Why I added raw liver to my diet – Beyond Broccoli Book Review

This book review was first published in the Funky Raw magazine issue 23.

I was so happy to read this book, a book the raw food movement has been waiting for. Almost every book about raw food is about the raw vegan diet, with many people assuming raw food means raw vegan.

The author, Susan Schenck, was a raw vegan for 6 years and even wrote a book The Live Food Factor about the raw vegan diet, but over time she realised that the diet wasn’t working for her. A lot of research led to Susan writing Beyond Broccoli, which explains the reasons for what seems to be a common problem – people try raw veganism and feel wonderful for the first few years, before nutritional deficiencies start to show up.

For me, the fact that Susan was a vegan, and really wanted to make the vegan diet work for her is important. I feel this mirrors my experience of discovering the vegan diet and the ideals behind it, but finding it didn’t work long term for me either.

The first part of this book discusses vegetarianism. The chapter “Vegetarian Myths Dispelled” discusses the myths we are told and the real scientific answers, including “vegetarians live longer” which she shows is not true. “Vegetarian diets are more sustainable” is another myth that is proved false. It also includes a chapter on well known vegetarians who went back to eating meat.

Part two looks at the “Evolution of the Human Diet”, how agriculture changed the way humans were eating and theories that eating fish was the reason humans have larger brains.

Part three “Finding Balance in Fats, Carbohydrates, and Protein” is where Susan really gets into the details of creating the right diet for you. She looks at the different metabolic types, carb, protein and mixed. She says “So some people can do well with a high-carb diet, some need a high-protein diet and other do best on mixed.”

Everyone should read chapter 11, “Falling for the Big Fat Lie”, which discusses the fact that, contrary to popular opinion, eating fat does not make you fat…

There is also a whole chapter devoted (or maybe that’s not quite the right word) to “The China Study”. This chapter contains the critiques of both Susan and other researchers. The most important observation for me is “The fact is, none of the people in the study group were 100 percent vegan!”, which means that any conclusion from that study recommending a vegan diet is not scientific and frankly absurd.

So if you get this far in the book and decide you want to add meat back into your diet, you will probably need Part four, which goes on to the subject of “Morality, Spirituality, and Sustainability of Eating Meat”.

And then Part 5 “What’s for Dinner?” ties everything together, including sections on eating a balanced diet, why we need to eat our food raw (including any meat) and the safety of raw meat. The final chapter gives more specifics on what to eat.

There is a comprehensive bibliography at the end, references for the science bits and lots and lots of further reading if wanted.

Overall, this is an excellent book, I recommend it to everyone eating or wanting to eat a raw diet as it provides balance to all the other vegan books out there. And I especially think vegans should read this book – even if they are doing fine themselves on a vegan diet – just so that they can understand the reasons that not everyone can thrive on a vegan diet.

My personal experience with this book – it convinced me it was ok to try eating raw liver, which I have done several times now and feels like a very healthy food for me.

With 260 large pages, this is a comprehensive book. Order from your local bookshop or available at Amazon. ISBN: 978-0977679522

Learning from Tribal People: Book Review

I’ve read a few really excellent books recently which I want to share with you all. I’ve just finished reading Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett. This book defies categorisation, on the back it says “Travel/Linguistics”, both of which are correct, but this book covers so much more than that. Daniel was a Christian missionary who went to try to convert an Amazonian tribe, the Pirahá, to Christianity. To do this, his first task was to learn the language and then translate the New Testament of the Bible to the Pirahá language. This might not sound too difficult, but Pirahá doesn’t have a written form, no-one else speaks it, there are no dictionaries or teach yourself courses, and the Pirahá people don’t speak any other language (apart from a few words of Portuguese). So Daniel moves, with his family, to a Pirahá village to live with these people and learn their language. (Daniel is a trained linguist so he does know how to go about the task.)

The book is in three parts: Life, Language and Conclusion.

