Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Patio Farmers, Black Out and Squaw Valley

Santa Monica has a growing number of community gardens spread throughout the city. The most famous is on Main Street, south of downtown, and has been there since the 1970's. I remember staring at them as a kid and wondering how people got so lucky to get a garden in a pack of gardens in the middle of town. It didn't occur to me to call the city about getting one of them myself until a couple months ago. I applied for a plot, told them I'd take any size at any of the three locations. I'm 250th or so on the waiting list – that’s what the lady told me! It will take years. I can wait.

Mina and I drove past the Park Drive Gardens, the closest community garden to our house, last weekend. We walked all around the locked lots and tried to identify all the food coming into harvest; tomatoes, strawberries, basil, corn! They were fantastic. Some of the lots were tiny, maybe a 100 sq. feet, and it occurred to me that my back patio is only a little smaller than the smallest of these lots. I said, "Mina, these gardens are tiny, right? Don't they look the same size as our patio?" Her eyes lit up. "Yes!" And in that moment we decided to become patio farmers.

For the record, I know not a thing about the soil. In technical terms, I know not what makes it tick or what would move it to miraculously produce something so perfect as zucchini, let's say. Or a watermelon. I mean, that's nuts, right? A watermelon grows from a seed, y'all! So the thought that I could somehow coax the earth to do the same for me is a bit mindblowing. It's logical to believe that anything living needs nurturing, nutrients, love. I know that much, I suppose.

When I was 13, Mama lived in a trailer in Westlake with a bit of a yard. One spring she planted strawberries seeds in high, holey terracotta pots. We sat on the back trailer steps and waited for things to grow. Quail families ran through the yard with small bobbing head feathers. When jagged green leaves crawled out of the holes of the pots, I was impressed. But when small red berries exploded in bloom between the leaves I thought Mama was in on something godly. Of course she was, but I was not moved to try such miracles myself. I didn't think it was possible for me, in an apartment. Growing food was for people with land and with a calling.

I've been called now, or I self appointed a calling to myself. It's yet to be seen if I can lure food from the ground. I did successfully keep some herbs alive from existing plants last summer. That alone was chest-puffing for me.

Mina and I started our patio farm with some plastic planters that had been in storage or discarded.We spruced them up with good dirt, and seeds and some seedlings though these bell peppers are a bit more than seedlings.Hey, 'member I got this Envirocycle rolling composter a year ago?Yo, talk about miracles! Did you know -- and I'm really just talking to my city folks right now -- that scraps of food, over time and mixed right and rolled around in the above contraption, really turns into a dirt-like substance? It's crazy! Here's a cupful. Check it:Don't ask me how the worms got in there; I'm just a bystander in the natural ecology of things. We added our homemade compost to our soil and apparently our lil' plants are gonna eat it up and dig us for it. You know who else is diggin' the project? Patio Farmer Mina. Here's what we have so far: Tomatoes in the corner, herbs from existing plants, seedling bell peppers and sugar snap peas, and from seeds (hopefully) will come carrots, zucchini, pole beans and I have some eggplant getting started indoors. (I read the packets very carefully.) I'll keep you posted because, lord have mercy, when I see the first hint of an edible substance coming from our p. farm, I'll be snapping pictures like it was my first born.
In other news . . .Husband has been staging a bit of a silent protest. He is the production manager for a clothing line and he works really hard, too hard really. He works 11-12 hours days, every day. He works Saturday mornings most weeks and since they've added a factory in Mexico, he's had to make trips there twice a month. He is a machine. But it's too much. You know when the hardest working person just ends up taking on most of the work? He's that guy. And I tell him that they'll work him as hard as he'll let them, and he says I know I know, but still he works until the brink anyway. About a month ago, he unceremoniously started wearing only black to work; black t-shirts, black jeans, black sneakers. Every single day without fail, all black. I don’t want to worry, but I don't see an end in sight, and coworkers are starting to make comments. It's as much of a protest against the work load as Husband can muster. It's like he's telling his work, "I'm saying fuck you in my mind right now." Kinda. Poor Husband! I love him so much.

