Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Where I've been the last 7 or so years.


I’ve made a film. A feature documentary, “Fighting For Allergy-Free Food”. It’s taken me WAY WAY longer to make it than I’d planned. I figured research a year, shoot for a year, edit quickly, get in film festivals, see what happens. Maybe 3 years tops. So here I am, I’ve lost count, maybe 7 years later? And it’s JUST finally available for anyone with a computer or smart-tv to see. I certainly had no idea it would be during a pandemic. Maybe the best time for a streaming film to be released…when everyone is home and run out of things on Netflix and Amazon. Thank you Indie Rights for making that happen. 

I got delayed, and delayed, and delayed after my shooting. I edited, I ran through a bunch of editors, I had a computer crash, I turned it over to someone, Austin Anderson, and it finally got done. While I was “waiting” (and most of you know I don’t sit quietly, ever), I compiled 2 companion books to go with the film. “Fighting For Allergy-Free Food: The Extended Interviews” (for people who want extra information and read each transcript at once) and, “Fighting For Allergy-Free Food: The Cookbook”, which is my pet project I’d been working on for YEARS and thought I could kill 2 birds with one stone. Thank you to Sean Harris of Maverick Sean Photography for being my taster guinea pig and taking all the great photos for every recipe.

Why did I make this film? Thanks for asking. About 15 years ago my osteopath, Dr. George Kessler, asked if I’d ever been tested for food sensitivities. I said no. At the time, you could get a complete blood workup in NY State. Now it’s outlawed. Yup. I had so many reactions, I had no idea what was left for me to eat. Certainly nothing in my apartment. And nothing I normally ordered for delivery. And I had no clue how to cook. It was before there were Gluten Free products everywhere. Before labeling on packages of allergens. Before anyone had even heard of gluten free. It was upsetting, terrifying, depressing. However, I became an awesome cook (thank you to Chef Carla Contreras, Hipcooks and many more places), I went from sleeping 10 or so hours a night and still being exhausted all the time, to sleeping 7 hours and having lots of energy. My migraines reduced. My mood improved, my nightmares lessened, my depression reduced, my IBS reduced. It really was a miracle. Unfortunately, food allergies are ever evolving and all food is not produced the same. So I still have to pay close attention to what bothers me and what doesn’t, and keep adjusting as needed. (Dairy and coconut are evil. Wheat can make some small appearances. Don’t eat chocolate before bed, or really ever. No raw food. No beans. No bananas, blueberries or strawberries. Et al)

When I was young, my mom, Marion Kummel, suddenly, in her late 40’s? Developed a giant reaction to corn. That’s also when genetically modified corn became everywhere and in everything. My mom was suddenly calling every company asking what was in their products, because “natural flavoring”, vinegar, vegetable oil, and 100 other ingredients can be made from corn. She’s lived a nightmare the whole rest of her life (currently 93) and had to learn to cook better and to ask a LOT of questions when she went out for food. She would take antihistamines at dinner to be safe, but they also had corn in them, because they all do.

So. Clearly food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities were becoming epidemic. And what’s the difference? And why is corn not listed in the allergens on labels? And so many more questions came to mind. So I went after answers. I read a ton of books, articles, websites and pursued every person. And then every person I interviewed, I asked them whom else I should interview. My favorite farmer, Michael Snow told me early on that I wasn’t going to find answers, but I’d find more questions. He was 100% right. And it became my tagline.

Most of the interviews took place around 5 years ago. And a lot of people have switched jobs by now. A great person, Dr. Gene Stollerman passed away shortly after I interviewed him. But sadly, there still are no more answers than there were then. Farmers markets have exploded, which is fantastic. Organic food is everywhere, even Walmart. But the average person is still popping pills for heartburn, migraines, exhaustion, depression, rashes, cancer, MS and so much more. They think this is normal. It’s not. Examine what you put in your body and if it makes you sick, DON’T EAT IT!

I made this film not for all of us that already know we have food sensitivities. I made it for all the people that DON’T know. For all the people in middle America that aren’t bombarded (like the coasts) with organic food and nutritionists in every corner. I made it for everyone who hasn’t felt well for years, and their doctor has no idea why. And for my mom and all the other corn allergy suffers that have gone unheard. I asked all the questions YOU wanted answers to.

