Think! Eat! Act! A Sea Shepherd Chef’s Vegan Cookbook (VIDEO)
A Sea Shepherd Chef’s Vegan Recipes
Raffaella Tolicetti (Microcosm)
Think! Eat! Act! is not just a series of imperative commands, it is also a vegan cookbook featuring a smorgasbord of mouth-watering recipes that are so simple you could make them in a galley kitchen at sea. In fact, that’s where many of these recipes were recreated. The book features the recipes of Raffaella Tolicetti who has served as Chief Cook on three different seafaring vessels as a working member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The SSCS is an international non-profit organization that is dedicated to conserving marine wildlife around the world. The goal of these “good pirates” is to stop the slaughter of sea animals and halt the destruction of their habitat. Many members of the activist crew on these ships are vegans and they were lucky to have Raffa aboard.
Cooking on an ocean-going vessel is difficult enough and rough waters come with the territory. Add to that, the very real possibility of being rammed by the ships you are seeking to disrupt, and those difficulties increase dramatically. This can be a punishing experience. Raffa believes that eating is not punishment, however. The myth that a vegan diet requires the participant to deny themselves the pleasure of eating is a fallacy, as anyone who uses this cookbook will soon discover. The recipes are easy to follow and incorporate simple, healthy ingredients. Each recipe is accompanied by a gorgeous full color photo that will get aspiring cooks in the mood.
Despite the recipes for eggplant caviar and red pesto pasta, Think! Eat! Act! is more than a cookbook. As the title suggests, it consists of three parts with the Eat section sandwiched between Think and Act. The Think section of the book provides information on vegan facts and outreach, how animals are being exploited on both land and at sea and what vegans can eat to make sure they get essential vitamins and nutrients. The Act section features a number of interviews with fellow animal rights activists who share their own experiences, describe their activism and even contribute a few of their own favorite recipes.
You don’t have to be at sea in pursuit of illegal whaling vessels to make the dishes outlined in this cookbook. Landlubbers can prepare and enjoy them in the dry comfort of their landlocked homes just as well, and neither taste nor flavor need be sacrificed for the good of all.
Five Questions with Vegan Chef, Raffaela Tolicetti
1. You went from being a political science major in Rome, Italy to joining an anti-whaling campaign in Antarctica, what was the evolution of that decision? Was it spontaneous or something that you had been contemplating for a while and how did you become aware of Sea Shepherd?
Back when I was living in Italy, I was already doing a lot of activism in different ways – I was volunteering as an Italian teacher for migrants, was active in a human rights association that fought for Burma people’s freedom, and in general, was doing quite a lot of political activism through my university. Political science in that sense is an amazing degree, as students are very active and do a lot of self-running courses, protests or actions, for civil and political rights mainly, and we have a strong anti-fascism history. When I finished my degree, I wanted to go further, more into direct action and also wanted to combine the political movement with my environmental ethics. So when I learned about Sea Shepherd through Josh, my actual partner, it felt pretty natural to try to join as Sea Shepherd is a direct action organization that does marine conservation. We started to help onshore organizing a few events and screenings. When one of the ships came to Europe we got the opportunity to go and help, and what was at the beginning a few days on board, became a four-year-and-a-half commitment — and who knows how much more still to come!
2. When the anti-whaling ship you were working on was rammed by the factory ship of the whaling fleet your ship was attempting to disrupt, more than once, were those times when you wanted to give up or did it just strengthen your resolve?
Not to sound like a wannabe hero or anything like that, but there have never been times when I wanted to give up. There have been times when I have been scared, and when we were rammed has been on of them. Worse than that has been on that same day, when we could hear the Bob Barker being rammed, and for a moment we thought they had lost power and they were sinking, and they issued a mayday. Those minutes I can recall the panic I felt at the idea of witnessing my friends going down in front of us. Fortunately the whaling factory ship backed off, while the Bob Barker was holding its position. If ever, those moments make your commitment stronger, because these are the crucial moments when you feel that you are actually doing something to help protect the environment and the animals. Usually, you can measure the effectiveness of your action by the reaction the poachers/whalers/offenders have. You know that when they react violently, you are actually disrupting them from their illegal action, and this is exactly what we are there for. We all know it before sailing, and we’re not alone. I wouldn’t be anywhere else but on the ship, part of that effort to protect and defend those defenseless animals.
