Linda Long, Vegan in Kuwait
Linda Long has had a lifelong relationship with the food industry, starting as a waitress and short order cook at the age of 12 in her parents’ truck stop in Pennsylvania. A home economist who taught high school foods in the early part of her career, and spending a decade in the resort hotel business, Linda has been a committed vegan for over 30 years.
Long has had a varied career in the academic, corporate and media communities, with a strong emphasis in fashion, food and nutritional topics. She writes and photographs for vegetarian magazines, including Vegetarian Journal, American Vegan, VegNews and book covers for other authors. She is the author of Great Chefs Cook Vegan, and Virgin Vegan.
She is a member of the James Beard Foundation (JBF), International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), Women Chefs & Restaurants (WCR), New York Women’s Culinary Alliance (NYWCA) and American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass. It’s time for It’s All About Food, how are you today? I’m sitting here in Monte Sereno California. It’s a lovely day. I’m looking out the window. I see squirrels romping around and crawling up on trees and it’s a nice peaceful image. Although, I’m not really feeling very peaceful inside because of everything that is going on in the world today, but it’s good to take a moment to see the good; focus on it a little bit and work on expanding it to a larger space all around us. So one of the good things we are going to talk about today is travelling and sharing our ideas with people around the world and I have a wonderful guest who’s going to be telling us about her travels recently to Kuwait and the surrounding areas. I have my guest Linda Long she’s a dear friend and she’s the author of two books we’ve talked about both of them here on It’s All About Food, Great Chefs Cook Vegan which was ground-breaking at the time and still is and her how to be vegan book, Virgin Vegan. Linda has a lifelong relationship with the food industry starting as a waitress, a short order cook, at the age of twelve at her parent’s truck stop in Pennsylvania; a home economist who taught high school foods in the early part of her career and spending a decade in the resort hotel business. Linda’s been a committed vegan for a long time. Welcome to It’s All About Food Linda, thank you so much for taking the time today to talk with me.
Linda Long: Well, I’m happy to be on the phone with you; thinking about California, it’s snowing in New York City.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, I read about that and you know it’s not the California that everyone thinks of. It’s a nice day today but it has been cold and wet. Which is a good thing because the water reservoirs and everywhere where people get their water from around here have now been I think sufficiently replenished.
Linda Long: Yes, I’m not sure how much we needed this in New York City but it was pretty to look at. I think it’s stopped now and of course in New York it takes a real blizzard for it to remain on the sidewalk very long.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right, yea, I bet it’s all gone by now.
Linda Long: It’s all gone, it’s all gone.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s been a pretty warm winter anyway.
Linda Long: It has, but I’m on the tenth floor and it’s lovely to look out sometimes. The building across from me has a line of pine trees, so the snow will settle on that. I look down on their awning, which is a very pretty design, and I’m right at the Hudson River I can see, even though the snow disappears from the street I can still see evidence of it. It’s nice because I don’t have to do anything about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Evidence! It’s not an alternative fact there was indeed snow in New York.
Linda Long: Right! It makes me feel like making hot chocolate, you know?
Caryn Hartglass: Oh! Nice! We’ll get to that later. Okay, so you had a wonderful opportunity recently and I want to hear all about it because frankly I haven’t heard much about it. You filled up my whatsapp for quite a long time while you were there with wonderful pictures and stories and I just want to hear so much more about everything. So first let’s talk about the opportunity, how you got there?
Linda Long, Well, one of my dearest friends for a very very long time since the early 70’s became Sheikha Paula Al Sabah the wife of the oldest son of the former Emir of Kuwait, Mubarak Al Sabah. We were all in our 20’s living in the same building in Manhattan on 86th and 2nd so that’s how long we’ve known each other and of course the years go by and we all have our lives and she eventually had 6 children and just had her 14th grandchild while I was visiting.
It was quite a fabulous time. It was right at the last week I was there. Born was little Gigi who had a full head of black hair that shocked everybody and she hasn’t lost any of it. I just saw updated photographs because I left there December 8th and now my friend is in New York in her New York apartment and she showed me some updated photos yesterday. So it’s very much like family to be there and but it’s also quite luxurious and beautiful and the palace they live in was designed by my friend and so all her touches are everywhere. Even when she lived in the New York apartment I could always see that she had a wonderful touch for interior design and so I’m sure at time she never thought that one day she would be building a palace but she has. She’s always had the ability of doing things that are very very elegant yet so comfortable.
