re going to see this more and more with different species. The more we put toxic chemicals out into our world, into what we’re growing, the little animals that are feeding on those things are going to be negatively impacted faster than we are.
Ruby Roth: Yes, and the bee death is definitely a measure of what we’ve done, the mistakes we’ve made, and the fact that it’s time to turn around.
Caryn Hartglass: I was going to say it’s funny, but it’s not funny – they are impacted in more ways than one with our mistakes. Not just the toxic herbicides and pesticides, but we see them very often in these big bee compounds. We take away the honey and we put in high fructose corn syrup.
Ruby Roth: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: Another bad thing. And I think the total effect is what’s getting to them
Ruby Roth: I always tell people, “Any time you’re exchanging money for animal products, their best interests are not at stake at all.” When you really look into bee farming and how the queens have to be artificially inseminated even, it’s such a strange process.
Caryn Hartglass: Who thinks of these things?!
Ruby Roth: It’s crazy, really. It’s crazy. Why don’t we just let the bees do what they’re going to do?
Caryn Hartglass: So I’m just thumbing through this little book that was enjoyable and easy to read, and so important, there’s, “K is for kitchen, so let’s help cook and clean.” It doesn’t take much to really get to the point: cooking and cleaning, both so important.
Ruby Roth: I think we just have to invite our kids into the kitchen – make cooking and food and the collecting of food really enjoyable and social – we just have to make it a happy part of your family. Don’t make it worrisome and a bunch of rules. This is a joy in my life and in our family’s life, and I think that’s how you get kids interested in it. That’s how kids are interested in other countries like France, for example. They eat everything the adults do by the time they’re in kindergarten, and meal time is just treated as a joyful and sociable event during the day.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny; every place has its advantages and disadvantages. I live in the south of France for four years in the 90s and it was an incredible time. I did see how children are raised with an appreciation for all foods, and that whining like “I don’t like this, I don’t like that” is just not tolerated.
Ruby Roth: It’s not. And it seems like they don’t make a big deal if the kid doesn’t want to taste it; they just whisk it away and say they’ll try it again some other time. There are no alternatives or special kid’s foods made.
Caryn Hartglass: On the other hand, they did put out a crazy law last year where meat or animal products have to be served as mandatory protein for lunch.
Ruby Roth: Yes, it’s unbelievable.
Caryn Hartglass: So they’ve got some work to do, as we all do. We can all learn for everybody else. So you probably heard that in Queens, New York, in Flushing, New York, we have the first public school that serves all vegetarian lunches.
Ruby Roth: I did hear that. It’s fantastic.
Caryn Hartglass: So they might enjoy your books!
Ruby Roth: I was thinking the same thing.
Caryn Hartglass: They might enjoy having you come and chat with them! I think every school is perfect, but at least I think that would be a very receptive audience.
Ruby Roth: I think it’s very hard to get into schools in general, just because the rule, in general, is that they can’t officially “endorse” any one diet, of course they do. But I think it’s a really great lesson to see how much the parents had a hand in that and how the community came together on this issue; I think we’re going to see more and more of it.
Caryn Hartglass: Now I just realized this, but last week, I had a guy on the show, Rob Poe, who goes by the name of Broccoli Rob, and he has a musical program to encourage kids to eat vegetables. He’s a vegan, but he doesn’t push the vegan thing, he just pushes the vegetable thing – because it’s like you said, the schools cannot endorse one particular diet. Right. But who know, maybe Broccoli Rob needs to meet Ruby Roth and do some musical, artistic vegan promotion.
Ruby Roth: Yeah!
Caryn Hartglass: I’m all about networking and connecting the dots here. We definitely need to do more for kids.
Ruby Roth: It’s such a great international community, the vegan and vegetarian population.
