Brenda teaching in Tokyo.
Don't think for a minute this raw food movement is something new, or only here in the United States, or just on America's right and left coasts. It grows every month, with chefs and home cooks creating raw food magic in so many ways right around the planet, and I am thrilled to be in on the ground floor of this international revolution.
My New Year began with me teaching students from the US, Sweden, Germany, Singapore, Canada, and Japan, who have come to California to learn about raw food.
In mid-January I resumed my work in Japan with a short trip to Tokyo for my pastry students' final projects and graduation. I'd last seen them on the California study tour and Patisserie Second Course classes last September (see photos from that class on facebook). Their recipe projects (each one had to complete 50 original recipes and document them in a portfolio) and their group meetings preparing for the class project were filled with amazing creative successes, and a few learning experiences where things didn't go exactly as they planned.
Raw Food Patisserie Level I
students greeting guests with
tastings of their amazing creations.
Each student had her own ideas of healthy living desserts all based on the central theme of "Hearty Birthday." As the first ever Raw Food Patisserie Level I graduating class from Japan Living Beauty Association, they chose the theme to represent their desire to share the healing benefits of healthy desserts with dear ones. The birthday theme encouraged them to share from their hearts as they pioneer this amazing movement in their country.
The student chefs came with their projects and portfolios to the teaching kitchen from six different Japanese cities for three days of preparation before their final presentations and graduation. Their projects and portfolios were presented to invited guests, family members, and the media while their instructor beamed as each was unveiled.
Each of their desserts glowed with individual energy and creativity. Some created raw versions of authentic Japanese sweets for potential cafes or sweets sales. Some made lavish, decadent, over-the-top chocolate confections just because. Some simply re-created family-inspired desserts using well known ingredients you wouldn't expect in sweets (like brown rice flour.) I learned so much from each of them! There is no doubt in my mind that these committed, serious, passionate artists will indeed change lives as they grow within their own professions as Raw Food Patissieres in Japan.
I am honored, blessed and humbled to be their sensei and a part of their incredible journey. The pictures say it all -- see photos from this class on facebook. Welcome to my Japanese world.
For me, the decision to go vegan happened a long time ago. The ethical, economic, and environmental issues are real and the health benefits overwhelmingly clear. We can and should go much further in our ethical humane treatment of animals in commercial production. If you include meat as a part of your diet, you need to find out where it comes from and know the farmers or ranchers who provide it to you. The extraordinary costs and economic toll associated with commercial ranching and farming is rising by the day and the environmental effects are catastrophic. (Fully two percent of America's contribution to greenhouse gases comes from the feedlot industry!)
Like many folks in the raw vegan community, I was very excited to see Oprah and her staff of 378 go vegan for a week. The show aired on February first. Although it was good to present this information to Oprah's huge audience, I was disappointed that so little was said about fresh fruits and vegetables. The central theme was to utilize 'meat substitutes' for those comfort foods we often crave. Oprah seemed to miss the point that because a product is 'vegan' doesn't mean it's healthy. (I say the same thing about raw). 'Meat substitutes' are usually packaged in boxes, cartons, jars, or bottles emblazoned with the brands we have come to know and fear -- Kraft, Post, Kelloggs... To survive for ages on the megamart shelf, these "non-foods" are laden with preservatives, colorings, and chemicals that stabilize them -- about as far from fresh foods as it's possible to get. (Why am I not surprised? since Oprah is a strong voice for commercialism, and there's no way for her to profit from local organic food.) I'm writing a letter to Oprah to voice my opinion, and if you share my feelings, I encourage you to do the same.
Oprah does have a clip on her site (posted after the show) featuring a plug for Forks Over Knives (which I reviewed last month) and some folks who've improved their health and begun their recovery from heart disease and diabetes by adopting a whole food plant-based diet: click to the clip. YAY ! I only wish this had been part of the main show which aired.
If you missed the show, here are some links to the clips on YouTube below. Be aware that Cargill, our country's largest meat packing plant, did allow cameras and a producer into their facility for filming. The footage is graphic and is intended to help the audience reconsider the wisdom of eating commercial meat. For those with memories of other recent exposés, it also makes the point that Cargill has improved its corporate practices with regard to humane processing.
I think Oprah missed a golden opportunity to share a more rounded view of healthy living. But this is a place to start and for that I am grateful and excited. I can only wonder what, in the long run, this will mean to those who watched and to those who may make some small changes in their consumption habits.
But, as you'll see below, I am constantly rethinking my own connections to food and commerce...
GE seed companies proliferate
across the country.
