Oprah had me at Michael Pollan when her Vegan Challenge episode aired earlier this week. And if I weren’t already baptized (cafeteria) Catholic, my religion would be Pollanism. Although I’m not vegan (I lean more towards flexitarian), I cook 99.9% of everything from scratch and am an advocate of food revolutions, meatless meals, healthy school lunch programs, reading food labels, and when given the chance, will preach the health benefit gospel of eating local and organic to anyone who listens.
I sat on the edge of our chocolate brown couch, shoveling organic popcorn into my mouth while unconsciously leaning toward the television, cheering for the good-food-fight philosophies being discussed on the show, when I was nearly hit in the face with a package of meatless sausage hurled at me by Kathy Freston. Kathy, Oprah’s vegan authority guest, was helping Jill, a senior supervising producer at Harpo, find an easy path to veganism at Whole Foods.
I made a nose dive for the carpet. The pressed meat grazed my right ear as my knees scraped the woolen floor covering. Using the coffee table as a bunker, I poked my head over the laundry basket berm to discover Kathy had filled Jill’s entire shopping cart with processed soy and meat substitutes, cheese substitutes, milk, butter and egg substitutes, without one fruit, vegetable, grain, nut, seed or bean represented in its natural form.
My face grew long as I realized we were about to get a lesson in cooking vegan processed foods, instead of discovering new ways to cook vegetables and grains.
Kathy blew it. She had an opportunity to teach millions of Americans how to introduce vegan lifestyle changes into their diets and to see that way of eating as something more than just carrot and celery sticks. Whether turning to a flexitarian option, or going full-on vegan, she should have been showing families how to create their own rice and almond milks (without preservatives), how to cook with beans, quinoa and whole grains, and how to combine nutritious whole foods to create hearty meals.
The meatless options Kathy presented to Jill were poor excuses for sustainability, with some of the product nutrition lists containing up to 47 processed ingredients.
I always thought veganism was based on a health and/or moral decision to avoid animal products. Eating foods pressed into shapes of animal products or made to mimic animal products, which is what Kathy was promoting, seems to negate the purpose of becoming vegan.
Oprah doesn’t get off scot-free here either. As the host of the show, she should have played the devil’s health advocate and questioned the use of all of these packaged foods, especially since Kathy had followed Michael Pollan’s advice of eating whole, unprocessed foods, with an agreeable nod and verbal confirmation minutes before she overfilled Jill’s cart with meatless mayhem. The show didn’t teach Americans how to eat better, the show just presented our country with an irresponsible vegan option for store-bought fast and prepared foods, overshadowing Pollan’s point-of-view without giving him the chance for rebuttal or an opportunity to sneak in the word “moderation.”
read Kathy’s horrifying list of recommended vegan products and see for yourself (the link has been removed from her website). When you’ve had enough, come back to This Honest Food and try some of our from-scratch recipes, sign up for cooking lessons or wellness coaching.
Oprah, if you want to redeem yourself, I’ll be happy to show America how to cook anything from scratch on your show, using local and organic ingredients, including vegan recipes.