3. As you describe in one of the prologues of your cookbook, preparing food on a boat in the rough waters of Antarctica is difficult, especially when the boat is being rammed, but what other things were challenging about your experiences with Sea Shepherd?
I guess I had never considered to live on a ship before Sea Shepherd, and had not really considered to be a cook either, not to say the two combined, so it’s been quite a radical change from my past life! Living on a ship, you learn to live in a small environment with lots of people you don’t know, and you have to work hard — at sea it’s a seven days a week, all day, in any meteorological condition. I feel I have become more tolerant, I have learned to live with less and to be happy with what I have and to appreciate way more simple things that at sea become so important. I have learned not to take anything for granted and to fight for what I believe, but also to fight against my body when I was sick, because there is a reason why I do all this, which is to protect something that is being destroyed by the human species. And that thing is the same planet the human species live on, with all the animals and beings that inhabit it. This strength that I feel, the will to act for the better, makes me do things that I didn’t think I would be able to do before. Like cooking while being rammed by a ship eight times heavier than you, in the coldest and most remote sea of the world.
4. You’ve said that you believe you were born a vegetarian and were forced fed meat and fish as a child. Do remember a moment as a child where you made the connection between the meat and animals?
My granddad is from a small town on the Atlantic Ocean in France, and I spent every summer there when I was a kid. There all my family was always eating fish and seafood, but unlike land animal meat (which I hated for the taste and the blood I could see, but never really realized it was an animal), with sea animals I could see them on my plate. I thought of them as cadavers. And because I have always thought about death a lot since I was young, the idea to eat some being that was alive before and dead now was totally freaking me out. You have no idea the crying and the yelling. I have never eaten seafood on my own. When I grew older though I still had meat when I couldn’t see it was an animal, like in a sausage or mince, even though pretty rarely. It was only when I left home and went to live by myself at 18 that I made the connection. I was listening to a lot of punk rock, and in one of the Goldfinger DVDs they had a video about animal farming. It clicked in my brain, it all made sense and I stopped eating meat that day. I just wish I had made the same connection with meat than fish earlier and I think this is one of the most powerful weapons of the meat industry, that they can disguise their murder so easily because most of the people separate the animal alive from what they eat, which they see as just a product, born as a product and not from the belly of another animal. We have split minds, we see what we want to see and ignore the rest. Fortunately we also have a compassion side that when we restore the truth, can start acting rational again and stand up against the slaughter of the billions of animals every year.
5) Now that you have put your life on the line to stop animal exploitation, and had a book published, what’s next? Are you still going to sea with Sea Shepherd or are you pursuing more land-based activities for now?
I am currently on board of the Sam Simon to prepare next campaign, Operation IceFish, which will take us once again in Antarctica, this time against the illegal fishing of Patagonian toothfish. Longlines are a monstrous thing — up to 2,500 baited hooks along miles and miles of lines that kill everything. I certainly do not believe in industrial sustainable fishing anyway, but this campaign is going to target especially the illegal fishermen that take advantage of the remoteness of Antarctica to do their killing operations. This campaign is so important, by removing a longline you can save so many lives and therefore have an impact on the whole ecosystem.
Aside from that, I want to continue to use the book as an instrument to raise funds and awareness for campaigns and projects all around the world. So far I have done events where the proceeds from the books and food went to Sea Shepherd, Soi Dog, Djurratsälliansen, LAC, Support Vegan Prisoners, Vancouver Animal Defense League, Wildlife Defense League, Lentil as Anything. There are so many more great people doing great things that I want to continue to support through the book, so after the campaign I think I’ll keep doing that as much as I can. The book exists only for this reason, and I like the fact that it is “alive.” even now that the writing part is finished. I can use it to reach so many people and I do strongly hope that it has and will keep on inspiring many more people.
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