Part I: Laura-Jane Koers, Cook Lively
Laura-Jane Koers is a food writer, stylist, and photographer and the blogger behind TheRawtarian.com, known for doable, approachable plant-based recipes. She also hosts the Raw Food Podcast on iTunes. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Part II: Laurelee Blanchard, Leilani Farms
Laurelee Blanchard, Founder and President of Leilani Farm Sanctuary, left a lucrative career as Senior Vice President at the national firm of Lee and Associates Commercial Real Estate Services to devote her life to animal protection and humane education. In 1999, she cashed out her life savings and moved from Orange County, California, to Haiku, Maui. There she acquired an eight-acre parcel of land, on which she created a farm sanctuary—a refuge where animals would be protected from neglect, abuse, and slaughter. Leilani Farm Sanctuary, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization, is now home to nearly three hundred rescued animals, including goats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, donkeys, geese, deer, cats, pigs, sheep, turkeys, guinea pigs, tortoises, and a cow. The Sanctuary provides educational programs for school groups and special-needs visitors; it also offers tours to the general public. Since the mid-90s, Ms. Blanchard has focused her attention on the protection of farm animals. She served as a pro- bono communications director for Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), a national non-profit that devotes its efforts to bringing to an end the practice of using living, sentient beings for food. She also worked for three years as campaign consultant to Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s largest farm-animal protection organization. In 2010, Laurelee was hired as consultant to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), specifically in its campaign to end the long-distance transport of live farm animals from the Mainland U.S. to Hawaii. She successfully negotiated with Foodland and Times Supermarket chains to implement policies against purchasing pork from pigs shipped to Hawaii, thereby reducing the number of pigs transported and slaughtered by approximately seventy-five thousand per year. In 2012, Laurelee was presented the “Vegan of the Year in North America” commendation for her outstanding animal activist work; and in 2015, she received a national award and grant from the Godiva Company for embodying the attributes of Lady Godiva through selflessness, generosity, leadership, and the spirit of giving back to the community.
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! Hello, hello everybody, hello hello everybody, hello [singing]. It’s Caryn Hartglass here, with “It’s All About Food.” Thank you for joining me today. Guess what we’re going to be talking about: food! My favorite subject. And it’s going to be fun and I think lively today. Because we are going to be talking in just a moment with cookbook author Laura Jane Koers who has a new book out called Cook Lively: 100 Quick and Easy Plant-Based Recipes for High Energy, Glowing Skin, and Vibrant Living. Laura Jane is a food writer, stylist, and photographer and the blogger behind thrawtarian.com known for doable, approachable plant-based recipes. She also hosts “The Raw Food Podcast” on iTunes. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Laura Jane, hi!
Laura Jane Koers: Caryn, hello, thank you so much for having me on “It’s All About Food.”
Caryn Hartglass: You’re very welcome. You know I was in Halifax very briefly a little over ten years ago and just knowing that you come from there is bringing back some really lovely, lovely memories. I have a silly memory, and when I was reading your cookbook I remembered it even more. So I grew up in New York and bagels and lox, with Nova Scotia lox, was a very popular thing that people ate especially from my culture. And I never put together what Nova Scotia was, it was just lox! But it came from Canada and in a specific place and I felt so silly, it wasn’t until I was there that I connected all the dots. And you have a lox recipe!
Laura Jane Koers: I sure do! Well because I too love a good bagel with lox and cream cheese, that’s a perfect breakfast in my view so I had to do a vegan and actually sort of a raw vegan version of that and it is tasty. We love that fishy flavor without the fish.
Caryn Hartglass: Right because fish are your friends, not food.
Laura Jane Koers: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: I learned that from Finding Nemo.
Laura Jane Koers: Didn’t we all!
Caryn Hartglass: Actually I knew that before the movie but I was so excited when they said it. Fish are your friends, not food, everybody. Okay I’m kind of jumping ahead of things here…so Laura Jane, you are The Rawtarian, and tell me, what does “rawtarian” mean to you?
Laura Jane Koers: Oh, good question! Well I sort of gave myself that name back in the day, back in about 2009 when I started eating a raw vegan diet which I did completely, 100% for over five years. And yes that was in rural Canada. I was actually–I wasn’t living in Halifax then, I was living on a smaller island called Prince Edward island in the same area and it’s cold in the winter but I persevered for five years of that and I loved it so much so I started blogging at that time about it. And since then I’ve shifted a little bit more into still definitely vegan but I’ve added a few cooked ingredients now compared to before but I still am very rooted in that way of cooking and so, I don’t know, The Rawtarian it means to me, it’s my life and my simple approach to food as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Now I did raw, all raw, for two years and I included cooked foods I think a lot more than you have since that time, but what was your reason for adding some more cooked foods in your diet?
