VegeBurger goodbye 30 years ago today

It was thirty years ago today that I sold my baby, the VegeBurger, on 8/8/88. Though just six years from launch date, the word “vegeburger” had by then begun to enter the language, a few million would-be vegetarians had leapt out of the closet, the grocery trade recognized vegetarians as a definable market, and restaurants needed something more than a cheese salad on the menu. Several supermarket telephonists directed me to the meat buyer, when I wanted to sell VegeBurger.

The name – I made a list with about eight names on it, including, earthburger, plantburger, vegeburger,  sesame burger, greenburger. It was not obvious, but after carrying it around for a week I went for, you guessed it! You cannot trade mark a descriptive product name (lamb burger or potato cake) and “VegeBurger” did not seem descriptive at the time.  Vege (however the sound is spelled) had never been used to abbreviate vegetarian or vegetable. People into the 1980’s ate meat and 2 veg as a staple meal, not meat and vege. But it became increasingly difficult to protect the trademark and I’ll never forget the mid 80’s Glastonbury Festival when I made four of the ethical caterers change their menu listing  from vegeburger to something else that did not read or sound the same. I remember getting kind of harsh on one occasion.  This is just not what you go to Glastonbury to do.

The fifteen years prior to VegeBurger had seen  my brother Craig and I introducing natural and organic foods to the diet. In 1967, aged 18, I was dishing out bowls of brown rice and vegetables to hungry hippies in front of London’s first head shop, just off the Portobello Road. Restaurant, retail shop and magazinefollowed in the next two years. Fifteen years later I was running Harmony/Whole Earthfoods, in an airplane hanger sized warehouse complete with a trade cash & carry, a stone flour mill, dedicated peanut butter grinding, sugar-free jam making plant, and various other packing and processing operations, staffed by a team of 45 shifting hundreds of tons weekly. It could be a head-banger at times!

VegeBurgerwas a whole new experience, run from my spare bedroom with one part-time helper and all the work being done by outside contractors. They call it a virtual company today. Everything was run on one big interlinked spreadsheet (the original VisiCalc). I had a great time responding to fan mail that often accompanied requests for our VegeBurger mix recipe leaflet. There was the 16-yr old girl in Oban who went veggie six months earlier and had eaten nothing but pizzas since. And the mother of two who was going crazy coping after her two children and then her husband went vegetarian. After discovering VegeBurger she finally gave up and joined them.

Nobody had ever collected the numbers on vegetarians in Britain, so I commissioned Gallup to survey the public on their attitudes to meat eating.  The results were news, and for a change it was news that actually was new. I put press releases out full of graphs and facts and figures, with clever covers that got them read. Each year the numbers grew and the highest numbers were for women aged 16-24. Each year VegeBurger got mentioned in the press reporting the news and more people went into their shops to buy them. The only paid advertising done was on pirate radio, with this cool rap commercial created by Danny Antrobus. (click hereand go to page bottom for VegeBurger Rap)

The original VegeBurger came as a mix that cost 49p and made four 2oz burgers. Even in 1982 that was inexpensive which is how is should be since all the ingredients are lower down the food chain than meat. The ingredients were sesame seeds, wheat gluten, oats, and soya protein with dried vegetables and seasonings, all natural, all vegetable. It could be made with or without an egg.

The frozen VegeBurger came out under license within two years, made under license by Maynards Bakery in Taunton. A few other VB based products such as lasagna and shepherd’s pie accompanied it. For this, we put £5000 into production of a TV commercial, which was cheap as chips in those pre tech days. My whizz-kiddo friend Bonnie Molnar took it on. We had to remove a reference to “cow-burger” which was thought offensive, and remove the phrase “think about it” since the advertising Standards did not allow ads to be “thought provoking.” The advert was a huge success, and had Iceland’s phones ringing off the hook by customers wanting to know if they stocked it.

