JL Fields and Jasmine Leyva



Part I: JL Fields, The Vegan Air Fryer

JL Fields headshot 022017JL Fields is the founder and culinary director of the Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy. She is a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator, Food for Life instructor, chef instructor in the culinary program at the University of New Mexico-Taos, personal chef, career coach, and a corporate consultant offering wellness training, brand representation, and strategic planning services.

JL is the author of The Vegan Air Fryer: The Healthier Way to Enjoy Deep-Fried Flavors (Vegan Heritage Press, June 2017) and Vegan Pressure Cooking: Delicious Beans, Grains, and One-Pot Meals in Minutes (Fair Winds Press, January 2015) and co-author of The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook: Over 100 Plant-Sourced Recipes Plus Practical Tips for the Healthiest, Most Compassionate You (Ben Bella, December 2017) and Vegan for Her: The Woman’s Guide to Being Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet (Da Capo Lifelong Books, July 2013)She is the co-creator of The Real World Vegan Meal Plan, producer and host of the radio program Easy Vegan, and writes the monthly vegan dining review for the Colorado Springs Gazette.

JL is the owner and lead consultant for JL Fields Consulting, providing governance and strategic planning services to nonprofits and culinary and online outreach services to food associations and marketing firms. She writes the blog JL goes Vegan. Follow JL on Twitter,  FacebookPinterest, and Instagram.

Part II: Jasmine Leyva, The Invisible Vegan
jasmine-leyvaJust “Jas” to her friends — she is unapologetically an artist. Born in D.C., a city that used to be more appreciative of doctors, lawyers, and politicians, she moved to Los Angeles for college to pursue her dream while completely dismissing America’s. After three years of itching to “do” and despite uninvited judgments, she left school a year shy of her degree for a TV production job. She is debt free! From there, she went on to work as an associate producer on a NAACP winning docuseries entitled Unsung, and shortly after, was given the opportunity to write and produce on Being, a docuseries highlighting dynamic entertainers in film and music. Happy to be doing what she loved, but simultaneously unhappy about putting that passion into someone else’s vision, she decided to let go of her nine-to-five and come into her own reign of pure artistry. Just Jasmine. No limits and no boss except for her own creativity. She went on to star in commercials and print ads for major brands like Nissan, Sony, Apple, Uber, American Express, Diesel, BlackPeopleMeet, Credit Sesame, Michelle Watches, Elle magazine and more. She also starred in the Lifetime show, My Crazy Ex, and is scheduled to star in her first indie film in 2017. However, she did not lay her behind-the-camera talents to rest. Jasmine and her fiancé, Kenny Leyva, are currently producing their own feature length documentary, The Invisible Vegan, a film that chronicles Jasmine’s personal experience with plant-based eating. The film also explains how plant-based eating is directly linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression stemming from slavery, economics and modern agribusiness. Not to sound pedestrian, but the sky is the limit and her evolution will be televised!

Since 2009, It’s All About Food, has been bringing you the best in up-to-date news regarding food and our food system. Hosted by Caryn Hartglass, a vegan since 1988, the program includes in-depth interviews with medical doctors; nutritionists; dietitians; cook book authors; athletes; environmental, animals and health activists; farmers; food manufacturers; lawyers; food scientists and more. Learn about how we can solve many of the world’s problems today and do it deliciously, here on It’s All About Food.

Transcription Part I:

Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! Hi everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass. It’s time for It’s All About Food. Thank you! Thank you for joining me today or whenever you are tuning into this show be it sometime now or in the future, thank you. It’s going to be a cool show. For one reason it’s a cool day. Thank goodness, we’ve gotten through one of those lovely New York heat waves and I’m just loving the fresh cool air and you know how much I love to breathe right? Well, I am having some really delicious breathing right now and I hope wherever you are, you are doing some of the same. Breathing is probably the most important thing that we do and then there’s drinking water and then comes the food and that’s where I come in; especially here on It’s All About Food and guess what we are talking about today… FOOD! We’re going to start with some really fun food. Do you like fried food? We are going to be talking in a moment to JL Fields the author of a new cookbook “The Vegan Air Fryer: The Healthier Way to Enjoy Deep-Fried Flavors.” JL Fields is the founder and culinary director of the Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy. She’s a master vegan lifestyle coach, an educator, food for life instructor, chef instructor in the culinary program at the University of New Mexico-Taos, personal chef, career coach and a corporate consultant offering wellness training, brand representation and strategic planning services. There’s so much to know about JL Fields, I don’t know if we are going to have enough time in 30 minutes to find out all the wonderful things about her but we’re going to start with air-frying. JL welcome to It’s All About Food.

JL Fields: Thanks so much Caryn! It’s great to be here I’m breathing deeply and drinking water high up in Colorado. (laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs) Good for you! You get an A+! I like to say, I didn’t come up with this, my partner did but I breathe for a living.

JL Fields: That’s a good job! (laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs). And you know we all need to do that. Don’t forget, especially in times of stress and crisis, the number one thing to do is breathe.

JL Fields: Good advice.

Caryn Hartglass: (Deep Breath) Oh and the air is so good here I don’t know about where you are right now but it is just delightfully cool which is such a relief from the last few sweltering days.

JL Fields: Yea, I’m in Colorado Springs and it’s not so bad. We get some hot days but it cools down at night and I’ll be in New York this weekend so I’m counting on good weather.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh good! Where do you plan on eating?

JL Fields: Oh my gosh, isn’t that always the question.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes!

JL Fields: I always go to Seasoned Vegan in Harlem (Souley Vegan is in Oakland, CA) because it’s absolutely amazing.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes!

JL Fields: (Chuckles) I love that place and I stay in Brooklyn so I always try to eat at Champs or there’s that Little Apothecary that creperie place, oh my goodness it’s so good.

