Monthly Archives: March 2011

BUT I AM A CHILD WHO DOES

I found this essay on the Center for Ecoliteracy Website.  It is so inspiring and speaks to the purity of children when not influenced by the media, etc.

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I didn’t mean to raise my two kids as part of a human experiment in food preferences. It just worked out that way.

When Faith was born in 1998, my husband and I were living in Boston in an historic building where the wainscoting and windowsills were coated with lead paint. We knew we would need to move by the time that our daughter started crawling. Since I am a science writer and Jeff a sculptor, we began to look at communities that offered both large research libraries and cheap studio space. Ithaca, New York thus became our new home. On the very day that Faith first figured out forward locomotion, we loaded up a moving van with all our earthly possessions and headed for a log cabin in the woods just east of the Ithaca town line. The backyard descended into wetlands where great blue herons and foxes lived. The well water was sweet, and the frogs kept us awake at night. When we discovered, upon arrival, that our television set had apparently been stolen out of the back of the truck, we just shrugged.

And so the experiment was set in motion. We didn’t replace the TV. I got pregnant again and started writing a new book, which I was determined to finish before the baby was born. Meanwhile, Jeff took over the running of the household and the care of a willful toddler. He quickly made three discoveries. One, there was a community-supported organic farm at the top of the hill which we could join. It had a play area out in the fields to occupy little kids while their parents picked produce or engaged in adult conversation. It also offered regular potluck dinners, which meant less cooking for him and more choices for his lumbering and now quite finicky spouse.

Two, there was a cooperative grocery store downtown called GreenStar that we could also join. Not only did it stock organic teething biscuits, it had a play area near the deli to occupy little kids while their parents could read, say, the arts section of the New York Times and drink much-needed cups of coffee.

Discovery number three: if he worked two hours a week at GreenStar, we could get a twenty-percent discount on groceries. The discount meant that the prices at the coop now approached those in regular supermarkets. And this meant that he didn’t have to drive anywhere else for dog food, toilet paper, dish soap, and toothpaste. The result was a net gain of time. Running errands with small children, Jeff pointed out, takes a lot longer than just the driving time, especially when one factors in the minutes lost to the buckling and unbuckling of car-seat straps, the zipping and unzipping of little jackets, the diaper changes in the men’s room, and, most dreaded of all, the disruption of the nap schedule. (Parents of toddlers are nodding furiously in recognition here, knowing all too well how one badly timed nap can throw an entire household into chaos.)

I was convinced by these arguments. So, for the past five years, all the food we eat at home has come from our local food coop or a local community-supported farm in which we are shareholders. The result for our two kids — Faith is now six and her brother Elijah almost four — is that they have never been advertised to. The images, jingles, and pitches of the food industry have, by and large, never reached them. Their food preferences have, consequently, been entirely shaped by their direct experience with the food itself and the farmers who grow it. No cartoon characters stare at them from boxes of presweetened cereals displayed at pediatric eye level in supermarket aisles. No candy bars wait in the checkout lane, ready to spark a parent-child battle of wills. No television commercials seduce them with pictures of crispy chips and bubbly colas.

I realize that my children are only a sample size of two. But because their commercially unmediated relationship to food is so unfortunately rare, it seems worthwhile to report on what they like to eat. Both my kids ask for sweet potatoes, baked with maple syrup drizzled on top, as bedtime snacks. Neither of them cares for soft drinks (“Too spicy,” says my son). Both like almost any kind of vegetable, and are particularly fond of kale (with sesame seeds and tamari sauce), broccoli, and peas. Elijah has a special enthusiasm for avocados and cole slaw. Both are willing to try new foods, but Faith has the more adventurous palate. Elijah prefers to stick to the tried and true; he is big on eggs, beans, toast with olive oil, and any kind of soup.

