Raw Diet interview

It was only a decade ago that a raw foodie was considered the odd man out. From another planet, even. The idea of someone who didn’t mess with meat, sugar or a stove was a bit wacky to your average Joe.
Nowadays, we like to call those freaks of nature … cool.

HBD chatted with Guest Cook Ani on her rhyme and reason, the challenges of switching over and just how a veggie-based diet can help you feel and look like a million buckaroos. Give it to us raw, Ani.

What made you switch over to the raw diet?

I was raised on a raw food diet by a raw food dad. We had an organic garden when I was growing up. And, mom would make us green juices every morning with whatever was ripe in the garden that day.

When I got to college, I began to eat the less healthy SAD (standard American diet) style of white flour, sugar, cheese and deep fried foods. I had always been an athlete, but had stopped exercising when I got to college and instead began drinking and partying. In a few short months, I gained about 15 pounds and developed high cholesterol. When Mom saw me at the first Thanksgiving break during freshman year, she was shocked by how much weight I’d gained, and immediately put me back onto a vegan raw diet. I reintroduced exercise into my life, lost the excess weight and my cholesterol dropped back to normal levels.

I lived in San Francisco during the dot com era and discovered Juliano’s first raw food restaurant in the mid 90s. I fell in love with his food. It was so fresh, vibrant and beautiful. I didn’t need to sleep as much, it kept me from getting sick and I felt great.

This style of gourmet raw food is what I now call Raw 2.0. It was different from the raw foods I was raised on by my parents. That was what I now call Raw 1.0, which was about nutrients and function with no regard to flavors, textures or presentation. This new style of gourmet Raw 2.0 was guilt-free, healthy and delicious. I was hooked.

Biggest misconception …

That you have to deprive yourself to eat raw and healthy; that it’s hippie food that is not gourmet; that raw food is carrots and celery sticks. What’s your signature cuisine?

My love is for raw desserts. They are delicious, healthy for you and the planet, and guilt-free. Packed with free radical combating antioxidants, my raw desserts are made using FDA superfoods like nuts and fruit. Eating more of these raw desserts will boost your immune system, help you lose weight, and provide you with beautifying nutrients like vitamins A, B, C and E to build collagen while slowing down the aging process.

Favorite cookbook?

Most of my favorite cookbooks are not vegan nor raw. I like to use them as reference when creating raw vegan recipes of my own. In creating a recipe, I first consider the final texture, the herbs, spices and flavors of the cooked version. One food science book I love is On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. It’s more of an encyclopedia than a cookbook, and includes everything about any food you can imagine.
One “cooked” vegan cookbook I love is Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen. Bryant is one of the rare vegan chefs who uses fresh, whole, seasonal ingredients, rather than processed non-foods.

What would you recommend to those who get sick when transitioning to the raw diet?

Do what works for you and your lifestyle. No need to go 100-percent overnight or at all. I believe everyone benefits from eating more whole, fresh, organic produce, no matter what your diet is. As one introduces more nutrient-rich foods, one will notice there’s less room for fillers and empty calories like white flour and sugar. Rather than depriving one’s self from eating specific foods, it’s about displacing less healthy foods for foods that offer more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and healthy building blocks for vibrant bodies.

If you’re feeling detox effects, then slow down the transition to raw. It’s said to take one month to detox each year of unhealthy foods out of our system. So it won’t happen overnight. Take it slowly.

I ask people to notice how they feel. People will feel lighter, more energetic, clearer and happier. As people realize how good they can feel, they want to do better and better each day. Our only competition is with ourselves, to do better than the day before. Health is a lifelong pursuit, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

For the business professional or mom, finding time to grocery shop can be a process in itself. Do you have any special tips or recommendations on being an efficient consumer when grocery shopping?

Shop at your local farmer’s market when in season. Buy what looks appealing to you. I like to buy tougher leaves like kales and chards. When I get home, I immediately wash it all, and make up a salad mix that’s ready to go for the next four to five days. When I make a dressing or sauce, I make double and triple batches to ensure I have extra leftovers on hand in the fridge. This makes it easy to put together a fast, easy snack, and to make another meal using leftovers for the office the next day.

Ani’s Signature Mango Cobbler Serves: 4

What to Buy: For the crust: 1 1/4 cup almonds 1 vanilla bean, scraped 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1 cup medjool dates, pitted and packed 2 tablespoons coconut oil or Earth Balance

For the filling: 1 cups mango, pitted and diced 1/4 cup agave nectar

How to Make It:

To make the crust, place the almonds, vanilla and salt into a food processor or blender. Lightly process into small pieces. Add the dates and coconut butter, and process to mix well. Sprinkle half of the crust onto the bottom of a loaf pan. To make the filling, toss together the mango and agave nectar. Scoop onto crust. Top with the remaining crust.