Podcast: Play in new window | Download
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; dieticians; 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.
Listen: Tuesday, October 11, 2016, 4pm ET online by going to PRN, The Progressive Radio Network or by calling 1-401-347-0456.
Call in to the show with comments and questions: 1-888-874-4888.
Or call the archive number to hear the most recent five episodes of It’s All About Food: 1-701-719-0885.
Part I: Michael Ableman, Street Farm
Michael Ableman, the cofounder and director of Sole Food Street Farms, is one of the early visionaries of the urban agriculture movement. He has created high-profile urban farms in Watts, California; Goleta, California; and Vancouver, British Columbia. Ableman has also worked on and advised dozens of similar projects throughout North America and the Caribbean, and he is the founder of the nonprofit Center for Urban Agriculture. He is the subject of the award-winning PBS film Beyond Organic narrated by Meryl Streep. His previous books include From the Good Earth, On Good Land, and Fields of Plenty. Ableman lives and farms at the 120-acre Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.
Part II: Victoria Moran & Joel Kahn, 2016 Sexiest Vegans Over 50
Victoria Moran is a vegan of three decades. Listed by VegNews magazine among the Top 10 Living Vegetarian Authors and featured twice on Oprah, Victoria has written twelve books, including Main Street Vegan and The Good Karma Diet. She hosts of the weekly Main Street Vegan podcast and is director of Main Street Vegan Academy, a 6-day, in-person program in NYC to train vegan and certify Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators. Alongside male winner Dr. Joel Kahn, Victoria was recently voted “Peta’s Sexiest Vegan Over 50.”
Dr. Joel Kahn is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and Director of Cardiac Wellness, Michigan Healthcare Professionals PC. He is a graduate Summa Cum Laude of the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He lectures widely on the cardiac benefits of vegan nutrition, mind body practices and heart attack prevention. He writes blogs for MindBodyGreen, OneGreenPlanet, Aloha.com, and Forksoverknives.com. He also writes for Readers Digest Magazine as the Holistic Heart Doc and his first book, The Whole Heart Solution.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass and it’s time for <i>It’s All About Food</i>. You know how much I love talking about food, and this is going to be another great hour talking about my favorite subject: food. I can’t wait to get started with my guest.
But first I want to take a moment like I typically do. Thank you for joining me, thank you for tuning in love because that’s what this show is really about. It’s about love and all the good things that we can do on this planet, our home Earth.
I love autumn, and we’re really into autumn right now in New York City. I’m looking out my window: the leaves are turning colors, the air is so fresh. I’m enjoying the coolness, wearing a sweater finally. It’s beautiful, and I’m grateful for all of that.
I’m really looking forward to speaking to my guest Michael Ableman. He’s the co-founder and director of <i>Solefood Street Farms</i>. He’s one of the early visionaries of the urban agriculture movement. He has created high profile urban farms in Watts, California; Goleta, California; and Vancouver, British Columbia. He has worked on and advised dozens of similar projects throughout North America and the Caribbean. He is the founder of the nonprofit Center for Urban Agriculture. He is the subject of the award-winning PBS film <i>Beyond Organic</i> narrated by Meryl Streep. His previous books include <i>From the Good Earth</i>, <i>On Good Land</i>, and <i>Fields of Plenty</i>. He lives and farms at the 128 acre Foxglove Farm on Salts Spring Island in British Columbia.
We’re going to be talking about his new book <i>Street Farm</i>. Hi, Michael. How are you today?
Michael Ableman: So nice to be with you. Thanks for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re very welcome and I am so honored to speak with you. I read a lot of books, especially for this program, and I’ve come to realize that my favorite books are the ones like yours: about farming, growing food, and doing it the way—I don’t even know how to put this because your way of farming is just so in-the-box—but growing food organically with passion, with care, with focus, with love. And creating something nutritious and delicious, and building so much more other than just a meal on our plate.
I love stories like that, I loved your book, I love your story, and I want to talk as much as we can in the next half hour about it.
Michael Ableman: Oh, thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles) Okay, so I don’t know how you were raised, but I love the idea that you felt this need to create something that not only was something you believed in, but you were creating a business that was employing people that are normally unemployable.
Michael Ableman: That’s correct, yeah. Mm.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. So where did you find that in yourself to do something like that?
Michael Ableman: (chuckles) Well, Caryn, I’m sixty-two years old. I’ve been farming since I was eighteen, commercially. Primarily in more traditional farms that people would see in their mind’s eye if they thought, “farm”. But I have felt in recent years the pull to use my skills that reached out to folks who either did not have access to good quality fresh foods or to jobs, to meaningful work. Individuals who were on the fringes or on the edges. We started this project <i>Solefood Street Farms </i>about eight years ago in a neighborhood called Downtown Eastside, which is a neighborhood where the term “skid row” was coined. We employ twenty-five people, all of whom are managing some form of long-term addiction or mental illness. I have to say that when I first visited that neighborhood, I came to that neighborhood with the same preconceptions and judgments and prejudices that I think we all do if you see somebody on the sidewalk with a needle in their arm or somebody else pirouetting in the middle of the street high on crack. You make judgments; we all do.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Michael Ableman: But I have since discovered that those same individuals have incredible amount of creativity and intelligence, and a desire to do something meaningful in the world. And all that we did was kind of set the table and provided a place for them to have a meaningful engagement. It’s really simple.
