Adrienne Miles Holderbaum (Producer): Welcome to Library Matters, the Montgomery County Public Libraries' podcast.
Alessandro Russo: Library Matters is Montgomery County Public Libraries' podcast. Each episode will explore the world of books, libraries, technology and learning. I am Alessandro Russo.
David Watts: And I am David Watts. We hope you'll join us as we discuss the challenges and opportunities facing libraries and the people they serve.
Alessandro Russo: On today's episode we will be discussing what books prompted you to make a big or small lifestyle or habit change. There are many books that have helped change us in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. I can think of a few titles myself such as Norman Vincent Peale's the Power of Positive Thinking. A few others that come to mind include The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz or even Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Today, we are fortunate to be joined by MCPL staff members, Teresa Kolacek and Carol Reddan. Teresa and Carol please introduce yourselves to our listeners.
Teresa Kolacek: Hi am Teresa Kolacek and I have been working with MCPL since 1998, first as a Children's Library Associate at the Damascus branch and then later at Gaithersburg Library and I am now an Adult Library Associate Two at the Davis branch, which will be reopening on April 8th.
Carol Reddan: Hi, I am Carol Reddan and I am a library associate at Olney branch. I also am a Olney resident. I started in 1999 as a substitute because my children were small. So that was great, it gave me a chance to go to every branch in the county so I know the county well but I am happy to be settled in Olney as the team librarian.
Alessandro Russo: What books prompted you to make a big or small lifestyle change or habit change.
Teresa Kolacek: Well, there were many books because I read mostly nonfiction for pleasure but one of the ones that really stands out is the book by Nina Planck, author's last name P-L-A-N-C-K called real food, what to eat and why. This is a book that came out in the mid 2000s and talks about eating the way our grandparents or great grandparents ate, food that was not raised in conventional factory farms, grass-fed meats, pasture raised chicken, butter, you know fresh from the farm, were basically unadultered food and how it can increase your health and actually be much healthier than all of the "health food" that is out there in the local supermarkets.
Carol Reddan: That book that prompted me was Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott who like many people spent a year abroad during college and she lived with her French family and took home many valuable lessons that she uses to this day in her daily life, and its – its mostly about paying attention to daily life and how we eat, how we dress, how we interact with one another.
Alessandro Russo: So did you read these books in attempting to make a change or was it kind of just go with the flow and see where it goes?
Teresa Kolacek: For me I've had a long interest in food, in cooking and eating well and healthy living and so when I saw this book, Real Food and it basically gave me an authoritative source for the things that I had been picking up literally organically and here was somebody who grew up in Virginia on a farm, moved to London to open a farmer's market there, then ended up working in New York City at a farmer's market so she was instrumental in actually bringing the farm movement, the farmer's market movement to the United States and to the DC area. In fact, the Dupont Circle Farmers Market is one of the – the best markets on East Coast and she was among other people instrumental in – in starting that movement. So for me it was a source that I could point to when I was eating butter and things that other people considered not healthy, I could refer them to this book.
Carol Reddan: When I came about this book, I was actually working at the return desk and a woman was returning lot of books and this just caught my eye and was asking about it and I was just intrigued because she told me she is a Professor at Montgomery College and every summer she picks a subject to devote herself to while she is off work and this particular summer she was sort of devouring all the French books, there are so – so many books about idealizing French culture and this was one of them, so I thought "hmmm" so I took a look at it and I liked a lot of what it said in the book and some things I take issue with but overall, I think there is a lot to be said. I don’t want to over-idealize French culture but she makes some good points about how they approach their food, fresh food, diet. Jennifer Scott the author was a college student used to a very American lifestyle of supercasual snacking and it – going to France was just the antithesis of all that and it just turned her around and for years now she is trying to maintain these French habits.
Alessandro Russo: I guess the question that begs asking is did you incorporate any of this into your own lifestyles and did it change your families and how you connected with the world?
Teresa Kolacek: Well, my husband definitely appreciates this because he loves eating as much as I do. We basically go to the Farmer's Market at Dupont Circle on Sundays, pick up most of our food there and then I cook over the weekend and he loves it because he gets to eat homemade farm-fresh food, mostly organic that is – that tastes like real food. If you taste meat that is raised without hormones and all these other additives and literally conventionally factory-farm meats are fed things like candy wrappers and – and literally garbage so you are eating that stuff as well. When you eat those items it’s just – its why you European cooking also is. If you go to Europe, if you go to other cultures and you eat their food and even people who were born aboard and come here they say the food tastes different. I have met staff members who work in MCPL and said they had to get adjusted to the food in America once they came here because it didn’t have flavor.