So please, watch the film. Buy the books. Like, review, share, post. Get angry about our food system. Join the movement to fight for allergy-free food.

Thank you, Tamar


Friday, April 3, 2020

April 3, 2020

April 3, 2020
Things change daily. And thinking about what I’ve written recently, I know things and feeling may change along with the world faster than I can process. But here’s today’s thoughts.

To set the scene: I’m in NYC. I’m in a 600 square foot, 1 bedroom apt with my boyfriend. He usually lives in Jackson Heights, Queens. But his apt is in the epicenter of the epicenter. So thank god we chose to stay at my place so he could work from home (totally new to him), and not be alone. If you’ve not seen my place. I don’t have a balcony, or backyard, or great view (I mostly see the building 40 ft away, but I look down onto my downstairs neighbor’s back garden/patio). What I do have, is 2 tvs, cable, good wifi, a home phone, great grocery stores nearby, and quiet.

I know everyone is worried about us being in NYC. We see it on the news just like everyone else. It looks like the pandemic is causing pandemonium. And it is, but only if you’re at a hospital. For the rest of us, it’s eerily quiet. You walk out on the street and there’s no cars, no horns, no people, no stores open. New York City is now the City That Only Sleeps. Except for 7pm each night, when we show our appreciation for everyone still working the front lines. People clap, cheer, bang pots and pans, and tonight there will be singing too at 7:30 of, “Lean on Me” out of people’s windows and balconies. From inside my apt, it feels like a prison break. I can hear others, but not see them. From outside on the street, it’s extraordinary seeing people that usually avoid looking at each other, being happy to see each other and waving, wishing each other well. We know what’s happening out there. But inside my tiny apt, I feel safe and totally calm.

Yesterday was my birthday. I had a very small zoom conference “party”. It was great! I didn’t have to just have my friends that are in the town I’m in. I had friends from all over the world and the country get to “meet” each other for the first time, after hearing about each other for years. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Everyone is dealing with this in their own way. I know for the very active (socially and physically) this is extremely challenging. But my life hasn’t changed too much. My routine is the same: exercise, cook for fun, watch too much TV, sit at my computer the rest of the time and hope to get a little work done. I love catching up with friends in whatever way, and now I have the time to do it.

So. As of today, April 3, 2020. I’m healthy and doing fine. I have a good support system in place. My folks are still safe in their assisted living in NH. And we don’t FEEL the insanity that we know is just a few blocks away. Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands right now. Tell everyone you love to do the same, and tell them you love them. Because that can spread fast too.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Since massage is cancelled...how to stay healthy

 So clearly, any upcoming massages are postponed for now. So a little advice for yourself to stay healthy:

1) If you feel sick at all, do NOT exercise or self massage at all. That just spreads the illness around your system more. That's the time to just rest in bed, drink lots of fluids (chicken soup of course). 

2) Please take this time to meditate, even if it's 2 minutes a day to just sit quietly and breathe deeply. 

3) Do not watch the news 24/7. It's never healthy, especially now. But do keep informed. 

4) If you are healthy, do spend more time exercising than eating! There are tons of online workouts for the home, everything from yoga to boot camp. You don't want to spend a month gaining 10 lbs and 10 years trying to get rid of it. 

5) Work on new recipes that are healthy. Don't binge on comfort food. The sugar, fat and calories will make you more sluggish, emotional and possibly depressed. You want fighting food! So make big stews with lots of green veg and beans, quinoa, lean meats, etc. Instead of letting your house smell like disinfectant, let it smell like stew! There are some great online cooking classes (http://www.carlacontreras.com/) and my cookbook (Fighting For Allergy Free Food). And if you're home with kids, now's an excellent time to teach them about cooking, cleaning, and taking care of themselves. 

6) Self massage. Again, do NOT do this if you feel at all sick. But do use rubber balls or tennis balls for your own trigger point work. Lay on the floor so your body can relax and put the ball under you wherever you have knots and just sink in up to 100 seconds. Use your favorite lotion to massage your feet and hands and anywhere you can reach. Take baths. Steam your face and massage it, along with your scalp. Throw a dance party for yourself. 

