The Raw Food movement started, as so many modern health fads seem to, on the west coast of the USA in sun-baked, and some would say half-baked, California.
Perhaps surprisingly, the movement has led to a huge amount of controversy and criticism, with its detractors claiming that acolytes are mad primitivists who deprive themselves, or worse yet, their children, of the comforts and nutritional benefits that evolved 21st century culture afford us.
On its surface the movement is a retreat to a simpler more primitive way of eating. Raw foodists posit that not solong ago in evolutionary terms, say forty thousand years or so, humans ate whatever they could find, where and when they actually found it. This usually meant that we ate either carbohydrate or protein at each sitting and we often ate it raw as soon as we found or killed it.
Time wipe to today’s complex society in which food often travels vast distances before it reaches our plates and is processed, packaged and adulterated in a multitude of ways before we eat it. Our bodies now receive a chemical blast from ingested food that often bears little resemblance to the clean, raw food for which our digestive chemistry was designed and so, unsurprisingly, diseases like diabetes, obesity and associated heart failure and alimentary cancers have reached epidemic proportions.
If you need proof of this depressing ideological pudding, then the fact that these diseases are most prevalent in the most advanced cultures, provides it. Great affluence brings greater food adulteration and therefore greater instance of disease.. .and there the raw foodist’s case conveniently rests!
That hallowed institution of fine culinary pyrotechnics, Mon Tri’s Villa Royale recently brought Ani Phyo along to conduct a workshop on raw food leaving the participants to make up their own minds about the ongoing debate.
Ani Phyo is a very attractive Korean-Californian American and a perfect advertisement for the benefits of a healthy raw food diet if ever there was one. She happily revealed her age as coming up to 42 as an exclamation of appreciative surprise rang around the room. Ani is now one of the premier raw food chefs. She is the author of ‘Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen’, ‘Ani’s Raw Food Desserts’, and ‘Return on Design’ and founder of SmartMonkey Foods.
As she explains on her website, “My belief is that illness is created by toxins we put into our bodies. Eating raw foods helps me detoxify, stay healthy, strong, fit, maintain my ideal weight and look my best.
“When I eat whole fresh organic foods, manufacturers can’t sneak chemicals, preservatives, artificial colours, flavourings, or other toxins into my diet. I go straight to Mother Nature as my source for nutrient-rich foods.”
Ani showed the large group of attendees at her workshop how to whip-up simple, fresh recipes using what you’re likely to have in your kitchen while also offering tips on dehydrating and more sophisticated techniques. She also offered everything from classic comfort foods like nachos and burgers, to Reuben sandwiches and bacon, along with more gourmet dishes like risotto and angel hair pasta.
Her central message, appropriately enough for Buddhist Thailand, is the “middle way” of raw foodism so that you can have your cake and eat it too with her innovative, delicious recipes and desserts.
Ani’s Raw Food Essentials proves that you don’t have to sacrifice taste to reap the benefits of raw foods, all while living a greener lifestyle. Additionally, Ani has developed living food vegan menus for Carnival Cruise Lines, Adidas headquarters, STOMP, and Whole Foods Markets, to name a few. Adidas fitness centres depend on Ani to educate their athletes on how to ‘fuel up’ with raw nutrition for optimal performance. She also organises cooking play shops for children.
While raw foodism seems to be on the rise, it’s unlikely to become as big a culinary trend as, say, nouvelle cuisine. Vegetarians are a minority of the population, and rawists are a very small minority of that group. Comparatively few people are completely committed to it. For those who are, health is a motivating factor.
There are certain mainstream restaurants that are beginning to offer special “raw vegan” and “organic vegan” menus. The Six Senses Destination Spa at Evason, Rawai is one of them and already offers an internationally inspired Spa Cuisine in which they use many ingredients from their own ecologically grown garden. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in their al fresco Ton Sai restaurant where guests can enjoy succulent fishetarian dishes from the best the sea has to offer.
Now there’s even a new raw food cafe over in Rawai, which serves delicious local foods drawing on Phuket’s abundant fruit, vegetable and seafoods. Just as the poularity of once esoteric food such as sushi grew and became increasingly popular, perhaps raw foods can do the same. Ani Phyo certainly thinks that this could be the case and will do her utmost to make it happen.
Ani is currently working on her next book and shows for TV, DVD, and Web. To watch Ani’s videos, for free recipes, and to keep track of her latest projects, visit her at www.AniPhyo.com