Laura Jane Koers: Well see I got tricky, I got so good at developing raw food recipes that were maybe not so healthy for me. So as I know you know, eating a raw diet, you have a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and near the end there I started eating a lot of nuts, which I still eat tons of nuts, but I was looking for something to satisfy me when I was kind of craving nuts. At that time I thought well I think it might be healthier to maybe have some cooked lentils instead of like, a lot of heavy nuts so for me that was kind of an evolution. Also as I learned a little bit more about nutrition and about my body and kind of reading what it needs. So for me I still eat a very high-raw diet, there’s just a few things that I wanted to add back in like cooked quinoa and cooked lentils are two of the big things that I eat a lot of now and I feel like they really are great for my body and they’re healthy sources of protein so for me it was just the next evolution in my food journey.
Caryn Hartglass: I get it, I totally get it. You know we’re all individuals so I really appreciate you adding “for me” at the end of each line when you’re talking about what you’re eating because we’re not all the same and I know a lot of people have struggled on the raw diet getting enough calories. And some people, amazingly, they can live on 12 bananas a day and not much else and it’s amazing and I applaud them. But we all have different microflora, different gut biomes, and our bacteria and everything else in our bodies are craving certain things and need certain things and not everything works for everyone.
Laura Jane Koers: Absolutely. And I think it’s actually a really fundamental skill that we don’t all have and even I had to learn it when I first started trying to eat better. But it’s to understand how you feel, or to even be aware of how your body feels after you eat something. I think–before I went raw in 2009 I was what I like to call a “junk food vegetarian.” I was vegetarian, but as you know chips, cookies, soda, and frozen burritos, those were all vegetarian and I was actually eating very very unhealthily but I didn’t even really know just how physically uncomfortable I felt in my stomach when things weren’t digesting well. But I didn’t even really notice that I was feeling badly until I started eating better and then I was like, oh my gosh! I have energy! I want to move! So for me when I decided to go raw back in the day it was because I had some extra weight and you know I always struggled with cystic acne as an adult so I was kind of looking for a change, but I didn’t actually realize that it would physically make me feel so much better until I started eating that way and realizing, wow this feels really good!
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s just talk about acne for a moment. Now I have not met you in person, I’ve seen your photographs, I don’t know if they’ve been retouched or photoshopped but you look like you’ve got really beautiful skin.
Laura Jane Koers: Well thank you! I mean they have been photoshopped but in a general way it definitely was something I absolutely struggled with as an adult. I was fine as a teenager but just as I was in my twenties–I’m 35 now–but right now my skin is glorious! But I do notice for me, I’m not sure what it is, it definitely goes in my family. If I eat a normal standard American diet, I think probably particularly dairy, it just comes through in my face and it’s terrible! So I haven’t had to deal with that in a long time now, for me just cutting out dairy I think really was a huge part in helping my skin improve for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: That gets back to the point where we are all individuals. So for some people eating that standard diet of white flour foods, dairy, whatever, some people–not very many, but there are some people that can live a long life feeling good that way. Most people can’t, and we all kind of degrade and fall apart in different ways. Some people might get acne and some people might get diabetes and heart disease and a whole host of autoimmune diseases. It depends because we’re all individuals, we all fall apart differently but we don’t have to fall apart. We can look and feel good for a long time, right?
Laura Jane Koers: Absolutely, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So I wanted to talk about a few recipes that I dog-eared and then I had a handful of questions and hopefully we’ll have enough time to get to them. So I always like to pick out the recipes that stand out to me as things that I’ve never thought of or made of before because first I have to say I have been a vegan for 30 years, I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 45, I got on the vegetarian path when I was 15 and yeah, a long time. And I look at cookbooks all the time, I cook all the time and I’m always tickled when I see something like oh! I need to try that. So I’m really into baking foods instead of using oil and frying them for one reason or another, so your fluffy baked pancakes–
Laura Jane Koers: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: –jumped out at me. I haven’t tried them but they’re dog-eared on my list.
Laura Jane Koers: Well it’s funny, for sure. I mean a little bit about recipe development, for me it’s very important to keep things simple. So I actually don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and when I develop recipes I just get excited about thinking we can eliminate this, we can eliminate that, maybe we can make pancakes with only these few ingredients. But when I was developing this recipe I definitely knew that I wanted to make a pancake recipe that normally I would dehydrate it, because sort of my raw food groups I’m really used to dehydrating, but all of the recipes in my book I also have oven instructions as well because certainly not everybody has a dehydrator! But yes, much like you were saying I wanted to make a no-fry pancake recipe that was easy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and it looks great! I make potato pancakes by baking them, I don’t fry them. So I can see how this could work, I’ve just never thought of doing, it’s not necessarily sweet, I mean it has a little maple syrup in it, but more of a sweet side than a savory side. And it looks good with blueberries!
Laura Jane Koers: Yeah it is. And these are mostly–they have zucchini and banana and some coconut in there and flax meal to kind of help it all stay together and a few other things.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so when you included cooked foods back into your diet you did not include flour foods, am I correct?
Laura Jane Koers: Yeah, I mean you are correct. Usually if I’m going to have anything that’s like a flour it’s usually either almond meal which I like to say, also known as ground up almonds, so that’s tends to be what I use as flour or I actually do use dried shredded–
Caryn Hartglass: Oats.
