Garnet Rogers has released 14 CDs. His extensive touring itinerary can be accessed at www.flemingartists.com.
Are you a healthy guy?
I try to be. I’m in reasonably good shape for a geezer. I’m actually quite conscious of foods. Growing up, we didn’t eat processed food. Everything was homemade. My mother baked bread. Everything was made from scratch. We ate a lot of vegetables, old-fashioned food. We never drank soft drinks, didn’t have candy. It was a conscious choice we all made.
“We” all made? You mean your parents made? As a kid, if your friends were scarfing Cokes and fries and candy bars, didn’t you want the same?
Actually, no. I still don’t like that stuff. I never developed a taste.
I’ve been travelling the past 35, almost 40, years on the road. In restaurants, the choices are so poor, particularly in the States. The other night, in Albany, I ended up going to a Chinese buffet where at least I could get a big chunk of baked salmon and some broccoli and stay away from the goopy stuff.
Did you put salt on your baked salmon and broccoli?
I don’t put salt on anything. I’ve gotten away from it.
Is there anything you put salt on? Some things just taste better with salt, don’t they?
Peanut butter. I buy natural, whole-food peanut butter with the big scum of oil on top. I kind of need salt on peanut butter.
So you walk the walk, not just talk the health talk, and have since childhood?
It just feels better. It’s a reaction against the road food. Your choices get limited. Restaurants down here [the U.S.]are to food as porn theatres are to making love. You go in and come out an hour later feeling sweaty and itchy and guilty and hoping that no one is noticing.
Do you read food labels?
If the food has a label, I pretty much don’t buy it.
Someone, I can’t remember who, came out with a small book of rules for eating and one of them is: “If it’s a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t.” That’s good advice. I’m not skinny. I have a bit of a sweet tooth. I eat desserts. In terms of salt, for a guy who spends most of his life yelling at TV and barking at cars the way I do, my blood pressure is actually fairly low.
Seventy-five per cent of the salt in an average Canadian’s diet comes from processed foods, often at unhealthy levels. Most of us are unaware of this. You may not need protecting, but should the government act to control salt levels in processed foods?
It’s a ticklish area. In Canada, we have government health care. In a sense, we are all paying for each other’s health care, so we should have a say.
It’s analogous to riding a motorcycle without a helmet. You say, “I shouldn’t have to wear a helmet.” Yeah, that’s fine if you are paying for your own health care. But if you hit a tree and you spend the next three years in hospital hooked up to wires and tubes, that’s on the government program and the people should have some say.
With salt, most people don’t think about it. Most people don’t think about what they are eating. I see what people dump on the checkout belt in the grocery store and I think, “If I was at your house, I couldn’t eat a damn thing!”
The government studied the matter and announced plans to act but recently backed down in favour of voluntary industry self-regulation on salt content. Is that the way to go?
I don’t think industry will regulate itself. It’s not in their best interest. They are going to put in more sugar and more salt because it is addictive. You can say the government is sticking its hand in too much. But it’s far more cost-effective to get people to live a healthy lifestyle and regulate the stuff they eat, to fix that at the start than to fix the diseases that come from eating all that junk.
Can you see a day when salt shakers, like ashtrays, will disappear from dinner tables?
We all need salt to survive. If I’m doing a lot of work on the farm, I will put some sea salt on something. But it’s really not necessary. You can get salt from what naturally occurs in the food you eat. Like plants.
The plant is taking in nutrients from the ground. There is salt there, too. There’s a place near us and the deer lick the ground. There must be salt there. There are things our bodies need. Salt is one of them. But the amount manufacturers put in is just not good for us.