My true introduction to the world of raw foods came as a result of a party and a dream. From the moment we met, Alisa and I liked each other . There was no ‘becoming’ friends. We just were. But beyond that we both recognized tremendous benefits to our joining together as business partners. Oddly enough both of us had corresponding visions of creating a women’s community. Now, granted, in Alisa’s community all the women ate raw food – but basically our ideas of creating a space where women could bloom physically, spiritually and creatively were so similar that it seemed synchronistic that the universe had succeeded in bringing us together. And the thing was, I had the perfect place to start us out. I had been operating the Crystal Mesa Farm as a Bed and Breakfast and miniature animal farm for sixteen years during which time I had fallen in love with the property much as one does with a person and never fallen out . I have often said I would sell my body before I sell my house and I stand by that to this day. It’s a beautiful place, rurally situated but within half an hour of downtown Santa Fe. Lots of land and space and a very special energy that drew guests in and kept them coming back year after year, falling in love with it all – just like I did. So many have claimed that being here is both healing and regenerative. Only perfect. Alisa and I agreed that the Crystal Mesa Farm would be a wonderful place to launch raw food workshops and retreats. I thought we could support these with additional workshops in creativity, journaling, meditation… things that would help to encourage the changes that women would experience in their journey to ‘raw’. Their journey to raw.
My own journey, I was not so sure of. I love food. I love to eat. I have been fortunate up until now (knock wood hard) to have an enviable metabolism; I shall not tell a lie… I have never been fat. When I was young my nickname was ‘Pin’ and it was only my amply endowed bosom that saved me from skinniness. Depending on how one looks at these things, my lactose intolerance has also worked to my advantage; no fatty milk products to metamorphose into extra pounds. Actually I believe that the real story there, is that I just ate way too much cheese when I was growing up in Switzerland. At one point the sixth grade class went on a week-long trip into the heart of the Swiss alps to learn about glaciers and orienteering; every single day consisted of miles of walking up some serious mountains after which we would be given a brown bag containing our lunch; half a loaf of hard French bread, a mammoth hunk of cheese, a thick chunk of chocolate and an apple. This was basically finger food, not by choice but by necessity; they gave us no knives. We just sat there on the alm chomping away at these gargantuan portions like prisoners condemned to hard labor. I never looked at cheese the same way after that trip. Chocolate kind of suffered too. As a treat they took us on a tour of the Nestle chocolate factory. I remember thinking it would be more like Willy Wonka’s but what it was bordered more on the industrial: huge metal vats full of silky dark chocolate, metal arms stirring, ingredients poured in automatically… factory workers there mostly to oversee the machines. The smell of chocolate was so strong it could make a person faint. At the end of the tour they led us into a room filled with the finished products- all the different kinds of chocolate they produced. All the kids just looked at each other. Hardly anyone ate anything. I recommend this plan of action for anyone who can’t get enough chocolate. It’s a surefire cure.
Nowadays when I have cravings, it’s usually for fruit – or pickles! But, at the time, both my kids were of school age and Ronald McDonald usually did a guest spot in our lives once a week, most often on Tuesdays when afterschool activities bring our estimated time of arrival back home to 7:30PM. And even though, left to my own devices, I could probably easily have been a vegetarian with only the extremely occasional craving for grilled steak , my children were most definitely carnivores. So – to save time and effort – when they ate meat, I did too.
And then, there’s this: I love to cook. It’s one of the reasons I opened a bed and breakfast. I’m one of the few women I know who cooks all the time, who consistently prepares actual meals for her family. Someone once actually accused me of being ‘retro’ because of this. Retro? We hardly ever went out to eat; I was too busy cooking. And eating, of course. When you cook, you eat… they kind of go hand in hand. Me, raw? Not likely. That seemed to constitute a kind of deprivation..
But then Alisa had her Raw Extravaganza.. In those days I had very little to do with the raw food preparation. It was kind of alien to me. I was just supplying the venue. I watched Alisa and her crew preparing things. There was hummus and guacamole, fresh salsa and a spicy carrot dip that someone came up with on the spur of the moment. There were delicate nori seaweed chips and tortilla chips slightly jeweled with little touches of red pepper, all made from scratch. I myself had never made anything like a tortilla chip before. But the most interesting thing of all was the vegetable lasagna lovingly created from the freshest of ingredients. One of Alisa’s kitchen helpers was mixing something in a bowl that appeared to be crumbled sausage.
“What’s this?’, I ventrured,curiously.
“Oh, this is the meat”.
“Raw Meat?”, I asked incredulously, my stomach doing a sick flip of revulsion.
“Well,” Meilani clarified, “ this is what we call ‘the meat’. It’s actually beets, dehydrated and mixed with a bunch of spices. Here: try some”. She held out a spoon.
Dubious, but not wanting to appear rude, I tried it. And it was good. Really good. Actually, it was kind of better than sausage. Not as fatty. Not as cloying. Surprised, I moved on to the next ‘station’ where Alisa was stirring something around in another bowl.
“What’s that?”, I asked. It looked like cheese.
“Cheese”, Alisa said, matter-of-factly. Then she laughed. “Not real cheese, of course. It’s a nut cheese.”
Never having known that you could make cheese from nuts, I was more than a little surprised. I have to admit… it sounded a little gross too.
When the entire lasagna was assembled with its layers of fresh tomato sauce, zuchinni noodles, spinach, beet meat and nut cheese, it was really delicious… no matter how bizarre it sounded. Everything tasted so fresh and full-flavored. And it was beautiful too, every color crisp and bright.
As the party began I plowed through the buffet like an industrial vacuum, sucking up everything in my path. I developed a special weakness for the Not Tuna Pate mounded in a nest of baby lettuce; I love tuna salad and this tasted like a very delicate one – but it was Not. Everything was – not just good – but, amazing! And then, there was the chocolate. The best chocolate I have ever tasted or smelled; rich, dark with cherries and flower petals. Raw chocolate. The silver churning vats of the Nestle factory could not compete with this wonderful concoction. If this is raw, I thought, I could do this. I looked around at all the people in my house, happily eating and remarking on how great everything tasted. No deprivation here. Alisa passed behind me, drink in hand. Leaning in she whispered, “It’s going really well, don’t you think?”
“Yes”, I said, “ It’s all wonderful”.