Many of you know my personal views on current issues affecting our food safety here in the United States. I travel extensively to other countries where consumer protection laws about 'truth in labeling' and 'organic certification' are more honest than our government's. Here in the US, we must stay vigilant, and voice our concerns often wherever they will do the most good. I seldom use my newsletter to voice strong political concerns, but I believe that now is the time. An article at OrganicConsumers.org has recently proved to me that our personal food security is at risk. FoodDemocracyNow.org makes the case even more plainly with their headline, "Obama goes rogue on GMOs." In their February 7th letter to supporters, they write,
My foremost concern is that our ability as consumers to know where our food comes from and how it's treated in the process of getting to us is being eroded by our government and big corporations. Organic practices and labeling are the only way we can know right now that GMO ingredients are not present in the products you are purchasing. In the spirit of Citizens United, corporations are winning regulatory slack, and those of us who want to eat consciously are getting shafted.
In the past I have been a big advocate of Whole Foods Markets and have taught classes at WF stores throughout the Bay Area for years. Whole Foods and many other health conscious markets feature both 'organic' and 'natural' products in the mix of offerings to consumers.
According to the Organic Consumers article, approximately two-thirds of Whole Foods annual sales come from 'natural' products (as distinct from organic). Most authorities are in complete agreement that the term "natural" is as meaningless as the term "new, improved!" and is only meant to confuse inattentive consumers. No wonder so many of us are bamboozled about what is safe to buy! With the complete capitulation of the Obama administration to the corporate greedheads, we can only expect this to get worse. Whole Foods, UNFI (their main distributor), and others, have recently surrendered to Monsanto (the leading producer of GMO seeds): Whole Foods and UNFI admit they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GMO crops. This is BIG, really BIG !
Whole Foods does offer organic choices, but the majority of the products they sell are conventional (often chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods. These products are often disingenuously labeled as "natural" despite the fact that they contain GMOs -- because the Department of Agriculture wrongly maintains that GMO crops are "natural." Whole Foods derives the majority of their income from this part of their product offerings, so they have a vested interest in seeing consumer confusion increase and these large sales continue. They are a big player and their help resisting this on-going surrender of consumer safety is needed. I am concerned with their stand in this heated debate, and I will continue to research this issue and voice my opinion when appropriate.
This field is richly documented, with new information appearing almost every day. I will be launching a special "Online Food Politics link page" listing my current best sources, and hope you'll help me out by sending along your findings.
As always I emphasize, Buy organic, no ifs, ands or buts about it. It is the ONLY way you know you are receiving the best the producers have to offer and with no GMO's present in the product. Buy as much as you can from your local organic farmers and small producers; we owe them our support as they help us be as healthy as we can be.
Hot off the press -- The Raw Food Adviser Manual -- I'd love to tell you all about it, but it's in Japanese! My client, Japan Living Beauty Association, just published their first basic book on raw food. It shares a simple view of the health benefits and lifestyle improvements available through a raw foods plant based diet and highlights their student graduates with raw food schools and cafes throughout Japan. Yours truly has a photo and short mention as an instructor and board member and someday I'll have it translated so I can review it properly.
MOVIES THAT MATTER: Dirt! The Movie
My collection of "Movies that Matter" is growing larger by the day and this month I'd like to share another one with you: Dirt! The Movie.
Narrated by one of my 'sheroes', Jaime Lee Curtis, this is a movie simply about, well, Dirt. From the opening scenes sharing the magic of its composition, through scenes of our disrespect for something so basic to our existence and the call to action near the end of the film, it is clearly another opportunity to witness, learn and share information crucial as we move forward. Dirt! The Movie takes a humorous and substantial look into the history and current state of the living organic matter that we come from and will later return to.
For those in Northern California, there will be a screening Monday Feb 28th in Cotati, CA, 7:00 - 9:00 pm.
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I've been getting lots of questions lately about "Miracle" noodles made with Konjac, a Central Asian tuber that boasts that it is fat-, sugar-, gluten-, starch-, and protein-free food. I'm researching the alleged benefits, and will report to you in a future newsletter, but on first look, this doesn't look like raw food, and if that's what you are looking for I would not suggest they become a major part of your overall routine.
In the wintertime, everyone always asks me 'What do you do to stay raw? Don't you get cold?' I admit I love a good warm soup and during the winter I enjoy them several nights a week. This month I'd like to share one of my favorites -- a good hearty, chunky sweet Raw Corn Chowder.
To make your soups warm you can heat them on the stovetop using a thermometer or your finger. I figure if it's not too hot for my finger it's not over 110°.
Always keep in mind when you make soup, even traditional recipes, that you seldom need to boil the soup. How many times have you done this and then had to wait until it cooled off to enjoy? If you remember to heat soup only to a warm temperature, you can enjoy all the great taste without burning your tongue ... and you are preserving the nutrients, enzymes, antioxidants and phytochemicals for a more nutritious version of a favorite.
If you have an high-speed blender (Blendtec or Vitamix), you can blend until the soup is hot, again remembering to mind the temperature while blending, as these blenders can begin steaming before you know it.
Eat your veggies !! and Live in AWE, eat RAW !!
Arigatou gozaimasu (thank you very much) for reading this month,
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updated 17 December 2020