Laura Jane Koers: –yeah, a little bit of oats but also coconut, they sort of perform like flour. So they suck up excess liquid and that kind of thing. So those are some of my go-tos and yeah I have used a little bit of gluten-free oats as well.
Caryn Hartglass: So I’m looking at the cauliflower toast, which is also on my list, and I have yet to get into the cauliflower rice or grinding up cauliflower, using it as a grain. I’ve seen it, haven’t done it and one of the reasons that I haven’t done it, it’s because I love cauliflower just steamed, curried and every time I think, okay I’ve got a cauliflower, what kind of fun thing am I going to do with it? I just think, I’m just going to steam it because that’s how I love it. And then I finally got into mashing it and making like a mashed potato, only mashed cauliflower. I’ve used it for creamy sauces, so I’m moving along, I still–steamed cauliflower is still my favorite. But I have to try this cauliflower toast for example. So tell me what it’s like, can you describe it?
Laura Jane Koers: Yes I absolutely can. I have to explain first though, taking a tiny step back so what I developed first for this recipe cookbook was a pizza crust that is very similar to the cauliflower toast so I was experimenting with many many tries with pizza crust, how can I make it chewy and like a dough. I spent a lot of time developing a pizza crust that uses, in the end what I went with was 2 cups of cauliflower, again some coconut and some cashews and a few other things. So that pizza crust, when I finally came up w something I was really excited about, then I used that pizza crust (which is in the book) to–I was like, what else can I do with this? So then I developed the toast which is very similar to the pizza crust but with no toppings!
But I can relate to what you’re saying about cauliflower because I do love my smoothies! but I feel similarly, when I have say some amazing grapes or watermelon or beautiful, succulent fresh strawberries, I can never blend those up cause I feel like, that’s wrong, I should just eat them! I don’t feel that way about cauliflower but I do feel that way about a lot of fruits so I can relate.
Caryn Hartglass: I love my steamed cauliflower, I don’t know where it came from, it’s not like I was raised on it or anything…enough said. But the next one I really liked was the sunflower croutons! Made with sunflower seeds. You know people love croutons and that’s another product if made traditionally with white flour foods and oil and whatever, it’s not good for us.
Laura Jane Koers: Yeah, one of the nice things about– again coming back to my standpoint, because from vegan recipes we can have gourmet recipes, things that will take hours and taste amazing but I kind of like the sweet spot of, how can we make it quick and so that it tastes really really good but isn’t too complicated and also, I like to be able to make things in big batches so one of the things that’s great about these croutons, which are just very simple, it’s like garlic, sunflower seeds, flax, some olive oil, and a couple of spices and then you just form them into little cubes and pop them in the oven or the dehydrator. but what I like is if I’m going to have a big salad say for lunch, I love to have things in my pantry or in my fridge that are just easy to add to a salad to make it exciting because there’s nothing more boring–even though you might be vegan and like to eat healthy–nobody likes a boring salad with just some greens and nothing exciting on it so I like to use these croutons, just I keep them in the pantry and they keep really well for a long time and they add some crunch and some texture and I usually add them to salads.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I just have to interject here and say, sometimes I love a boring salad!
Laura Jane Koers: Oh you’re giving me–no! This is like, the people that don’t eat healthily they’re like–
Caryn Hartglass: I know, I know.
Laura Jane Koers: It makes me laugh in a good way.
Caryn Hartglass: I mean sometimes I just take a–if I’m traveling or something on the road I buy a bag and just eat salad greens like chips, I’m very happy.
Laura Jane Koers: Okay, this is so reminding me, I grew up in a really healthy household and my mom is like you in that way. She would be like, “I love romaine lettuce!” and I would be like a 12-year-old looking at her and being like, “Mom what is wrong with you,” but I’ve actually struggled with this, because I grew up fighting my mom at every step, cause she was like, “This half a romaine lettuce is so delicious!” and I would be like, “Mom that’s not delicious, let’s go to McDonald’s, please.” So I have always had a palate that–that’s I think one of the reasons why in my book I have a lot of things like pizza or fish sticks and junk food flavors because my palate really wants those things and I’m trying to come up with ways to easily satisfy my terrible cravings that never went away with healthy ingredients. But because I get bored and I like to have a lot of sweets but I just try to figure out healthier ways to satisfy those cravings. Sorry, I kind of cut you off, keep going. But generally, my mom was like that and so I’m like, oh no!
Laura Jane Koers: No problem, I love that story. Our upbringings affect us in so many ways and it affects us with food, in positive and negative ways, many people struggle with food as an adult because of things that happened to them as a child, either because of foods they loved or because of how they were treated related to food. Often food, candies and sweets, were offered as a negotiating tool, as a bargaining chip to make the child stop whining. Children learn that, I have more power if I have sugar foods and all kinds of issues with food so I appreciate your story.
