RAWvolution & THE RAWVOLUTION CONTINUES
My copy of RAWvolution, a ‘no cook’ recipe book is quite worn and a little worse for wear unlike the countless other recipe books in my kitchen. My husband is the chef. I don’t cook. I do however like to spend time in the kitchen ‘not cooking.’ And by that I mean spending time preparing raw meals.
In RAWvolution Matt, writes;
Animals will begin to interact with you in a different way as they are no longer afraid that you may eat them. Your outlook on the day – not to mention the state of the world and society – will shift.
When you choose a diet that is compassionate toward animals and nature, nature responds by being kind and compassionate in return. This is not just a lovely sentiment of New Age hocus-pocus; it is an irrefutable law of cause and effect.
Matt Amsden is the author of this wonderful book RAWvolution: Gourmet Living Cuisine and award-winning co-author of THE RAWVOLUTION CONTINUES. Matt has also been crowned one of the world’s premier raw chefs.
Matt is a partner in a raw café in Santa Monica, California. From here, Matt started the world’s first raw meal delivery service sharing his culinary talent with thousands of health-conscious individuals including Alicia Silverstone, Cher, Susan Sarandon and super-model Carol Alt.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Matt and learned, in further detail, his experience and thoughts about living a raw, vegan lifestyle:
January, of each year, is the time when people look to make changes in their lives. For some, the changes are subtle and for others, the changes are extreme.
In your book ‘RAWvolution,’ you changed your entire lifestyle after hearing a radio interview with David Wolfe, on the ‘Howard Stern Show.’ After further research, you committed yourself entirely to the diet and lifestyle. Please tell us about the process; did you take a leap of faith, purchase a plane ticket and surround yourself with like-minded individuals in Los Angeles? Or, did you take some time to develop, visualize and action a plan?
It was definitely more of a leap of faith. I was eating a regular ‘Standard American Diet’ and after reading David Wolfe’s first book – Nature’s First Law, I made the switch to a one hundred percent ‘raw, vegan’ diet. It wasn’t right away that I moved to California. I remained in Ontario for two more years before moving to California. That move was also a leap of faith – I didn’t know anyone here and had never been to Los Angeles. I knew it was an opportunity; it was the right time and right place to be involved in raw food.
What are some challenges you initially encountered (reaction from friends, quality produce, etc.)?
Yes, all of those things. At the time, I didn’t even know another vegetarian let alone a vegan or someone that was into raw food. I was living with my parents, and they were taken aback and thought it was very strange and extreme. They were definitely worried. I lost weight initially – which eventually came back. I ended up being healthier and stronger than I ever was. When you start getting into raw food, you very quickly realize if you’re going to be eating a lot of produce you want it to be organic. That was in the late 90’s, very difficult to come by; at least, in my small town.
I moved to Toronto for a year before coming to Los Angeles, and it was a little easier but I still had to go out of my way to find one special place to get organic produce. The cold (Ontario) weather also affected produce. There certainly wasn’t access to gourmet, prepared raw meals in stores back then and only one or two raw food recipe books. That was something I was intimidated by. It was another world for me – one that initially consisted of a lot of fruit and salads. That had its benefits for a time and then when I did taste more elaborate things it was mind-blowing! I thought ‘if this is what it’s going to be like, this isn’t so bad.’
How did you overcome these challenges?
While it is going to be more difficult than just doing what everyone else does, it’s infinitely easier now with the amount of resources that exist today. Take advantage of those resources: Recipes, in book form and online, prepared raw meals once in a while to take the pressure off and inspire you. Raw food is available at markets – fresh and non-perishables. There are videos and ways to order things online – ingredients and meals you can have shipped right to your home.
When you’re willing to eat anywhere, it’s always going to be easier. The benefits outweigh the difficulties.
It’s just such vibrant food with so much life-force and nutrition. You have to try it to understand. I feel so much better, I have a lot of energy, and it tastes great. Revisiting the ‘organic’ option, I would say you just need to ‘start where you are and just do the best that you can.’ It’s not going to work for everyone if you decide you have to live on a pristine Hawaiian island and have access to wild food. Just try eating more raw food. You’ll get benefits from any degree that you participate.
No creature, whether it ate plants or other animals, ever chose to cook its food.
Is a Raw diet more expensive?
