Saturday, September 11, 2010

Introducing Raw Foods to Non-Raw Folk

One thing a lot of people tend to totally overlook is the fact that your taste buds really change with your diet. If you are used to eating processed foods with MSG in them, even if only on a semi-regular basis, odds are you need (and prefer) foods that are super salty, super sweet, or really super anything. Because your taste buds have kind of gone into overkill mode, you need to compensate by upping the intensity of the flavour in most of your foods. Your brain and taste buds have become used to a certain artificial chemical load in your food, designed to trick your tongue to think that what you are eating is tasty. I think that goes a long way to explain why most people think meals made with simple whole foods (even more so when raw) are bland, because to most people, they probably don't taste like much.

I've noticed that the more raw I become, the less I need to reach for the salt, the sweetener, the spices, the Bragg's, or whatever product I used to need to get that extra flavour boost. A few of the raw dishes I tried when I first went raw didn't really taste like much to me, but now that my palate has recovered from months of eating sodium-packed veggie meats and the like, I have adopted an absolute preference for the pure and simple. On top of that, many of those once bland raw recipes taste great to me now! I can get my satisfying dose of sugar from a mango or ripe pineapple, and even the acidity of an apple can become overpowering if I'm not in the mood. Using the tiniest bit of oil makes my skin feel greasy, while a lot of salt supplements are just too much for me now.

Having said that, when one is trying to introduce people on a SAD diet to raw food, I think it's important to calibrate their current tastes to your raw food dishes (within reason obviously). In other words, if they are used to eating processed foods, trying to convert them over to a raw diet by feeding them wheatgrass and sprouts on their first try is unfortunately probably not the best way to come at it. They'll just get turned off by your choices, and probably think they taste pretty funky too. That's why I really mulled over what I was going to bring to a family dinner tonight, knowing that half of my crowd was not exactly on par with the taste levels I have grown to love.

I promised earlier this week that I'd bring a salad and a veggie dish to dinner tonight, so not wanting to go too far out of the standard person's diet box, I opted for the simple and the tasty. I chose a peach, mixed green, heirloom tomato, and raw pecan salad, and my new and improved raw marinated shish kabobs, whose recipe I'm still keeping a secret.

The salad was a definite. Everyone whether raw or not can appreciate a good salad, and the fruit and mix green option is almost always a winner. I picked the shish kabobs because they are purely veggie and mushroom based, and I wanted to avoid the whole nuts/sweetener/super salt-type dishes that I'm trying to move away from. I want to show that fruits and veggies are delicious in their own right, and that they should be the poster children of the raw food lifestyle rather than super complex and high-fat gourmet dishes. Having sad that, I also opted for the skewers because they are marinated and dehydrated, creating a wonderfully sweet, salty, and tangy flavour that will remind your audience more of tasty grilled veggies than a boring bunch of raw veggies that only "healthy people" eat. They had texture and incredible flavour, and at the end of the day you can say "see how good these are? don't they taste grilled? but they're raw!" Considering that everybody finished what was on their plates, I think it was a success!

So when trying to figure out what type of main dishes to serve to your non-raw family, stick with simpler things that you know can be an easy success. Also, know your audience. If your audience are healthy organic whole food omnivores, maybe you can go out on a limb and try something funkier. If they are more of the SAD category, you may have to coax them with something fancier like raw cheesecake or a raw pizza, just so they know it's not all kale and bananas. I'm tempted to say that you can initially stick with raw foods that trick their brains into thinking they have been "cooked" in some way, but only until they see that raw foods can be just as satisfying but way more healthy then whatever they are choosing to eat.

If the goal is health, don't let your ego take over your food, if you think a tiny bit more sweetener might make those SAD eaters come around, just add it. If you think a hint of non-raw spices might make your raw dish more interesting, sprinkle it in and I'll guarantee you'll survive. What's an extra dash of sea salt, a spoonful more of agave then you're usually comfortable with if you know it can convince others to change their lives? However people choose to get turned on to raw foods, help them make that realization by knowing their current taste preferences. Odds are those tastes will change anyway once they've decided to go down the road to optimal health!

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