MK: I wanted to keep the book small and inexpensive, but I also wanted to provide videos online to allow for interactivity. So, on my own behalf, and with the backing of Kashi, I put together the Web site Get Cooking for the YouTube generation. I wanted to provide the basics: how to shop for a melon (look for “Melon Knowledge”) or what knives you should buy (look for “Knives”) and how to cook basics like stirfry, polenta, and pilaf. The videos are free and accessible to everyone.
I promised my publisher I would engage in social media and I’ve found Twitter to be more in the moment and vital than Facebook. I try and follow people who I believe are doing good work. I’m strict with what I tweet. I try to use it to be useful and retweet information I find important, or as a means to exposing people and ideas which I think need more exposure. On occasion, I might tweet what I’m cooking or I might describe what I’m eating if I think it might be of interest. But, I also take time off from Twitter.
CE: People seem surprised to find out you’re not a vegetarian.
I’ve never said I was a vegetarian, or that anyone else should be one. What I have said is, here are some ways that you can go meatless if you want to. I’ve said, here is my cuisine—it doesn’t include meat. And somehow, it’s been interpreted by some that I am a leader of a movement, which I never saw myself as. I will always eat vegetables and grain. I’m a vegetablist, a pro-vegetable person. But, I’m very tired of people who define themselves by what they don’t eat. For some, being vegetarian is more about the absence of meat and not about the presence of vegetables. I know plenty of vegetarians who don’t eat vegetables. I’m more interested in getting people to eat healthy food. I want to know: “What’s your attitude towards food, do you cook your own food, do you like it?”
Recently, Newsweek wrote a piece about lapsed vegetarians and even though I’m quoted, I was never interviewed for the story, which created a lot of misinformation. As a result, I received a lot of angry letters from a lot people. I wrote this rebuttal, which was not printed:
I feel a bit misrepresented by this article, which seems to draw a line in the sand with “animal eaters” on one side and “leaf eaters” on the other. I have always seen healthy eating as a continuum, not a dichotomy (and certainly not a game of “which side are you on”). I have never been dogmatic against meat-eating. Rather, my goal has always been, and continues to be, to inspire everyone (including meat-averse vegetarians, some of whom often find themselves eating fewer actual vegetables than one would think) eating greener—more of what I like to call “garden- and orchard-based” foods. My ideal Wonderful World would have everyone loving (and able to access) abundant, delicious dishes made from leafy greens, earthy grains ,and tasty nuts and legumes—and to have these items dominate every dinner plate. As you’ve mentioned, I included a few meat recipes in my most recent book, as I have many readers (old and especially new) who are beginners and omnivorous and want to learn to cook the things they love to eat. I’m hoping that meat-lovers (and also occasional meat nibblers, such as myself) will gain enough knowledge to know how to source it sustainably, and to learn how to eat less of it. Thus empowered, everyone will be able to happily avoid supporting the highly destructive fast food industry and factory farming of animals. If this sounds contradictory, let’s all talk about it more. It’s a discussion worth having–a big-tent conversation toward our common goal of sustainability, regardless of our food choices and tastes. Cook on!
My point is that everybody needs to work together to create a food supply that’s as sustainable as possible. Whether you like meat or not, everybody needs to fight against industrial food production. All meat eaters need to eat less meat and to eat more of a plant-based diet. We forget we can sit down at the same table and do this together. That’s why I’m involved in the Meatless Monday campaign; I want to make sure that people have plenty of choices low on the food chain.