After five years it reached the point where I was no longer running this from my spare bedroom on an Apple IIe.  I had those fixed overheads again, including three expensive staff in a serviced office, and was tiring of the food industry – spending so much time with suits that I was in danger of becoming one myself. Then there is the “Peter Principle,” which was telling me it was time to move on. Look it up if you’re interested.

Long discussions with Guinness came to an end when their far-sighted ceo, Ernest Saunders, had to resign over letting the company buy its own shares (not allowed). He had been putting together a stable of natural products companies. Next in line was Haldane Foods the subsidiary of a subsidiary or a giant American corporations that few have heard of, called ADM. All solid meat eaters, they sold some disgusting mixes of TVP, hydrogenated fat, MSG, and other stuff in brown bags, labeled ‘Burga-mix’ and ‘Sos-mix.” VegeBurger had the market, they had the money, and they ended up buying it in a deal that would have held me in for ten years.

Other stories ensued. One includes a photo of Gorbachev holding a VegeBurger at ADM’s stall at a food expo in Moscow, where a fight broke out between people wanting free samples after tasting. They had me help launch a new product called quinoa. Another story is of my court case against them and a trip to Chicago (great architecture) to settle the matter.

Eighteen years later the Haldane Group was bought by American company Hain Celestial, who simply killed off VegeBurger and most of the other brands they had bought. No idea why.

Sad story, their loss, but VegeBurger’s work is done. It would be cool to run that Gallup survey again today and compare the results to those that made startling news in the 1980’s.

And me – I went on to open a shop called Strange Attractionsdedicated to the new science dubbed ‘chaos theory’ and to write a couple of gently mind-bendingbooks.

Killing them softly with ice cream

When I was a young man smoking was permissible everywhere. My 8thgrade teacher lived on cigarettes and black coffee, chain-smoking in a class of 13-14 yr olds (Mrs Hogue, excellent educator). Nobody thought it unusual. During my 1967 stay in Stoke Mandeville’s spinal unit, the ward was filled with smoke and the League of Hospital Friends wheeled their trollies through the hospital, selling cigarettes, sweets, and tabloid newspapers (in league with the devil, more like). Taxis, buses, airplanes and cinemas all had ashtrays built into the seats.

Millennials might scratch their heads and look back in astonishment, finding it hard to believe that such practices were ever commonplace and culturally acceptable. And there will be many things that their children will be looking back upon with equal astonishment.

One thing, for sure, will be the appalling phenomenon that mars many a summer afternoon in the garden for me, as I enjoy Sun overhead, blackbird song and the rustle of wind in the trees  It is the sound of an ice cream van traveling around the neighbourhood with a playful tune, pausing in every road as the pushers inside pedal dangerous and addictive drugs to our innocent children.

Sugar consumption is probably responsible for more death and disease (of humans) than any other item in the food chain, processed meat included. It saturates our food chain and it is addictive, as any who have sought to give it up well know. Government knows it is toxic but their hands are tied. According to the New Statesman“They are paralysed by the economic dominance of what British colonialists called ‘white gold’. The sugar industry, like financial services, is too big to fail.”

As if their dangerous edibles were not enough, ice cream vans fill children’s lungs with toxins too, as engines run constantly to power its freezers. The“black carbon” in their exhausts is a soot-like substance that “is particularly dangerous for babies and stunts the growth of children’s lungs as well as causing cancer and dementia,” according to the Daily Mail. Levels can be 40 times the WHO safe limit.

So we think it quaint  to have have vans pollute our neighbourhood on a hot afternoon, selling toxic and addictive treats to children? If opportunities are to be equal then let us have expensive cars with tinted windows touring the neighbourhood blaring rap music and selling cocaine and crack to our teenage kids. Complete the circle.

Have I been on a rant? As the culture changes, maybe remnants of the mafia-like gangs who control ice cream territories will sample some magic mushrooms and see the light. Perhaps they will become entrepreneurs selling healthy treats and nut ice creams to children, or be replaced by people who do, with solar panels instead of chugging diesel.

