By The Rawtarian

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In this episode, Laura-Jane The Rawtarian provides a high level overview of the fundamentals of raw food. What is raw food? Why does it matter? How do you uncook? What are the basics that you need to know? What equipment do you need?

This episode is perfect for you if you are new to the concept of raw food.

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to episode number 56 of The Raw Food Podcast. I'm your host, Laura-Jane, The Rawtarian.

And on today's episode, we are talking about raw food fundamentals. So this podcast episode is perfect for you if you know very little about raw food, if you're just dabbling in it, if you want to know some of the basic FAQs and are just looking for some inspiration to start your raw food adventure. So stay tuned and I'll be back with you shortly.

Thank you so much for joining me on another episode of The Raw Food Podcast. It’s episode 56. If you go back into the archives, I have literally recorded 56 episodes about all the nitty-gritty topics that I could ever imagine and think of.

And I've interviewed actually some of the most epic, amazing raw food people like Susan Powers of Rawmazing and Emily von Euw from This Rawsome Vegan Life and a lot of our favorite raw food people. So I've had so much fun on the show so far. And I'm just still excited about all this stuff after all this time, having started this website in I think really early 2009, so that's almost 10 years ago.

But what I really wanted to do with this episode today, because I have explored a lot of the nitty-gritty subjects, is just have another episode at kind of coming up to the top of the timeline of all these podcasts. It’s really just looking at the fundamentals and the basics of raw food.

So what is it? Why are you only eating raw food? How do you make these things? What's the point of this? What's the deal with raw food? So that is really what we are doing today on this episode.

I know myself and I know I'm going to have a hard time reining it in because I've recorded like hundreds of hours and I'm trying to summarize everything I know in not too long of an episode. But I will do my best to just touch on some of the really fundamental concepts because this episode is really for you if you're new to raw food. If you really don't know much about it. Maybe you really know nothing about it, and this episode is perhaps your first introduction to the world of raw food. And if so, that's so exciting and welcome.

Maybe I will just start very briefly with a little bit about my story. I am Laura-Jane, otherwise known as The Rawtarian, and probably in 2008 I was what I like to call it junk food vegetarian. So I was a vegetarian, but I ate ramen noodles out of the package or Kraft Dinner and frozen pizza and burritos and that kind of thing. Chips and cookies. So I was a vegetarian, but I just really didn't cook at all, and I ate really unhealthily.

What happened with me was I heard about this crazy thing called raw food. Actually it was someone in my family who came to stay with me for a week who was really into it at the time. And I was like “I don't get it. What is it?” And they tried to explain it to me. And they were kind of saying that you make these delicious meals and they taste really good, but they're just made out of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. And it's a bit crazy and you don't really cook any of the food, but that's just what I'm into. And I was like, whoa, I've never heard of this. This sounds crazy.

And these visitors were like I'll make some chocolate truffles and maybe you'll be impressed. And I do have a sweet tooth, and these guests made some delicious chocolate truffles. And I watched them make it in my kitchen, and they just put some like nuts and dates and cocoa powder in this food processor, which is kind of like a blender. It's just shaped a little bit differently. And I saw these healthy ingredients go in and then they just took this batter and kind of rolled into little chocolaty balls.

And they were so good. And my brain was like—you know when you see a magic trick or something and you're like “What? I just saw that, but I don't understand how that worked.” So my brain literally could not process how I saw these healthy ingredients go in, and then this really delicious output came from the food processor and pretty much from that—Man, when was that? That was like 2008. And my brain was blown and my life was changed.

But really the concept of raw vegan eating is taking, or at least the way I do it, really healthful ingredients. So like I said, raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some other condiments, if you will, like coconut oil, olive oil, salt, spices, a few other ingredients like nutritional yeast. And really just taking those ingredients that are really healthful and full of nutrition and the best things we can be eating and kind of hacking them in a way and cooking them in a way that is making them taste really tasty but yet they're just full of wholesome, healthful ingredients.

So that's the basic concept of raw food and what it is. And generally, the ingredients are thought to be vegan so all plant-based. No animal products. And they're also considered raw. In other words, not cooked. In other words, not heated above about 105°F. So basically not heated much at all.

