I’ve been lucky enough to land an interview with Sarma Melngailis, the strong, sexy, spirited co-author of one of my most-used recipe books, RAW FOOD REAL WORLD. I bought it when it first hit the stands just to GAWK at the beautiful PICTURES- the food looked great too- haha! She’s also just completed her second book, Living Raw Food, due out this year.
But wait, there’s more! Sarma doesn’t just author gorgeous recipe books, she’s also proprietor and co-founder of NYC raw restaurant Pure Food and Wine, and the founder and CEO of One Lucky Duck. Her company also produces and packages a line of raw food snacks that can be found at One Lucky Duck’s online boutique. She’s now 36 and lives in NYC with her 2 (raw) cats and her boyfriend of 2 years.
Tell us about your first experience hearing about raw, who inspired you and how raw did you go? How raw are you currently, and how do you maintain it?
I first heard about raw in the summer of 2003. I was completely intrigued and had no idea how I hadn’t learned about it before, since it seems so plainly intuitive. The full story is in Raw Food Real World (written in 2004, released in 2005) but basically I decided to go all raw for two weeks as an experiment. During that time I read as much as I could about raw food, and I also felt so amazing that after only a few days I realized the experiment had become a permanent shift.
I was much more rigid about staying raw during the first year. I make exceptions now at other restaurants or when traveling and I’m more liberal in general. But staying organic and natural is very important to me. I don’t ever want to eat processed food, or anything that’s not made with care. But in a fine restaurant where the opposite is true, I will try just about anything. So I usually just say I am mostly raw, most of the time. Operating a raw food restaurant, juice bar, and online snack business certainly makes it easier to maintain-I live just across the street! There is also a huge NYC greenmarket only one block away. I’m very lucky!
Would you supply us with a couple of your favorite recipes?
Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho
4 cups chopped pineapple
4 cups chopped peeled cucumber
3 T minced jalapeno
3 T thinly sliced green onion
1 T lime juice
1 cup fresh pineapple juice
2 tsp sea salt
½ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
½ cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
3 T avocado oil, or cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
Add to a blender 3 cups each of the pineapple and cucumber, 2 tablespoons of jalapeno, 2 tablespoons green onion, lime juice, pineapple juice and salt and blend at high speed until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Because the sweetness of pineapples varies, the amount of jalapeno and salt may need to be increased accordingly.
Add the remaining pineapple, cucumber and the cilantro leaves and 1½ tablespoons of the avocado or olive oil. Pulse the blender quickly a few times – the gazpacho should remain chunky. Add the macadamia nuts and stir to distribute them evenly.
Divide among serving bowls and drizzle with the remaining avocado or olive oil and sprinkle with remaining minced jalapeno and sliced green onion.
Chewy Chocolate Freezer Fudge
2 cups almond butter (one 16-ounce jar)
¼ cup raw cocoa powder (or use raw carob powder, or a combination of both)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 heaping tablespoon coconut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
In a large bowl, combine the ingredients and stir well. You can also use a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, but it’s more fun to do by hand.
Spoon the mixture into little candy molds, flatten with a spoon, and cover with parchment or wax paper. Or line a square baking pan with parchment or plastic. Place the fudge into the pan and cover the surface with parchment or wax paper, pressing down evenly to flatten. Place in the freezer to chill. If using the pan, remove from the freezer after an hour or so, flip it out of the pan onto a flat surface and cut into squares or rectangles. These should be stored, covered, in the freezer.
What tricks or tips do you have for moms trying to get their kids to eat more raw?
I think it is probably best not to make a big deal out of it and just try to get them engaged in fresh food and in making their own food. Trips to the greenmarket, visiting farms to learn how food grows and where it comes from is all probably really helpful. I think also making sure that all discussions around food are focused on the positive things that food does for you, rather than making anything a “no-no” or trying to force anything. And of course being a good role model and making it clear how enjoyable your own food is to you would probably help get your kids interested.
I would also suggest making recipes together and letting them help in the preparation. A spiral slicer is a fun tool for kids to make ribbon noodles from things like zucchini (and it’s safer than giving your kids a mandoline or sharp knives!). And then of course making fun raw sweets, or giving your kids One Lucky Duck cookies, ice cream, and snacks! Part of my reason for wanting to name that brand “one lucky duck” with a duck logo is because of the cuteness factor that would make it appealing to kids too. Everything about raw food should be fun!
Any advice for wives trying to entice their men to go raw?
Same as all the above, plus you can tell them how much sexier you feel eating raw. If they see how much more energy you have, they’ll probably want some of whatever you’re having. Then if that doesn’t work you can tell them that Tom Brady ate Pure Food and Wine food the day of the record breaking game when they beat the Giants last year just before the superbowl. He is my all time favorite pure food and wine guest/duck customer. People are always surprised that we have a lot of athletes that come here. If your man is athletic, we carry a book on oneluckyduck.com (and you can find it in any store) called The Thrive Diet by Brendan Brazier, a triathlete. It’s not all raw (but all vegan and mostly raw) and it’s really informative and a good read. If they ask you the “protein” question… ask them what gorillas and huge hippos eat… leaves, grass, greens… and they’re pretty big and strong. Finally… if all else fails then well, you can tell them that on raw food, their own “juice” will taste much better.
