Text and photos by Catriona Mitchell
On the weekend, Hubud’s Living Food Lab was offering up a raw food class with the title ‘Mexican Flavour Fiesta Menu’. Despite the threat of being served up a plate of raw beans, I was intrigued.
It’s one thing to get inventive with salads, but quite another to have the skills to replicate familiar recipes in cunning disguise – in ways that are not only tasty but will have you bursting with health. So with the yelp of freedom that only zooming through the rice paddies on a sunny Sunday will bring, a couple of out-of-town friends and I went off on our scooters to Green School, to see what the class might have to offer.
Led by Living Food Lab’s co-founder Avara Yaron, a raw food chef who operated a living food catering company in Oregon before moving to Bali, the class kicked off with a brief chat about the value of raw foods. “It’s not that the body can’t process other, more traditional foods,” said Avara, who was fresh back from a trip to Europe that had, she admitted, encompassed a pastry tour of Paris and the sampling of several types of pasta in Italy. “But raw food brings a heightened sense of aliveness.” She was relieved to get back to raw; only two weeks since her return, her body was assuming its optimal weight again. Finding the ideal body weight is one of the many advantages of going raw, she told us – not because there isn’t fat in the diet, but because it’s very hard to overeat the raw food way.
Living Food Lab’s ingredients are “as organic as we can get it – which is an extremely high percentage,” Avara said. “Clean fuel going in leads to a clean digestive system and a strong immune system. The result is a lightness of body, and a lightness of being… But most people have never tried raw food, even for a day.” This wasn’t true of the group at the class – every participant in the group had rubbed up against the raw food movement at some point, despite the fact that each one of us was from a different country, from Sweden to Portugal to Lithuania to the Philippines. One participant, a young woman from Macau, agreed: “I feel lighter, more alert when I eat raw food,” she said. “I don’t need to sleep as much.”
Mexican cuisine was on today’s menu, but Avara also teaches other specialty raw food menus, including Italian cuisine, Italian/Asian fusion, and a chocolate workshop. “There’s so much creativity that can be employed in creating raw food, that there’s no sacrifice,” she said. “This isn’t about deprivation at all.”
And so the ‘cooking’ demonstrations began. First up, we made a ‘cinnamon papaya digestive green smoothie’ with papaya, parsley, lime juice and a drop of cinnamon oil – better for the body than green juice because the fibre is included. Starting the day with a green smoothie not only improves digestion and facilitates removal of toxins, it boosts energy levels, alkalises the body and eliminates food cravings, especially sugar, Avara told us.
Then it was time to move into the more sophisticated recipes inspired by Mexican flavours, with hands-on input from all participants. We used nut and seed ingredients that had been pre-soaked, in order to activate their enzymes, and turned them into a all-new concoctions such as a vegan sour cream (made largely from activated cashews and lime juice). We made a Mexican mole (a type of spicy sauce that’s the equivalent to Indonesian sambal, but using sesame seeds, sundried tomatoes, cacao, chilli, garlic, coriander, cumin and other goodies); we made vegetarian taco meat using shredded beetroot, cayenne and miso; raw Mexican “white rice”, the base ingredient being ‘jicama’, an indigenous Mexican root vegetable pulsed in the blender to form the texture of rice grains, then mixed with ginger and coriander; a gorgeous citrus, avocado and ginger dressing – “fully beneficial, like a green smoothie” – that can keep for days in the fridge; and a key lime tart with a rough-textured cashew and date crust.
It quickly became apparent that a blender is the number one essential for raw food: without it you’re saddled with the more predictable approaches to raw food – that is, ordinary salads; with one, however, there’s no end to the inventiveness.
All parts of the meal were delicious, packed with flavor, and surprisingly filling. I went back for seconds and then thirds, and regretted my purple-cabbage-leaf-taco indulgence when it came time for the pie.
The eight-hectare permaculture grounds of the Green School were a perfect backdrop for the class. In every way we were reminded about the importance of sustainability, and seeing it in action. A trip to the bathroom meant entering a thatched bamboo hut with a surprising two toilets inside the cubicle, marked somewhat comically with signs above them: “only pee please” and “only poo please.” (Apologies to any squeamish readers.) The school relies almost entirely on solar power, and is working on producing energy from a hydropower vortex in the Ayung River, which borders the property. A wander around the grounds – free from the frenetic energy of its 400 students, it being Sunday – was the perfect way to work off the meal.
And I have to say, when I woke up yesterday morning, my body felt a good deal lighter… the difference, after only one day, was remarkable.
Avara Yaron, one of two founders of the Living Food Lab (along with Hubud’s Steve Munroe) discovered raw food cuisine in Oregon, USA and felt such a lightness of body and a lightness of being as a result, that she immediately committed to it 100%.
Not quite so stringent now but still as passionate as ever about the raw food movement, Avara teaches half-day food preparation workshops on Saturdays and Sundays from Green School and the Ubud branch at the back of Hubud.
Food preparation classes come with an e-book of the day’s recipes. See www.livingfoodlab.com for more information.