Part 1, Life, which is the largest section of the book, is a selection of experiences, challenges and insights during Daniel’s life while living with the Pirahá people. One of the most fascinating things about the Pirahá is that they seem to live in the present moment, much more than us westerners could even imagine possible. They have a very minimal amount of personal possessions. In general, they do not store food – they go out hunting/gathering almost every day, if they don’t, they don’t eat that day (which is ok by them, a self imposed fast).

The Pirahá people will only talk about things that they themselves have experienced, or that someone else they know who is still living has experienced. This was one of the major challenges Daniel encountered when attempting to talk about Jesus – once the Pirahá realised that Daniel had never met Jesus, and that Jesus died a long long time ago, they weren’t interested!

The second part, Language, goes into much more detail about the Pirahá language. I found the first half of this interesting and easy to read, although the second half started getting much more technical and possibly only interesting to linguists. But even if you skip part of this section, it doesn’t detract from the rest of the book, and it is only a small part of the whole book.

The conclusion contains the information that convinced me to read this book in the first place – after living with the Pirahá people for many years, Daniel didn’t manage to convert a single Pirahá, and in the end Daniel stopped believing himself. To ‘save’ someone by converting them to Christianity, they would need something to be saved from, and Daniel found that the Pirahá were the happiest people he ever met, and didn’t need saving!

I highly recommend this book, there is so much to be learnt from the Pirahá people.

Yummy Scrummy Chocolate Brownie Review

Wow, this was delicious! A chocolate brownie with a chocolate topping with the perfect brownie flavour, coming from the well chose ingredients including walnuts, Brazil nuts, goji berries, raisins and dates. Plus it looks great too!

For anyone strictly raw, this product does contain Sweet Freedom which is a natural fruit based sweetener that isn’t raw, but the other 95% of the ingredients are raw.

It’s just won the Taste of the West Gold award, so another vote for how good it tastes.

For more information and to order, see the Elements for Life website.

Review of Raw Food Controversies by Frederic Patenaude

Why do some people fail on the raw food diet? That is the question that Frederic attempts to answer in his new book “Raw Food Controversies”. He does this by taking us for a ride on his journey over the last 14 years of his life, starting right back at the birth of the modern day raw food movement. The first part of this book is essentially an autobiography, with Frederic including every detail of his life (or so it seems) including his love life, how he met and became friends with David Wolfe and got to work for Natures First Law, and how he met many other famous raw food pioneers including David Klein, Juliano, David Jubb and more. If you have been involved with the raw food movement for many years, you might, like myself, find this section fascinating. If, on the other hand, you are new to the raw diet, you might, like a friend of mine, keep wondering when Frederic is going to get to the point.

This book is very refreshing in that Frederic questions the raw diet, none of the “raw is the best, raw will cure everything” some books are guilty of. Frederic experimented with various different raw diets, including animal foods, fasting even returning to cooked foods for some periods. He realised that raw diet is not simply eating all your food raw and hoping for the best, it needs careful planning.

The first few years on a raw diet left Frederic with a mouth full of cavities, which he discusses in detail, including his view on what cause the problem, and the solutions. If you read this book, I recommend you also read Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel, for a completely different view on the subject (I don’t claim to know which author is correct, but if you have problems with your teeth, it’s best to read both opinions).

Towards the end, Frederic starts to pinpoint what he considers to be the ideal raw diet, which is a low fat vegan diet, with lots of fruit. Which is great that he has found a diet that works for himself, but I don’t agree with his belief that the same diet (with minor variations) will work for everyone. One example of how we are all different is the conversion of beta-carotene into vitamin A – we all have a differing ability to make this conversion and those people where this conversion is not optimal will not thrive on a vegan diet.

Frederic recommends a diet containing 7-15% fat, saying that before Western Civilisation took over, most people ate low fat diets, but he misses the research by Weston Price who found that traditional peoples ate diets which contained between 30-80% fat.

I realise that this review is critical, I think that is because this book is written in a way that attempts to show that Frederic’s current diet is the ideal diet for everyone, which I just can’t agree with. So, by all means read this book, but do it with an open mind. It is a very good book, I enjoyed reading it, and it makes some very good points. And the diet recommended might just work for you, but there is also a good chance that it won’t.