Alessandro Russo: Well the saying is you are what you eat so…
Teresa Kolacek: Definitely.
Alessandro Russo: It holds true in your case.
Teresa Kolacek: And I have to also add that I have read this Madame Chic book and I also read in that area.
Carol Reddan: It’s an overlap.
Teresa Kolacek: Yes I totally agree with everything Carol just said…
Carol Reddan: Good habits are good habits.
Teresa Kolacek: Because so much of that is not just French per se but –
Carol Reddan: Right.
Teresa Kolacek: A different, maybe a more European lifestyle where food is important. In America, food is considered an afterthought to eat while you are watching television, while you are driving to work. Most Europeans of whatever culture would not eat that way so food is something to be shared with family and friends.
Carol Reddan: Yes.
Teresa Kolacek: It is time to relax and to enjoy. It’s a pleasurable activity, whereas in America you are made to feel guilty if you enjoy eating what some people consider bad food.
Alessandro Russo: Here is an Italian saying [Foreign language] means where there is a kitchen there is family. So it's kind of the European of, that’s the center of their world. The -- the kitchen is where you talk, kitchen is where you are sharing, you know, and that’s why I relate very close to what they are talking about European food style, lifestyle versus American lifestyle.
David Watts: So you spoke a little bit about the impact on – on your husband but how about your family at large?
Teresa Kolacek: Well, we don’t have any children and both, my husband and I have family who live either overseas or other state so, it doesn’t really impact the other family members. But one thing that it did impact was when my husband went, and he has always been healthy but he went to get his physical one year and I forget what his cholesterol numbers were but then he went back the next year and his HDL good numbers increased by like 20 or 30 points and his doctor said "What are you doing?" He said "Well I eat three eggs every morning for breakfast, buttered toast," you know whole – we buy whole grain bread from the farmer's market and basically it is much healthier because he is eating literally real food instead of manufactured food.
Carol Reddan: I do try to institute these changes in my life and I have success and I will trail off and then I'll come back to it again. I follow Jennifer Scott's weekly vlog which helps keep me sort of in that philosophy so and I – there is a lot of overlap with some of, you know, the things that you are talking about with paying attention to food, not eating on the go, when you eat you sit down to eat and just kind of celebrating daily life. I've tried to do that, pay attention to that. Like she notes that when she lived with this French family, the woman, the mother of the family likes doing her daily household chores, like she didn’t mind cleaning, it was sort of a celebration of the home, you know, it's not a chore, not something to be looked down on but something to celebrate and she makes a lot of her own home cleaning products which I've done, the daily shopping is just like a nice daily ritual to you know, get what you are going to bring home to eat for dinner. Its daily patterns of life that you should celebrate be into not look it as a burden or you know, so. Yeah and I have, my family did notice like you know, you keep making that household cleaner. The house – why does the house smell like vinegar? I am like that’s a good smell, that’s a good smell.
David Watts: So you had a hit on the idea that these books have impacted your lives but in general, do you feel happier, do you feel richer in the sense of just more positiveness in yourself?
Teresa Kolacek: I definitely feel happier, more content in the sense that I am not worrying about what I am going to eat because I don’t have to worry about counting calories, counting carbs, measuring this, measuring that. I eat the way human beings have eaten for millennium which is to eat good food, fresh, you know, wholesome food. I cook it the way I like to prepare it, mostly Mediterranean style but also I use lard in the wintertime to make my soups that I get directly from the farmer's market. There is another wonderful book out there that is more scientific than real food, it's called The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz and this woman actually went back and got a degree in either biology or biochemistry so she could read the original scientific studies going back to Ancel Keys from the 1950s and what she found was that what the scientific studies actually showed when you dug into them was not with the information they were putting out to the public and in the summaries. So, Ancel Keys cherry picked his data to support his hypothesis as opposed to giving all of the results and what she is documenting in this pretty hefty tom is that saturated fat is not bad for you, that you should be eating again, the grass-fed and pasture products that this whole focus on low fat, no fat diet has been what's caused the diabetes and obesity epidemics to occur.
David Watts: Is there a way to make organic living affordable?