Caryn Hartglass: Bon appetit. (chuckles)

JL Fields: (Chuckles) Thanks.

Caryn Hartglass: Yea, let’s talk about air frying and the vegan air-fryer. I have to say not too long ago in a course I’m involved in teaching, somebody was asking about air frying and I didn’t know anything about it.

JL Fields: (Chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: But I became an expert quickly and I answered the person’s question (chuckles) but right afterwards right about that time your book arrived so it was very timely and I was happy to read it and now we can find out everything we need to know about it so let’s get started.

JL Fields: Sounds good.

Caryn Hartglass: Tell us about the air-fryer and air frying.

JL Fields: Well, the short version I always say is it’s magical (chuckles) but the truth of the matter is a year ago I had started to hear about air-fryers and I was seeing a lot of photos that were getting posted up throughout Facebook and all these really great groups that I belong to and there was this particular group called Power to the Veg that I’m a member of and one day I said “ok you guys just convince me I mean I already have enough gadgets.” I wrote the book Vegan Pressure Cooking 2 years ago so I’ve got pressure cookers everywhere and I said “just prove to me I need this” and they just started posting all of these amazing photos of food that you would normally think of as deep-fried food or even like comfort or unhealthy food and they were just beautifully prepared. Clearly there was great texture to them and I was convinced so I just went to amazon immediately ordered one and 2 days later I had an air-fryer and the timing was perfect because it was spring going into summer. I live in Colorado Springs in a condo that doesn’t have air conditioning and I discovered that I could start to make food that would traditionally be considered messy or is messy, smell up your place, make your place hot and I could do it and none of those things would happen. So I became a convert very, very quickly.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I have to admit during these few sweltering days in New York, there were a few things that we would have liked to turn the oven on for and make and we didn’t.

JL Fields: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m imagining that the air-fryer would be a lot friendly to use in hot weather.

JL Fields: It really would. I definitely know that we’re going to be talking about all the fun fried foods that you could make that maybe people haven’t been making lately but I’m going to give you a spoiler alert and tell you right now, I have been baking my weekly sourdough bread boule in my air-fryer because you can bake in it. So yes on those 95-degree days I refuse to turn my oven on at 475 for well over an hour when I can bake it in 20 minutes in the air-fryer.

Caryn Hartglass: So it’s faster too than the oven?

JL Fields: Exactly! It’s faster and there’s less heat generated and you actually reduce the temperature. So if you normally would bake something at 400 degrees for 30 minutes you’re going to reduce the temperature by 30 degrees and then you’re going to reduce the cooking time. You’re going to cut it in half so now you’re going to be using 370 on your air-fryer for only 15 minutes and there is just a small amount of heat that is going to come out of the back of the air-fryer. The way the air-fryers work is that there’s a basket inside but you don’t pour any oil into this device at all and usually there is a heating element at the top of the air-fryer and just above it is a fan. That fan rapidly circulates the hot air around the food and that’s what makes the food crispy and then a small amount of heat comes out of the back so you’re saving energy. You’re saving time. You’re not heating up as much and then your choice for oil is simply; do you want to spritz a little extra virgin olive oil or maybe a little non-GMO canola oil over some of the food just to give it a nice golden color and a little extra crunch and that’s a choice it’s not a requirement.

Caryn Hartglass: Ok, very good. Now the next question I have is how big is this thing and what does it weigh, how much space does it take on our counters?

JL Fields: Good question because a lot of people have gadget problems like I do and appliance problems and they’re concerned. So the first air-fryer I bought is a 3.7-quart device. It’s definitely, probably about 3 pounds and it fits on my countertop right next to an electric pressure cooker. It doesn’t take up much more space than that. But I will tell you what I learned quickly was a couple of things, there’s only 2 people in our household and I learned that if you’re a family of 4 or more you’re probably going to actually want a 5.8 quart or higher sized air-fryer one and also if you’re 2 like me but you’ve discovered that you can put all your pots and pans inside of your air-fryer to use as an oven you may actually want that larger size simple to turn it into a mini conduction oven on your countertop.

Caryn Hartglass: And what do they weigh? Are they light, heavy?

JL Fields: I mean I can carry one in one hand. They’re probably about 3 pounds.

Caryn Hartglass: Are they good to travel with? (laughs)

JL Fields: Well, it’s a good question and trust me I do travel with mine. I’m on a book tour right now so I do travel with them. If you’re going on a road trip 100% it’s super easy to put in either put it in the box it came in or just put it on the backseat of your car or on the floor. Very easy to travel with I’ve done that; I go back and forth between New Mexico and Colorado and do that all the time. I have not flown with one. If I were to fly with one, I would probably make sure it was in its original packing and then probably put some bubble wrap around it because there’s a lot of plastic on the outside. That’s the material.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’m unusual and I travel with all kinds of things; even though air travel has become so unpleasant and the weight that you travel with is critical. I have travelled with my juicer and my Vitamix when there was a need.

JL Fields: Yup, 2 years ago when I was on my book tour for Vegan Pressure Cooking I was travelling with an electric pressure cooker a stovetop pressure cooker and an induction top and I got it to 49.7 pounds

Caryn Hartglass: (laughs)

JL Fields: I always just met the cap. (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: Right and you wore the same thing every day.

JL Fields: Every single day. (laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs) Very good, ok let’s dive into the books. So a few recipes that popped out, one is fried avocado; I love cooked avocados and I never thought about fried avocado but that sounds good.