Usually when I get to that point, I lose people. They're just kind of like “What could you possibly eat other than a salad plus a chopped-up apple for dessert?”

And the way that works is in the raw food world, there tends to be some typical ways in which people would cook, so to speak, or uncook, as they say, recipes so that you get the texture and the excitement and the mouthfeel if you will of really traditional recipes that we all love like burgers or cake or cheesecake or truffles. So how are you mimicking that mouthfeel without cooking things, without baking, without boiling all those kinds of things?

So I will get into the how. But of course, first, we’re probably wondering what is the point of this? Why can't we cook things? What's wrong with cooking? And certainly there's nothing inherently wrong with cooking things. Human beings have been cooking things for who knows how long. A very, very long time. But the basic concept is when you are eating something that is fresh and has not been cooked, it just has the maximum amount of nutrition.

For example, just think in a basic way. If you take some broccoli, if you're going to be steaming it, or compare eating raw broccoli like you're in the garden. Oh my gosh, I have tried to grow broccoli. It did not go well. But pretend you're in somebody else's garden and you're just eating broccoli that was like literally growing and you just snapped it off out in the garden and just popped it into your mouth versus if you take even that same broccoli and you steam it on the stove. You know, first of all, that there's going to be some nutritional content that is lost in the water there. So the water might be a bit green and the texture changes and some stuff gets released into the air from the steaming and all that kind of stuff. So you're just losing a minute small amount of the nutritional value of the food when you're cooking it. That's sort of the logic there.

And for me, I think I'm obsessed with challenges. And I got introduced to this way of cooking and I was just like “What? How can you make these delicious things within this sandbox or within this arena of these crazy rules?” And that just really appealed to me, the challenge of it.

And again, I really had a sweet tooth. So for me, especially in the early years, I really enjoyed coming up with different ways of making or of uncooking let's say raw vegan dessert recipes that were healthy and still tasted good enough to be served in traditional settings where people would like it and wouldn't even know that the recipe was completely vegan and uncooked and all of those things.

So yeah, I've talked a little bit about what is raw food and the why behind why one might want to eat uncooked food. I guess I could dabble a little bit right now into the concept of preparing the food and what that looks like, which is going to kind of segue into the subject of equipment.

I am not a perfectionist. I'm the type of person that I just like to make do with what I have. I never have the right gear for anything, and that's just kind of how I roll. And I think sometimes it's very easy to procrastinate. Actually, I think I have a good video about this on my YouTube channel at youtube.com/therawtarian where I talk about why you're not healthy yet.

And the concept is when we try to do things perfectly, which so much of us do, we think I can't go raw yet because I don't have the $500 blender. And I can't do this right now because I can't do it perfectly, so I'm just going to delay, delay, delay until I have time or money to do it. I don't want you to delay. I want you to just go right now to your fridge and be like I'm going to eat a cherry. I just ate some raw food and kind of dabble in it.

So I am going to talk about equipment right now but I don't want you to feel overwhelmed, and you certainly don't need to have the best of anything. And if you can start with whatever you have in your kitchen today, that is the best thing you can do.

There's three pieces of equipment that tend to be spoken about in this arena. So we're talking about blenders. They're used to make liquidy things like smoothies, soups, sauces. Food processors which most people don't own them, but they're actually not that expensive. You can get one for around $50. And they're awesome. I use mine all the time. And basically it's kind of like a blender. It's just wider and it has a bigger blade and it's made for dryer recipes like brownies or pie crusts or veggie burgers. That kind of thing. Whereas the blender, which most people are familiar with, that's for smoothies and wet stuff. So the food processor is just designed to deal with drier ingredients, and it's really hard to make dry or like I would say impossible to make brownie batter and that kind of thing in your blender because the blender is not designed for dry things. It just doesn't work very well.

So yeah, number one is the blender. Number two is the food processor. And then the third thing that people hear about and just roll their eyes and they're like, oh God, I'm never going to buy one of those. But there is the concept of a dehydrator, which is kind of like an oven substitute in the raw food world. And although I've developed many recipes and written a cookbook, etc., the dehydrator. Okay, what is it? It's kind of like a big box. You put it on your counter. It’s pretty big. And it dries out food, and a lot of people are familiar with them because some people have made beef jerky with them in the 80s.