Care to share a raw beauty secret of yours?
Coconut butter! It’s an amazing ingredient to put in shakes and desserts, but I also keep a big tub of our coconut butter in the bathroom and use it as lotion, lip balm, makeup remover. In the winter time when the air is drier I put it on my face at night on top of other face creams (I use mostly Alkaitis and Simply Divine Botanicals). But if you could only use one product, coconut butter is amazing! Perfect for shaving your legs in the shower too. And my cats love licking it off my toes in the bathroom. It’s also not a bad thing to keep in the bedroom for um… backrubs, and anything else.
For cosmetics, my amazing friend Rose Marie who is a big time make up artist finally came out with her make-up line and we carry it at oneluckyduck, it’s called RMS Beauty. It’s like nothing else out there, she’s totally amazing. That line is going to be huge pretty soon. People don’t realize that what you put on your skin soaks right through to your insides, so you may as well be eating your make-up and if it’s full of chemicals, it’s going right inside.
How much sleep do you generally get? What hours do you keep?
If I lived a more stress-free life, and didn’t have a restaurant, or a boyfriend who likes to stay up late, then I would probably get in bed at a more consistent time. I also don’t have a boss so if I stay up late working on a Sunday and want to sleep late on a Monday, I can do that. When I first went raw, I started sleeping like a baby after years of sleep troubles, so I know how good raw food is for sleeping. Right now, things feel a bit topsy turvy, so I can’t really answer this question other than to say that it’s very different all the time!
What’s your daily water intake?
A lot…though I’ve never measured how much. We have an amazing water filtration system at the restaurant (Tensui water) and I bring 5-gallon jugs of it back to my house all the time. I drink water all day long, starting with a full glass with lemon juice when I wake up. It’s good to get used to drinking more water and making it a habit. So many people out there are probably chronically dehydrated, and drinking coffee and soda only exacerbates that condition. People should spend more time at the water coolers in their offices.
What is a typical breakfast like for you? What about lunch, dinner, and snacks?
This is a little bit like the sleeping question… there is no “typical” breakfast, lunch or dinner for me, or a regular time for any of them. I also go through phases based on what I’m craving or how I feel. For a while, about an hour after waking up I would have a bowl of One Lucky Duck cinnamon crispies with hemp milk, goji berries, and a big handful of raw cacao nibs, which gave me a lot of energy. Then I started feeling a bit dependent on the energy/caffeine from the raw cocoa nibs, and so let it go. I always try to start with a big glass of water with lemon juice, and I take some MSM tablets. Right now grapefruits are in season, so I’ve been eating grapefruit sections in a bowl with a tablespoon or so of thawed E3-Live and sweetened with stevia. Ideally I would have a big salad based lunch and then just graze lightly throughout the evening, but sometimes I have a dinner meeting or get too busy during the day to make lunch. I love it when I have a green shake in my refrigerator and then I just have that when I feel hungry.
My step-sister saw my blog where I posted my favorite recipe for green shake, and so she made it at home. Her two year old daughter wanted a taste. She gave her a spoonful thinking she wouldn’t like it, but her daughter kept clamoring for more and more of it. Green shakes might look like swamp water, but if you make them right they taste amazing! And I wasn’t surprised that her two year old wanted more and more-I think kids intuitively know what’s good for them!!
How late in the evening do you feel it is okay to eat?
I don’t get that hungry in the evening but I also don’t like to let myself get hungry and not eat just because the clock says it’s past a certain time. I think you sleep better if you don’t eat before bed, but it also just doesn’t feel good to go to sleep hungry. If I’m hungry, I’ll drink some juice, kombucha, or eat a little bit of fruit. Ideally I would eat a really light dinner early in the evening, 5 or 6pm. But very often I have a dinner meeting or some other commitment. Or I will be working from home and just graze lightly. I think if you’re kids are hungry at night, raw nut milks or raw cookies would be fine, but just not something too chocolate-y since raw chocolate can get you wired up.
Who do you admire most, or who are you inpired by in the raw movement today?
Good question. I think I’m over the guru-worshipping phase, and now what inspires me daily is the e-mail I get from people or the feedback I get from people I meet at the restaurant. In fact, I meet a lot of moms who tell me of their success with healing their kids with raw (or just a gluten/casein/processed free diet). It’s really moving to me, and when I’m feeling down and tired and not having “the best day ever” then it gives me the strength to keep going. I am hugely inspired to make raw food fun, cool, hip, sexy, and of course yummy-whatever it takes to get young people in particular inspired and that starts at home with parents. Rather than any particular shining raw example, it’s just all the individual people out there making a go of trying to make their own lives better that inspire me.
Is there anything else you’d love to share?
Thank you for creating such a great website and helping to inspire and support people! AND as a special love shout-out to all you rawmoms, here is a little coupon for everyone:
At oneluckyduck.com, enter the code “RAWMOM” at checkout to receive free ground shipping in the U.S. This offer is available through March 1st.