how raw food made me a better cook

food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with gravel in his mouth. ~african proverb

i’m a committed raw foodist and advocate the raw way of life 100%. however one thing I try to avoid is trying to indoctrinate others into raw eating through words. my strategy is to share generously when asked and to identify and prepare the best raw foods I can to start a contagion from the digestive system outward, if it is meant to be. i’m quite the opposite of the stereotyped ”veganazi.“ i respect everyone’s dietary choices and while certain smells and sights may offend, i never make a fuss about it.

while intimately connected to raw living, i also cook for my family and friends sometimes. even though raw is best there are times when cooked foods or a mix might be more appropriate for the respective tastes involved.

i learned to make raw food before i learned to cook. growing up, most of the food I ate was fairly simple and routine; the same rice & same beans that don’t feel monotonous because that’s all i knew so there was no wide spectrum of foods to draw from. after moving away from home i maintained this simplicity during my vegan years (prompted partly by poor quality dining hall meats and a wretched summer job at an ice cream shop), eating salads and too many packaged items.

the few more complex cooked foods i attempted to cook typically ended up in disaster – grease fires and bodily haRM to others included.  i really lacked common cooking sense and had minimal desire to learn at the time. i learned a few simple cooking concepts from my able to make a meal out of anything born during the great depression grandmother as well as from observing my mother.

years later when i reformed some of my dietary concepts and began getting into the raw food way I began looking up and trying out recipes. i was SHOCKED at how good some of my dishes came out and I take no credit for their tastiness whatsoever.  it’s truly the raw foods themselves that have such beautiful and full-hearted flavorings they simply mesh together in miraculous ways when combined appropriately.  who knew taking the heat out of things would make everything click into place for me?  i even made up my own raw recipes which i hope to share in time and lots and lots of adjustments to others recipes.  i’m no gourmet raw chef and my stance leans towards the simple, clean and quality of ingredients rather than 29 step multi-day ordeals (though these have their time and place too!) but i’m good enough that I’ve only ever eaten at 2 raw restaurants where I don’t think to myself that my own food is way better (shout outs to pure food and wine in NY and café gratitude in san francisco).

when i do cook, it’s not as pleasurable to me as raw food preparation. i feel like I’m ruining the foods and wasting nutrients which is a fairly accurate assessment. however i bring some of the concepts i’ve learned through raw food preparation and other food observations into my cooking including:

  • use of the freshest, highest quality ingredients i can find and afford: this means nothing canned, never frozen, no premixed spices, fresh herbs whenever possible and always fresh juicy produce
  • never confusing salt or fat/oil for flavoring: flavor comes from the foods themselves as well as herbs and spices used. however cooking dulls the rich vibrancy of raw foods so it’s tempting to try to overcompensate through excessive salt and oils. simply adding enough herbs and spices and using flavorful vegetables to the food is my solution to this problem
  • avoiding overcooking: this was something i first observed in jamaica which has a beautiful and healthful vegetarian heritage. i was impressed at how bright and bold the colors of their cooked vegetables were and it’s due to the fact that they do more of a blanching than full on color-stripping cooking. i think the tendency to overcook comes from microbiological fears as well as the preparation of meat, which takes more time. for most vegetables a few minutes will do if one decides to cook them at all.
  • mindful cooking: raw food taught me to really connect with the tastes and textures of the food I am working with. it’s truly and art form and while I’m not so passionate about the cooking process, when I do it, I try and put the same level of love and care into what i am doing.
  • a health first approach: most importantly, I factor in the health value of what I am preparing into the decisions I make when cooking. There’s no “how much money do we net off of this dish” calculation like what’s found in all restaurants from the cheapest to the most expensive. The home is unique in the sense that you intimately care for the people that eat what you are preparing which makes for a more loving process and product.

[pic above is a pot of vegetable soup i made, dec 2011]

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~ by cyrah on December 3, 2011.

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