Teresa Kolacek: Well, one thing you can do is if you have a windowsill or a little patch of land, you can grow some of your own food like tomatoes, lettuce, some things that would be more expensive like organic tomatoes per pound are going to – and because they are heavy and I like to eat a lot of tomatoes, that costs more than say buying organic lettuce. The other thing you should consider is at least buying some, if not all of your meats or dairy because the toxins of the animal meat get concentrated, the higher up the food chain it goes. So it's actually more important, if you can, to at least eat some organic meats and dairy and the other thing is if you look around and you cut out the junk food that you eat and – and this is – it will have to be a gradual transition but if you start weaning yourself away from all the junk food that is sold in the regular grocery stores and start spending that money on fruits, vegetables, good meats, dairy or whatever you'll find that you can at least help out budget wise by money you save on the junk food you can put towards good food and there are all kinds of list. If you just Google search like the – the worst pesticide laden fruits and vegetables so you don’t have to eat everything like bananas, you peel those, so that’s not as important to have an organic banana as it would be say something like lettuce that you know is harder to clean.
Carol Reddan: One tangible aspect that this book helped me to implement is kind of an approach to minimalism in your lifestyle and she really goes over how her French family had very, very few clothing. Their closets were very tiny. They actually – they lived in a fairly tiny apartment and each person had about 10 items of clothing and they would just wear their clothing over and over again and at first she was – didn’t think that that was possible but then she did that when she came back to America and now she has a whole thing where she has given Ted talks about having 10 items in your wardrobe and I can’t say that I've gotten down to 10 items but it – I have reduced my closet by about like 30 to 35% and that makes you feel like you have so much more. My closet used to just be like packed like that with articles of clothing that I mostly ignored and you just have to look at it and take out what you don’t wear and now I just have things in there where there is space and it just feels like I have so much more and it is just really gratifying every time I look in my closet and I have a feeling of accomplishment. I got rid of all those things I wasn’t using, give them away to charity and it just – I get a nice gratifying feeling every time I look at my closet now. And I have cut down a lot on the amount of take out like eating on the go, so that feels really gratifying too like planning ahead a little bit like on Wednesday nights I work till 9 o'clock so I try to plan ahead, get something in the morning, a whole bagel or something that I can come home and just toast as opposed to stopping by a fast food place. So, I have instituted little changes like that and its – it's really gratifying and – and gives you a really good feeling when you feel successful that you are carrying them out.
David Watts: Sounds like less is more.
Carol Reddan: Less is always more, right? Right. Right.
Teresa Kolacek: I'd just like to say since I've also read that book I think she said that its like 10 pieces of clothing per season so it's not like you have to live summer and winter –
Carol Reddan: Yes, yes.
David Watts: Right.
Teresa Kolacek: With the same 10 pieces.
Carol Reddan: Ummhmm.
Teresa Kolacek: So that does and you change your clothes seasonally so you have, you know a [indiscernible] [0:16:15] wardrobe.
Carol Reddan: And she always places quality above quantity, 10 really well-made good pieces are worth so much more than 20 cheaper pieces of clothing that are going to last. Like don’t buy something just because it's on sale, buy it because you really, really like it and you want to have it for a very long time.
David Watts: Tell me how both of you have detailed how these books have brought about lifestyle changes for you but relate that from our customer's experience, how – how do you deal with that information question and how do you refer people to something that might help bring about a lifestyle change for them?
Teresa Kolacek: Well, when people come to the Davis branch especially and they – they do a lot of reader's advisory so they are looking for things to read and when somebody comes in and asks me a question about, you know, diet and lifestyle they are not quite sure what they want, they don’t have a specific book in mind, I always, this is the very first book I recommend, The Real Food. I also now recommend The Big Fat Surprise that’s why I've had to have this book reordered at our branch just because it gets checked out so much. So it is something that I and also even colleagues. There was a colleague I worked with at Kensington who was so thrilled when I recommended this book to her and she has made lifestyle changes based on this book.
Carol Reddan: I recommend this book to people who just are looking for something to read, it’s a quick read, it's very easy to read, its well written and broken down in neat little concise chapters but I also want to take – make a point although that not that everything Jennifer says I totally agree with, some I do take issue with some of her advice. Like she – she places a lot of emphasis on dressing up every day. She is real big on never wear extra size clothing, always dress your best. She wears a lot of dresses and I am not totally on board with that, I see nothing, maybe I am just too American but I see nothing wrong with wearing extra size clothing out and about.
