Sept. 11--Albuquerque chef Karen Hammer remembers as a kid growing up in Chicago
in the 1950s and '60s, that other than fresh salads, "most vegetables we ate
came from a can."
Her father did some backyard vegetable gardening, but the bulk of that fresh
harvest was cooked. "In some ways, we were conditioned that everything has to be
cooked to be a meal, and dinners were supposed to be hot meals. That's just what
Not so anymore.
Today, Hammer is an advocate for raw food. "Raw food is living food. It still
has a life force and hasn't been cooked to death," she says.
Since 2002, the 60-year-old has lived in Albuquerque, where she operates the
Taste of Raw cooking school, teaching classes with titles such as "Forget
Cooking," "Taste of India," "Americana Comfort Food" and "Desserts to Live For."
Hammer attended the Ann Wigmore Foundation in San Fidel, N.M., where she studied
the Living Foods Lifestyle program and then enrolled in the Living Light
Culinary Institute in Fort Bragg, Calif., and got certified as a raw food chef.
A raw food diet consists of foods that are not cooked or only minimally warmed
to temperatures of 115 degrees or less, and are not refined or processed, she
says. The diet is heavy on fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, sprouted legumes and
grains. It is essentially a vegetarian diet, and often strictly vegan.
Raw food diets have many different styles and can vary into extremes, Hammer
explains. The one to which she adheres does not include animal protein, raw or
otherwise, dairy, processed flour or refined sugar.
The idea that raw food is living food is all well and good, says Sharon
Himmelstein, a registered dietitian nutritionist, but depending on how strict
one interprets a raw foods diet, there can be unintended health consequences.
"It's a mixed bag," she says. "It's hard to argue against the benefits of a
plant-based diet that is low in transfats and saturated fats, eliminates refined
sugars, processed foods and fast foods, and is high in fiber.
"If you're watching your weight, that's good, but if you're feeding an infant or
child, it's considered inappropriate because they won't get enough calories. A
raw food diet cuts daily caloric intake by 50 percent."
Further, Himmelstein says, a study conducted by the Washington University School
of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., found that people maintaining a raw foods diet
for an average of 3.6 years had lower bone density. That, she says, may be a
result of eliminating dairy, a major source of bone-strengthening vitamin D and
Because eating raw means that food is not cooked, there is a higher risk of
consuming food-borne bacteria that would otherwise be killed during the cooking
process, Himmelstein says.
However, Hammer says that people who eat raw have a healthier immune system and
rarely get sick.
Some foods, like beans and legumes, need to be cooked or they simply can't be
digested, Himmelstein notes. And if they can't be digested, the nutrition in
them remains unavailable, she says. Another example is tomatoes, containing the
antioxidant lycopene, which is better released and absorbed when the tomatoes
Hammer says heating isn't the only way to release nutrients. Beans and legumes,
for example, are soaked and sprouted.
Himmelstein says she is not arguing against raw food diets, though she has
concerns about the most extreme among them. She readily points out that the high
fiber in a raw diet can help lower the risk of some cancers, and because a raw
diet is lower in calories it can help prevent weight gain and obesity. By
eliminating or greatly reducing saturated fats, transfats and sugars, a raw
foods diet can help decrease the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease,
heart attacks and strokes.
Pamela Cornish, a doctor of oriental medicine in Albuquerque, is a proponent of
a raw diet. "I'm not complete raw, but the percentage is quite high and I
recommend it for my patients," she says.
"I'm a natural physician, and food is medicine and most physical complaints that
people have can be traced back to the toxins they put in their mouths from
drugs, food and alcohol, and toxins in the environment."
Those environmental toxins come from food, air and water pollution, as well as
exposure to electromagnetic rays from cellphones, microwaves, televisions and
computers. These toxins explain "why people get headaches, insomnia,
gastrointestinal problems and aches and pains all over their bodies."
A raw foods diet, Cornish says, helps to flush toxins from the body and restore
a person's health.
Pros and cons
From a practical point of view, says Himmelstein, eating raw requires more
effort. "There's more time-consuming food preparation, lots of washing and
chopping and lots of restricting when you eat out in restaurants or socialize
and go to parties and buffets." Hammer disagrees: It's not necessarily more
preparation, rather it's "different preparation," she says. "Sometimes, it can
be very quick. What I teach in my classes is ways to make it quicker using
better planning and different kitchen tools, including a blender and a food
processor." For Hammer, the bottom line is "I want it to be healthy, but I also
teach how to make a raw foods taste really good," she says. "If it doesn't taste
good then it doesn't matter how much or little preparation is involved -- people
won't eat it and they won't stick with the diet."