No matter how beautiful it is you still feel like you can take your shoes off and just kick back so that’s a wonderful decorating point of view I think to have.
Caryn Hartglass: Yay, wow! I loved all the pictures.
Linda Long: Well, you were in the New York apartment so you know.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes I was very fun, very colorful, very comfortable, you’re right. Now let’s talk about why you were there giving vegan classes?
Linda Long: Well, when she was visiting, we all got together to cook in her apartment and then later on; she’s been vegan a long time and she just came up with the idea. It kind of came out of nowhere she said to me, “maybe you should come to Kuwait and teach some vegan cooking classes” and that’s how it started. You know how many things like that start, it’s just a moment of time and a thought bursts and she actually made it happen and I said “oh I would love to” plus I had not seen any of her grandchildren, well I had seen some of her grandchildren who had visited New York but only 3 or 4 of them so it was just a wonderful opportunity. So I started thinking about what classes I could teach and she started thinking about where it could be held then she talked to her daughters there. One who is a trained chef herself her fourth daughter and trained in New York. So many people in Kuwait come here for High School and College or part of high school or at least college and New York, Boston and then also London and Paris and for many many decades now and so they all speak English and then of course Arabic as well but it’s very westernized there and out of the 3.9 population only about a 3rd are Kuwaitis.
So the mixed element is quite big there. A lot of the workers are from India but there is so many executives for business and so it was just so pleasant to have a thought germinate here and then really have it happen.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely! I’m looking at a map and for those who aren’t quite sure where Kuwait is; I just want to give you an image. It’s a tiny little place and it is right in the middle of Iraq and Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Those are the countries that it borders which we hear a lot about in the news these days.
Linda Long: Right, it is a small little country right on the Gulf.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I said it was bordered with Qatar it doesn’t.
Linda Long:…mostly Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Linda Long: But it was wonderful to look at in my room window and see the beach and their private marina with some lovely boats. The sunset coming up and the sunset going down over the Gulf it was truly truly magnificent setting so when I say it’s right on the Gulf it really is, it’s right on the edge.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you spend a lot of time preparing for you classes. I know because I remember getting some of the emails. The first thing I remember when I gave courses in Brazil at a vegetarian conference one of my challenges that I didn’t think of in advanced was that they didn’t have all the ingredients that I needed in my recipes. I imagine that happened to you.
Linda Long: The only thing that happened is that they didn’t; they had never heard of seitan or tempeh. Tofu was very common and there were sources for even homemade tofu but and I had never made tempeh. I remember being down on the farm in Tennessee.
Where Louise Haggler lives and she was very well known in the beginning especially in the beginning of the days 30 years ago, 40 years ago now and I watched her make it; tempeh in a plastic bag and I had thought “oh you know it’s so simple it just takes time”
We are so spoiled in New York we can just buy anything everywhere and so it just never seemed worth it to me to ever make it but I wish I would have learned. That’s the one thing I regret, I wish I would have learned how to make it; that I was actually making it myself and not remembering how I saw someone else do it 30 years ago and because as soon as I discovered they didn’t have it there and they never heard of it then I was left with showing them a picture in Virgin Vegan of which can you believe I taught 7 classes and I didn’t remember until the last class that I had a photograph of it in my book.
And so I had to be describing what tempeh was and of course seitan. I taught them how to make that.
Caryn Hartglass: Great!
Linda Long: Because that is very simple to make and then I found that Bob’s Red Mill products are available there at a supermarket chain called Sultan Markets and the granddaughter or the daughter, might have been the daughter of one of the creators of the supermarkets actually came to my classes and oh lovely person and at night when I was in my room and “I would start to think oh my goodness I wonder where to get this I wonder if they have it at the Sultan’s Market” so I always had everyone write their emails down when they came into class and so I thought “oh, let me text Yasmine Sultan and she’ll tell me if it’s in her families stores”. Sure enough she was such a great help in the evening especially. We had a lovely back and forth but it was a pure delight. We had planned on 6 classes over the month of November and it turned out that one class there was only one person who had signed up for it and so what we learned early on and we didn’t know where to stick another class in but somebody in the household said “oh well I don’t cook but I wish my cook can come”.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s funny.