I am being both silly and serious here since if that is what we want it can and could be provided. Better yet, make them at home. We are moving towards a tipping point at which humanity’s concern for the health of our beautiful host planet will change our interactions with it. Don’t be sold into the myth that raping the planet must be done for us to sustain ourselves. It is an expensive and short-term folly, dictated by the state’s need for expansion ad infinitum, a perfect oxymoron.  Future generations, assuming such exist, will find it difficult to understand how we could have engaged in many of the practices that today we take for granted as normal behaviour.

 

 

The Primo Nutmeg interview

Another good interview that is well-illustrated with pics from my own archives and selections by the Nutmeg people. Quite a bit of my life story stuff, with an opening blast at the concept of Limited Liability that allows those who own companies to shirk responsibility for broken commitments and damages inflicted by actions from which they profited. That’s a relatively new ‘invention’ that I have for some time regarded as a curse upon our culture. When I did VegeBurger it was as sole proprietor with unlimited liability for my actions. It does focus the mind and keep one responsible.

Video on Youtube

Video on Soundcloud

Video on Facebook

 

Why the Western diet sucks

Raising the popular consciousness on food was the primary driving force in my life from the age of 19, when a quirk of fate led me through a series of companies that were the first to offer organically grown natural food products to the British public. My focus was always to accentuate the positive – the greater flavour, satisfaction and vitality of a plant-based diet based on unrefined traditional staples, with seasonal vegetable foods. It was cheaper too. More detail about that activity is on my website.

It was clear, even in 1967/8, that our governments were implicit in the introduction of the factory farm and chemically supported agriculture. In the 1970’s the veil was lifted from my eyes when I learned about the fundamental nature of the state, understanding why they make a mess of things that we could do much better. Yeah, I wrote a book about that one.

So it is most heartening to see aspects of both those interests combined in this illuminating article from the well-respected American Institute for Economic Research.

Why Unhealthy Food Is Cheap and Plentiful

Every health nut will tell you the reason why the US food market is such a mess. It’s fast food and corporate farming. We need to get back to local food and organics, they say. And no processed foods ever.

Let’s look more closely, based on an experience I had just today.

The waiter in this airport bar walked by carrying huge plates of food, piled high with fries and burgers on puffy golden buns…

 

Continue reading…

Antibiotics – stop when you’re better

We are now told there is no basis to the advice that we complete an antibiotic course after we feel well again. The British Medical Journal reports on what appears to be the first scientific look at this , which discovered that prolonged exposure to antibiotics makes any lingering microbes more likely to develop resistance. I was five years old when I had my first exposure to antibiotics, listening in to my mother having a rant about them to her friend. They were new then and she didn’t like them. The next day, in school, I fell from a climbing frame in the playground and hurt myself enough that they wanted to give me a tetanus shot. I was sure they were trying to dose me up with antibiotics and wouldn’t let them. They told me I might get lockjaw, whatever that was, and I still refused, convinced they were duping me. For a few years I wondered if my mouth might suddenly lock into a position but it never happened.

I eventually came to realize that antibiotics do have a place in medicine, and an important one. This very importance means that in many cases they should not always be the first resort. At the age of 19 I came down with pneumonia during a period of suppressed stress. At the time I was fanatically macrobiotic and tried all manner of natural means to overcome the infection, including being wrapped up in a cold blanket – none worked. After a week, and two days with a fever at 40.5C, (105F) I said yes to antibiotics. In two days I was feeling fine again and stopped the pills a day later. Still, the main reason I avoid blue cheese is because they used to say it was just as harmless as antibiotics. which I do not put on toast for the taste.

Every five years or so I may have need of antibiotics and have always stopped as soon as the problem passed. My logic is that when an attacking army of microbes has been knocked out there will be a few nearly dead stragglers staggering about. By letting my body’s now dominant defenses finish these ones off I seek to develop resistance.

The current scientific discovery gives a valid, though mirror, explanation to the logic I used to explain my instinct. According to them, the longer the lingering bacteria are exposed to antibiotics the more resistant they become. As they say in the review “Far from being irresponsible, shortening the duration of a course of antibiotics might make antibiotic resistance less likely.”