We’ve done that through large-scale urban agriculture production on parking lots through an innovative box system. We produce twenty-five tons—that’s fifty thousand pounds of food—annually. Remarkable on four plus acres of primarily parking lots and paved land.
Caryn Hartglass: Mm.
Michael Ableman: And we do it with the hands of individuals who were previously considered to be unemployable, as you mentioned. Now many of whom are highly skilled and wonderful farm workers.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just getting all teared up thinking about it because this is a beautiful thing. Right now, our mainstream media, especially here in the United States, is crammed with all this political trash and garbage. People just getting all emotional and angry about nonsense. And here is a win.
Now you said it was simple. I don’t know that it’s necessarily simple because your book definitely goes into the challenges that you’ve experienced. But we can all make a profound difference by getting our hands dirty, for one. Most people that I associate with a lot on a regular basis want convenience. And if we could just push our limit a little bit. I just found your book so inspirational, and I would hope that it would inspire people to get their own ideas.
I live in New York City, and I remember visiting Vancouver a number of times. It’s a beautiful city. I only saw the modern, touristy, kind of beautiful spaces. I wasn’t looking in some of the places that you have described, and I don’t think I’ve been there in the last few years when your farms have been developed. So I haven’t had an opportunity to see them. But there’s such a vast gap between the privileged and the non-privileged. Our current system wants everybody to fit to a certain mold, and clearly we don’t, even in our school systems. There are many people who have abilities if they could only be nurtured by someone like yourself and your peers, and give them a chance. Such a beautiful story.
Michael Ableman: Yeah. The story that I tell in the book <i>Street Farm</i> is a story of what we’ve done in what is the poorest neighborhood in anywhere in the country. But it’s also an emblematic story. It’s a story of what could happen anywhere. Currently, we have epidemic levels of opium addiction and now, in recent times, very high levels of overdose. The issues that we face in Downtown Eastside, Vancouver are similar to those that exist elsewhere, but Downtown Eastside is an extreme example, certainly.
When I describe our approach as “being simple”, I’m suggesting that the idea, the concept, the means by which we reach out to people is simple. The technical parts of it were complicated.
Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)
Michael Ableman: But when people have something meaningful to do, a reason to get up out of bed each day—when they have a choice that they can make between something that’s going to continue to bring them down and something that might lift them up; a community of people that depend on them; plants that rely on them daily for attention in order to survive; neighborhoods that need food that’s being produced from those plants—all these things help to inform someone’s ability to lift themselves up and participate in a meaningful way—even if it’s for half a day—to step out of their addictions, out of their challenges, and feel a little more sense of pride and accomplishment.
I think that’s the simplicity of this. We’re not social workers, we’re not addiction experts, we’re not psychologists; we’re farmers that have provided the space for people to come together. The results of that have been rather profound, as I write about in the book. I profile a lot of the individuals that we work with and it’s pretty amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: Many of us have acknowledged that there’s this big disconnect today in our current society: a disconnect between where our food comes from, especially in our environments, and a disconnect between the other living species (animal and plant species) on this planet. There’s a big disconnect. It’s a very healing thing when we reconnect with everybody else we’re living with and sharing on this planet, be it plants and non-human animals. It’s just really exciting to see.
We see urban farms; there’s plenty that are starting to happen in New York City and it’s a great thing. I was meeting my parents yesterday for a little family lunch in a neighborhood around where I grew up. I took the train and walked to the big mall where we were meeting. And I walked through a somewhat depressed town; it was never an affluent town as I remember it and it looked really beat up.
But I was halfway through your book already, and I passed numerous paved, fenced-in lots where some weeds were growing. All of a sudden, I was filled with hope that I didn’t have before because I saw them as farms. I thought, “Oh! Someone could plant a whole bunch of stuff right here!” and “Oh! There’s another place right here!” ‘Cause you talked about how great these paved areas were for farming.
Michael Ableman: Yeah. In the early 1980s, I had been visiting a number of urban communities, primarily low-income communities in the states where I am originally from. And there were a few things that I noticed. One was that there was very little access to fresh food. Most of them had been a major supermarket’s slight for those neighborhoods. The only food that you could have found might have been at the liquor store or 7-Eleven.
Caryn Hartglass: Mm.
Michael Ableman: The access to work and jobs were really lacking, especially meaningful jobs. At the same time I witnessed all these abandoned lots like what you described. I thought, “My gosh, if we could use those lots, we could provide and create working enterprises to provide employment for folks and to provide food for folks.” And not in a garden scale. What I had always focused on was on a production scale, something that can really produce a lot of food and a lot of jobs.
