Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Maple Your Blueberry Ice Cream

I've not stopped thinking about the ice cream we had in Vermont last week. The day was sweltering and our hostess decided we just must have a very specific ice cream from a small shop in Waterbury. Being in the land of all that is Ben and Jerry, I wasn't sure how this little walk up window was going to compare.  One sample of their homemade maple blueberry and I was a convert. The quality was superb. Being in the state known for having more cows than people, you are all but guaranteed the freshest of fresh dairy products.  I've sampled blueberry ice creams and gelatos far and wide and, try as I might,  never ever been a fan of them.  The blueberry is never blueberry enough for me.  In this version, I believe it was the maple syrup that really played nicely with the blueberries. There is something to be said for things that grow together go together, like Italy's tomato and basil. Ok, fine I know maple is harvested in early spring and blueberries aren't ready until late summer, but both are popular northern New England delights so you get the idea. 

Suffice it to say I was hoping to recreate this flavor at home in a raw ice cream....the bane of my culinary existence. Try as I might, I have yet to make a really delicious raw ice cream. It's always too nutty, too coconut-ty, not the right texture, the vanilla doesn't stand up, too firm the next day, and what-not. I've EATEN  really good raw ice creams, so I know they are possible, I just haven't created one yet. 

I'd been meaning to try using irish moss as my ice cream thickener and had one recipe given to me. So tonight I tried it and it worked perfectly.  

Here is the original recipe as it was given to me:

Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream 
Recipe by 
Elaina Love 

2 cups almonds 
3 cups water 
½ cup coconut oil 
¼ packed cup Irish moss by weight after soaking 3-8 hours and rinsing well 
1 cup agave nectar 
¼ tsp. vanilla powder ( or 1 vanilla bean) 
2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1/4 tsp. Himalayan salt crystals 

1. Blend the almonds with water to make a thick almond cream. Strain the mixture through The Amazing Nut Milk Bag and store the pulp for another recipe. 
2. Blend 1 cup of the almond milk with the Irish Moss until very smooth. 
3. Add the remainder of ingredients and blend until smooth. 
4. Pour into a freezable container and let freeze overnight. 
5. Let thaw about 15 minutes before serving.

My changes were:
I used 1/2-2/3 cup of maple syrup instead of agave, about 1 TBSP of vanilla water instead of the vanilla listed, and a bag (~10-12 oz) of frozen wild Maine Blueberries.  Then I froze in an ice cream maker instead of overnight....because we needed dessert promptly.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Two Years Raw in Review

It was two years ago in August that I waded into the raw food world.  I'm feeling the need to explore and review my journey from then until now and the observations I have made along the way.  

My initial foray started as a desire to find something as good for my body as the raw food diet I'd been feeding the dogs for nearly a decade.  I was exploring vegetarianism and veganism. Those culinary and dietary adventures took place the June and July of 2007.  I was not a fan of the high soy content and it just wasn't feeling like the lifestyle would suit me.  I was definitely looking for a lifestyle, not a fad.  The word diet has so many connotations, many of them not good but is really just about choices.  We all follow a diet. Some follow a McDonald's and potato chip diet, others follow Weight Watchers, The Zone, Atkins, etc. But when trying to experience greater health and increased energy, what I was looking for really had to be something that meshed with my lifestyle, meaning it resonated at all three levels of my being; physical, mental/emotional and spiritual. Something that would incorporate over time into just being what I do because it feels right and not something I have to work too hard at "staying on" with the inevitable "falling off" and accompanying effort, struggle, guilt and feelings of failure.

My friend Melissa was doing her own exploring in this area and suggested the book that forever changed my relationship with food; The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose.  It is one I suggest to people interested in raw foods as a good starter because it is not dogmatic about being "a raw foodist." It's about assessing your current choices and lifestyle and making small improvements over time.   Natalia Rose is a nutritionist so it is also overflowing with valuable information about our digestive process, how foods are utilized, what certain foods do to the body and, of course, recipes. I also happen to love her approach to raw foods and eating awareness with children since she is also a mother. 