Linda Long: You know because all the major households have their own cooks. Of course the palace where I was staying is almost a hotel. It’s run like a hotel and it has a huge kitchen. A huge kitchen staff, I think it’s a 23 person staff for the palace but I’m not quite sure exactly how many. Some are cooks some are servers but we didn’t know what to do because we didn’t; they didn’t think that it would be a good idea to mix the cooks up with the other students for whatever reason. I didn’t ask and so it’s only one person signed up for one class. They simple called her up and asked her to choose a different day so that we could use that slot for the cooks and it turned out to be my favorite class because there were 10. 10 signed to come and it ended up being 9 I think but they were so in tune. I could do things so much faster and say so many things because I didn’t have to tell them so many of the well you do this you do this, you know it was they just knew already. I made Miyoko’s butter and I had one of my helpers, well he was Indian, I guess he spoke English, but it was a dialect I didn’t understand and he could barely understand me but we got along great, 2 of the young men for the month and I had them put out the trays with everything to make the butter for the next day and I had made that butter almost in every class because everyone was shocked at how so quickly with some coconut oil you could make butter.
Caryn Hartglass: Right and it’s good!
Linda Long: Yes! Oh it’s good and you can control the salt you put in it and or no salt whatever you want. So it didn’t turn out for the cooks’ class.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh no!
Linda Long: This is about the fourth time I made it in front of the classes so I still to this day don’t know why that didn’t work out. The only thing I could think of is that maybe he used the virgin coconut oil and was supposed to use the refined. I don’t know if that made a difference but nonetheless but because it was the cooks class they just laughed because they have tons of stuff that doesn’t work out too and but they believe me that they really could make it.
Caryn Hartglass: Now the Indians were they naturally vegetarian or did they eat and make everything?
Linda Long: No, they were not vegetarians but they were so enchanted by everything that I made and they were so eager to taste it. In fact when I left I made sure that my 2 helpers had copies of each class recipes because they had worked so long and hard. I mean sometimes we were there 10 and 12 hours a day either prepping or shopping or setting up or teaching the class or breaking down and getting ready for the next class. People who don’t do it don’t understand how much time is involved in the planning and executing and then the actual doing it. So they just were so wonderful in helping me set up demo trays but they just hung on every word I said. I mean they really tried to understand me I guess, but it was also wonderful that they’re trained to be in service and so I barely finished with measuring spoons that one of them wasn’t grabbing them from me and taking them to the sink. I mean it was phenomenal. They were so in tune with anything I needed and when I was ready to have them serve samples of the food maybe we made the day before or it was something we just made. They were just so efficient. I mean it was a pure delight.
You really get to see how people are trained to be in these sorts of jobs. I mean service jobs I’m always enchanted with because my family; you know I grew up in a restaurant and I know what it’s like to be a waitress and a short order cook in the kitchen and I always think they are never paid enough so I never care how much someone is being paid. I just know it’s not enough.
Caryn Hartglass: Right and it’s not easy work.
Linda Long: Oh, it’s tiresome. Your brain is got to be working at every moment. You’ve got to be paying attention also to the thinking of whomever you are servicing and be there ready. It’s a talent. It’s a talent; you’ve got to be really good at it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, that’s right a lot of people can’t do that work; cannot. So you made seitan, what else did you make butter and what other dishes and what did people really like?
Linda Long: Ok, well let me tell you the dishes that I made, I mean the names of the classes so you understand.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Linda Long: So I decided to go Luscious Breakfast and Brunches that was the first class. Now some people came to every class or almost every class, some people only came to one. Some came to; wanted to come to all of them because it’s in the middle of the day it was very difficult either with work or with children or everyone is very busy and all of the people has their own professional work. I did have a couple of nutritionists come which was wonderful and they were willing to come to one class but then they were so enchanted I think where they learned a lot so they actually arranged to come to a second class, which I think their company was paying for them.
They were so lovely and just offered wonderful information. Plus I was using a convection oven and I’d never used one before. I just never had access to a convection oven and so I had a little chart. When you are demoing you don’t want to stop and look at the chart and for some reason just in that moment I couldn’t remember how to put 350 and make it the convection temperatures and one of the nutritionists was quick to tell me it was the same and I said “oh thank you” so it was a very congenial feeling. So we did Luscious Breakfast and Brunches then I did a Flavorful Burgers, Sandwiches and Spreads and I must share the burger recipe with you because it was such a huge hit that we ended up making it in the palace for some of the other dishes. We even had it as an option for Thanksgiving.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow!
Linda Long: They have a large glass table with a lazy Susan in the middle and every; they only have one meal a day prepared that’s at 2:30 and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It is at the palace and anybody can come that they know. It’s kind of a standing invitation or whomever Mubarak might be meeting with that day he’ll invite them to the palace for lunch so they always set up for at least 16 or 20 people and they have about 50 dishes prepared every day.
