I took my boyfriend to one of my faaaavorite cafes. It’s one of my favorites because I can eat everything on the menu. It’s one of my favorites because the chef(s) are creative. It’s one of my favorites because I’ve never been disappointed by anything I’ve eaten there. It’s one of my favorites because it feels good to eat their food. Literally.
The place is an organic, raw vegan cafe. Hippie alert.
Well, what’s up with the “raw” thing, anyway?
A “raw and living” diet consists of foods that are not heated past 116°F. The diet is plant-based, and pretty much consists of nearly everything a vegan would eat, except none of the food is actually cooked. (Technically, one could also include raw beef, fish, and untreated/unpasteurized dairy, but I’ve yet to hear of many raw foodists being into that.) Why raw? Proponents of a raw and living diet say cooking destroys the naturally occurring enzymes in our food. Enzymes aid our digestion and help our bodies to get the most out of what we eat. Basically, they make our bodies more metabolically efficient. The term “living food” indicates this whole enzyme thing. People who have diet-related health issues and weight problems are often lacking this aspect in their bodies. A lot of the food that is available and popular to us is like dead weight. No enzymes, low in nutrients, high in calories that won’t be used. If our bodies can’t efficiently use the fuel that they’re given, wrenches get thrown in the gears. We salute you, Hot Pockets.
Some will argue, however, that in many foods, cooking is helpful. Some nutrients become more accessible through cooking, such as calcium in spinach; when raw, oxalates (some crazy molecule that nature came up with) block the absorption of calcium, but a quick boil will wash the oxalates away. And then there are some foods that are just plain indigestible when raw, such as potatoes. Personally, I wouldn’t argue one way or the other, because the important thing is to eat variety. Sometimes my greens are cooked, sometimes they ain’t. I will say, though, that I tend to eat mostly raw foods, simply because I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables that can be eaten raw. And it definitely feels good compared to eating mostly cooked food. Just for a week, try revolving your diet around raw fruits and vegetables. Make salads, sandwiches, gazpachos, smoothies, crudite, etc. Make everything else a side note. And watch your metabolism speed the hell up, even without a change in exercise.
Now, how is raw and living food prepared? Besides the obvious cutting up of produce, there is some preparation involved that to an extent, mimics actual cooking. For example, dried beans are soaked and sprouted. This makes them digestible, and also activates their enzymes. Seeds and grains are also soaked for the same purpose. Then these components can be blended together, and then dehydrated to make “bread”. Soaked nuts, like almonds and cashews, can be used to make “milk”, faux cheeses, desserts, or anything that requires some fat and a creamy texture. A good blender is a raw foodist’s best friend. Sugar is not used in raw cuisine. Often, dates and other dried fruits will be used to sweeten a dessert. Sometimes raw agave nectar or honey is used. Definitely a good diet for type 2 diabetics. The cuisine can sound odd, intimidating and limiting when you first learn about it. But just wading into it, one will find it’s fairly simple, refreshing, and impressive in its variety.
So, onto what we ate.
It started with a creamy pepper soup. And no, it was not cold.
Besides being just hot enough (116°F, I assume), this had some chili pepper heat.
Really great, actually. Very savory and complex. Kinda smokey, too.
Then there was the Mediterranean plate. Oh, man.
Hummus, tomato and cucumber salad, falafel, sprouts. Top notch, baby. I did not miss the crispiness of traditional falafel, but it had all the flavor of some of the best falafel I’ve tasted elsewhere. And I cleaned that hummus and tomato salad.
Henry, the boyfriend, had the cheeseburger.
Sorry you can barely see what’s going on. But it’s a meaty patty, topped with cheese, marinated mushrooms, and served on onion bread. Henry loooooved it. I’ve had it before. I can attest.
And I had my favorite, the spaghetti.
Okay, it’s not actual spaghetti noodles. It’s kelp, a type of noodly seaweed. Don’t give me that face. The kelp is naturally light in flavor, and takes well to the rich, yet light tomato sauce. Also on the side are meatballs (omg<3) and ricotta-like cheese. So… yummy…
Some people may have a problem with all this faux food going on. They’re not real meatballs, it’s not real cheese, or a real burger. But it is all made with real, whole food. Nuts, seeds, vegetables, spices. And no, of course they don’t taste like the “real thing”. Why anyone would expect even a Gardenburger to taste like a real hamburger is ridiculous. The point is to have an alternative that is equally (if not more) tasty. And healthier, of course. Whatever they’re doing at this cafe, I’m not missing anything. There is so much flavor and indulgent textures, the senses are beyond satisfied. I still appreciate the smell of bacon, or the site of a well-dressed burger, and I reminisce sometimes about when I used to eat hot dogs. But I wouldn’t go back, knowing how they make me feel (not to mention the agricultural system, but that’s for another post). I was full after this meal. But I didn’t feel heavy, bloated, or get a food coma. The human body will not turn itself on the owner if it receives proper fuel. Food like this won’t make your belly stick out.
Now if only they’d make a raw vegan Hot Pocket…
P.S. The other benefit is that Henry’s farts did not smell horribly putrid later on