17 May 2012

Let Them Eat Raw!

The Wiebe family (and my extended Evans clan) has been eating Raw again for three weeks.

This time a few more of my sisters are joining in the party.  It occurs to me, having done this for long enough, that there are some things about raw food that are learned, not inherent.  My sisters have been calling and texting me, asking questions about this recipe, or that challenge, and it amazes me how much of it is stuff I just don't think about any more.  I could seriously do this in my sleep, almost...

So I thought I'd put together a little how-to of my take on raw; a resource for anyone wanting to know more about eating and preparing raw, living food.

1. Fancy kitchen tools are not necessary, but awful nice when eating raw.  I'm sure I would survive, but my life is infinitely better because of my Vita-Mix, dehydrator and food processor.  Everything else can kick it, but those three kitchen gadgets are pretty imperative to making raw food prep easy.  Of course a regular blender could work, and you certainly don't need a really expensive dehydrator, but some variation of those three tools is pretty imperative. 

2. You have to accept that things, while called "Mock Tuna" or "Onion Bread," will taste nothing at all like tuna or bread.  This is a completely different way of eating, and the things you will eat are completely different.  If you do give it an honest try, you will be amazed at how quickly your palate changes, and how things you didn't love to begin with taste wonderful as you develop in this way of eating.  When I started eating raw in January of 2011 I absolutely hated anything that tasted "fishy."  I never even ate vegetarian sushi because the sea weed would make me gag.  After about a month of raw food, trying the different sea weed recipes, I can happily say that real raw sushi is one of my favourite dishes.  My tastes changed fairly quickly, and I am glad that I can palate so much more now.

3.  If you are hungry, EAT!  Raw food is digested so much quicker than starchy, cooked food.  That means that you have to eat more often than you may be used to. The good thing is, there is very little raw food that will make you fat, and even the desserts are healthy for you!  So, if you find your breakfast smoothie doesn't satisfy you through to lunch, eat!  Whip up some chia pudding, or have a sliced apple with raw almond butter.  Don't be afraid of eating raw fudge brownies for a mid morning snack.  Eating raw is not a diet, it is a lifestyle, and it will be very hard to stick with it if you find yourself starving all the time.  The food is delicious, so don't be afraid to enjoy!

4.  When making raw recipes, don't be afraid to change it in basically any way you want.  I look at some of the recipes that I have posted here, and am amazed at how differently I make them now.  I add cinnamon and vanilla and just about any dried fruit I have in my house to my muesli (which I don't roll the oats anymore, I chop them in my food processor), I cut out almost half of the nuts in my granola and add sprouted buckwheat instead.  Really, you can change them up in a plethora or ways.  And the best part is, it's incredibly hard to mess it up. There is not chemical reaction, very little consistency considerations, just a lot of finger tasting to see if you've got it according to your liking.  So, if you don't like gogi berries in a gogi berry granola recipe, just switch them up for golden berries, or raisins, or fresh raspberries.  If you don't have any hemp oil, but you do have macadamia oil, or even olive oil, just replace it.  The possibilities are endless!  I always tell Jared, raw food is not a science, it's an art.  Let's all say that together now: Raw food is not a science, it's an ART!

5.  The most important thing to know when experimenting with recipes is how to balance the five flavours.  Basically, if a recipe contains an array of the five flavours, sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter, you will feel much more satisfied and not need to go hunting for more after a meal.  So, when making raw food remember this:

Excess sour is balanced by sweet
Overly bitter is balanced by sour
Fats tone down spices, and mellow too much sweetness
And, salt brings out flavors

So, if you add too much hot pepper to your chili recipe, mellow it out with some more oils. There are very few recipes that are truly ruined by adding too much of one thing, because you can just balance it by adding another ingredient, and in the process make something wonderful!  For more information on this, I find this web page helpful.

6. And finally (for now), for those daunted by the amount of preparation that is required by raw foods, let me tell you that it gets much easier.  Any real food prep takes time (and I'm not talking about boiling some noodles and dumping in a jar of processed tomato sauce.)  If you are committed to ousting processed food and increasing your awareness of what you are putting in your body, you are going to have to spend more time in the kitchen.  The difference with raw food is you just have to put that time in much earlier.  Because you have to soak and sprout many things you will eat, you sometimes have to start 5 days ahead to make a meal. It doesn't mean you spend five days making it - you take five minutes to soak the almonds, a few more to rinse them, 20 minutes to prepare the dish, and then it sits in the dehydrator until you are ready to eat it.  My point is, it doesn't take a whole lot more time, but it does take some forethought and planning.  My suggestion for this is to meal plan, and give yourself some time every day to think about what you might need for your meals in the days to come and start preparing for them. You will find as you become more accustomed to your favourite meals, you will not have to do as much.  I just always have certain things on the go, or make big batches and freeze things for later use.

That's all for now, folks.  I hope it has helped those that have asked me for some starting suggestions.  If you are looking for recipes my favourite books are:

Raw Food, Real World
Everyday Raw and anything else by Matthew Kenney

There is also lots of good information on line, including some delicious recipes.  Feel free to check out my recipes for a few suggestions too, or check out my raw food Pinterest board, where I've pinned some recipes that I'm working through (but be careful, because some of them are not raw, just inspirations for things I will/have made raw).

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