Patti Stevens looks to unleash uncooked nutrients on Monterey County.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The air nearly hums with wholesomeness at Seaside’s Yoga Sanctuary. For now, the meditation isn’t how we move our bodies, but what we put in them.
Monterey-based chef Patti Stevens proudly introduces her fetchingly arranged creations: savory stuffing, walnut loaf, butternut squash pie, cranberry sauce and almond nog. Throughout their preparation, all of the dishes have been kept below 105 degrees to preserve their phytonutrients, enzymes and vitamins.
Stevens is a convert to the raw food diet, based on unheated fruits, vegetables and natural fats – preferably organic and local. Sprouted grains and seasonings play supporting roles, but raw dairy and meats are frowned upon. Stevens, who studied raw cuisine at Fort Bragg’s Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, won’t even drink tea.
Aside from the dietary discipline, the days of sprouting and dehydrating involved in a raw lifestyle can intimidate uninitiated. But Stevens says her approach is purposely easy: She whips together multi-course raw creations in the relatively little time using only a sharp knife, blender and food processor.
“Keeping it simple has been absolutely imperative,” she says.
Still, eating raw is not without its complications. Stevens’ husband loves cooked carbs, which means dinner is often a his-and-hers affair – though she recently discovered him cranking wheatgrass juice instead of preparing his standard morning coffee. Their 2-year-old daughter eats cooked food, too, but enjoys a raw “foothie” every morning. Stevens, for her part, devises creative solutions for food-oriented socializing: eating salads at home before dinners out, bringing her own dishes to friends’ homes.
Stevens first went raw five years ago, when she was experiencing chronic pain and fatigue. Pretty soon she’d lost 20 pounds, her pain disappeared and her energy level spiked.
“I felt alive,” she says.
It’s a testimony typical of raw foodies, who often claim their uncooked diet imparts superhuman health, boundless energy and celebrity-thin frames. Skeptics (including some doctors) disagree, saying it’s healthiest to cook certain foods.
While Stevens’ diet fluctuates between 80 and 100 percent raw, others don’t have to set the bar so high. A breakfast smoothie and lunch salad can make for a 50 or 60 percent raw diet.
“It’s not all or nothing; more is better,” she says. “Raw foods are nutritionally dense. You feel fuller with a smaller amount.”
Finally we dive into the five dishes. The walnut loaf is soft and sweet; the cranberry sauce is rich and tangy; the stuffing pops with flavor. Sitting cross-legged in the sanctuary’s soft light, I chew slowly, mindful of the life in each bite.
INTRODUCTION TO RAW FOODS: HOLIDAY FAVORITES, is 1-3pm Dec. 14 at the Seaside Yoga Sanctuary, 1350 Fremont Blvd., Seaside. $50. 324-0707. For catering, consulting and services, visit www.pjsrawcuisine.com.
Patti’s Raw Chocolate Mousse
1 avocado, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup purified water
1/2 cup cacao or carob powder
2/3 cup pitted dates 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1/4 tsp.
Celtic sea salt
Combine ingredients in the blender until smooth, adding a little more water if needed.The more you add, the thinner the sauce will be. Variations: For a silky chocolate sauce, use double the water. For frozen fudge bars, freeze in popsicle trays. Dehydrate to make tootsie rolls.