Embracing a raw food diet poses some new questions in the kitchen: is there anything special required to truly reap all the benefits that the raw food diet has to bestow? This subject is near and dear to my heart because the ‘Raw Food Equipment’ class was the first I ever taught with my Partner in Raw, Alisa.
It was baptism by fire.
My whole kitchen had been transformed into what I then dubbed ‘Alisa’s Chamber of Torture’. Everything looked impressive and imposing but mostly it just looked like ALOT! There was not an open space on the kitchen counter; it looked like any moment all this stuff would revolt and take over the house .
Even as a cook, I was never one to acquire gadgets. I was astounded to find instruments for taking the hulls off strawberries, pitting cherries and zesting lemons. “What’s wrong with a knife?”, became the phrase of the day.There were many, many knives present and a very large and dangerous looking cleaver (for coconuts). “What do you need so many knives for?” I queried. There is no real answer. Some people just collect knives.
Which brings me to the equipment. Juicers; all different kinds, some of which I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where the fruit went in and the juice came out! Three different kinds of blenders. Some white gizmo with a guillotine blade and a crank handle that supposedly turns vegetables into noodles. A big black box with removable trays called a dehydrator – the closest thing to cooking in the raw world but kind of like the grown up version of an Easy Bake Oven (another contraption that takes a whole day to bake a cake).
I felt scared and deprived at the same time. Was I supposed to have all this stuff in my own kitchen? Why didn’t I have all this stuff in my kitchen? I think I better learn how to use the strange little lemon rinder but, again, what’s wrong with a knife?
Now the reality. The truth is: you don’t need all that stuff. We’ve conducted most of our classes with a blender (just one) and a food processor. Sometimes we throw in the dehydrator. We use measuring cups and spoons and knives and cutting boards. And that’s pretty much it.
A few years have passed since that first class with Alisa and I, myself, verge on living a life on the edge of All Raw (although sometimes when you live life On The Edge, you fall off – but that’s another story). I still don’t have a VitaMix – considered to be the blender of choice for all raw food-ists. It’s just me and my little Osterizer – and that works fine. Except that I must admit that there is nothing like the Vitamix for turning nuts into a smooth cream, something my own humble blender refuses to do, eventually grumbling loudly and shutting down completely like a petulant child until I let it sit quietly for 15 minutes to cool off.
Initially I didn’t buy a juicer either. And I drank TONS of juice. I used my blender to beat things into a pulp instead, then poured and squeezed the fibrous concoction through a nut milk bag and into a bowl. $9.50 for a nut milk bag. It’s a bargain. You could use cheesecloth if you had a mind to, but the nut milk bag is better. It just goes to show that you don’t need to break the bank to get the job done. I still like juicing this way. It’s very hands-on. Makes me feel uber earthy. I was happy with my nut milk bag for more than a year before someone gifted me with a Breville juicer. At first I felt unfaithful every time I used it. I would see my nutmilk bag hanging, deflated and accusatory, from its hook on the kitchen cabinet and feel like I’d sold out to technology. I still go back to the nut milk bag periodically as a kind of homage. It helps keep me grounded.
I did invest in a fabulous Cuisinart 14 cup food processor, cutting my processing time for almost anything in half. I also bought a dehydrator; even though I consistently prefer fruits and vegetables in their most natural states, every once in a while I get a craving for one of those ‘easy baked’ items. Chips, stuffed mushrooms, pie crusts, pizza, breads. And, after all, I like it because it warms things up a little and me being – first and foremost – a cook, I like that sometimes… a warm blast from the past. I bought the best dehydrator there is. The ‘Excaliber’: Dehydrator Of Champions. Honestly most of us consider it the only dehydrator there is.
And yes, I too began accumulating knives. Right now, in fact, I’m lusting after two lovely Chun knives that supposedly slice through anything – bone, rope, you name it. Not that this doesn’t remind me of those Ginzu knife commercials from years back that made exactly the same claim. I bought a set of those knives for $19.99 – a steal for any multi-purpose tool, as I saw it- and proceeded to attempt cutting a log (well, maybe not a log-more like a big stick) in half. Well, needless to say my Ginzu knife suffered a premature demise. So I guess I should refreain from fantasizing about using my Chun knives around the farm. Because I will have those knives. Eventually.
Oh! And I bought a cleaver. A big, shiny one that looked like it jumped right out of a slasher movie and onto my counter .Everyone should get them one of these! At first I was a little intimidated by it but a little time and practice got me wielding it like a pro. It was very empowering, to say the least. There’s nothing like whacking open a coconut to make you feel badass!
And there’s no doubt about it.
Fresh coconut water beats out canned any day of the week!