Thursday, November 4, 2010

For the love of vegetables

I feel long overdue for a food blog entry. It's been about six months since my last food/cooking frenzy, and given that a lot of big things have been happening in my kitchen lately, I feel like it's time.

My grocery hauls have been really colorful lately!

Exactly two years ago, Seyeon and I took a fall break trip to Austin, Texas together. She was interested in scoping it out for grad school and future living, and I went along for the ride. Given that we were both wrapped up in our busy lives prior to the trip (I was in the final stretch before the 5K that I'd organized and stressed out of my mind about it), we had no time to plan anything, including where we'd stay once we got there. We found a decent hostel for the first couple nights, and from there, coordinated a couple homes to stay in after that via FANTASTIC website.

Our first couchsurfing host was a guy named David Ansel, who'd started his own soup-making-and-delivery business in Austin, The Soup Peddler. Our next couchsurfing host was the self-proclaimed "Team Sprout" - three young, enthusiastic raw foodists who hosted us for a craft night and a board game night and made us delicious raw food and smoothies to take with us on our daily adventures around the city. The three of them - Kaye, Chris, and Kristy - have been in both Seyeon's and my mind since we visited Austin for the first time, and their introducing us to the raw foods lifestyle irreversibly piqued our interest.

A quick overview on raw foods: essentially, a 100% raw diet (though many raw foodists will only maintain a 70% or 80% raw diet) excludes anything that's been heated above 116 degrees Fahrenheit. The theory behind is it that heating foods above 116 changes the actual chemical structure of the food, introducing carcinogens, zapping nutrients, and essentially killing the life energy out of the food. There are countless stories of people reversing cancer, heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, and various otherwise life-threatening, degenerative diseases by switching to a raw foods diet. People report soaring energy levels, because their digestive system no longer requires huge amounts of energy to break down weighty, nutrient-depleted foods. It's like veganism on steroids; not only no meat or dairy, but no cooked grains (only sprouted ones) either. Even coffee and tea is technically not considered raw. ("Sun tea", in which herbs are left to steep in a cup of water in direct sunlight, is permissible.) No bread, no oatmeal, nothing pasteurized.

Of course, there's nothing practical about being raw in our modern society. Virtually nothing at restaurants fits the bill; you have to pack all your own food when you travel or go anywhere; our culture is truly built around cooked food and the sharing of it, and people will think you're crazy. Raw food is extreme, yes. But if you all could meet Kaye and Chris and Kristy in Austin, you'd want to give raw foods a try, too; you couldn't meet happier, kinder, more energetic souls in your life.

Don't worry; I haven't totally gone off the deep end with it yet. But I have been fascinated with raw foods over the past two years, and am trying to incorporate more raw foods into my daily diet. Finally having a powerful juicer and blender on my kitchen counter has made a huge difference. Already, just with incorporating juiced greens and green smoothies into my morning routine, I've entirely cut my dependency on or cravings for coffee. I switched to black tea for awhile, but now, I don't even need that. Some blended kale or spinach with fresh fruit really gets me going first thing in the morning.

A huge thanks to Alan for the juicer (birthday present!) that got me from just thinking and reading about raw foods to putting it into action in my daily life and seeing what happened. The 2-horsepower Vita Mix blender was a present to myself, with help from both Elodie and my mom, who contributed to my ongoing "blender fund" that's been pending since that trip to Austin. Amusingly, it was a sentence from Leo Babauta's "The Power of Less" that convinced me to get it - something about how if you think you really want something, to wait 30 days, and only if you still want it then, to go ahead and buy it. I realized I've been telling everybody in my life about how much I want a Vita Mix for two years now, so it was just time.

Here are a few of my raw food experiments so far:

Raw guacamole

Raw corn chowder (yup, cool soup...surprisingly good)

Green smoothie: Before.

Green smoothie: After.

So am I giving up on cooked food altogether just yet? Absolutely not. I just ordered a ton of yummy organic groceries from, via a fantastic Groupon yesterday, when I got home from school, two giant bins of produce and loaves of bread and chocolate milk and fancy cheeses and hazelnut granola and locally made pumpkin cookie dough were awaiting me.

I've tried to do a few days of eating 100% raw, and my body wasn't happy about it. A lot of raw foodists would argue that my body sees cooked food as a drug, and trying to quit it cold turkey will elicit withdrawal symptoms...who knows? Otherwise, I can't imagine lots of fresh vegetables and fruit giving me headaches, but I have been especially headachey the past week or two.

Bottom line: I will continue to experiment, and probably write about my findings here. Last bit of awesome food-related news: My neighborhood just got hooked up with food and yard waste pick up! So now all my food scraps (of which there are many, especially with my juicer!) can get composted. Good news.

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