Laura Jane Koers: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: And on the subject of these healthier versions of foods that aren’t so good for you, many kids love chicken nuggets and you have the zucchini nuggets which I’m thinking is a great recipe for summer, I know so many people who have gardens and then all the sudden their gardens are overflowing with the zucchinis and they just don’t know what to do with them. Here’s one more thing they can do with them, make zucchini nuggets! They look good.
Laura Jane Koers: Yes. These are actually so good. and I think one of the things that we love about–sorry to say it, has this word ever been said on your show?–Chicken McNuggets, but I think a lot of what people like about those things even kids is you can dip them, they’re easy to eat and there’s something really nice about a finger food that you can dip in a ranch or a honey mustard type of dressing. so that’s kind of where this recipe came from, if you bake it it really does have the texture that kind of crunchy, really satisfying texture that, I’m sorry to say it, a Chicken McNugget would have! But I think it’s also about–
Caryn Hartglass: That’s okay. That’s okay, you live in the 21st century, we all talk about Chicken McNuggets and I think we’ve mentioned it on this show a few times, probably because there are many processed plant meats today that are taking the place of chicken McNuggets and I am all behind that. Not that I would eat them personally, but I want to say first, I am a vegan first, I am someone who does not believe in killing animals, I am someone who does not want to support industry that cause pain and suffering, and if I can get anybody off the animal and eating something that’s from plants, I think that’s a good thing. But then you know there’s a subset and that is for those who are looking for really healthy options to feel good for a long time and that’s where zucchini nuggets would be a better choice than an isolated soy protein, pea protein, highly processed plant meat.
Laura Jane Koers: Yeah. It’s funny because now, as you know, having been vegan for so long there are so many processed options for vegan food and while it’s great for so many reasons but there’s just something really lovely when you can make something at home, and sometimes, I know so many people aren’t used to spending time in the kitchen, even if it’s not long, making food from scratch, be it vegan or not, a lot of people are not accustomed to cooking. But I think it’s one of those things that if you can get started doing it and just get in a groove of making things from scratch, especially easy recipes, and making it sort of a hobby not necessarily something you come home after a busy work day and the kids are screaming, that’s not really the time to try to make a new way of eating. But if you can try to learn a few skills in your little pockets of free time then it becomes normal. So that’s kind of my passion.
Caryn Hartglass: I made a few more notes, I wanted to talk about buckwheat groats. because you use them in a number of recipes and you use them raw, which I’ve cooked buckwheat groats, I’ve toasted and cooked buckwheat groats, I’ve soaked and dehydrated buckwheat groats, and I’ve ground buckwheat groats into flour and then made them into something–
Laura Jane Koers: You’re a buckwheat groat hero!
Caryn Hartglass: –but I’ve never eaten a plain buckwheat groat!
Laura Jane Koers: Yeah! So if anybody doesn’t know what they are, I think they’re also called kasha?
Caryn Hartglass: Kasha! Kasha, I’m sure. My grandfather used to come up to me and poke me and say, “Do you like kasha?” [laughing]
Laura Jane Koers: [laughing] What was he getting at there, like what does it mean?
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know. Anyway, kasha, buckwheat, sarrasin in French.
Laura Jane Koers: Oh wow, you know a lot about buckwheat groats. But generally they’re extremely hard and crunchy. So people are not necessarily used to eating them raw and certainly it’s not something you should just be eating in great handfuls instead of popcorn. The way I tend to use them when raw is I have a really nice simple breakfast cereal recipe that I make a huge batch and I just put that in my pantry, kind of like my box of cereal. So it’s like, I usually use them very sparingly so it’s maybe taking up 5% of the recipe, and they just really add a nice crunch when you’re not eating too many of them. And usually if you’re also adding some milk, you know almond milk or whatever, on your cereal they’ll get a little bit softer as well. But yeah! I do eat them raw and you can eat them raw for sure. But just be careful of your teeth.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good to know, something I’d never seen before and I like seeing new things. The last question I have is about mushrooms. And you have a lot of mushroom recipes in the book and I’m assuming most of them are raw and not cooked. And there’s some concern about eating raw mushrooms, certain mushrooms raw. Do you have any opinion on that, or–how you feel about raw mushrooms?
Laura Jane Koers: Yeah. I don’t have a strong opinion on it, I think when…let me gather my mushroom thoughts here. Firstly I’ll just state, in my recipes I often am using mushrooms–like I have a mushroom burger, or actually those zucchini nuggets I think they have some mushrooms in them as well. And one of the things they add–and usually they’re cooked actually in those two recipes, in the dehydrator or the oven–but they usually add kind of a meaty texture which is why I like to use them. In terms of, I think it’s really fine to eat most mushrooms as far as I know that you purchase in a grocery store, you know for human consumption, raw. I do know you have to be careful in how you store them, you don’t want to leave them out, they can go bad. So I think the way you store them, like after the recipe is made or before you make them I think you should be a little bit careful but generally I think, I don’t know, do you have a different thought on that?