Both of them cycle through food aversions in ways that seem fickle and irrational. One week Faith suddenly proclaims that she hates bananas and always will. The next week, she complains that there are no bananas. Elijah announces that tomatoes are detestable. A few days later, tomatoes are okay again. But no raisins! (Jeff and I treat these sudden-onset reversals of preference respectfully but casually.) Black and green olives, on the other hand, are always desirable, as are brown rice, tofu, red peppers, chickpeas, and corn. Watermelon is the ambrosia of the household, closely followed by cantaloupe, strawberries, and cherries. Apples are a staple.

It also seems worth reporting the following story: About a year ago, while traveling with Elijah and Faith, I was delayed in Chicago’s O’Hare airport for several hours. We ran out of snacks. Forbidden from leaving the gate area — the problem was alleged to be a computer glitch that could be resolved at any moment — I looked around for something to eat. The only vendor within earshot of the gate was McDonald’s. And that is where we went. Well, this is a watershed moment in parenting, I thought, as I handed each of my hungry children a little red and yellow sack, warm with food.

They hated it.

“Too spicy,” said Elijah.

I urged him to eat it anyway; we wouldn’t be home for another four hours.

“Look, Mama,” Faith shot back. “Look at their sign.”

I looked over at the big yellow “M” to which she was pointing.

“Even their name is made out of limp French fries,” she asserted. “Why would you want to eat their food?”

That’s when I realized that she didn’t see the world-famous logo as golden arches at all. No one had ever told her that’s what it was supposed to be. To her, the M in McDonald’s looked like two yellow, bent-over fries. Yuck.

Faith has already begun school, and Elijah will follow her in another year. I know that their innocent, unpropagandized view of food will change once they spend some time at the lunchroom table, comparing the contents of their lunchboxes with those of their friends, hearing other comments, encountering other habits. I can hope that some remnants of the habits and tastes that they’ve developed so far will remain, but I’d like to do more than just hope. Already, Faith has noticed that many of her school friends, as well as characters in books, have disparaging things to say about spinach.

“I guess children don’t like spinach,” she observed. And then she added, “but I am a child who does!

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Filed under Children, Education, Vegan, Vegetarian

PRODUCT REVIEW – KeVita Probiotic Drink

I was given a sample of KeVita’s Mango Coconut Probiotic drink at the Natural Products Expo West and have become a real fan.  I really enjoy the subtle fruit flavor of the drink and the yogurt essence that the probiotics and fermentation give it.  Since the drink is fermented it has a slight bubble to it, but not nearly as violent as the carbonation in soda.   

All of KeVita’s drinks are raw, dairy free, nut free, soy free, gluten free, and vegan.  Many of the drinks are organic as well.  Per KeVita:

Our first three flavors are certified organic, the coconut flavors are certified as made with organic ingredients, which means they are made with at least 70% organic ingredients. We use certified organic cold plant extracts, sweeteners, fruit purees, flavors and Certified Organic KeVita™ Culture.

 

What is KeVita™?

KeVita™ is an organic probiotic superdrink.

KeVita™ is made using a fresh new approach. Water or tea is combined with Certified Organic KeVita™ culture, a blend of beneficial bacteria, healthy yeast cultures and a small amount of organic cane juice.

KeVita™ contains a highly absorbable strain of probiotics originating from kefir derived cultures. For thousands of years these cultures have been cherished for supporting beneficial digestive flora.

KeVita™ is…

  • filled with 20 billion naturally occurring live, active probiotics per bottle, at time of bottling
  • available in 6 luscious flavors
  • refreshing and thirst-quenching
  • 3 flavors certified organic, 3 flavors made with organic ingredients
  • dairy, gluten and soy free.
  • made with LOVE in small batches in Southern California

KeVita™ contains active cultures so keep refrigerated until ready to enjoy!

I have not tried their first three flavors (Lemon Ginger, Living Greens, and Green Tea), but have heard great reviews about those flavors as well.