But the breakfast was brought to my room. I planned what I wanted they would bring the breakfast tray. I just called when I was ready for it and then you kind of took a mental note as to what the lunch dishes were because there were so many choices and you just didn’t have everything so that you might then tell your maid for the evening what you might like brought to your room or sometimes we were in this beautiful cinema and they would just bring food. Whoever was in the cinema they would just bring; many times it was just Paula and me.
We would look at international CNN and then we would also look at movies and so they just bring the food to the table and we each had our individual little stand in front of us so we would just get up and eat but it was just basically things we that we had eaten from about 2:30 to about 4 o’clock and we always sat outside by the swimming pool for dessert but then outside they have a big rotunda beside the pool that is a big wooden lazy Susan and so we had Thanksgiving out there and then we have a side buffet to boot besides all of that. It’s just astounding the beauty of eating there and everyone is so friendly. You just sit wherever you want and they have so many children around. Fridays is always the family lunch and with the 6 children now grown and all have children themselves. Finally the youngest one had the first child when I was there and Gigi I mentioned.
And so the children have a little side table very much like Thanksgiving in the United States you put the children off to the side but sometimes if they wanted to they could sit at the big round wooden table with the big lazy Susan in the middle as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Is anyone else in the family vegan aside from Paula?
Linda Long: No, but they are not adverse to it and they tend to try to eat as much in that direction as maybe more than a lot of people I would think in Kuwait because there is; they spend a lot of time in the United States. They have a big apartment here and they all graduated college here or London. One daughter is in London. So the burger recipe that was a huge hit that had everything but the kitchen sink in it but it had tempeh in it as well, so I used chickpeas instead because it had a similar texture.
So I just served Paula 2 days ago the burger with the tempeh in it. She wanted some in the freezer and she wanted some in the refrigerator but oh my goodness it has rice and beans and it truly; tofu and mushrooms, I mean is has everything, truly it is a huge list but I adapted it from a New York Times vegetable burger from oh my goodness I think it’s 3 years ago now Melissa Clark and I kind of doctored it up a little myself. It also has barbeque sauce in it and a little liquid smoke and I got to give it to you. You’ve got to try it.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, you can make it for me sometime.
Linda Long: Okay! Then strangely the most popular class that I thought would have the least interest was Healthy Soups, Salads and Dressings. I thought I put that in there and I thought well maybe I should just add a soup to one of the other classes or I thought no one’s going to want it but that turned out to be the most popular one and then one of Paula’s daughters Bebe said “well I just thought about what would I utilize the most like what would I more likely want to make every day or something to think about” and for her it was soups salads and dressings.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I think too. When people think about soup and salad and dressings, when they are not comfortable in the kitchen or not that creative, it’s boring and they want to know what they can do that’s different.
Linda Long: Yes, and soup to me, I think it’s the most creative thing because you get the flavors right, in Virgin Vegan I have; there is 2 Virgin Vegan’s out but mine is the Meatless Guide to Pleasing your Palate and of course with my name on it. One of the most popular recipes in there is creamy red lentil soup with cashew nut cream and it is delicious.
I just used a bouillon cube like a Rapunzel bouillon cube because it has herbs and salt and has so many flavors in itself and I like it better than making my own broth even. I like it better than buying a vegetable broth and of course it’s the easiest thing to do. So I made that and that was a big hit. Then I was going to do Innovative Meat Alternatives but I ended up doing parts of that class just for the cooks and I did make the un-ribs with barbeque sauce again from Miyoko Schinner and one of her recipes and what a success. I even, because we were taking a little side trip to Dubai, I realized that the left over; it was really a seitan beefy type seitan with barbeque sauce wasn’t going to last and I somehow didn’t want to freeze it so I gave it to the helpers. I said please take it back to the kitchen at the palace and let the cooks taste it along with the chef there and they told me later that they just gave them the platter and they all ate it thinking it was really beef.
Caryn Hartglass: Mm!
Linda Long: They really did not know because I ended up making a mistake. I have to tell Miyoko Schinner when I see her; you were supposed to use 2 cups I think it was, of vital gluten flour.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Linda Long: We got to talking and I put one cup in so it got a lot more spongy. It’s almost like a brisket, that very soft beef that would be, but with this strong barbecue sauce. I used Candle 79 barbecue sauce that I have also in Virgin Vegan, with their permission. And they just loved it and I mean truly I loved it too. To me it was the best meat alternative I’ve actually ever tasted. I hardly ever made seitan in my life again because we are so spoiled here in New York City you just pull it off the shelf. I would make this again and each time I only put half the flour in.
Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s really good to know you’ll have to make the recipe twice one your new way and one Miyoko’s way and see which one you like better.
Linda Long: Yes I made the chicken version one before I left and it got very, very stiff and chewy. And then I thought; I even made a mental note and she’s mentioned in her recipe that if it gets too chewy then you know the next time use less flour. Well I didn’t just use less flour I used half and it wasn’t my plan so when I did the recipe again while I was still there. Again I just used half the recipe. Then I did creative dairy alternative and the cheeses oh my goodness the feta, chevre, ricotta. I had 2 different chevres I rolled one in za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern spice.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I love that, you know I like that.
Linda Long: Yea, z-a’a-t-a-r, they use it so much there. Paula told me how the kids grown up there would just put it on their toast in the morning too. And so I decided to roll one of the chevre; well I cut it in half the log. The log of chevre that I made I cut in half and I put half of it in za’atar and then I rolled half in finely diced parsley and chives and so those were a great hit and I did ricotta. I did Matthew Kenny’s recipe he sent it to me himself that he serves in his restaurant and teaches in his raw culinary schools the lemon ricotta.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow!
Linda Long: Then I had eaten in 00, his pizza place down in 2nd avenue and 4th street and he serves a smoky ricotta with one of the pizzas and I thought my goodness how could I make that smoky ricotta and I emailed him and I didn’t hear back but I also then learned that he was in Australia or something and I guess anyway, I thought how can I make that work. I said ok smoky a little liquid smoke and I said yes but it looked very salmon colored when I was having it at the restaurant and so I thought well a little tomato paste. Don’t you know, it worked perfectly and turned out to be Paula’s favorite.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow! That’s great!
Linda Long: So I just made all these cheeses for her here including a Gorgonzola that I had not made in Kuwait. I learned how to make it once I got back so I just gave her all those two days ago and she emailed me to say half of them are gone. She’s eaten half of them already but here’s the thing when I was there I was in what I call a cookhouse it was just a location not on the property but about 5 minutes away by car. I just refer it to as a cookhouse but it was a very very nice house. I had a large kitchen where we could do these classes and she phoned me and she said could you please create a cheese board. My friend from Paris is here visiting and she refuses to believe you could ever have cheese made out of nuts and of course with the feta I used almonds. I used most of these recipes from Miyoko Schinner but not all of them. I mentioned Matthew Kenny too. The chevre was from macadamias, ricotta was from almonds and I did Matthew’s aged cashew cheese and I flavored it with garlic and dill weed, which you could flavor it anyway you want. Let your mind go crazy and so I made this cheese board out of about 7 different things. 7 different cheeses and the driver came and got it and took it back to the palace and I hadn’t heard because she took the platter home with her. Well, the next day or the day after she came to one of the lunches I told you about earlier and she went on and on about the cheese in her very thick French accent.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh mon dieu! Incroyable!
Linda Long: She said “had nobody told me that this wasn’t cheese from the cow or goat, I would have never known” and she said “I try to keep telling everybody that yes I’m eating cheese made from nuts and it tastes just like cheese” and she said “nobody believes me”.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, they will over time they will.
Linda Long: Yea, then I made; the last class was Decadent Desserts and of course I had to make Fran Costigan’s chocolate cake to live for with the chocolate ganache.
Caryn Hartglass: Which she has made for so many times for you.
Linda Long: Six years in a row and then this past year, my birthday is December 14th I got back on the 8th and she was gone. She had a trip and wasn’t going to get back until the day after my birthday for whatever it was. Anyway, I had to make my own cake this year but I made it because I can’t be without it. I can’t have; it’s as though my birthday hasn’t happened if I don’t have Fran Costigan’s chocolate cake. It’s got to be; so I swear if I would happen to die some year on my birthday I want everyone to have Fran Costigan’s cake. It’s the chocolate cake to live for on my birthday celebration. I want anyone at the funeral, you know just have the cake and celebrate me. Then I also made ice creams and they just loved them I made one with churned. I made a pumpkin pie ice cream and then I made a golden milk ice cream as they call it. You can make that golden milk with cardamom and turmeric and things but I made it into an ice cream.