And in other other news, I got accepted to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Program this summer (!). I've attended this workshop before, a few years ago and many, many years before that. 'Member when I was Janet Finch's personal DJ last time? Oh man, she's great. Anyway, Squaw for me has been an amazing experience and the alumni and staff are intimidatingly impressive, but really the valley itself is magic for me. Squaw Valley in the summertime is the most beautiful place I've ever seen in person. I can't tell you what staring at the velvet valley does for me. For 7 days, I will get to geek out on writing with a good mix of budding brilliance, pretentious gas bags and straight lunatics. I love them all. I applied with my new story, which is the first I've written in a while and I'll get it workshopped during the program. In the past, I've held high expectations for myself when going to the workshop only to disappoint myself even more later. After the program, I have felt huge crashes; tumblings down after hoping to retain the hope and highs I felt at Squaw. Writing good fiction takes everything from me. It's the only thing that I do that takes complete silence and full concentration. That's a tall order in my house. Anyway, no expectations this year. I'm just gonna be myself and geek out and appreciate what I was able to churn out lately. I’ll ride my bike next to Lake Tahoe and of course stare at the valley. That's all I really want, is that valley to hold me still for a while.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Onward, Upward

Maya graduated from middle school on Friday, and though I could do another post about how great I think she is and how proud I am of the person she continues to evolve into, the thing is, she's ready. She's completely ready for the next level. I'm not worried or even nostalgic. She is ready for high school, and she'll be ready for beyond. I can't deny that mothering her and Mina has been an every-minute-counts kind of job that has drawn almost all of my energy and effort and brain power. I can't deny that I've been 2,000% committed to them, and that being a mami is probably what I'm best at out of all the trades of which I'm a jack. But I also can't deny that Maya has had some amazing people who have also helped clear a path to her success. She has been loved and supported and cheered on from every which way.

For Maya's grad ceremony came the following fan base from Las Vegas and San Diego: Maya's blood dad BD, his wife Sanne, their beautiful girls Rae and Baby Gabby, Grandma Carmen (BD's mom) and three cousins, Jonathan, William and Chelsea. I don't say this lightly, but besides Husband's family, these people are the closest I personally have to family as well. BD and I have always gotten along well, sharing the same brand of decency and respect for each other, and sharing a similar philosophy in parenting. I have never not liked him as a person even though we split up before Maya was a year old. We easily and gladly accommodate each other and figure things out. The ease with which we glide through custody issues is nothing short of magical. It is communal raising of children at it's finest. We are nothing short of a insulating unit; a unified force supporting our children to be their best. I know we are fortunate, Maya especially, -- I've heard plenty a nightmare story about split parents -- but it's not like we just keep face for Maya's sake. We just all genuinely like each other.

Most heartwarmingly is when Maya's summer absence started to take a toll on Mina a few years ago, and they then told Mina should could come to Vegas whenever she wanted. Mina has been there quite a few times, the longest being a week and including a trip to a family reunion. It's funny to explain the situation, but in the end all the uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents fall in love with Mina too; she is easily accepted as no less than family.

So, out they came driving five hours from Las Vegas with two small children without a second thought to celebrate Maya's graduation and to hopefully too gloat a little in the tremendous role they've played in creating such a great kid.
Maya assisting Grandma Carmen to the car with Rae's help.Awesome cousins Jonathan, 15, and William, 14.Sweet cousin Chelsea and Baby Gabby.Beauty Rae. Ok, so I do have to leak a bit of pride for Maya. She won an award called the Pride Award though I call it the Pleasure to Have in Class Award. The teachers had to pick only 15 kids out of hundreds who they ALL agreed made teaching pleasurable because of the kids' enthusiasm, attitudes and general awesomeness. Maya was one of the fifteen! She was also honored as a member of the college club and for blowing past the required Million Word Challenge where, in English, students were pushed to read a million words this year. Maya killed that. I do want to mention too that Maya's BFF, El, received an award for keeping a straight-A average the entire three years in middle school. El was also awarded an Outstanding Citizen of School medal. El kicks serious butt.