Available direct from Frederic’s website.

This review was first published in Issue 19 of the Funky Raw magazine.

Juice in a Bar review

I was sent samples of Jason Vale’s new raw Juice Bars: Veggie Juice in a Bar and Super Fruit Juice in a Bar. I was intrigued at the idea of how they could make juice into a bar, the answer was obvious once I looked at the ingredients – the first two ingredients for both bars are dates and almond butter, so these are standard energy bars with the addition of juice. I can’t see anywhere where it says the percentage of juice compared to the base ingredients.

First I tried the Super Fruit bar – first reaction is that it is very sweet, with the dates overpowering the flavour of the juices. Overall a nice bar, although I wouldn’t buy it as it is so sweet.

Much better, the greens tempering the sweetness a little, so while still sweet, a much more balanced bar. There is a “green” flavour to this bar which some people might not like (my Dad liked it and my Mum didn’t), but it’s worth it to get the mineral rich greens. If you generally eat this kind of energy bar, then maybe switching to this one would be a good move so you get a load of nutrition from the greens and algaes into your diet. It contains a lot of good ingredients including wheatgrass, dandelion juice, kale juice, spirulina, chlorella, kelp and dulse, plus also digestive enzymes. I would be interested in what percentage of the bar the dates and almonds make up. Of course if you have the option, I would recommend a fresh green juice, preferably made with lots of wild greens, but if you don’t have that option then this is an ok substitute. But don’t go overboard, there are still a lot of dates in this bar.

Find out more and order at www.juicemaster.com

Crucina – New raw food restaurant in Madrid

We’re on our way north again, heading back to the UK for a little while. As we were passing near to Madrid we decided to take the opportunity to visit Crucina, probably Spain’s only 100% raw restaurant. Crucina is a combination of two Spanish words – the start of crude meaning raw and cocina meaning kitchen.

Crucina is centrally located in the Malasaña district of Madrid, less than 5 minutes walk from San Bernardo metro startion.

We arrived to a very warm and friendly welcome from Yorgo, one of the co-owners. The ambiance is great, smart and modern, although they do have plans to make the décor more unique and creative. The menu was of course in Spanish, they are planning to have English menus, but for now both owners speak English so they can translate anything you don’t understand. The menu is comprehensive: juices, soups, salads, starters, mains, deserts and drinks.

We started with juices – I had “Purificaverde” – Green Purification with spinach, cucumber, celery and lemon, very refreshing although a little bland (I’m used to much stronger wild green juices!). Jolita had “Anticolesterol” with carrot, ginger, apple and parsley, which was delicious. (We shared all our food, so got to taste twice as much!)

For starters, I had the “Trio de Tartletas”, three little savory tarts, each with a different filling. The ‘pastry’ casing was unfortunately a bit too hard, almost rock solid and I couldn’t eat it, although the fillings were really delicious. Jolita had the “Tabla de Kesos”, the cheese plate. In Spanish, cheese is spelled Queso, so the alternative spelling Keso is to denote vegan cheese! Two different nut based cheeses, some raw jam, and at least 4 types of raw crackers, it was all delicious.

Trio de Tarteletas Cheese Plate

MoussakaI always used to love Moussaka when I ate cooked food, so when I saw it first on the menu, I just had to have it. After reading further it was a toss up between that and the Saag Hindu, but Jolita chose that so all was well. It turns out that Yorgo is originally from Greece, and he wants to include more Greek dishes in the future.

The moussaka was great – aubergine is not always the best thing raw, but they suceeded by cutting it very thinly and dehydrating – it was a bit chewy but good. The ‘meat’ was tasty and the ‘cheese’ and tomato sauces were delicious, overall a great dish, just slightly too salty for me (I don’t usually add salt to my food, so I’m quite sensitive  to too much salt).

Saag HinduSaag Hindu was a spicy Indian dish made with spinach and ‘mango chutney’ (more a mango sauce than chutney) which was served with some spicy coconut based breads. This again was delicious, the spicyness was just right, tasted like food from an Indian restaurant!