So yeah, I did projects in places like lots and Los Angeles. I was there when Rudolph Giuliani was threatening to auction off all those community gardens way back when, and then I gathered together some well-known people (David Bauer, Alice Waters, and other folks) and we rallied some energy around that. Was felt for some time that this idea of urban agriculture was more than just gardening and it was more than just about food.
In those days as well, if you used the words “urban” and “agriculture” in the same sentence, you were looked at a little bit strangely. When we started that Center for Urban Agriculture, it was certainly well before there was a movement around this.
Caryn Hartglass: Mm.
Michael Ableman: But I have since witnessed some really wonderful, creative work getting done. My friends at Green Gorilla in New York City and other projects there, and certainly all over the country are just coming up with some amazing, innovative, and creative ways of bringing this energy into the urban areas. And it’s pretty exciting.
Caryn Hartglass: I wanted to quote a few things that I loved in the book first, to sum up what you just said. And I’m going to quote you from your book. “We can march on Wall Street, or we can continue to work quietly and diligently in rebuilding the real economy, the one based on soil and sunlight and people working together to grow food.” So beautiful. Thank you for writing that.
Michael Ableman: Yeah, that was something that I had written post 9/11 for a speech that I gave for the Bioneers Conference in California. Basically, I was questioning what is patriotism, and I think it depends on your view and definition.
In that same speech, I proposed to memorialize those who lost their lives in the World Trade Center, that we consider a living memorial: an urban farm complete with greenhouses, orchards, and production crops on the side of the former World Trade Center to celebrate local economy as much as had been previously. On that same side, as much as the global economy has been celebrated. It was interesting that a couple of organizations including Green Gorillas got behind that idea. It was submitted as one of the memorials. I had no illusions that it was going to be taken seriously. (chuckles) But I think that we need to really be willing to step out and propose things that are somewhat outrageous. Because what’s going on the other side is somewhat outrageous. I’ve been watching the presidential campaign and some of the regional campaigns in the US for political office, and I cannot think of one time where I’ve heard a single candidate say anything about food or farming. Very little about environmental issues; it’s hardly ever mentioned.
I know that there are regional candidates that are speaking out on these issues, but I can tell you: it’s been hard to find anything on that subject; and yet, what is more central, what is more basic to our survival, our wellbeing, our sense of community, our sense of culture than food? It’s the gathering place. It is so, so central, something that we all have to do every day.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Michael Ableman: And one that is incredibly precarious. It’s remarkably precarious. The industrial system that’s bringing it to us is not a health system. It’s one of those things that I would hope would be addressed, but it’s not.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s not, I know. I was recently at the EATx Conference at the UN a few weeks ago, when there were all the goings-ons at the United Nations, and I was very excited to attend. There were a number of speakers from all over the world—from the Netherlands, the northern countries especially, ‘cause the EAT Foundation is from Denmark, I believe—and I was waiting. I was waiting.
People were talking about how we needed something radical and a revolution. They mentioned urban agriculture and how we’re going to need to grow more food to feed 9 billion people by 2050. And yet nobody ever said what we could do. They talked about addressing the waste issue, they talked about what we need to address access. But I felt that that was a lot of big vocabulary words and I didn’t really hear about any real action. It was very, very frustrating.
Michael Ableman: Yeah. I mean, that’s one of the reasons that I wrote the book <i>Street Farm</i> because I think that what we attempted to do with this project in Vancouver is an interesting model and a potential inspiration for communities all over the place. Lots of obstacles, many difficulties.
The book is not a fluff piece about all our successes. In fact, it’s incredibly honest about all the things that we’ve failed at, which I think in some ways is more informative. But it does present a blueprint for the possibility of successful, viable urban agriculture enterprises that also have the potential to serve those who are underserved. To reach out to folks both from an employment perspective and from a food perspective.
If nothing else, if you read the stories of individuals in this book, you cannot help but be inspired by their courage, their perseverance, and by what we have actually achieved by their hands. It’s amazing. The wonderful quote at the beginning that I’m just going to read to you, it’s really kind of emblematic of the whole book and it’s from the film <i>The Imitation Game</i>. “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” I think that really says it all to a great degree.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, yes. We all have such great potential and so many people are just shoved aside.
Michael Ableman: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: One of things I would love to see in our agriculture universities, for example—instead of focusing on genetically modified foods and all kinds of newfangled ways to make food, to concentrate on organic farming. To concentrate on how we might grow food in a vertical environment.
You mentioned towards the end of the book growing strawberries, an exposition vertically, and you were challenged by it. Well, you know, people can figure out how to do that and do it well! Just need a little time, a little energy, some investment, of course, which is the big empty space in the equation. Because there needs to be money behind it. I don’t know, our priorities need to be seriously adjusted.
There are a number of metaphors that I loved in your book for life, and one of them I’m going to quote, where you wrote about fruit saying, “The ones that taste the best are almost always those that have suffered.”
