A few nights ago my morbid propensity for dire documentaries on the state of American health led me to a movie called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. The film, about two men who lose over 90 pounds on a fruit and vegetable juice fast, sheds a lot of light on our nation’s eating habits that are completely skewed on the wrong side of the scale. According to new health findings based on ancient inherent knowledge (I know the irony of this constantly rubs my ire) our food pyramid should be stocked at the bottom with vegetables, followed by fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes and then narrowly filled at the top with protein, dairy and fat. What this means is that we are eating far less vegetables in our lives and it shows in the multi-billion dollar healthcare system that we cannot seem to shake our dependence upon.
I know it’s harder for people to get their vegetables today then it is to get a hunk of meat. Our grocery stores are filled with GMO versions of tomatoes and pears that no longer taste good and we’ve long since lost the natural aptitude for growing our own food in our backyard. What is convenient to buy and eat is not really what’s the best for us. This is why I love discovering local farmers markets where fresh produce is plentiful and remain an avid fan of the raw food restaurant. What’s unfortunate about these places though, is that enough people haven’t jumped onto the bandwagon of appreciating the fact that lack of convenience and organic sustainable products and supporting the small, health-oriented business are things that we should strive for and instead, opt for their two minute dive into the market for a can of parboiled instant easy thus driving the costs to eat naturally up so high that most can’t consistently afford it.
Before walking home from an appointment in Santa Monica yesterday, I stopped to eat at M.A.K.E. – a restaurant owned by raw food guru Matthew Kenney. This is a man whose culinary school I have considered enrolling in based on the descriptions of food and the concepts of creation he believes in. There is a lot of arguing in the food community about raw food. Aficionados swear it’s the healthiest way to eat because the living enzymes are still in the food when it gets to your gut. Traditional Chinese herbalists argue that the food is too rough to digest and puts a lot of pressure on your system in flushing it through. I think, like anything, it should be a part of a balanced diet rather than a whole 24 hours worth of eating although I do admit, oddly enough, that there is nothing in this world that tastes better to me than raw food. I can’t explain it other than to say when I eat raw, I feel like a crystal blue virgin geyser in a remote and untouched part of the world has decided to flow like a wildfire through my entire system leaving me intoxicated and full of energy. It IS my favorite food in the world. It also explains why I love the simplicity of Japanese food over all other cuisines.
I resisted going to Matthew Kenney’s Santa Monica outpost for a while as it resides in a trendy mall food court. I resisted it like I resisted Café Gratitude, the raw food franchise, when it came to town based on my fear that like Gratitude, it would be full of over sauced, over seasoned, overly sweet eats. I much prefer my small, locally owned Euphoria Loves Rawvolution where you feel like every meal is thought out considerably before it reaches your plate. But I was completely bowled over by how creative, out of the ordinary and utterly delicious the food was.
For $25 you can order a prix fixe lunch with choice of a starter and a main. Yes, pricey, but entirely worth it once in a while. Although it was almost impossible to choose from selections that included tree nut cheese plates, summer squash with saffron yogurt, kimchi dumplings, and mushroom pate, I ordered the sous vide Portobello salad. Succulent strips of pickled and meaty Portobello came atop a luscious red wine-dressed salad adorned with half an avocado, cherry tomatoes, coconut bacon, and sprout greens. Small oil cured black olives added pungent little sparks between bites of the lettuce.
My entrée was a bowl of black pepper kelp noodles and in my glee I forgot to take a photo. Which is unfortunate, because I wanted to make a point about my large bowl of kelp noodles dressed with silky cashew cream and how the whole of it was only about two hundred calories compared to its fresh pasta sibling that would have clocked in at nearly 500. What’s so beautiful about kelp noodles is that they are vitamins from the sea but what was perfect about this particular dish was that it was an identical stand in to a traditional Cacio e Pepe. I swear, I could have been eating the pasta, butter and pepper dish without all the fat and calories – I couldn’t tell the difference. Chanterelle, snap peas, olive crumbs and pea vines brightened it.
I washed everything down with a glass of sweet green juice made from green apple, kale, cucumber, celery, lemon and lime hankering for my own home juicer. I’ve also made a commitment to myself that when I am done with my herbalist school, it’s an absolute must that I go to Kenney’s culinary school and learn the art of raw food. Why spend all the money eating it out when I could so easily learn to cook it at home and for others?