Location: Myuna Bay, Central Coast, NSW
"The Battle for Raw Earth" by The Kitchen Fairy
(Account of the Weekend by Joy Mozzi)
Running lightly and quickly, Chief Elf led his group of fellow middle earthlings around the grassed plain - leaping around, throwing their arms and weapons up into the air, whooping with glee...well, at least that's how Bill described it to me.
Being an elder, Bill kept a safe distance from the cavorting earthlings with their boundless enthusiasm. He is 80 after all. Grant (Chief Elf) was conducting a training session for the raw retreat members on the techniques of both Chi running and barefoot running. Grant has found great benefit in applying the principles of both styles in his distance running.
Me, being the Kitchen Fairy, was in my domain and pardoned from attending battle practice.
Grant's 7th Raw Reflections Retreat was a resounding success which is a shame in a way as it gives me nothing to write about! No complaints about snorers and restless sleepers, no noisy people going in and out of rooms banging doors and keeping others awake till after midnight. No noisy drum playing or insane laughing. Even the bunk beds were large, solid and non-moving so we couldn't complain about the top bunk inhabitant disturbing the bottom bunk in the night. Sigh, it all went so smoothly. It was such a treat having a long weekend this time - 3 nights and 3 days filled with food, fun, friends, activities, discussions and DVDs.
Friday 23rd April - Kim and I drove up to Myuna Bay, found our lodge and many boxes of fresh produce scattered around the kitchen floor. Grant had been and gone, dropped off one load in a trailer and set off for the next. Being raw means one has a healthy appetite for large quantities of juicy, succulent fresh fruits & veggies. Therefore one needs to build up raw muscles to pick up full cartons of produce and enough boot space to pack them into. At my local greengrocer's one day, as I went to put my box of oranges into my trolley, the young man working there said "I have NEVER seen a woman pick up a box of oranges before!" And as I put my tray of fuji fruit on the counter, box of tomatoes (to make crackers), kilos of ripe bananas and all sorts of other fresh foods, the cashier said "How many are you feeding?" "Um, just me" I said.
So when you get to spend time with fellow raw foodies, you can relax and have a LARGE Goldilocks Papa Bear size bowl of fresh foods without the snide comments from someone who has just peeled the lid off a stodgy microwave non-nutritious meal.
Everyone started to arrive and we got the production line going to fill the dehydrators with apples & bananas. Grant put the weekend itinerary, room numbers, and team names up on the wall as we all settled in. What a kitchen! Can I have one at home? Pleeeease! We were divided into 3 teams - Organic, Raw & Fresh. The first team got started on dinner salads and the ladies from the Central Coast were on the ball. You can not beat the mature 'mothers' of our planet for speed in the food area. 'What can I do?" Well you start chopping the capsicum. What about me? You can wash all the tomatoes. "And me?" Please peel all the cucumbers. And you set the table. Barely had I finished delegating and organizing helper 4 and helper 1 was back on my tail saying 'What next?". I'm used to team members needing to be dragged reluctantly into the kitchen area, as they get too busy talking. 23 sat down to dinner. Dinner was followed by a DVD to relax and lights were scheduled to be out at 10pm. Crikey, this was novel.
Saturday morning was crisp, clear and cold. We were up at 6.30am to get ready for yoga with Sandy on the grassy Middle Earth plain with kookaburras laughing in the trees. It was so good to stretch. I almost touched my toes...well that depends how picky you are about the distance between my knees and my toes. Team Raw raced into the kitchen and got the food processor whirring to shred apples. Two enormous steel bowls were filled up with bananas which were gently squished and smooshed by hand along with some soft pitted Medjool dates. The shredded apple was mixed through and breakfast was served with a sprinkling of blueberries! This sweet porridge was amazingly delicious! A mid-morning discussion was held to introduce ourselves and talk about raw nutrition and yes, it was food prep time again, Team Fresh to the kitchen. After all the incredible food is a big part of the retreat.
And so the hours passed in activity, raw power tool demonstrations by Grant and walks around the lush area. Shirley collected all sorts of edible weeds to show 'n tell. Sergei Boutenko had just visited Australia and we are all keen to use more wild edibles in our green smoothies.
Grant suggested lasagna for dinner. It sounded quite daunting and I took a bit of persuading but with a motivated team we plated up 24 serves while a rowdy bunch of energetic 'fed on raw' folk, played indoor frisbee. Tamsyn who is a sports coach had brought all sorts of sports equipment, giant balls, games and fun stuff. The lodge was huge with ample playing space. We watched another DVD and had some after dinner nibbles - our dried fruit from the dehydrators.
It was a chilly Sunday morning so we had yoga indoors. The usual group of mad outdoor folk sleeping on the grass outside had to retreat to the balcony during the night as steady rain came down. Tony & Libby arrived to share in the experience for the day. Lots of juicy melons were enjoyed for breakfast before we started the food prep for dinner. We needed to get the zucchini pizza bases into the dehydrators before we had another mid-morning raw discussion at which everyone had a lot of questions about the diet, personal experiences and feedback. Lunch was tasty & colourful and then Grant gave another kitchen demo about the optimal ripeness of fruits as well as demonstrating more kitchen equipment. We had an afternoon talk on emotions and how we manage to maintain high raw when our partners and families want their cooked food. After the talk, Grant's Mum, Pam arrived from her busy schedule to enjoy the rest of the retreat.
