The Raw I am about to discuss has nothing to do with Monday nights, carpaccio or Eddie Murphy.
The "Raw" I am referring to indicates a dietary lifestyle choice gaining popularity from its reported health benefits, celebrity endorsers and more recent mainstream availability. I’ll call it "raw veganism," but it has all sorts of offshoots and variations.
When raw first intrigued my food/health/wellness curiosity, it was basically a further restrictive version of veganism. Vegan describes a dietary choice of eating no meat, no fish, no poultry, no game, no eggs, no dairy of any kind from any animal and even no honey. Pure vegans neither consume, nor use, nor wear any animal products.
Raw vegan takes it to the next level. The kicker is that food cannot be heated above a range of 104 to 118 degrees. Techniques such as chopping, massaging, dehydrating, food processing, juicing and blending are used frequently.
Milwaukee Holistic Health Professional, two-year raw foodist and organizer of the Raw Milwaukee Meetup Group Anita Fisher explains, "raw means foods that are prepared under 118 degrees Fahrenheit, as that is the temperature at which enzymes in foods deteriorate."
Most raw foodists believe that these enzymes are essential for health and that eating foods abundant with enzymes are easiest to digest.
In recent months, there has been a trend toward an even more extreme (but, I’m not saying non-beneficial) version of raw called the 80/10/10 Diet or High Carb Raw Vegan Diet.
Popularized by Dr. Douglas Graham’s book "The 80/10/10 Diet," there is no shortage of believers displaying their daily meals on social media. The 80/10/10 designates daily macronutrient goals of 80 percent carbohydrate, 10percent protein and 10 percent fat. 80/10/10 is in essence, fruitarianism – a diet mostly consisting of fruit, some leafy greens and very little fat.
Before all the Paleo and Atkins people get their protein powders all shook up over those percentages, let’s be fair and not judge what others choose to nourish their bodies. 80/10/10-ers feel their best eating that way and Paleo folk feel their best on that diet. I’m not trying to argue for what is better or right here, just informing you of an undeniable nutritional trend.
Personally, I have toyed with most every nutritional plan/theory out there. It’s a hobby, a professional obsession and health necessity for me. But, I also like to change it up, eating foods that I’m naturally craving, that fuel whatever athletic endeavor I am presently partaking in and am strongly influenced by what’s in season / local.
I was feeling super on my variation of "Raw til 4" until the tundra froze, so I started wondering how others living in cold climates maintain a raw lifestyle.
I was especially curious about how Milwaukee raw vegans (to whatever degree they personally embrace the lifestyle) do it in this icy climate. Some mornings I personally just can’t muster up the courage to down a cold smoothie – even made with room temperature ingredients. I want warm and comforting.
Fisher acknowledged my pain and suggested, "In Wisconsin, being 100 percent raw has its challenges in the winter. However, adding heating spices like black or cayenne pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and basil helps. I also keep my refrigerator less cold so that my vegetables aren't so shockingly cold. Another strategy is to bring my veggies out of the refrigerator, chop them and leave them awhile to warm up to room temperature before I eat them. It definitely helps. I also use my dehydrator to warm up raw soups and other foods so they aren't so cold."
Like so many, Fisher was raised on the typical, standard American diet. But, her father was a veterinarian and they raised and milked their own cows.
When she went out on her own, she became cognizant that the food she was consuming was affecting her health. She made a gradual shift to eating organic, then vegetarian (for ten years) and vegan for a few more before transitioning to a 100 percent raw diet.
"There are some myths out there that our digestion isn't optimized for consuming raw foods and I find that not to be true. In fact, I find that consuming raw foods actually helped heal digestive issues I had and my body is better for it," she says.
Another Milwaukee Raw Foodist and co-organizer of the Raw Milwaukee Meetup Group, Pat Molter learned about raw foods when she decided to stop chemotherapy treatments. She credits her recovery to "raw and prayer."
She takes a more modified approach, eating about 90 percent raw and including cooked fish. She advises transitioning into the lifestyle with a "green smoothie" for breakfast, something she consumes everyday. Molter manufactures a "Green Super Food Powder" perfect to add to a Green Smoothie and is working on a berry powder and protein powder as well.
So, what does a raw foodist in Milwaukee typically eat in a day?