I would definitely suggest giving these drinks a try…especially if you are a soda addict since this is a MUCH healthier alternative.

For more facts about KeVita click here.

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Filed under Gluten Free, Product Reviews, Raw, Vegan, Vegetarian

FRESH MEX CORN SALAD

I am so happy that Spring is here!  Although it isn’t quite April yet, we definitely are experiencing the “showers” part.  Now that Spring has arrived, the amazing produce Spring brings has started making its way into farmer’s markets and the grocery stores…yay! 

While I do cook this salad slightly, it would be very good completely raw as well.

INGREDIENTS

6 cups freshly cut corn (I used 8 small ears)

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 orange bell pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

½ head cilantro, chopped

1 ½ cups jicama, diced

1 lime

1 tsp olive oil

½-1 tsp ground cumin

salt to taste

pepper to taste

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Pour the tsp of olive oil into a pan.  Over medium heat lightly sauté the onions and peppers for 2 minutes (you want to maintain their crunch).  Add the corn and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.

Squeeze in the juice of the lime and turn off the heat.  Salt and pepper the mixture to taste.  Sprinkle in the cumin and mix well.  Add the cilantro and jicama and mix thoroughly.

Let the freshness of the ingredients speak for itself.  Do not overpower the salad by adding too many spices.

This salad tastes phenomenal accompanied by flavorful black beans…I ate this for lunch three days in a row!

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Gluten Free, Main Dish, Recipes, Salad, Sides, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

SPICE PANTRY REDO

My Organized Spice, Vinegar, and Oil Pantry

My Organized Spice, Vinegar, and Oil Pantry

Many of you may remember my great pantry and freezer clean out (to read the post click here).  I think I made mention during that post that my spice pantry was is massive need of cleaning and organizing.  I tend to be very Type-A (I sometimes think they modeled Monica Geller after me), so I am not sure how it got so out of hand in the first place.  My excuse is going to be that when you have young kids and all the activities that come with that, something has to give…I guess it was my spice pantry.

A few weekends ago we had a much-needed day at home.  NOTHING was planned.  Sometimes that is so blissful.  The kids were given the rare opportunity to veg in front of the TV for longer than their allotted hour, and I took to cleaning out the spice pantry.

I am embarrassed to say that there were multiple duplicates (does anyone really need 3 half used jars of oregano?) and quite a few spice jars that had completely caked together, thus rendering them totally unusable.  It was so cathartic to combine the duplicates and trash the caked jars (that part wasn’t fun…I hate waste). 

Now that my spice / vinegar / oil pantry is organized (yes, it is alphabetical), I find that it is so much easier to cook.  I can see everything I have and I don’t have to go hunting for the ingredient I need.

Are any of you in need of a spice pantry clean out?  If  so, take the time and do it.  You will be so happy that you did.

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GORILLAS NEED GREENS and so do we!

Posted at 9:13 AM on March 15, 2011 by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

The leading cause of death for male gorillas in zoos is heart disease. Sadly, animals that live in close contact with (and fed by) humans end up with human chronic diseases.

Gorilla. Flickr: KjunstormGorillas are the largest of the primates, and they are one of the four species of great apes (great apes make up the Hominidae superfamily, which includes chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas).  Following chimpanzees, gorillas are the closest living relatives to humans, differing in only about 3% of our genetic makeup.

Gorillas are herbivores that live in the forests of central Africa, where they can eat up to 50 pounds of vegetation each day, mostly leaves and fruit. Although most gorillas have a preference for fruit, they also eat large amounts of leaves, plus herbs and bamboo, and occasionally insects. In the wild, gorillas spend most of their day foraging and eating.1

In the wild, gorillas eat an extremely high fiber diet, and derive a significant proportion of caloric energy from the fermentation of fiber by bacteria in the colon, producing short-chain fatty acids. The approximate proportions of macronutrients in a wild gorilla’s diet is 2.5% of calories from fat, 24.3% from protein, 15.8% (non-fiber) carbohydrate, and up to 57.3% from short chain fatty acids derived from bacterial fermentation of fiber.2

In contrast, the standard diet for gorillas in captivity is usually not made up of natural leaves, herbs, and fruits – it is a diet of nutrient-fortified, high-sugar, high-starch processed food.