And special mention goes to Mina. Every year, since the infamous 2nd grade fiasco, she has improved nearly a whole grade higher. This year was no exception. Fourth grade was her best year yet. And this chokes me up as much as Maya's ability to stay at the top of her class. It is a non-stop and emotionally-taxing job to keep Mina motivated and plugging along and striving. I've cried about it, yelled about it, created different ways to keep her going. And she did it. I'm over-the-moon proud of Mina because in the end, no matter how much I guide and push, it's her by herself doing projects and homework now; she's by herself in her classroom making the final decisions about how she will approach her learning and handle her work. And she totally came through for herself.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fair Food is Freshest

What concerns me about the organic, whole-food movement - a movement with which I am completely devoted to por vida -- is the food caste system that has been created. I know the exclusion of poorer people by the movement is unintentional by those driving the movement, but there has to be more recognition that the fairness of food is as important as its quality. And I don't mean just for the growers here and abroad, but for the inclusion of all people in the accessibility of fresh, healthy, affordable food. More and more visible is a fight for the smaller (and growing) local organic farms. Rightly so, but what about neighborhoods where Whole Foods Markets won't venture or farmers markets aren't organized? Can't we drive for all of these things at the same time so we don't have to come back and fight again for those left behind? The fight for all these issues together should go hand in hand since fresh healthy food should be a right not a privilege of a higher few, and historically every culture's poorer class were the ones originally connected to the land and who harvested the food for themselves and the community. California, the largest agricultural state, provides the entire country with produce on the backs of people who are told to get out of the country whether citizens or not -- but, y'know, after they pick the grapes and strawberries and lechuga for a tiny wage. . .this is a whole 'nother issue, but my point is fairness.

As an advocate of the movement, I don't find it enough to just ponder these social-organic divides as I spend a good chunk of my own money on fresh, organic foods for myself and my family. Awareness is important. It is the seed of action. Supporting those in action is the bridge to eventually digging into a solution personally. I want that for myself. I'm studying holistic nutrition, right? So I can volunteer all the information away at places like the Venice Family Clinic, right? And I imagine myself making suggestions to a single mom in regards to organics and whole foods, but then I can't always imagine her being able to manifest that information to her family affordably and conveniently. The information is important; the ability to apply it frustrates me.

My mother, like many single mothers, did her best to make a food stamp stretch and the cheapest foods that could go a long way were processed meats and cheeses and milk, all things that were/are believed to fill basic nutritional needs. I ate Plain Wrap hot dogs almost every night for dinner. (Do you remember Plain Wrap?) Eventually -- I'm sure I've told this story before -- I regularly started to experience symptoms where I would see spots, then lose my peripheral vision which ended in vomiting; at school, at the bus stop, at home. When my mother finally took me to the doctor I was diagnosed with migraines as a result of nitrate poisoning. I wasn't allowed to eat hot dogs regularly any more. This is why information is important, because how was my mother supposed to know that high levels of the preservative could become toxic? But with the exclusion of this convenience and no guidance to what could last cheaply and be healthier, especially with the long hours she worked and not being a cook, I could see how she would feel limited and frustrated. Something as cheap as hot dogs meant I didn't skip a meal at night and at least she could say I didn't go to bed hungry.

Last year I read an article in the LA Times about the Urban Farming efforts in LA. In general, Urban Farming works in cities across the country to take over abandon lots to cultivate community gardens that provide fresh food to the neighborhood and sometimes food banks. LA's history of city farming is a heated one especially when the owners of the land of the South Central Farms took it back in 2006 and evicted 14 acres of community farms so a Forever 21 warehouse could be built instead. The South Central Farms fed over 300 families with its harvest, mainly poorer families in the area. It was an outrage and the battle to Take Back the Farm continues. The South Central Farm still runs a CSA program. The food is grown in Bakersfield now, disconnected from the community, but at least it's still alive. So, I read this article on the Urban Farming Food Chain Project where architechs have designed gardens to be HUNG ON WALLS, concrete city walls especially welcome! LA is the pilot city for this experiment of no-space food production in fresh-food deprived areas. The project now has four thriving locations, most of which are grown on transitional housing walls and the residents learn to cultivate the garden themselves. I'm overwhelmed with the genius of the idea. Check out a before and after picture of the Skid Row Housing Trust's 'The Rainbow' at San Pedro & 7th. Some of the plants they grew during the first season: Bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatillos, strawberries, spinach, parsley, leeks, edible lavender and a variety of herbs.More before and after photos here.
It's one thing to provide information, quite another to say here are some organic cucumbers off the vine from the parking lot, aren't they delicious? Here's a quote from the site: "During World War II twenty million people planted 'Victory Gardens' at their homes. They grew 40% of America's produce supply. They did it then. We can do it again!" I am so inspired and motivated by the project that I looked into how I could volunteer. They only really need experienced farming and irrigation-type people and I am far from that. The other thing they need is money, and I don't have a lot of that either, but I could raise some. I decided that in October I'm going to cycle a century (100 miles) to raise money for the Food Chain Project. I'll hit you guys up later for some collective, communal love so tuck away some pennies for me and the gardens.