I was getting a bit full by now, but the deserts sounded too tempting to pass over. We ordered the tiramisu and the “Pudin de Chia”. The chia pudding was good, but a little bland, although the strawberries and banana it was served with did go well with it.

The tiramisu was amazing! Excellent textures and flavours, definitely among the best raw deserts I have ever eaten.

Chia Pudding Tiramisu

In conclusion, if you are anywhere near Madrid this is well worth a visit. And their plan is to open another restaurant in Barcelona later in the year, so keep listening out for news of that.

Crucina, Divino Pastor, 30, Madrid. Tel: 914453364. Opening hours: Tues – Wed: 13:30 – 16:00, Thurs – Sat: 13:30 – 16:00 and 21:00-24:00, Sun: 13:30 – 16:00

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz – Book Review

This review was first published in Funky Raw issue 17, but I have been making more recipes from it since then so have added a bit of an update at the end.

The article on Wild Fermentation in the last issue of the Funky Raw magazine intrigued me so I went out and bought myself a copy of this book as recommended. I’ve recently been increasing the amount of fermented foods in my diet, both home made and store bought, so I thought it would be good to learn how to make more fermented foods for myself.

This book is very easy to read and much of what Sandor says resonates with me. The first few chapters set the scene, showing how past cultures used fermented foods and how things have changed with commercialisation and mass production of food in recent years.

I really like the fact that Sandor has written this book in a conversational style, and isn’t afraid to occasionally go off at a tangent, such as the time he went to harvest seaweed at 4am(!), plus interesting asides about life in the community where he lives.

Sandor has been learning about fermented foods for the last 10 years and the level of research which has gone into this book is astounding, it is well referenced and has a large bibliography so you can keep learning.

The book covers a wide range of fermented foods, some of which won’t be of interest if you are a strict raw fooder, but there are enough raw (or live) recipes to make this book worth while. Recipe chapters include vegetable ferments (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles), bean ferments (miso, tamari, tempeh), dairy ferments (yogurt, kefir, cheese, vegan alternatives), bread, porridge, wines, beers and vinegars.

Each recipe is clearly laid out with detailed instructions, plus also ideas for making your own variations. Sandor keeps telling us how easy it is to make fermented foods – explaining how humans have been fermenting for thousands of years without any modern technology or shops to buy yeasts from, fermenting using wild yeasts and bacteria which is in the air all around us.

I thoroughly recommend this book, but if this review hasn’t convinced you, read the extract (printed in the Funky Raw magazine).

188 pages. Published by Chelsea Green. ISBN 978-1931498234. www.wildfermentation.com

Updated comments, Feb 16th

The first recipe I tried from this book was mead, a very simple ferment using just honey and water. It can be quite strongly alcoholic, but I only fermented it for two weeks to make a milder drink. It worked really well and was delicious.

As you saw in my last post Making Cheese, I also made one of the cheese recipes, which worked really well and I’ve been making it regularly for several weeks, now I’m looking forward to experimenting more with cheese.

One point I forgot to mention in the original review is the word “wild” in the title – this is in reference to wild yeasts and bacteria – many fermentation recipes call for adding shop bought yeasts or bacteria, whereas Sandor likes to rely on the wild versions in the air all round us, which makes for more authentic ferments.

The more I read, the more I love this book. It’s inspirational and the more I make and eat fermented foods, the more I want to learn and experiment. My next project from this book will be Kimchi… I recommend you go out and buy this book right now!

Raw Chocolate Easter Eggs

Raw Chocolate Easter Eggs

I just got sent a box of raw chocolate Easter eggs from Rawr Chocolate. They came in a cute little egg box made from 100% recycled card, although of course I was more interested in what was inside the box…

On opening the box I found  four eggs wrapped in coloured foil.

There were three flavours of egg, orange zest, after dinner mint and dark purity. All three were delicious, although the mint was my favourite, with a strong cool and refreshing mint flavour. The orange was good but too subtle a flavour for my liking, if I was making it I would have added a bit more orange oil or zest! The dark chocolate ones were great too, with cruncy cacao nibs.