Michael Ableman: (chuckles) Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of context around that statement, isn’t it?
Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)
Michael Ableman: It’s rigged with a broader piece, but actually it’s true. People always laugh when I’m teaching them how to pick strawberries. You see these little, misshapen, terribly ugly strawberries. And I tell them, “Look, this will absolutely be the best one that you’ve ever had.” No one ever believes me until they taste it. It’s true. I think that I was kind of playing with that statement to some degree. I’m sure it’s not always true, but I have found in many cases it is physically true and more metaphorical in its use of language.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s actually science behind it!
Michael Ableman: Yeah, probably is. I wouldn’t know that. (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: There have been some studies with hydroponics and other studies. Oh, I’m getting all wound up here, but when plants have to work harder, they get stronger, more flavorful, and more nutritious. When we put pesticides and herbicides in the ground, the plants don’t have to work as hard to fight to survive. As a result, they’re not as nutritious and they’re not as flavorful.
Michael Ableman: Mm, yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s fascinating. And you were talking about tomatoes too! When they’re exposed to very little water, they have to really struggle and then you get this really intense flavor!
Michael Ableman: Yeah, dry farming tomatoes. Of course, there’s a long tradition of that. I’ve done it for many years; I did it when I farmed in California and we still do some of that here. The grape growers understand this concept very well. They know about the grapevines that are stressed and are held back, the quality of their fruit results. So this is a deep, long-held knowledge that we are all just rediscovering.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, rediscovering. There’s just so much knowledge that we’ve lost with big agriculture that we absolutely have to rediscover.
Now the unfortunate thing is that a lot of the urban land is contaminated. You talked about how even if you wanted to, if you were given a piece of land in an urban environment, you wouldn’t even want to grow there because it’s contaminated. So you came up with this solution of growing in boxes, and you had to figure out which ones were the best to grow in that would last longer and work the way you wanted to. But is there any hope of reclaiming the land that’s underneath all that pavement?
Michael Ableman: Well, a friend of mine has always said to me that by paving over our precious topsoil, we are preserving it for future generations—somewhat jokingly.
Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)
Michael Ableman: Look, most urban areas everywhere in the world, the native soil that exists under pavement, under buildings is extremely contaminated. It’s contaminated from industry; it’s contaminated from runoff. So especially for our older cities, there is just a long, long history of deposition contamination. Lead, asbestos, and industrial waste: you name it. All the way down the line.
So it is completely unsafe and somewhat irresponsible to think that we can grow food directly in native soil in urban areas. I don’t think it’s safe. We would be hard-pressed to find very many places in most cities in anywhere in the world that are safe.
We created a pretty innovative system for isolating the growing medium from either pavement or contaminated soils. It’s a box system that we have designed and fabricated. We have went through a lot of iterations, a lot of mistakes which I go into in the book.
And now I have a wonderful approach to doing this: boxes that are stackable and nestable. They have interconnected drains; they can be moved by a forklift so they address the issue of short-term leases and high value urban land. Mostly, they keep the growing medium and the food plants from having any direct contact with native soils, and also allows to grow on pavement. That’s been a long process to come up with that solution, but one that I think would be helpful to people anywhere.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay; now I’m going to be a little selfish. I don’t know if you have the answer to this question, but, as I mentioned before, I live in New York City; I live in an apartment. Occasionally, I’ve grown things on my terrace and recently we’ve received lemons from a cousin in California. The seeds were sprouting; the lemons must’ve been on the old side. But I couldn’t deny these seeds an opportunity to grow. So I have these lemon seeds in little pots. Do you have any recommendations? Do you think I can grow a tree in my apartment?
Michael Ableman: Well, you can certainly grow a tree in your apartment. The lemon tree that will come from the seed of that fruit will not likely have any resemblance to the fruit itself. They will not grow true to their parent.
Caryn Hartglass: (chuckles)
Michael Ableman: In order to replicate that lemon, you have to do it vegetatively from cutting, grafting, and budding. Citrus is budding. So yeah, you could do it. In fact, the Meyer lemon is a lemon that grows remarkably well in a cold and cool environments. That’s actually one we grow in Vancouver, British Columbia. We grow Meyer lemons.
Caryn Hartglass: Mm.
Michael Ableman: So it is doable. You really have to think about protecting those plants, especially with New York in the winter.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Michael Ableman: They’re not going to survive a New York winter outside or on your deck.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I know. They would have to be indoors.
Michael Ableman: Yeah, yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Something like that. Okay, well, stay tuned. (chuckles)
Michael Ableman: (chuckles)
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway, the last thing I wanted to mention, you touched on it briefly. You talked about giving away food and not giving away food, and this idea like a Garden of Eden. I visit Costa Rica from time to time, and I go to these very undeveloped areas. When some fruits are in season, they’re just dropping everywhere. And it’s the most lovely experience where there’s just food to eat everywhere for no cost. You just take it when you want it, and it’s such a beautiful image. You touched on it lightly, but having this opportunity for all of us to eat just like that.