Caryn Hartglass:It is. We are family! Or vamily! Or something like that. We just have a few minutes left… I’m constantly surprised by things that come out in science. And this is not necessarily kid-related, but I just wanted to talk about this. I was just reading, some studies have been done with farmed fish, where they’re discovering – there’s all kind of problems with farmed fish, all sorts of illnesses and filth, and plus, it’s not environmentally sustainable, because we take all this sea life from the oceans to feed the fish that are being farmed, so it’s not like we’re not touching the oceans, because we totally are. But anyway, this study said that these farmed fish do better on a plant-based diet, and rather than feeding them fish, it would be good to feed them a plant-based diet. And I’m just thinking that they’re missing the whole point. Can’t we just eliminate the whole fish farming thing – don’t you realize that humans do better on a plant-based diet?
Ruby Roth: Skip the middle man!
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly! There was somebody who said, “Skip the middle meat.”
Ruby Roth: Exactly. We just need to eat more of what the fish in the ocean are eating.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Now I forget – is there a fish in your book?
Ruby Roth: I cover it in “Use and reuse – please don’t waste” because the ocean is in there. But in the other two books, yes, I definitely cover the oceans and fish and their emotions, their sensitivities.
Caryn Hartglass: A lot of people overlook fish because they’re so different. We can sort of relate to mammals – and yet we treat them horribly – but fish are even beyond what most of us can imagine as thinking and feeling. But we know that they do.
Ruby Roth: I think it’s very important that people check out the footage of mass commercial fishing boats and what that looks like. Because that is really impactful, just to see the mass quantity that we’re pulling out of the ocean. I think that visual hits you on a gut level. You can feel within your human instincts that it is not right.
Caryn Hartglass: Just how these trawlers go and scoop literally everything up for miles – and they don’t even use everything they are scooping up.
Ruby Roth: It is so wasteful – you can visually see that the fish are suffering. Speaking of purposeless scientific studies, we don’t need to see it. We just need to feel and see that it’s wrong. We’ve made such a mass mistake on this way of living and this way of eating.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m on your website wedonteatanimals.com, and you have a blog. I just wanted to talk about a few things I read there. I loved your most recent post about Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak, and how you were referenced in an article about him.
Ruby Roth: It is against him.
Caryn Hartglass: I know, and it’s so funny how people don’t even know what they’re talking about.
Ruby Roth: Maurice Sendak was a very dark and complicated individual, and he believed wholeheartedly in telling kids the truth. The journalists pitted me against him, saying that they were very sentimental about those picture books from the past that weren’t so “politically correct” and left politics out. But if you look at Maurice Sendak’s work and his beliefs, we’re actually more similar than different.
Caryn Hartglass: I believe so. Absolutely. And I’m glad you mentioned it. I remember watching the movie Where the Wild Things Are, because there are some very dark and troubling images in them.
Ruby Roth: That book was actually banned by some librarians when it came out for being so disturbing and dark, which is quite familiar to me.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, another post – you posted this video with little Antonio which kind of went viral a few months ago. I just saw the video, I don’t know anything about it, but it was incredible.
Ruby Roth: You get to witness the moment a child realizes that he’s easting animals. Somehow this was caught on tape, a mother and a son’s interaction with one another, and he had quite an impact on his mom. You can see the wheels turning, you can see the revelation, and it’s just amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just amazed that they caught it on camera, I don’t know if they planned it. This child is just so young and so full of wisdom and just quiet, calm peace.
Ruby Roth: I think that’s what makes kids so capable, much more capable than society gives them credit for. They have an understanding of the world around them. I think it’s time. Industry leaders across the board are saying that we lack critical thinkers and people with passion and drive in all sectors of industry. I think that some of the greatest benefits of veganism, as we talked about this whole half hour, are the benefits beyond the animals and the health. I think a veg-education gives you those things. It take grit and passion and empathy –
Caryn Hartglass: – and courage. A lot of courage.
Ruby Roth: A lot of courage, to stand up for what you believe in even when you’re the only one. I think it’s just a solution on many levels for us as a society.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, that says it all! Thank you, Ruby Roth, for joining me on It’s All About Food. I’m a big fan of your books, so keep writing. The children need you!