This unnatural diet has contributed to signs of heart disease and enlarged hearts for both of the male gorillas at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo. Researchers at the zoo and at Case Western University decided to change the gorillas’ diet, bringing it closer to what it would have been in the wild.

Since late 2009, the two gorillas have been eating endive, dandelion greens, romaine lettuce, green beans, alfalfa, apples, and bananas. Each of them eats about ten pounds of vegetables each day. The gorillas also spend more time eating (50-60% of their day rather than 25%), which is similar to wild foraging behavior.  After one year on their new diet, each gorilla has lost about 65 pounds, their health is improving and the researchers are noting and documenting their decrease in heart disease risks.3

My question is: why were they feeding processed foods to gorillas instead of their natural food diet in the first place?

Heart disease and heart attacks are just as unnatural for a gorilla as they are for humans.   I guess it is pretty low for the zookeepers to be feeding a gorilla a processed food diet for convenience that will expedite its death. How could they not know that gorillas should eat a natural diet?   But how did our society develop the universal eating cult that permits and encourages the feeding of disease-causing fast food, processed food and junk food to human kids, damaging their future health potential? I guess maintaining our food addictions to processed foods are a more powerful drive than our desire to have our children be healthy.   Maybe humans should not be in charge of feeding humans or animals? Maybe we should hire the gorillas to raise our children? Did you ever watch the Planet of the Apes? Okay, so maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. 

 To see resources click here.

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CROCK POT VEGETARIAN CHILI – Guest Blog By Catherine of Weelicious

Today we have another guest post from Catherine McCord of Weelicious!  We all loved her first Guest Blog for Veggie Grettie where she made Crock Pot Black Bean Soup and I know you will also love her Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili.  I personally always need to have a good arsenal of quick and easy recipes…life gets busy!  Enjoy.

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In my quest for new and interesting flavors for Kenya, I focus in on one flavor and obsess about how I can introduce it to him in order for him to love it, but not be overwhelmed by it. At the same time, I’m always trying to create a dish the whole family can eat (plus leftovers for a few days). This week, chili powder was my focus.
It’s hot, smokey, a little spicey and delicious. Most people wouldn’t dream of a 10 month old liking something so intense, but I feel like babies palates are ready for anything as long as it’s not over powering.
There are 2 tablespoons of chili powder in the recipe which sounds like a lot, but the recipe also serves 16 people! When I say I like leftovers, I mean it. When the chili is finished, I put 2 cups in a Cuisinart and whiz it up for Kenya to have over the next few days. It’s packed with all the things he needs in his diet.

Vegetarian Chili (Serves 16)

1 16 Oz Cans Organic Chopped Tomatoes
2 32 oz Boxes Vegetable Broth
6 Cups Raw Mixed Beans (Lentils, Yellow Split Peas, White Beans) (If using large beans, soak the night before)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, minced
5 Cloves Garlic, minced
6 Celery Stalks, chopped
6 Carrots, chopped
1 Bell Pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 1/2 Tbsp Cumin
2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Sweet Paprika
1 Large Bunch Dinosaur Kale, chopped

1. Place the first 3 ingredients in the Crock Pot.
2. Heat olive oil over medium flame and saute onions for 5 minutes. Lower heat if they start to brown. Add garlic and continue to saute another 2 minutes. Pour the onion mixture into the crock pot with the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
3. Cook on high for 12 hours.
4. Serve.

**Allow to cool, place in appropriate container or Ziploc bag, label and freeze up to 4 months. When ready, defrost in fridge for 24 hours or place in pot and heat through under low-medium heat.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

For more Weelicious recipes click here.