Then I made an unchurned chocolate ice cream and some options for flavoring additionally I was so tempted for peanut butter because there is nothing in life I love more than those two flavors together but it mentioned espresso and here I was; the helpers every day. There was a class who had this elaborate coffee and tea service set up for everybody and it was Arabic coffee and Arabic tea regular American coffee and espresso and so I thought oh the espresso, we have espresso right here so I made a chocolate espresso. Oh my goodness everybody loved it and that was an unchurned one because I wanted them to know that you could make ice cream even if you don’t have a machine.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right, easy!
Linda Long: Something other than a frozen banana in a blender.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow!
Linda Long: Anyway I could go on and on and it was just so much fun and then they do have a vegan restaurant. Two people who came have restaurants there that I thought was lovely too because they know their growing interest.
There is a big diabetes and heart issue there because of obesity and I mean almost 70% of their population I hear is overweight.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, is that worse than here?
Linda Long: Ah well I read the statistics and I think it’s 70% with men and 80% women overweight there.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh wow!
Linda Long: There’s a big interest. I mean I didn’t have to convince anybody about this. They were eager to learn. They were eager to know and I think that’s why Paula thought it would be a success too, because she herself has eaten in a very plant based focused way for so many years and she’s had to answer all these questions as well as to why she’s eating this way and they were interested and they want to know how do you do it and what do I make for lunch, what do I make for dinner. Oh I had a lovely time when I did the breakfast class, Paula came in and actually she acted as the sign in secretary for the first class it was much fun. I took pictures of her at the entrance desk working hard for me and so at the end of that class I did in Virgin Vegan I had the chocolate stuffed French toast.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yea.
Linda Long; So she said Linda you have to make this for my 2 grand-daughters who come every Saturday morning to spend with their grandmother and we play spy and we play dress-up so we always do something fun and she said we’ve got to make this together; the chocolate stuffed French toast. Well, they were pure delights because well the palace has 7 kitchens.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow!
Linda Long: Ones a really big one of course, like a big industrial hotel kitchen but then there is what they call service kitchens but one of them is really well equipped and it’s just right upstairs from the main kitchen and so we got that all set up and then my 2 helpers that actually helped me during the classes they saw what I was going to do so they just automatically came up to help and the 2 little girls we put aprons on them. It was so cute when it came time when you had to dip the bread in the milk, cinnamon, maple syrup mixture for 10 seconds and I said do you know what 10 seconds are well they knew the 1 Mississippi, the 2 Mississippi and so they were just beyond adorable and so we got the chocolate and they did the whole thing. I did nothing. I forget their ages quite now I think maybe around 7 and 9 roughly or 6 and 9 and give or take and so I felt like another class and then there was such a nice response from the classes that remember I told you that Paula’s one daughter is a trained chef?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Linda Long: She trained here in New York and the youngest graduate from culinary school in Paris. She said “Linda I really want you to add a class and I just want to bring my friends, it’ll just be me and my friends” and so I was thrilled to add that class but then I did that the day I was supposed to leave and Mubarak actually noticed about halfway through the month that I was just not doing anything in Kuwait. All I was doing was just working and he said “Linda don’t you think you should extend your trip?” “You won’t see anything of Kuwait except the supermarket and the cookhouse in the palace” and so I said “that might be a great idea.” It’s good I did because that gave me time then to do this extra class for Missy and also to be there for the birth of Gigi, which was very special yea, the information is very much received there.
Caryn Hartglass: Amazing! Now you prepared all kinds of wonderful foods and I know everyone learned quite a bit but what would they normally serve someone whose vegan in Kuwait? What’s some of their traditional foods?
Linda Long: Well, pesto is really popular. I was there for 5 weeks plus a day. After 3 weeks I said to the young women who was caring for me, I said “Mary-Lou I don’t want you to bring me pesto for the rest of my trip” because she couldn’t think of anything else to bring me for my supper basically then some pasta, although it was whole wheat with pesto on it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Linda Long: Along with; I mean I always had lots of things I could choose from I don’t mean to say that’s all I had but they make lovely lots and lots of vegetable dishes. The only problem is I remember having this beautiful carrot dish with a green in it. I’m trying to remember what the green was now. I don’t know if it was; it wasn’t spinach it was something stronger than that; anyway, but I was in the kitchen at one point and I happened to see them making it. They’re not cooking it in water at all it’s all cooked in oil, oil, oil, and more oil.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yes.