The other thing I did was join the Slow Food movement, who's base philosophy is that fresh food is a right and they deal with this issue on a sweeping, grand level.

Lastly, I just want to acknowledge Bryant Terry again who sort of gelled together the idea of food justice for me. He is the chef who wrote Vegan Soul Kitchen and he is very much a food activist. Before digging all through his blog and discovering that there is an alive food justice movement, I couldn't seem to organize my thoughts and actions regarding this subject even though it's been on my mind since I was a kid. Terry recently collaborated with Oakland-based artist activist Favianna Rodriquez to create these posters. I think she's amazing.This one has to do with the balance of cooking by men; how men and boys shouldn't just learn to garden but to cook too and be self sufficient. She addresses men of color specifically, but I think it's true of all men.This one is about how the accessibility of fresh, healthy food is sparse or nonexistent in low-income neighborhoods and it affects the under-represented, the poor and people of color. Inside our bodies are chemicals, not real food. She calls it "a war on our bodies." And this last gorgeous one is self explanatory.I find the posters so relevant and beautiful. If you do too, you can buy them here.

Monday, June 08, 2009

LA River & Cycling Love

I wouldn't say that staring at the LA River fills me as tightly as staring at the ocean, but it's close. Very close. Which would seem odd to the majority of Angelenos because the LA River is basically considered an iconic eye sore. The property around the ocean is coveted and the most expensive in the world. The property and neighborhoods around the LA River just as soon be forgotten, and often are. These neighborhoods are some of the poorest in the city and often experience the highest crime. But I find the most extreme beauty in the aftermath of a social-economic-political backturning because in these neighborhoods there are still people; mothers and fathers who want well for their children, people who want comfort and fairness for themselves and their community. Beyond the struggle, and criminal frustration, a fiercely organic hope emerges; beauty blossoms that is rooted in the collective, if minimal hope of people. It's a beauty that cannot be stopped. This can be witnessed in any neighborhood, anywhere.

On Sunday, I rode my bike 50 miles in the 9th Annual LA River Ride which is put on by LA Bicycle Coalition. The LACBC is a bicycle advocacy group that champions our issues as cyclists whether for sport, transportation or recreation. I think they do amazing work and I'm thrilled to be a member and really, if you live in Southern California and have a bike, be it collecting dust or used every day, please become a member to support them. Lately they've been relentlessly staying on the city to follow through with our huge, planned Bike Path program that would create many more bike-only roadways in LA.

Not only do I love the LACBC, but how lucky am I that they put on a fundraising event to be almost entirely ridden near the LA River?

I want to now admit that I was at first regretful I had signed up to ride 50 miles. Pre event, I kicked myself for not starting smaller with the 36 miler or maybe just the fun family ride. Maybe I should just watch! On Saturday night, my stomach was in knots. I didn't feel prepared. I felt I hadn't put in enough road work on my bike. This event is not a race at all, but I didn't want to feel like shit out there, y'know? Then I just resigned to it. I'd just go out there and roll around and take pictures and fuck it, right? I figured a 50 mile ride would take me at least 4 hours, maybe more, especially since the route would only be half bike path and half open city streets with traffic. I could deal with that. I made homemade energy bars from Brazier's book Thrive and rolled them into individually-wrapped balls to stuff into my fanny pack. I filled two water bottles with electrolytes, packed my camera, my phone, sunblock, lip balm.

