Organics, Philosophy, Politics,
and Food Safety:
An interview with Andre Chomondeley,
co-owner of the Second Nature Health Food Store
Note: The spiritual and political views mentioned in this article
are the beliefs of the individuals quoted, and are not necessarily
held by other Pulse of Oriental Medicine authors, or the magazine
as a whole.
When I met Andrea 12 years ago, he was the manager of The Food
Co-op in New Brunswick, New Jersey. For many years now he has
co-owned Second Nature, a large and thriving health food store
in Red Bank, New Jersey.
Juliette Aiyana (JA): Tell us a little more about your
background, what got you into health food, and why it has remained
your career and passion for so long.
Andre Chomondeley (AC): My dietary evolution started in
around 1983 I was in school at Rutgers' and
walking along College Avenue when I saw a Hare Krishna table with
info, some tasty vegetarian dessert things and lots of books,
including The Higher Taste . This book dug pretty deep into Hindu/Krishna
philosophy, re-incarnation etc. but what hit me upside the head
was the fact that we are killing living beings, sentient beings
that feel pain, that have nervous systems almost identical to
ours, etc. They also introduced me clearly to the whole concept
of "karma". So compassion for animals has long been
a major reason for not eating them for almost 20 years.
Then as I learned more about the health issues surrounding animal
consumption, and the environmental devastation that meat production
causes, there was no turning back. I remain passionate for the
advancement of a natural diet because I get to see the results
of countless people who have changed their lifestyle during my
time in retail, and the incredible results they can get.
JA: Many people tell me that they think organic and health
foods are "too expensive". How do you respond to that?
AC: The easy, and somewhat flippant answer, that I give
all the time is "Isn¹t it expensive to be sick?"
Look in my medicine cabinet or that of any "health nut"
you won¹t find Tagamet, Claritin, Tums, Zantac, Pepcid AC,
Coumadin, Paxil, etc. OTC Drugs and prescriptions are not cheap
(Americans are on an average of SIX prescriptions!)
Also, lets really look at the fact that "non-organic"
foods cost us all millions, perhaps billions of tax dollars -
who do we think pays for all the endless cleanup of pesticide
damage? Who do we think is paying for the massive attempts to
save the Gulf of Mexico which we¹ve pretty well devastated
with chemical runoff? Whose tax dollars subsidized the Pork Industry
with 4 or 5 billion dollars to prop us sagging sales just a few
Health author/researcher Gary Null has calculated that a head
of non-organic lettuce would cost $4-5 if you added in all the
taxpayer subsidies. Finally, with irradiation almost the norm,
how much money is an organic food critic willing to save to eat
food that has been treated with x-rays from plutonium-237?
We need to educate people that organic foods more truly reflect
the cost to the farmers and producers of it. The pork industry,
chicken industry, non-organic corn, wheat, soy farmers all are
subsidized by your tax dollars. The Organic farmers have gotten
none of this to date. And organic food usually tastes better.
Life is too short to save your money and eat dangerous food that's
JA: Many of your shoppers have switched from eating foods
from the supermarket to eating fresh, organic, seasonal vegetables,
and organic meat and dairy products, and whole grains. What do
they say about the difference in taste, quality and how they feel?
AC: People who genuinely make a change in their lives
to an organically based diet always say they feel better, enjoy
their food more, taste the real flavors of natural foods, and
their allergies subside. I get all kinds of positive reactions.
I've seen this consistently for the more than 12 years I've been
in this industry. That's one of the major reasons I stay with
it. Few who experience real food the way it was for millions of
years turn back.
JA: I am sure you agree that shopping at your local health
food store/co-op isn't just looking for good food but it is also
a political statement and action. So what is the political statement
and what is the importance of this action?