Professor Martin Llewelyn and a high-powered group of colleagues have come out in the face of decades of stern advice from health professionals – advice that is not evidence based. Am I surprised? No. Clearly, the pharmaceutical companies benefit from this and perhaps they were deviously involved in the propagation of this myth. Then again, maybe it was just doctorial dumbness, sticking to the status quo.  I expect we will see an orchestrated rebuttal of the case against antibiotic course completion, backed by a well-rewarded team of so-called “independent” medical researchers. Big Pharma is good at destroying careers and debunking sound research. I do hope Prof Llewelyn has good ammunition for the fight that may come.


 

Addendum to the above: The world’s largest consumers of antibiotics are farm animals, consuming 70% of America’s output, even more in Spain and Italy, far less in the Nordic countries and Australia and New Zealand (China is another story). It is in their feed, every day, to protect “health” in the overcrowded filthy conditions of most factory farms. This constant contact allows pathogens to develop resistance. Antibiotics also promote growth rate, fattening animals up faster for slaughter and giving farmers a financial incentive to use them.

 

Brother’s tribute to 50 years

I was surprised and touched by this lovely tribute from my brother Craig in his April column for the Natural Product News. We were just a couple of hippies trying to change the world and I’m still coming to grips with the realization that we did, and still are. 

Photo from bottom up: Gregory, Craig, Jay Landesman, Joe Dickens. 

Craig 50-year history in NPN

The Real Drug Problem in America

America’s Surgeon General finally recognizes that alcohol and prescribed opioids are part of the drug problem – hallelujah! Twenty one million Americans, one in seven of the population, has a serious drug problem, more than suffer from cancer. This revelation dwarfs the illegal drugs problem that has cost society hundreds of billions in enforcement and incarceration expenses over the years, not to mention confiscated properties, ruined lives and a stimulus to organized crime. Even the recent surge in illegal heroin addiction was stimulated by the huge growth in addiction created by over prescription of potent opium style pain killers.

Out of 50,000 fatal overdoses in 2014, 30k were from opioids and 20k from alcohol, cocaine and other prescription drugs. They don’t mention ecstasy, marijuana, lsd, ayahuasca or other banned “dangerous” drugs, where they would be hard pressed to get double figures. Will they put 2 and 2 together on this?

Read the full story here  Nearly 21 Million in US Have Substance Use Disorder: Surgeon General’s Report

I wrote about this situation nearly twenty years ago in my book Uncommon Sense, recently upgraded, republished and retitled The State Is Out Of Date – We Can Do It Better.
Here’s a little extract from The Drugs Problem chapter :

“Society does have a problem with drug use. It is a serious problem that is getting worse. For some reason, though, the perception of this problem is focused entirely on the very small range of drugs that are being used illegally. We cannot ignore the very real problems faced by those who are using drugs prescribed by doctors. Their lives can be damaged and sometimes destroyed as a result of diagnostic error, their own abuse of the prescribed stocks (few recreational drug users have a month’s supply in a bottle), or just years of being dependent on pharmaceuticals with known side effects. These legal drugs must be obtained through controlled channels, but these channels translate into a multi-billion dollar industry throughout the world—the real drugs trade. While we condemn it when drug barons bribe and seduce judges, police, and politicians, we think nothing of the lobbyists employed by the pharmaceutical industry in Washington DC, who number more than three for every single Congressman or Senator. To rephrase that, there are 535 elected representatives shaping law and regulation in the capital of the United States, attended to by 1,724 paid persuaders from the pharmaceutical drug barons alone (as well as some 9,750 lobbyists from other interest groups in 2011).

…These drug dealers’ lobbyists openly encourage the state to pass laws controlling and restricting the alternative healing industry and the sale of herbal and other natural and unpatented medicinal remedies. Their expert lobbyists put convincing arguments to politicians that herbal medicines are unsafe and endanger the user’s life, over a nice cardiac-endangering lunch at a top restaurant. 8iui l0 77 Even the deadly killers alcohol and tobacco are usually left out of the picture when the vast majority talk about “the drug problem.””

