I named this blog, not so much after our kitchen per se, as for the beautiful, delicious, sun-filled creations that come out of it. In his book "Sunfood Cuisine", Frederic Patenaude refers to natural, raw and unprocessed foods as "sunfoods". To me, it perfectly captures the essence of raw: food which still retains its life force by remaining uncooked, and, therefore full of the Sun's energy, without which Life couldn't be sustained on earth.
I’d like for The Sunny Raw Kitchen to be an inspiring and cozy place to share and learn about raw foods. My intention is to approach the raw food diet, as everything else in my life, for that matter, with my heart, rather than my head. I eat raw because it makes me feel great, and I just LOVE its vibrant intensity. I have now come to the point where I find cooked foods bland and unappealing.
I intend mostly to share with you my favorite recipes and tips, along with some energetic facts around raw and, perhaps, a little musing too. But then again, who knows what it will develop into along the way…
You’ll notice that I won’t be getting much into the more technical aspects of how the raw vegan diet is good for you and why. I figure there’s plenty of info available on the Net already and, quite frankly, it’s a little too “heady” for me.
A few words about me…
My name is Carmella Soleil (which, in case you don’t already know, means 'sun' in French! lol). I live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada with Don, Kylo, DaPuss and the other residents of Ashinah.
Don’s sister (and good friend) Sandy, was telling me just yesterday how she feels 2007 will be a big year for her and her family. I'm starting to think along the same lines, as both Don and I are launching our blogs this year. We’re still very much newbies when it comes to the whole Internet phenomenon. Not so long ago, we didn’t even have a phone! Isolated as we are from the busy-ness of society, I find the prospects of sharing our different passions with the internet community exciting (and a little intimidating too!)
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved food. My mother told me the story of how I used to walk into the neighbors' house and help myself to my favorite cookies in their cupboards! lol But my relationship with food has been "tough love" at best! Ironically, I have a very delicate digestive system. In fact, I was conceived while my dad was dying of stomach cancer! Coincidence you think? Nah, not in my book… On top of my difficulties digesting certain foods, particularly meat, I also had food allergies; a fact I only came to realize at the end of my 20s! There was a time when I was afraid of eating altogether because of the almost inevitable stomach pains that were sure to come along.
Eventually, in 1995, inspired by my sister's own dabbling into the vegetarian diet, and no longer being able to "stomach" the way eating meat, poultry and fish used to make me feel, both physically and psychologically, I became a vegetarian. If my new diet did help in some ways, I was still far from thriving. I had a few extra pounds, and was plagued by a number of health issues.
The Leap into the Unknown
However, I came to realize that my still mostly unhealthy diet was only the tip of the iceberg. Deep down, I was unhappy and unfulfilled; my life was going in circles and I knew it. I was 29 and in my Saturn Return - a period of internal upheaval, during which one reconsiders what has been working so far and, most importantly, what hasn't. And so, I decided to walk away from what made up my world at the time, in order to jump into the Unknown. In the summer of 2000, I left Quebec, in the hopes of getting a fresh start on the other side of Canada. I didn’t have a clue where I’d live or what I’d do in BC. All I knew for certain was that I was long overdue for a radical change. Within a very short time though, three major things happened to take care of that:
- Landing on Don’s doorstep. Quite literally! I’d been in BC for a grand total of 3 days when I came upon an ad for a room to rent in Victoria. As I was due to leave the island the next day, I made arrangements to visit the house on the way to the ferry. After taking the tour, Don told me: “I think you’ll be happy here!” Boy, was he ever right! As it turned out, he was going to be instrumental in my new journey of self-discovery.
- The 14 day Master Cleanser. My body was in dire need of a fast after all the abuse I’d put it through over the years. It helped me see, with greater clarity, what bad shape my body was in and how I needed to start taking better care of it. Amongst other things, it prompted me to start doing 'The Five Tibetans'; a surprisingly simple, yet powerful and energizing set of exercises, which I still do daily.
- Vipassana Meditation. My mind needed a fast even more badly than my body did! 'Vipassana' means 'to see reality as it is'. Even though this technique was re-discovered by Buddha, it is nevertheless non-sectarian, which explains its tremendous appeal to people all over the world, regardless of religious background. On the Vipassana website, it is described as “a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.” What I experienced and learned during those 10 days of silent meditation shook me to the core. In fact, I still use the Vipassana technique everyday, as I find it incredibly simple and effective.
I was on a roll! And so I embarked on a journey so profound that it was to completely change my vision of the world.
What About Raw?
