Your first book, The Natural Foods Cookbook,
came out in 1961. Was anyone writing about the subject at the time?
There were some people, but this I think
was the first definitive book on natural foods.
Did you have trouble
finding a publisher or readers?
I had no problem finding a publisher or readers, but there was opposition from some people
in the nutritional field who were not yet aware of the value of whole foods.
Were you thought to be a crank?
Not only a crank, but a crackpot! [She laughs.] But that's
one of the problems when you're before the wave.
What were the things
that attracted criticism?
To the dietitians and nutrionists, the fact that I wasn't using processed food, because they
were pushing many of the processed foods.
You're wary of processed
foods, but you're fine with meat, eggs, and butter.
Very much so. To stay with the foods that have supported
human life for many many generations.
You're not concerned
about fat and cholesterol?
Not at all. If it's good fat. There are some fats that should be eliminated from the diet
-- any of the trans-fatty acids that are formed when fat or oil is chemically altered through hydrogenation. So, margarines
would be out.
Margarine is worse than butter?
Butter is good, if it's used in limited quantity. Also the polyunsaturated fats, such as soy oil, safflower, sunflower. These
should be used in very limited quantity.
Some of those are
generally considered to be healthy.
But they are not as healthy as some of the other oils. Fish oils,
linseed oil, are much better. Olive oil is much better.
did you first get interested in food issues?
I read a book in 1933 that blew my mind. It was "A
Hundred Million Guinea Pigs" by Kallet and Schlink. These were the owners of Consumers Research magazine. [Arthur Kallet
later founded Consumers Union after breaking with Schlink.] The population at the time was a hundred million people, so a
hundred million guinea pigs meant the peple were not being protected. It was the story of what was happening to foods, drugs,
and cosmetics. As a result of that book, I stopped eating sugar. For a while, I even gave up apples, because the story was
told of the spraying of arsenic in the orchards. This was the period before DDT.
This was also a time when there wasn't much regulation of any of that.
were on the books, but they were not really being followed very strongly.
They've gotten better in some ways, and in other ways they've gotten worse, because there's
more in the marketplace of the junk foods. Look at what people put in their baskets in the supermarket, and you realize there's
an awful lot of junk out there. On the other hand, there's a lot more good food that is available. More fresh fruits and vegetables,
more organically raised produce, meat, eggs, fish, and so forth.
have people's attitudes toward food changed?
A good deal. Many more people are selecting foods
that are nourishing. Many more people are looking for certified organic food; that movement is growing fantastically. I didn't
think I'd ever live to to see whole supermarkets of natural foods and organic foods.
And yet we keep getting heavier.
For one thing, portions are so large. Another thing
is that the official advice that has been given to us by the government has been very faulty. If you look at the nutritional
pyramid, the base of it is carbohydrates. There's no distinction between whole grains and white flour products, and yet people
are being told to eat up to 12 portions a day from this group. Which has made the baking industry very happy, but it's also
put on a lot of poundage.
What concerns you most about
the American diet?
Too much food, and too much of the wrong thing. An enormous amount of sugar and white flour
and the hydrogenated fats. Those three things are culprits.