AC: The statement is a loud and clear "I demand better
food than what the mainstream corporate food-machine wants to
test on me." This is literally true as dozens of new additives
and food technologies keep arriving on supermarket shelves, without
public consent, and often without notification. It's also a way
to send a message that you support small, local farmers and farmers
who seek to return to a method of farming (organic) that uses
crop rotation, beneficial pests, and healthy plants instead of
petro-chemical based pesticides and fertilizers.
JA: With so much conflicting scientific reports about
benefits or detriments of soy, Genetically Modified Foods (GMO's),
etc., I bet many of your shoppers come in with a lot of questions.
How do you help them flesh out the truth?
AC: Well, I'm real big on pointing out to people that
they must consider the source and economic biases of every recommendation
or condemnation they encounter. And just as the Soy Industry Board
(or whoever promotes soy) has gone overboard with hanging every
magical power on this humble little bean so have the opponents
of soy and even of vegetarianism focused on the small percent
of people who have overdone their intake of highly processed soy
products like TVP (texturized vegetable protein), soy salami,
soy milk, soy meat analogs etc.
We shouldn¹t ignore, though in typical style we will, the
fact that many in Asia have a diet which features soy prominently
BUT in conjunction with less or no animal protein, dark leafy
greens, good fats, nuts, seeds, other legumes and vegetables of
all types. So, soy clearly has a place in a balanced diet if one
wishes to consume it. The trick is to not let soy be the food
you eat at every meal as many vegetarians and other health conscious
people do. Also, to emphasize the least processed versions of
soy: edamame, miso, tempeh, tamari etc.
In terms of GMO's there really is noone saying they are a good
idea that is not in some way strapped to the Biotech Cashcow.
The pro- GMO forces tip their hand by refusing to allow any kind
of clear, unambiguous labeling. If it's so safe, so good for us,
why can¹t a consumer choose by reading clear consumer info
at the point of purchase? Another tip is that the biotech/irradiation
industry is actively coercing the FDA to allow them to rename
nuclear Irradiation as "cold pasteurization."
Irradiation uses spent nuclear fuel (incl. plutonium 237) as
the operative agent in an ill-advised attempt to "purify"
food. USA school lunches are about to be approved for irradiation,
another example of testing technologies on innocent bystanders.
Remember those films of the US soldier in foxholes, as they watched
the mushroom cloud of test-nukes? Every child in public school
is about to reprise that role unless we do something.
JA: How can people find a health food store or co-op in
their area? And are there any other resources about fresh, healthy
eating you recommend?
AC: First off - I recommend the yellow pages! In my travels
around the USA, I eat incredibly well every day, in every city
or town.You will almost always find a couple of nearby health
food stores in the phone book. The next step would be to look
up health oriented or vegetarian restaurants call them and ask
where natural foods can be found (and vice versa).
Second just about every modern supermarket in the USA has a "health
food aisle", and at least 2-3 organic produce items. Many
stores now have a significant organic produce section just ask.
Third use the web! Any search engine will help you out if you
type in "name of town natural food" or anything similar.
There are also websites like www.vegdining.com
that list natural food stores and restaurants worldwide. There's
an incredible amount of mail-order outfits, including delivery
of fresh organic produce.
- Magazines like - Vegetarian Times, Natural Health, and Yoga
- On the radio in the NY area, or via the web Gary Null (WBAI
99.5 FM, Noon-1pm weekdays. Also garynull.com),
Dr Ronald Hoffman (WOR 710 AM, weeknights 9pm-10pm drhoffman.com)
Both radio shows feature daily topics on every aspect of natural
health, diet, detoxing, the dangers of conventional drugs, the
compromised FDA etc.
- For info on the dangers of animal milk www.notmilk.com,
which also has an incredible links page. For recipes, medical
info on vegetarianism/veganism and reversal of disease check
- Prion/Mad cow disease www.mad-cow.com.
Lots of great links at all the above sites.
JA: Wow. Thank you, Andre, for answering my questions with
such truth and passion and for all the resources for Pulse readers!
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Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac.
Aiyana Center for Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs, NYC