Many of us realize that providing the much needed education and information to others about what happens to farmed animals who are turned into food is sometimes an insufficient guarantee for changing peoples habits of eating animals.
We've also seen over the years that promoting the notion that animals are being treated more "humane" and killed more kindly on smaller farms does not result in people going vegan at all.
But a more profound truth is that nothing will promote veganism better than veganism itself.
There is an empowering effect when people assist the self promotion of veganism by showing how delicious, clean, exciting, healthy, compassionate, non violent and easy vegan food can be.
This is food activism!
This is activism with the winning argument in it's favor
The world is designed by the decisions each of us make and we as individuals are defined by the choices we make. Showing the world that we can eat, drink and be merry without the misery and death lying on our dinner tables is an essential form of activism that is often overlooked yet extremely important.
Moira Nordholt is someone we would call a food activist. She is a self-taught vegan chef who stumbled into food activism as proprietor of Banff, Alberta’s first vegetarian restaurant, long before the word "vegan" was uttered in beef country. Her time is now split between Toronto, Venice Beach and the open road, where she cooks delicious plant-powered food, consults and develops recipes for some of North America’s top spas and wellness centres, and contemplates life while riding her motorcycle solo to remote internal and external territories. (firehorserider.com)
Moira is the founder of feelgoodguru.com, an online playground celebrating people, ideas and things that make the world a better place. As well as contributing original recipes to books on detoxing and plant-based diets, Moira has written and self-published an eBook series called “Feel Good Fast” and runs an online companion quarterly cleanse helping people learn for themselves the ease and pleasure of cooking with seasonal whole foods to lose weight and feel great.
Moira is the host and organizer of the very popular annual Animal Lovers Brunch.
Her food is featured in the upcoming documentary about plant-based diets, "Forks over Knives".
Vegan Sanctuary had the honor of chatting with Moira about her work, her life and her yummy activism!
Moira, thank you so much for taking time out to talk with Vegan Sanctuary. When did you first make the transition to living vegan and what inspired you to become vegan?
Thanks so much for bringing me in to your conversation, Philip! I became vegetarian at 17 while living in Paris after several months of eating horse meat. I was a "jeune fille au pair" and that's what the family I worked for fed me. One day I looked in the mirror and made the connection to the old adage "you are what you eat." No kidding, I'd begun to look like a horse. From there, it was a slow evolution. I flailed for awhile as an uneducated and unhealthy vegetarian, surviving on junk food that I wasn't allowed to have as a kid, but I took an interest in nutrition and gradually gained balance the more I learned to cook healthy foods for myself. When I opened Banff, Canada's first vegetarian restaurant, I was eating the best organic foods, and I began to feel the undeniable effects of a high quality plant-based diet. I was putting in insanely long days in the kitchen with no sunshine and no breaks, then going for a workout at night, feeling stronger and more energized than ever. The diet simply proved itself in my body. For me, long before it was an ethical choice, it was simply a healthy choice. Of course, the more I learned about factory farming, the less I wanted animal products on my plate.
Philip: Yes. And it's basically now a fact that a plant based diet is much healthier for our human bodies than a diet based or centered on animal products. So, we also can't deny the fact that happiness is related to kindness and vice versa. So, understanding this facet, it would seem quite obvious if our condition or well being will generally improve when we live more compassionately, wouldn't it make sense that a vegan diet adds this aspect to the whole health argument as well?
Moira: Some of the happiest, healthiest, most fully expressed human beings I know are vegans. Yes. I believe that happiness, health, kindness and compassion are inextricably linked. To me, being compassionate means first being compassionate with myself. We've become so disconnected that most people don't even know anymore what it means to be compassionate with themselves. When I listen to my body it tells me what the healthiest choices are; when I listen to my conscience, it tells me what the least harmful choices are. To me it's about honoring that innate wisdom we all have, to find and maintain balance in body, mind and spirit - whole health. I believe that all real and lasting change starts right here.
Philip: Taking time out and cooking a vegan gourmet meal can almost be a bit like a meditation or a healing yoga class or even therapy. I mention this and make those analogies here because it can be very difficult living as an ethical vegan in a world where most people chew animals up at every meal and they do this at least 3 times a day. The death of so many farmed animals can become a painful fact for many ethical vegans and increasingly a great source of suffering for the people who care about farmed animals. Maybe talk a bit from experience about how cooking and preparing creative vegan food oneself can actually help heal and create a more optimistic outlook for this dilemma that many animal rights people face.
Moira: We tend to want to find someone to blame for the madness - anyone. But let's not forget while we're practicing compassion for animals that our fellow humans, the ones who are overweight, undernourished, unconscious or ignorant, sick with diabetes and heart disease and cancers due to poor diet, they need our compassion too. We all hate to see any living being suffer, whether it's a cat with fleas, cows being trucked to slaughterhouses, or a whole country of human beings in warfare. It can be overwhelming when we allow ourselves to become aware of all the suffering that goes on in the world. Some people choose to remain blissfully unaware. We each have our way of dealing with our grief and anger over it. For some, it can spur great action; for others, it can be paralyzing. There are medical doctors out there now prescribing plant-based diets to alleviate human suffering. There's a new doc - Forks Over Knives - coming out in September all about this. I believe we're on an evolutionary path towards a more sustainable, healthier way of eating that will make all of us look back at eating animals as very unsophisticated or barbaric. Yes, for me, cooking is meditation in action. I believe that anything done with intention becomes a prayer and prayers have mysterious ways of manifesting. Taking the time to prepare a delicious and beautiful meal for yourself with the intention to nourish your own body is a powerful act that should not be underestimated. It's such a simple thing we can all do every day that potentially reduces suffering on so many levels, starting in our own digestive system!
