Alan Roettinger talks Paleo Vegan
Talking Tofurky (TT): Thanks for taking the time to be with us today, Alan. Congratulations on your latest book, Paleo Vegan. So to start things off… isn’t the title Paleo Vegan an oxymoron?
Alan: Not really. Our Paleolithic ancestors most likely subsisted almost entirely on plants, primarily because they were not adept at hunting and their tools were rudimentary in the extreme (just go into the woods with a stick and a stone and see what you come back with). But the title also says that even if you subscribe to the Paleo philosophy, you can still be vegan. Fundamentally, the Paleo idea is that we should eat a fresh, whole, organic, local, and diverse diet–with the added notion that we should eat wild game and avoid post-agricultural foods (like beans, grains, dairy and eggs). A healthful vegan diet is right in line with that notion, with two exceptions: beans and grains are good for most people, and meat really isn’t. Paleostoners aren’t that far from being vegan. So no, it’s not really an oxymoron. It’s an improvement on an odd idea that has some merit.
TT: Tell us a bit about how you landed on this path.
AR: Actually, I see it more as having gotten OFF the path—the well-trodden path of doing what people before me have done, accepting it all as normal and wise, without really questioning. I’ve done this often throughout my life, mostly because I don’t like to just follow blindly, but also because I enjoy creating something new. I see my path (if there is such a thing) as an awakening process, learning what works and where I need to go. Being vegan is one of many decisions I’ve made as a result of something clicking inside me. I sort of fell into it, because I had written “Speed Vegan,” my first vegan cookbook, and I knew I needed to at least try eating vegan (what kind of a hypocrite would I be if I tried promoting a vegan book without giving it a shot?). I experienced enormous benefits almost immediately, but what was most surprising was the sense of relief at no longer having to justify my participation in the whole animal exploitation system to myself. I had never really allowed myself to think about it too much; it was just under the surface, as I suspect it is for most people. And it feels great to be on the cutting edge of evolution with this. In addition to being a heartless way of living, using animals as raw materials for our food, clothing, furniture, and all the other products is doomed. Even if we don’t care about the fact that they’re living, feeling creatures just like us, it’s just not sustainable. Dark ages stuff, and people are starting to wake up, especially young people. As a species, we tend to rally when things get really bad, and not to go negative, but things are really bad right now. So I think we’re on the cusp of humanity rallying. This is an incredibly exciting time to be alive, and I’m very grateful to be here, in the thick of it.
TT: What do you see are some of the biggest challenges people face when wanting to make healthier food choices?
Alan: The biggest challenge is overcoming our laziness. As a culture, we’ve become accustomed to convenience, and that’s never going to work out well for us. Being conscious is work, there’s no way around that, and healthy food is an area that requires a lot of attention. As a culture, we tend to rely heavily on processed food as a shortcut, and most processed food is really not healthful. The more processed it is, the more artificial ingredients it contains, the longer the shelf life it has, the farther away from healthy eating it is. This is not true in every case—there are some preserving methods that work, like dehydrating and fermenting, and there are some products that are minimally processed, with all natural ingredients (like Tofurkey). My standard for processed food is simple: if nothing has been done to the food that I wouldn’t have done, if I had the time, money and equipment, then it’s an acceptable shortcut. Then there is availability; there are places where you can’t find fresh, whole, organic food. That’s a major challenge. And a lot of people don’t even know that what they’re eating is doing them harm. On the bright side, there is an immense amount of pleasure in eating well, and people who take the plunge are discovering it.
TT: What are three things folks can do today to start on the path of making better eating choices?
AR: 1. Pay attention to how you feel during and after you eat. Your body will begin to tell you what it needs.
2. Drink lots of water (and not “Vitamin Water”–real water).
3. Learn to cook and eat at home. Seriously.
TT: What are you favorite go to foods for protein?
AR: Nuts and seeds. They’re delicious, I can take them anywhere, and they’re packed with more than just protein.
TT: What are your favorite go to meals that don’t require a lot of time or fuss?
Alan: Oddly enough, Thai curries don’t take much at all. My favorite is Panang curry, and there’s a fabulous, very spicy paste by “Maesri” that doesn’t have shrimp in it (nearly all of them do). I also like the megabags of baby kale from Costco; I always keep some homemade salad dressings on hand, and even if it’s just kale in the salad, it works for me every time.
TT: Any parting words, Alan?
Alan: Yes! Eat smart! Live joyfully!
Have any cooking questions or comments for Alan or your Tofurky gang? Let us know below and we’ll be randomly choosing 3 of your comments for free VIP coupons for your favorite Tofurky products and one winner will get Alan’s new book, as well!