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March 2012 Newsletter

March 11, 2011 -- not a day that means much to us here in the United States, but for friends in Japan, this quiet spring day changed the world. They experienced a human-aggravated natural disaster beyond our imaginings that has put their national and cultural resolve to a test that exceeds anything that has ever happened in the United States.

As the stories unfold, from heartache to new beginnings, from complete loss to finding the simple pleasures again, I have been amazed and inspired.

You may remember the letter from Sendai written a few days after the earthquake and tsunami and the letter from Kumi, my student.

In honor of my friends and colleagues halfway around the world, I say Thank you for being a part of my life and showing me how to grow despite adversity, how to maintain my center amidst chaos, how to find the gratitude in every moment . and how to just keep on keeping on. Here's a wonderful video of thanks to all who helped from the Japanese: Arrigato from Japan.

Label GMOs Ballot Initiative 2012:
Full Disclosure: If you engineer it, we want to know!

Californians, don't let that initiative petition get away! Here's where to look for places where the petition is being circulated. We have until April 22nd to gather 800,000 signatures.

jour-ney, noun -- travelling from one place to another usually taking a long time

That would certainly be how I describe my ongoing adventure with food. Each and every day I make a new discovery that helps me move toward an ever-healthier lifestyle.

Brenda running on the beach
Running on the beach

We all know that a journey starts with a single step. But that's just the start. A journey requires commitment to achieving a goal, often despite a winding path that wanders off into one's personal weeds from time to time. Out in the weeds is where I make the self discoveries that change the way I look at things. The weeds are where the surprises are, and where I rediscover the direction that moves me toward the goal.

I am often asked how I moved from omnivore to a raw food lifestyle. What a jouney of self-discovery THAT has been! Through many years, from omnivore, then choice-atarian (credit goes to my husband Mike for coining this word -- he chooses to eat what he wants but admits "I make better choices now") to vegetarian, and now, to raw vegan. Also: the journey from apparently healthy person to cancer patient, and back. Reviewing my travels, I see critical milestones, way points, and unexpected curves that got me where I am today.

Raw on the Road Supplies - Tokyo, August 2011
Raw on the Road Supplies

To answer that question, I have gathered notes and good ideas over the years. Some of the better bits found their way into articles like Label Reading 101 and Low Hanging Fruit. My own personal road map is summed up in my personal inspirational mnemonic PEETS. But I want to assemble all the shards of wisdom, big ones and little, in one place. You'll find the work-in-progress -- do we ever get the complete list? in a new article you can find at my website, "The Journey to Raw -- toward better eating habits."

Hungry for Change:

I collect "media that matters" and they are often so good that I am eager to share them with you. It's a good time for media: filmmakers are creating thought provoking documentaries that change the way we look at our most basic need, food. The award winning producers of Food Matters, are premiering their newest work, Hungry for Change this month exclusively on line -- for FREE! Chef Jamie Oliver, Dr Christine Northrup, Author Kris Carr, Health Ranger Mike Adams and many others join together to expose food industry secrets about diets, weight loss and marketing that keep the public trapped in the downward spiral of food addictions and cravings. The producers are offering a ten day free viewing on the site from March 21-31. You bet I'll be watching and you can too by registering on their site. Your health is in your hands.

The World According to Monsanto

Remember that quote that led last month's newsletter?

"If you control the oil you control the country;
if you control food, you control the population."
-- Henry Kissinger, 1970
The World According to Monsanto:

Well, here's a great documentary about the company that's trying to do just that. At the website where you can see this film for free, here's their lede:

"There's nothing they are leaving untouched: the mustard, the okra, the bringe oil, the rice, the cauliflower. Once they have established the norm: that seed can be owned as their property, royalties can be collected. We will depend on them for every seed we grow of every crop we grow. If they control seed, they control food, they know it -- it's strategic. It's more powerful than bombs. It's more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world."


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Notable Products and Producers

Hodo Soy Beanery

Growing up I always loved factory tours. As a Brownie and Girl Scout, and with my school classmates growing up in Texas, factory tours were a big part of life for me. I remember Wonder Bread, Bama Jelly, the local Houston Chronicle. Then Frito Lay and a child's delight, Hershey Chocolate in (where else?) Hershey, Pennsylvania. Back then, visitors got to eat things right off the assembly lines and conveyor belts.

My husband Mike and I still seek out these tours. Even on our honeymoon, we went to Dole Pineapple on Oahu -- the best $2.00 we ever spent for what's now being called "edu-tainment." On the Dole tour we could have as much pineapple juice as we wanted right out of a spiget on the wall! Even the employees could drink as much as they wanted -- all day long. I also vividly remember the Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado -- more adult days. So I confess: I love factory tours even though I grow less and less thrilled by "products."

Mariah and I at the Hodo Soy stand
Mariah and me at the Hodo Soy stand

On our last holiday, Mike and I took another factory tour, this time to the Hodo Soy Beanery. I found out they offer a factory tour once a month, and that's all it took: Field Trip! We found the factory hidden on a quiet street in Oakland, discretely sign-posted; you'd never know you were there. We joined 20 other intrepid factory tour afficianados for a look inside a traditional soy bean factory.