Obviously the "Polar Vortex" presents challenges. Fisher details ideally, "In warmer weather, a typical raw food day would consist of a green smoothie (avocado, maca, spices, hemp milk, raw unheated honey, greens (spinach or kale.) Lunch might be a raw beet salad with hemp seeds (very high in plant protein,) raw salad dressing and fruit (raisins or fresh in-season fruit.) Snacks might be raw coconut curry crackers (the best!) or raw ice cream with a raw chocolate sauce."
Molter’s day might go like this, "I start every day with the juice of half a lemon in water followed by a Green Smoothie. Lunch might be ‘not tuna pate’ on corn crackers made in the dehydrator or freshly made raw almond butter on veggies and fruit or a salad. Dinner might be a veggie burger, jicama ‘fries’, salad and blueberry pie for dessert."
Mouth watering yet? Curious about raw foods? The Milwaukee Meetup Group welcomes members of varying experience and exposure to raw food. They meet monthly with their next get-together this Saturday, Feb. 15.
"Our Meetup has been going strong for a number of years. Last year I decided to spearhead it and have been scheduling the events, welcoming new members, answering questions, etc. We have about 264 members with a lot of new people who are entirely new to raw foods," says Fisher.
"They want information on creating new dishes, something beyond a standard salad. They're also interested in what types of equipment to purchase and how to use them. More experienced raw foodists are helping teach members the ins-and-outs of a raw food lifestyle."
Looking forward, Raw Milwaukee will be presenting events to further raw education and broaden experiences. Fisher is even working with a local restaurant to host a future Meetup and have them demonstrate the preparation of a dish or two.
Fisher tells what to expect at the Meetup, which includes a potluck.
"It's fun to get together with like-minded people and share and learn together. The food at our Meetups is always interesting and delicious. I typically bring a raw dessert and have yet to take any extra slices home. For our last event, I made a raw pizza that was surprising to some of our newer members. They were most impressed with raw 'cheese' made from cashews. It was all so yummy, I think I'll make some for dinner tonight," she says.
Want to dive in this weekend? Then, join The Milwaukee Meetup Group Saturday, February 15! Learn more and sign up here.
And if you would like to try making a raw dessert at home – here is a recipe festive enough for Valentine’s Day from Anita Fisher’s kitchen that is sure to please any palette.
Heavenly Pomegranate Cream Cake
- 2 ¼ cup organic walnuts
- ¼ cup organic raw honey
- 2 cups organic medjool dates, pitted
- ½ tsp Soma Salt or Pink Himalayan Salt
First prepare the 9-inch spring foam pan by placing a long strip of plastic wrap over the bottom of the pan that extends well past the pan by 4-6 inches. Tuck the extended plastic wrap under the bottom of the pan. Place the ring on and lock it. Next, oil the inside of the pan with unrefined coconut oil.
Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until the mixture is of a smooth yet somewhat chunky consistency. Press into the bottom of the oiled spring foam pan until level and firm around the sides of the pan. Place in the freezer to firm up while you make the cream.
- 4 cups organic cashews, soaked in pure water overnight, drained
- 2 cups organic coconut meat
- 4 oz unrefined coconut oil, melted (place the closed jar into a pan of warm water until melted)
- 4 tbsp vanilla extract or ½ vanilla bean, cut open and scraped
- 1 1/8 tsp Soma Salt
- 1 cup organic raw unheated honey or raw agave
- 8 tbsp organic pomegranate powder
- ½ cup organic beet juice or aroniaberry juice (these are for a deeper color and additional nutrients)
- 2 tbsp organic coconut juice
- 5 oz organic lemon juice
Blend the cashews and coconut meat in a food processor until well blended. Add in the remaining ingredients, scraping the bowl occasionally until all is fully blended. Add more coconut juice if needed. The cream needs to be pourable but not runny. Pour over the prepared crust, level with a spatula and place in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 4 hours, or overnight, until fully set.
To de-pan, have a large dinner plate or platter ready. First, grab the extended plastic wrap from under the pan and extend outward horizontally. Un-spring the pan and with a knife, gently move the knife between the side of the pan and the cake itself.
Gently remove the outer ring and set aside. Firmly grab the extended plastic from under the cake and lift the cake up off the bottom of the spring foam pan. Move to the plate or platter and gently remove the plastic from one side, gathering it on the other, making sure you're over the plate or platter and gently setting the cake down.
Discard and recycle the plastic wrap. Decorate as you desire with simple design like a "mandala" of pomegranate seeds (Trade Joe’s carries them) and pine nuts or additional cashew cream.
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