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Well, the Raw Spirit Festival 2008 is all over. It ended on the highest of notes, with a live concert by the brilliant Shimshai and his band. The entire event was brilliant from start to finish, encompassing lectures (none of which I unfortunately had the time to attend this time), food demos, yoga and t'ai chi, meditation, speed dating, a film festival, and a full programme of children's activities. We will have photos up VERY soon - without them it is impossible to begin to convey how amazing this event was.
First up though, there were not as many people here as predicted. Sadly, the organisers did not reach their target of 5,000 attendees. It felt more like around 1,000, and about the same number of exhibitors, volunteers and staff. There WERE many more vendors here this year, and that can only be a good thing. Many people who attended as guests last year came as vendors this year and it is WONDERFUL to see so many ethical companies producing truly first-class products.
Many who discover raw quickly become so passionate about it that they give up their jobs and carve themselves a career in raw foods. This accounts for the explosion in companies at the festival this year selling raw superfoods, raw bars, raw chocolate, raw granola, raw crackers and raw powders and potions of all kinds, and even raw tortillas, raw olive jerky, raw kale chips, and raw skin and body care products.
Get Fresh! magazine got a brilliant response, as ever. It is better known this year than it was last, having been on sale in US health stores for two issues now. The most frequently heard feedback we get about about it from readers - and this festival was no exception - is: (a) that it is the best magazine they have ever come across, not only on health but on any subject; (b) that it is the only magazine they read every word of, from cover to cover; (c) that they never throw their back issues away but treasure them and consider them a library of the most enlightened health information available anywhere.
So the festival was a weekend of world-class lecturers sharing their knowledge, fun activities, unparalleled shopping opportunities and most of all the privilege of being surrounded by like-minded people. This is the kind of place where you frequently hear personal stories that sound like they could be the plot of a hugely inspirational movie and it is a privilege to be among such people.
Finally, big, BIG thanks to Happy Oasis and the whole Raw Spirit team for facilitating this gathering of some of the most enlightened minds on the planet and for an event that was beautifully planned and executed from start to finish.
Now, let me end with some great news... The next Raw Spirit Festival is just eight months away! It will be held in Santa Barbara, California this time, in May 2009. More details about that as soon as we have them.
The topic of this lecture was the simple steps we can all take to improve our health and, as usual, Dr Sheridan reeled off fascinating and thought-provoking facts aplenty. For example, did you know that brain cancer has increased by 800% in the 20-29 age group since cell phone use became commonplace?
Did you know that if you use a wireless headset (like the Bluetooth) with the phone on your person (i.e. in a pocket or otherwise attached to your hip) you can actually do more damage since the radiation is affecting your whole body between the earpiece and the phone? (Much better are "airtube" headsets like the Bluetube which function in a similar way to a doctor’s stethoscope in that they provide an acoustic exchange without a radiation-emitting wire).
Did you know that Nama Shoyu contains wheat so must be avoided if you are gluten-intolerant, but Tamari does not, and it is every bit as raw as Nama Shoyu, despite the misleading marketing? Dr Sheridan shared that his wife, Kim, is gluten-intolerant and that it is hard for her to eat out in raw restaurants since Nama Shoyu is such a ubiquitous ingredient. To cheers from the audience, Dr Sheridan called for the raw food community to shun Shoyu.
On the topic of sugar, Dr Sheridan sagely pointed out that there is no reason for refined sugar in any form to ever touch our lips with so many delicious whole food sweeteners now available. He addressed the fruit controversy and gave his view on it: that being, in a nutshell, that fruit is great for your body but bad for your teeth.
Dr Sheridan explained that the sugar in fruit is the ultimate fuel for your body cells – but it is also the ultimate fuel for the bacteria that live in your mouth. They, too, thrive on vital, live fruit sugar. Compare that to a candy bar: terrible fuel for your body and also for those mouth-dwelling bacteria. No, of course he was not advocating candy bars but simply pointing out why so many raw fooders (himself included) who have tried high-fruit or fruitarian diets have run into such alarming problems with their teeth.
So Dr Sheridan now recommends consuming fruit, but in moderation. As well as the dental issue, he also found from his own experience and subsequent research that the more fruit you eat, the more salt you crave. He has observed in his many years of practice that the raw fooders most likely to crave meat and to yo-yo between raw veganism and steak consumption are those on a natural hygiene-type regime which eliminates all salt and contains high fruit.