 

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The wheel needs a new hub, not just another revolution

 

On the road to “thoughtcrime” for gender reprobates

Do we need Big Brother to regulate our relationship with gender issues? The City of New York, in its efforts to eliminate gender discrimination has made citizens liable to fines of up to $125,000 for calling somebody mister who considers themself miss (or vice versa), rising up to $250,000 if transgressions are deliberate and hurtful. Hello? It comes with the Human Rights Law constructed by lawyers to ban all gender discrimination. Their legalistic definitions of genders are very explicit, starting with:

“Gender is defined as one’s “actual or perceived sex and shall also include a person’s gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the legal sex assigned to that person at birth.”

I am, officially speaking, a “cisgender.” What are you?

Find out here Speech Crime comes to America: $¼M fine for referring to trannies by their biological gender

This blog post by  made me reflect upon the fact that when I was a young man the state jailed people for being homosexual and nobody realised that Liberace was gay. The law’s change in attitude has followed a natural shift in our attitudes to gender variety, lubricated by the social normalization of once-shunned homosexuals. Transgenders are the latest gender to leap out of the closet. Now, the authorities who once jailed the few who dared to express banned gender identity now fine or jail those few who still express the old-fashioned bigotry they once enforced.

Banning specific gender identities, or banning those who don’t like them, simply slows the process of social change, needlessly damaging lives in the process. The change happens first anyway, aided and abetted by social and, I hesitate to call it, “mainstream” media. So what if some baker in wherever doesn’t want to bake a cake that offends their religious quirks; or a couple from a shrinking culture are uncomfortable with the gender choices of B&B guests wanting to visit home. As far as I know, it is still legal to refuse service to bald people, teenagers, or customers without shoes. If we must have police, judges and jails this is not what they are for.

We are seeing the primal urge of an organization to grow and expand. In this case that organization is the state, which expands by finding ever more aspects of human life that need its management. In the course of it, we move closer and closer to the “thoughtcrimes” of George Orwells’ 1984. We already have the cameras, in abundance.

And yes (plug time), all this and more is explored in my book, The State Is Out Of Date – We Can Do It Better. The state is no longer “a necessary evil,” and is ultimately less capable than are we of controlling the excesses of bigoted people, or corporate greed. Indeed, the bigoted state and its body of statute law protects and often subsidizes the very activities we think they should be reigning in.

 

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The wheel needs a new hub, not just another revolution.

Tobacco, spies, polonium-210, and cancer

This is the “director’s cut” of my letter published in the Guardian 5th Dec 2006, when the BIG story was a fugitive Russian spy who had been poisoned with polonium-210 in London. It’s not really news that spies get fiendishly terminated in real life as well as the movies. It was getting caught, and the novelty of the technique, that gave this story wings.
I was already familiar with a more sinister side to polonium-210 and thought this spy-killing affair would be a good hook to hang it on. My letter was published but never ignited into the story it deserves to be. Feed it to the blog, I say!

Dear Letters Editor,

In the ongoing Alexander Litvinenko poisoning story, polonium-210 continues to be described as a rare isotope. Unfortunately it is not rare at all, and is even available at a discount from most international airports. Whilst it appears as though the death of a Russian spy has alerted us to an exotic new poison, Polonium-210 already kills tens of thousands of Britons annually.

tobacco geiger
Four men testing a radioactive tobacco plant at Farm and Home Week in August 1952

In 1990, American Surgeon General C. Everett Coop declared that radioactivity, not tar, accounts for 90% of smoking-related lung cancers. Cigarettes are lightly radioactive. Most of that radiation comes from the rock-mineral fertilizer (apatite) used by subsidized American tobacco farmers. This captures and holds onto radon gas, which decays to deposit polonium-210 in the fine hairs of tobacco leaves. This deposits in smokers’ lungs, beaming out deadly alpha radiation for years and damaging DNA.