But the basic concept is it just has warm air and a fan and it kind of mimics. I don't know. I can't explain scientifically what it does. I have episodes. What are they? Dehydrating? Episode 16 of The Raw Food Podcast. So check that out if you want to know more about it. Stay on task, Laura-Jane.

But basically the dehydrator, I only use mine for very specific instances. It's when I want something to be, sorry to be punny, but I want it to be drier. So a common thing I will use is—or I will make my dehydrator, I should say, would be veggie burgers. So what I would do is I would, in a food processor, process some vegetables and nuts and make kind of like a not wet but like a moist patty. That is all right but you kind of need to cook it in some way or get it to be drier because otherwise it's just like this wet patty. It’s fine but it's not really a veggie burger.

But if you pop that in the dehydrator and put the heat on—if you put it in there for say five hours, it will really get rid of the excess moisture and it will cling together and it will be like a burger. And so it's really worthwhile in certain instances. What else? I also sometimes make like oniony rings or French fry-ish things. So there's certain instances when a dehydrator is helpful, but I literally use it five percent of the time.

So it's not an important—it is important but for me it's not something I do regularly because it takes a long time and it's kind of a hassle. And for me, it's really only worth it in a couple of instances because I just don't like to. I mean, I have a lot going on and I don't like to spend too much time in the kitchen, although I know that sounds funny coming from a foodie. But it is true.

So that's a little bit about the equipment. Really, those are the main pieces. So just throwing out a couple of other examples of how that looks like. You can make soup. So you're going to put, say let's talk about like a corn chowder, some corn in a blender and some cashews to make it creamy and some salt and maybe some nutritional yeast to give it a little bit of a cheesy flavor. And just blend that up. And when you blend things, if you let them blend for quite a long time, they will get warm so it's not like you're eating a cold soup. If you go to therawtarian.com and just put like corn soup in the search box, you can find that recipe, but that's just a basic example of how you might make soup.

Or I have a brownie recipe that is walnuts and dates and cocoa powder and some salt and some shredded unsweetened coconut, and you're just going to process all of that, and smush it into a pan, and pop it in the fridge so you don't need to cook it but it just gets solid in the fridge. And then it's really delicious. So those are some basic examples of how you can make really tasty dishes out of super healthy ingredients and you don't need to cook them.

And also I have tons of really delicious cake or cheesecake style cakes that I’ll freeze so they kind of become ice cream cakes if you will. That's a great way, and there's so many delicious raw vegan cake recipes that get frozen and they're really like ice cream cakes and they're so good. They're the best. They're the most popular things ever, and I love developing those recipes and eating them.

Another subject that I will touch on here is sometimes in raw vegan recipes, you'll hear a lot of talk and a lot of confusion about whether you need to soak your nuts because the reason why you might soak your nuts is when they're wet, they're easier to digest on your body. I'll just be blunt. In my recipes, just follow the instructions. Usually, you don't need to soak the nuts. If for some weird reason I want you to soak, it will be like step two: Put the nuts in a bowl in water, rinse them, and pat them off with a tea towel.

So people get confused about soaking. But in my recipes, I like to keep things really simple and just tell you what to do so just follow the instructions. And so if it doesn't mention it, just don't worry about it.

I think one of the reasons that some of my recipes are—or I'll just say this. I think one of the reasons why my recipes, especially in the early days, stood out in comparison to other people's recipes is I don't like extraneous fluff in any area of my life, and I don't like to make things complicated. So usually in my recipes, I will try to not have too many ingredients. I will try to keep the food prep to a minimum one possible or skip steps if possible because I want you to be able to make this way of eating. You don't even have to eat all 100% raw or 50% raw or whatever. I want you to be able to have more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds in your diet. And I want to make it easy for you to incorporate it. And I don't want you to be overwhelmed. So that is a passion of mine, and that is where I come from and sort of how I approach all my recipe development from as well.

So that’s a bit about soaking. Another important thing to note is about nuts. So most raw vegan recipes use the nuts. If there are nuts in a recipe, it's because their texture is really important. And the reason why a recipe might call for cashews versus walnuts versus Brazil nuts or whatever else, all of these nuts have very different textures, and you cannot just go substituting sunflower seeds for cashews because the result will be very different.