David Watts: Or T-Shirt –
Carol Reddan: Or I yeah, yeah. I mean to me its about, yeah, you want to be presentable and clean but she – she – it seemed to me she seems to place more emphasis on appearance than comfort.
Alessandro Russo: Is there is a conversation with yourself that you kind of try to keep yourself motivated to you know, you've made these lifestyles already, but what's your – what's your kind of – your own advice to yourself to say this is worth it.
Teresa Kolacek: Its second nature, I don’t even have to think about it. I've been doing this for so many years now that its – it's very easy for me to pass up the junk food that people into work when if – if somebody brings in say a cake to celebrate something and I look at the ingredients on the package and it's you know, 5 inches long paragraph, I don’t need that, I don’t feel well. When you start eating this way and then you would eat something that has all of these chemicals and additives, it sometimes gives me an upset stomach so it's an easy way to – to just ignore and as far as what Carol has been talking about the Madame Chic, I've also tried to incorporate some of those things and I basically went through my wardrobe and although I have way more than 10 articles of clothing, I've minimized it so I have mostly neutrals and a few basic colors that work with anything so I don’t have to think in the morning. Whatever pair of pants I put on goes with whatever top I want to throw on and it – it's more dictated by the weather how I dress than anything else.
Carol Reddan: What's your usual dinner? What's dinner?
Teresa Kolacek: Actually my main meal of the day is more – is lunch because, again –
Carol Reddan: Okay.
Teresa Kolacek: That’s a more European so I cook enough on the weekends that I have a couple of days' worth like I just made lamb osso bucco with all kinds of vegetables and cannellini beans. I made a big pot of that so I have that for lunch, the next time it is my lunch – two days is my limit for the leftover so I am having the second leftover lunch today.
Carol Reddan: Do you eat out a lot?
Teresa Kolacek: No rarely.
Carol Reddan: You don’t eat out?
Teresa Kolacek: Rarely special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries because if we go out to eat it is going to be a place that serves really good high-quality food and that’s expensive and we couldn’t afford to eat out that way. So we never eat out fast casual or fast food but my husband has found that there is a – a chain that’s starting up, it's in Marshall, Virginia and it's called Gentle Harvest and they have grass-fed burgers for $5.00 so if we want to eat fast food we may have to drive over there. Farther afield for it.
Carol Reddan: Okay, like keeping in mind a lot of places like Chipotle, their meat is all organic and –
Teresa Kolacek: Yes but when you take the whole experience –
Carol Reddan: Right right.
Teresa Kolacek: Again its still not as healthy as making it yourself and –
Carol Reddan: Sure.
Teresa Kolacek: And my bottom line is if its something I can cook better at home, I am not going to go out and pay money for it to eat somebody's else food. If I go out to eat and I cook – and I eat something that I don’t make then that’s – that’s different or on special occasions.
Carol Reddan: So well I have to plead guilty to being work in progress and trying to implement this. We eat out a lot but, you know, I do try – but I – I feel that restaurants and places are responding to this and consumers are demanding better quality food and I think it is happening. I don’t – I don’t stop through fast food places a lot but we do eat at sort of high-casual places a lot and I think a lot of them are responding like you can get some really decent pizza or -- and I love ethnic food and I just cannot recreate it to that degree at home, so I – you know, I try to implement these changes with varying degrees of success and I find I always sort of have to re-read the book every couple of months to sort of get back in that zone. Watching her vlog every week helps but I do tend to – I don’t know what is about American lifestyle but it seems hurried and quick and I don’t know, you know, I think about it like she has a whole culture sort of supporting that sort of lifestyle, we don’t. Her culture and her workplace supports stopping in the middle of the day and just chilling out or I think their culture supports placing lifestyle above work and I think they have a better balance but I actually don’t live there so I have to work with what I have and --
Alessandro Russo: Your environment has such an impact on how you live --
Carol Reddan: Yeah.
Alessandro Russo: And the outside influences, you know –
Carol Reddan: There are temptations.
Alessandro Russo: Their temptations.
Carol Reddan: There are temptations almost more than influences because as well I tried to keep the wardrobe down, emailed coupons and incentives all the time and yeah so –
Teresa Kolacek: That’s what is spam folder for.
Carol Reddan: Right right.
David Watts: Just in for stimulation –
Carol Reddan: Yeah.
David Watts: Of commercialism which is very part of our culture.
Teresa Kolacek: It's very hard to ignore that and for me maybe it's easier because I don’t have children.
Carol Reddan: Right.