Ruby Roth: Thank you again for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, you’re welcome. Bye! Again, Ruby’s website is wedonteatanimals.com. Shall we take a break? When we come back, we’re going to talk with Brian Patton, the Sexy Vegan. We’ll be right back!
Transcribed by Sarah Brown, 8/26/2013
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Hello everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. And here we are. It’s already part two of today’s program for August 13th, 2013. Gosh, time really flies when I’m talking about my favorite subject: food. It just goes like that. It’s almost as good as eating it. And I’m going to bring on my next guest: Brian Patton, the Sexy Vegan. He’s the author of The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home and The Sexy Vegan Cookbook. He’s also the executive chef for Vegin’ Out, a vegan food delivery service in Los Angeles. As the quintessential “regular dude” vegan chef, he started posting instructional cooking videos on YouTube as his witty, ukulele-playing alter ego, the Sexy Vegan, and quickly gained a large following. Visit him online at thesexyvegan.com. But before you go there, let’s listen to him right now because I’m going to bring Brian on.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, how are you doing, Brian? Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Brian Patton: Here I am. Hi Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi. Well, I think we’re on a very similar mission, which is to make plant-based food fun and delicious.
Brian Patton: I would agree. That is my mission, indeed.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, so I was happy to discover you. There was a time in my life…I’ve been vegan over 25 years…and there was a time when I thought I knew all the vegans out there. And now it seems I’m learning about a gazillion of them every day, which is really…
Brian Patton: They’re multiplying exponentially.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and I’m not procreating so it’s not like I’m making any but somehow they are multiplying.
Brian Patton: Yes they are.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s a beautiful, beautiful, delicious thing.
Brian Patton: I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: Alright. So shall we talk to Brian or shall we talk to your alter ego, the Sexy Vegan?
Brian Patton: Well, your choice. It’s mostly the same guy. One is a little bit more exaggerated and annoying.
Caryn Hartglass: OK. Let’s hold off on the annoying part and let’s just jump right in. Nah, before we jump right in, I was trying to learn a little bit more about you and I wanted to know about your past because I couldn’t find it anywhere.
Brian Patton: I’m very mysterious that way.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Brian Patton: I try to keep things very under wraps.
Caryn Hartglass: I know you’re from Pennsylvania, right?
Brian Patton: Yes, I am from Pennsylvania. I’m from the Pocono area in Northeastern PA. Kind of rural. Kind of not a place where a vegan would really live very well at this time probably. I grew up sort of eating just pizza and more pizza and stromboli and pierogies and whatever else was the local fare. I come from…my part of town was very Irish and Italian mostly so there was a lot of that type of food. So grew up having these huge Sunday dinners over at my grandparents’ house: homemade pasta, meatballs, homemade bread. I don’t know what time they woke up in the morning to make this but it was pretty insane that they fed like 16 people by noon with this everything-made-from-scratch meal.
Caryn Hartglass: Amen to that.
Brian Patton: That was quite great to have that as part of my childhood for sure. So that’s where maybe I got my spark for cooking.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Well, I’m from New York and I’ve lived all around the world and I did go to college in Pennsylvania at Bucknell University.
Brian Patton: I went to Susquehanna University right down the road.
Caryn Hartglass: I had a feeling.
Brian Patton: Rivals.
Caryn Hartglass: It was the stromboli page in your book that kind of got me curious because when I was going to Bucknell I had a rock band and my senior year my band was at Penn State and there was some amazing stromboli in State College, Pennsylvania where Penn State University was. Amazing.
Brian Patton: Yes. There’s a place right downtown at Penn State College. I think it’s called Highway Pizza. I’m not sure if it’s still there or not but I think that’s what it’s called and that’s the go-to place.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. I have to admit that I have kind of been stromboli-free for the last quarter century just because it’s not an easy thing to come by vegan-wise.