After reading this book, I immediately bought a juicer and started drinking fresh juices, some green but a lot fruity.  At this point, I focused mostly on getting good stuff into me and less on avoiding things.  Things sort of skyrocketed at that point, the more live enzymes, live foods and cleaner eating began crowding out the less optimal options.  Then before I knew it, I actually desired more and more live, energy-giving raw foods.   My goal initially was simply 50-60% raw and the rest primarily vegan with occasional fish and some unhealthy junk food habits.  This amounts to fruit until lunch, a salad at lunch and a mostly cooked dinner. She outlines eating light to heavy over the course of a meal and the course of a day. The logic Rose gives on this made sense for me and I still tend to eat in this pattern.  Whenever I found myself going off the rails at this point, forcing down juices for a day or two quickly brought me back.  I think the slow improvements and transitional foods Rose advocates are really what helped me transition into a primarily raw vegetable diet.   Transitional foods such as sprouted grain breads, brown rice, whole grain pastas, fish, sweet potatoes, lightly cooked vegetables, and organic 70% dark chocolate bars as treats.  During the first 15 months or so I was able to get accustomed to these changes, fall back into my prior habits and get right back on rather easily. I knew from the get-go this was the lifestyle I was looking for. It honors the planet, local and organic produce, the animals, and my body. It felt good on all levels.  I lost the 20 pounds I have fluctuated between for most of my adult life.  I had abundant energy, clear skin,  and simply felt fabulous.  The cleaner diet made way for a clearer spirit and calmer way of relating, particularly with Ian. Who I was on the inside was reflected in who I was on the outside and vice versa. There was harmony in my being. 

By the one year mark I had started eating 70-80% raw with short bursts of 99+%.  I felt joyful. I also was feeling a little too concerned with the number, like it was some sort of self imposed challenge to remain raw.  I beat myself up when I "failed."  This is when, now, I see the emotional stuff started surfacing.  The stuff I needed to face and every person who loses weight needs to face, lest they gain it all back.   I needed to face the emotional ties, but I wasn't ready. The universe, in its infinite wisdom, delivered me an emotional challenge in the fall 2008 that rocked my previously calm and centered self.   As if to say, "Oh you think you got it figured out, here, let's challenge that!"  I sank into a very mild, 8 month depression and found it challenging to stay raw and make healthy choices.  Comfort foods called to me. Slowly, but surely, cheeses and ice cream (and the excess mucus and eczema) made frequent appearances.  Mentally justified baked goods were often created lovingly in my kitchen and then devoured every time I passed by.  Feelings of failure at my lack of willpower or any comment that implied such made me feel worse, so I reached for more.  Pastas led to cooked meals a few times a day. By spring, raw was the fleeting, often pathetic attempt between binges on carbs. Needless to say, every one of the twenty pounds came back in a flash.  I tried the gym in a half-hearted attempt to justify my poor eating choices. I needed my drug of choice to medicate the pain. I still had an intellectual interest in raw foods. I networked with other raw food people in the area. I read new books. Nothing helped spur me back on the track of desiring my health again.  Short bursts of eating raw gave me some clarity and relief but they didn't last. I wasn't addressing the cause of my problem.  

As spring moved into summer I was able to get back to regularly eating about 60% raw with the other 40% being less than optimal choices.  I experimented with adding small amounts of meat back into my diet up until just last weekend.  I know the last year sounds like it was a real bummer for me, but it really served me to get to see exactly how different foods affect my body, mind, and spirit.  This experience was illuminated for me when I read Raw Emotions by Angela Stokes. A MUST READ for anyone who struggles with yo-yo-ing, dieting/bingeing, and emotional, unconscious eating.  It shines a light in the darkness, at least it did for me.  While her point of view is obviously as a raw foodist, the bulk of the book is not about that. It's about our emotional and physiological addictions to food and it contains several tips and techniques for recognizing unhealthy patterns and ways to help fix them.  I've never read a book focused on the EMOTIONAL reasons for obesity and how to address those, the one thing that everyone on a quest to be healthy and lose weight must address at some point.  So with the light shining from Raw Emotions now in my thought process, I was able to see patterns, connect dots, draw conclusions, become conscious and make better choices. Easily.  And it began the next day.

For the last 3 weeks I have easily chosen a 99% raw foods, 90% of the time.  And the other 10% of the time, I am conscious of my choice. I pause and do some internal work, and think about what's going on. The lousy choices made in the last few weeks have had clearly observable results making it easier to make better choices thereafter.

