Monday, 11 April 2011

Buried in Books Monday

Father Earthly and I have always had a great weakness for books and it is no less so now, though there is precious litttle space aboard for them (but we do have a plan to fix that hopefully!) In the meantime we have boxes and boxes of books in storage with a select few currently shelved on the boat with us - and to which we cannot help but continue to add more by and more.

Recently I have added a fair few on all manner of subjects, from dressmaking to parenting. But the ones to which I keep turning most at the moment are my new-found volumes on Raw Food. I think I was most drawn to the idea of Raw Food over the last few months because my body has been through the mill somewhat of late - the last 2 years I've spent being pregnant, breastfeeding, pregnant again whilst looking after a 1 year old, breastfeeding again (as above) and getting no sleep (again). It's taken its toll and my body has craved nutrients like they're going out of fashion.
Kate Wood's Raw Living has been a nice introduction to the ins and outs and possibilities of raw food - particularly where it helpfully explains that one need not be 100% raw to reap the benefits, although (she says), once started on a raw adventure, you're unlikely to want to stray far from it! I like this perspective, and I think it's important to note, for I have found in the past when trying out veganism that the whole vegan movement and community can be a bit military-minded; you're either a 'proper' vegan or you're not, and if you're not then be prepared to have animal welfare leaflets shoved down your throat. [Mini-rant: apologies]. Not so with raw food it seems, and that immediately makes it all the more appealing as a lifestyle choice.

So far so good, and I have to say that on the whole I am very taken with her recipes, and certainly the explanation of some of the typical raw foodstuffs is really helpful, though as many of the staples are so foreign to a 'normal' diet, do think that some in-depth tasting notes would have been a real bonus. After all, you're going to have to go and source these expensive items and then put them all together, so it would be useful to know if you're likely to enjoy the end result!

One thing that is both boon and curse (in my mind) is the naming of the recipes. Many of them are quite descriptively ordinary (e.g. "Hemp Seed Hummus, "Curried Parsnips" or even "Crunchy Quinoa Crackers") but many also follow the veteran vegan tradition of fake similitude - from "Parsnip Rice" (a rice substitute in the form of parsnip 'bits') and "Tricolore Pasta" (spiral-sliced vegetables covered in sauce) to "Egg Mayonnaise" (actually cauliflower and avocado with flavourings) and "Tomato Quiche" (actually nothing like a quiche but more like a vegetable flan). The boon to this naming method is of course that you have more of an idea (supposedly) what it's supposed to emulate. The curse is that I don't think it helps - it just gives you a false impression of what it should be like when in fact it should really stand on its own merit. For example, the pasta could be much more appetizingly (and realistically) named as "Tricolore vegetable spirals in a tangy sweet and sour tomato sauce". I daresay it's a personal preference, but I just loathe my food to sound like a poor copy of something with meat/dairy/cooked food in it if it blatantly doesn't.
That all aside, it's a good introduction to raw food and the kinds of possibilities on offer. Personally I think a few too many of the recipes have 'added ingredients' - seaweed in one form or another being a particular favourite. But on the whole, a good staple for our cooking shelf I think!

What appeals to most newbies to raw food is of course, raw chocolate. I've only recently experienced this phenomenon and I enjoyed it so much I'm now reluctant to eat boring old normal cooked chocolate - even the excellent stuff like Montezuma's (though I can't see myself abandoning it completely, not yet...). In a bid to save some money and have some real fun experimenting, I bought myself the newly published Jessica's Raw Chocolate Recipes. I've not yet got my chocolate tools out (one benefit of course of raw chocolate making is you don't have to worry about the faff of tempering) but I can't wait to start. Almost everything sounds utterly mouthwatering and suitable for both traditional tastes (Raw Cacao Fudge to Peppermint Creams) and the more adventurous (Raw Chocolate Cheesecake, Raw Hemp and Chocolate Spread, Guarana and Goji Nutty Loaf). It is also filled with luscious pictures of the recipes which is so rare with a vegan cookbook (as this essentially is). Only one real downside that I can see to this book is that the author uses an awful lot of nuts, particularly cashews. My bad for being allergic to (some) nuts, but it does rather make a lot of the recipes a bit inaccessible if you're unwilling to eat pounds of the things for whatever reason. And like the Kate Wood book, I would say that more tasting notes are needed for both ingredients and recipes.

My last book off the shelf today was bought because I have long wanted a really good herbal guide and the other day a copy of Neal's Yard Remedies literally jumped into my hands at a local bookshop. I couldn't leave it on the shelf; I simply had to have it there and then. Not only is it a beautifully illustrated guide to all the common herbs used in this country for minor and major ailments and everyday vitality, it also boasts a series of superb recipes (for inside and outside use!) at the back. At first glance these simply look like delicious concoctions, but on closer inspection you can see the nutritional benefits and in fact that many of them are, again, raw e.g. Courgette Spaghetti with Coriander and Pine Nut Pesto; Nasturtium and Sprouted Seed Salad; Onion Squash and Ginger Soup.This I find particularly appealing - a book that simply gives you the food as it is without shouting "Hey, I'm raw, I'm vegan, I'm REALLY GOOD for you!" because when all you want is a really tasty snack or meal, you don't need to feel nagged at the same time!

Let the raw adventure begin!


  1. Do you read JUNO magazine? Kate is our raw food columnist... if you have't discovered it yet it sounds as though it'd be right up your street.

  2. Yes, yes I do :) I love it and couldn't be without it! Submitted an article on barter for it last year too... may consider doing some more :)

  3. Ah, I thought that was you, way too coincidental your own name and your blog name... told lots of people about your lovely site and kep an eye on your stock too myself! Love my Marilyn dress, but my patchwork skirt keeps bursting at the seams! Those mama hips of mine are irrepressible!


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