[Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this for an old site called Modern Forager and am reposting here since it now has no home.]
Lorette Luzajic is a contributer to a great Canadian win and food website called Gremolata. But she’s not just any food writer. Her last headline, “ I’m A Natural Born Killer “, caught my attention along with the undoubtedly significant vegetarian readership. “ Life After Bread ” was equally compelling. She’s earned the handle “resident spice girl”, having written some great spice profiles backed up at home with over 70 spice jars. I thought it would be great if I could bring her perspective here for some insights on food journalism and being a female eating gluten-free.
Something any tight budget foodie surely wonders is which spices/herbs are worth spending extra dough on to ensure good quality? What has your experience been?
We’re very lucky, because spices don’t cost much at all. Don’t shop at your supermarket, but buy in bulk for pennies. Shop where you see a lot of spices moving, so you know they aren’t sitting there for years. If the colours are vibrant and the smells in the bins are strong, they’re fresh. Nothing’s really expensive, because you don’t need much. But I would always insist on unrefined sea salt, and like to have several types on hand! I don’t care if it’s pricey. Salt has hundreds of minerals in it. Refined salt has only sodium. The taste is superior in real sea salt, plus it’s a multivitamin every time you sprinkle it on.
Are there any spices/herbs you have gravitated towards when you moved to lower carb eating (or has it just meant more of them all)?
I’ve just gotten more creative and adventurous since other food groups have disappeared. I’ve been more inclined to try some complicated ethnic recipes and seek out the weird spices and give it a whirl. Right now I’m totally rocking with coconut milk-Thai curry blends, simmering fish and chicken and veggies in variations of these. It’s easy after all! I’ve been grilling vegetables with random trios of spices to see how they turn out, instead of dumping everything on at once for my standard hodgepodge. This way, I get more mileage out of my grilled veggie classic.
You get 5 spices to use exclusively for the rest of your life? Which ones would you take (and why, if you want)?
That’s cruel, no way. I can’t imagine the days when you had to cross the world to get some cloves. If that’s how it was, I’d die. But I could work with nothing but sea salt, course black pepper, and paprika for a little while!
Gremolata is a great local publication for foodies. How did you get them to let you write under controversial headlines such as “I’m A Natural Born Killer” and take on bread consumption in “Life After Bread”?
I always aim for a clever title, and often use film titles or book titles out of context or slightly twisted as part of my larger word play. Originally I called the piece “Natural Born Killers: Reclaiming the Heritage Diet Nature Gave Us”. “Life After Bread” was supposed to be a play on ‘life after death’ because that’s how it felt at first to give up French stick drizzled with balsamic vinegar!
Malcolm Jolley doesn’t have one particular agenda. He lets us discover new ways of gathering around the table, and enjoy the old ones, too. His genius is the opposite of the niche market- he knows that if you have a dinner party- or even a family dinner- well, there will be all kinds of people. Vegetarians, vegans, shellfish allergies, gourmet snobs and those who prefer soul food, people who don’t drink alcohol, people with different health concerns, people who don’t like most foods and people who are adventurous enough to eat anything. Gremolata invites the whole lot over for dinner and lets them talk amongst themselves.
Interestingly, it was my story “Spilling the Beans,” about the soy deception, that was hard to pitch to anyone. I didn’t know soygriculture was such a big bully but when I was turned down because magazines feared losing their soy ads, I was even more determined to get to the bottom of this issue. I’ve been so programmed to see the meat industry as the big evil, or Papa Sugar, that it never dawned on me that the healthy happy hippie stuff is one of the dirtiest liars in the playing field. I am not alone in thinking that many modern diseases, especially the hormone ones, have entered the scene since we started eating soy. We all eat soy, even if we think we don’t. Most ‘vegetable oil’ is soy oil, a potent hormone disrupter and a fast track to illness.
While I like to think it’s just that I’m such a darn good writer that Malcolm gave me those stories, I know it’s because some of his readers might benefit from that information. I hope my expansive creativity helps my readers at Gremolata embrace their restrictions instead of thinking they can’t enjoy food anymore. I enjoy life more than ever.
Aren’t you afraid of offending vegans and vegetarians?
I’m not. I don’t set out to offend, but ultimately, if you’ve been fooled by the soy agenda and the faulty science that linked, oh, say eggs, to disease, you need to hear the truth again. We’ve lost touch with what our ancestors ate. I used to be one of those vegetarian people who would always bring up the ‘cow pus’ and ‘rotting corpse’ to make my family and friends miserable and guilty. Now that’s offensive! It’s a very volatile issue, and when you are a vegetarian, you feel that people are murderers and that your ethics are higher and your nutrition is purer.
Now I know that denying our heritage diet, cruel or not, is a denial of what it means to be human. Our most valuable nutrients are inside of meat and fat, regardless of the propaganda I used to believe. We have always eaten animal foods, and I want to be thankful for the gift of nourishment. A cat will not have a moral dilemma with killing a bird. No culture has ever lived without animal foods, even vegetarian cultures. All of this hogwash about our bodies designed for vegetarian eating is wishful thinking. I used to wish the same thing, and I made myself sick. If the truth offends vegetarians, I am sorry. I honour anyone’s choice to eat what they will, but most vegetarians, including me when I took that diet on, believe they are choosing health. We are led to believe we can get all the nutrients we need from plants, and that animal foods contain poisons that hurt us, like saturated fat and cholesterol. Now I know it’s the other way around.