For example over the last 2 years and particularly the last few weeks I have determined;

ALL cooked grains and most particularly white ones and processed sugar are what I reach for when I am stressed. I don't taste them and slow down to enjoy them, I eat them compulsively.  They don't fill me because they are not being eaten to fill a nutritional need. They are eaten to fill an emotional disturbance, so once eaten I am still actually hungry and must eat until satiated anyway.  This I noticed a few days after reading Raw Emotions. I was stressed about packing for the trip to Vermont and given that we were leaving for the weekend, my fridge was sparse. Ian asked for pasta for lunch and I made him a brown rice pasta with peas, broccoli, and red peppers, seasoned with olive oil, salt, and a little nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor.  I was stressed out and rationalized a taste. This turned into a spoonful or two right out of the pot.  Then when I was feeling overwhelmed by something,  I found myself standing there again, spoon in hand, and the illuminating awareness appeared. STOP.  THINK.  I recognized in that moment I was stress-eating to dull the emotion. I've read in several places that one cannot feel emotionally during the primitive act of eating.  What a highly affective emotional sedative.  But wha-la, there it was and I was in the act. So it wasn't like it went unnoticed or realized in retrospect. This was a monumental moment of growth for me. I stopped and for the rest of the day noticed immediately when I felt drawn to the stovetop and stopped to address why I was stressed instead of self-medicating. 

In more than a minute quantity, the morphine-related addictive property of carbs changes my mental chatter and I begin craving more of them and rationalizing why I need them or should have them. It messes with my ability to make good choices...sometimes for days, sometimes for months as it did last fall.  A small exposure, taken consciously and not in the midst of an emotional challenge is received better and doesn't send me down that path.  Consciously is the key here.  For example, in Vermont Ian and I picked 6 cups of fresh blueberries and were faced with an afternoon of "hanging around" followed by a cookout with friends. So together we baked a traditional blueberry pie. I savored it when I had it and was aware that later when the craving for more sweets/carbs hit, I was ready for it and knew it was the carbs talking.   Overall, I have a much easier time saying no to the first bite than I do talking myself out of a second piece so its just easier not to have it at all. That doesn't mean I never will make the choice to have something sinfully delicious, I am focused working on making conscious choices, savoring the moment,  and knowing what to expect afterwards.  

The physical component goes like this for me. Carbs and processed sugar make me lethargic and hungry. The spikes and falls in blood sugar coupled with the gluten is hell on my system.  If you mix flour with water you get glue. So bread, essentially, acts like a gluey sticky mess in the digestive system making all other digestion less efficient.  

Meat.  I have been occasionally eating meat over the last several months and this is what I learned. Not only is it a gateway drug for me because I feel so miserable afterwards, it makes me angry and agitated, which leads me back to carbs for soothing.  I also suffer insomnia after having it yet am also exhausted.  Probably because my body is so busy trying to digest it, it doesn't have time for any other activities.  The anger and agitation is so apparent it is not worth having it at all. This is where my patience that is so abundant when eating raw foods, disappears entirely. I am snappy and angry. I yell a lot. I get sick of my own voice. I become resistant to everything and what you resist persists. So Ian and I get into control conflicts that I must "win". Battles of wills abound.   I know a lot of you  will think I am crazy, but I recognize this as the energy of the animal I am eating being taken into my body. If you can imagine the mental and emotional state of a factory farmed animals in tight living conditions culminating in an inhumane slaughter...that is the anger I manifest when eating them. It comes right through me.  I'm all set with it.  Ironically, I do not have this same reaction to fish at all. I try to always choose wild fish that is not over-fished or high in mercury and enjoy it occasionally.  I do not experience any of the same symptoms.  It took several "tests" of this theory before the cause/effect relationship sunk in for me.  My final confirmation came again this past weekend in Vermont.   I came up from putting Ian to bed RAVENOUS (never a good place to be) and the cook-out menu on this night was burgers and dogs on white bread.  A third reincarnation of the leftover salad in the fridge as my only healthy option was quickly discarded because I was unbelievably hungry and bored with the salad.  I quickly and unconsciously rationalized how long it has been since I had a hot dog and hamburger and before I knew it my burger was on the grill and I was eating a hot dog.  At this point, I did stop and became conscious, or mindful as the Buddhists would say.  Then, at least, I  savored and enjoyed the food as I chewed it appreciating that it was a rarity in my diet.  I did this for the burger on white bread too.   After this I easily rationalized unhealthy eating for the remainder of the evening and enjoyed too much dessert.....and I paid for it later.  I tossed and turned all night. I was sweating. I got up several times.  The drive home the next day was horrid. I was exhausted, angry. I pissed off Evan as Ian played off my short fuse and antagonized me the whole way home.  It was utterly miserable.  I will never say me and meat are done forever but I think its highly unlikely that I will ever choose it unconsciously again and not fully understand the aftermath that will be in store. Meat is, by far,  the single worst thing for my mental and emotional well-being.  Without it, it's smooth sailing.  I do sometimes wonder if ethically raised, "happy" meat or wild meat would make a difference but for right now, I don't care to find out. I'm sure at some point I'll conduct that experiment. 