Dr Sheridan stated that some high-quality salt in the diet is essential, and that (contrary to what some raw authorities assert) celery, tomatoes and other sodium-containing fruit and veg do not cut it. He recommended pure miso as the best source of salt with Tamari, Himalayan crystal salt and Celtic sea salt as other good choices. Other wise advice:
Have contact between your bare skin and the ground whenever possible, whether by walking barefoot or lying on grass.
Sleep with a window open since indoor environments are always more polluted than outdoor ones.
Even if you live somewhere cold, you can leave your window open a smidgen at night - if you don't, you will not have an optimal oxygen/CO2 balance in your body by the time you wake up.
Avoid electromagnetic radiation (EMR) of all kinds. You can buy a gadget that monitors the levels in your home so you can identify where the worst hot spots are. If these are appliances you can live without, ditch them, but whatever you do don't ditch...
...your juicer. Any negative effects from EMR will be cancelled out 100-fold by the benefit of live juice on your body, says Dr Sheridan.
Another fascinating lecture from one of the leading lights in this movement.
It’s dawn on day 2 of the Raw Spirit Festival and I’m here to bring you the exclusive on day 1.
First of all, incredible as this would have seemed last year, the festival is SO much better this year. Between 2006 and 2007 the festival grew in size nearly tenfold so given the undertaking that must have been it's inevitable there'd be room for improvement, and the organisers have stepped up to the plate. On a practical note, the layout is better and the booths are all shaded by canopies, so shoppers and vendors alike can enjoy a respite from the scorching Sedona sun: a bigger bonus than you can imagine unless you were here last year.
One common complaint from last year was that it often took 1-2 hours to line up for the meals included in the ticket price, and there was only one alternative place to buy food. This year there is a raw food court with outlets selling salads, tacos, nori wraps and a variety of other choices. The result: instant food for those who don't want to tough out the lines, and shorter lines for those who want or need to stick to the complimentary meals.
Last year there was no fresh produce available to buy and since much of the food on sale is heavy on nuts, dried fruit, cacao and coconut butter, those who prefer simple fare found slim pickings. Not this year! Several fruit farmers are here selling locally-grown figs, peaches, sapotes, plums, apples, pears and the reddest, ripest tomatoes on the planet. I had never tasted a sapote before yesterday. It’s lovely: just like a small custard apple, and with only a couple of annoying pips instead of loads - bonus!
Unsurprisingly, most of the exhibitors from last year are back, but there are around 50 new ones and lots of brand new products causing great excitement.
A Woodland Hills, California-based company called RAW: Radiance & Wellness which has developed a brand new range of skin and body care products. At the show are bath salts, a body crème and a face masque - all completely gorgeous. The face masque contains just pure aloe vera juice, calcium bentonite clay and vitamin E. The body crème also comes in a base of pure aloe vera juice, plus avocado oil, coconut oil and shea butter, and is scented with therapeutic grade essential oils. This range is so new it hasn’t even officially launched yet, but expect to see it soon. Owner and inventor Michael Kashani says that a full line of skin and body care products is in development, including products for babies and children. Contact Michael to find out more on (1) 818 371 8697.
Kale chips from Alive & Radiant Foods in Berkeley, California. I had an attempt at making kale chips (or crisps to us Brits) recently but not being skilled in the dehydrator department, mine came out limp and soggy, and chewy rather than crunchy. Not good! So I had never tasted proper kale chips until yesterday and all I can say is, since they’re not yet available to buy in the UK I am going to have to persevere in mastering the art of making them as these were AMAZING. They come in two flavours: Pleasing Pesto (YUM) and Quite Cheesy (OFF THE CHARTS!!!). The Quite Cheesy chips are simply kale mixed with red bell pepper, cashew, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and Himalayan crystal salt. The mixture is massaged into the kale by Buddhist monks and you can really taste the love in this food. See their website for more information; they also sell a teriyaki flavoured version.
