Friday, June 22, 2001
by John Foyston
To those of us who view the world as a series of marquees for various ’50’s science fiction movies, the 2001 Festival of Raw & Living Foods might translate as “World Without Corndogs.”
Or, more to the point: “World Without Broasted Chicken.” Or french fries, garlic mashed potatoes, pommes lyonnaise, beef Wellington, double bacon cheese burgers, Pop-tarts, General Tso’s chicken, barbecued ribs, roasted corn, buttermilk biscuits, country gravy, petits pois au beurre, oysters Rockefeller, Cobb salad, Philly cheese steaks, Denver omelets, Buffalo wings or apple pandowdy.
Of them all, I would perhaps most miss apple pandowdy, just for the saying of it.
But after visiting the first day of the festival – which continues through Sunday – I confess I wouldn’t mind being as slender and as energetic as many of the attendees, some of whom were perkier than two or three gal Christian singers at once. And most of them had that crinkly-eyed sort of smile that seeps to the surface from all the way inside, unlike the applique smile that everybody unfurled when you walked in late to the marketing meeting this morning.
No, to gaze at the dozens of speakers’ photographs in the 50-page program is to be dazzled by crinkly-eyed, ivory-lined smiles or skewered by intent gazes reflecting the inner glow of cosseted chakras and attentively acknowledged auras. Not quite like the bad ol’ days of Lifespring and est, when people would come back from one of those weekend seminars with an unhinged stare that could strip paint at 50 meters, but intense nonetheless.
But smiles such as Richard “Cane Man” Chisolm’s are as authentic as any you’ll see, perhaps because for the entire week while you were readying for that presentation on whatever bit of synergistic intermodel corporate cross-linking subsumed your attention, he was making blender drinks for his friends and getting paid for it.
“It’s like being rewarded by the universe for being of service,” he said with one of those incandescent grins that are as common as Birkenstocks and the tootle of hand-crafted Native American flutes hereabouts. His booth was lined with a hundred tape-bound bundles of 8-foot-tall stalks of sugar cane. He’d grab a stalk of his stock, trim the ends, split the remaining 3-foot chunk lengthwise and soak the halves in a tub of water to rehydrate after their journey up from San Diego in a U-Haul trailer.
He fed the rehydrated stalks into a chunky stainless steel macerator he bought from Brazil. Tough enough to draw juice from bamboo, it whined as the stout stalks grudgingly gave up their juice, which is light olive green and opaque. Mixed in a blender with bit of lime juice and ice, it was also one of the best things I’ve ever tasted – expect mere sugar water and you’d be as wrong as I, because fresh sugar cane juice is sublime. Good for you, too, said Cane Man, with amounts of sodium, calcium and chromium.
But it wasn’t all beer and skittles – or any of it beer and skittles, come to that. Sooner or later the sheer enormity of the term “raw” sank in. As in no cooking. No sauteing. No boiling, blanching, braising or baking, either. And no brewing – even coffee.
Fermenting and sprouting are OK, and partly why these are referred to as living foods. But the fermented almond/mango kefir I tried was perhaps a step too far into Raw World for this explorer, even though it was made by the sweetest Eugene couple imaginable. But the fact remains that kefir seemed to be very like buttermilk, with none of it’s good qualities – and I don’t think buttermilk has any good qualities except as an ingredient in big fluffy biscuits. However, the same folks made a very good Omega Plus cracker out of a rich, dark nut-paste that was then dehydrated.
Across the way, the sisters of the Kwatamani Community of Atlanta were serving $10 lunches from a whole line of dishes while their kids played happily behind the counter. The menu included Sea-Preme (dark green with seaweed), curried mushrooms that smelled and looked great, marinated spinach, seed stuffing, divine greens and a fruit soup.
Victoria Boutenko was selling cookies, sauerkraut, nut milk and watermelon juice. She’s a nationally known raw food author and instructor who lives in Ashland. She’s written “Raw Family,” a book about her family’s conversion (she’s lost over 100 pounds judging from the “before” picture) and has dozens of recipes for things such as cakes, un-pizzas, borscht, butternut squash cookies and un-chowders.
With her kids bustling in the kitchen behind her, Boutenko in her “Got Nut Milk?” T-shirt was a convincing spokeswoman, breaking off to greet and hug friends or admonish people not to worry if they didn’t have enough money, that she didn’t want them to be hungry. “I thought going raw would affect just my health,” she said, “but it’s changed my whole outlook on life and made me much more positive.”
Which is just the attitude needed to tie into a couple of sliced, dried carob pods on offer at another tent. They were chewy, fibrous and full of seeds like pebbles or small ball bearings and a reaffirmation of an important and basic rule of the universe, which is “Carob is not chocolate.” Or at least a corollary: “Raw carob is SO not chocolate, that you can scarcely imagine how not chocolate it isn’t.” But it is the answer to that question we’ve all asked – “What if, when nobody is looking, I just pick up this unidentified seed pod and gnaw on it?”
2001 Festival of Raw & Living Foods:
The festival is perhaps the largest gathering of raw foodists in the country and includes talks and presentations from dozens of nationally known practitioners and displays by all manner of specialty suppliers. It continues 8am – 10pm daily through Sunday at the Multnomah Holiness Association Campgrounds, 10801 SE Holgate St.; admission is $25 per day.