I am not much of a soy person. The healthy benefits and potential dangers of consuming soy on a regular basis are pretty well documented. With a cancer journey a part of my life, I'm extra tuned to the inclusion of soy in my diet. That said, I do enjoy traditional tofu products, the kind you can get in Japan warm and creamy right at your dinner table. There's just nothing like fresh artisan tofu.

I discovered Hodo Soy Beanery a couple of years ago in an article about John Schaffenberger, the sparkling wine and chocolate guy. The article mentioned his newest "find," an artisanal soy bean company right in the San Francisco Bay area. John began consulting with them, and ultimately joined the company as CEO, working beside Billy Bramlett, original founder of Wildwood Tofu, and Hodo's founder, Minh Tsai, (a youngling in my book, a mere 39 years old) and native of Vietnam. Arriving in the Bay Area as an immigrant, Tsai (remember that Asian names are the opposite of European ones, with the family name given first) was surprised that despite the large Asian population, he couldn't purchase his favorite traditional tofu products. Spotting this obvious business opportunity, he started Hodo in 2004.

Making yuba at Hodo Soy
Making yuba at Hodo Soy
Making yuba at Hodo Soy
Making yuba at Hodo Soy

Now located in a 12,000 sq foot factory in Oakland, Hodo makes tofu in the traditional Japanese style. The artisanal quality of their products have made me a tofu lover all over again. Eating sparingly, I have sampled, and enjoyed almost everything they make. In addition to the traditional hard and soft blocks of tofu, Hodo makes something very special called "yuba," (tofu skins). Hodo is the only company in the United States making this traditional Japanese product; it is one of their top sellers . . .and Mike and I love it! Here's a video of Tsai talking about yuba and showing how it's made.

Over the years, it became clear that husband Mike wasn't much of a tofu lover. In fact, until recently, there was no way he was going near the stuff. As we've refined our eating habits through the years by increasing the proportion of plants in our diet, I looked for ways to add more protein without using animal parts. Discovering Hodo Soy's yuba has broken through his resistance, and now he's as much of a fan as I am.

Here's a simplified description of how tofu is made: Hodo relies on contract soy farmers who agree to stay organic and non-gmo. As you know, this makes all the difference to me. The contract growers deliver soy beans to the factory dry, where they are soaked overnight in purified water, then ground and filtered to make soy milk. After a few purification and processing steps, a coagulant is added -- Hodo uses calcium sulfate -- and curds form, just like making cheese. Finally the soft tofu is pressed to expel excess water, and in some cases flavored.

Yuba is made without the coagulant -- steam processed soybeans and filtered water available in strips. Doesn't get more simple than that.

At first, I found Hodo Soy products at farmers markets in San Francisco, but now they are available in some retail outlets. We love all of the Hodo products, but especially yuba. Hodo is an eco-conscious company with a wonderful product. Bottom line: I love the company and the product, and that's enough to win my support for their endeavors.


Wraps and Rolls.

Sushi rolls (photo by Kang Lim)
Sushi rolls (photo by Kang Lim)

Quick solutions for meals are always welcome at our house and I enjoy all things Asian inspired (especially when the anniversary of the Fukushima Quake is so near the front of my mind).

Wraps and Rolls find their way into our busy lifestyle on a regular basis and each time they are new and unique depending on what's in the refrigerator. With leftovers, veggies on hand and a sauce or two, dinner is quick and easy. Invite your friends to play with their food and everyone will have fun!

Sometimes I present them as an Asian taco / burrito bar, an invitation to guests and family to make their own dinners using their hands -- an authorized excuse to play with your food! Kids love it . . . and, really, how much more fun can you have? Offer the wildest variety of vegetables depending on what is in season or what you have in the refrigerator.

The best wraps and rolls start out with sprouts, spreads, dips, or sliced avocados as a base, then pile on the vegetables and condiments, topping off with a savory sauce: Delicious, portable meals and snacks. This is a good way to use up leftover pâtés, spreads and dips and any variety of vegetables. Cut, grate, julienne, chop and chiffonade to your heart's desire. The possibilities are endless.

Choice of Wrappers:

  • Collard leaves
  • Cabbage leaves
  • Nori sheets
  • Romaine Leaves
  • Raw Tortillas


  • Dehydrated pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Dulse
  • Sesame Seeds

Choice of Vegetables:

  • Alfalfa or Sunflower sprouts
  • Avocadoes, thinly sliced
  • Carrots, shredded or julienne
  • Cucumber, seeded and julienne sliced
  • Red bell peppers, julienne sliced
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tomato, chopped or sliced

Choice of Spreads:

  • Any kind of pâté
  • Almond or cashew cheese
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Salsa
  • Pesto
  • Raw Tahini, pumpkin seed butter or almond butter
  • Raw sauces and spreads
  • Spicy miso paste
  • Wasabi

Eat your veggies !! and Live in AWE, eat RAW !!

Food is one thing you can control in your life. What you put in your mouth is completely in your control....

Seasonal farmers markets are starting to open up all over. I miss my friends -- the farmers -- and look forward to seeing them again....

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updated 26 June 2017