Brian Patton: No. Well, not in Los Angeles for sure. When I moved here ten years ago I got all of these pizza menus dropped off on my doorstep and I was like, “Oh, I’ll order a stromboli.” And there were no strombolis so I called and asked them and they said they didn’t know what that was. I find that weird because there are so many…I had to figure that there is at least one person who moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and opened a pizza place and put a stromboli on the menu but I have yet to find that in ten years of living here.
Caryn Hartglass: And how hard is it? A stromboli’s just like a rolled up pizza.
Brian Patton: It’s a tube of pizza. It’s very easy. A very simple concept. Maybe they feel like people living in California would be scared of that but I don’t know. I don’t know because the West Coast…the East Coast is used to tubes. They’re used to subways and things enclosed and things and we don’t have that out here so maybe that’s the reason. I’m just guessing.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know. But we’ve got the burrito that’s quite popular.
Brian Patton: That’s a good point.
Caryn Hartglass: And I’ve seen some pretty giant burritos that are almost as big as a stromboli. Not quite but almost.
Brian Patton: You are correct. I have seen that too.
Caryn Hartglass: Maybe the strombolis…
Brian Patton: I think you just shot down my whole tube argument.
Caryn Hartglass: There you go. Crass on the tube. Anyway, so the holy stromboli is the first entry in your Happy Hour at Home book.
Brian Patton: That’s correct.
Caryn Hartglass: Why don’t you just back up a little bit now that I’ve already jumped into the book? What is this Happy Hour at Home book?
Brian Patton: OK. Happy Hour basically started as sort of a whim. I came home…it was like Friday night and my pantry and my fridge were basically barren because it’s the end of the week and I do my shopping and stuff on Saturdays. I didn’t have much to deal with. The girlfriend was coming home—who has since become the wife—and I usually do all of the cooking and I didn’t have anything to make a major meal so I just took a can of beans and whatever was left in the crisper and some grains and just kind of put together these small plates. It didn’t really make sense all that much at the time but they were just these little, small plates and we just sat out on the balcony and drank some adult beverages and that was sort of how it began. I thought that this is kind of nice. We have these small plates somewhat like tapas but we don’t have to go out to a bar and get crappy food and pay for drinks and deal with a bunch of people. We just get to do it in the comfort of our own home. So I thought, “Let me do this every week.” So every Friday I started doing the same thing. I would just grab random things and put them together and sometimes things were good and sometimes things weren’t good but I was just shooting from the hip basically. That was sort of fun. What happened then is that my wife started bragging to her friends about this thing that we were doing and they were wondering where their invitation was so…
Caryn Hartglass: Because they certainly weren’t going to cook at home.
Brian Patton: So this romantic, nice thing for just her and I became more of a job for me now because now I have to feed more people and I have to plan it out a little bit more because these people are coming over this Friday and these people are coming over next Friday so that’s where the happy hour idea came from. So that’s what’s in the book: just different menus and the menus kind of…the holy stromboli, for example, it has some stromboli and some quick jardenaira, which is kind of a quick pickled vegetable dish and these little cannoli cups as sort of a dessert. That would be an example of a happy hour menu that I would do before this book came to be.
Caryn Hartglass: Do people invite you over and make food for you?
Brian Patton: No, never.
Caryn Hartglass: Can we talk about that a little bit?
Brian Patton: Everybody comes here. I’m always doing the work. Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Why is that? You know, we cook a lot here and we love cooking and we’re real creative about it. We love having parties and having people over and yet, is it because…well, I can think of a number of things. I think because most people don’t know where their kitchen is.
Brian Patton: This is true. This is very true.
Caryn Hartglass: They don’t know what to make and if they’re not vegan, it just scares them. “What are we going to make? They’re vegan.”
