PBS doc 'Soul Food Junkies' Dick Gregory talks diet and life changes
By April MacIntyre Jul 21, 2012, 22:02 GMT
"Soul Food Junkies" panel at TCA Saturday: From left, Dick Gregory, Mary-Louise Parker and Byron Hurt. photo by Rahoul Ghose, courtesy TCA
PBS Independent Lens “Soul Food Junkies” is food for thought.
Specifically, comfort food created with what was available and through time, relied on to bring families together in a common expression of love and community.
Except the food that is meant to nourish is most certainly in dire need of a caloric makeover. The documentary takes a hard look at the whys and ways we as Americans fill our plates. especially the poorer in the community, and deal with the aftermath of diseases from unhealthy diets.
“Soul Food Junkies” transcends race and gender and speaks to poverty and what limitations that sets for those trying to eat and provide for their family. “Soul Food Junkies” will air January of 2013.
This five time Emmy Award winning series is an independent film festival introduces a new documentary from among the best independent filmmakers working today.
Today at summer television press tour at the Beverly Hilton, Lois Vossen, senior series producer of Independent Lens, to the stage to introduce “Soul Food Junkies” independent filmmaker Byron Hurt, who set out to learn more about the culinary tradition and the relevance of soul food in relation to his community.
Joining him was Dick Gregory, comedian and a civil rights activist, and author of many books, including Callus on My Soul, which is a follow up autobiography to his previous autobiography Nigger.
Vossen shared that during the early ’70s Gregory moved to Massachusetts, where he developed an interest in vegetarianism and became a nutritional consultant and, in the ’80s, founded Health Enterprises, a company that distributed weight loss products.
In 2001 Gregory was diagnosed with cancer, yet refused traditional chemotherapy and opted for alternative medicine experts to develop a regimen of diet and exercise and vitamins that he believed reversed his disease. And he’s now a hundred percent cancer free.
Monsters and Critics asked Mr. Gregory about his diet and commitment to vegetarian ways.
Monsters and Critics: When you made your dietary changes because of your health, are you a vegan, or do you have some animal in your diet? And can you talk about the specifics of the changes you made in lieu of taking the chemotherapy and the traditional cancer treatments, and if you could talk about that a little bit?
DICK GREGORY: Well, I didn’t make a dietary change for for health reasons. I made it for moral reasons. I thought a good diet was whatever you liked didn’t run out before you got enough
and a bad diet is when it did run out. I didn’t know many of the things I know now. The poorer you are make no difference what color or what sex you look for instant gratification.
That’s why we don’t understand why poor countries have so much babies. Well, you can’t get no more instant gratification than sex!
Sugar I have tasted. If you go in the poor white or black neighborhood and gave them crack and they couldn’t feel it for nine months, they wouldn’t take it. It’s instant gratification you’re looking for. And that’s what the spice is, not the food. I don’t get no instant gratification out of no damn turnip or carrot.
It’s what’s put on it that gives me the instant gratification. So I never knew. I didn’t walk through the world believing that there was good food and bad food. It was just did I get enough?
And so, consequently, in Mississippi...a Mississippi sheriff kick my wife in the stomach when she was nine months’ pregnant. And I made believe I didn’t jump on him because of nonviolence. Bullshit! I didn’t jump on him because I was scared. And at that time I was drinking a fifth of scotch every day, worse than alcoholic.
Alcoholics drink it because they need it. I was drinking it because I liked it!
I was smoking four packs of cigarettes every day, and my weight was on its way up to 365 pounds. I knew nothing about nutrition. But that night in the nightclub when I got back to San Francisco, I made a decision that I would never eat anything that had to be killed for my dinner because if I’m not going to jump on this Mississippi sheriff that kicked my pregnant wife, an animal wouldn't have deserved that... that’s the way I made the decision.
Now, understand one thing: If we didn’t eat meat, they’d give it to us for free. There’s no money in the meat. It’s in the hide. I ain’t never bought a $3600 pair of steaks.
(Laughter.) It’s in the hide; okay? And so that was the decision I made because of that. And I just knew I needed protein, and so I started eating Knox gelatin. I didn’t know Knox gelatin comes from horses’ hooves.
And then...before that I never weighed over 131 pounds in my life. After that, believing I needed protein, protein, I was eating, like, five or six times a day. And from that, over a period of time, I went up to 365 pounds.
It didn’t bother me in no shape, form, or fashion. But I didn’t know it wasn’t bothering me. So people would come in the ghetto and ask me, “how come you don’t eat meat?” And they become authorities. They can’t even spell “protein.”
“What do you do for protein?” And with love it’s simple I said, “You know, there’s a lot of protein in a steak.” “Yeah. How come you don’t eat steak?” “Because cows don’t eat steak. As a matter of fact, the meat you eat don’t eat meat.”
And so all it was and so little by little... you start seeing people that when I was drinking a fifth of scotch every day, four packs of cigarettes every day, top weight 365 pounds, nobody called me a nut. When I put all that down and changed, I become a health nut. I’m a nut!
If you took a bottle of calcium, liquid calcium, and drank it down, everybody would think there was something wrong with you. But if you sit there and drink a fifth of scotch, they’d be, “She’s drinking a fifth of scotch.” Well, whatever a bottle of calcium will do, drinking it at one time, it won’t do to your liver, your kidneys, and your body what a fifth of scotch will do.
So consequently that’s how I got into it. And because I was a celebrity, loved by black folks and they would listen to me, then I did the book on it. And from that, that’s where we are.
The health in America and most of Europe now is going to be listed as national security. That’s how bad it is. Twenty years from now we will not be able to muster a military. So you’re going to start seeing laws come down. You’re going to start seeing taxes come down, and all that other stuff we’ve been going through is going to come change that quick. And that’s what’s so good about the “Soul Food Junkies.” It’s right on time.