People in the South crave Bar-B-Q and deep fried foods like mint needs julep. Mrs. Deep Fry and Mr. Bar-B-Q are the benevolent grandparents of southern hospitality. We all love their genteel charm and easygoing mannerism . Everyone knows them; they never miss a birthday party, picnic, neighborhood cookout or family gathering. Nothing pleases them more, than to have friends and family drop in to share a good meal and catch up with old acquaintances. Mr. Bar-B-Q and Mrs. Deep Fry are home grown folk. No need for stuffy Victorian furniture, white linen and expensive silverware. When they are around, it’s okay to use your fingers, lick your lips, and flat out enjoy your food.
Since moving to the South I have grown to love fried chicken, hush puppies, beer battered onion rings, deep fried catfish, pulled pork sandwiches, brisket, baby back ribs, collard greens, grits, candied yams, sweet tea and my new favorite dessert, peach cobbler mmmmmm. It’s on the menu at work and at least once a week at the end of my shift or on a slowwww night; it’s time to indulge my inner fat boy.
But this post is not about me or my love affair with southern cooking. In my restaurant, where cooks subsist on a steady diet of hamburgers, chicken wings, french fries and coca-cola, Sous chef Wayne Delattiboudare is an anomaly. Mr. Bar-B-Q and Mrs. Deep Fry were so concerned about this wayward son of the kitchen; they sat him down for a heart to heart talk.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: Chef Wayne, what’s that on your cutting board?
Chef Wayne: Jicama, green papaya, limes, cilantro and avocado. I’m making a salad for dinner.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: You know that salad would go great as the slaw for a pulled pork sandwich, with some french fries. Goodness ! Chef Wayne we never see you anymore!
Chef Wayne: Laughs, looks at them and laughs again. As tempting as that sounds, thanks, but no thanks, I’ll stick with my salad. I enjoy eating raw foods, it’s healthy, it’s better for digestion, and it’s free of hormones, antibiotics, and all those nasty chemicals you find in processed food.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: You can’t blame us for trying. Chef Wayne (a puzzled look on their faces) what made you decide to become a vegetarian and ultimately a raw vegan?
Chef Wayne: Cooking is actually my second career. For sixteen years I was a paramedic, which meant I came into contact with people who had all kinds of medical issues. I was always telling my friends “they are what they eat” and “informed food choices increases life expectancy.” I also questioned my own eating habits at that time, and decided to practice what I was preaching.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: Be honest, don’t you miss hanging out with us?
Chef Wayne: Sometimes, but before I decided to become a raw vegan, I would wake up each morning feeling lethargic and tired. I felt horrible. Discovering the raw vegan lifestyle was a spiritual connection that has made me feel better about myself, both physically and mentally.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: Raw Vegans? You keep mentioning those two words. Is that some kind of fad diet?
Chef Wayne: No, raw vegans are people who consume plant based foods and their by-products. Raw vegans believe that the enzymes in plants are alive and active. For this reason we do not consume foods heated above 118F, because these enzymes die when heated above that temperature. This change however was not instantaneous; initially I started eating a raw diet in small amounts; gradually increasing until my diet was 80% raw and 20% meat.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: So raw vegans are people too lazy to cook? But collard greens taste horrible raw! – Mrs. Fry, groans in exasperation. You need some ham hocks in there chef ! Mr.Q – Do you save money on groceries as a raw vegan? With the economy as it is, must be a smart way to eat?
Chef Wayne: Contrary to what you may think, becoming a raw vegan is challenging and expensive.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: It should be easy! Raw vegetables are everywhere, in grocery stores, at the farmers market; even McDonald’s sells salads!
Chef Wayne: This is true, but foods prepared for the raw vegan consumer must meet certain criteria before it can be termed as such. It has to be all natural and organic, and it cannot be pasteurized. My diet usually consists of raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, sprouts, root vegetables, fresh herbs and seaweeds like Irish moss.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: Where do you shop at?
Chef Wayne: Usually special health food stores like Sevananda. I also shop at Whole Foods and Krogers, it depends on what I’m looking for.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: So why is it so expensive?
Chef Wayne: Because raw vegan foods tend to be boutique products which are not mass produced and therefore more expensive. To make coconut milk, a regular store bought coconut would cost between 99c and $1.05. To make coconut milk for a raw vegan an organic coconut from Sevananda would cost about $4.05.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: You explained how following this lifestyle can be expensive. Explain some of the challenges you face in being a raw vegan.
Chef Wayne: If I wanted a bowl of cereal. I would make my own granola. I also make my own milk because regular milk is pasteurized. Making my own milk from nuts (nut milk), is a time consuming project. Nuts such as almonds or pecans are soaked in water for several hours. They are then drained, blended and strained through cheesecloth. I have to schedule my time wisely to be able to prepare my meals as a part of my daily activities.
Mr. Q and Mrs. Fry: Chef Wayne, this was an interesting conversation. With the risk of heart attack, hypertension, diabetes and obesity among some of the major health issues affecting us today; maybe you’re on to something. This eating healthy idea definitely has its merits. You’ve given us something to think about until our next conversation. Chef Wayne, once again thank you.