Brian Patton: “What are we going to feed these guys?” Absolutely. The few times when there is a party that I’m going to or something like that, people get really freaked out. They’re like…because of my friends, I’m like pretty much the only vegan or vegetarian of our friends, besides my wife who’s pescatarian. People like kind of freak out. They’re like, “We’ll make sure we have something for him but what could we have? Where should we get it? What should we do? What does he like?” I’m just like, “I’ll bring something. It’s easy for me to bring something but don’t stress.” People get very stressed out. And believe me, I appreciate that. It’s a very excellent, nice gesture but I do see that happening a lot.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so the message is for those of you who want to invite us don’t stress out.
Brian Patton: Don’t stress out. Because we are professionals. We are professional vegans. After being vegan for a certain amount of time, you know how to operate in the world as a vegan. You know that if you’re going to a restaurant, you do research ahead of time. You find out what’s on the menu. Maybe you can make something like that. That’s another thing. If we’re going out to eat, someone will suggest a restaurant and they’ll say, “Ooh, I don’t know if there’s anything there for you.” I’m like, “Don’t worry. I will find something on the menu.” There’s always a vegetable side dish. There’s always a salad that I can take cheese and meat out of. So remain calm and don’t worry about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Remain calm, please. It’s also a good opportunity to open a cookbook, like Happy Hour at Home, and see if there’s something that sounds good to you and try to make it because you’ll only be a better person.
Brian Patton: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it will just open your mind a little bit if you do cook in the kitchen. If you don’t cook vegan, seeing how easy things can be, how quickly they can come together and how good they can taste without any animal products is something everybody should really experience because it’s really not that hard and that’s why I do the books that I do.
Caryn Hartglass: I wanted to say a few things. I can’t say them all at once so I’ll just take a deep breath and hope I remember them as we go along. I learned to cook from cookbooks and just from trial and error and looking at dishes. I lived in France for four years as a vegan and I just looked at what other people were eating and thought that whatever that is, I’m going to try and make it. You learn that way. So for people who aren’t comfortable in the kitchen and don’t know how to cook, you just have to start. You just have to try something. So what if you fail? Try again.
Brian Patton: Yup. Absolutely. You have to be aware that you will fail. You will spend an hour and a half making something and you’ll burn it, you’ll do something wrong and you’ll have to throw it away. It happens to everyone. It happens to me sometimes now. It’s just a fact of life. That will happen. So you just have to be prepared for that and not give up when that happens. I say start simply. Go find a vegetable that you’ve never eaten before or that you’ve never prepared before and use that for a week. Try different recipes. Just that simple ingredient. Like a kale or some sort of grain that you’ve never heard of before. Just try it and learn how to make that. And then next week pick something else and tackle things slowly and slowly take an interest in the food that you’re making.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. It’s so worth it. The other thing that I wanted to mention was (that) somewhere in the beginning of the book I think you talk about efficiency and managing and why some people don’t succeed in the kitchen is because they are not planning and how important that is.
Brian Patton: Yeah. That is really very important when you’re in the kitchen, especially if you’re preparing a couple different dishes like a main dish and two side dishes or something like that, you really have to use…there’s always going to be these pockets of time. You don’t have to chop up every single thing in all of the recipes at the same time because one thing you might have to chop up and put in the oven for an hour. So you do that first, put it in the oven, and then go back to chopping the other stuff. What I’ve done in the book is at the beginning of each chapter…well each of the chapter are the menus. Each menu is like three or sometimes four dishes. So at the beginning of each menu, I have this efficiency tip that tells you when to do things across the three recipes. So you might do one thing for one recipe first, then skip to the second recipe because this will take this amount of time and you utilize that pocket of time. It tells you how to make these menus most efficiently. Hopefully the idea is the reader will take that skill from just these recipes and be able to apply that to cooking out of any other cookbooks or any recipes from online.
Caryn Hartglass: OK. Now. Everybody that’s listening right now, I know you’re online. So if you go to thesexyvegan.com/gallery you’ll be able to get a sampling of what things look like that are in this book, right?