JL Fields: Yea, a lot of the recipes that I came up with in the book were simply when I had gone to restaurants. I mean I didn’t fry food at home. It wasn’t because I was opposed to fried food but it was literally because I didn’t want to use 3 or 4 cups of oil or mess up my house but if I went out to a restaurant heck yeah I’d be ordering the French fries and the fried cauliflower and I remember having with some fried avocado at one of my favorite pubs here in Colorado Springs at McCabe’s and I thought well if they can fry it in a whole bunch of grease, I know I could figure out a way to fry it in the air-fryer and it’s really very simple. You just you do a very simple breading you can season it with all kinds (of things). Sometimes I make it spicy and you just spritz a little avocado oil on it or a little extra virgin olive oil and that’s what keeps the breadcrumbs down. One of the things that happen in an air-fryer with breaded foods is that that fan I was telling you about. It’s powerful and it’s moving around that hot air really quickly. So when you’re using foods like something with a little breading or some panko crumbs or maybe even if you’re making kale chips you’ve got to know that the powerful fan is going to move those things around; so I will squirt, I do a little mist from a can or I’ll buy one of those misters and pour a little extra virgin olive oil in it. I’ll just spritz a little oil to keep it down. If you’re trying to reduce oil or you’re not using oil in your cooking. Believe it or not you can actually spritz a little vegetable broth. I pour it into a spray bottle and I’ll put vegetable broth on or aquafaba; that wonderful mysterious liquid gold from the chickpea can, will actually help keep those vegetables in place and give it a nice golden color. (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: Now America’s favorite vegetable is French fries, with its second favorite vegetable ketchup. (chuckles) You’ve got a number of fry recipes and the first things I want to ask you is you soak your cut potatoes before you put them in the air-fryer; why do you do that?

JL Fields: I’m going to be honest you and I’m going to be honest with your listeners. I do that because I was writing a cookbook and I know the good principles of cooking, that brings the starch out and then what’s going to happen is when you cook them they are going to cook more evenly. You’re going to get a nicer crisp and so I’m a big fan of it when you have the time but at the end of the day I’m a home cook like most people and I want my food pretty quickly and I’m going to be honest and say that most times I actually don’t do that. So if you are thinking about doing it and I think it’s a fun taste test. Obviously, when I was writing the book I needed to try these couple of different ways. We eat with our eyes first and I think it’s a prettier French fry when you do the soaking. I think they do cook up a little more consistently but it’s not a deal breaker.

Caryn Hartglass: I have a baked potato latke recipe that I love; we put them in the oven but one of the things that we do and I’ve learned this from my partner Gary who actually has the culinary training is to grate the potatoes into a bowl of water and let them soak.

Caryn Hartglass: They are prettier because they don’t brown that way.

JL Fields: Exactly!

Caryn Hartglass: And that gets the starch and so yea that’s a good tip. Soak your fries!

JL Fields: That’s right. (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: Soak your nuts, soak your grains, I like saying soak your nuts.

JL Fields: (laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: Which is a fine book by Karyn Calabrese, Ok, next are your parsnip fries; fries don’t have to made from potatoes.

JL Fields: No they do not. The parsnip fries, it’s funny I actually saw the women who inspired them over the weekend. Vegfest Colorado was over Saturday and Sunday and I have a client outside of Denver who I did some kitchen coaching with; I went to her house and I helped her use her instant pot for some pressure cooking and she said please bring your air-fryer I am dying to have parsnip fries. So it was with her that we created parsnip fry recipe and it’s a really fun way to use some root vegetables in a different way. They’re not always going to cook up the way a potato does because there is going to be a little more water in some. Sweet potatoes aren’t going to come out exactly like a russet potato is and like with anything I just say to folks get to know your air-fryer, start to pay attention, keep opening it; there’s a method when you air-fry called shaking. So instead of opening up the air-fryer to turn food over all you really do is just jiggle the handle and you move the food inside of the basket because you don’t need to flip it over because of the hot air rotating around it but when you do go in to shake check on it and look for the color and grab one out and nibble on it and determine if its hit your sweet spot. Parsnip fries are delicious. It’s a fun way to bring out the sweetness and a peppery taste to a traditional fry.

Caryn Hartglass: I love parsnips and somebody should write a parsnip book or at least I don’t know about it if there is one but it’s got a very unique flavor. I love adding a little parsnip in soup. I remember when the raw food community started grating parsnip and using it as a raw rice in sushi.

JL Fields: Oh that’s clever yea!

Caryn Hartglass: Yea.

JL Fields: (Chuckles) I like it in mashed potatoes too. I’ll throw in a little parsnip and some carrots when I throw potatoes in the pressure cooker and it just makes for a nice color and a bit of a texture change too.

Caryn Hartglass: Yea, it’s like a licorice taste.

JL Fields: Exactly.

Caryn Hartglass: Yea, ok next one I love roasted chickpeas and you can make them in your air-fryer and I notice it takes about 15 minutes which is quick. Do they come out crispy?

JL Fields: Oh they come out so crispy. They really are my favorite way; I think the two things especially that a lot of people who are eating vegan or plant-based are going to love is that you can make really delicious roasted chickpeas and you can also make really great kale chips really quickly and finally find that sweet spot with the temperature and yea these roasted chickpeas come out super crunchy. After I prepare them I immediately put them on a salad. It’s been really hot here too. We’ve had a mini heat wave and as I mentioned I don’t have an air conditioner so this summer we’ve been calling the summer of air-fried salads.

Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)

JL Fields: So we start our salad with just really delicious raw chopped veggies from the farmers market from the grocery store. Just tons and tons of veggies and then we’ll air-fry something quickly and just put that on top. I’m telling you roasted chickpeas are great but I have a great tip too which is a lot of times you make those roasted chickpeas and first off you want to eat them all, why wouldn’t you? But it is a can and a half of chickpeas if you used a can. It’s not necessarily a serving and before you always felt like use it or lose it because they get soft. You can actually take those roasted chickpeas transfer them to an air-tight container and either leave them on the counter or the refrigerator and then the next day put them back in the air-fryer for just a couple of minutes and they come right back to life and there nice and crunchy again.