Physically speaking, eating meat cause a spike in white blood cells. The body recognizes a foreign body and mounts an immune response.  I don't feel the effects of this per say, but I do know that Ian does not eat meat and eats a diet very high in raw fruits and vegetables and is rarely sick. (knock on wood). I feel his diet combined with his no-vaccination, no-antibiotic, full-term breastfeeding history is the reason he has thus far enjoyed the benefit of  health. When I go through a crap-eating period, so does he a bit by default and whala...he's sick or at least he looks sickly with dark circles, congestion, and puffy eyes.  When I say this I by no means take his health for granted or like  it is some sort of accomplishment on my part. I am just grateful to have a very healthy, happy boy thus far and I believe my choices for him are supporting his growth and wellness. 

Dairy:  By this I mean cow's milk products mostly, but for me also goat and sheep. This one affects me negatively purely on the physical plane. I sourced local, raw, naturally raised cow's milk so any of the other factors with milk procurement have been neutralized as far as inhumane treatment and hormones.  Milk products give me excess phlegm and eczema and when consumed in excess, zits. Cream and butter don't contain the casein protein, so they are less of a problem if I want them, but I generally don't choose them anyway.  There is a lot of information to read online about cow's milk but it is one of the least effective forms of calcium for people. Dark leafy greens and nuts are a much more useable form of calcium for humans. That said, I do buy this local milk occasionally and make it "live" again by making yogurt for Ian.  He doesn't do well with dairy either but I like him to have some animal products in small amounts. I don't want to experiment with his growing body and nutritional needs and he seems to handle this form of dairy just fine. 

So here I am, 2 years raw-ish and 3 weeks pretty easily and effortlessly enjoying a high raw diet.  I've lost almost half of my 20 transient pounds.  The first two years gave me lots of time to learn and grow and also to adjust. The food preparation is different. It requires some different equipment to really live the lifestyle and feel satisfied both as a consumer and as someone who loves to create in the kitchen.   Two years to finally uncover and start working on the deep seated emotional eating, cravings, and patterns.  And a lifetime left to work on where my challenges are. Socially, traveling, visiting family and friends, these are where most of my poor choices take place. I can't travel with my kitchen, I can't stay home indefinitely, and not very many people adopt a raw lifestyle. I can always only do the best that I can.  After all, I am visiting Paris next week for the first time and I do plan to mindfully and with full awareness enjoy a perfect croissant.

 I feel like huge strides have been made, the biggest ones being in the emotional awareness realm and breaking unhealthy habits.  New adventures in raw food are of interest to me as I explore and learn more about wild edibles, living natural spring water, and individualized herbal elixirs.  Looking forward to more of this amazing journey, wherever it takes me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Smoothies and Foraging...

I never blog mid-day unless I just have to. I just created a smoothie that warrants being written down So here it is. Hmm, let's call it the Chocolate Covered Cherry Berry Smoothie.   At least, that's what Ian and I named....
Hemp milk (1 cup water and a TBSP or two of hemp seeds, blended)
Banana, frozen goji berries (YAY Whole Foods!),  frozen cherries, and a couple of dates
2 TBSP of cacao powder


Now we are trekking back out in the heat to collect some more monarch caterpillars. We brought home a sample one to identify in the field guide Ian picked out on our last library trip. He also picked out a bird and seashore field guide and has been studying the pictures.  Seems like a great start to homeschooling to me. 