Increasing usage of radon-rich fertilizers accompanied an 18-fold increase in the per capita incidence of lung cancer between 1930-80 in the USA. In the same period smoking decreased 20% but tobacco’s polonium-210 content tripled. It was estimated in 1982 (New England Journal of Medicine) that a 30-cigarette a day smoker’s lungs will accumulate radiation equivalent to 300 chest x-rays per year.

Of 33,000 UK deaths per annum from lung cancer (2005), 90% would equate to 30,000 caused by radiation. Whilst the death of Alexander Litvinenko fixates us, it is sobering to realize that some 575 Britons die every week as a result of gradually ingesting the same substance that poisoned him.

We can appreciate that it is neither in the interests of the government nor the tobacco industry to publicize the radiation situation, which they jointly brought about. Nor do anti-smoking campaigners wish to give attention to confusing data which might show that smoking is not, of itself, the killer. They are all well aware of the situation, and their reluctance to do anything about it is nothing short of criminal.

Perhaps we could benefit from the polonium-210 publicity bonanza by recognizing it as the unnecessary toxin in a common drug. However socially undesirable is the smoking of tobacco, it need not lead to the suffering and tragic death by lung cancer of so many users. Though I don’t smoke, a lot of my friends do and I respect their right to do so.

Whilst we must all be saddened by the tragic loss of one Russian spy, his end may have been for the greater good if, through raising this issue, the lives of millions of future smokers may be saved.

Gregory Sams

References supporting the data are all included at this site: http://www.acsa2000.net/HealthAlert/radioactive_tobacco.html

Gregory’s website

2015 POSTSCRIPT:

An enquiry into Litvinenko’s killing began in July 2014, finishing a year later. The report should be published by the end of 2015.
This comes from the BBC link: “After leaving the service Mr Litvinenko wrote a book, Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within, in which he claimed FSB agents had been responsible for the bombing of apartment blocks in Moscow and two other cities in 1999.”
If you are a defected spy accusing your former boss of murderous deeds then their getting murderous with you is a distinct possibility. Edward Snowden is still in hiding; Julian Assange safe but trapped; Private Bradley Manning, captured and jailed for 35 years.

The enquiry was set up, eight years after his death, positioning this as a major crime at a time when the West is seeking to counter Russia politically. His death represented a major failure of the UK intelligence service who had promised him protection, under his new identity as Edwin Redwald Carter.

Do they really think that if they can pin this on some Russian spymaster, or Putin himself, it will make a difference? What a waste of our money. Many worse things are known to have been done by our own and other governments including Russian and American around the world. This includes waging wars that killed thousands on false pretences.

  • – – – –

Cancer just loves genetic damage and for that, radioactivity is the best stuff by far. That said, some six hundred additives are approved for use in tobacco products. Were cigarettes and rolling tobacco subject to ingredient labelling we would know how few or how many go into what is being smoked. I guess from 3-10 additives would be in any given product. Many of these may contribute to health complaints that detract from lifespan. Some of those in the list of 600 are considered carcinogenic and some are natural harmless additions, such as nutmeg oil. Perhaps Mr Coop got it wrong and only 75% of tobacco deaths, not 90% are from radioactivity and the rest from other ingredients. Ingredient listing is the way forward, and quitting is even better.

Gregory’s Sixties – changin’ the times

I suppose my Sixties began in 1964 when I heard Bob Dylan singing The Times They Are A-Changin’. At the age of fifteen I had no idea how, but it felt like something was simmering. Within a year I had smoked my first pot, hitched to Morocco and let my hair grow. A vegetarian from ten, I embraced macrobiotics in 1965 after my brother Craig brought news of it back during his last summer break from university. My diet became what I DID eat, instead of what I did NOT.

The hotbed radical campus in America was University of California Berkeley, which is where I went in Oct 1966, as the Summer of Love gestated across the San Francisco Bay. Turned onto acid, tuned into the Universe, and at the end of the year dropped out of a tree (not high, either way), injuring my spine. Don’t think that’s what Tim had in mind.