Caryn Hartglass: They’re such a great snack. They’re only good.

JL Fields: They’re only good? (Laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: When I cook up chickpeas I could just eat plain chickpeas right out of the bowl just one at a time just pop them in.

JL Fields: They were already perfect and then aquafaba happened so I mean it’s just that can you just go to the grocery store and watch people walk by and it’s like “don’t you know what you’re walking past.” (laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs) I want to take, I’ve done this before but I want to take a moment of thanks to the chickpea. Actually I want to call it the garbanzo bean. I keep remembering that the name chickpea is not really a friendly name. Apparently it was renamed by the British when they colonized India and called it chickpea because it was meant to be a cheap food for the animals and not for the people.

JL Fields: I had no idea.

Caryn Hartglass: Yea so it’s the garbanzo bean.

JL Fields: Ok.

Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs) I’m saying thanks for the garbanzo bean because it’s a perfect food and we’ve got the aquafaba. We’ve got the chickpea flour; which is just incredible. You’ve got a number of recipes with chickpea flour. It’s just amazing what it can do and I’m in awe of this bean! (chuckles)

JL Fields: Yea (chuckles), well people ask me a lot. I have a Facebook group called Vegan Air-Frying Enthusiast and we have about 9700 members now and people will always jump in and say, “hey I’m going to try your recipe can I use this can I use that?” I always tell people “go for it and then let me know how it turns out, I have no idea” but the question often is “can I use something else in place of chickpea flour?” and I say “you can” but one of the reasons I love chickpea flour in this way of frying, air-frying is because I like a higher protein flour because a lot of times I’m using that flour to also add a crunchiness and a puffiness that we would normally see when it came out of a vat of grease after it had been deep-fat fried right?

Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)

JL Fields: I want you to have that experience but without all of the fat and so I like using chickpea flour, soy flour or even a brown rice flour. There is a method to my madness. It’s not just a whim. (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: Ok, the next thing I want to talk about is tempeh and I’m a big fan of tempeh. I just had a little earlier today. I’ve had some wonderful tempeh here at home of course and in some restaurants and I’ve had some horrendous tempeh that almost taste like what I think dog food would taste like although I have never eaten dog food. (chuckles)

JL Fields: (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: And I think I know what part of the secret is and you talk about steaming your tempeh before you do anything with it.

JL Fields: Yes, for me that is…I did not love tempeh. When I went vegan and I started eating some foods I’d never eaten before, I felt like to be a good vegan I needed to eat tempeh and I could not stand it and truthfully this was years ago. The first time I ever loved it I just threw it in the food processor and then turned it to a tempeh burger and I did like that and then once I started pressure cooking I thought I’m just going to throw this in the pressure cooker for just a minute and then just let it sit by itself and then I will marinate it and use it. Tempeh was the secret. It makes it easier to digest, the texture is a little bit more friendly to the mouth and it also absorbs marinade in a far better way than if you just did it straight out of the package. For me steaming tempeh is the answer.

Caryn Hartglass: Now I don’t fry food at home and I rarely eat fried food but I have to confess when I was visiting a second cousin of mine who is a big macrobiotic follower and has a lot of culinary expertise in macrobiotic cooking. He made this incredible fried tempeh that was the best tempeh I ever had.

JL Fields: Yea.

Caryn Hartglass: How does the air fryer manage fried tempeh?

JL Fields: Beautifully. I have a recipe in the book called Sambal Goreng Tempeh which I actually learned about from Seth Tibbot who is the founder of Tofurky and he loves making tempeh and of course he spent a lot of time in Indonesia and in Indonesia fried tempeh which is almost like getting peanuts. You get that just from carts on the street and it’s just deep fried really spicy tempeh and so I thought well I’m going to try to do a version that is more like an entrée for the book and so in this case I did use a little bit of non-GMO canola oil in the mix when I was making it. I got some really hot spices and of course I’m also adding some dulse flakes and I’m using all kinds of hot spices and sauces and it just puffs up and it has that crunch and that’s the thing that I think people may not realize. You really do get crunchy food out of an air-fryer.

Caryn Hartglass: Hmm, I’m just getting that crunchy food fantasy in my mouth right now.

JL Fields: (Laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs) It’s good. I’m glad I ate before though because otherwise it would be quite painful right now.

JL Fields: (Laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: Very good, well let’s see we just have a few minutes left. Was there one food or one experience that was especially surprising for you with the air-fryer?

JL Fields: Well, I joke and say that the reason people who eat a plant-based or vegan diet there usually are 2 reasons why they want an air-fryer: for the French fries and for the tofu. I will say that I had high expectations for the tofu and I was not disappointed by that. The tofu actually comes out beautifully and is reminiscent of what you’re going to find at an Asian restaurant which I think is really exciting but I was actually surprised by how well battered food actually does in the air-fryer. There are a few little tricks and I know we are running out of time so I won’t bore people but I’ll just say parchment paper is your friend, sometimes you might want to put battered food in the freezer to let the batter set a little bit and sometimes just go for the mess.

Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)

JL Fields: I have a battered buffalo cauliflower that is nice and messy but it’s ultimately going to go into a pan of Frank’s hot sauce and garlic. Why not just throw that yummy crumbly battered cooked battered that came off and throw it in there so sometimes there is nothing wrong with a mess.

Caryn Hartglass: I just have one more question, you mentioned parchment paper and I remember reading in your book that you said you have to be careful with parchment paper and only leave a half inch exposed?

JL Fields: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And why is that?

JL Fields: It’s because the heating element is above the food and it’s sometimes really easy using parchment paper in the oven we’ll throw a big piece down and throw whatever we’ve got and we could walk away. Well, in this case it’s a very confined area and if your parchment paper is up too high it could hit the heating element and that’s a fire danger. So you want to be careful.