Photo courtesy of Weelicious.com

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Filed under Beans/Legumes, Crock Pot, Gluten Free, Guest Blog, Main Dish, Recipes, Soup, Vegan, Vegetarian

BRENDA WATSON – Renew Life

When I went to the Natural Products Expo West I was fortunate enough to meet and spend a bit of time with New York Times best selling author Brenda Watson and her husband Stan, the founders of Renew Life.  I was contacted by representatives for Renew Life earlier this week and am being given the opportunity to try many of their products…I can’t wait to share my opinions about their cleanses, probiotics, and fiber products with you after I have completed them!

For those of you not yet familiar with Brenda, Brenda is a Certified Nutritional Consultant and is currently staring in her fourth PBS television special, The Road to Perfect Health – Balance Your Gut, Heal Your Body.  Brenda recently co-authored a book by the same name which is available with the top PBS pledge level.  I had a chance to thumb through the massive book while talking to Brenda and was impressed with the level of detail and organization found within the book which takes an individual look at the body’s major internal systems and over 50 common health conditions (I am a lucky girl in that I am also being sent the book!).

Both the PBS show and the book explain how digestive imbalances can lead to many illnesses outside of the digestive system. In the special Brenda offers natural solutions for bringing the body back into balance through both dietary and lifestyle changes:

Brenda explains how a multitude of factors in modern life can negatively impact the ability of the GPS to do its job including aging, antibiotics, yeast overgrowth, parasites, undigested food and unhealthy food choices, environmental toxins, and the long term use of antacids. The good bacteria in the gut support a variety of intestinal functions like synthesizing vitamins, producing digestive enzymes, helping with the absorption of nutrients, protecting the intestinal lining, supporting and stimulating the immune system, and enhancing the body’s own detoxification process. By balancing the gut, one can heal the body and build a strong foundation of good health”

In Brenda’s words, “As a nation, we’ve got serious digestion and elimination problems, but aside from the epidemic levels of digestive disorders and disturbances, Americans are also plagued with a host of autoimmune disorders and so-called diseases of civilization like chronic fatigue syndrome, high cholesterol, joint problems, anxiety, depression and diabetes. Since these afflictions do not take place in the gut, most people believe that digestive health is a separate entity from cardiovascular, psychological, and other types of health, but in truth, the gut is the root and core of our total general well being. It’s the place where food is broken down into the building blocks of our cells. It’s the first line of defense against invading pathogens and infectious diseases. It’s our protection against environmental toxins leaking into the bloodstream.”

You can visit www.brendawatson.com for more information.  For show times in your area click here.  I think you will find the PBS show to be highly educational and worth your time.

For more information on Renew Life click here.

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Filed under Books, Education, Gut Health, Product Reviews, Vegan, Vegetarian

PRODUCT REVIEW – Potato Flyers

Uh oh…this is not a good one.  We sampled “The Original” flavor Potato Flyers.

I so wished that these snacks were as healthy as they are marketed to be (I love giving props to vegan and gluten free snacks), but they just plain aren’t.  That being said, my daughter and husband liked them…I personally couldn’t get past how salty they are. 

Herein lies the problem; these snacks are almost 40% fat (I like to target 20%) and their sodium content is TWICE what it should be according to the guidelines I like to follow from Dr. John McDougall!

While these snacks do have less fat and calories than a regular bag of potato chips, this is still a snack I personally can’t feel good about feeding to my family. 

To learn more about this snack click here.