In other news, I am on now on a knowledge quest of wild edibles. Still too novice to actually try much, I am working on identification.  When in VT this past weekend we enjoyed wild blackberries and raspberries on our hikes, but all the greenery remains a mystery to me.... a mystery I just must solve. I feel like I am looking at nature's abundance the way one looks at one of those computer art things you have to squint your eyes to see the picture and I just can't do it yet.  If only I could easily identify which greens are nutritious and edible and which, you know, might leave me paralyzed.  So I do what I always do when something new intrigues me. I dive in head first.  We took out a bunch of books at the library last week, I've located one or two websites, and I am studying.  This morning we went on our first foraging expedition in our backyard  and brought back samples of plants (that some would call weeds) to identify. Ian looked through books and I looked online and we managed to identify a couple.  Ian loves this new project and is very happy to tell everyone when he sees wild carrot. He pulls it up and explains what it is and tells you to smell it.  This morning he explained to his Nonnie that the ENORMOUS weed patch down the street (that the town has to trim several times a summer) is actually edible japanese knotweed.  The goldenrod is in bloom and we are planning to collect leaves and dry them to make teas, apparently great for colds and congestion.  I'm becoming clearer on sumac and realize now that the huge red tufts we saw in VT this weekend was the edible sumac berries and, had I known, could have been steeped in cold water to make a sumac lemonade. The sumac leaf I brought home to identify this morning was questionable....so we scrubbed ourselves with tecnu just in case. There is so much to learn and I am loving this process. Someday that vast, somewhat blurry, view of field and forest might start looking like a salad.....when I learn how to squint just right. 

I'm astounded and amazed that so much of what I have always considered annoying weeds are here to feed us, so we can eat healthfully, locally, and with minimal impact on the earth.  And that all of this is here in such abundance, I wonder if we all had this knowledge, what kind of impact would that have on our planet?  It seems so silly that it's all right here in front of us so blatantly and we are blind to it.  No, its not even that we are blind to it, we DESTROY it intentionally and consider our hearty local flora nothing but an invasive nuisance.  We kill what is supposed to grow here and spend exorbitant amounts of time and money trying to grow things that aren't meant to grow here...you know, like lawns.  My definition of a beautiful landscape is shifting a bit now too, that perfectly manicured lawn is not nearly as attractive to me as it once was.  A field of wild grasses, greens and flowers is stunning. It is Eden and we are already living in it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mixology 101

This week I did something different with my juicing. Instead of making up 3 days worth of juices already mixed, I made up pure juices and kept them separate, so I can mix them myself during the day.  First were the base flavors from foods that produce a lot of juice to serve as the "backdrop" to whatever flavors I wanted to add.  I did a large bottle of apple and I had a large bottle of orange and a large bottle of coconut water. I also did two small bottles as the star greens,  one small bottle of parsley juice (about 4 large bunches) and one spice jar size of kale (1 bunch).  This way I can mix as I go depending on what I want and Ian can always have plain fresh apple available.  Though I do find the apple is super strong at full potency so I dilute his by half with water.  He is a purist and not interested in green juice unless its in my glass and I ask him not to drink it....which I do purposely. Kids. 

I had read something that reminded me that iron can only be absorbed in conjunction with Vitamin C and that parsley is very rich in iron, so I thought...parsley and orange...it was delicious!  This morning is apple, coconut water, kale with a twist of lime.  

In the future I could see having one of the base flavors be tomato, cucumber, carrots, or pineapple. With small shot sizes of cilantro,  peppers, celery, and beet.  The possibilities are endless.

I heard, or read, to use a green juice base as the start of a smoothie. I haven't tried this yet, but I am not a fan of thick chewy smoothies, so I think this would lighten up a green smoothie to a place where I might enjoy it.  We'll see..

I am not a fan of commitment or structure and I find that some juice goes to waste if I have the flavors pre-mixed because I am just not in the mood for the same thing I was 2 days before when I made it.  I can mix as I go and have my own personal raw juice bar at my disposal, without having to lug out the juicer every day and deal with the clean up.  Works for me!

A word about juicers...