Sunday's sky was uncharacteristically full of character for LA. Our skies generally like to stay clearly blue or muted silver and not much in between, but the shimmer off the clouds onto the water and neighborhoods was a breathtaking back drop. Here we are starting out along the river near gorgeous Griffith Park, downtown LA in the far background. Here, on the bike, my nerves had evaporated. I was thrilled to be there.

Heading out into the streets on the peripheral of downtown, we crossed a classically inner-LA bridge, over the river.

I sighed going over the bridge and said aloud, "Ug, I love the river." A gentleman who was riding near me and who had exchanged plesantries earlier said, "Really?" I said, "It's so beautiful." And he said, "Huh. I guess you have to have a lot of imagination to find it beautiful." I looked at the river again just incase we were looking at different things, and thought, Do I just have a lot imagination? Thank god for that, then.I think what moves me a lot is the clash of industrial with natural, or the emergence of the natural no matter what. The broken down factory-like businesses along the stretch of river between Commerce and Compton were dinosaurish, but I saw wild lilies growing in unkept grounds around them. Cattails had been planted to line parts of the path, just underneath barbed wire fences. Even the river itself is contained in a human-made concrete vice, but the graffiti keeps it alive. The touches of expression burst and compliment the river. There are a lot of industrial businesses in these neighborhoods, and whoever constructs these steel and concrete monstrosities, no matter how hard they try to make them look so drab and unappealing, they can't stop plants sprouting through the cracks or kids releasing their art onto the banks, the awnings, the tractors, the steel-bolted monster buildings.

There's nothing in this next picture really. It just appeals to me. Rolling along at 18mph, it was hard to get all the photos I wanted. I couldn't capture a fraction of the images that moved me. And looking at these photos, and thinking about what that guy said, maybe it doesn't translate as Beautiful to many others, but maybe you guys could use your imaginations too.
Here I am, riding along sola, just after at the halfway turn-around point in Compton.This was the last picture I took(with my Post Punk Kitchen tshirt on!) because I told myself that if I felt strong, I would pick it up in the last half of the ride. And at 25 miles, I did feel strong. I told myself that if I still felt good in another 12 miles, I'd bring it on even more. With about 20 miles left I caught up with a man wearing a Tivo cycling jersey. He rode a decent bike at a decent pace and he and I exchanged leads through the streets near downtown. We passed a bunch of tiring riders and we caught up with another rider who wore an event jersey. He became our new pace car. What I learned about myself as a cyclist is that in the streets through traffic and over rolling hills, I was a very strong and confident rider. The endless amounts of railroad tracks and manholes and crater-like pot holes did not bother me in the least, while I heard many a "serious" cyclist grumble about the bullshit going on in the streets. (P.S. The biggest obstacle I wove around was a huge pile of horse shit right in the middle of the bike path in Lynwood. Lynwood! Where are these city horses at?) So, obstacle courses and cars didn't phase me because I've mainly ridden my bike in traffic since I was in 3rd grade. But when the two jersey dudes and I got on the flat, empty bike path, they smoked me a little. They gained a good 75 yards on me that I wasn't able to recover. When I finished the ride, I was a little breathless, my legs felt fatigued, but I felt like a billion bucks. With all the traffic lights and the one time we had to wait for a passing cargo train which lasted five minutes, I finished the 50 miles in 3 hours and 15 minutes. Seriously, a billion dollars and all the worrying for nothing! I kissed the frame of my bike while waiting for my goodie bag.

My car was parked about a mile away and I slowly rode back to it, elated. The last 200 yards to the parking lot was a steep hill. I decided to walk it, but half way up, where the road leveled a little before it got steep again, I decided I should just ride up the freaking hill already. Walking in my clip shoes was almost as hard. I clipped in my left foot, went to accelerate and realized I was still in a big gear, so big that the bike did not move, only leaned left. When I realized I was doomed, I just relaxed and resigned to the fall and I timbered over onto my left side in the empty street. I was laughing and unclipping myself when a grandma drove up next to me in a minivan. She rolled down her window and asked if I was ok. I love how I can feel so badass one minute and be so not badass the next.