Linda Long: Paula said that it had been her biggest, biggest challenge is to get them to understand that they don’t have to be cooking with so much oil but they think that it glistens, it looks better and it’s just part of the culture and that was because she told me that I was then when the cooks class. I had the cooks’ class. I was able to tell them, I said “your dishes would shine through so much more, just use half the oil, try using half the oil and then maybe cut back to a quarter and your dishes would be even better” and I saw the one cook he was the oldest cook in the class. By oldest I mean maybe he was in his 50’s and I could see him shaking his head like oh yea I see what you mean and the rest were just kind of listening but I couldn’t miss his, he kind of got it, he could see it.
Caryn Hartglass: You have to go back and do a new oil class.
Linda Long: Yea that would be something wouldn’t it. No oil, no oil cooking, so when I would eat at the luncheon I would say to Paula, I said I see what you mean the oil they just don’t know how else basically to cook but I gave them, I passed around; we did Dr. Fuhrman’s, about 6 of his no-oil salad dressings.
I mean not the ones that you buy from him, but I mean we actually made them there, and then I passed the platter with things they could dunk into it like a little piece of bread or a cracker or I forget I think one day it was a few pieces of celery whatever so that they could taste each one of them and I didn’t tell any of them until the very end that did you notice that there is no oil in the salad dressing and the all had their idea of which one they like the best.
Then I served them a whole Caesar salad and made the parm out of sesame seeds and nutritional yeast which I had given my friend Paula I think it was last year or so and she always wanted to take bags back to Kuwait. Of course when I was there I made one out of walnuts; cashews I mean and also told him; I said you could make it with walnuts too. It’s a stronger flavor so just be thinking about what you are making it with and they loved that. In fact the one person came in the next class, she said “I made that Caesar salad for my family and nobody noticed that there was no oil in the dressing and they said they loved it and it was so flavorful.” They had the I call it the Parm sprinkle. You could call it whatever you want it, it’s just a Parmesan substitute.
Caryn Hartglass: Do they have nutritional yeast there or does Paula bring it from the States?
Linda Long: Ah, they had it at one place and it was in the organic section of one of the Sultan Markets I told you but we had to go into the center of Kuwait for it and but otherwise there was another place a supermarket that looked rather new to me. I forget the name of it now save, S-A-V-E I think is in the title but nonetheless I walked in and they had just gotten Daiya products in.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow!
Linda Long: And I think some Tofutti products too but I couldn’t get over, I was in such shock to see the Daiya products so I quickly bought a lot of them because even thought I was going to teach them how to make some of it anyway I thought it would be nice for them to see a store bought mayo or a store bought cheese or a store bought; just how it compares and I just forget now what all I got that was all ready-made and then they had an organic section as well so it was interesting and they were super inquisitive about coconut oil and the difference between virgin oil and the refined coconut oil.
I explained to them that the refined has the odor removed and then someone said that “oh yes but that’s probably chemically refined” or whatever and they were so relieved to find out no it’s done by steam and it’s just fine. It’s not adding any problems to anything and I don’t know if you know Carla Hall who is on The Chew it is a TV show here around noon time.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t.
Linda Long: It has chefs on it you know: Mario Batalli and Michael Simon and Dr. Oz’s daughter. Anyway, I was looking in the supermarket for coconut oil and I could not believe the only refined coconut oil I could find was one that had Carla Hall’s face on it. And somehow she got her face on the refined coconut oil in Kuwait and I took so many pictures of the shelf and of course I bought a whole ton of it to take for the classes and to leave in the palace and she lives in my area here. I see her on the street now and then. I’ve never had a conversation with her but we have said hello and so I can hardly wait to run into her the next time so I can pull my phone out and say you are big in Kuwait.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, she probably doesn’t even realize. You know I wanted to talk a little bit more about oil. I think it’s a really good point that brought up and we need to educate more about it. I remember when I lived in France in the early 90’s and I was a vegan then and I was always very grateful when people would invite me over and make meals for me but everything was always swimming in olive oil and I wasn’t even that aware then about how unhealthy oil is but it was way too much to taste and people were just used to eating so much oil and when you talk about the diabetes problem that has to be a part of it.
Linda Long: Oh yea and when I came back on the airlines the Kuwaiti airlines we were so few people on the airplane so everybody in the whole airplane had a least 3 or 4 seats that they could stretch out on which was quite amazing but they had 2 people that were bedridden that they brought on gurneys and set it up over several seats and put a tent around it because it’s very common. They come here to the United States for treatment and one of the two was severely obese and really dying of I think it was obesity I wasn’t able to really; I didn’t feel polite quizzing too much. But the man who sat across the aisle from me I noticed he kept getting up and getting a cooler out of the one closet and then we started talking and here it turned out that he has diabetes and he was rather a refined man and he was definitely overweight and we ended up chatting and talking and became so friendly through the entire trip and I was able to tell him all these things. What sites to look on and I told him to see Forks Over Knives film and I told him to look up Dr. Furhman’s books, Dr. Barnard’s, you know all those wonderful books out there about reversing diabetes and along with that reversing heart disease.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Linda Long: I asked him to go on and look at my videos because we should mention the 49 videos I did in connection to Virgin Vegan. You go on YouTube and just put in the search box “Virgin Vegan Linda Long” you and I did a wonderful video.