Photo Credit shessmart.com

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Filed under Gluten Free, Product Reviews, Vegan, Vegetarian

MUSHROOM ROSEMARY DINNER PANCAKES

I was inspired to make these dinner pancakes while reading through Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.  Using chickpea / garbanzo bean flour as a base for the pancake is a great way to incorporate more protein into a meal.  These pancakes were light, yet satisfying.  I served my pancakes with lightly dressed steamed kale (click here to see my latest kale post)

INGREDIENTS

PANCAKE
1 cup garbanzo bean flour
½ tsp Himalayan salt
1 cup water (or liquid from the reconstituted mushrooms)
3 Tbs. olive oil
.
TOPPING
2 heads roasted garlic
½ cup dried mushroom mix, chopped once reconstituted
½ large onion, sliced into moons and caramelized
1-2 tsp oil
½ tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
½ tsp. Himalayan salt
pepper to taste

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Set the oven to broil.

Pour hot water over the mushrooms to reconstitute.  I bought my mix at Costco (by a company called Shiitake-Ya).

Place the garbanzo bean flour and salt ina a mixing bowl.  Use a whisk and incorporate well.  Combine well with the water (or 1 cup of cooled liquid from the reconstituted mushrooms) and olive oil.  Once mixed well, set aside for 30 minutes.

Place the onion and 2 tsp. of oil in a sauté pan and caramelize.

Mix together the roasted garlic, chopped mushrooms, salt, pepper, and ½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary.

Pour 1/3 cup of pancake batter into a lightly greased pan (spread out the batter).  While the pancake begins to cook, top it with some of the topping mixture.  Once the pancake has browned, set it aside until all of the pancakes are browned and ready to go into the oven.

Once all of the pancakes have been browned, place them directly on the oven rack (not on a cookie sheet) under the broiler for 8-10 minutes (you may need to rotate them after 4-5 minutes).  Broiling the pancakes will make sure that the batter on the top cooks through.

Serve with a nice salad or some steamed veggies on the side.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Breads / Crackers / Muffins, Gluten Free, Main Dish, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: America’s Falling Behind

Anthony Bourdain. Photo Courtesy of Travel Channel

Anthony Bourdain. Photo Courtesy of Travel Channel

This is an excerpt from an interview by Jason Cochran on AOL Travel (Posted Feb 28th 2011 12:00 PM).  I really like the points Anthony makes concerning how good food can be made inexpensively.  While Anthony Bourdain is not vegetarian, he does encourage people to try new things and be more adventurous with their food, which I can really appreciate.  The point Anthony makes about the rising cost of food supports the fact that like it or not (I definitely like it), people are going to have to reduce the meat in their diets.

To read the interview in its entirety click here.  To learn more about Jason Cochran click here.

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Your show seems to be very much about turning other people on to what’s out there.

I think that, like eating, travel should be a fairly submissive experience. You should open yourself up to stuff and let things happen. Generally speaking, it’s an amazing world. People may or may not agree with you, but when it comes to eating and drinking it’s a world full of peace and proud people doing the best they can. Hospitality is a feature of a lot of cultures that you might not expect to be welcoming.

Americans often see fine food as something of a consumer item or something for the wealthy, but abroad, as you show time and again, it’s the simplest expression of tradition and of human connection. How did we get so high-minded here?

I think it’s not high-mindedness. Post World War Two, we got lazy. We got spoiled. We could eat 20-ounce steaks. There were restaurants everywhere. It’s all about excessive portions and meat and potatoes. We lost touch with having to cook well because we didn’t have to. The nation had just been through a war, and suddenly there was a period of incredible prosperity, relatively, and it was all about convenience and things other than food. American culture is all about assimilating and moving away from your roots, moving away from your small town or your poor background. Families changed, populations moved, and everywhere we went there were cheap hamburgers and chicken without skin or legs.

And yet on the road, you’re often finding the most satisfying, nuanced food is the cheapest stuff. Why isn’t it that way for us?

We weren’t forced into a situation where we had to find ingenious ways to make something that was not very good, and there wasn’t very much of it, into something delicious. Where people have to cook well, or are forced by circumstances to cook well, they learn to make the most of it. It was just as easy to go out to a Howard Johnson’s or a Horn & Hardart back in the ’50s than it was to eat at home, in fact you were encouraged to do it. The TV dinner was seen as a godsend for people who had more important things to do than feed themselves. That’s changing. We’re much more aware of where our food comes from.