Caryn Hartglass: Well, yeah, I have eaten all mushrooms raw, and now I eat them all cooked, I love mushrooms, they’re really healthy and occasionally if I have a raw mushroom it’s no big deal. But I have read that mushrooms, specifically white button mushrooms, cremini, and portabello have something called the agaritine toxin, and it’s recommended not to eat raw, and then also there’s the potential that the mushrooms have some bacteria that you don’t want on it because everything today is just filled with all kind of things, I mean that’s a concern in general about eating raw food, where has it been and what’s been left on it. But mushrooms also have very tough cell walls that are not digestible unless you cook them. So it’s little bits of toxins, carcinogens…I know I love the flavor of a raw shiitake mushroom, its almost buttery, but I know that if I eat more than one my body doesn’t like it. so I’m sure there’s something in there, well I know there’s something in there, so I think earlier when we were talking about diets are different for individuals, if something bothers you when you eat it, don’t eat it.
Laura Jane Koers: Yes, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: If it doesn’t bother you, it’s probably fine.
Laura Jane Koers: Well, and I don’t know about this, but with oats, say just standard rolled oats or that kind of thing, I find that those are really not good to eat uncooked, I forget why but I know they do not–I have like an iron gut, nothing bothers my stomach, but that’s something that seems to be common now, is people making overnight oats–
Caryn Hartglass: Soaked oats, yeah.
Laura Jane Koers: And I find, I forget what it is, but there’s some sort of acid or something, I forget the technical word, but that is not healthy to eat raw so I’m trying to get that message out there because I feel like even I, with my iron stomach, that really bothers me so there’s definitely something there and that can lead to some health problems. So don’t do too many raw oats.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah and I’ll reiterate what I just said. If you find that there’s a food that doesn’t sit well when you eat it then you don’t have to eat it. I always recommend eating all kinds of green foods, I’m a pusher of dark leafy green foods, all green vegetables, and then some people will say well I don’t like broccoli. Don’t eat broccoli if you don’t like it, there are so many other green foods out there! You don’t ever have to be miserable with broccoli.
Laura Jane Koers: I completely agree with that! And there’s a section at the beginning of my book where I just have some tips about how to try to eat healthily and I have that as a tip it’s like, if you don’t like eggplant, don’t try to like it! just don’t ever make a recipe with eggplant in it because it just isn’t for you even if it’s–whether it’s a physical thing or just a taste thing, there are so many, as you said, just look for an ingredient that you do love.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so the last thing I want to say is probably the best recipes, in my opinion, in your book and in raw food in general are the desserts. I mean this is the best kind of desserts you can possibly have. I think they taste better than any other kind of dessert and they are good for you, it’s crazy.
Laura Jane Koers: I know. That is certainly the gateway recipe for many people, it was for me for sure, desserts. Have you made many raw desserts?
Caryn Hartglass: Are you asking me?
Laura Jane Koers: Yes!
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yes! and I kind of got away from them for a while because I do have some–I love baking and gluten-free baking to make things that people are used to having and I want people to not eat animals and if they find they’re gluten free I don’t want them to feel like they have to go back so there’s all that. But then I started rediscovering the raw desserts which feel better and taste better and they’re good for everybody!
Laura Jane Koers: Yes. I love them, they’re my favorite recipes to develop. I always have like ten times more dessert recipes than any other recipes. I have a sweet tooth and I find most of the desserts that I develop tend to be frozen because that works really well so I have a frozen banana cream pie and a really nice creamsicle ice cream cake that are of course all vegan, and I love making desserts it’s my favorite thing to do.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well, Laura Jane! thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food and your book, Cook Lively: 100 Quick and Easy Plant-Based Recipes for High Energy, Glowing Skin, and Vibrant Living–Using 10 Ingredients or Less. I recommend starting in the back with the desserts and moving left. Thanks for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Laura Jane Koers: Caryn, thank you so much, have a delicious week!
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, you too! That’s my tagline and she knew it.
Transcribed by Hayley Hinsburger 10/20/2017
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s move on because we have so much more to talk about on this show where we are tuning in live-ly and tuning in love-ly. Tuning in love. Okay, next up is Laurelee Blanchard, founder and president of Leilani Farm Sanctuary. And she’s got an incredible story. We’re going to be hearing about it in a moment. I could read the bio, but I’d rather hear some of the story from Laurelee herself. So let’s bring her on. Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Laurelee Blanchard: Good morning.
Caryn Hartglass: Good morning. Oh, that’s right. You’re way, way out there. I have a daily blog called What Vegans Eat, and in today’s blog, I didn’t even think about it, but I said, “I think I’m on Hawaii Time right now.”
Laurelee Blanchard: Yeah, yeah. Good morning here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, because I’m in New York. And, I don’t know, somehow we tend, especially in the hot weather, we tend to work a lot later when it gets cooler. And then so we’re up really late, and then we wake up really late, and it’s Hawaii Time.
Laurelee Blanchard: Yes, yes indeed. It’s mid-morning, and it’s a beautiful morning here with roosters crowing and donkeys baying and pigs squealing. It’s a happy scene.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so anyway, thank you for sending me your book, Finding Paradise: Leilani Farm Sanctuary of Maui. I enjoyed reading it very much and loved the pictures. It almost is like a picture book.