Teresa Kolacek: So it's not like I am taking kids to a soccer practice and need to stop and get –
Carol Reddan: And I am just coming out of that part of lifestyle that is just, yeah, it's so scheduled and crazy and you really have to pay attention and make a concerted effort to not fall back in those habits.
David Watts: I think the truth is, a lot of listeners they – same situation there are families and one kid is doing soccer practice, the other kid has piano lessons. We have 10 minutes to grab food, what do we do you know.
Carol Reddan: What do you do?
Teresa Kolacek: And I think the – the difference between that and European culture is that in Europe the family is the most important unit, it is not dictated by the children's schedule. In the United States, you have so many opportunities for your children's enrichment that you want to take advantage of everything and so that has a tendency to dictate your schedule whereas in Europe you – you may not have other than your child may be playing a sport after school its – it’s a different focus and it's very hard in this country to implement some of these things.
Carol Reddan: I was almost doubting that some of the things she says in the book but I mean I do believe the French family she lived with, the mother woke up every morning at 5 and made a homemade breakfast and then lunch was usually taken out but every evening they made a three or four course homemade dinner. Now I was sort of doubting that but I – its true. They somehow manage to accomplish that and the mother worked, the father worked. I mean they maintained, you know, outside jobs but it's just a different approach that you have to be very mindful too, it's just as easy to stop buy and get some cheese and some fruit in between things as it is to stop by fast food, its making it the priority.
Teresa Kolacek: But the other thing difference is with Europe many people don’t have long commutes like you do in this Washington area. So, if you are 15 minutes away from home it's very easy to stop at the market on the way, buy whatever you need fresh to make dinner that night and as far as cook breakfast, I mean I couldn’t survive without a breakfast. So, I am not one of these yoghurt and granola people, I make eggs every morning and toast and I couldn’t function if I didn’t have that.
David Watts: Who would you recommend the book to and who wouldn’t you recommend this book to?
Teresa Kolacek: Well I recommended and I have to everybody who is interested in food, and the one person I would recommend it to because I think it is just such a basic way to live that I think people should reconnect with the way food used to be and if they do that as much as they can, they may be can't do everything but even if you only implement 20% of the things in the book, you will improve your health by that measure so it's worth it from that aspect.
Carol Reddan: I would agree. I am fully in favor of anybody reading anything. So I would recommend it to anybody and everybody, people can read. There is no book, no one person shouldn’t read. Everybody should read everything. So I would recommend it to absolutely anyone.
David Watts: So have these books now become your favorite book or do you always – or do you have a favorite book?
Teresa Kolacek: I read so much and there are so many things I love that I can't pick just one, and I, as much as I love nonfiction, I do read fiction as well and so a recent title that I read that I would like to recommend is Sirius, a novel about the little dog who almost changed history. It's by Jonathan Crown and it is about a Jewish family that has to escape Berlin during Hitler's rise to power, they end up in Hollywood, courtesy of the actor Peter Lorre and Sirius, a little dog becomes a big star. Eventually, he becomes separated from his family and winds up back in Berlin ironically adopted by Hitler while he is working for underground resistance movement. So this book obviously has an element of a fairytale and it is wonderfully written and the underpinnings of the story are true. So, Hitler did actually have a Wire Fox Terrier that was with him in the bunker near the end and – and some other things so it's – it’s a delightful little book, a quick read and if you are looking for a little escape, I highly recommend it.
Carol Reddan: I have many, many favorite books and genres. I am mystery fan and tend to like the classics, the British, Agatha Christie type and I also like real-life mysteries. I like true crime. I recently read Tinseltown by William Mann, which goes back and looks at the unsolved murder of the movie director William Desmond Taylor in the early 1920s, that remains unsolved but he went back and looked through all types of materials and he really thinks he – he solved it there. He was a famous silent film director, it was the huge Hollywood scandal of the day and he was found murdered in his apartment and other starlets were suspects and other directors and they could never solve it but this gentleman thinks he solved it by finding out some secrets the director had.
David Watts: Well thank you to both of you for sharing your insights and to the lifestyle change and also sharing with us about the book interests that you all have. Thank you for being our guests today.
Teresa Kolacek: Thank you.
Carol Reddan: Thank you.
Alessandro Russo: So remember to keep the conversation going by following us on our social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, Pinterest and providing feedback. You can download the episodes through iTunes, podcast republic and Stitcher, and remember to rate each episode.
David Watts: Thank you listeners. We will see you next time.