Caryn Hartglass: Ok well then that’s a very important point.

JL Fields: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And I don’t know that everybody reads every word in a cookbook and I highly encourage it because the things that I learn are typically not in the recipes but in the introduction and forward before you get to the recipes.

JL Fields: Yea there is a reason why we write those. It’s easy to go right to the good stuff but it’s like please please let me explain this to you. (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: It’s not filler it’s important.

JL Fields: (Laughs) that’s right.

Caryn Hartglass: Yea, well JL thank you so much for joining me on It’s All About Food it’s really a pleasure to talk to you and get to know you a bit. I am curious about that macrobiotic experience you talked about in the book that you said that was a long story.

JL Fields: (Laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: But I guess I’ll have to hear about it another times.

JL Fields: Another time, maybe I’ll get you on my radio show. Well, and thanks for having me Caryn. I’m a big fan so this was really exciting.

Caryn Hartglass: Ok, thank you so much.

JL Fields: Thanks!

Caryn Hartglass: Woo! Well that was JL Fields the author of The Vegan Air-Fryer: The Healthier Way to Enjoy Deep-Fried Flavors and I want to recommend that you go to her website. She has www.jlgoesvegan.com and www.jlfieldsconsulting.com. There’s a lot more to this woman than just vegan food and I’m sure you would like to find out more so check out her websites and this book The Vegan Air-Fryer. Fantastic! Ok, before we move on to my next guest I wanted to give you some updates here on Responsible Eating and Living headquarters where I live www.responsibleeatingandliving.com. Yea, so we have this daily blog called What Vegans Eat where I post what my partner Gary and I eat every day and it’s linked to recipes and there have been some fun things that we have been posting this week. For example, we went to an event I think it was on Thursday for the Manhattan Council Member Helen Rosenthal and she had an event; she’s running for a second term. She’s voted for a number of very animal friendly bills and resolutions and she’s a friend to the animal community. Something that we need everywhere to promote better treatment of animals for lots and lots of reasons and at that event she came out as a vegan which was really, really exciting and I’m going to have her on the show next month and kind of talk more about that. So that is exciting and you can read What Vegans Eat day 890 to read more about that. That includes a wonderful trip to Candle Café West probably our all-time favorite vegan restaurant period. Ok, another thing I wanted to mention, I love making homemade yoghurt and I typically make it with almonds. I talked about it a bunch of times on this show and it just continues to amaze me and tickle my tongue. (chuckles) So I like to it with almonds but you could make yoghurt with other nuts and seeds, which is so fantastic. I just make it with almonds and water and then the bugs, which you could get from probiotic capsules or from a previous batch of yoghurt or from an un-sweetened plant yoghurt made and purchased from the store. Well, before we left on a trip I had a bunch of almond yoghurt that I put in the freezer. I didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want to waste it. I don’t like wasting food (chuckles) and then when we came back I defrosted it, stirred it up and it was fine which was great news and then I wondered are the bugs still alive and I ended up making another batch but this time I used cashews and I used some of that yoghurt to populate the probiotics in the yoghurt and it’s fantastic. It worked and I’m very happy and I’m happy to share that with you and I really encourage you to make your own and I normally make it in the oven which has a dehydrator option so that I can run it at 110 degrees Fahrenheit but it was a really hot day. I was not going to put the oven on not at 110 or anything and I just left it for 24 hours or a little bit longer wrapped up in a nice cozy blanket and it make a perfect cashew yoghurt to enjoy. Fantastic! Well, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. You can send me comments and questions at info@realmeals.org and when you have the chance I hope you will follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We’re on Pinterest and ITunes. Our show is archived on the Progressive Radio Network also on www.responsibleeatingandliving.com with transcripts. Almost nine years’ worth of all kinds of wonderful interviews, I’m going to take a very quick break here, a few seconds and then bring on my next guest. We’ll be right back.

Transcribed by M. Eng 8/25/2017


Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I’m back! I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me, and I’m very excited about part two of this program. I am going to bring on my guest, Jasmine Leyva.

Just “Jas” to her friends—and maybe she will let me call her Jas—she is unapologetically an artist. Born in D.C., a city that used to be more appreciative of doctors, lawyers, and politicians, she moved to Los Angeles for college to pursue her dream while completely dismissing America’s. After three years of itching to “do” and despite uninvited judgments, she left school a year shy of her degree for a TV production job. She is debt free—that’s nice. From there, she went on to work as an associate producer on a NAACP winning docuseries entitled Unsung, and shortly after, was given the opportunity to write and produce on Being, a docuseries highlighting dynamic entertainers in film and music.

Happy to be doing what she loved, but simultaneously unhappy about putting that passion into someone else’s vision, she decided to let go of her nine-to-five and come into her own reign of pure artistry. Just Jasmine. No limits and no boss except for her own creativity.

She went on to star in commercials and print ads for major brands like Nissan, Sony, Apple, Uber, American Express, Diesel, BlackPeopleMeet, Credit Sesame, Michelle Watches, Elle magazine and more. She also starred in the Lifetime show, My Crazy Ex, and is scheduled to star in her first indie film in 2017. However, she did not lay her behind-the-camera talents to rest.

Jasmine and her fiancé, Kenny Leyva, are currently producing their own feature length documentary, The Invisible Vegan, a film that chronicles Jasmine’s personal experience with plant-based eating. The film also explains how plant-based eating is directly linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression stemming from slavery, economics and modern agribusiness.

Not to sound pedestrian, but the sky is the limit and her evolution will be televised! I love this story and I can’t wait to talk to you, Jasmine Leyva. Hi!