Laurelee Blanchard: Yes, my favorite hobby is going out into the pasture at the end of the day and hanging out with the animals with my camera. And because I’m out there so many evenings in perfect lighting conditions, I’m bound to get some winners. So that book had the best photos of our collection.
Caryn Hartglass: So you’ve created a beautiful place, and it has not been without challenge. We’ve all had challenges in our life, and I think life is supposed to continue to be a struggle. It’s never easy. And just when things seem just right, a new challenge is brought into our life. And you’ve shared a number of them with your reading audience in this book. And maybe we’ll touch on some of them. And then, in addition, there are so many beautiful stories of the animals that you have had an opportunity to bring to your sanctuary. I think my favorite line, or picture, in the book was where you talk about not having human children, but how non-human, animal children are your children. And you had a picture that said, “My kid is a goat.”
Laurelee Blanchard: Yes, that’s a picture of our bumper sticker. It’s got a picture of our goat, Freddy, who we rescued as a newborn, orphan goat after his mother was killed by hunters, and that was many years ago. He’s now grown up to be the king of the herd. He’s a huge, black goat and still considers me his mother and still acts like my baby. And the picture of the goat on the bumper sticker was a young Freddy. And my kid is indeed a goat. May goats really. Yeah, my kid’s a goat.
Caryn Hartglass: So you have a fascinating story. I don’t want to give it all away because I want people to read the book. But you went from a successful career, which you left, and found a way to start this sanctuary. And I now understand, when I got to the end of the book, I kind of find it a happy ending. But it’s an open-ended ending where you’re looking to buy the property back that you had owned and are looking for help, or support of Leilani Farm Sanctuary, so you can buy it back.
Laurelee Blanchard: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I just want to bring that out right away because I want people to know that here’s an opportunity to do something good.
Laurelee Blanchard: Well thank you. We appreciate that support.
Caryn Hartglass: The thing about sanctuaries, what makes them so special, I think, is…there are, I mean we know, how many billions of animals are tortured every year from birth until death until they end up on someone’s plate as what some people consider food. And occasionally one or another are liberated from some very harrowing circumstances as you describe in your book. And they end up in a sanctuary such as yours, and they are able to live out their life. And you get to know them, and they have wonderful personalities and character. And they do amazing things. We can’t save all of them. But here’s an opportunity. Now you have tours. People can meet these individuals and think about making changes in their life. And that’s what makes sanctuaries the most important, I think.
Laurelee Blanchard: Yes, indeed. And inspiring people to rethink their food choices is a major part of our mission. And when people come to visit the farm, we ask them to really open their hearts and to allow themselves to feel a connection with these animals, and to see them as individuals with personalities, and to regard them as individuals rather than a meal. And we hear over and over again from visitors who follow up and tell us that the last day that they consumed an animal product is the day that they visited the animals at Leilani Farm Sanctuary. And that is truly the highest compliment anybody can ever pay me, to tell me that because of my influence or inspiration, that they have made the decision to live their life and make food choices in harmony with their ethics.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to just touch on one or two of the stories that you talked about. And I think my favorite was the one about Bernie the wild pig.
Laurelee Blanchard: Oh, the pig. Bernie.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, Bernie. So we have a feeling about wild animals, animals in the wild versus the ones that we have domesticated. And pigs really have a, wild pigs, have a scary reputation. Can you tell us about Bernie?
Laurelee Blanchard: Yes, Bernie is a wild pig who found his way to the sanctuary up from the gulch behind the property. And what happened was one evening around sunset I was standing on the porch petting the cat when suddenly I heard some unfamiliar pig sounds. Some oinks and grunts and snorts. And I walked out past the papaya trees and into the animal paddock where I saw Kea, our rescue female pig, engaged in an animated conversation with a young, wild boar on the opposite side of the fence. So I approached very carefully and watched from a distance to avoid scaring away Kea’s cute suitor, and I saw that he was really interacting with the farm. He was following the donkey along the fence line, and it really appeared that he wanted to be part of the animal family. So I went out there the next morning, and he was gone. No sign of Bernie. But then the next evening, there he was again. He was back. So I tried to get closer to him each time I saw him, but he was quite shy. And I realized that we really needed to get him into the sanctuary very quickly so that we could, number one, get him neutered before he got huge and busted in impregnated Kea. But, even more importantly, before hunters or dogs killed him. So I spent many sleepless nights worrying about Bernie. And one day I saw him with the chickens. He had somehow managed to come up the driveway, and I decided to give him some chicken food to warm him up a bit, soften up his resistance. And while he was eating the chicken food, I decided to pet him. And he was so engrossed in the food, he is a pig after all, that he let me pet his bristly hair on his back and before long, he was letting me give him belly rubs. I made an appointment with our veterinarian to come over and neuter Bernie, and the biggest challenge was getting him into a small paddock where we could administer an injection to anesthetize him before the surgery. But we managed to do that, and he was completely unconscious during the operation. And before he awakened, I fetched a wheelbarrow, and put him in the wheelbarrow, and wheeled him into the sanctuary where all the other animals are. And when he woke up, there he was, surrounded by all his animal friends. He’s been a fantastic ambassador to the sanctuary because indeed, like you say, he has to dispel the myth that the wild pigs are mean and vicious. Because Bernie, he does not have a mean bone in his body, He’s absolutely the sweetest pig on the entire farm. When I call him, he comes running. He follows me all around the farm. He’s huge now. He’s gigantic, but as gentle as a lamb. The deer boss him around. He’s not the boss of any animal here. Every animal manages to intimidate Bernie. He’s real sweet with the cats. The cats ride around on his back; they get piggy back rides. We have pictures to prove it. And he’s even great with visitors. Small kids, three years old, can walk right up and give him a kiss on the snout.