What will it take to get the average American care about their food the way so many people who live abroad do?

I hate to say it, but I think we will see it. As the price of raw ingredients rises, we’ll reach a point where a lot of working families will have to figure out how to cook again to make the most out of what they have. A lot of foods we take for granted now are going to be out of reach. We very well might have to start cooking eventually more like the Chinese, where meat, for instance, is less the main event than the garnish, the condiment, the flavoring ingredient. So we might be forced to eat better, cook better, and eat healthier just by virtue of these food items we take for granted being out of reach economically. Even at mid-range restaurants, any chef could put a big fat fillet of wild salmon on a plate. Now? Not so much.

What do your travel food experiences teach you about yourselves?

You realize how damn lucky you are and how good you’ve got it. In the Egypt show we shot over a year ago, I realize now we documented an important moment without realizing how important. Our government fixers and handlers did not want us – did not want us – to show the everyday, standard, staple breakfast of the working Egyptian. It’s a dish called foul. It’s served everywhere in the streets in Cairo, and it’s basically a watery chickpea stew with a big stack of flatbread. They did not want us to show that, and I didn’t understand or realize at the time what they were so afraid of. But the fact is there had been some bread riots recently, the army owned the bakeries, the price of flour had gone up. Just the change of a few cents per pound for the price of flour or bread – the whole security of the regime rested on a thing like that. I think they well understood and were terrified of that. They understood the power of us saying, “Hey, this is what most Egyptians fill their bellies with every day.” That’s the sort of fact that topples governments, as we’ve seen.

Is there something you want Americans to take away from that? I think some would hear a story like that and be afraid to ever go to Egypt, but I don’t think that’s what you intend.

No. I am not political. I’m not an advocate. I call myself an enthusiast. I’m an old-school lefty from New York. I don’t have a lot in common with the Tea Party. But I’m guessing that we both like beer and we both like barbecue. And I’m pretty damn sure I could sit down with just about anybody in the Tea Party and have a pretty good time at the table drinking beer and eating barbecue. That’s something. That’s about as political as it gets from me. If the people aren’t getting fed in a country, I’m against you, whoever you are. But I think Danny Ortega’s going to be very unhappy with our Nicaragua show.

Do you wish Americans would travel more?

Travel changes people for the better. The more you walk around in another person’s shoes, the more you’ve seen of the world, the better a person you are. If I can convince somebody who’s got the money to do it, the freedom to do it, and if one of our shows has inspired them to, then sure. I hear it a lot. People come up to me a lot and say, “I went to Vietnam, and I tracked down some of the same business that you ate at and I had a good time.” Sure. That makes me happy. I grew up with books and movies and I dreamed of seeing places like those I’d read about. It’s unimaginable to me that people wouldn’t yearn for a peek at the other side of the world, an undiscovered beach, a tiny little food stall that serves the perfect bowl of noodles.

Are you aware that you may be changing lives just by visiting with your cameras?

Yeah. I know the show has been good for a number of small businesses, but I’m also changing the character in negative ways as well sometimes. I have mixed emotions about that. We worry sometimes that that tiny, out-of-the-way, unspoiled place suddenly, after the show, there are people in ugly shorts and fanny packs. But I think on balance it’s something I can live with. And yet I want [to reach] people who wear silly tourist clothes and don’t know how to travel or haven’t traveled well in the past. I want them to have fun. There’s good stuff out there and good people.

Good people is a big theme with your show. You have a reputation as a hardass, but really, your writing is all about finding joy and wonder and connection with strangers. I don’t think your reputation is fully deserved.

I’m angry and hyperbolic about a lot of things, but I’m also very sentimental about a lot of other things.

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Filed under Education, Interview, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian