Monday, August 27

How Green is Green?

In the strict scientific sense we all feed on death - even vegetarians. ~Mr. Spock, Star Trek

I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s latest Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ( and it got me to thinking about how un-local many of the foods in the raw food diet are. You would think this diet, being so literally green, would be sustainable too. But let’s think about it: the greater protein portion of a raw food diet is nuts. Here in California almonds and walnuts aren’t hard to come by. And they store well over the year for when they’re not in season. Pine nuts, too I guess can come from this region. But cashews and brazil nuts, also a staple in so many recipes…how many miles and gallons of gas do they have to spend to reach my grocer?

Another concern is eating in season. Frankly, I don’t know how one would do this. Living here in California, we are very lucky to have extended seasons giving us so many fruits and vegetables year round. But even so, each produce item has it’s time and when I think about winter…what would I eat if I wanted to eat local? How about people in Michigan?

So how green is this diet anyway? One would have to be very committed and very creative to make it work. I asked Alicia Parnell, owner of Que SeRaw SeRaw (a take-out live food restaurant) how she has maintained her diet for the number of years she has been raw.
Here is an interview:

How many years have you been raw?
I was 100% raw for 2.5 years. For two years of that time, I felt a vast increase in energy, pains in my hip joints disappeared completely, I shed 25 pounds and felt great in my body.

About three months later, I attended a talk by Bryan Clement, the Director of the Hippocrates Institute in Miami Beach, Florida. He said that their research has shown that being 100% raw for two years gives a strong foundation for the immune system. After that, 85% to 90% raw and 10%-15% cooked is good. Even after hearing this, I waited another 3 or 4 months before beginning to eat some cooked food. The reason I did choose 5% to 10% cooked food was because I didn't think I looked or felt as good as I should given my diet for over two years.

What cooked foods do you allow?
It is varied... maybe a steamed artichoke, a veggie hotdog. About once every 3-4 months, we go to Il Fornaio and I have their butternut squash raviolis. I like the salads and wraps at Herbivore in San Francisco, the cooked rice dishes at Cafe Gratitude, etc. I have not eaten any meat or fish in over 5 years, and very little if any dairy.

What challenges do you have maintaining raw?
I experience no seasonal challenges in maintaining a 90%-95% raw diet. To be approaching 61 years of age with the energy level of when I was 20 is more than enough incentive to continue eating the way I do. You can't buy that anywhere at any price!!

My challenges in eating raw occur when we travel, like our Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera last year. I finally resorted to choosing our vacation destinations based on the raw food I am able to enjoy. For example, this Christmas/New Year's, we're going to Kailua Kona, Hawaii. There are a couple of restaurants there that have raw food menu items. And fruit should be easy enough! My long-term goal and vision continues to be "having a raw/vegan To Go deli next to every Starbucks in the world." It has simply got to get easier for people to be able to choose healthy organic food. Que SeRaw SeRaw recently had a booth at the Burlingame Art and Jazz Festival. People would come up to the booth, look around and say: "A healthy food vendor at the festival?? WOW!!!!!" They were so happy!! We were right next to the deep-fried calamari!!

What about the goal of staying local with what we eat?
My mantra in every aspect of my raw food to go business is "KEEP IT SIMPLE."
I do my best to purchase local produce, nuts and seeds. I have chosen to use all organic. The challenge is that in San Mateo County, for example, there are only about three farms that grow exclusively organic. I went on a farm tour recently, sponsored by the Farm Bureau and the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau. None of the farms we visited were organic. I was the only person who dared ask why they don't grow organic. The response from one farmer was that they want to grow as much food as possible and they have to use sprays in order to accomplish that goal. Another farm grew only strawberries. They looked beautiful, but there was absolutely no flavor. They used a light spray on them and have been for years. The restaurants in our area are not demanding organic produce from the local farmers, so what's the incentive?

What percentage of your menu items are local?
If you can broaden the "local" definition to mean within 200 miles, then I would say 90% of my menu items are local (Southern California). I order almost all of my produce from an organic wholesaler in San Francisco, and they have to go South of here to get much of our produce.

Thank you Alicia Parnell of Que SeRaw SeRaw ( for taking time out of your very busy schedule running your wonderful restaurant to be interviewed. I’d like to mention that her husband, Aaron Parnell, is an extremely talented physical therapist who in just one session straightened my back out and I was able to walk away pain free. If you have any body issues at all, I urge you to visit him, he really sees the body in an innovative way and is truly able to reposture your body so it can get better NOW! Go to:

What’s a locavore? Learn more at:

Magic Cookies, Recipe #46 and Pear Salad, Australopithecus #47

I call these cookies magic, because no matter how long you dehydrate them, 18 hours, 24 hours, 48…they never get done! Roxanne instructs, “dehydrate for 10 hours or until they have the desired crispiness. They should be hard yet still moist.”

How about crumbly and doughy? Does that count?

Part of being a cook is being willing to test. So to experiment, I put five cookies into the oven, a real oven, at 350, then left the rest in dehydrator Hell.

I baked the cookies for about ten minutes, well that did the trick. Sort of. They tasted good but when you bit into them, watch out: dry quicksand. I cranked up the dehydrator to the max and left them overnight. Well, they finally were done, but same problem: one bite and poof! Quicksand Cookies (pictured here with a glass of fresh Almond Milk). I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles…(sorry, folks I couldn’t get around using that one).

The next fine day I woke up with my back stiffer than ever. In fact, I could walk as long as I imitated a little old lady (an arthritic one) and added a limp to it. So attractive for my age.
I decided to get started on the next recipe: Pear Napoleon with Porcini Mushrooms and Artichokes but I needed to go to the store for ingredients. Since sitting (and sitting in a car seat) aggravated my back, I decided to ride my bicycle to the store. Wouldn’t that stretch my back out and give me some exercise?

I popped two Advil and hit the road. Riding works, but walking, standing, sitting and god forbid, bending over, are out. I hobbled out of the grocery store back to my bike. I got home and read paragraph 2 of the recipe outlining how I was supposed to marinate the raw artichoke hearts for 8 hours first. Doh! This makes me realize just how Neanderthal-headed I am. Why won’t I just read the damn recipes before I’m ready to make them?

Since I had invited Suey for lunch and needed it in 20 minutes, not 8 hours, I decided to cheat. I’ve only got five days left, at this point, I have to just DO IT! Riding my bike back to the frickin’ store a second time to get cooked artichokes, I reflected on how hard-headed I am. I remembered I’m not Neanderthal at all, no, it is Australopithecus to be exact. According to my anthropologist friend Stephanie, I am a throw back. She says my head is the exact shape of Australopithecus, complete with the ridge running across the top of my head. She’ll reach over and cradle my head in her hands and awe over just how much I look like an Australopithecus. I’ll even catch her, after years of us knowing each other, gazing over at me with her head titled, examining my skull. I know she is marveling at the prospect of actually knowing a prehistoric woman. A hard headed prehistoric woman.

So back I came with cooked artichoke hearts and recipe #47 was born. For the side I made “BLT” salads: beautifully ripe red heirloom tomato with chopped dulse (seaweed) which added the "bacon" flavor. Yum, it was delicious. I was the only one who liked it, but that has no relevance, for I am Woman Australopithecus!