Philip: Why do you think so many people fail to notice the fact that they've been indoctrinated into consuming animals almost like a religious belief? How is it that most people see eating animals as a choice they are making rather than what they've been told to do over and over and over?
Moira: I think we're all walking around at different levels of awareness. In many ways we're still cavemen. So much of our eating is done out of unconscious habit. It's very complex because food is so tied to our emotions and memories and perhaps even the memories of our ancestors. We're hypnotized daily by the food industry. There are very effective forces at work in the business of burgers and fries persuading the masses to hoover it up. It's a very difficult nightmare to wake up from... Yet there are clear indications that there is a food evolution taking place and it's picking up speed...
Philip: Yes it is and many people who have evolved and become vegan want to find effective ways to educate others on living vegan. Many of us attempt to reach peoples hearts and minds but often forget about peoples stomachs. I think your polenta pizza, your veggie sushi and your spinach empanadas for instance are sure fire paths to a vegan revolution. Why is it that so many vegans forget that great tasting, adventurous vegan food is just as effective in getting people to stop eating animals as lets say handing someone a pamphlet on the horrors of the modern slaughterhouse?
Moira: People can tune out to the pamphlets and demonstrations. I know I don't want to be solicited as I'm coming out of Whole Foods, no matter what the cause. But if someone invites me for a meal, I'm in. Every meal shared is an opportunity to create the world you want to live in. Great food can be a delicious and convincing introduction. If you can dazzle someone's tastebuds and make them feel incredible after eating your food, you've won a battle that didn't even exist. Food is the one place where, no matter what our beliefs or level of awareness or consciousness, we come together to share and celebrate. If you make the food special, you can see the lights going on. People start to ask questions and request recipes. The comment I get most often is "If I could cook like this I'd be vegan." So I show them how easy it is and encourage them to try it for themselves. When people have the right tools and the support of a community, they feel empowered to change. It's happening. There are so many resources available now for someone who wants to evolve to a vegan diet.
Philip: That's so true. It just needs to be demonstrated and people will see how amazing vegan food is.
OK, I'm going to get all woo woo on you here if you don't mind....
So, there are episodes with our own experiences and there are forms of well being.... that override all others and transcend the normal daily aspects of our regular experiences. What I'm getting at is I'm thinking of veganism here as an easy gateway to spiritual experience, to living what someone might call a spiritual life and to those types of feelings....of compassion, of love and kindness in general.
Do you think there is this specific perspective and awareness that seems to take place within us when we eat and fill our bodies with foods made from kindness and non violence?
Moira: You know I love the woo woo;) I can't claim with certainty that everything I eat is made in a non-violent way. I hope that the rice I eat was planted by happy California farmers and that my quinoa was grown on South American land that has been peacefully tended by generations of proud growers, and that no snakes, grasshoppers, butterflies or rodents were run over or ingested by harvest machines...But it would be naive of me to think that everything on my plate was obtained fairly, happily and non-violently. What I can claim with certainty is that everything is energy. We know that animals fear death and that animals in our food chain suffer intensely. This is the energy I choose not to put in my body because I can't imagine that energy to be nourishing in any way. On that level, we truly are what we eat. Imagine having the energy of the fear of a thousand cows inside your belly? That's what a hamburger is to me. But let's not assume that everything that's vegan is healthy and full of good vibes. There's the junk in boxes that comes off assembly lines around the world. I don't even consider that "food". It's filler. Crunchy, salty, sweet and fatty mouth amusement. Eating this industrial sawdust void of real nutrition and filled with chemical additives, even when free of animal products, is not conducive to a spiritual life. These are empty calories we consume out of boredom or lack of imagination. Eating this stuff fuels a toxic food industry, turns us into zombies and keeps us in the nightmare. I also consider not just the food I'm eating but who's preparing it. Nothing comes close to food you prepare yourself for healing energy. It's extremely rare in a stressful restaurant environment for the chef to be mindful, peaceful and joyful. Consider that the energy of the chef is always in your food. Let's hope he or she is feeling non-violent when you order your garden burger... But yes! At the risk of sounding completely woowoo, there really is a deep spiritual element that accompanies eating low on the food chain and high on energetics. I've seen people almost levitate after eating a plant-based meal made from real, fresh, whole foods prepared with intention:)
Philip: What is some simple advice for someone who wants to be a food activist and start utilizing food as a way to spread the vegan message?
Moira: Healthy is sexy. Everyone wants it. People are becoming more and more aware of what's in their food and making the connection to their health or lack of. They're looking for answers. Live by example. Get healthy yourself and when people ask how you keep your skin glowing gorgeous, why you never get sick, or how you still fit into your grade 10 jeans, give them your plant-powered secrets. Learn to make one or two show-stopping vegan dishes and share them widely. Take them to dinner parties or invite people over to dine. People will ask you for the recipe and be astonished there's no cheese or ground beef or heavy cream in it.
Philip: I like it. I think that's all so important. What was your motivation for creating Feel Good Guru?
Moira: I love to help people make simple changes in their lives that can have profound effects on their world. I wanted a brand that would reflect my passions for creativity, wellness and optimism. I miss the community of incredible healers, teachers, seekers, foodies, artists, entrepreneurs, humanitarians, animal lovers, activists, adventurers and world changers that sprung up around my restaurant and I wanted to get that back on a global playground to celebrate people, ideas and things that make the world a better place.
Philip: Moira, thank you so much for taking the time to talk, your support of Animal Acres and of course all the wonderful ways you help spread the vegan message and help humans and animals feel good. Everyone needs to check out your website too.
Moira: If any of your readers would like help getting cleaner, greener & leaner with their lifestyle, I'm launching my spring cleanse on April 11th - Feel Good Fast. Join in. It's free!