My first juicer was a Breville Juice Fountain. It is moderately priced, works quickly, juices large pieces of fruit without cutting, and has a relatively quick and easy clean up. This is the juicer I recommend to people starting out and wanting to see if they will enjoy juicing.  It is a centrifugal juicer, so a grater blade rips and shreds the incoming food and the centrifugal action flings the pulp out one side into a waiting container and the juice pours forth from the other.  Most of the lower models of juicer work this way, but they either don't work well, require you to cut the fruit into tiny pieces or clean-up is such a hassle you won't ever want to juice.  The Breville juices VERY quickly, which is nice.  The downsides to this type of juicer is that the pulp is still wet so there is some waste of potential juice and the action of the juicer produces a lot of heat and introduces oxygen which denatures the enzymes so this is a juice that you should ideally plan to drink immediately. Oh, and it sounds like a helicopter is about to land in your kitchen. I have used the well known Jack LaLanne Juicer and found it very cumbersome and a pain to clean.  After 1 year my Breville stopped working and I had gotten what I had wanted to from it and knew I wanted a higher model.  Breville very promptly replaced my juicer and gave me a new one, which I turned around and sold on craigslist to put towards a higher model.  In the interim, I juiced with my Vitamix, which offers the same speed and enzyme destroying oxygen introducing problem as the Breville but it worked for the short term. In the vitamix, I just made an ungodly thick smoothie out of whatever I wanted, poured it all into a nut milk bag and squeeze the juice from the pulp.  By the way, all the pulp from any juicer gets fed to our dogs who have been thriving on 100% raw food since 2001, so none is ever really wasted. Rinds and peels go into the compost. 

I currently have 2 juicers.  After almost a year of Vitamix style juice that progressed to not bothering to juice, I got a GreenStar juicer. This one works by twin gears (with teeth) slowly grinding the food, pushing the very dry pulp out one spout and dripping juice into a waiting glass.  This one does not heat the fruits and veggies in any way, exposes it to very little oxygen so the juices last longer and taste better; up to 3 days in the fridge when properly stored.  The clean up is slightly more labor intensive than the Breville ,but not significantly, and I now only use it 2-3 times a week instead of daily.  Oh and it's quiet!  The GreenStar also can grind nutbutters and makes 'n'ice cream too.  I couldn't be happier with this purchase.  It's only downside is if I am out of juice and am running out the door and want something, it isn't a zippy process.

My second juicer is the Juiceman Jr. I picked up at a yard sale for $3.00, missing the food pusher part that I need to order.  It is your basic centrifugal juicer like the Breville only with less parts.  I picked it up thinking it would go in the RV or I'd pass it on to a friend who wanted to try juicing for a time to see if they like it. I tried it out and it is super fast and easy to clean. So its great for needing something quick while running out the door.  

Here are some of my favorite juices, please feel free to post your favorite combos. I am always looking for new ideas.

Tomato/Red Pepper/Carrot/Parsley/Onion/Garlic with smoked salt and cayenne (V8!)
Apple/Carrot/Ginger - This one is a classic and Evan's favorite.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Monarchs in Mystic

I was so excited to attend a talk by "celebs" in the raw food world, Matt Monarch and Angela Stokes Monarch.  Both have followed individual paths into raw foodism that ultimately crossed and culminated in their recent marriage.  Matt Monarch has been nourished by a raw vegan diet for 11 years and travels to share his experience with this diet. His business is Raw Food World, a website containing all your raw food culinary needs. Sometimes, he has some good sales going and it is worth being on his mailing list for the coupon codes.  His new bride Angela Stokes has a very well publicized story of her impressive weight loss (160 in 2 years) and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual transformation.  She gained her following in the blogosphere and has since published several pamphlet style books and at least two real ones. They both create a show on Youtube about healthy raw living. 

The evening was coordinated by our local raw foodie community organizer, Gina. The evening began with a scrumptious dinner of pate stuffed tomato, kale salad, and onion bread.  The ladies of Citrus Juice Bar and Cafe in Mystic did a lovely job pulling it all together.  The small space was filled, about 30 people were there.  The Monarchs arrived, we all sat and watched them unload their merchandise and chatted until it was time for the talk to start.  I sat next to Gina's dad and raw food author, Frank Ferendo, with whom I have developed a friendly relationship via our blogs and on Facebook.  He is the author of the book Reasonably Raw, which is available through amazon.com.  I have browsed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is curious about the lifestyles and the reasoning behind it.

Frank's most recent blog post on the Monarch's visit was very amusing and offered a glimpse of his experience having these raw celebs stay in his house.  However, I am compelled to comment on some of his observations and offer a bit of a different take on the evening.  Please stop here and read Frank's post on this because he sums up the content which I am not going to repeat here in full.  

Back to our Sunday evening talk...