Michael Ableman: That concept was brought up in the context of a broader conversation in the book, where I’m talking about encountering the homeless man who had climbed the fence to our large urban orchard that’s five hundred trees producing persimmons, pears, apples, quince, and Meyer lemons. All kinds of things like that. He was helping himself and loading up bags, essentially stealing.
He told me that this was God’s plants and God’s food. I said, “Well, God had a lot of help from us in planting and growing this stuff.” When he’s stealing, he’s actually stealing from the very people whom are his neighbors and folks who are struggling just as he is. Because if he steals our food, we can’t sell it and pay their payroll.
After that conversation, I reflected on that idea. In an ideal world, that orchard would have no fence around it. It would be open and accessible to anyone who needed to come in and enjoy not just the fruits off the trees, but the space itself. But we have to live within the realities of having to support the people we’re trying to employ. So it is an eternal dilemma that I struggle with on a constant basis. We would prefer to just grow everything and give it away. We aren’t able to do that.
Caryn Hartglass: I wish more people struggled with that. I wish more people struggled with that concept; it would be a far better place. Michael Ableman, thank you for joining me on <i>It’s All About Food</i>. Thank you for writing the book <i>Street Farm</i>. I think it can inform and inspire so many people who might have a romantic notion about farming or just want to know more about growing food. Thank you again for joining me.
Michael Ableman: Thanks so much for having me. Okay, all the best.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, take care. That was Michael Ableman, everybody, the author of <i>Street Farm</i>. You can find out more at solefoodfarms.com, and that’s sole: s-o-l-e. solefoodfarms.com.
Okay, let us move on, shall we? We have some more wonderful guests, but before we get to them, I just wanted to mention—I talked a while back about the <i>2Forks Events</i> with Dr. Esselstyn and his family. I know a number of you have gone to the one in Dallas and I wondered what did you think. Because there are some more coming up in Cleveland and in Arizona, and I think we’d like to know more about it. So if you’ve gone to any of those events and I know some of you have, let me know at inforealmeals.org. For those of you still considering those other events, you can get a $50 discount; real50 is the discount. Real50. Go to responsiblelivingandeating.com, my non-profit site, and find out more about the <i>2Forks Event.</i>
All right, let’s take a very quick break and we’ll be right back. And find out about the 2016 sexist vegans over fifty. I can’t wait.
Transcribed by HT 10/22/2016
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, everybody, we’re back! Welcome to part two of my program. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food on the Progressive Radio Network, and I want to bring on a couple of pretty sexy guests. I have Victoria Moran who’s a vegan of three decades, listed by VegNews Magazine among the top ten living vegetarian authors and featured twice on Oprah. Victoria has written twelve books, including Main Street Vegan and The Good Karma Diet. She is the host of the weekly Main Street Vegan podcast and director of Main Street Vegan Academy, a six-day, in-person program in NYC to train vegan and certified vegan lifestyle coaches and educator. Alongside male winner Dr. Joel Kahn, Victoria was recently voted PETA’s Sexiest Vegan over 50. We also have Dr. Joel Kahn, who’s a clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and director of Cardiac Wellness Michigan Healthcare Professionals PC. He’s a graduate summa cum laude of the University of Michigan School of Medicine and lectures widely on the cardiac benefits of vegan nutrition, mind-body practices, and heart attack prevention. He writes blogs for mindbodygreen, One Green Planet, ALOHA.com, and ForksOverKnives.com. He also writes for Reader’s Digest Magazine as the holistic heart doc and his first book The Whole Heart Solution. Welcome, you sexy people! How are you today?
Dr. Joel Kahn: Woo-hoo! Dr. Kahn here. I’m feeling very sexy and very vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: Tell me about yourself, Dr. Kahn.
Dr. Joel Kahn: You did a wonderful job. The only thing I’d add, because it’s pretty unusual, is I’m a practicing cardiologist for over 25 years, vegan for 40.
Caryn Hartglass: Vegan for 40?
Dr. Joel Kahn: 40. First day, undergraduate, University of Michigan – I hated everything but the salad bar. Then I started learning the rest of the story. Thank you to John Robbins and Dean Ornish. I’ve stuck with it ever since, teaching heart patients in Detroit that there’s a way. I own the trademark for “Prevent, Not Stent”, and the hospital hates me for that, but I use it all the time.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m going to talk more about “Prevent, Not Stent” in a moment. Victoria, how are you today?
Victoria Moran: Hey! Nice to hear you, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, nice to hear you. I gave a little brief introduction about you and your wonderfulness.
Victoria Moran: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: And I wanted to understand what sexy means to you two in terms of the Sexiest Vegan Over 50,which you have just both been awarded the title.
Dr. Joel Kahn: Let’s let Queen Victoria take that one first.