They cost £7.95 for a box of four which includes free delivery and you can choose any combination of flavours. The eggs are solid chocolate and weigh 70g each – that’s a lot of chocolate so try not to eat it all at once (unlike me!). You can order direct from Rawr here.

Raw Easter Egg

Raw Recipe Book Mini Reviews

I often get asked to recomend raw recipe books, so here’s a selection of my favourites:

Raw Food for Real People by Rod Rotondi is a new book which I like a lot, it covers everything from pizza to lasagne, hummus to falafel, the sections include crackers and bread, breakfast, appetizers, soups, entrées and deserts. Every recipes is described clearly plus variations and ideas for experimenting are given.  It also includes guest sections from Brian Clement, Robert Young and Gabriel Cousens plus general raw food prep techniques. You can read my full review of it here.

Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen is another book which looks amazing. I don’t currently own this book, but it is a book I want to get a some point, it covers all the standards including soups, raw cheeses, raw milks, lasagne, burgers,  pies, cakes, and more. More details on Amazon.

Raw Magic by Kate Magic Wood is another amazing book, again with full colour all the way through and beautiful photos. There are both sweet and savoury recipes but all of them contain superfoods. The first part of the book contains detailed information about the nutrition and uses of superfoods including maca, cacao, goji berries, purple corn, camu camu, suma, hemp and more. The recipes are divided into the following categories: dips and dressings; salads and savouries; crackers, breads and burgers; puddings & breakfasts; cakes & biscuits; sweets & spreads; chocolate; and drinks.

Raw The Uncook Book  by Juliano is an older favourite of mine, it is full colour all the way through and has some very inspiring photos of the food but the recipes can have long lists of ingredients and be a little complicated.

The book starts with “Learning to un-cook” which includes equipment, sprouting, juicing, etc. The recipes are divided into soups; salads; breads; snacks, appetizers & side dishes; sushi, pizza; main courses; desserts; drinks & smoothies; dressings, sauces, marinades & condiments; and the raw dairy (vegan).

And finally Evie’s Kitchen by Shazzie – it’s aimed at parents for making food for children, but adults seem to love it too. About half the book isinformation on raising raw chidren and the other half is recipes.

Shazzie covers everything you might need to know about consciously raising your child – natural birthing, breastfeeding, vaccinations, co-sleeping, communication and more. There is a whole chapter devoted to the nutritional needs of babies and children.

  • dips and dressings
  • salads and savouries
  • crackers, breads and burgers
  • puddings & breakfasts
  • cakes & biscuits
  • sweets & spreads
  • chocolate
  • drinks

Book Review: Raw Food for Real People

Here’s my review of Rod Rotondi’s new recipe book Raw Food for Real People, as originally published in issue 14 of the Funky Raw magazine. (The magazine also includes an extract from the book.)

Raw Food for Real PeopleFive years ago, Rod opened his first raw food restaurant, Leaf Organics, and has since opened several more raw restaurants. With that experience, he is well qualified to write this book in which you can learn how to prepare your own restaurant quality raw dishes. The book begins with Rod’s journey to raw food, which includes his experiences of living in Jerusalem and Sinai. Combined with the fact that Rod is from an Italian American background, this adds quite a variety of influences to his recipes.

Then there are sections on transitioning to a raw diet, guest sections from Brian Clement, Robert Young and Gabriel Cousens plus Rod teaches us how to use knives, how to open coconuts and how to grow sprouts, including a detailed sprouting chart.

Then come the recipes. From pizza to lasagne, hummus to falafel, the sections include crackers and bread, breakfast, appetizers, soups, entrées (what we call mains in the UK) and deserts. Every recipes is described clearly plus variations and ideas for experimenting are given. Finally, there is a section on feeding children a raw diet.

Just reading some of the recipes and looking at the colour photos makes my mouth water, I’m very much looking forward to trying some of them out.

185 pages, printed on 100% post consumer waste recycled paper. ISBN: 978-1-57731-673-2

You can buy this book now at Amazon.