It was standing-room only in the Lagoon Cinema last night, as people lined the walls of the theater to see the premiere of Forks Over Knives, the new documentary film by Lee Fulkerson that espouses the life-changing (even life-saving) benefits of a plant-based diet. Never has a jam-packed movie theater been so conspicuously free of tubs of popcorn and vats of soda. We all knew we were about to be schooled, and no one was interested in being caught with their hand in the popcorn jar in the middle of the lesson.
Because, you see, the message of the film is not simply that we should engage in Meatless Mondays and cut back on sodium. What it proposes is a much more radical shift in lifestyle that eschews animal products, dairy, processed foods, refined sugar, and even extracted oils. Yes, even that oft-touted bastion of healthy fats and omega-3's, olive oil, is off the menu now. The Hot Dish stuck around after the film to hear what the panel of experts, which included local chef and cookbook author Robin Asbell and Star Tribune journalist and cooking instructor Beth Dooley, had to say.[jump]
Asbell took a moderated, accessible position right off the bat. "When I was 16," she said, "I thought I was going to live to see everyone become a vegetarian. I no longer expect that, but I want to inch people closer to eating more plants." Panel member Rip Esselstyn, son of one of the featured doctors in the film, a retired firefighter, world-class triathlete, and featured cast member of the film himself, takes a harder line. "I've never done anything halfway my whole life, so I can't stand up here and tell you, 'Do a little of this, try a little of that, and maybe you'll feel better.' You need to jump in and go all the way if you want to see the transformational effects of eating right, and then you'll be a believer."
There was a moment of inadvertent comedy when the microphone was handed back to mild-mannered Asbell after Esselstyn's Braveheart-like proclamation, and the panel leader looked at her expectantly. Clearly reluctant to add anything, Asbell simply sighed, "Yeah, he's probably right," and passed the mic along.
Dooley took a slightly more cerebral tack, explaining, "Cooking is one of the most subversive things you can do, because it means you're in total control. And as Michael Pollan said, 'We need to stop focusing on the health-care system and start focusing on the food production system.'"
No matter where you land on the wide spectrum of diets, whether you're already vegan, a vegetarian, or confirmed carnivore, this film is sure to give you plenty of food for thought and discussion. We were drawn to Asbell's moderate approach of working more plant-based foods into our current diet, but there is plenty of evidence to support Esselstyn's more stringent position as well.
The film opens to the public tomorrow at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema in Uptown.
Forks Over Knives Landmark Lagoon Cinema 2906 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis 612.825.6006 The Lagoon's website