Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing raw/vegan chef Kirsten Gum work her magic at the Gourmandise School of Sweet’s and Savories in Santa Monica, CA.
She made a chocolate pudding using avocado as the base, which I swear on my favorite French recipes, was better than any chocolate pudding I’ve ever had.
And so I began to think that adding more raw and vegan options to my own diet might not be such a bad idea. In fact, it might be enjoyable. So I quizzed Kirsten a bit about the raw/vegan diet, it’s relationship to the environment, and tips on yummy food choices.
She was kind enough to humor me:
Raegan: The terms "vegan" and "raw" are really scary, even for me and I've been a vegetarian for 16 years. I picture lettuce eating rabbits when I think raw and vegan. What do you tell people about the diet so that they are willing to try it?
Kirsten: HA, HA!! YES, THE TWO WORDS USUALLY BRING TERROR TO THOSE WHO EAT "S.A.D" - THE STANDARD AMERICAN DIET, WHICH IS FILLED WITH MEAT AND CHEESE AND LOTS OF PROCESSED FOOD.
I CALL MYSELF A PLANT-BASED CHEF BECAUSE MY GOAL IS NOT TO CONVERT EVERYONE TO RAW, BUT TO RECONNECT PEOPLE TO THEIR FOOD, TO EAT MORE VEGETABLES BY INTRODUCING THEM TO NEW PRODUCE, NEW SKILLS, NEW RECIPES AND VERY WISE AND VALID NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION.
IT'S STARTS WITH GETTING REAL WITH YOURSELF - DO YOU DRINK ENOUGH WATER? DO YOU REALLY ONLY EAT MEAT ONCE A DAY? MOST PEOPLE ARE SO "FUZZY" IN THEIR THINKING - I TRY TO GET THEM TO FOCUS AND CONSCIOUSLY EAT.
MY COMPANY EXPERIENCE RAW IS ABOUT ENRICHING LIVES THROUGH CONSCIOUS CUISINE... NOT ABOUT CONVERTING ANYONE. SUPPORT IS THE BEST WAY OF HELPING, AND GIVING THEM THE INFORMATION THEY NEED TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES.
R: What's your favorite raw ingredient?
K: THIS QUESTION IS EASY FOR ME - MACA!!!! I DISCOVERED MACA WHILE LIVING DOWN IN ECUADOR AND PERU A COUPLE YEARS AGO. IN THE STATES YOU GET MACA IN POWDERED FORM, BUT I HAD IT GROWING ON MY LAND IN ECUADOR.
IT IS A PERUVIAN ROOT, WHICH LOOKS LIKE A TURNIP OR WHITE CARROT. MANY NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES INCLUDING THE MAYANS AND THE INCANS USED THIS ROOT AS A SOURCE OF ENERGY AND ENDURANCE IN TIMES OF WAR BECAUSE IT GIVES YOU STEADY ENERGY.
HERE'S THE KICKER... IT GIVES BOTH MEN AND WOMEN A BOOST IN THEIR LIBIDO. NO JOKE, JUST A COUPLE TABLESPOONS OF MACA IN YOUR MORNING SHAKE WILL KICK-START YOU SEX LIFE. YOU'LL NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE IN JUST A WEEKS TIME. IT HAS THE AMAZING ABILITY TO HELP BALANCE OUT HORMONES. ANYONE SUFFERING FROM PMS, CRAMPS, MENOPAUSE ALL CAN BENEFIT.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE AFTERNOON SNACKS IS A MACA-CHACA SHAKE. 1 FROZEN BANANA, 2 CUPS ALMOND MILK, 2 TBS. MACA, 1/2 RAW CACAO POWDER,AND JUST BLEND!
R: I'm going to ask you the most frequently asked question I get as a vegetarian and one I know you get bombarded with. Maybe people will read this and then we don't have to answer it anymore: How do you get your protein?
K: PROTEIN EXISTS IN EVERYTHING IN NATURE. PLANT PROTEIN IS EASILY RECOGNIZABLE TO OUR BODIES. UNLIKE ANIMAL PROTEIN, WHICH IS HARD TO DIGEST AND MAKES THE BODY WORK OVERTIME.
