Raw Food Frenzy: Raw Kale & Carrot Salad

"I need a juicer and a dehydrator, and a Vita-", Gray cut me off before I could finish my high-pitched rant. Fresh back from my first weekend at nutrition school where we had just been introduced to the benefits of raw food, I was ready to dive in whole hog!   The main presenter for the weekend was David Wolfe, self described raw food guru and "sacred chocolate" proponent (no, I'm not kidding) who, had he told me that green algae and ginger juice were the only foods needed for life, I would have flown up to Klamath Falls to harvest the algae myself!  With tanned skin, trimmed beard and wildly curly hair, he sat in front of us in his brown velour jumpsuit like a cultist Jesus, espousing the benefits of raw garlic, cacao beans, and the awesome antioxidant power of goji berries.   None of us moved.  We barely even breathed for fear of missing a single word.  For 2 1/2 hours he entranced the packed 2,000-person auditorium.  I shifted a little in my seat, feeling my quite full bladder but entirely unwilling to take a bathroom break.  After hour 2 I noticed other students shifting uncomfortably, but not one, not a single person dared get up.  Standing in the snaking bathroom line after David's talk, I could not get the glowing man with his curly mane out of my mind.  His sheer animal magnetism and cacao-powered charisma entranced me and I was ready to follow him anywhere.  I had tasted the raw kool-aid and I wanted more! And this is the state in which my husband of only 2 months found me: wide-eyed and whipped into a frenzy over the raw food cult leader.  "Jamie, why don't we wait until your schooling is done and then you can decided what you really need to buy?" he asked logically.  "That's ridiculous!", I huffed.  "I need a dehydrator. How else will I make crackers and raw, gluten-free onion bread?"  With a stricken look of horror still across his face, Gray gently walked me through the ins and outs, ups and down, he somehow knew I would be feeling in the year of the nutrition education.  "You are a girl looking for the answer," he said.  "Each food guru you hear is going to convince you their way of eating is the only way.  And I just know every time you come back from school you will want to embark on a new food journey.  Can we just agree to wait until the end and then decide which path to follow?" I hated him for this measured approach.  No, I didn't want to wait until school was over.  I wanted to start eating raw now!  How else was I going to built up my super-human super powers like David Wolfe?  I mean shit, the mane practically floated across the stage and held 2,000 in the palm of his hand.  If that wasn't a testament to the power of raw food, I didn't know what was.

Thankfully I held back from blowing our savings on fancy food gadgets because, as predicted, I went through an entirely new food craze during each subsequent school weekend.  I also quickly gave up my raw dreams after hearing a particular student's struggle with going raw in mid-January in snow-packed Maine.  "Smoothies and raw kale just doesn't cut it when it's 15 degrees outside," she quipped.  Each weekend was an overwhelming amount of extremely persuasive information and personalities that pushed and pulled me in opposing directions. After hearing the Mad Cowboy and Dr. Neal Barnard, I wanted to go full-fledged vegan (it should be noted I was about 90% there already).  After listening to Dr. Barry Sears and Annemarie Colbin, I thought, "Hey, maybe I should eat meat!"  And after experiencing Iyanla Vanzant and Geneen Roth it was decided, "Who the heck cares what I eat?? It's how I experience my food and feel about my body that really matters."

Gray was right.  I desperately sought the answer, the word of the nutrition Gods that would lead me to perfect physical health and emotional well-being and yet with every class, I just got more and more confused.   How was I to reconcile the contradictory information presented to me and make it work in my life?  How was I to know which way to go and worse yet, what if I chose the wrong way?  And then on top of it all I was supposed to take this information and disseminate it to the hungry, nutrition-seeking masses?  Holy Jeez!  Round and round I went for months, experimenting with different food theories, testing their effectiveness or lack thereof, and plopping bizarre concoctions onto Gray's plate.   Finally, after much self-diagnosing and hair-pulling I realized why my studies were called integrative.  My job was not to painstaking trudge through each eating dogma and pull out the shiny, most brilliant one, but to take the workable pieces from each and use those as I liked.  This was the biggest, light-bulb, ah-ha moment of my life.  You mean, I don't have to follow a particular program word for word to experience the life I want?  You mean, things are malleable, not static?

Craving security is a natural human emotion (and one I seem to be chasing constantly).  We seek to categorize and catalog our feelings, thoughts and desires in life's little box to make us feel safe and secure, like we've got everything under control.  If I do A, then B and C will surely occur and everything will go as planned.  That's the logic, right?  The trouble is that nothing is ever really in our control.  We certainly try our hardest to hold tight  and bend experiences and outcomes to our will but when it comes down to it, we are just along for the ride.  As it turns out our bodies, like life, are also ever changing and morphing to keep us on our toes.  We may find security in vegetarianism or veganism for a while, then one day a stick diet of beans and broccoli no longer works for our system.  Same goes for the Atkins diet, Paleo, Raw food or any other new hot food-darling of the eating experts.    Rather than let your security needs take hold and push you to lock in on a certain eating regime and declare, "This is the only way to eat!", know that you can take what you like of the plan, and leave the rest.   Be gentle with your food and, dare I say it?, let your food choices flow.  What to eat depends on where you are in your body and along your personal food journey.  That's right, your food journey.  We are all one, whether we want to be or not.  There is no one right way to eat just as there is no one right way to live.

Life and food are about experimenting, exploring, seeing what works and what doesn't, and knowing yourself well enough to tell the difference. Yes I still, every once in a while, catch myself getting sucked into a Cosmo cover that reads, "The BEST diet to flatten your belly!"  "What!" I scream as I lurch for the magazine and flip to the page that promises body nirvana.  Yet once the article has been perused I realize that one: I don't believe in diets, and two: no magazine writer knows my body as well as I do.  And besides, I already have all the food info I need.  All I've got to do is listen to my body and take notes.



Raw Kale & Carrot Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 3

1 large head dinosaur (lacinato) kale, washed and thinly chopped

2 carrots, peeled and shredded

2 tablespoons extra virgin, unrefined olive oil

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar or lemon juice

1 1/2 -2 tablespoons Braggs Amino Acids or tamari

1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

Wash the kale and chop finely.  Place in a large bowl and pour in the olive oil, brown rice vinegar and Braggs.  Massage the greens with your hands until evenly coated.  Cover and place in the fridge and let marinate for between 2 hours and over night.   When ready to serve, add in the shredded carrots, stirring well, and top with chopped hazelnuts.  Enjoy!

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