Victoria Moran: I would say that it is different after 50, and especially when you’re quite a bit after 50, which I am – I’m 66 – and I think it becomes more like a lifetime achievement award. When I think of the Sexiest Woman Over 50 – now she was vegetarian, not vegan, but for her day, she was really far ahead. She was somewhere in her eighties, had beautiful white hair. Her name was Iris, and I knew her when I was 19, 20, and when I would be all upset about something going wrong, she would always say, “Oh, tell me life on Earth, darling”, and that’s really what I see. We’re going to accept what we can’t change, but boy, get out there and change the things we can, like the way people eat.
Caryn Hartglass: I love it. And, Dr. Kahn, how do you feel about what sexy means to you?
Dr. Joel Kahn: Well, I think sexy is being sensitive. Sexy is being open. Sexy is being a male that can talk about loving animals and not wanting them harmed, slaughtered, or used in experiments. Sexy can be denying wearing leather items and not feeling the need to eat meat to have some sort of testosterone surge, and I think that’s all good. And the last part is, as a medical doctor who specializes in healthy arteries, sexy is better sex because we have better arteries and they’re cleaner on average. Our cholesterol is lower than average, our blood pressure, our blood sugar. We have less erectile dysfunction. We have a better odor and, some say, body taste, so let’s just take all the physiology we get as the benefits and celebrate the sexiness.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. Sexy is better sex and a whole lot more. We need more commercials like that, Dr. Kahn, instead of those creepy ones that we see with the couples going to the bathtub in the field, their twin bathtubs, and taking Cialis and Viagra and all those crazy things.
Dr. Joel Kahn: I agree. I talk about have a hard attack, not a heart attack. But in case any children are listening, I don’t want to go further with that.
Victoria Moran: It’s going to be fun being the co-sexiest vegan for the next year with this man.
Caryn Hartglass: What do the two of you plan on doing together?
Victoria Moran: The first thing we know is that we’re going to LA in November to be photographed at the PETA office, and PETA may have some publicity and things lined up for us, and then we’re actually going to be working with our own publicists to really try to get this out into the world because there are so many people who are afraid of growing older, afraid of getting sick, people who are already in this age group. I’ve talked to 30-year-olds who are like, “Oh, my gosh! I don’t want to get old!” And to really get out there and say, “Hey, there’s a way that you can save your own life and some animal lives and maybe even the planet, live better, look better” – it’s all good.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s all good. I have to say that I just had dinner with you, Victoria, and you are looking very hot.
Victoria Moran: Bless you.
Dr. Joel Kahn: And I want to thank her. I want to thank Victoria because I’ve been a cowboy-boot-wearing cardiologist since I’ve trained in Dallas, Texas, many decades ago, and she introduced me to the amazing line of vegan cowboy boots that are out there. So the two of us are like Boot Scootin’ Boogies, and it’s just funny that now we’re together and get to do one line dancing together for the next twelve months. It’s all preordained, all destiny.
Victoria Moran: And we need to plug the boots. Those are Kat Mendenhall boots. She’s an amazing woman. She’s a graduate of a program that I run called Main Street Vegan Academy that trains vegan lifestyle coaches and educators, but many people don’t want to coach. They don’t want to work one-on-one or speak to audiences. They want to start businesses, and she’s one of those, and she was just madly sketching on the fourth or fifth day of our program, and we all said she was just taking extreme notes, but she’d come up with the idea of this company of custom Texas cowboy boots made in Texas. All the materials are sourced in America, 100% cruelty-free, so you want to do some of that two-stepping with us, look up Kat Mendenhall’s boots.
Caryn Hartglass: I was very happy to learn about her, but she didn’t start her business soon enough because, when I was talking to 250 cattle ranchers about animal agriculture’s impact on global warming, I wanted to look like them. I found some vegan cowboy boots and a vegan cowboy hat, but it was hard, and I would’ve preferred finding them from her, but she wasn’t ready to go when I was looking for my outfit.
Dr. Joel Kahn: Everybody needs more than one pair.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. You know what, it’s important to fit in, in many ways, for people to hear your message, so it’s appropriate in places where people are wearing cowboy boots to be able to wear cowboy boots. And in other cultures and society, you want to wear what’s appropriate in that place because people will hear your message more when they feel like you’re one of them.
Victoria Moran: It’s so true. That’s the same thing with the mock meats and the faux cheeses and things like that. People want some of what they’re used to, and so often people will say, “Oh, that’s processed!” I get it. I know that the vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans – that’s the best food we can be eating. But to make this transition and be able to have something that looks and tastes like a burger that you can pick up and eat with your friends, it’s important.
Dr. Joel Kahn: I agree. Today, there’s been a little celebration on the Internet about Tyson investing in Beyond Meat, a company that’s appropriately gotten so much heat for horrible animal practices, and there’s a debate going on to why this is good or bad, is this selling out. They actually fired ten employees for animal abuse at the same time they announced the deal, said they’re clamping down. I’m not for anything they do, but all of a sudden, they’re expressing a conscious, and when a company like that gets behind Beyond Meat, Beyond Meat is going to be in many more grocery stores, better shelf space, and it’s what happened with Silk and their soy milk when Dean Foods bought them. All of a sudden, they were much more visible, and they were everywhere because they had such a big company behind them. Again, it’s kind of a tough message if you’re happy about that or not, but it’s bringing it the public, and sexy Victoria and I just have to add the persona. It’s fun, I’m on no medicines at 57, I have virtually no aches or pains, and I seem to be living more energetic than my colleagues after 30 years of doing hardcore cardiology, and I don’t credit anything other than the diet for all that.