Caryn Hartglass: I remember on that windy day in Lincoln Center.
Linda Long: Yes, the plaza of Lincoln Center and it was so informative though Caryn to talk about you overcoming advanced ovarian and it was just so inspiring but I’d also interviewed Russell Simmons, Heather Mills and even my doorman who was a walking time bomb and he was so scared and he was going to have surgery on his knee and he was going to be out in 3 months and he caught me the day before he left for 3 months and said “you know Miss Long you’ve been talking to me for so long about proper eating, I’m going to be off for 3 months I think I could actually do it.” So I went to Fairway and his name was Steve Rush and I did a video with him and it’s on at YouTube, you just again “Virgin Vegan Linda Long” all 49 will come up, but if you know the name of Caryn Hartglass or Russell Simmons or Heather Mills or Dr. Barnard or Dr. Klapper. Oh I so encourage, please the best on dairy is Dr. Michael Klapper’s interview I did with him and of course it was also the athletes Brendan Brazier and Rich Roll and so on but anyway…
Caryn Hartglass: Your doorman, how did he fair?
Linda Long: Oh yes my doorman. Thank you I drew a complete blank. I got off on another limb of a tree I was climbing and I gave him a bag of groceries and I got his email and I wrote it all down on the email as to what I wanted him to do with this bag of groceries so that his wife could read it too and 3 months went by. I even lost track of how long he’d been out and suddenly I heard him coming across the lobby shouting my name and he said “oh I have something to tell you” he said “I went to the doctor because I had to go because we are members of the union you’ve got to have approval to come back to work and they did my blood pressure and my blood and everything and then they called me 2 days later and said you’ve got to come back we think that there is a problem” and so he got so scared and he went back and the nurse took his one arm blood pressure and she said “well let me try your other arm” and she took the other arm and then she said “ok you can go in to the doctor” and she followed him in and all the years she’s never come in to the doctor’s office with him and he said “that’s when I really got scared” and he said “my head just jerked up to see that she was still standing there” and she could see that he was concerned and she said “oh no I just got to hear this” and so the doctor looks at him and says “what have you been doing Steve” and now when I say walking time bomb I never heard of numbers this high for blood pressure and cholesterol.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow!
Linda Long: I didn’t even know you could still be walking around and not have a stroke and this guy is 38 years old or he was 35 at the time so he said “I have this lady in my building you know she’s vegan” and you are not going to believe what the doctor did and here Steve is so excited to tell me this and when he gets to this part I’m about to tell you, his shoulders drop and his eyes fall to the floor and he said to me with a big frown on his face; “what are you a vegan now?” This is a guy that hadn’t been able to help this man even took out his gallbladder two years before.
Caryn Hartglass: What a story, Linda that’s an incredible story and a great story to end on because we’re out of time.
Linda Long: That’s ok.
Caryn Hartglass: So, that’s very inspiring and you know we’ve heard so many of those and we can never ever hear enough but thank you so much for taking the time in joining me today and sharing your tales from Kuwait and all the wonderful work you are doing to make people healthy with delicious food thank you again so much.
Linda Long: I loved it so much, and okay, I’m making my burgers for you as soon as you’re back.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I’m hurrying! Take care and thank you so much Linda Long author of Great Chef’s Cook Vegan and Virgin Vegan.
Linda Long: Thanks Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we have just a minute left or two and I wanted to mention before we go, there is a website from my friends Marla Rose and it’s called www.veganstreet.com and they’ve just launched a Vegan Street Guide for new vegans it’s really adorable and I told her I would give a shout out about it. So go to www.veganstreet.com. They’ve got a lot of fun things up on that website. All right that’s the end of the hour so thanks so much for joining me today I’m Caryn Hartglass we’ve just listened to the lovely Linda Long. Visit me at www.responsibleeatingandliving.com for more wonderful recipes and my daily blog What Vegans Eat and have a delicious week!
Transcribed by M. Eng, 2/15/2017