I have not read Matt Monarch's book. My impression of him prior to meeting him was that he was a simple guy, maybe a surfer,  from CA who happened into this lifestyle and shares what he has learned along the way.  I've never been blown away by his information, but I like his website for ordering products.  Hearing him talk, pretty much left me with the same impression, except dial it up to full-on CA frat-boy surfer dude. That's not a bad thing at all, but for me it did not serve the spiritual message he was trying to impart. I respect that he makes absolutely no claim of being an expert on anything except his own personal experience. He does share some gems if you can hang in there and listen for the inspirational nuggets between product placement and high colonics.    Personally I would like to see him tune into the audience a bit more.  A room full of newer raw foodies and the rawcurious, might benefit from hearing colonics exist once or twice, but it is a big leap for someone coming off a standard cooked food to want to go get their insides professionally Roto-Rootered once a month.  I've been in this lifestyle for 2 years and I personally am not interested in hearing a 30 minute focused sermon on the importance of colonics, let alone locating, traveling to, and shelling out for such a service.  I see the potential benefit in removing the decades of mucoid waste we've accumulated and how that might help some people but the whole time we heard about Matt's intestinal sludge I was empathizing with those people in the room who might have been hearing about this for the first time.

Another main focus of Matt's talk was the progression of a cleaner and cleaner diet to the point of ultimately becoming a breatharian, someone who lives on only air, sunshine and universal energy.  This isn't the very first time I have heard Breatharianism but I have yet to come up with an ACTUAL Breatharian to read about in cyberspace.  They are a bit like the Loch Ness Monster; existing primarily in theory and imagination. I am certainly not closed off to possibility, but at this time it is not on my bucket list to become one. The human being is an amazing creature and I can imagine a being so evolved and tuned into G*d and Universal Energy enabling them to subsist on simply fresh air and sunshine. It is a beautiful, but esoteric, concept. I envision this would be a state achieved by someone on a deeply spiritual life path, perhaps a Buddhist monk.   I think most of us can agree no matter our religious tradition that people like Jesus Christ, Buddha, Ghandi, and presently the Dali Lama or Thich, Nhat Hanh are rather highly evolved spiritual teachers. We study their lives, their teachings and emulate them.  These are some of the most highly regarded spiritual leaders of our past and present and as far as I know none of them aspired to be a Breatharian, so for me this is more a hypothetical state of nirvana than a tangible, useful concept. 

Matt did talk about his products and while I am not offended by the idea that the Monarchs did a talk and sold products from said talk, I was sort of turned off by his self stated "extremism" and pushing of certain products and superfoods. Extremism, in and of itself, is unhealthy. If you self-identify as an extremist, then to me that says, "I am unhealthy. I am not balanced. I do not feel good about my choices."  This is different than someone PERCEIVING what you do as extreme as I am sure many people think what I do is extreme.  And that is a subtle but key difference. Being in spiritual alignment with your choices are a key to healthy living, someone else's judgements of what you do are of no consequence. That's their stuff. But to say "I am an extremist"  invalidates the message.  He illustrated how extreme he is by repeating it several times.

 I understand the Superfood concept, thanks in great part to Gina and lots of reading.  There  is a place for some Superfoods if you gain benefit from them.  I am not averse to trying something here and there and seeing if its worth incorporating into my diet. However, I have noticed that within the Superfood movement there are members whose energy is that of a drug addict.  The desire to take something in powdered or pill form in high quantities or just a lot of different ones seems excessive sometimes and it is that energy that turns me off.   I'm all for filling in an obvious nutritional gap or solving a health challenge or imbalance nutritionally, but popping and pushing pills, powders and tinctures is a real turn off.   The raw food movement would serve society by helping people discover the tremendous benefits of raw food in and of itself.   Recipes, tastings, success stories, acceptance, open-ness, and love, that is what inspires people to make healthy choices for themselves.  

The Monarchs brought the contents of their warehouse with them for sale. I admire that they are living freely, traveling, and funding that travel with these personal appearances and product sales.  Anyone who makes a living doing what they love and believe in, serves the greater good.  It was a LOT of stuff for a small space.  They sold a lot of it too.  They have a good thing going. Very smart. Free from the rat race, I can totally get on board with that. 