Brian Patton: Yeah. It’s a full color photo gallery on the Web site. It’s the same photos plus some more that are in the book. So that’s just a quick way to go see them online. Before you buy the book, you can get some great, full color beautiful pix of what types of dishes that you’ll be finding here.
Caryn Hartglass: The one that makes me laugh the most is this, oh I don’t what you call it, but this spinach dip in the bread thing.
Brian Patton: Oh, yes, the spinach-artichoke dip in the bread bowl.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. OK, now I’m sure this is like light years ahead of in flavor and quality and nutritional value than what was served…I don’t know when the spinach dips and bread bowls came out. Was that like a 70s or 80s thing?
Brian Patton: I don’t know. I think maybe. I didn’t become alive until 1978 so I don’t remember the 70s really.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, gosh, I do. And these were quite the popular thing but this one looks just so much better. The bread looks better…
Brian Patton: It’s a re-creation of a dish that’s…there’s this place in Selinsgrove, a town that you should be familiar with…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I bought my first car there. Selinsgrove Toyota I think it was. Anyway. Tell me more about Selinsgrove.
Brian Patton: There was this place called BJs that we used to go to and they had this bongo bongo dip and it was bubbly, cheesy spinach artichoke dip with all kinds of cheeses and it also had water chestnuts, which I hate, but I would just eat around those. So I wanted to recreate that dish because I just loved it so much and who doesn’t love a good spinach-artichoke dip? This one’s mainly cashew-based and super easy to make. You blend up some cashews and spices and spinach and artichoke and you’re good to go. And if you have a bread bowl standing by from 1972…
Caryn Hartglass: Very good. Now, I read that you became a vegan after working at Vegin’ in Los Angeles.
Brian Patton: Right. Vegin’ Out is the name of the company. I’m executive chef there now and we’re a food delivery service so we deliver a full week’s worth of fully prepared meals to people in Los Angeles and Southern California.
Caryn Hartglass: For people who don’t know where their kitchens are.
Brian Patton: Exactly. I started working there just as sort of a prep cook. I was also doing marketing but I was basically chopping vegetables, helping with the preparation of the food and I was really unhealthy. I probably weighed about 260 lbs. I had lots of bad habits, like lots of alcohol, cigarettes and all this horrible stuff. I thought, OK, I’m working for this vegan company. I’m sick of what I look like and how I feel and all the things that I’m doing so I’ll try to be vegan for a month. I’m around all this food, I’m learning about how to cook it, I have access to it so I’ll be vegan for a month and see what happens. So a month went by. I started to feel better. I lost a couple pounds and thought that wasn’t that hard, I think I can do another month. So that lead to 10 months down the road, I’m 60 pounds lighter and I just feel like I did when I was 18 again. From that point, I was like, that’s it. I am vegan now. I don’t need to consume…I don’t need to harm another being in order to survive and thrive and feel great. I made that connection.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good. I love stories like that. Now let me ask you…does it extend beyond food your vegan philosophy?
Brian Patton: Oh yes, absolutely. I definitely didn’t became vegan for the ethical reasons, I just did it for the health reasons. I didn’t really make a connection with the ethical reasons until right around that 10-month to a year mark. Just by nature of being vegan and looking up vegan recipes and vegan items, you can’t help but come across the ethical videos about slaughterhouses and all this sort of information. I listened to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcast a lot, Vegetarian Food for Thought, during my transition in that first year and that’s when I really sort of got hip to all that information along with doing my own research so there was a point at which I was sitting when I really realized that I was vegan for more than just health was after about a year. I was sitting on my couch and a spider was walking across and nine times out of ten—ten times out of then before that I would just stomp out the spider, stomp it out of existence and go about my day and not care about it. But for some reason, at that moment, without thinking, I got a cup and a piece of paper and I trapped it and I scooped it up and I escorted it outside. At that moment, my roommate walked into the room and he was like, “What are you doing? What did you just do?” I said, “I have no idea why I just did that but I guess I don’t kill spiders anymore.” So I sat down and I thought about why did I do that and I just realized the connection that I had with the spider and that the spider was just going about its day. It didn’t know that it was on my turf and scaring me and creeping me out. He didn’t know that. He was just being a spider. I think that in the grand scheme of the universe, us humans, we don’t know what we are. Maybe we’re just a spider that hasn’t gotten stepped on yet so I put that on the spider. OK, well, if this spider hasn’t attacked me in any way, I’m going to let him go about his day as I go about my day not attacking people.
