Eating In : Raw and Ready

marie-cooking-rawFor many, adopting a raw vegan diet is scariest because it means that, unless you confine yourself to a salad, there is less opportunity to eat out at restaurants. All of a sudden you represent a minority: meagerly represented and majorly misunderstood by the masses. You would assume that if the celebrities have caught on – and they have – then what’s the deal with everyone else? Suffice it to say, the celebrities have their own personal chefs. Some even open up their own restaurants. Very convenient in terms of always having somewhere to go that serves the kind of food you’re after.

The fact remains that even though the raw movement is spreading there is still a dearth of raw food eateries in anyplace but the biggest cities. So where does that leave us?

In 2015 statistics illustrated that, for the first time, Americans were spending more money on eating out than on groceries, a trend apparently spurred on by millennials who regard eating out as part of their social experience albeit that the majority are turning to fast food, delis and pizza joints for their dubious nourishment. Only the baby-boomers are eating more of their meals at home… maybe because they don’t have the energy to go out much anymore!

In any case we seem to be spending half our income on eating out rather than cooking in and the halo-ed home-cooked meal is becoming more and more associated with our grandparents (although in my case my grandmother was a god-awful cook with three recipes in her repertoire: beef stroganoff, goulash soup and strawberry Jell-o with fruit cocktail coagulated into it). Ah…nostalgia.

This turn away from preparing food for ourselves has resulted in increased obesity; the percentage of obese Americans was only 14.5% in 1974; by 2012 it had risen to 35.3%. It doesn’t help that the large part of the food that people do buy to take home with them are snacks like Cheetos and Doritos: all fat and fun till you can’t get your pants on.

Don’t get me wrong: eating out is great but… survey says: it’s not so fantastic for the waistline. Portions tend to be bigger and the nutritional quality of the food can’t help but be called into question.

Much of the reason that we spend so much time eating out has to do with time itself. Finding the time to prepare a meal really seems to be a major obstacle to conquer. Isn’t it just easier to sit in front of a computer screen, connecting with your Facebook friends, noshing on some Chinese takeout than cooking a good meal for yourself? I can hear everybody whining, “it takes too long!”

But really, it doesn’t.

I prepare a lot of food here and it doesn’t take me long at all. One of the many beautiful advantages of a high raw diet. There is absolutely no cooking time. Zero. You cut that part out altogether.

Soaking nuts? You do that overnight. Or throw the nuts or seeds in a bowl with water before you go to work in the morning. They’ll be ready when you get home and you won’t have had to think about them at all.

Soaking and sprouting? A simple science experiment that takes less than 5 minutes of your time on any given day of the process and that’s just because of the rinsing.

Now, I hear you… what about dehydrating? I think about dehydrating like the stock market: the buy and hold strategy.  You make the food, throw it in there, set the dial and forget about it. Nothing bad is going to happen. Here and there you take a peak but no big deal. This laissez-faire attitude is great for raw food preparation. I tend to use the dehydrator less for day to day meals than for special occasions and making big batches of snack-y foods – things like raw tortilla chips or taco shells or onion crackers – that are going to be around for a while.  You make these things in large batches periodically and they are there when you need them.

Once a week I make a date with my dehydrator, usually when the kids are home. Everyone helps making the food. After all you can bet that they are all going to be helping to eat it! But if no one is around I go at it myself and make it into a meditative practice. Preparing food is calming and absorbing at the same time. You can think great thoughts while you’re doing it or not think at all. My daughter sings.

I like to think of all that joy going into the food.

The thing is that raw food preparation takes very little effort unless you are delving into the creation of a gourmet meal.  Modern conveniences like a food processor and Vitamix (the king of blenders) speed things up considerably but, when it comes to chopping things up, a good old fashioned knife works just fine. And compared to cooking, cleanup is… well…cleaner. No pots and pans to scrub for eons. That cut-back on the cleaning time is, in and of itself, a welcomed relief. It’s a refund of time.

Here are some guidelines to making raw food preparation easier from any angle:

Have your pantry stocked 

Make sure you have all your essentials on hand so you are prepared when the mood strikes you. That means stocking up on nuts, seeds, oils and all the miscellaneous important items that you need on a regular basis to prepare your raw concoctions. Naturally you will want your fruits and vegetables to be as fresh as possible but make a mental – or even better – an ACTUAL list – of the things you are running low on to accompany you on your grocery rounds.

Do your soaking (and sprouting) while you sleep (or work)

Even if a recipe says “soak such and such for four hours”, it’s not going to be a cardinal sin if you soak them for eight. Whatever is more convenient for you is going to keep you on track. Throw some nuts in a bowl with water before you go to bed and your work will be done for you in the morning. If you’re sprouting, use that time to rinse your grains and cover them up again till they’re ready to go.

Set aside a practical time to make any dehydrated staples in bulk

Putting aside a few hours every week or two can allow you to accomplish miracles when it comes to making breads, crackers, snacks and desserts that you can have on hand for nibbling. Making things in bulk helps you not to feel like you are doing major food preparation every day.

Plan Ahead

Any kind of food preparation takes a certain degree of planning. You don’t ever want to be running around at the last minute trying to put ingredients together or finding out that something needed to be sprouted when you are serving dinner in an hour. Know what you want, what you need and organize accordingly. The by-product of un-cooking is that you will find yourself becoming immensely more organized.

Invest in some time-saving equipment

Whether you are a raw foodist or a veritable Julia Child, there’s no denying that a good food processor will allow you to breeze through any recipes that require cutting, chopping or mincing. It is the epitome of a time saver. Stockpile the money you would have spent on takeout once upon a time and buy yourself one of these. Likewise a good blender is your ultimate workhorse and can even double as a juicer if you add a nut milk bag into the mix. These are purchases you will never regret.

Preparing raw meals at home can be as easy as you make it and once you get the hang of it all it will be time to invite friends over for a healthy home (un)-cooked meal that would put my grandmothers stroganoff to shame.

At that point, who needs a restaurant?





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