• the baking of a man

    March 8, 2010

    I’ve talked before about how not having a TV for over five years was one of the best moves I’ve ever made.  It also became a luxury I’d partake of when I was somewhere other than home – sort of like being a kid and playing with someone else’s toys. But having spent the past couple of months in the States with family has meant finding myself in front of the TV quite a bit (see previous post).

    Two of my favorites for completely opposite reasons: No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

    I read Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential while I was doing patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu five years ago, and I can’t help feeling – or rather, hoping – that Ramsay is a Bourdain in the making.  I mean at a level of real growth – where Ramsay is the starter or “mother,” and Bourdain is the whole sourdough.

    When I watch Bourdain, I see a softened man, and hence a stronger one.  I see a man who has taken a few beatings to the heart and soul and is constantly looking to discover all that is wonderful in his world.  Naturally, he does.  Ramsay, on the other hand is – pardon the pun – hell bent on finding everything that’s wrong.  And that’s exactly what happens.

    I know which one I’d like to dine with.  What about you?

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  • a simple kind of life

    June 23, 2009

    I use to be a big “foodie” in the traditional sense of the word.  I went to culinary school and trained as a pastry chef.  I organized big group dinners for friends at restaurants in New York and London.  A gourmet tasting fair?  I was there.  I also interviewed cheesemongers and artisan bread makers for The Times.

    Then something happened.  Sitting down to a menu started to lose its appeal.  Gradually, my hours spent preparing and making elaborate food diminished.  At the same time, my awareness of nature and how disconnected we are from it became stronger.  Maybe I got tired.  But I’d like to think I woke up.

    When my food choices started changing quite sharply last year – as both a result of my own preferences and the economic downturn – friends had a lot to say.  “But you love food!”  said one.  “But eating out is such a part of your life; how are you going to be social?” asked another.

    My response is always the same: I still love food, and socializing now is more about being social then being caught up in what course I’m going to order next.

    I am now a foodie in a different sense, taking pleasure in simplicity and marveling at how, the more simple my approach to food, the more my taste buds sharpen and can appreciate food as nature intended it.  I’m not putting down gourmands, on the contrary.  If that hadn’t been a part of my life, this part wouldn’t be happening now.

    I’m not the first person to say that as you get more into whole, plant-based foods – especially raw – your diet becomes quite rudimentary.  You, literally, start returning to your roots.  It also means I don’t get bored of things as easily as I used to.  This recipe is probably as complex as I get these days, and I make it a few evenings a week.  I hesitated about posting it since it’s so simple, but simplicity is often easily missed.  It reminds me of a line from an old Depeche Mode song: “Is simplicity best, or simply the easiest?”  I’d like to think it’s both.

    new recipe: better than stir fry

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  • mom’s first green smoothie

    June 10, 2009

    I feel really proud of my mom right now in that “baby’s first steps” kinda way – yesterday she made her first-ever green smoothie!

    They say that children end up teaching their parents, but while this is often said in the context of taking care of them in their old age, I believe this is so from the moment of birth.  One of the reasons I want to have children is to learn from them – from their innate curiosity and spontaneity that comes from being in the moment as only children know how.

    And a big reason I started Green Appetite was for my mom.  A year ago this father’s day, I got an awful call – my mom had just had a major heart attack.  Being an ocean away and experiencing the gulf more than ever, I’d never felt more useless in my life. That is, until my mom not only survived the horrible event but came away from it with an undaunted determination to turn her diet around – not an easy task, yet one she has pulled off amazingly guided by her tough spirit and selfless support of her husband who took on the same heart-healthy diet right along with her.

    When I came back from visiting her in Florida, there was only one thing I could do – if I wasn’t there to shop and cook with her, the next best thing was to come up with creative ways for her to eat deliciously while protecting her precious heart.  My mom’s commitment to health is proof that people can and do change when they choose to and when there is plenty of love to support it.  She has been an inspiration for most if not all of the recipes on this site.  And now here’s my mom’s recipe, exactly as she emailed it to me.