Caryn Hartglass: Of course you’ll never know what Bernie’s life was like before he came to your sanctuary. But I’m curious about why a wild pig would want to leave his own environment, family and friends, and come to your little Garden of Eden. And maybe Bernie was bullied. Maybe Bernie lost his family and friends. You don’t know. Do you?
Laurelee Blanchard: I have a strong guess, and my guess is that hunters killed his mother.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, yeah. That happens.
Laurelee Blanchard: So I’m really the only mother he’s ever known.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I love hearing the background noise coming through with the hens crowing, the roosters crowing. It’s a very peaceful sound.
Laurelee Blanchard: Thank you. I love it. People ask me how I can tolerate all these roosters crowing all day long, and the truth is, it’s music to my ears. I love it. And I don’t have any trouble sleeping in the morning. In fact, it’s white noise. If there wasn’t the sound of roosters, I might have difficulty sleeping.
Caryn Hartglass: So, what can people do to help? Because I understand from reading that you had owned the sanctuary, and people can read the details about what happened. But then you had this wonderful couple come through and buy the property, and you leased it from them, and now you’re looking to buy it back. So what can people do to help?
Laurelee Blanchard: People can come visit us. They can go to our website, which is leilanifarmsanctuary.org and order the book. And hopefully it will be an entertaining and inspiring read. We’ve received some wonderful endorsements, and the books are flying off the shelf. So that’s a good sign.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, great.
Laurelee Blanchard: Or they can make a donation directly through our website, which would be very much appreciated. Everyone who donates receives a very special handwritten card with a photograph of the rescued animals. And most importantly, to help the largest number of animals, beyond Leilani Farm Sanctuary is transition away from eating them, eating animal products. By rejecting animal products, eliminating the eggs and dumping the dairy, we can save the largest number of animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Amen to that! That’s what I talk about day and night.
Laurelee Blanchard: Yeah, we get it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, we definitely get it. Fantastic. Well, like I said, I really enjoyed reading the book, and I’d like to say it’s important to look into the eyes of a non-human animal. I like to do that whenever I have the opportunity. I like to look them in the eye and kind of share the message, “I don’t eat you. I won’t eat you.” And there’s a special connection, and I think some of the photos enable you to simulate that to some degree because there’s some really lovely pictures where you can actually see their eyes. And the eyes tell us so much; they tell us so many stories. And looking into the eyes of some of these precious beings, you know there’s so much going on in their thoughts, and their minds, so much feeling, so much life.
Laurelee Blanchard: Absolutely, and one of the things that we like to do on the farm tour is when we bring visitors into the, we have a huge chicken aviary, it’s 2400 square feet, which is three times the size of my cottage. And we invite the visitors to, while they’re cuddling the chickens, to look them in the eye and hold them close to their heart so they can feel their heartbeats. And many visitors have told us that after looking into the eyes of the chickens, they can no longer consume them.
Caryn Hartglass: Look at that. Yeah, looking into the eye of the chicken, most people can’t imagine it. But just do it. A live chicken, please. A chicken that is able to roam free. Look into their eyes, and then see if you can eat them.
Laurelee Blanchard: People are also surprised to discover how cuddly chickens are. Chickens are a lot like cats in that they actually enjoy being cuddled and pat, especially if they’re handled as young chicks. We have many who we rescued as tiny, newly hatched peeps who’d become separated from their mothers and got to the sanctuary. And the ones who are handled a lot as babies, they grow up to crave human attention.
Caryn Hartglass: The older ones don’t necessarily look like the cuddliest.
Laurelee Blanchard: Oh, if they’ve been cuddled as babies, they are very cuddly. In fact, we have one big rooster who was rescued as a newly hatched peep by an animal rights activist, Linda Levine. And she had this rooster, this baby chicken, with her 24 hours a day for, I think it was, six to eight months before bringing him to Leilani Farm Sanctuary. And that rooster has grown up to be such a cuddler. And after a few months of not seeing him, she came and visited. She’s on a different island, she’s on Oahu. But she came to the sanctuary for her birthday, brought a big crew of friends from Oahu to volunteer, and she went into the aviary, and that guy really recognized her. And they had such a wonderful reunion. They just sat and cuddled for nearly an hour.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’m thinking that some of these stories, like some of the chapters that are specific about how you rescued an animal, they might make great children’s stories too because children love hearing about animals. I don’t want to give all the stories away, but there are wonderful adventures in this story where you were almost arrested and put in handcuffs and other stories where you really risked your life trying to save chickens and roosters that were brought up in horrible situations for livestock purposes.
