Vegan Schmegan

forks-over-knives.jpgThe venerable Dr. Soram Singh Khalsa is my physician and he puts out a newsletter that I subscribe to. His smiling bearded face crowned by the Sikhs Pagri is at the top of the page. That smile always makes me laugh because it reminds me of a little boy who is thrilled because the teacher he has a crush on just praised him.

Dr. Khalsa is one of the first people to start a crusade extolling the virtues of vitamin D. But recently I noticed a DVD on the page entitled Forks Over Knives.

I’ve always made fun of Vegans. It was a way for me to mask a mild contempt for what I deemed a ‘sissy diet’. I also didn’t want anyone telling me I had to limit meat, even though, after reading Fast Food Nation and seeing the movie with the same name, vastly different from the book but showing a graphic slaughterhouse sequence that haunts me to this day, my outlook on eating meat was never the same.

That’s why, for the life of me, I can’t tell you what made me order the DVD, but I did and I watched it. Its just pure common sense that the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the better. The less adulterated your food is, the more nutrition you’ll get from it. But this movie made a much more persuasive argument for eliminating meat as much as possible. With graphs, statistics and testimonials, as well as clinical facts coming, not from people with ‘iffy’ credentials, but from Dr. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn a noted surgeon specializing in cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.

It’s riveting and entertaining and presents tons of information we already know but don’t want to face, like the fact that animal fat sticks to your coronary arteries and there’s nothing we can fucking do about it. But there were a lot of things I didn’t know. For instance, the reason most of us find it so difficult to resist fat, salt and sugar is because biologically, they represent the path of least resistance.

firstratstudychart169.jpgThey tell the body that it’s just had a butt-load of sustenance and nutrition that is supposed to last until the next Mastodon, when it really only had an ice cream cone, which by no means fills the stomach and leaves us wanting more in a short period of time. Kind of like Chinese Food. Why wouldn’t we want those things time and time again? We are biologically trained to want them! So don’t feel so bad, just understand what a swindle it is.

The other thing that got me so excited, was the diet’s healing benefits. Sure, everyone knows there are certain kinds of diabetes that disappear with proper diet and weight loss, but it was a revelation to me that, if what I saw is correct, certain coronary heart disease can be minimally reversed and most certainly arrested.

Now the down side; Every time they showed the ‘case study’ people in the film ‘enjoying’ a plant based diet, these individuals seemed to plod through their meals. I didn’t sense they were self-conscious or wanted to look attractive while they were eating. They had the same expression on their faces I used to see on the faces of the kids in those films in 2nd grade where they showed how much fun it was to brush your teeth and clean your room.

forksknivesbook.jpgI gave it the benefit of the doubt. Heck, I liked fruits and vegetables. I had that going for me. Admittedly, I hated whole wheat products, tofu, cilantro and cumin, which were practically in every subsequent recipe I found for a vegan diet, but dammit, there HAD to be a place for me! I ordered the companion cookbook for Forks Over Knives.

Here’s the thing: this shit is SO labor intensive. The ingredients might as well come from a shop in Diagon Alley and none of it can be made ahead! The last thing I want to do at the end of the day is soak mushrooms, strain the silt, chop and strip roots, grind a tamarind pod or toast a fenugreek seed! What the hell? I was really crestfallen.

Then I noticed, as I endeavored to eliminate meat entirely, that I’d become weak. I took vitamins regularly and knew how to compose legumes and grains to form a protein so I knew I was doing it right. What was wrong?

I googled the names of the doctors I mentioned and saw that there were respectable rebuttals to some of what the film stipulated. So…. I’ve added back some meat, BUT I highly recommend this movie. You can get it online. But just don’t go overboard. You don’t want to be a sissy.


Laraine Newman is a founding member of The Groundlings Theatre Company and an original cast member of Saturday Night Live.  She lives in her hometown of Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.