    The Lucy Smoothie

    l mango
    l ripe banana
    Bunch of raisins
    1/2 of a cucumber
    Piece of papaya
    l cup of bottled water

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  • banana pancakes and going all the way

    June 9, 2009

    A few days ago, I received a very nice email about my banana pancakes from a reader named Mindy.  I was wondering when I’d get a query about this recipe since, as you may have noticed, it’s the only non-raw one in the bunch so far.  I tried to reply to Mindy, but my email keeps bouncing back.  And since I believe everything happens for a reason, I reasoned it could only be that the universe wanted my answer to reach Mindy through this blog and, consequently, all of you.

    Here’s Mindy’s question:

    Dear Jessica,

    Your website is just beautiful. So glad I found it!!! About those pancakes… they look wonderful but I am wondering if there is a way to cook them so as not to destroy any enzymes. I just began eating 100% raw in March and am still learning what I can and can’t make and eat. What are your thoughts? Many thanks, Mindy

    Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, Mindy.  A great question, especially as it presents a springboard for talking about transitioning to raw foods and how cooked foods can fit in.

    Food is considered raw if it has not been heated above 118F (some sources say 115F).  Heating, as you know, can destroy the digest enzymes in food, meaning that when we eat cooked food, the body has to call on its own enzyme reserves in order to facilitate digestion.  Digesting enzyme-depleted food is hard work for the body, draining our energy and re-directing it away from other bodily functions.

    Consuming food as close to its natural state as possible gives us the most access to those amazing digestive enzymes, hence the vitality-boosting power of raw food.  As I indicate in the recipe, cooking the pancakes at a low temperature (low to medium on the stove) as opposed to the traditional high-heat method helps conserve as much of the enzyme and nutrient content as possible.  But no, the pancakes aren’t raw.

    I debated whether to include the recipe, but my philosophy is that promoting an all-or-nothing approach is unrealistic.  While I think eating 100% raw is wonderful and admirable, I also realize that many people prefer to tip toe into raw foods rather than dive in, especially since it’s so easy to become discouraged if something doesn’t go to plan.  Raw is a lifestyle change on many levels, and it takes some time to get used to.  In short, I’d rather get people to add more raw and replace their usual cooked meals with healthier alternatives instead of advocating an extreme approach that can lead to giving up on one of the most life-enhancing gifts our planet has to offer.  Brendan Brazier, the plant-fuelled professional tri-athlete, has several pancake recipes in his book The Thrive Diet, and he also suggests low-temp cooking within the context of a high raw, plant-based diet.

    The other reason for including healthier cooked alternatives is that going too suddenly from years on a heavily-cooked diet to 100% raw can lead to discouraging detox symptoms that can cause you to jump the raw ship if you don’t know what’s going on.  The easiest way to slow down this natural cleansing process is to include some cooked foods.  Another way is complementary techniques such as dry brushing and colonics, which I’ll address in separate posts.  Natalia Rose talks about this in detail in her book The Raw Food Detox Diet.  I like her flexible, easy-does-it approach and encourage you to check her out if you haven’t already.  The other thing I love about her books is that there isn’t a single dehydrator recipe in them.  For me, one of the best things about raw food is how fast and simple it can be.  With that in mind, I prefer to eat a high-raw diet that includes occasional cooked foods rather than a 100% raw diet with lots of dehydrated foods.  Again, there are many solutions in between, and if you own a dehydrator I’d love to know if you decide to experiment with it and create an all-raw version of banana pancakes!

    As for my own journey, I used to be a complete pancake addict.  It wasn’t just a weekend treat for me, but a several-times-a-week indulgence I’d get up especially early for.  Funnily enough, I haven’t made pancakes at all since I began eating high raw.  I never believed it before, but cravings and habits do change; and now I wake up with luscious green smoothies on the brain.  That doesn’t mean I won’t make or eat pancakes ever again.  Which brings me to my last point…

    I firmly believe in not getting caught up in labels, and I think you’ll find that the more you explore the raw food community, the more you’ll discover a refreshing lack of judgement.  Instead, there is a profound respect for wherever you are on the raw continuum and a heavy emphasis on listening to your heart…and your belly.

