Sunday, January 24, 2010

Raw Love

For months now I've been very excited by this space that has been under construction a few blocks from me at 116 Suffolk street between Delancey and Stanton. It's a cavernous space with light bamboo flooring and art gallery white walls. At the door as you enter and frankly the thing that got me excited are several glass door refrigerators which were in place well before the rest of the space so I thought:

"Wonderful finally someone is going to open up on the Lower East Side a really good organic/health food type grocery store!"

What has finally opened (actually they're still in the process of getting everything together) is the new bigger version of Organic Avenue which has moved from their smaller s[acec on Staton street - the new space has a raw food and juice cafe in addition to all the other housewares, clothes and other cool enviro/organic stuff.

When the first Organic Avenue opened on Stanton street I remember that I went in and had a conversation with a woman (I believe the owner) about silk (I was still running my store LaoLao Handmade and sold a lot of silk textiles) and she explained to me the concept of ahimsa silk(which I'd never heard of) traditionally silk cocoons along with the silk worm inside are thrown into boiling water to loosen the the threads and begin the process of spooling it.

Ahimsa is Sanskrit meaning "not injury" so in the process of making ahimsa silk no boiling water is used you wait until the metamorphosed silk worm emerges as a month and then collect the discard cocoons to then start the process of silk making. Which for commercial silk makers is less then ideal as the chrysalis excretes chemicals to break through the cocoon which I guess breaks the continuous nature of the thread?

Why am I going on a about this? Well because to so well illustrates the back bone philosophy of Organic Avenue and by extension the raw food/vegan communities.

From Organic Avenue's pamphlet:

What's LOVE got to do with it?
In a word - everything. Our cleansing program works by sustaining you with the food of pure LOVE, the nourishment that provides an unmatched Live Organic Vegan Experience

I've written about the raw food movement on here before and my thinking on the topic was decidedly influenced by the work of Harvard professor Richard Wrangham when I read his book Catching Fire (a must read).

The first thing that makes me bristle is the the cost of LOVE (Live, Organic Vegan, Experience)
$350 for a 5-day menu ($325 for members - and the membership thing just makes it sound kind of cult-y to me). Obviously there are a lot of rich people out there in need of LOVE because in addition to their new huge space on the Lower East Side Organic Avenue has also opened up a space in the West Village.

I totally support a primarily vegetarian diet and am all about organic and local (the raw foodies seem less concerned with local from what I can tell - as cashew "cheese" and coconut products seem to play central rolls in vegan/raw food diets).

Juicing seems wasteful and misguided to me, extracting out all the fiber from the vegetables increasing amount of sugar you get which is then introduced into your body more rapidly and without any of the benefit of the fiber. If it takes 6 carrots to make a glass of carrot juice you are getting 6 times the amount of sugar - and none of the fiber - would you sit down and eat 6 carrots? Why not just eat a carrot? Well in part because carrot juice is more like a soda...and the idea that you get so many more vitamins, minerals, etc in a juice is kind of moot - do you really need them? Don't you end up urinating all the extra out? Wouldn't you be better off just eating a salad and saving your self the money on buying a juicing machine or going to some fancy place to get it? Not to mention isn't a salad more filling and satisfying as an eating experience?

Eating like this on occasion is a fine thing, but to eat like this all the time present actual proven health risks, so all the LOVE can actually make you sick, most specifically as Wrangham points out in Catching Fire people who eat an exclusive raw food diet become sterile (among other medical issues) within three months of eating exclusively raw.

Finally, as someone who eats dairy and will on occasion eat local, humanely raised and slaughtered meat it has to be pointed out that these animals that raw foodies are suppose to be loving - like chickens and cows - would quickly go extinct if it were not for humans and our age old symbiotic relationship with them.

The issue, for me, is how are our animals treated and how can we get back to a local farm based food system as there is no question that big AG and factory meat is a bad deal for all involved. So although I have my questions and doubts about vegan and raw food diets I do think it is an inevitable reaction against a system of food production that has indeed made us and the planet sick and needs to be changed. Eating more vegetables is always a good thing and I look forward to going back to Organic Avenue and having lunch there the soups and salads sound intriguing.

Finally, if you have made it this far and you eat a primarily raw or vegan diet I would truly love your input here so please leave a comment!

Everything you ever wanted to know about silk worms and more!


Tanya said...

IMO you make a lot of great points here. As far as I know it's not open yet so there's no gauge of the prices or selection, but I have to say I'm looking forward to the BASIS market on the west side.

Urban Food Guy said...

It is open I've been check it out! I thought BASIS was suppose to be open in September!

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