Last night, a friend and I exited the dramatic and bustling Covent Garden streets and sought refuge in the reception area of a contemporary PR firm. We had been invited to attend a raw food supper club and were welcomed with a flute of potently green basil lemonade. With one sip, we forayed into the world of cold courses, strange ingredients and quizzical expressions known as the raw food movement.
As a cook and avid food lover, (not just the consumption, but the growing, cultivating, harvesting, preparing, arranging and photographing) I was intrigued by the idea of this lifestyle. Although, as a deep-frying, dessert baking carnivore, I went into the evening completely ignorant of the concept.
For me, veganism was the epitomized floor you could never fall below. I can accept and embrace vegetarians and pescetarians, even though I’ve never met a non-meat eater who I didn’t want to ply with golden platters of bacon, goose-fat roasted potatoes and a plump, well-seasoned steak. While the idea of completely abandoning animal products doesn’t appeal to me, after four courses of cold food, I have found a new respect for vegans: at least they switch on an oven. For that, they get brownie points. Vegan-friendly applesauce brownie points, in fact.
When we arrived at the supper club and were shown to the intimately laid table complete cutlery and plates, my heart soared and intrigue furrowed my brow. There were plates and knives! In my raw food naïveté, I had assumed we would be on a liquidized diet and expected to see an assortment of tumblers and glasses.
Around our table were two food bloggers, a food blogger’s husband, two media gurus and a food buyer for an organic supermarket, who, by trade, was well-versed in the ins and outs of raw food. Our chef for the evening was raw food sage, Tanya Alekseeva of Better Raw.
Tanya began the evening by explaining the scientifically-proven
It makes sense, but for my palate, the dessert we started with wasn’t anything to salivate over. It was a brown concoction of cacao powder (the ground bean from whence we get chocolate), frozen bananas, hemp seeds, coconut water and pond algae or spirulina. I’ll tell you one thing, if you put a glass of brown gloop in front of me next to a rich bowl of tiramisu, it’s not the gloop that’s going to get me salivating!
While I found the spirulina smoothie to be a little bit overpowering, once I got over the initial tastebud assault of spirulina, there were waves of banana and chocolate that soothed the harsh fish food aftertaste and made the drink a bit more pleasant. This course didn’t have me singing the praises of raw food, however, but it also wasn't as bad as I was expecting.
Next on the menu was our starter. A fresh kale salad with “cheesy” dressing. As a bit of a kale lover, I was excited to see this cropping up on the menu. Tanya made the salad simply from chopped curly kale, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. The salad rested on a more complex runny yogurt-textured dressing of cashew cream, veggies and tahini. It was hands-down delicious and leaving out the B12 supplement she added in, I’d happily make a variation of this for my family.
Our main course was to be a raw food Thai green inspired curry. I had never had a cold curry and will never do so again. The concept is confusing for me; this curry lacked heat in both temperature and spice. There was no rice (unfortunately) as rice requires cooking, it is quickly discarded by raw foodies. Instead we had our curry of cashews, coconut milk, dates, lime, ginger, liquid amino, a chili and an uninspiring mix of cumin and coriander atop courgette noodles. On top of the curry was roasted veg a la raw food. Meaning it was a combination of tomatoes and mushrooms that had been marinating in Tanya’s fridge. The mushrooms added a necessary meatyness to the dish and it was very tasty and my most enjoyable course of the evening.
We ended the evening with yet more dessert in the form of mango ice cream with spices, vanilla and a sprinkling of goji berries and more cracked cacao nibs. For me ,the mango ice cream was nice, but was just frozen mango blended with coconut water and I could take it or leave it.
Tanya, like other raw foodies, made bold claims that you’ll have more energy while eating a diet composed of raw food, but as someone who has a diet quite heavy with carbs, I felt depleted and almost thirsty with the need for kneaded dough. There was a remarkable amount of food consumed at the supper club as well. That dinner was far more food than I’d eat in one meal ordinarily but since so much of it was seeds and water-logged veg, I felt the need to clean my plate at every course just to get full.
As a result, I didn’t leave the supper club immediately hungry, but I was lethargic and felt deflated and deficient in sugar and carbs. I was surprised to see that other than a few slices of banana and chunks of mango, no other fruit was incorporated into the meal, so we were devoid of even the natural sugars found in fruit.
It’s not a testament to the flavor of the food, because with a bit of seasoning, some of the courses could be more palatable for people who don’t follow a raw food diet. I was and remain impressed by the ability to clearly taste each ingredient in the dishes without the overarching coating of butter or oil. However, I cannot imagine a diet without meat, oats, condiments, cereals, pasta, eggs, rice and bread. I cannot imagine coming home from a cold, wintry England day and instead of sinking into a warm bowl of soup or steaming pie, opting for cold noodles dressed in cold sauce.
For me, learning about the raw food movement was important and enlightening. I gained more appreciation for vegetables and the subtle flavors in food, but I cannot commit to a lifestyle change of that magnitude. That said, I would be interested in perhaps making a few raw food dishes once a week or a couple times a month. I can also see the benefits of using a raw food diet for body cleansing and detox. Other than for the occasional meal and for detox purposes, I second Jay Rayner’s sentiments on the raw food movement and shout in unison with him: “We are human; ergo, we cook.” Excuse me then; I’m off to fry an egg.
I attended this free event as a blogger and was compensated for travel costs. Neither the compensation or free food had an effect on the opinions and views expressed in this entry, which are solely my one. Likewise, I did not receive nor was I offered any type of compensation or gift for the opinions and views expressed.
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