Jasmine Leyva: Hello, how are you? And just so you know, you can call me Jas. (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, thank you, Jas! I didn’t want to jump to that, but I like the name Jas because I love jazz music. (chuckles) And I love jasmine tea, and all things jazzy.

Jasmine Leyva: I love jasmine tea and jazz music too. Like Ella Fitzgerald, that’s my girl.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, yes! I love her. Yeah, and I actually got to see her once in San Francisco long time ago. She was awesome.

Jasmine Leyva: Are you serious? I’m jealous, okay.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well, I’m not young so— (laughs)

Jasmine Leyva: (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: I was young and I saw her. (chuckles) But you know, she’s still good in the videos and on records. It’s all there. She’s still huge in terms of her character, voice, and her interpretation.

Jasmine Leyva: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, nobody else is quite like her. Okay, now we’ll talk about you and The Invisible Vegan. So let’s talk about what is The Invisible Vegan.

Jasmine Leyva: The Invisible Vegan is a documentary about plant-based eating in marginalized communities. It focuses on black communities and it uses my narrative as a foundation. I was motivated to do this project because now I’m vegan, but I flirted with it for the better part of a decade. A lot of my friends who were people of color, they would laugh at it; they didn’t understand my choice. I was just wondering why is it that they don’t get it the way that I get it.

When I was looking at a lot of the vegan documentaries on the market and reading up on veganism, it clicked to me. Wait, a lot of this material isn’t necessarily formatted for people of different races and people from different economic background. I wanted to do a documentary that kind of filled that void so that people that I love can also get information that might save their lives.

Caryn Hartglass: I told you when I saw the trailer how much I thought that this information was needed and I really believe that. I think it’s important on a number of levels; I don’t know if we’ll get to all of them, but we’ll touch on a few. I really thank you for this. It’s courageous, exciting, and scary probably to do this. And expensive!

Jasmine Leyva: Mm-mm, mmm!

Caryn Hartglass: (laughs)

Jasmine Leyva: It is very expensive. I’m actually running a crowdfunding campaign right now. We just launched it about five days ago. We’re about 15,000 in; the goal is 50,000. 15,000 in. We’ve just been given a $25 matching grant offer so it looks like 10,000 more…? And we got the money we need.

Caryn Hartglass: Fantastic, congratulations.

Jasmine Leyva: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m sure you’ll raise it and, like I said, it’s such an important message. So why did you call it The Invisible Vegan? Did you feel invisible?

Jasmine Leyva: There’s a novel by Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man. Great novel. In his intro, he’s saying how he feels not only invisible when he’s in white spaces but also, because he didn’t fit into a certain stereotype, he feels invisible in black spaces as well. So I kind of identified with that feeling. That’s one reason that I chose it.

Then a more visual reason. When you think about the vegan movement—well, now it’s a bit more colorful and diverse, but before—, when you think about animal rights activists, when you think about people who care about the environment, people at the forefront of the health movement, you don’t see a lot of black people in those spaces.

And sometimes the black people I see in those spaces, I feel like they don’t represent the kind of women I grew up with. You don’t see the cool guy that listens to hip-hop; you don’t see the cool chick with her cornrows, her tight jeans, her hair weave representing animal rights. But these types of women exist and, even though they might not be “mainstream”, these are the type of women that some little girls in the inner city might identify with. So they deserve visibility too. It shouldn’t be this one type of black person that’s put in the forefront, which is usually someone who is perceived as non-threatening to the dominant class, instead of having a lot of diverse blacks in this movement to relate to different people in our community.

Caryn Hartglass: We got a lot of problems in our culture, no question about it. I’d like to think that we’re moving forward. It’s a little challenging right now with this crazy federal government that we have because it seems like everything’s going backwards quickly. But let’s put that aside (ha!) and focus on all the good that’s going on.

This movement has definitely been promoted or brought into the mainstream by white male doctors. There’s been a lot of work that’s done on the ground by a very diverse group of people, but the ones who have gotten the most attention are white and male. A lot of the great women activists, of any color, don’t seem to get the notoriety that these white male doctors are getting.

But you know, okay. (chuckles) I accept it. That’s just the way things roll. But there are many, many women—

Jasmine Leyva: No, I appreciate you. What you just said, I appreciated. I appreciate you just owning up to that instead of what a lot of people try to do. They make it seem like racial inequality is just in black people’s heads. Like it’s just something that we’re manifesting that just doesn’t exist.

Caryn Hartglass: (mumbling) Oh god.

Jasmine Leyva: So for you to say, “No, people.” In your culture, they do a lot for the movement, they’re just not shown. Thank you for recognizing that.

Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. Well, I can honestly say that I don’t know what it’s like to be in your skin.

Jasmine Leyva: Thank you. (laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: But I wanted to say that I try to empathize. It’s not a pretty world that we live in, I know that. It’s not a fair world, and I do whatever I can.

One of my favorite people on the planet happens to be a medical doctor: Dr. Milton Mills. He’s in your trailer and I assume that he’s in your film.

Jasmine Leyva: Yes, he is in the film.

Caryn Hartglass: I’ve known him for a long time, and I just love this man. He’s just so good.

When I was pondering your title, I thought about Dr. Milton Mills because I’ve interviewed him on this show recently this year and then five years ago. I talked about this last week or the week before. When the health documentary What the Health came out that Dr. Milton Mills is in, my interview with him from five years ago is getting tons of hits. I realized it was because nobody else has anything out there on Dr. Milton Mills. There are some other white doctors in the film and I’m sure other people are searching for them too, but there are plenty of other websites that have stuff on them so I’m not feeling that traffic as much. I’m like the only one who has got Dr. Milton Mills out there because been he’s fantastic but I feel like he’s invisible. Now he’s becoming a little more visible.

