Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bangladesh and Girl Power

We had a fearless leader who took us through a dizzying maze of spices, stacked fruit, veggies in vans, and buckets of berries glittering in the sun. On the outskirts of Yerevan, Armenia we shopped with the locals at a place they call “Bangladesh” (given its distance from the center of their capital city). Though our leader spoke only a few words of Armenian, it was clear that she was much loved – having traversed the market many times before, making friends along the way. They greeted her with a kiss, would not let her pay for the fruits they put in her hand, and offered blessings for her family (at least that is what I imagined them to say). I sheepishly watched and tried to take it all in.

What better reason to eat raw food when it comes with such positive energy?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Armenia: It Takes a Village

It takes a village to make a meal.  A meal that started at 7pm and lasted until 2am.  The villagers waited and played backgammon in the front yard until it was over.  Until they could wish us well on our continued journey.  There were no flowers to deliver this time, since the meal came to us without warning. On their end, however, preparations began days before.  There was fruit to pick, honey to harvest, butter to make, vegetables to pull from the earth, fish to catch, animals to cook (which I declined as politely as possible). 

When we sat for the meal (all men on their side in keeping with tradition), there was only the common language of laughter and ongoing toasts (through an interpreter)...We toasted to our families - our parents, our children, all those who have come before us and those who have yet to be born, to our friends, to our countries, to peace, to good health...to all the things that we as people share. And we ate, and ate, and ate.  We ate things I have never heard of and never seen. It looked like a green apple, but it was not.  It looked like a cherry, but it was not. It tasted like black licorice, but looked like salad, so it was not. 

Everything on that table (with the exception of drinks) was grown in that village, prepared by its people, and delivered with open hands.  No pesticides, antibiotics, additives, or preservatives; just food in its purest form.  Raw food, raw friendship, raw kindness - with only a simple thank you offered in return.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Armenia and Seeds of Friendship

I recently learned that one does not know the meaning of the word hospitality until one sits in an Armenian home.  (I can attest to the spirit of generosity across all three of the South Caucasus countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – as I have been the grateful recipient of kindness from the people of all three nations.)

On this particular evening, I went in search of flowers to bring to my hosts.  But first, I ran across sunflower seeds.

The man on the street jumped up, reached inside the bag, and offered me a seed.  I cracked the hard, black shell between my teeth and ate the little seed inside.  I smiled, said thank you (in my attempt at the local language), and made a photo snapping motion with my hand – which he kindly obliged.

When I arrived at the dinner party, the hosts immediately welcomed me to a full table of before-meal (raw) treats.   At the center was a plate of walnuts and something else, which looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite identify.  After closer inspection, I realized that it was A SUNFLOWER!

Can you imagine being served sunshine on a plate??!!  Beautiful, natural, and unlike anything I have tried before.  I reached inside the flower, pulled out a fuzzy-shelled seed, and rolled the chewy treat between my teeth.  

The two sunflower seeds tasted quite different, though both provided a boost of vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium.  

Not to mention the boost I received from two related acts of kindness in one day…from a land far, far away.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Armenia, Juice, and Happiness

This country of 3 million people - bordered by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Turkey - knows a thing or two about fresh fruit.  Their apricots, for one, are amazing.  The texture? Something like biting into a watermelon with apricot juice running down your arm.  

Speaking of watermelon, have you ever tried Fresh Watermelon Juice?  Me either.  Until today.

I am currently reading Helen Keller's autobiography and all I could think about as I sat in the outdoor cafe drinking my juice and watching the people go by was "What would a blind and deaf child think of Fresh Watermelon Juice?" I could only come to the conclusion that she would think it was something spectacular.  Spectacular all on its own - with maybe some breeze blowing through her hair.  

She would not even have to be told that watermelon is packed with antioxidants, high in vitamin C and beta-carotene, a good source of several B vitamins, and has no cholesterol and virtually no fat. She would just need to taste and determine how it made her FEEL on the inside.  And then she would ask for more.

I love juice bars of all kinds.  And more importantly, I love the smile.  I recommend finding a juice yourself today (wherever you are) and really tasting it - on the inside.

Cheers to your health and happiness!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Part II: Georgian Snickers

I was told that they ate them during the war.  (Not the August 2008 conflict with neighboring Russia, but World War II.)  I imagine soldiers in trenches with a reminder from home. Did that help somehow, or was it "just food?"  Hanging on strings, often for sale along the side of the road, they remind me of beef jerky – only a solid, chewy, vegan alternative.  

Made out of walnuts dipped in boiled grape skins, their Georgian name is Churchkhela, but even the Georgians call them “Georgian Snickers.”

Like dates, I was reluctant to try one.  

And also like dates, I found them to be surprisingly tasty.  

That gave me the idea to make my own version.  So, my first “raw recipe” is as follows:

Two medjool dates (pitted)

Handful of walnuts

Press the walnuts into the dates where the pit was and wrap the dates around.

Eat like Snickers.  (A much better alternative to a vending-machine-run in the afternoon).

Easy, nutritious, and brings back pleasant memories – not of war, but peace – and trying new things and adapting them to one’s own circumstances in a way that builds upon traditions and the goodness that others have to offer.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Part I: First Date Jitters

"Just try it."

"It won't be so bad."

"You might even like it."

I still wasn't convinced. 

But I tried.  (The vendor at the Markthalle held the date out as a token of friendship.  It was from her that I learned that food-shopping is different somehow when it starts with a handshake and a smile.)

Surprisingly good, surprisingly versatile, and surprisingly healthy.  Rich in fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium, etc.  A snack on the go...No cooking required.

When I told my colleagues the next day, "I never had a date before I came to Germany," they looked at me rather strangely.  I explained.  Then we all started laughing.

Packing now.  Part II soon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Refrigerator Magnet Philosophy

The Lessons are wise.  Sometimes from unknowns; Sometimes not; Sometimes self-created.  All reminders. 

What starts on the inside, shows up on the outside.

If the inside of the fridge is full of fresh, raw, healthy fruits and vegetables, shouldn’t the outside be just as inspiring?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Defining Raw

raw (ro) adj. raw*er, raw*est: uncooked, unprocessed, unrefined, uncultivated.

food (food) n.  in the raw: food in its natural state (see also above).

living (liv/ing) adj.: full of life, interest, or vitality.

raw lifestyle: powerfully impressive.

Travel Raw:  Seeking raw beauty; raw talent; raw inspirationraw food at home and away.

(thanks to dictionary.com)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chocolate for Men

My rationale for starting this blog has a lot to do with chocolate. You see, I consumed primarily chocolate, cheese pizza, and Diet Coke for the better part of one year as I traveled non-stop for my job. Imagine my surprise when I got sick, very sick, and needed to reconsider my eating habits and non-existent exercise routine. In a search for better health, I found the world of Raw Food - something I didn't previously know existed. But then again, I don't think I ate a fruit or vegetable during my entire 20's.

So, this blog is intended to capture what I have learned, what I continue to learn, and how I incorporate these lessons into my life on the road. I am far from 100 percent raw, but have transitioned to a vegetarian diet comprised largely of whole foods...and am feeling better all the time. I hope my posts will encourage other "junkfood junkies" to make better food and health choices, as well as introduce readers to parts of the world (and their views on food) that they may not have been familiar with otherwise.

You will be glad to know that I have cut back on chocolate - once I learned that it is for men!

P.S. Chocolate for purchase in Kazakhstan.