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We Like it Crudo: Madrid in the Raw

Posted Jun 08 2009 6:55pm

This article comes to us as a guest feature from our good friend and raw food coach, Jessica Stone. You can read more from Jessica at greenappetite.com

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I’ve been eating high raw for about six weeks now, and last week I faced my biggest challenge so far: the family reunion.  There were eight of us, with me being the baby at 34 and most everyone else in their 60s and 70s.  My family is Cuban, which means I grew up on a diet roughly 50% meat, 50% rice and 100% cooked, i.e. arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), paella (seafood and rice) and arroz con leche (rice pudding). That’s not entirely true; plantains were plentiful, and we always fried them – sometimes twice to get them extra crispy.  About the only raw foods I recall from my childhood were the avocados and mangoes that grew abundantly in my native Miami, and it’s not surprising they’re now two of my favorite foods.  But now we were in Madrid, a place that has a Museo de Jamón (museum of ham) on every other block.

My family is used to my experiments with food, and when I arrived one of my uncles joked that he could take me to the park for dinner.  “Lots of nice leaves for you there!”  Actually, the hardest part about the trip was biting my tongue as I watched the people I love sometimes go a whole meal or two without a eating a single green thing, save for the olives.

Speaking of greens, I should tell you about my pre-departure strategy.  I’ve just finished reading Natalia Rose’s wonderfully practical The Raw Food Detox Diet in which she devotes an entire section to traveling.  She recommends packing several servings of green juice to consume in-flight – impossible with the new security regulations.  My flight from London was only two hours, so luckily no biggie, but it made for good practice.  

Although I understand the merits of juicing, I prefer green smoothies since the fiber fills me up and helps keep my blood sugar in check.  Here’s what I did:  just before I left, I made enough smoothie out of pears, romaine, ginger and cucumber to make two big servings.  I had one on the spot and poured the rest into my favorite no-spill Sigg bottle that I later had to suck down just before passing through security.  I also packed 4 bananas, 4 plums, 1 box of blueberries, some UliMana lemon fig bars I won from Crazy Sexy Life for my Dulce de Leche recipe, a Lara Bar, guacamole and carrot sticks.   The great thing about loading up on fruit before and during your flight is that a) it’s extremely hydrating, so you don’t need to worry about getting enough water on board; and b) it doesn’t smell, so you can eat and eat and no one will look at you funny.  If they’re looking, it’s because they probably want some, which is exactly what happened when I whipped out my homemade guacamole as the scary-food trolley rolled around.

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I was lucky that when I arrived my mother had already put a bunch of fresh and dried fruit in my hotel room, so together with my packed goodies I figured I was set on the snacking front for the whole four days.  But I was surprised at how quickly this went being on my feet all day and away from my beloved Vita-Mix.  I was craving my usual green smoothies like mad, realizing just how satisfied they keep me until lunchtime.  Again, I was also very conscious of not spiking my blood sugar, so I went lightly on the dried fruit and ended up buying raw almonds at the local supermarket.

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I’ve noticed how my fixation on food has actually diminished the more I get into raw.  This trip made me realize that in the past my travels were highly centered on what I was going to eat next – I placed a big emphasis on looking up restaurants, finding the best gelateria, etc.  Now that I think about it, I was actually limiting myself.  Because my diet is so much simpler now, I was free to focus more on family, not food.  And that, after all, was the whole point.

So, here’s my rough guide to raw eating in the city of manchego and matadors:

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1. The Spanish word for raw is “crudo”, but don’t expect it to get you very far.  When I asked about raw nuts at a food stall, they looked at me as though that’s exactly what I was.  On the bright side, the mangoes I had from them were absolutely amazing, and the strawberries were the stuff of still life.

2. You can get an “ensalada mixta” at almost any restaurant; just remember to ask for it without the usual huevos (eggs) and bonito (tuna).

3. Surprisingly, one of the best meals I had was at the Museo del Prado cafeteria.  This major museum houses not only the work of my all-time favorite painter Caravaggio (okay, so he’s Italian), but I was overjoyed to find an all-raw section in their salad bar containing not one but three different kinds of sprouts as well as the usual fixings.  The other refreshing eye-opener was a very green spread at the Palacio Real.

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4. If you’re not 100% raw, eating in Madrid gets even easier.  My whole family, though they’d never admit it, admired my beautiful dinner of verduras a la plancha (lightly grilled veggies) and pimientos padrón (quick-fired baby green peppers) together with sugar-free sangria (by request – simply ask for “no azucar”).  Even more surprising was that we were at Cañas y Tapas, a smoky chain restaurant.

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5. I was really looking forward to gazpacho, a typical Andalusian chilled soup made from raw tomatoes.  I had four bowls over the course of my trip, but it wasn’t until I got home and did some research that I realized it’s often blended with bread to give it its creamy consistency.  But have no fear, for this is driving me straight into my cocina; and I will soon be posting an all-raw recipe on greenappetite.com

Jessica Stone is a writer and raw food coach.

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