The raw food industry is really cooking now.
It was a cold dish when Chantale Roy first began her quest to not only eat vegan but cut out the cooking of her food. It went beyond the problems of explaining it to the people in small Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, but she was even reported to social services for including her two young sons in that diet.
Not only did the child protection officer dismiss all allegations, a new raw food fan was also created.
Roy was living and working on a community-supported agriculture project farm in Quebec when she came to the realization she had too little time to do all the work, all the study and all the parenting that life demanded then, and she was surrounded by self-grown, energy boosting, highly nutritious food. She embarked on an all raw journey that took her to deeper studies in Florida and California before she turned it into a number of all-raw business enterprises back in Canada - cafes, ingredients retailing, deli, chocolate sales, etc.
About three years ago she approached UBC about starting a raw food cuisine program and the Vancouver university said yes. Since then she has launched the program she teaches there, released a 12-hour DVD set, and authored "Rawfreshing Cuisine" in French, English and soon in a Chinese language.
Her journey brought her to Prince George this week where she has already done workshops and book signings leading up to her main event tonight at UNBC. In Prince George it is no problem to find the ingredients to live a raw food lifestyle, she said. In fact, many do so in much smaller towns. It is a matter of locating your health food stores, scoping out the shelves of your conventional grocers, finding like-minded people who can steer your to sources, finding suppliers online and linking into buying groups near you.
"I live on the fifth floor in Vancouver, and I have tonnes of herbs, kale, tomatoes. The best ingredients come from your own gardens," she said.
She also said the culture has changed so much, and there are so many variations of raw food eaters in amongst the mainstream diet choices that there aren't any confrontations or quizzical looks anymore when you try to explain your lifestyle.
"The raw food and health food field is a huge place; there are so many different ways to live it," she said. "I have met so many vegans who are judgmental and so many carnivores who are kind and accepting. You can turn it into an ego trip. 'I eat healthier than you so I am better than you.' Hopefully, on their journey, people discover the real purpose of their diet. For me it is to be the best me I can be. That isn't a threat to anyone or put me on higher morals."
She has already encountered widespread enthusiasm in Prince George, during her four-day visit. She has more to teach, she said, like her seminar outlining the way the raw food lifestyle impacts 15 key social issues (global warming, disease, depression, burn out, etc.). She would welcome a return visit for that.
Tonight she teaches the raw truth at UNBC's student union building starting at 6:30. Tickets are $10 with registration required (call Sarah at 250-960-7474).
PG IN THE RAW
The raw eating movement got some of its first nibbles from a Prince George / Quesnel foodie. Katherine Marion - known as the Rawsome Chef and SuperNatural Woman on her websites - has been a highly publicized food personality in B.C. and plays up the point of the cuisine by frequently appearing in scanty clothing.
This is a prop, she said, to underscore the simple, natural beauty of raw food.
"If you really want to know what's going on in your mind, body and soul, then go raw. For us [she and her teenaged son], raw is not a diet, it's a lifestyle. There is a distinct and succinct spirituality," she said.
Marion, with extensive family connections in the northern Cariboo region, said there has been no explosion of curiosity in raw food as a formal cuisine, but there is an unquestionable growth in the genre during the past 10 years she has been active.
"It is much better than before," she said. "When I started, there was less interest but now there is momentum. There are festivals all over the world, cook books, people are blogging about it, there are raw restaurants."
There are degrees of raw food enthusiasts. Some include sushi and eggs, for example, while others are vegetarian. She is a step further, raw vegan, with an eye on deepening her raw resolve.
"I'd like to go much wilder - microalgae, phytoplankton, aquabotanicals and things like that. Raw vegan superfoods," she said.
Even her two dogs Yin and Yang are part of the lifestyle. Marion feeds them only raw fare, but includes carnivorous parts for them.
"People are very interested in turning dogs over to raw diets, and raw vegan diets, but I don't believe that is natural," she said.
Also unnatural, she said, are all the manipulated and over-processed foods of low nutritional value served at public institutions. She is critical of the fare served in hospitals, prisons, schools and even care homes. Part of her personal mission is to pressure public facilities to improve the quality of their food offerings.