Yes. Anytime you’re discerning (about choices related to health), you’re going to end up spending more money. We’ve become a ‘cake and eat it too’ culture these days. We want things to be better, and healthier, and tastier, and cheaper. It’s great when it works out that way but usually, you pay more for better quality. Strangely, no one questions it until it comes to food. People understand that if you’re going to buy a nice car you’re going to pay more than if you buy a cheap ‘junker’. It’s the same with clothing and watches, and electronics/computers – with anything. People either buy or don’t buy, but they don’t seem to complain as much until it comes to food. I guess maybe because we’re eating three times a day it hurts a little more when it’s more expensive?
You have to look at it as an investment. Any amount of money, you spend on food that is not ideal, is more of a waste than spending slightly more on something that’s top of the line, great for you and healthy. It pays off down the road – I don’t spend any money with Doctors. It’s a great investment to feel good all the time, to not be sick, to be your ideal weight. These things are priceless. Sometimes things are more expensive. I’ve done item by item comparisons with organic vs. non-organic ingredients and green vs. non-green products, and the healthier option is often close to the same price and in some cases, even cheaper. It is an assumption that healthier is the most expensive option. It may be true in some cases but not one-hundred percent of the time.
The ingredients are simple, organic, and vegetarian, but the results are rich and gorgeous.
Is Raw an everyday way of life for you?
It was for over a decade – one hundred percent raw for more than eleven years. I do include some cooked foods now, but I think it’s important to say it’s not because I felt like I was missing something nutritionally or from an enjoyment stance. I think you can still reap a lot of benefits from doing mostly raw which, I’m in favour of. When I first started it was like a grand experiment. There weren’t as many people doing it and there weren’t any long term anecdotes about how people felt. If I was going to promote this, I wanted to really know what it was like to do it ‘full-on.’ It worked for me. If you want to go ‘whole hog’ so to speak, I think it’s great. Some people find it difficult depending on blood-type and body type. I also don’t think it’s completely necessary – you can use (raw food) as a tool rather than having a bunch of rules around it. Maybe try raw for breakfast and, or lunch. You certainly don’t have to trade in one membership card for another. Incorporate it with what you already eat. Eating more fruits and vegetables is what we’re all trying to do. It’s truly just about that.
In your opinion, what is the best way to prepare for this new lifestyle? Did you experience detox effects by switching straight over to this diet?
I did have those reactions. The idea of taking it slower and minimizing those effects (detoxifying) is probably a good idea. It’s more what works for your personality; I need to dive in and get through it and start to feel better as I do. People are either inspired to jump right into it or try to incorporate each meal or for a few days or incorporate more each day in addition to what they’re already eating. I think it comes naturally for each person to figure out the best way to interact with it.
At the end of your book RAWvolution, you offer great tips on eating RAW while travelling. What are some tips you can provide to people working in their kitchens about organizing grocery lists and menu planning to avoid waste?
Keeping non- perishables is good. At least if you have that stocked-up you know it’s there and lessens your weekly or daily list. That way you just have to deal with produce. Then it becomes trial and error; you’ll get to know how much you use. And then there’s ways to incorporate extra. If you bought too much, you could dehydrate things, which makes them last quite a bit longer. Green foods can be blended in smoothies.
What are some arguments people have challenged you with regarding your choice to eat raw and question your ethics. How do you respond to those people?
Endlessly – especially at the beginning when veganism was less well known, and I was less confident about it myself. Perhaps I attracted that challenge. I’m at a place now where I’m extremely confident in the choices that I make. It doesn’t even happen so much anymore. I could come up with every argument in the book, but I’m also not interested in arguing anymore. Maybe what people are saying is true for them. I don’t have all the answers; I still tinker with my diet, and there’s still plenty to learn.
It is such a deep subject. Where do I start…I began to consume a vegan diet for health reasons or from a health perspective, but then fairly quickly the ethical side started to influence me too. It became the strongest reason that I wouldn’t go back (to eating meat). I really do think the vegan diet is based on striving for compassion.
A pure diet leads one toward a more natural lifestyle.
Congratulations on your second ‘no cook’ book ‘The Rawvolution Continues’ (with twice as many recipes as the first book), which you created with your wife, Jenabai. You also have your restaurant in Los Angeles where you prepare and deliver raw meals for people.
What’s next for you?
More of what we’re doing. We’d love to do another book. We have the restaurant where we hope to deliver healthy food to more people, more often.
What are your favourite recipes (from either of your books)?
I really like the Superfood soup – that’s fantastic, the nachos grande, and M&J smoothie. All from THE RAWVOLUTION CONTINUES.
Sadie’s picks: falafel with mango chutney and RAWvolutions’ Famous Onion Bread from ‘RAWvolution.’
It was a pleasure speaking with you Matt. Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us.