I love you LA River and LACBC. Thanks for a great ride.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Fashion Non-sense

I'm having a blast with What's Mina Wearing Today? I love how easily it all comes together for her. She's like a magnet and clothes are drawn to her and assemble themselves in interesting ways. Maya too has an easy cool, colorful style that's perfect for her.

I'm not saying I have no style or fashion sense. I think I just came to the conclusion a few years ago that it's too exhausting for me. And quite honestly, shopping for clothes weighs me heavy with unnecessary guilt. Being fashionable seems like an endless, worrisome and expensive pursuit and giving it up -- like jumping off a express train -- brought me relief. My style now waffles between workout-pant-cardigan casual and for dressier days, jeans-tshirt-cardigan glossed up a little. And flats. Heels begone! Molly says my outfits don't look totally complete until I’ve rolled up my right pant leg. I can’t have my pants getting caught in my bike chain! Aaahhh. I love being me.

But why is it such a long road to being yourself sometimes? I was the coolest dresser I knew, until high school started. Then I struggled. For a long time. It never crossed my mind then to keep it simple. The 80's and 90's were a bitch on keeping it simple.

The Christmas of 1970 was a fat one for us. There weren't many fat ones, but this was one was relatively plentiful. The presents I received that year allowed me more freedom to explore my early fashion sense. This picture gives you an idea that at three years old, I was on an ambitious path fashion-wise. It's hard to keep up with such trendsetting What-the-Fuckedness.
My elementary years were filled with Catholic school uniforms and frankly, I don't remember much else. Except when there's evidence that someone else dressed me. Like for this wedding circa 1973. I'm super thrilled about this look as you can tell. Or I'm wishing I was rocking that cool, plastic football helmet again. I love the socks though.But when middle school came my way in 1980, I was somehow on the top of my game. I shopped at the Salvation Army and garage sales because that's what I could afford and serendipitously I was fashionable. The original wave of punk was making it onto our scene and though I didn't feel moved to egg-white my hair into gravity-defying do's, I was inclined to self-sheer my bangs. I wore army-surplus parachute pants and aprons as accessories and brightly-patterned Nigerian woven skull caps. It was all aimless and rad. Here I am in 1981 at 14, I think, and it was just before I pierced my nose with an ice cube and a sewing needle which in 1981 was out there because even the punkers weren't too much into piercing yet. I self pierced my nose -- which took several excruciating attempts -- after I had gone to an African festival at UCLA. I couldn't get over how beautiful West African women were with head wraps and long patterned dresses and nose studs. I was a far cry from that with sun-bleached hair and a 60's vintage moth-eaten-but-still-awesome men's sweater shirt.>I wish I had more pictures from junior high, damn. I just found this one. I think it's from 1982, at YMCA overnight camp, where I experienced some of my best childhood memories. I'm wearing a thrift store men’s sweater. Hey, there's a safety pin in my ear! And this classic . . .the kelly green garage-sale score with the lavender vinyl belt and the vato slippers. So on my game then!It's been pretty much downhill since 1982.

Except I've been rocking this again lately:I bought this ring 22 years ago from a street vendor when I lived in Berkeley with Betsy. Ok, I didn't buy it, I traded for it. The ring cost about $30 and there was no way I could afford it. But I always stopped by to look at it. Finally the guy said, "Do you know how to cook?" I said, "Sure," which I really didn't back then. He said, "Make me a tuna casserole, and the ring is yours." I said, "DONE!" The next week I brought him a full tin casserole tray of tuna slop and he happily handed me the ring

So, I got that going for me. And a rolled-up pant leg trend I'm trying to ignite.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Rawness Rivera

My yearn for rawness comes in waves. Kinda like this: GUNGHO! Settle back, but more raw than before. GUNGHO! Settle back with more raw tricks up my sleeve, and on.