Caryn Hartglass: The power of being mindful.
Brian Patton: Exactly. And I had never made that connection until that moment. For me from then on, no more leather shoes, no more leather belts…
Caryn Hartglass: OK, I’m glad you brought that up because it looks like in your pictures that you have a little fashion sense. Where are you getting your men’s clothing?
Brian Patton: You know, there’s Alternative Outfitters is a place. That’s where I would get like my belts and shoes. Also, Moo Shoes, I think is the name of the company.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah. They’re in New York City. Right here.
Brian Patton: Yeah. So those are great places to get leather-free items and the tie…if you see I’m wearing a bow-tie. A lot of bow-ties especially are made from silk so…it’s not an all-vegan place but it’s called The Tie Bar and it’s really cheap ties, like $15 and they have a section that’s just cotton ties that aren’t made from any animal products. They’re like $15 and they have lots of colors and designs. I swear by them for the ties. It’s so easy to find clothes that are not animal-derived that there’s no point in not getting it. I mean, maybe it’s a little more expensive but maybe oftentimes it’s not. It’s worth it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, OK. One other question. Where does the ukulele fit into all of this?
Brian Patton: Oh, I’ve been playing guitar since college and I don’t even know where I saw someone playing the ukulele. No, I’m sorry. A friend of mine had a ukulele and he brought it to a party and I said, “Let me see that thing.” So I started messing around with it and I like the sound of this. So I started to learn it and I just started to write silly little goofy songs. I had a song about pizza. I had a song called, “Seriously You Shouldn’t Eat Meat.” I had a song called, “The Bacon on the Ukulele Song.” A song called, “Artichokes: You One of a Kind.” I’d write little songs about food. You can see all of those songs on my YouTube page if you just go to thesexyvegan.com you’ll see all the links to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and all that stuff where you’ll find me.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good. I love it. I think it’s really important to spread the word with music. It’s something that we’re doing at my nonprofit, Responsible Eating and Living. We’ve created recently The Swinging Gourmets.
Brian Patton: Oh, yes, yes, yes. I know that.
Caryn Hartglass: So that’s all about swingin’ great music and food.
Brian Patton: Y’all sing way better than I do. I’m horrible.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you very much. Well, we try. Brian, thank you so much for joining me on It’s All About Food. I hope maybe some time you’re in New York, I’ll have you over. I’m not afraid to cook for you.
Brian Patton: Alright. I’m up for the challenge of having you cook for me.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. Well, you’ll have to let me know.
Brian Patton: Thank you so very much. I appreciate it.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. Alright, just a minute left. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. It’s All About Food. It’s All About Food. I just wanted to let you know a number of things. My Web site is responsibleeatingandliving.com and you may remember a few years ago I interviewed Courtney Meder of Pure Water. They’ve got some great water distillers and what I love about them is they are made in the United States. Well, now, if you want to find them, you can go to responsibleeatingandliving.com and click on the Water Made Wonderful link and find out about these water distillers called AquaNui. I think they’re really great product and so I’m happy to be affiliated with them. And then, of course, the Swingin’ Gourmets will be coming out with part two of our Real American Barbeque and if you haven’t seen the first episode yet, please check it out at swingingourmets.com. There we go. That’s the end of the hour. Thank you so much for joining me. I’ve had fun. I hope you have. And remember you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, what else? Have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Jennie Steinhagen, 12/4/2013