Embracing a mostly raw vegan diet came along as part of this inner transformation I was undergoing. Don, for his part, had been experimenting with diet ever since he became a vegetarian in 1980. He even ate nothing but fruits and nuts for 7 months, which he still considers to be the time when he felt the greatest in his entire life! In 2001, both of us gradually started including more and more raw foods into our diets, while paying close attention to the issue of control. It is our experience that control is actually using force (willpower) against 'what is', and as such it is manipulating the natural energetics of things. This process is bound to give temporary results at best, and in the long run, becomes of its inherent repression, bring its unwelcome opposites: excess and obsession. We think this is one of the main reasons any form of imposed dieting can only work in the short term. Sooner or later, as we say in French, "Nature comes galloping back!"
If we refused to get caught in ideals of how we should eat, then how did we manage to change our diet? This will be difficult to explain, as it isn’t a linear thing. One way to describe it would be to say that it began with our unbending intent to lead more fulfilling, healthier lives. The improvement in our diets - which has been slow and gradual over the years - has only been a side effect of our process of personal growth. That’s not to say that our diets have been 'perfect' (if there's such a thing!) or that we haven't made 'mistakes'; but the OVERALL trend has been ever improving. Our main approach consists of honoring where we're at, and this connects to the quantum physics understanding that objectively observing 'what is' (or facing facts), will transform. We trust that we are doing what we have the energy to do at any given time. It really helps us avoid the traps of blame or guilt, which are even more debilitating.
When you don’t recognize who’s staring back at you in the mirror!
I’m fascinated by 'Before and After Raw' pictures. Just visit Shazzie’s website and you’ll know what I mean! Don reminds me, though, that everything is a reflection, and therefore it’s my own incredible transformation that I see represented in them.
Hang on a minute, let’s see if I can dig out some old pics somewhere…
This was taken in 1999, when I still lived in Quebec. I know that passport head shots are hardly ever flattering, but you get the picture anyway…
A good way to describe the person I was in those days would be to say that I was almost completely out of touch with my body, and therefore my feelings. A close and very intuitive friend of mine at the time, having picked up a slight change in my mood, once asked me how I felt. And you know what? I was unable to answer that! I had no idea how I truly felt inside. It later became apparent that the only way I managed to cope with living in a stressful, toxic environment was to cut myself off from feeling the physical and mental discomforts that were plaguing me.
By 1999 I was in the worst shape I'd ever been in my life. I was extremely unhappy, irritable and without a sense of purpose. I also suffered from depression, vicious mood swings, insomnia, migraine headaches, low energy, and my digestive problems hadn't let up. (Pfhew!) The last winter I spent in Quebec, I only got the flu 5 times! I'd barely recover from one that I was hit with another virus. Enough already! When a naturopath friend of mine offered me to do a reading of my condition with some new and complex computer device, I thought: "What the heck! What do I have to lose!" Even though I was relieved, at some level, to find out what was going on inside my body, the news was far from comforting. It was determined that all of my organs and meridians were totally out of balance (surprise, surprise!), except for my heart (thankfully!) According to the reading, I was also suffering from candida as well as several allergies, namely to foods such as corn, wheat and dairy. And, to top it all off, my immune system was completely shot to pieces. It's amazing I was still standing!
My friend basically told me that I might as well be throwing all the good organic foods I was buying straight down the toilet, as my system was too weak to even absorb the nutrients. As you can imagine, I walked out of there feeling pretty shaken up, not having a clue as to what to do with this newly found knowledge. Where do you even begin, when everything seems to be so wrong? As it turned out, I had to wait a few more months before I began to find the answers.
This is “me” 20 lbs lighter and 5 ½ years later, on a mostly raw food diet:
When I visited my family last summer, for the first time in nearly 6 years, they could hardly recognize me! It’s difficult for me not to think of who I used to be 'back then' as a different person altogether. As incredible as it may seem, most of the physical problems I used to experience have disappeared. At this point, I'm still allergic to certain foods, and occasionally get an upset stomach. I also experience carpal tunnel syndrome, which is probably genetic related. I've learned how to stay in touch with my body better, and how I'm feeling at any given moment. The constant lethargy that used to overcome me has been mostly replaced by a vitality I never knew was possible. Along with everything else, I walk and do the Tibetan Rites every day, as well as medicinal Qi-Gong a few times a week.
But let’s get back to why we're here!
To put it very simply, I love writing and I love LOVE creating raw food delights, but most of all, there's nothing I enjoy as much as sharing!
So don't just stand there by the door! Why don't you have a seat and make yourself at home in The Sunny Raw Kitchen!