After Matt's talk, came a short break for shopping and chatting  I asked Matt a few questions about a product he was selling.  I will admit that this was more to see if he was as  "connected" he as he claimed.  I had a strong sense of disconnection from him even though his words were all about being spiritually evolved.   His words conflicted with his being.  He didn't look like the glowing, centered person that I had thought he would.  Maybe it was shyness, maybe he was distracted because their vehicle was towed, but if there was any word I would use to describe Matt it would be DISconnected.   This was disappointing.  He had spoken for a while about his very recent recovery from an intense case of canine scabies he contracted when he rescued some puppies from Mexico.  Instead of pharmaceuticals he chose to use some of his superfood products and supplements in high doses. This coupled with the description of his ongoing bowel cleansing leads me to believe he is currently undergoing an intense detox and healing crisis. Suffice it to say, maybe he just wasn't himself.  We all have off days, nights....weeks sometimes.   

And then came a breath of fresh air.  Every woman is a Goddess, but the woman in raw food worthy of the title Raw Food Goddess, is Mrs. Monarch, Angela Stokes.    Open, sweet, witty, lovely, a ray of sunshiney "good" vibes, Angela delivered in 10-fold.  Her personality really came through during her brief talk on her journey since becoming raw and the unfolding of her life.  She was a charismatic speaker and very funny.  I think the whole room was captivated by her.  It is pretty obvious when someone eminates light and love.  People are drawn to these beacons in our life and Angela delivers this in her talk.  She spoke about her state of being at 300 lbs and how she transformed physically, mentally, and emotionally.  She spoke from the heart. She didn't spend much time on any particular product, just a few common sense ideas.  For example, how easy it is to sprout seeds and how this old school raw food technique needs a revival.  She spoke a bit about her new book Raw Emotions, and I think she sold out her stock of them while she was speaking. People were jumping up to grab their copy off the shelf, myself included.  She was a real person and a beautiful example of what can be achieved with a clean diet.  I went to this event really needing some inspiration, my raw food intake has waned over the last 8 months and I have the excess weight and mood swings to show for it.  I really needed some inspiration and she delivered.  Her book, Raw Emotions, is about how to deal with food addictions and the mental, emotional, and spiritual journey that accompanies a change in diet and lifestyle.  While it focuses on raw food,  I can see this book helping almost anyone whether Weight Watchers, South Beach or any number of other lifestyles resonates and works for you. None of them will work long term unless we heal internally as well.  Raw Emotions addresses the unfolding of self during a health transformation.

Frank states in his post that he doesn't think eating better makes you more spiritual and this a main point I disagree with.  I completely accept that may not be how it works for some people, I am one of the ones that it did for this way.  As I have stated in many past blogs, dis-ease comes from within (spiritual) to without (physical) with shifts in the emotional/mental realms along the way. While the SHIFT must take place spiritually, in that, one must awaken and consciously take the reigns of their health, the healing happens in the reverse order of the disease.  Physical to Spiritual.  When the physical body begins to heal, it exposes what's gone off in the mental, emotional, and ultimately spiritual realm.  Those things must be healed too or the old patterns will come back whether with food or another type of addiction.  Angela's thoughts in Raw Emotions address exactly this topic. I have only just started it, but I hope to write more about this book once I finish reading.

I am sure every member of the audience that night took something different away from the speakers and each other.  I am sure different aspects of the talk resonated for different people. Some people in the audience seemed to be really connecting with the idea of colonics and asked about seeking one out locally. It was of service to some. This experience re-affirmed for me that we receive exactly the experience we need to learn a lesson and grow.  It also served as the catalyst I needed to re-examine my own recent choices.   Every interaction is significant because we've called it to us vibrationally; it already exists within us in order to manifest in our experience.   I find my work right now to try to be present for those moments so that I can grow from them and attempt to handle uncomfortable ones gracefully. It is hard work, that I find so much easier when I maintain a diet high in raw foods. I've noticed that most of my blog posts are written when I am maintaining close to 100% raw.  In this space I feel most creative and clear.  The times the blog is quiet is usually because I am not making the healthiest choices and am feeling too blocked and uninspired to have anything to share. 

I honor the people who share their personal journey openly as it helps me illuminate my own path. It gives me new ideas. It stretches my mind about what is possible. I take some. I leave some. I learn from all.  So thank you Matt, Angela, Gina, Frank, and all the other blog, book and message board authors and speakers who so openly share what you do to ultimately inspire people to find their own truth and lead fulfilling lives. That's the goal really, isn't it?