Adventures in Raw ‘Cooking’

Over the last two days, my classmates and I learned about preparing food at Organic Lives, an organic restaurant here in Vancouver.

We gorged on superfoods like avocado and coconut, observed the subtle power of spices, discovered new ingredients and got a little messy.

I don’t know a lot about creating raw food, and I was expecting a crash course in the best ways to slice and dice. And yes, the course was interactive and hands-on. But there was a lot more to it than that.

Here are my key takeaways from the experience:

Trust your palate. I’m a good girl. I like to play by the rules and generally follow recipes verbatim (this blog is called The Copycat Cook for a reason). Sometimes, though, you’ve just got to cook intuitively, play with ingredients and adjust flavours as you go.

Preparing food involves trial and error. We spent a lot of time adding a pinch of this, a handful of that. We devoted most of our efforts to seasoning the food – sampling and testing as we went, and deciding as a group what worked and what didn’t.

Raw food is surprisingly simple. I’m intimidated by raw food, as it seems so complicated. And while there’s definitely gourmet raw food out there, what we prepared was very easy. We started off with simple bases, and built flavours up from there. It was incredible to discover how the smallest changes in ingredients yielded drastic end results. For example, last night we made two curries – one Indian, one Thai – that had most of the same spices, but the few that were different produced two entirely divergent, nuanced dishes.

You can call it what you want, but it’s just food. We can get caught up in labels – vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, macrobiotic, raw, Paleo. Why can’t we simply call a spade a spade? It’s food. When I was stuffing my face with mango coconut pudding, I wasn’t thinking, ‘Gee, this is a lovely raw/vegan/organic/sustainable dessert’. I was just thinking, ‘(Bleep) this tastes great’.

Quality spices matter. I learned awhile ago that it takes more than salt to flavour food. But I couldn’t believe the extent to which high quality, potent spices affected our creations. They truly made a world of difference. I don’t usually pay much attention to where my spices come from, but now I know the power great spices can have. I can’t afford to replace all my spices right now, but at least that’s something I can work towards when I’m no longer a student.

High-powered blenders rock. I used a Vitamix for the first time and it was pretty awesome. I get the fuss now. Again, I can’t afford a $600 blender right now, but I will be able to someday.

I didn’t bring my camera to the first class, but here is what was on the menu today.

Smoothie with fresh almond milk, bananas, raw cacao, mesquite, maca, lucuma and tocotrienols. To die for.

Raw energy balls. There were a few inappropriate comments made while preparing these.

Ok, I was the one who made them.

Sun-dried Tomato and Basil ‘Cream Cheese’

Dill ‘Cream Cheese’, using the exact same base as the tomato/basil combo.

See? Different flavours, totally different dishes.

Raw Sushi. Wait – lots of sushi is raw. Ok, rice-less sushi.

We also made two nut and vegetable patties – one with Indian flavours, the other with Middle Eastern spices. Unfortunately, those pictures didn’t turn out so great. This is the Middle Eastern mixture.

2 Responses to Adventures in Raw ‘Cooking’

  1. czechvegan May 6, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    So many lovely looking meals! I also would like to be able to afford a Vitamix, well it is out of my reach now, but I´ll put my hands on it one day:) I agree with you on the “labelling” thing, let´s just call things yummy/tasty/awesome, why bother with all the vegan/paleo/etc. stuff!

  2. Amber Shea @Almost Vegan May 7, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    Wow, look at all those masterpieces! It sounds like an amazing class, with great ‘takeaways’. :)