Cooking food can rid it of its benefits. But eating raw food may be too much for most people. ALIX NORMAN meets a woman who has found a balance, and published a book about it too
“Does it work?” I ask, flipping through the 100 recipes in the pages of Soar On Raw. I’m holding the beautifully produced, self-published, definitive guide to raw food written by Erini Loucaides. Bubbly and engaging, Erini is a teacher by profession. “Teaching is certainly eventful, and often fun,” she grins. “But this,” she adds, patting her book lovingly, “this is my real passion.”
Billed as ‘A delicious journey through the myths of the world’, Soar On Raw is Erini’s first literary effort. And it’s the culmination of years of passion for and research into the advantages of a raw food diet. But far from being a dyed in the wool health nut, Erini is down to earth about the diet she advocates so strongly.
And in answer to my question, she’s refreshingly honest. “It does work,” she responds. “When done wisely. A big part of the raw food diet is learning to listen to your body, and nothing gives you that get-up-and-go like raw food does. But you shouldn’t be a slave to the ideology; the biggest misconception is that you have to be 100 per cent raw, but it’s just not healthy or practical. Soar On Raw is all about incorporating extremely healthy recipes into your lifestyle so you can get on with the business of living. 100 per cent vegan worked beautifully when I was single,” she continues, “but it’s a different matter when you’ve got a carnivore as a husband, you’re pregnant and craving carbs!” It’s this level-headed approach to healthy living that helped Erini lose the 30 kilos of post pregnancy weight that refused to shift.
“When I was pregnant with my first child I made loads of mistakes,” she laughs. “The first time round I didn’t listen to the cravings – white meat, cooked food and especially salmon! I tried to carry on a completely raw food diet throughout pregnancy and childbirth, when all I really wanted was toast! I’d make a raw food meal, and find I was still hungry, so I’d fill up on comfort food,” she admits. But by her second pregnancy, Erini had wised up: “I’d been to a lot of raw food lectures and seminars, and they can get really fanatical about anything that’s not raw. Cooked food is practically demonised! And there’s always a million voices telling you what you should and should not eat. But I’d learnt to listen to my body, and stocked up on nutritional cooked food such as wild rice and quinoa.”
Now, as mother to two young children, holding down a demanding day job, running workshops and seminars from her house as well as being a published author, Erini claims to eat “about 80 per cent raw. In the summer I can go for days and days eating 100 per cent raw, but it’s not sustainable in the long run. Especially in winter when you crave something warm,” she adds, mentioning how partial she is to curry.
“I’ve learnt that heavy cooked foods like moussaka will make your energy levels plummet. When you eat raw, vegetarian food you have so much energy you can actually be annoying! You get everything done, and you don’t even need a siesta, because you’re eating food that has retained its life force. When you go and pick a purslane from the garden, it’s still buzzing with enzymes – and it’s these that keep you alive!”
Erini has been sharing her knowledge and experience for some years through the medium of her raw food workshops, and thus the book was a natural progression. “It wanted to be written!” she laughs. “These are the recipes that helped me lose 30 kilos, the recipes that give me boundless energy, a stronger immune system, calmer moods, mental clarity and even an improved libido! In fact, as I was researching the nutrients in the fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, it was staggering to learn that nearly all of them contain properties that combat cancer, fight heart disease and lower cholesterol. Raw food is nature’s pharmacy right under our clogged noses!”
Combining her passion for raw food with a love of myths and legends was the next logical step in the process to penning Soar On Raw. “It was all very natural for me to think of mythology when creating the recipes,” she continues. “Food and the divine have been intricately woven since hunter-gatherer times, and it was great fun researching the different gods and goddesses, their related foods and their characteristics.”
Flipping through the pages, one finds a pantheon of deities. Above each healthful recipe Erini has included a paragraph about the god or goddess who inspired the creation, from Dumuzi’s Date Shake to Persephone’s Pomegranate Punch, Ganesha’s Coconut Gorge to Chicomecoatl’s Seven Snakes Soup. For the reader, it’s fascinating to learn not just the recipe and the healthy properties of the ingredients, but also a little about the deity behind the dish. The Dreamtime Dessert, for example, references the Rainbow Serpent of Aboriginal mythology – a giant reptile that snaked its way across the Australian continent, creating the ridges, gorges, mountains and waterways – in its blend of honey, ginger, poppy seeds, fresh ginger and macadamia nuts, which are indigenous to the land. “There’s a huge raw food movement in Australia,” she says, mentioning that she’s had a number of orders for the book from fans of the lifestyle in Melbourne. “And the book is selling around the world,” she declares with great pride.
As well as clients in Cyprus, the book has sold to a Swedish chef, been reviewed by a British magazine and two copies are even now winging their way to Azerbaijan. “In just six weeks I’ve sold a quarter of the first edition. And though I’m taking it step by step, I’m really proud of what’s happened so far,” she concludes with great excitement. And despite all the science and research behind the book, my initial question has found its true answer in Erini’s attitude to life: such energy and enthusiasm are proof positive that the raw food diet really works.
To buy Soar On Raw, or find out further information about the book, raw food workshops and events, visit www.soaronraw.com or www.rawfoodcyprus.com. You can also email Erini on [email protected] or contact her on 99 321948