Top-quality raw foods at amazing prices from Dr Robert Cassar at Ultimate Superfoods. Dr Robert is a toxicologist who is on a mission to bring the best-quality superfoods at the lowest prices. Very interesting and intriguing. They are selling CLEAR (i.e. transparent) agave nectar and the darkest cacao ever seen. Dr Robert claims his products look different from the competition because they are different. Many foods sold as “raw” undergo extensive machine processing that inevitably heats them well into cooked territory. Dr Robert’s cacao beans are hand-peeled and never machine processed and his agave nectar is made using a unique proprietary process. A company with a difference and definitely one to watch out for – more coming soon.
The best protein powder ever from Sprout Living. Made from a mixture of many varieties of dehydrated sprouts flavoured with yacon and lucuma powder. More details on this one to come too - it's not on their website yet. Sprout Living are also selling their uniquely wonderful salads: boxes of sprouts, micro greens and edible flowers. Just beautiful to eat, and beautiful for your body. What an amazing company. Why isn't food like this available everywhere?
Among the speakers here this year are Dr Gabriel Cousens, Viktoras Kulvinskas, Dr Fred Bisci, Tonya Zavasta, Matt Monarch, Paul Nison, Dr Thomas Lodi, Dr Jameth Sheridan, Dr Doug Graham, Kris Carr, Karen Knowler, Philip McCluskey, Mike Adams, Tonya Kay, Brigitte Mars, Markus Rothkranz, "Sproutman" Steve Meyerowitz, The Boutenko Family, David Wolfe and Cherie Soria.
There were only a few lectures yesterday as the event did not kick off until the afternoon. The only one I made it to was Jameth Sheridan's at 8pm: after hearing him last year I just couldn't miss it. The topic of last night’s lecture was the simple steps we can all take to improve our health. I’ll be posting the highlights of that shortly, and you'll be able to view photos of day 1 here later today (US time).
I'm in Sedona, Arizona, eagerly awaiting the start of the Raw Spirit Festival tomorrow. The festival will run from this Friday to Sunday and is expected to attract 5,000 raw food fans from around the world. Making it, once again, the biggest gathering EVER of its kind. Here at the Radisson Poco Diablo Resort, Raw Spirit staff are busy putting the final touches to the festival site as vendors and guests start to arrive - too exciting.
This festival is one of the best barometers of the rapidly exploding interest in raw food and conscious living. In its first year, in 2006, it attracted a handful of vendors and a few hundred attendees. Last year, that had jumped to 200 vendors and nearly 2,000 attendees. I don't know how many vendors are expected this year, but I do know that when I went to Sedona's Natural Frontiers Marketplace yesterday (a huge, Whole Foods-like store) I was amazed at how many brand new companies have entered the raw market, and excited to see so many new products.
In fact, the first thing I saw as I walked in the door was a big sign saying "Raw", above a huge display of delights which was one of at least THREE raw sections in the store. Good US health food stores are way ahead of anything we have in the UK when it comes to unfired crackers, bars, nut butters, chocolate and prepared foods, so what's a girl to do? In the course of duty, you understand. I will be reporting back soon on some of these new products, and also posting daily festival bulletins.
If last year's event is anything to go by, these three days are going to be exciting, enlightening, fun and life-changing all rolled into one. I want to take this opportunity to thank, in advance, organiser Happy Oasis for dreaming up and putting together this high-energy gathering - and all of the Raw Spirit team for helping make that vision a reality.
This is just a quick note to remind you that fresh figs are now in season. This is my favourite food of all time, and one of those foods many fruit lovers go wild for. Autumn is an exciting time for fig lovers as the small, watery, slightly, bitter-tasting version you can buy out of season is but a pale imitation of the real thing. In this era when most fruits and vegetables are on sale year round, the fig is made all the more special by its small window of availability.
So as the nights get longer and those around me are hunkering down with stodgy comfort foods, I am happy as can be feasting on these little packages of Mediterranean sunshine.
If you have never tried fresh figs, stop what you are doing, go to the store now and buy some. You will thank me, I promise you. Look for fruits which are soft to the touch - if they are not, they're not ripe. If they are mushy they are past their best. Just wash them, cut off the small stalk at the top and enjoy. They are best eaten just as they come.
Of the sweet fruits, figs are the most mineral-rich and also the most alkaline. They are an excellent source of calcium, and the tiny seeds are packed with this mineral, along with iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. Figs are also high in fibre and a great mucus-dissolver.
As they are so delicate and perishable, fresh figs are best eaten within a day or two of purchase.