    I’m really excited to welcome my fellow We Like it Raw readers and would love to hear your thoughts, so I hope you’ll put that comment box below to work with all your wonderful wisdom!

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  • three steps to breakthrough change

    May 31, 2009

    I try to go for a walk in nature every day, and I had settled perhaps too comfortably into a routine of walking to Hyde Park, lying under a tree to make some Vitamin D, and turning back.  Never mind that along the way, much closer to home, is Holland Park – a place I dismissed early on because I didn’t like it as much, even though I had only given it a cursory glance.  But I only discovered this two weeks ago, and it turned into a revelation about change, growth and trust I had to share with you.

    It was one of those chilly, rainy London days people think we have year round.  Ok, so we have them 3/4 of the year.  Anyway, I waited and waited all day for sunshine that would stick around for more than a few minutes until I had to force myself out.  But I was not even three minutes down the road when things became even darker, so I decided to duck into Holland Park and resign myself to a less than pleasant walk.  Except this time something made me take a different turn here, and another one there, until I wound up in an open meadow with a single bench, empty.  I sat there for a few minutes watching the runners – both human and squirrel – and then, to my delight, watching the sky break open.  Sunshine.  I got up and made some more spontaneous turns, watching in amazement as the park I thought I knew showed its true depths to me, culminating in a treasure chest: a Japanese garden that made this city seem as far away as the place it took its inspiration from.  There was a waterfall, and koi in the pond below it, and, above all, a peace I had not known during my usual walk, the kind of peace that makes you stop walking.  This was it: my new sanctuary.  As I sat there I contemplated how the periods of intense growth in my life have always come from those moments when I thought things were at their worst – moments when I was forced, or had to force myself, into a new direction.

    My experience follows on from what I’ve learned from the Tao, and I think it illustrates three steps to breakthrough change:

    1.  Push through “obstacles”
    2.  Let go of preconceptions
    3.  Surrender to the moment

    These steps apply to any situation – big or small – including changing long-seated habits and perceptions concerning food:

    1. Maybe you grew up – like I did – on a slab of beef as the necessary dinner centerpiece around which all else orbited.   The message then was: “my family cares for me and feeds me this, so it must be right.”  And that’s not wrong.  We all do the best we can in every moment.  The meat-oriented meal is not inherently wrong in itself, but it doesn’t mean we need to have it every night.  If we push through this “obstacle” in our thinking, then we can expand our perception to include the possibility that maybe, just maybe, an entirely plant-based meal a few nights a week might not just be a healthy idea, but a delicious one, too.

    2. Being of childbearing age, there was a time when I too wondered whether plant-based foods could provide enough calcium.  That was before I knew about African Bantu women, who consume a diet low in calcium yet have numerous pregnancies and long lactations throughout their lifetime.  When I dug deeper, I learned that countries with the highest rate of dairy consumption also have a higher risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.  Turns out that the foods which most Western nations turn to for their calcium intake – namely dairy products – are highly acidic foods that actually pull calcium from the very bones we are trying to protect!  I now know that my body can make better use of the calcium in dark greens, nuts and seeds.  Had I not let go of my preconception I’d never have found the alternative.

    3. Ah, surrender.  The biggie, at least for me.  I’m still learning this one, and the biggest relief for me has been the realization that surrender is not just about being in the moment and not trying to control it, but about giving in to your nature and not beating yourself up about it when it doesn’t jive with your head.  The other day I went to a Mexican restaurant and felt virtuous ordering a big salad, thinking I could ignore the crispy, deep-fried tortilla it came nestled in.  I couldn’t.  I beat myself up about it until I looked at the bigger picture.  And gave myself a break.  Life is about enjoyment, and eating should be all about joy!