Caryn Hartglass: In addition to being sexy, I think we have to continue to be vigilant because what happened to Tyson is a good thing. Unfortunately, I think if businesses have the opportunity to exploit, they will. Anything to make a better margin and to make a better profit, but if the buying market is saying, “We don’t want to cruelty. We want to know that our products are healthy and good for us”, and the companies listen, then they will do that. We can’t ever get lazy. We need transparency, and we need to stay on top of it.
Dr. Joel Kahn: Absolutely, and I think the people buying the Walmarts and the big stores, the Costcos, are demanding chemicals out, better products, and it was reported in the news some of this was the understanding that they’re going to specify cruelty-based food production is not going to be something they’re going to source. It’s the beginning of a larger change in America that might reach even small-town America, which would be wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m sure you have tons of stories, Dr. Kahn, about people who have literally turned their lives around, changed their lives with diet. I was just talking to my sister this morning. My brother-in-law has been doing the low-carb, high-animal-protein diet for a while. She got his blood test results, and he wanted to know what they were, and she said, “Bacon and eggs. That was the result.” Because the blood results weren’t very good.
Dr. Joel Kahn: It mystifies me because we are fighting in the medical blogger and certainly paleo world. The Fat Summit just announced the Fat Summit 2. Other than John Robbins and Kris Carr, I wish we could somehow get rid of the 28 other speakers, which includes a very prominent physician, because they have gone so far to distort medical science and encourage the public to add butter and full-fat cheese, and what we learned decades ago directly causes the disease I fight is coming back in style, and it drives me nuts. And I’ve seen, you’re right, I’ve seen for decades now diabetes go away, weight go away, people stop having heart/chest pain, people avoid bypass, people not need the second stent because they’ve really got their lifestyle wrapped around, sexual function returning, asthma improving, psoriasis disappearing, and it responds as much as you give to it and all, but it’s a serious medical therapy. We have a medical group in Detroit that we created, a planted-based nutrition support group, that we thought would have 20 people dedicated to just supporting each other on this journey. Now 2,500 members. It’s exploded. We get together once a month. We need Victoria to come in. In 2017, Rich Roll’s coming and Chef AJ. We’ve had them all. It’s wonderful. We need a spot for Victoria. I just want to add to my bio, I own the largest plant-based organic restaurant between LA and New York, which added a little panache to my biography and a whole lot of strain to my finances, but my family decided we’re going to put our money where other people’s mouths were and provide an elegant, upscale, full liquor vegan restaurant in Detroit, so we’re having a ton of fun going out of the cardiology world into the real prevention world. Crazy stuff.
Caryn Hartglass: And how long has that restaurant been open?
Dr. Joel Kahn: We’re going to have our one-year anniversary December 1st, so we’re going to be in that 10 percent of restaurants that make it a year, and we plan to be here 30 years from now, too, when grandchildren are the sexiest vegans.
Caryn Hartglass: People need this information all over the country, but I imagine Detroit especially needing this information. There are a lot of depressed areas in Detroit, and when people don’t have access to healthy food, they tend to choose what they can get, and it’s not usually what’s good for them.
Dr. Joel Kahn: It’s true. I mean, surprisingly, just to give Detroit its rebirth a little plus it, in the last six months, made a list of the top ten vegan cities in the United States and some of them made a list of the top ten vegan cities in the world, which is deserving because we’re a part of that. We created a restaurant, GreenSpace Café, that is the leading light in the city, and we have the largest oldest farmers market in America, so there are improvements going on, but sure. Is the average child in the inner city having easy access to fresh produce? Not as much as anybody would like to see. School meals, hospital meals, vending machines – it’s not ideal.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, Victoria, you’ve been training a lot of soldiers to go out there and train people to make more people plant-based-friendly, so we need to thank you for that and the Main Street Vegan Academy. Are you with us?
Victoria Moran: I am. I’m listening. I’m taking all your compliments.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, here, I’m throwing them at you: virtual hugs, virtual love. So tell me about some of the people that you’ve touched and trained, not just with your books, but with the one-on-one training.