Return to England on a stretcher in early 1967 and my ‘Summer of Love’ begins at the end of April with London’s legendary 14-Hour Technicolour Dream at Alexandra Palace. The hospital (Stoke Mandeville) sent me home on trial that weekend to see how I managed life in my new wheelchair. Had a cosmic time, immersing myself in the UK’s new-born psychedelic culture with Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Pretty Things, Arthur Brown and many more.

Later that summer I was dispensing brown rice and vegetables to hippies on the Portobello Rd once a week, inspired by the Diggers in California who had been inspired by the Diggers in England a few centuries earlier. But I still planned to get back to University after a year adjusting to the wheelchair thing.

My brother Craig, finished with University, was in the process of setting up a macrobiotic restaurant in a basement near Paddington, after his short-lived illegal venue in Notting Hill Gate had been closed down. But late in 1967 he has to abruptly leave the UK for several years and it falls to me to pick up the reins, completing and opening the restaurant in early 1968.

1968 and I’m sitting in the yard behind a bustling Seed Restaurant kitchen listening to Mary Hopkins singing Those Were the Days (my friend, we thought they’d never end. We’d sing and dance forever and a dayFiesta more). Tears welled in my 19-year old eyes as I experienced in advance the nostalgic sadness of the day when I had gone ‘straight’ and was looking back from another world. How could you beat having the hippest restaurant in hippie London, serving organic wholefood dinners to the likes of John and Yoko and supplying free meals to those with no money. We played the latest music of the era, put together on reel-to-reel tapes by the one and only DJ Jeff Dexter. I produced a magazine called Harmony that John supported with a great cartoon. It was cool.

I was a fervent crusader for macrobiotics, intent upon changing the eating habits of the world, and thereby the world itself. At the time I felt certain that the whole world would be eating brown rice and vegetables in a decade. After all, ten years ago I had been nine, and the world seemed to have changed a lot since then! Everything seems so possible, but you don’t know what is until you try.

Halfway into the 60’s, few people had ever heard of brown rice, and the only sesame seed they were likely to encounter was on top of a hamburger bun. Sunflower seeds were strictly for the birds and the only beans in British came in a tin with tomato sauce. If you were lucky enough to find pure fruit juice on sale, it would have come from Germany in a glass bottle and probably cost as much as a bottle of decent wine. Western bread was white, except in a few places like Germany, Poland and Scandinavia. Disease was seen as a random event – the fickle finger of fate, disconnected from personal lifestyle or environmental pollution. Your doctor was wholly responsible for your health.

We named our company Yin-Yang Limited, since macrobiotics was all about balancing the yin and the yang, and taking responsibility for your own health. Our company logo was the yin-yang symbol and in 1968 our restaurant sign was probably the only place in London you would see that, now common, symbol. I remember getting excited when I first saw the yin-yang sign somewhere else – on the Korean ambassador’s car (it’s their flag).

Though against the war in Vietnam, short hair and pin-stripe suits, the main enemy I perceived in those days was the sugar industry, poisoning our youth with their evil and addictive drug. As I passed those big sugar tankers on the roads, I had visions of placing plastic explosives on them, in a subversive terrorist action for the good of society. I knew our dishwasher at Seed restaurant shot up heroin in the toilet, but when I caught her drinking Coca Cola in the kitchen she was sacked immediately.

1969 onwards… Seed restaurant took care of the Sixties for me. Customers wanted to cook at home, so Ceres natural food store was added. Next a wholesale company, Harmony Foods, so other shops could stock the food. Hippies from different cities in the UK and Europe came for supplies with which to spread the dietary revolution. Many of our early customers grew to became regional or national wholesalers.

Harmony Foods Factory test
1981 – our factory in Willesden 55,000 sq ft

Magazines (Harmony and Seed), cafes (Sprout and Green Genes), wholemeal bakeries (Ceres retail and wholesale), a bookstore and pop festival catering, including Glastonbury ’71, were all part of our agenda in those early years. It was full on and full of fun. 1973 arrived and I was still waiting for Mary Hopkins’ nostalgic vision to arrive.