    By the way, surrendering also means letting go of attachments.  One of my favorite authors, Dr. Wayne Dyer, says we should have a “mind open to everything and attached to nothing.”  In the two weeks since I found my “perfect sanctuary,” I found another – tucked away not too far from it.  There’s no fancy pond, no waterfall, no manicured trees.  It’s quite plain compared to the rest of the park, and it’s all mine.  For now.

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  • green with gratitude

    May 12, 2009

    Hello and welcome! I’m very excited to be launching Green Appetite and am so delighted you’ve dropped by. As I write this I breathe a sigh of relief; the past three months of my life have been consumed by making this happen, and now I can finally get on with the fun of sharing it with you.

    But first I really have to thank all the people who made this possible, starting with the very patient, understanding friends who forgave me every time I changed and broke plans – even at the last minute – so I could stay home and work on the site. During the course of this project, I also gained renewed appreciation for how incredibly talented each of them are and was constantly humbled by how generous they were with their particular skills, namely Debbie for being the best unofficial life coach anyone could possibly ask for – I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you. Advice came from friends far and wide, including from Joanne, my mentor and role model in Nantucket; Jamie, chief cheerleader and editor in Nashville; and legal eagle Sheri in L.A. who calls me on her morning drive to work, making my afternoons brighter. And it stretched even further to Arti and Sunil, my culinary-school colleagues in Bombay who had to lie in a dark room after sifting through all my name ideas. How can I forget Sarah, Kim, Hadley and Caroline, who brainstormed tirelessly with me on concepts and checked in periodically to make sure I was still breathing; Martina for sharing her social entrepreneur spirit, not to mention the kind souls I drafted on my Facebook focus groups. You guys rock!

    The amazing logo you see on every page is the work of the ever-stylish Andrea Warmington – art director, soul sister and available for hire (contact me and I’ll put you in touch). I am so grateful to Jennifer Chan for spending a whole afternoon shooting photos of me that just keep getting compliments. A big thanks to Dave Wiltshire and Aaron Keenan at Juno for bringing the pictures in my camera and the ideas in my head to mouth-watering life on the web.

    And who would I be without thanking my mom? I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have her constant support and encouragement, even when it has meant that my dreams would take me many miles from home.

    When I look back on my relationship with food throughout my life, I see that it has been just that – a relationship that is ever evolving, growing and changing.

    The first time I became vegetarian (yes, there were several attempts!), it was for love. Not love for the animals or even for my body. For a boy, of course. He had long hair, a tattoo and little magnets on his fridge that read “no pigs in here” and “no cows in here”. I was 22. At first I thought it was cute and went along with it. In those early euphoric days, it didn’t matter much to me what I ate anyway. When things got a bit more comfortable, I gave the omnivore free range again – much to his dismay. He had thought he had found his ideal girl, and then it turned out she had a passion for poisson.

    But a hardy seed was planted, and 12 years on here I am telling you about the benefits of a plant-based diet. My big lesson? You can’t push people to do anything. We come to what’s right for us on our own, in our own time. All you can do is live your passion, guide when you’re asked and serve when you can.

    So what exactly do I mean when I talk about eating this way? Is it vegetarian, vegan, pesceterian? Is it all or nothing?

    It is none of these things. Instead, it is recognizing that basing our diet on plants is a healthy and smart thing for our bodies and our planet.

    We start by throwing out labels, because the instant we use something to define ourselves – be it religious, political, dietary or whatever – we create division. We imply superiority. Let’s focus instead on enjoying, sharing and protecting what the Earth gives us, because not only is it good for us, but it’s tasty to boot!

    When we dispense with rigid labels, we also get rid of pressure and the overwhelming implication of forever. Pressure’s no fun. Who wants it? Not me. That’s why, even though this is a journey, what counts is this very moment. We take it one day at a time – even one bite at a time.

    I hope you’ll stop by often. In fact, I’d really like it if you’d use those handy buttons at the bottom of the page to stay connected and share the plant-based love. Thank you for joining me!

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