ITS MOSTLY FOUND IN DARK LEAFY GREENS LIKE KALE, NUTS AND SEEDS. IN THE RAW/VEGAN WORLD THERE'S ONLY 3 SECTIONS TO THE FOOD PYRAMID - FRUITS AT THE TOP, VEGGIES IN THE MIDDLE AND NATURAL FATS AT THE BOTTOM, WHICH INCLUDE NUTS, SEEDS, COCONUTS, AVOCADOS. I ALSO EAT LOTS AND LOTS OF QUINOA, A PERUVIAN GRAIN, WHICH HAS ONE OF THE HIGHEST PROTEIN LEVELS PER GRAM.
R: Why no to GMO's?
K: PLAIN AND SIMPLE... CORPORATIONS ARE MESSING WITH OUR FOOD AND WITH MOTHER NATURE. GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS MEAN THEY ARE ALTERING THE DNA OF CERTAIN PLANTS AND ANIMALS.
I AM FIGHTING WITH MILLIONS OF OTHERS TO MAKE SURE THE GOVERNMENT MAKES IT MADATORY FOR GROCERS TO LABEL WHAT IS GMO. WE SHOULD HAVE THE CHOICE TO EAT A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT, OR SOMETHING IN ITS PURE FORM. THAT'S WHY PROPOSITION 37 [in CA] IS SO IMPORTANT!
R: You said your Kale salad is better than my favorite Kale salad at The Misfit in Santa Monica, CA (which made me start eating Kale in the first place). Care to share the recipe? Or tips on making the best Kale salad.
K: HA, HA.. I DON'T REMEMBER SAYING THAT. I MUST GO TRY THE KALE SALAD AT THE MISFIT!
KALE IS A VERY BITTER GREEN AND NEEDS TO BE MASSAGED IN ORDER FOR IT TO RELEASE ITS NATURAL JUICES. MANY PEOPLE FORGET TO MASSAGE THEIR KALE, WHICH LEAVES SOMEONE CHEWING FOR 5-10 MINUTES JUST TO GET IT DOWN.
STRIP THE KALE OFF THE STEM, MASSAGE IT TILL IT TAKES ON A COOKED APPEARANCE, ADD SALT AND LEMON JUICE (THIS HELPS BREAKDOWN CELL WALLS AND MAKES IT SOFTER), ADD A DASH OR TWO OF OLIVE OIL AND YOU HAVE THE PERFECT BASE SALAD. WHAT YOU PUT ON IT AFTER IS UP YOU!
R: Why is a raw diet or at least dedicating part of your diet to raw foods important for the environment?
K: I LOOK AT THE RAW DIET AS THE KINDER/GENTLER WAY OF LIVING.
WE MUST GET BACK IN TOUCH WITH OUR PLANTS AND ECO SYSTEM, WHICH THRIVES ON BALANCE. WE ARE SO CLOSELY RELATED TO PLANTS. WE NEED OXYGEN, WHICH THEY GIVE OFF. THEY NEED CARBON DIOXIDE, WHICH WE GIVE OFF.
I COULD GET INTO ALL THE STATISTICS OF THE GASES THESE BIG SLAUTERHOUSES GIVE OFF AND HOW EXPENSIVE IT IS TO COMMERCIALLY FARM ANIMALS FOR US TO EAT, BUT I CHOOSE TO STAY ON THE SHINY SIDE OF LIFE.
R: What's next for you?
K: LOTS GOING ON. I FEEL MORE PEOPLE ARE READY TO CHANGE UP THEIR EATING STYLES AND START TAKING THEIR HEALTH INTO THEIR OWN HANDS.
I LOVE TRAVELING AND WANT TO BRING RAW/VEGAN KNOWLEDGE TO THOSE AREAS THAT DON'T HAVE EASY ACCESS TO IT. I'LL GO TO ANY TOWN OR CITY IF THERE ARE ENOUGH PEOPLE WHO WANT TO LEARN.
I'M HEADING TO MICHIGAN TO TEACH SOME RAW FOOD CLASSES AND CATER AN ALL RAW DINNER. I ALSO AM CATERING A RETREAT IN ARIZONA IN A FEW WEEKS FOR HEALTH EDUCATOR DAVID WOLFE AND VISIONARY DAVID WILCOCK.
I'M DEVELOPING SOME PRODUCTS TO PACKAGE SO THAT MORE PEOPLE HAVE ACCESS TO YUMMY PLANT BASED FOOD. I'M ALSO IN THE PROCESS OF FILMING SOME ONLINE COURSES, SO AGAIN, I CAN REACH PEOPLE IN THE FAR CORNERS OF THE WORLD AND HELP THEM, ONE BITE AT A TIME.
I highly recommend visiting Kirsten’s website for tips on Raw/Vegan tips and that yummy chocolate pudding recipe .