So it's easy. You just use whatever nut is specified in the recipe. Now if you need to make substitutions for some reason, I do have a lot of good information about which nuts can be substituted for one another. Which nuts can't. So just lastly, in terms of those nuts substitutions, I would just suggest, especially if you're new to raw food, just use whatever is suggested in the recipe.

And particularly cashews. You should just know that those are the creamiest nuts. So the reason they're used, when you see cashews in a recipe, is because they're going to give the best creamy result. Just don't use anything other than cashews if the recipe tells you to use cashews.

I do want to keep this episode manageable. Maybe I'll touch on the concept of protein and I know I did a podcast episode of that as well. I think it's episode 13 that talks about how to get your protein on a raw vegan diet.

Yes, you can get enough protein on a raw vegan diet. I mean many people, most people, most of my people are not necessarily eating 100% raw but it can be done, but you do need to pay attention to it. And I have a lot of information about how to do that properly and healthfully.

One of the great tricks is just using hemp hearts. Sorry, hemp seeds, I should call them, which are one of the best plant-based sources of protein that you can get. And they're also really easy to use because they have a very neutral flavor. So hemp seeds are just a great thing to add to your diet. And I'm really not into like superfoods or all that crap. I find I'm not into it, but hemp seeds legitimately are one of the healthiest foods, plant-based proteins that you can have. So if you're just sprinkling those or throwing them in your smoothie or something like that, it's a really great way to increase your protein in a really easy way.

I do think maybe one thing I'll end on is just talking about some of the additional resources that you can get from therawtarian.com. My business partner and I have been creating technological resources related to raw vegan eating for almost 10 years now. I have two apps that are for sale in the typical app store places. One of them is my recipes app, which I suggest if you're going to buy one of my apps, get that one first. It was pretty recently restyled. I'm really proud of it. It's beautiful. And it's just a really easy way to get all of my free recipes in a really easy to use way, and it's not very expensive at all. So I suggest getting that for sure.

And then I also have a meal plan app as well, which I'm having a reboot done on that app and it's going to be released sometime soon hopefully. And that's available as well, but you can get that. And that's really more for you to give you ideas for like what do I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And it's very specific and it has meal plans.

As you probably know, I had my very first official cookbook come out in 2017 called Cook Lively, which I'm so proud of. And I did an episode, I believe it's episode 54, where I talk about the whole process of writing a cookbook. So if you're interested in writing and recipe development, that might be of interest to you as well. But that's totally available in all normal bookstores. Usually, your Indigo, Barnes & Noble, and all that will have it in the store. Usually there's just one or two copies and usually you'll have to ask or dig around in the healthy eating vegan recipe section, but usually it's there. In Canada, in the US, in the UK, and Australia, etc. Of course, you can order that online anywhere.

What else? I also have, I think I mentioned it before, The Rawtarian’s Kitchen, which is the best. Those are where all my best resources are. So I have a ton more recipes. I have ebooks in there. I have 70 video tutorials. There's a community. I host monthly raw vegan challenges in there and all kinds of things. so you can get that at therawtarian.com/gettrk.

And I guess that's about it. All of my recipes on my website have all the nutritional content which is unique, and you can change the serving size. So if you want to make a recipe but you want to make it smaller or bigger, you can do that. We have just lots of great tech—I can’t say that word today—technological features which is really fun for me and to develop because I think everything I do with all of this is so fun and creative and I know it's really helpful to so many of you.

So thank you for being here with me, and I think I'll end it there. So enjoy your raw food adventure.

You have been listening to The Raw Food Podcast with your host Laura-Jane, The Rawtarian. Visit me at therawtarian.com to browse over 100 of my absolute favorite, simple, satisfying raw vegan recipes for free. While you're there, be sure to sign up for a free account so you can favorite recipes and access other special features. Also consider joining the paid section called The Rawtarian’s Kitchen where you can watch over 70 video tutorials with me, download all of my ebooks, take online courses and cleanses, get printable PDFs, and much more. Visit the rawtarian.com/gettrk for details on what's included.

Thank you so much for joining me here today on The Raw Food Podcast, and I hope to hear from you soon. So until next time, enjoy your raw adventure.

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