Sending good health and love to you all. 
If you have any medical questions, or exercise, or food, or anything. Please don't hesitate to reach out. 
Sincerely, Tamar

Friday, March 20, 2020

Why to react NOW

Here’s what this reminds me of: As a massage therapist I’m constantly telling clients, friends and family that if they have some small injury, to take care of it IMMEDIATELY. Say you hurt your wrist, or shoulder, or ankle. And you think, “eh, I can live with the pain for a while, it’ll get better.” But you don’t get it x-rayed. You don’t rest, ice, take Advil, or get PT. Instead, it gets worse and spreads up your leg/arm. So now, 20 years later, you can’t raise your arm fully. You can’t lift heavy things. You also have knee pain and hip pain. Now you need a hip replacement, because you didn’t rest your ankle 20 years ago when the original injury happened.

People don’t look at the long game. They think things will go away. They don’t. You have to take smart, immediate action to prevent what is a worse situation.

2 days ago a very close friend had a heart attack. He’s 48. He’s been super stressed, unhappy and not in good shape. And he knew it. But he put it off. He’s just lucky that he was next to a doctor when it happened and now he’s home and hopefully going to be OK.

Do not take risks now. Not with your health. Not with other people’s health. Take care of yourself, your loved ones, our city, our state, and our planet NOW. Before it’s all gone.

Be safe. Peace.

Friday, March 13, 2020

corona is making me more relaxed

I’m not a panic person. Not when other people are panicking. I understand people think I’m a control person, or a perfectionist. I’m not. I LOVE it when other, capable people are in charge. And I think most things are, “good enough” and there is no such thing as perfect. 

That’s why I love to fly. I’m not flying the plane. I can sit back and relax and do other stuff. And if something goes wrong…not my fault, and probably nothing I can do about it. It’s also why I loved doing stand-up comedy. Because if I screwed up a punch line, I could actually say, out loud, “I screwed that up!” and get a bigger laugh (not that that every happened). And you know what, there’s nothing I can do to stop corona virus either. I can continue to live exactly the way I’ve ALWAYS lived in NYC: don’t touch anything without gloves or a sleeve, wash my gloves a lot, don’t ever touch my face, and the second I walk into my house (which I keep very clean), I wash my hands. 

That’s how I was brought up, and that’s still how I am. Air on planes has better circulation and filters than any building in NY.

And I’ll tell you something else. From a spiritual perspective, this is AMAZING. This is a global crisis, which is also a global opportunity. We know, up to the minute, who is sick everywhere in the world. We have to work together, one planet, one soul, one support system. It’s not the USA that’s having issues. It’s tiny towns everywhere in the world. One friend in Holland suggested this is the perfect time (if we’re all sitting at home) to video chat and catch up with every friend around the world. We are living through (and yes, we will LIVE through it) a major event in global history. That’s really something. I lived through Presidential assassination attempts, 9/11, recessions. Nothing has ever come close to this kind of worldwide historical significance.

And while this is happening, life still goes on. I have friends and family dying and fighting to stay alive through cancers and other illnesses. I have daily chronic pain and illnesses that I still have to focus on every day. Yes, I won’t see a show or concert for a month, or celebrate my birthday with 100 friends. Or take a trip to Italy. And I’m VERY lucky that I have enough money (and toilet paper) to sustain me a month or more. So I don’t have that concern.

But panicking will not help. Just like the day after 9/11 panicking didn’t help or change the situation in any way.

So try to keep the big picture in mind. This too shall pass. And we have to support every person across the world. So be nice. Be well. You may need to borrow some toilet paper.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Be grateful you can eat anything

Last night I cried at Pizza Rev in LA. This is not a usual occurrence-me crying in public. Especially not at a make-your-own-pizza-place. As the manager was fixing my pizza: gluten free crust, dairy free cheese (that I still shouldn’t be eating because it has coconut oil in it, which also makes me sick, but it’s my only cheese option), and a ton of other stuff that I hope will make it taste like real pizza, she starts telling me how her doctor suggested she go gluten-free because of eczema. My first thought was, “hey! Great doctor who knows that’s often a symptom of gluten sensitivity!” But then she said she could never go gluten free because she likes bread too much. I love bread. I miss bread. I grew up near a bakery and that was my favorite smell in NYC (the only GOOD smell in NYC). My gluten free pizza has less flavor, and is smaller. And costs more. I wish I could eat cheese.