There were plenty of others making new music, promoting free love, living in communes, selling incense and dispensing the wisdom of the East. The primary dream of the Sixties, for my brother and I, was to turn people on to natural and organic foods and the idea that diet affected health and happiness. It was so clear that this was the way forward – the right sort of food for healthy human beings. And when you know you are right you assume that eventually everybody else will come around to your way of thinking (precisely the sort of attitude that makes fundamentalist religious freaks so dangerous). It seemed like it was only a matter of time until the message got across, and it soon did.

Today, over forty years later, I admit to being surprised, delighted and proud of the strides that have been made. The whole world may not be eating natural organic foods, but for every one person who did so in the Sixties there are thousands doing so today. Whole grains and pulses and seeds are back in the human food chain along with a huge growth in sustainable agriculture. Organic natural foods are now a multi-billion dollar industry and millions are aware that the food they eat has an effect upon the health and happiness they experience in their lives. We have come a very long way.

And yet, looking at the world today, it seems like the utopia we imagined remains on the distant horizon. I am surprised, depressed, and appalled at the progress of the industrial juggernaut that tries to divorce our existence from the natural world. Trucks full of liquid sugar are the least of our problems. Though we ‘blew the whistle’ on them in the 60’s, food industry chemists have spent the years between developing countless new means to cheapen, adulterate and preserve our food. The enemies of harmony push relentlessly upon Europe’s door in their efforts to introduce genetically modified experiments into the food chain.

Though most of today’s green movements evolved from the Sixties, we have witnessed increasing pollution of our food and our environment ever since. New varieties of disease and illness have visited mankind, with the pharmaceutical companies growing fat on the back of them. Their lobbyists are well-funded.

The war on drugs continues and any substance that makes us feel good without needing a prescription from the doctor is illegal, alcohol excepted. We used to think that cannabis would be legalized within a few years and that society would soon recognize the value of LSD to our cultural evolution. Few realized how determined the status quo would be to prevent us from tasting forbidden fruit that offers knowledge and bliss. Today (2015) the war seems to be faltering, the madness of it openly acknowledged, in some nations.

And yet, as scary as the world appears to be to me, in many ways these still are “the days, my friend,” just as much as “those were the days.” Year on year I have watched the seeds that were planted in the Sixties grow into a new global consciousness. Before the Sixties you very rarely heard people talking about harmony, environment, vision, meditation, visualization, massage, yoga, aromatherapy, organic food, natural healing, conservation or personal computers (another child of the times). There were many who believed that we would all be living on convenient pills by now. They were wrong.

It turns me on to see more and more of humanity connecting to this wonder-filled world – to know how many are looking within, as well as outside of their selves. It turns me on to see how much more joy and inspiration there is in the world – gods know, we’ll need it in the times ahead. And it turns me on to continue delighting in so many of life’s features that stem from the Sixties.

Mary Hopkins, I’m still lovin’ it.

Gregory Sams

– originally written March 2007, for German publisher Werner Pieper’s book on different peoples’ Sixties experience, with a few minor updates –

And after the Sixties …

The business grew into the distribution and manufacture of natural foods (Harmony Foods and Whole Earth) until 1982, when I left to launch the first VegeBurger onto the market, creating and christening the product. It did well, added a word to the language, and I sold it in 1988, leaving the food industry behind me. Two year advance on retirement, until I discover chaos theory. 1990 open Strange Attractions, world’s only chaos shop, designing and publishing lots of fractal imagery and computer graphics, later licensing these to others and through agencies. Millions of fractals reprinted throughout the world. 1998 publish my book Uncommon Sense, the State is Out of Date, outlining the messages and lessons that chaos theory has for our lives and societies – sell 3200 copies. 2000 to 2007, writing and researching next book, published 2008 and titled Sun of gOd – Discover the Self-Organizing Consciousness That Underlies Everything. Spend my time promoting this book then in 2013 I upgrade my first book, retitled The State Is Out Of Date, We Can Do It Better. I give talks and interviews on both topics.

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