I'm kinda gungho again. I picked up Brendan Brazier's book Thrive and it fired me up. Brendan is a triathlete and ultra marathoner (Canada's champ) and he's been a vegan for 17 years. As he's experimented with his performance levels over those years, he's gone primarily raw especially while training. What I like about his book is that he speaks in terms of food strictly as optimal fuel for optimal performance whether as a top athlete or as a busy, regular person. I like that his approach is not from an animal-rights come from. To prevent animal suffering is a huge reason why I don't eat them and there are many more books that address this side of veganism, but a non vegan can easily emotionally justify why they eat meat. It's hard to argue with Brendan's performance & energy-based experiments concluding that whole vegan food, primarly raw, is the best fuel for you. It's hard to argue when the guy has won ultra marathons. WON! The main theories are that ANY processed foods (vegan included) are a stress on your system, and that raw foods and the enzymes in them rejuvenate cells and tissue at a faster rate allowing an athlete to recover quicker than a non raw vegan. Recovery is as important as full-tilt training. Raw foodies talk all the time about the power of the enzyme, the anti-cancer properties, the spark of energy they provide, but I love reading about it from a pure performance perspective. Brazier is non judgmental in his writing, but you can tell that he is anal about his own diet -- just like any top athlete would be about a successful regiment.

I think the best advice he gives though is to simply add more fruits and raw vegetables to the preexisting diet. He optimistically believes adding raw fruits and veggies will start to edge out the shit. I'm with him 100% on that.

How'd I get off on a Brendan Brazier tangent . . .? Oh, yea, he's got me gungho! I've been playing with raw recipes again, and I took a class at reportedly (reported correctly) the best raw restaurant in LA, Cru. The class was Italian Comfort Food. YUM! On the demo menu was lasagna, caesar salad (though historically Mexican, not Italian), Nutella figs and tiramisu. Uh, sick!! Everything was pretty fantastic, but I gotta say the Nutella Figs were a mouth explosion, y'know, in a sophisticated kind of way. My friend Emilie has written glorious and eloquent novella-style posts dedicated to the fig, but I wasn't a believer until these came into my life:
These are dried white figs smeared with the raw vegan nutella (basically soaked hazelnuts, raw cacao powder, agave and coconut oil). The ones in the back are topped with the mascarpone cream left over from the raw tiramisu I made. I want to marry these.

You don't just whip up raw food -- other than a salad or opening a banana, I mean. But to make raw crackers or bread or "entrees" or desserts one needs to plan days in advance. It's crazy. Soaking nuts for a day, dehydrated for two . . .When I fall into the flow of the method, it becomes meditative. The appreciation of food intensifies. (Though sometimes you just want to scarf down some toast over your sink, I realize.) Here are some pictures of my recent raw food gunghoness:

This is a creamy mushroom soup. I learned this recipe when I took a course last year over at Leaf, another great LA raw spot. I added fresh tarragon and chopped veggies. I went on a RAWvolution recipe rampage. Starting with Coconut-Carob Haystacks, which are fantastic. You keep them in the freezer and they taste like candy. I've been trying to wean the girls off of refined sugar, or at the very least make them more conscientious of how much is going in their mouth. Puberty and refined sugar are a bitch of a combo. Maya is totally receptive, but Mina? She can talk the talk, but the walk would be a beeline to the candy shop if it was all left up to her. She's Papi's girl. Anyway, I'm planting seeds, godamnit! Or that's what I tell myself. Mina does love these though and she doesn't like a lot of the raw stuff.Then I made RAWvolution's "Famous Onion Bread." These are almost all onion mixed with ground sunflower seeds, flax meal and raw soy sauce. They took 36 HOURS TO DEHYDRATE. Damn, but they are pretty great.Then I made the "Mock Tuna Salad" to go with the bread.The flavor in concentrated raw foods is so intense. You don't really need a lot to feel satisfied especially when balanced out with a some leafy greens. I don't think we are used to the strong flavors that occur naturally in foods because most of the flavors in a standard diet are processed out and added back in. The processing leaves food more devoid of nutrition and we end up eating much more than we had intended because our body is trying to fill itself with nutrients even when we're full. We beat ourselves up for eating too much when really your body is just trying to fill nutritional blanks. This is an important point for me too because prepared raw food is far from cheap. Holy. But I figure it lasts longer because I'll eat less of it. And I can't justify enough spending a big chunk of my money on nutritious food.

Whoa, did that sound all instructional? All robotic and ideal? Darn you, Brendan Brazier!

Mainly, my friends, I just wanted to tell you: Peace, Love and Leafy Greens.