Jasmine Leyva: Exactly, right. And what’s awesome about Dr. Milton Mills is that he really knows his stuff. If you’re talking about plant-based eating, he can give you the environmental reasons behind it, the health reasons behind it, the animal rights reasons behind it aside from just the medical part of it. He’s the one-stop doc, he’s the real deal. I was honored to be able to get him for this project.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. He’s getting his hands dirty every day and doing really phenomenal work.

The other thing that people knee-jerk respond to when I’m promoting a plant-based, healthy, vegan diet (whop-whop-whop) is that it’s a privilege. It’s for privileged people who can afford it, who can go to Whole Foods, Whole Paycheck, whatever. Can you talk about that?

Jasmine Leyva: Yes. The problem is when sometimes you have people in the movement who are trying to get other people to go vegan, you have to address that some people live in food deserts. You have to address that some people are using food stamps. So there needs to be specific instructions for people who don’t have the means to go to Whole Foods, who can’t go to Sprouts, who can’t give these fancy alternatives that help people break their way into a vegan diet. You need to make this palatable for them because everyone does not have the same amount of access to fresh, healthy foods.

Even making that a bigger issue on our national agenda, there are certain things that are equal and there are certain things that the amount of money that you make should dictate your access to certain items. Like if you make a lot of money, okay, yeah, you can buy your name-brand shoes, you can buy your expensive dresses.

But every child I think deserves a fair opportunity. Every child and adult alike deserve an opportunity to fresh, healthy, organic food that hasn’t been pumped with antibiotics. Fresh fruits and vegetables for everyone. That should be a basic human right.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and I hope one day our civilization gets there. But we are not born equal, as much as we like to say we are. Every child is entitled to clean air, clean water, abundant healthy food, an excellent education, and the opportunity to be whatever it is that their soul wants them to be. We got a long way to go before that happens.

Jasmine Leyva: Right, and I feel that literally—

Caryn Hartglass: I just want to add that every non-human animal has that right, too.

Jasmine Leyva: Exactly. Food is a life-or-death issue. People don’t look at it like it’s a life-or-death issue because having poor food options, that’s not something that will kill you instantly. But that’s the difference between a mother’s child living to a hundred or only living to fifty and passing away because of clogged arteries, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. It’s definitely life-or-death.

People care about the life of their children and their own lives? This is something that we need to start rallying for in our communities.

Caryn Hartglass: I mentioned our current government before and, again, I don’t want to get too into it. But we are being fed a new story: a story of lies, a story of fantasies, a story of false truths.

In some ways, our culture has been fed lies probably since this country started, after demolishing the Native American race and from then on. We keep trying to see the world through rose-colored glasses: we’re not seeing the truth, we’re not seeing the victims through the decades. Which we need to if we’re ultimately going to rise above and become what we should become. We should really acknowledge all of the wrongs that we’ve done and our ancestors have done.

While we’re swallowing this story that we’re being marketed to and manipulated to, many of us who start to have a little means want to have the benefits. Some of the benefits are eating rich foods and eating animal foods without realizing the story and the history behind it. I’m sure that many African-Americans feel this way too, and that’s where your film comes in.

Jasmine Leyva: Yes. And it’s also countering years of advertisements. When you think about it, a lot of the choices we make as Americans, we were conditioned to make those choices. If you have been fed meat all your life, yes, you’re attached to meat. You’re addicted to it because that’s what you were given. That’s all you know.

Same thing when you look at these commercials for foods. In my lifetime, I’ve probably seen a McDonald’s commercial five million times, whereas how many times have I seen PSAs for going vegan, eating health, or eating plant-based?

I’m glad that they have so many of these documentaries coming out that is countering that. We’re putting something new into the psyche. This is an infection, we’re planting new seeds so hopefully, in the future, our kids grow up on different messages than just these food advertisements.

Caryn Hartglass: And what foods do you want to be eating? Do you want to be eating the foods that you think are your culture’s foods, which were actually brought upon you from slaveholders that were just giving you the worst thing that they possibly could? Or do you want to eat the real foods from your culture, which are healthy and nourishing, and were taken away from you?

Jasmine Leyva: Yeah. Even when I think of my culture’s food, the scraps that we were given on the plantation, I just look at that as an example of our genius. When we had nothing, we were given scraps, and we were able to turn it into a delicacy. That shows how creative we are as a people. But the pig’s feet and the chickens, that doesn’t represent our culinary tradition. That’s slave culture and, even though slave culture is a part of black culture, it doesn’t encompass it.

When people think about black culture, I want them to think about African culture. And yes, in Africa, before this slave situation happened, we were eating fresh foods. We were growing crops. The way we prepare vegetables, we brought those traditions over to America.

Just knowing that we contributed more than pig’s feet to the culinary arena in America. Giving people that sense of pride. A salad? That’s a part of who we are too.

Caryn Hartglass: The unfortunate thing is that the SAD (Standard American Diet) is being exported all over the world, including to Africa and many of the countries there, with detrimental effects. A lot of cultures that have eaten some wonderful diversified foods—all kinds of whole grains, fruits, and plants—are more and more not.

Jasmine Leyva: I think that a lot of people don’t understand the power of their choices. When they eat a piece of bacon, they don’t think that the commercial farms that’s produced this bacon are put in African-American communities, and it makes their property value go down. A lot of the manure and chemicals get in their water, and they end up getting sick. We don’t realize the system of environmental racism we’re participating in when we eat these kinds of foods.

I also think if more people knew the ramifications that come behind what they put in their mouth, you would have a lot more people who would make conscious choices. Don’t get me wrong, you have a lot of people who would just say, “I don’t care,” and eat their bacon, eggs, and cheese anyway. But again, it all starts with getting the message out there and keep pushing it.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.