If my natural heritage diet offends a vegetarian, then they have a real problem with most of the human race. Almost all of us are omnivores, throughout all of history, except some religious groups. Veganism in particular is an experiment that I feel is almost arrogant in a sense, as if we should outsmart nature instead of receiving its gifts. It also feels like an extreme denial, as if the person doesn’t deserve the essence of life. Of course, I respect an individual’s right to choose not to be cruel, but it comes with a sacrifice. The sacrifice may be more than just nutrition- but social as well. The majority of us will eat instinctively, and so the vegan may always feel isolated unless he or she hangs out in specialized communities. Unfortunately, the information that floats through these communities may be harmful, especially information on vegan baby raising. I can’t imagine a cat would decide to raise its litter vegan to avoid being cruel. Babies need what babies are born to eat, regardless of a parent’s ethics. I find this offensive. I find it offensive when vegetarians continually bring up the death on my plate. It is this death that gives us life, the oldest cycle in the book.
That said, I didn’t set out to make vegetarians angry. My journey to truth has nothing to do with them. It has to do with my lifelong health concerns, which led me to try everything, including vegetarianism. It took a great deal of emotional struggle for me to realize I had been wrong the whole time and that my beloved whole grains were poisoning me. Buying organic free range meats whenever possible, using mom’s farm eggs when I can, help with the guilt. Our factories today are disgusting, no doubt about it, but it’s our responsibility to start demanding real and peaceful food, not denying out bodies what they need.
It took a long time to make myself start drinking whole milk or using butter without terror. To get over my fear of eggs, and to eat the skin with my chicken. To put down things I thought were health foods, including supplements, soy, grains, and so on. But my body began responding right away. I don’t need any other proof about life in the food chain.
Do you think speaking out against bread and high carb diets limits your opportunities as someone interested in publishing on food and cooking? Do you have any first hand experiences with this?
It may very well limit my future in food writing, as trends change. But trends won’t change my health concerns, and gluten makes me very, very sick. I am free to write sandwich stories if so assigned- I just can’t eat them! I believe that ultimately, any restriction forces you to be more creative. I’m just starting out in food writing- most of my writing has been in profiles or arts and literary writing. I think I may have a niche market in the future as well as a general one- wheat free eating doesn’t have to be limited to allergy folks. When I go home, mom makes pancakes with tapioca flour and extra eggs, and the whole family prefers it this way. I am outspoken about my 360 from vegetarian thinking to militant paleo. There’s still debate over whether paleo was low fat or not. I’ll take the food with the fat it comes with naturally- there’s no way our early eaters made skim milk or boneless skinless, for example. I follow the Weston Price foundation. I haven’t been able to disprove a single premise they stand on, and their diet is healing me from the inside out.
I can still entertain vegetarians because I have hundreds of ideas for vegetable foods, have always loved veggies most people never use. I hope my spirit and creativity will be welcome in any publisher’s kitchen, but if some are offended by my lack of wheat or love of meat, I can only say that my health comes first. I had to be open-minded to return to a diet that included meat. I hope people with other diets can be open-minded, and see that the journey I’m on could benefit all of us. It’s hard to argue with millions of years of eating patterns. Yes, we have added all kinds of new things, but the wisdom of our heritage diet will always be relevant to any faction.
Any tips/suggestions for people out there interested in food writing; whether part-time, full-time, or just a few one-off articles? Is there any money to be made or is it mostly just fun?
Didn’t your mother tell you not to be writer when you grow up? Sure, Anne Rice and Danielle Steel are rich. Look how hard they had to work. I don’t recommend that anyone become a writer unless they cannot be happy in any other way. Writing is hard work, lonely work, and you have to be very strong to stand up to embarrassing things you said once that now you disagree with. To deal with the mail- often not so nice, like how I should be caged and tortured to see how the chickens feel. Sure, often I get mail thanking me for my truth or for some inspiring poem. But it’s a roller coaster. I’m just getting involved more in food writing, so if anyone has any tips or assignments, please send them my way! Is there money to be made? Well, yes, and I intend one day to make it. So far I still worry about whether or not I’ll have cat food to last the week. It’s crazy for anyone to try to make a living from writing. When you think about it, there are thousands of new journalism grads each year, and thousands of poetry hopefuls who study English instead. There are magazines that pay a thousand bucks for a story. Let’s say there are 50 of them. You do the math. Even if you are very, very, very good, it’s still kind of a lottery to get an assignment there. You often write for minimum wage, or for free. But I have no choice. I was five years old and writing up cookbooks already, stapling them together. Writing poems about seahorses. Spending all day Saturday at the library, reading stuff that was way over my head just to feel like a writer. I tried to do other things. I should have studied a trade. I dreamed of becoming a topless plumber. It would be wild, wonderful, funny, and I’d have a useful skill that would always be necessary. But I’m chained to the compulsion to write. So, that’s my advice. Do what you have to.
Stay tuned for Part II of this interview covering social stigmas from a female perspective, the real effects diet changes have had in her life and how lessons learned have impacted her future writing projects.
For more info on Lorette you can visit her website, The Girl Can Write. She does freelance writing, has written several books, and does a quite a bit of blogging. You can also check out her food articles on Gremolata.