Monday, January 05, 2015

Cookbooks: Choosing Raw by Gena Hamshaw

In the last month or so I’ve been in no fewer than four restaurants where mashed avocado on toast was featured on the menu. Generally completely as is, but with maybe some red pepper or lime sprinkled over top. Minimalist. Pure. Perfect. And around eight bucks a pop.

Now, understand: I’m not complaining. And I did, in fact, partake of the offered avo goodness on a couple of occasions. (And more than a couple at home.) But it was not until reading Choosing Raw: Making Raw Foods Part of the Way You Eat (Da Capo/Life Long) by Gena Hamshaw that I thought of this as raw food. Which, of course, it is. Hamshaw elevates it with style rather than a lot of messing around. “I find avocado to be a better toast topping than butter or cream cheese ever was, and it’s so much richer in antioxidants and healthy, unsaturated fats.”

Though even for raw “cooking” the recipe for Simple Avocado Toast is… well… simple, effortless health is the key to Choosing Raw. “Plant-based eating can feel like a seismic shift at first,” writes Hamshaw, “but the truth is that planning a healthy vegan diet isn’t so different from planning any kind of healthy diet.”

This down-to-earth approach to the entire question sets Choosing Raw apart.  From her explanations about her personal journey -- beginning with veganism for health reasons and coming later to the ethical aspects. And then, as a nutritionist, coming back to the heart of the matter:
In the absence of enzyme theory, it makes sense to ask why anyone would bother eating raw food. My answer is that the benefits of raw food go far beyond the enzymes! Raw foods are hydrating, rich in fiber, and full of antioxidants. They’re innovative, colorful, crisp and fresh.
Because this is a new field for many, Hamshaw includes a FAQ section as well as one on myths and misconceptions. There is also a section on setting up the vegan kitchen. And those just getting started on a raw or vegan lifestyle will find the author’s 21 day meal plan especially helpful as it can act as  a roadmap to what can at first seem like a very new and different way of life.

The Bulk of Choosing Raw, however, is given up to what we stood in line for: the food. Hamshaw starts us off with basics: hand made almond milk. A basic green smoothie. Cashew cheese. And then recipes from every part of each day and meal. A few favorites: the Raw Pad Thai is based on kelp noodles, cabbage and a lot of traditional flavors. And Hamshaw’s Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto with Pomegranate Seeds is more than a nod at traditional risotto. And for those vegans who are missing their dairy, the Cashew Banana Yogurt is a satisfying and healthful alternative. At lunchtime, the Dilly Raw Vegan Sunflower “Tuna Salad” provides a great sandwich filler and the Raw Lasagna kind of really isn’t, but it IS delicious.

There are 125 recipes in Choosing Raw and it’s a terrific book. Even those not interested in pursuing a raw foods lifestyle will find their knowledge and recipe file enhanced. ◊



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