Jasmine Leyva: And not forcing it on people. Putting it out there, just educating people so they can make choices out of knowledge instead of eating out of ignorance.

Caryn Hartglass: So important on so many levels. It really is so unfortunate, but maybe one of the good things from our current federal administration is that we’ve learned how really racist our country is. I thought it was getting better, but now we know that many people have been harboring so much. And (sigh) I’m so ashamed.

Jasmine Leyva: No, don’t! Don’t be ashamed. You have me on your selfie.

Caryn Hartglass: (laughs) I am so ashamed. It just brings a tear to my eye!

Jasmine Leyva: You acknowledging it, that’s what it’s about. I don’t know why there’s this disconnect and why a lot of people don’t want to own up to white privilege. For example, I’m attractive.

Caryn Hartglass: You’re beautiful!

Jasmine Leyva: Even though I am qualified for them, I get a lot of the opportunities just because of the fact that I’m attractive. Like attractive privilege, and I would have no problem owning up to that.

When it comes to white privilege, I don’t understand why people just want to—they can’t just say, “Yo, it’s messed up. It’s not my fault.” White privilege definitely exists. There’s definitely going to be a lot more people—if you’re African-American, you’re going to run into more races that don’t want to give you a job and don’t want to give you an opportunity than a white person. And that’s just reality.

Caryn Hartglass: And we must resist and educate.

Jasmine Leyva: Yeah. And don’t try to sweep it under the rug. Exactly what you’re doing: just owning up to it.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, let’s lighten it up a little bit and talk about some delicious food.

Jasmine Leyva: (chuckles) Okay.

Caryn Hartglass: Can we do that? (chuckles)

Jasmine Leyva: Alright, yeah. Let’s do it. Yes we can. I don’t want you crying over there.

Caryn Hartglass: You don’t want to what?

Jasmine Leyva: You said you were crying. I don’t want you crying over there. See, playing it up.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I wear all my emotions on my sleeve. I don’t hold it in. It’s just like I press a button and I pour. (laughs)

Jasmine Leyva: (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: It’s the only way that I can stay sane. So tell me about eating in Los Angeles. Where are your favorite places? What do you like?

Jasmine Leyva: In Los Angeles, being a vegan. Again, if you have a certain amount of means, it’s really easy to have vegan spots everywhere. I say a little over in Indo Valley, they have this spot: Lemonade. It’s not fully vegan, but they have a lot of great vegan options. Mendocino Farms, they have this vegan barbeque sandwich that is for the gods. Au Lac is great. Cafe Gratitude is a favorite. Sage is delicious, they have so many vegan versions of whatever you want. If you want a Peruvian vegan spot, they got it. They used to have this—I think they shut it down, Cowboys & Turbans, a vegan Indian-Mexican fusion restaurant.

Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)

Jasmine Leyva: Any vegan combination that you want, it’s in Los Angeles. (chuckles)

Caryn Hartglass: And do you cook?

Jasmine Leyva: (high-pitched) Ah, I’d say yeah, I do. But I dabble.

Caryn Hartglass: (laughs) Can you do that again? That was a great sound. (laughs)

Jasmine Leyva: (laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: (high-pitched) Ah!

Jasmine Leyva: Yes, I’m not going to lie. I am definitely not going for Michelin Stars in my kitchen by any means. I’d say, yeah, I can put together some of the tasty things. But I’m not like…

I eat more so for nourishment. Like this morning, I just did a breakfast smoothie with celery, lettuce, apples, acai, and some lemon juice. I’m out here for breakfast: okay, what can I eat that’s going to give me energy, that’s going to get my skin right, that’s going to balance my pH levels? I’m more so worried about that than let me put together this restaurant meal.

Me, being a woman too, you know. When you’ve got so much stuff going on in your stomach, you start throwing in too many ingredients, it’s like chemical reactions start happening.

Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)

Jasmine Leyva: And I’m just like nah, just want to keep it simple. Let me eat this sweet potato and sautéed kale for lunch, and just call it a day and be better for it.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Mixing it sometimes for so many of us can just—no matter what it is, it’s just too complicated. Keeping it simple, I’m loving it.

Jasmine Leyva: Yeah, just keep it simple. For breakfast, oatmeal with some almond milk. There you go.

Caryn Hartglass: There you go. So Jasmine, how can people help with The Invisible Vegan? Where do they go?

Jasmine Leyva: Now we’re trying to raise licensing funds for a lot of the third-party music and photos used in the film. You can help. You can go to www.theinvisiblevegan.com, click the Donate tab, and it’ll take you to our crowd funder. If you could donate to this project, help us make it look lovely, that would be amazing.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, great. Well, thank you so much for talking to me today, Jas. I wish you all the best with The Invisible Vegan, I can’t wait to see the full film.

Jasmine Leyva: Thank you so much, Caryn. It was awesome to be here on your show!

Caryn Hartglass: Thank you! I’m sending you hugs.

Jasmine Leyva: And I’m sending you love right back.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, love, love, love.

We just have like a minute left. I just wanted to remind you because I don’t plug this show enough. If you like this show, It’s All About Food—I like it and I know a lot of people do, can you follow us on Facebook @responsibleeatingandliving or Twitter @REALWORLDWIDE? Responsibleeatingandliving.com: we’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter, we’re on Pinterest. We have our daily blog, What Vegans Eat, at responsibleeatingandliving.com. The show, It’s All About Food, is on iTunes, it’s here at Progressive Radio Network. At my website (responsibleeatingandliving.com) we archive all those shows with transcripts. So let us know if you like us because we need to hear that. I know, I need to hear it. Otherwise, email me at info@realmeals.org if you have comments and questions. And thank you.

Thank you again for listening. This is Caryn Hartglass, and this has been another episode of It’s All About Food. Have a delicious week!

Transcribed by HT 11/17/2017

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