Interview with Jae Steele

October 7th, 2008 · Lisa · book review, Review · Comments


Me: In Get it Ripe, you provide a wealth of information about micronutrients, detoxing/cleansing, digestion, food quality, cooking/sprouting techniques and of course delicious recipes. Why did you feel it was important to provide your readers with more than just amazing recipes?

Jae: I just wrote the kind of book that I would want to have when making food decisions-in the grocery store, the kitchen and at the table. Many of us know we need adequate amounts of calcium and B vitamins and such to stay healthy, but we’re not entirely sure what they do for us, so I included the macro-and micronutrient charts. Detoxing is a popular topic, but so many people are overwhelmed by how complicated they think it might be, so I wrote a simple detox tutorial. I see so many clients with digestive issues who want to understand what’s going on, so I put in the chapter that follows a carrot and hummus through the digestive tract, in layperson’s terms. Lots of clients want to know how to sprout and cook legumes at home, so I covered that too.

Me: What life events moved you to adopt a vegetarian-and then vegan-lifestyle?

Jae: I was never a fan of meat, event as a kid, though I think the turning point was one summer in my teens when I was off to residential camp for a couple months and decided I wouldn’t eat the weird camp meat. And I didn’t feel the need to introduce it to my diet when I got home at the end of August that year. The switch to veganism happened when I was doing a work exchange on a small organic herb farm in Nove Scotia at the age of twenty. I had a huge crush on someone I met there who held very fast to his vegan politics, and I was swayed by his beliefs. I was generally opening up to more whole foods than I’d grown up with, but his charm was the clincher. (I’d love to say it was more political than that, but I’m opting for honesty here). And, as I always explain, he promptly took off to work with an animal rights organization in California and left me with this new dietary path, which changed my life.

Me: What dish do you make to share with your friends to demonstrate how easy and satisfying a whole-foods plant-based diet can be?

Jae: The Pesto White Bean Bowl often wins the ‘easy and satisfying’ award, though if I’m cooking for my conventional eating dad, stepmum and brothers, I’ll make the Good Shepherd’s Pie, Almost Focaccia Bread and a simple salad with balsamic vinagrette. My Date Coconut Cookies are currently selling with great popularity at a local cafe, alongside non-vegan scones and croissants. I have yet to see anyone not polish their plate when they’be had a slide of my Carob Chai Cake, Spice Swirl Bundt Cake or Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble. I even had a friend report that she brought the Cocoa Avocado Mousse to supper at her in-laws and they went nuts for it!
Me: In your book you promote cleansing a few times each year. What benefits could people who follow a plant-based diet gain from cleansing?

Jae: Like I said, veganism isn’t inherently healthy, so just because you’re following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you’re not starting your morning with coffee, and following with a sugary muffin. I am very committed to the daily detox that starts off eavery day: warm water, lemon water or dandelion tea, followed by fresh fruit and then something with a decent amount of greens and/or protein. All of that is liver-friendly, and our liver is one of the primary organs we have to thank for detoxification. A good cleanse can lead to better skin, clearer thinking, greater sense of calm and ease, reduced allergies and digestive issues, enhanced fertility, and improved health overall. It can be a great kick-start for a cleaner daily diet.

Me: What projects do you have on the horizon? I know this book has just been released so you may want to enjoy this accomplishment before launching into the next, but do you have dreams of future publications?

Jae: I had far too much content to fit into Get It Ripe, but while it was hard to cut thinkgs, it has also left me with a decent amount of content for my next book. The overall sentiment will be the same in the second book, but the focus will be more on local foods, environmentalism, and community-building with food, which is something I think a lot us can benefit from getting back to.
My blog, domestic affair, has been in need of some attention for quite some time, so I plan to put more of my energy into making that current again. Having just moved back to Toronto after a couple years in Montreal, I am also focusing on starting up my nutritional practice again-offering health consultations, private and group cooking classes and workshops to folks in the city. And, possibly most exciting in an instant-gratification way, is the cooking videos that are in the works. We plan to get a few up on YouTube soon.

Me: What’s the best reaction you’re had to the book so far?

Jae: The process of getting other authors to “blurb” my book was really fun for me. It was the first time that I was like “Wow, people are getting what I was intending to put out into the world”. I felt so honoured to be recognized by my health idols, like Ontario-based naturopathic doctor Sal Dharam Kaur and celebrity raw foods chef Renee Loux, because I’d enjoyed absorbing their work through their books in the past few years. That feeling of gratitude continues every time I get an email from someone who’s just read the book. I like to picture Get It Ripe on countertops in all sorts of people’s kitchens, getting used, because it reminds me that this stuff isn’t just in my head, or relevent for only me, it may get other people going too.

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