 I wish, when I visited France, that I could walk into any store or restaurant and eat everything. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t eat ANYTHING. I walked into a candy store in France and said I was gluten free and the woman looked at me and, indicating everything in the store, said, “NO!” She also said that France was getting more educated about allergies and I should, “come back in a few years.” I walked outside and burst into tears. I’m in France NOW. I’m hungry. I already have a headache, and am exhausted and depressed because I simply cannot get waiters to stop giving me things without dairy and gluten in them, no matter how hard I try.

This is not a CHOICE people. Don’t you think I would love to go back to Fairway in NYC and taste my way in cheese around the world? Or have croissants from any bakery? Of course I do. Do I WANT to pay more for every sandwich I find (a rare find) to get bread that does NOT hold together at all and ends up as dust on my plate? No. I do not. So please. Think about what you say. And if you’re eating a slice of real NY pizza now, or a sandwich that was easy to find, or real ice cream, or can walk into any store and find lots of things to eat…be grateful. And don’t shame the rest of us just trying to make it through the day without pain, or falling asleep, or depression, or brain fog, or…

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Casting Actors: Color Blind. Gender Blind. Age Blind.

From Student Filmmakers Magazine June 2019. By Tamar Kummel


Color blind. Gender blind. Age blind.

By Tamar Kummel
Think about some recent movies or TV shows starring Meryl Streep, Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Oh, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Robin Williams or any other of your favorite actors. I bet you can’t picture that movie or TV show starring anyone else. They are perfect. But I will bet you that ½ those roles were not meant for them. They were written for someone younger, thinner, whiter, and possibly male. Each one is ridiculously talented, and also not a 25-year-old, white male.
I would like to propose a new thought process. A new way of thinking about characters and casting. And a new way of looking at the world. Not from your point of view, but from an inclusive, global way.
I want you to think outside the box. Think outside when writing. Think outside when casting. So many times, we pigeon-hole our thought process. We “write what we know.” But I bet you know a lot more diversity than you even realize.
Oftentimes as writers, we get restricted by what actually happened. We think, “I’m a 20-year-old male, so the character has to be too.” Or, “this is about a family, so they all have to look alike.” Or the worst thought, “Only males talk this way.” But I can assure you, women talk about everything, at all ages. We curse, we laugh, we talk about sex. And some of us, lots of us, don’t want kids, don’t think about kids, and are not just moms. And you know what, if we are moms, we still have names. It’s not just, “Mom.”
It’s 2019, people. Families look all kinds of ways. Two dads, two moms, light skin, dark skin, you name it. Their kids can be adopted from all over the world. People marry at all ages, even into their 90’s sometimes (I’ve seen it). They have kids at all ages. And best friends don’t have to be the same sex.
People of all ages still date. They still work. They still have hopes and dreams and experiences.
Just because you picture your scene with two men in their 20’s, may not mean you couldn’t cast two women in their 40’s. Think about it. Does it change the integrity of the scene? Not every male/female scene is subliminally about sex. They can be best friends, enemies, or strangers. Imagine you wrote a scene between two people sitting around talking. What did you picture? Twenty-five year old males? Fifty-year-old, black women? How about 60-year-old Asians, one male, and one female? Does the scene change? Does it get better? More interesting? Diversity is normal. It’s interesting. It’s easier to tell characters apart. It’s more reflective of our society. And it’s a good thing to do.
There are 100,000 actors in New York City. There are 400,000 actors in Los Angeles. These are actors of all ages, all types and sizes. Great actors with a wealth of experience and talent. They want to work. And they can make your project more interesting. Give them a chance.
Author Tamar Kummel
Tamar Kummel is an actress, writer, director, and producer in New York City and Los Angeles. She’s easily found on IMDB, social media, and anywhere that serves food. She’s usually wearing purple. She recently completed her first feature documentary, “Fighting For Allergy Free Food.” Along with 2 companion books. More information on current projects, clips, resumes, and books on her websites: TamarKummel.comCaptainPurpleProductions.comFightingForAllergyFreeFood.comTamarKummel.blogspot.com
Photo Courtesy of MaverickSean.com Photography