We were an interesting group of people from all walks of life, a motley collection of ages, careers and diverse reasons for being interested in raw as a way of life. I know from comments I get, that the mainstream S.A.D. (Standard Aussie Diet) population think we are an alternative bunch of hippies best relocated to Nimbin & Byron Bay. So just to prove them wrong I asked everyone what they do:
Ladies from the Central Coast:
- Shirley has been running Living Foods courses with Sophie from http://www.meetup.com/RawCoasties/ and inspired the others to come along for a weekend of luscious foods.
- Alison is retired and now the founder of Waste Warriors World and since doing Shirley's course has been enjoying green smoothies and feeling the benefits.
- Dawn is self-employed and is researching raw mainly for her husband who is gluten intolerant. She was amazed at how great the food is!
- Lorraine is a school teacher, interested in health in general.
- Pollyanna is a secondary school teacher who also runs XtrAct Drama Academy with Pam.
- Pam (Grant's Mum), who is also a teacher, said she finally saw the 'light' after watching Grant go from better to absolutely amazingly good on raw foods.
The rest of the attendees from as far as Melbourne, Canberra and New Zealand:
- Bill is retired and at 80, said he heard about raw back in the 1970's but has been on and off the good food ever since. He now regularly shops at the organic ANU co-op in Canberra and this is his 3rd retreat with Grant.
- Ricky is a network evaluator for the electrical industry and cured his gout by sticking to high raw.
- Shannan is a software engineer in factory automation and also focused on improving his health especially to help his prowess at broomball! Broomball is somewhat similar to ice-hockey in being played on an ice rink, but it is played in sandshoes instead of ice skates.
- Kerry is a nurse specializing in AIDS dementia and wants to keep up with the good food.
- Toni is in her 60's, has been raw for 15 years and just likes to be around raw foodies! Toni found her partner on the internet raw forums and now lives in Buffalo USA. She is back in Australia for 5 months visiting her daughter. She thrives on raw and after seeing her playing Twister like a teenager, well who can beat that?
- Bryan works for Toyota and when he sticks to raw, he has increased general fitness. He is working on improving the circulation to his legs.
- Meg has a Master of Clinical Psychology degree and has found that raw is helping her to cope with and heal MS (Multiple Sclerosis).
- Andy has been studying medicine and sign language and is now taking a break and working in the Alfalfa House food co-op.
- Colin is a metal fabricator/welder and is interested in long term health.
- Omid is a talented raw chef here in Australia, check out his websites: Tried. Tasted. Served. and Shiitake Blog Raw Class Series
- Tamsyn is a sports coach and personal trainer, focused on raw for health.
- Russell works in logistics and wants to follow a better diet. Since his 1st retreat with Grant only 5 months ago, everyone is now saying how great he looks after eating more raw.
- Helena escaped from the corporate world to live and enjoy a more healthy and peaceful lifestyle. She recovered fully from a personal health crisis.
- Kim is an engineering student and embraced the raw diet with gusto when he first heard about it 4 years ago. Sandy has a PhD in environmental cell biology and has just published her first book Fruitful Nutrition.
- Maya runs a weekend raw cafe in Crows Nest, Sydney: Raw Cafe@Taste Organic
- And last but not least, Daryl is the most determined young man. Suffering from constant tiredness and lethargy (sounds a bit like chronic fatigue syndrome), Daryl, at 19 knew life did not have to be like that. Not having any knowledge or support he set out to see if he could 'cure' his lethargy through diet. He worked his way through strict two week periods on each of the following diets:
- gluten free
- sugar free
- raw meat only
- paleo diet
- Joy - kitchen fairy. I have only missed 2 of Grant's 7 retreats. Raw has changed my life, my health and I now run FruVeNu - a healthy (raw) food workshop business to reach the average family still stuck on the SAD diet.
- Grant - Chief Elf, made the gradual transition from the SAD diet to vegetarian to vegan to raw and is now an inspiration to 100's of people around the world. In recent years he has undertaken studies in healthful living, nutrition and athletic performance. He is an ultra marathon runner, regularly running up to 160km or 30 hours through tough mountain trails.
On Sunday night we had pizza and semi-dried cauliflower florets. The morning teams had prepared the pizza base using strips of zucchini overlapped on dehydrator sheets and topped with sliced tomatoes & capsicums. Along with this, cauliflower florets were dipped into a chunky salsa sauce and layered on trays. By the evening all the crew had to do was put fresh avocado and a mixed corn, capsicum sauce on top of the pizza and cut into portions. Dinner was delicious and very filling but we still found space for our nibbles with the evening movie.
Monday brought the most fabulous weather and we stayed outdoors for our meals and discussions. The breakfast team prepared all the fruits, bright yellow pineapple with pomegranate seeds, fresh orange juice, strawberries and kiwi, keeping in mind optimum food combining that sub-acid and acid fruits digest well together. The flexible raw foodies played Twister on the grass while Andy shimmied up a tree like a monkey to take pictures of us all down below.
Lunch was amazing, thanks to the sun, the people, and the food. Zucchini noodles and zucchini waffle slices with rich blended sauces were a highlight of the meal. After lunch we formed a circle on the grass and each person took it in turn to lay down in the middle while everyone thought of a word that best described them, hoping it would all be complimentary. The funniest one was Bill who cheekily called Kerry a "terrorist"!
After the closing ceremony, it was time to clean up the lodge, tidy up our bedrooms, sweep the floors, put the kitchen back to normal after all the raw food activity, bring the microwave, kettle & barbecue items back out from under the shelf and help Grant carry everything to his car. Noone could believe how so many boxes disappeared into his car.
Thanks to everyone for great teamwork, enthusiasm and enjoyment for the simple pleasures in life; food, happiness, sunshine & lovely people. And thanks to Grant for Raw Reflections Retreat Number 7...roll on Number 8.
Come and join us for the next one!