SUSHIMAKI WITH SPICY MISO PASTE
Hands on: 30 minutes Yield 6 rolls, 3-4 servings
SPICY MISO PASTE
2 tablespoons dark miso 1/8 teaspoon cayenne 1 tablespoon sesame oil (optional)
2 teaspoons water
6 sheets nori 6 cups alfalfa sprouts 1 1/2 avocados, peeled, seeded, thinly
sliced lengthwise 1 red bell pepper 1/2 cucumber, seeded and julienned 1 carrot
shredded Enoki or shiitaki mushrooms, small bunch, both optional 6 tablespoons
tamari 1 tablespoon wasabi, mixed with purified water to form a thick paste 2
tablespoons sesame seeds
For the miso paste, combine the miso, cayenne, sesame oil (if desired) and
water. Stir well. For the sushimaki, lay one sheet of nori on a bamboo sushi mat
shiny side down. Using the back of a teaspoon, lightly spread approximately 1
teaspoon of the miso paste on the nori sheet. On the nori sheet, layer alfalfa
sprouts, avocado, bell pepper, cucumber, carrots and mushrooms (if desired) and
roll it. Seal the end of the nori roll with a little purified water. Cut the
roll into 8 pieces using a sharp serrated knife. Repeat these steps for the
remaining 5 nori sheets and serve immediately with tamari and/or wasabi, and
garnish with sesame if desired.
TASTE OF RAW MANGO PEAR COBBLER
Hands on: 45 minutes Yields 8 1-cup servings
3 cups pecans or walnuts (do not soak) 3 tablespoons well-packed, very finely
chopped dates 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon vanilla 1/8 teaspoon salt FRUIT
Use any combination of fruit or berries for a total of 8 cups of fruit
4 cups thinly sliced mango (peeled) 4 cups thinly sliced pear (peeled) Optional
(blackberries inside or on top for a garnish) 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2
tablespoons agave syrup 1/8 tablespoon vanilla 1/8 teaspoon sea salt or Celtic
or Himalayan salt
Process crust ingredients until nuts are still slightly chunky, then separate
the crust in two portions. Take one portion and spread over the bottom of a
9-by-9-by-2-inch pan for the crust and press lightly, save the other portion for
the topping and sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Slice the fruits thinly with a
sharp knife or mandolin, then combine all ingredients in a bowl. Evenly
distribute the filling alternating different fruits, then sprinkle crumble
mixture and decorate with fresh fruit slices or berries on top. VARIATIONS: Use
persimmon, pear and pomegranate, thinly sliced apple and strawberry, and
increase cinnamon to taste. Use whatever fruits are in season ripe and tender.
It is best eaten on the day it's made, but will keep in the refrigerator for 2
The following classes are available this fall at Taste of Raw:
"TASTES OF MEDITERRANEAN," 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sept. 15. Delicious raw versions of
Mediterranean cuisine. $50.
"WHY RAW?" 1 p.m. Sept. 22. Hear about benefits of the raw food diet and get
answers to the most common questions about it. Free talk and demo.
"FORGET COOKING," 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sept. 29. Learn how to make non-dairy nut and
seed milks and a creamy vegetable soup in less than 10 minutes; how shredding
and marinating kale and other dark leafy greens make them as tender as cooked,
but without loss of nutrients; how to turn nuts and seeds into protein-rich
pates; and how to transform zucchini into delicate starchless noodles. $50.
"TASTES OF ALL AMERICAN FOODS," 1:30-4:30 p.m. Oct. 13. Learn how to make "yum"
burgers, onion rings, Asian-spiced cole slaw, fresh mustard and ketchup,
brownies and vanilla ice cream. $50.
"DESSERTS TO LIVE FOR II," 1-3 p.m. Nov. 10. Learn to make electric energy bars,
raw cacao truffles and warm cinnamon apple delight. $30.
To reserve a seat call 363-4288 or email chefkarenhammer@yahoo. com.
Find out more about Taste of Raw at www.tasteofraw.net.
(c)2013 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
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