Laurelee Blanchard: I trespassed into the cockfighting operation.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know how you had the courage to do any of that.
Laurelee Blanchard: Well, my courage kind of ran out when I heard the gun shots firing.
CH: I don’t want to give all those stories away because I want people to get the book, read it, Finding Paradise: Leilani Farm Sanctuary of Maui. And Laurelee, it was a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for everything that you are doing for the animals, and I wish you all the best.
Laurelee Blanchard: Thank you for the wonderful radio show that you have and for all that you’re doing for the animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you.
Laurelee Blanchard: And I really appreciated being included as your guest.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, it was an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much, Laurelee.
We just have a few minutes left, and I made a list. I always make long lists of things I want to talk about, and then I run out of time. And let’s see how far I go. Okay. A couple of things, you know I haven’t gotten political lately. And just because I don’t talk politics on the show doesn’t mean I haven’t been political, and I wanted to invite you, if you haven’t been, to a website called indivisibleguide.com. Today is the #Kill the Bill action, and there are events going on all over the country. If you have any time today you might go to indivisibleguide.com, check out their Kill the Bill Day of Action, put in your zip code, and find out what’s going on in your neighborhood. Fortunately, the Trumpcare doesn’t look like it’s doing too well. And hopefully we’ll be able to move towards improving the Affordable Care Act and go towards a single payer system for everyone. That’s what I’d like, but we’ve got a long way to go. So Kill the Bill. There’s that.
Another thing I wanted to mention, I had Eunice Wong on the program several weeks ago, and we talked about her book What the Health, which is based on the film, What the Health, and What the Health was released on Netflix on June 16th. I don’t know if you’ve had a change to watch it. I have. I enjoyed the film. There’s all kinds of comments about it in the vegan world. We tend to get very polarized in the vegan world. Some people say that some of the facts were cherry-picked and that some of the facts are over the top. I think overall, what’s great about this movie is people get the message that plant foods are healthy and the way our food industry works today is not. And that’s what I really like about the film. And I encourage you to watch it. You can either go to the What the Health film website and purchase viewing the film; I think it’s $9.99. Or if you have a Netflix subscription, you can see it there. But one thing that I really love about it is that I like to look at the traffic at my personal, non-profit website responsibleleeatingandliving.com. I use Google Analytics and some other tools. And since the film has been released on Netflix, the traffic on our site has gone up like crazy. And I know it’s due to the film because some people write me and ask about how to transition to a vegan diet since they’ve seen the film What the Health. Also, several people that are featured in the film, like my friend and colleague Dr. Milton Mills, who I interviewed recently this year and five years ago, his interview which is archived on the REAL site, lots of people have been accessing that. And it’s just going up and up and up, and I’m very, very excited about that.
A couple more things. I have some events featured on the Responsible Eating and Living site, and it’s up at the top of the page in the slider. There are these 2Forks events. The Forks Over Knives people are putting that together, and there is one coming up in August at the Esselstyn Family Farm. If you want to know more about that, visit my site responsibleeatingandliving.com and click on the slider there that has the “2Forks event for 2017.” If you’re nearby in New York, you won’t want to miss that one.
And the last thing, I might have to save this or pick it up next week because I’m running out of time, is mac n’ cheese. Maybe you’ve heard about mac n’ cheese in the news. But there was a study that showed that most of the processed cheese products out there on the market, especially those used for macaroni and cheese products, are loaded with phthalates. Phthalates, if you can even say the word without spitting, they are endocrine disruptors. They are not healthy for us. And they are not actually put in the food. They are in the packaging of the food, and they somehow have leeched themselves into processed cheese products, which is really frightening. And so, just for those of you who don’t want phthalate in your mac n’ cheese, and you still want to eat mac n’ cheese, we have a great mac n’ cheese recipe for you. It’s dairy-free, of course, and phthalate-free. And it’s funny because so many people are clicking on this recipe because I know people love their mac n’ cheese. It’s right there, responsibleeatingandliving.com on our homepage.
Yes, so much more I want to talk about, but I think I’m going to leave it for next week because I just have a few seconds left. Right? Anyway, I want to thank you for joining me and for being there. You can always find me at email@example.com. I love your comments and questions, and I hope you write in, especially if you’ve seen the film What the Health, and you want to know how to transition to a healthy, plant-based diet and go vegan. We can help you at Responsible Eating and Living. All of the information on our website is free. We’ve got hundreds of recipes. All of my interviews here on It’s All About Food, our archive, our transcribed. Easy to use information. Thanks for listening to me. I’m Caryn Hartglass. This has been It’s All About Food. Have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Melissa Rumley, 7/24/2017