Victoria Moran: The Academy is amazing. When Main Street Vegan came out, a lot of things started popping. The Main Street Vegan podcast came out of that and this idea for an academy to train coaches. We did it the first time and everybody loved it, and I thought, “Well, will anybody come the second time?” We actually got some help for the next five classes from the American Vegan Society, and by then, the Academy was up and running on its own, and people knew about it, so four times a year, people come from all over the world. We’ve had graduates from Australia, South Africa. My favorite, Saudi Arabia: an 18-year-old NYU student who wants to go back and start PETA Saudi. My husband, who’s actually lived in that part of the world, said, “Isn’t she afraid for her life?”, and I spoke with her mother, and the mother said, “You know, I think as long as she kind of tones down it down for the one holiday where they’re supposed to eat meat, I think we’ll be all right.” And so, what happens here is that they get this complete immersion in every aspect of the vegan lifestyle – health, nutrition, fashion, environment, animal rights – and then they learn how to communicate all of this and then how to make it a business, and what’s interesting is as much as we love our nonprofits, and we love supporting all the animal sanctuaries and these groups that are putting the undercover footage out and all these great things, so much is happening in the vegan world, in the world of business, whether it’s food or restaurants. One of our graduates has Riverdel Cheese, a sweet little vegan cheese and gourmet shop in Brooklyn. Another one of our graduates is starting a yogurt company, Bryt Life Foods. We’ve got an ice cream company in Toronto, Pleasantville Creamery. It’s just amazing how entrepreneurial we tend to be as a group.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s because the need is growing and people who want a business see that there’s a market because it wasn’t that way 10 or 20 years ago. There were lots of ideas. People wanted to start businesses, but they didn’t know how they would grow. And fortunately, now they’re enhancing each other.
Victoria Moran: And now, people want the products, and so all need are clever people to come up with interesting ones.
Caryn Hartglass: And that’s all we need. Okay, back to you, Dr. Kahn: What are some of the things that the people you coach and the people you’ve treated, the biggest challenges they have to switching to plants?
Dr. Joel Kahn: Probably the cooking skills, the kitchen skills. They’re interested, they want to do it, but what’s step one? And Victoria probably has her approach. Honestly, I bring them to my restaurant. That’s a nice approach. In the last twelve months, usually I see somebody at 2:00, and I see them eating a giant lentil burger, a kale salad, wrap, or something at 6pm. But what I’ve actually relied a lot, of course, always on 21-day kickstarts that Neal Barnard has, and I love Rip Esselstyn’s 28-day program, and I taught it as immersion in Cleveland. It’s wonderful. I heard your intro. Wonderful and well-attended immersion. These are all great things, but I’ve been using some of these online national food delivery companies: 22 Days Nutrition, Forks Over Knives, PlantPure Nation, Bistro, and the rest because for people who can do that, they can get that first week done. They can eat good food. They don’t have to stress out while they’re reading through the books and finding some easy recipes and going through Victoria’s books and picking out ones, if I were to eat that, this looks pretty simple. I could just substitute applesauce and flax for the eggs or whatever it is, and I just found that to make life easier. Their eyes bright up when they realize they’re not trapped with nothing in the refrigerator.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, yeah. I can see that people can actually learn when they’re transitioning with these deliveries, what food is out there that they can actually eat and how tasty it is.
Dr. Joel Kahn: Right, and it’s more expensive than beans and rice, but it’s a lot less than going to a premier restaurant around the country, for sure, so it can work out quite well for a family.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so you don’t have a tour schedule or anything lined up yet? Or will there be one where people can find the Sexy Vegans Over 50? Over the year?
Dr. Joel Kahn: I’ve suggested to Victoria that I think it’s an international title, too. Victoria, how about Bali? I haven’t been. Fiji?
Victoria Moran: I still would like to go to Israel and take this show on the road over there because they’ve got more vegan stuff going on than probably anywhere. And we also hear that Germany and Italy are just going crazy, and I’ve already written to the good people at VegfestUK to see how they would feel about having a couple of sexy vegans next fall just before we turn the title over to somebody else, so we will be out on the road. I mean, we’ve both got websites, and I’m sure we’ll have all of our speaking engagements up there.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, that sounds good.
Dr. Joel Kahn: The growth of veganism in Israel in the last ten years is largely due to a Detroit man Gary Yourofsky and his animal rights activism. It fits in so well with PETA’s stance, and he’s in my restaurant all the time, so let’s make that happen because the restaurant growth there – Places I ate at two years ago, they were general restaurants, they’re now 100% vegan restaurants throughout Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Really amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: I would love to get there again. I went vegan in 1988, and I was in Israel when it happened, and I was planning on it, but I thought I was spending three months there on business, and it seemed like an easy place to go vegan. There were plenty of vegan foods back in 1988, so now it’s probably just incredible. Victoria Moran and Dr. Joel Kahn, thank you so much for joining me on It’s All About Food and congratulations on being PETA’s 2016 Sexiest Vegans Over 50. You both deserve it and go forth and spread this important message. Thank you very much.
Dr. Joel Kahn: Thank you.
Victoria Moran: Thanks, bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye, bye! That was Victoria Moran and Joel Kahn, and you can find Victoria at MainStreetVegan.net, and you can find Dr. Joel Kahn at his website DrJoelKahn.com. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and this has been It’s All About Food. You can find me at ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com and please send me an email at email@example.com. In the meanwhile, have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Jessica Roman 10/17/2016