It’s lunchtime at a Charlottetown restaurant, and Laura-Jane Koers watches as her menu order — a veritable bouquet of sliced and diced fruit — is placed in front of her.
It is truly a fruity feast for the eyes, but as a raw foodist, her dine-out choices are limited to this and a few other options.
“This is what people frequently think of when they think of raw food, (things) like this and a salad. It gets boring after awhile,” admits Koers of Whim Road near Montague, who has devoted a lot of time lately to taking the boring out of raw food dining through her popular website, The Rawtarian: Simple and Satisfying Raw Food Recipes (www.therawtarian.com).
While there are varying levels of raw foodism, Koers chooses a diet of primarily unprocessed, unheated foods or those cooked to a temperature of no more than 40 to 45 C, such as in a dehydrator. Her grocery list consists primarily of a selection of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and honey.
She has taken these basic ingredients and through trial and error crafted simple and easy recipes for foods that would be familiar for all, but have a particular “raw” twist.
“A lot of what my website is about is within these (raw food) ‘rules’ of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds you can make really delicious stuff, like the brownies. I also make a really nice Alfredo sauce that I make from cashews (for example),” says Koers, who has even created a raw food e-cookbook that she sells online as well.
Her lifestyle had been predominately vegetarian, with the exception of some seafood, since 2001, more for convenience than anything because her longtime partner, Cameron Lerch, is a vegetarian.
However, health was in her mind when she decided to give raw foodism a 30-day trial run a little more than two years ago after learning about it from her partner’s parents, who experienced a positive change in their health after immersing themselves in it for nearly a year.
“For me, the main reason was to retrain my taste buds because before, even though I was a ‘vegetarian,’ I was really addicted to junk food flavours. The only thing that tasted good to me was Coke and a bag of chips . . . ,” she says.
“I didn’t like the taste of anything healthy, so I thought if I shocked my system for 30 days and didn’t give it any of that . . . I thought maybe at the end of 30 days I’ll be excited about a piece of bread, for example, because I hadn’t had it for so long.”
This shift from her typical eating pattern to a more confined and unfamiliar diet was no picnic in the beginning, even with the Uncooked with RawRose cookbook and Google at her fingertips.
“When first going raw, there was a definite learning curve where it seemed to take forever to figure out how to prepare a raw meal that tasted exciting. But it’s like anything else when learning a new skill. What seems overwhelming at first can become second-nature in no time . . . ,” she says.
It was an easy-to-make raw truffles recipe that turned the table for Koers.
“They tasted like little chocolate balls. And after tasting those I thought, ‘these are actually really good, maybe I can do this long term,’” she remembers.
Much to her surprise, at the end of the 30 days she wasn’t rushing out to the nearest bakery for bread or any other cooked or processed food item for that matter.
“What ended up with me is I have a personality that enjoys structure and a bit of extremism, so I did it for 30 days and just never stopped,” she laughs.
Koer is the author of another popular blog, Whimfield Farm, which has drawn interested readers from around the world to read about hers and Lerch’s adventures in what was, in the beginning, their newly adopted rural P.E.I. home after moving from Victoria, B.C., in 2007.
In 2009 she created the Rawtarian blog where she now shares more than 100 free, simple raw food recipes and has more than 1,500 unique visitors every day.
“And it was mostly just for recipes. I didn’t write ‘Today I ate zucchini blah-blah-blah-blah.’ If I found something really great or useful I wrote about it . . . ,” says Koers, who also has a series of how-to videos on her website and is the host of The Raw Food Podcast.
She also sells electronic copies of The Rawtarian’s Raw Staples Recipe Book, which is filled with easy-to-make raw recipes.
“Once I was over that initial raw ‘uncooking’ learning phase, which was after a month or so, I became very quick at preparing delicious raw meals,” she says.
“There are really only two primary skills: preparing smooth, liquid recipes, such as soups, sauces and icing, in a high-speed blender; and preparing dryer recipes,
such as brownies, squares, batter and nut pates, in a food processor.”
She also makes her own raw versions of salad dressings, ketchup, mayo and more.
“My thing is I liked junk food so I like to make things that taste like junk food that are healthy. And that’s why people like my (recipes),” says Koers, who also uses a food dehydrator to add more options to her at-home menu.
Overall she now spends less time in the kitchen preparing food than she used to.
“Nowadays I can make homemade soup, a hearty nut pate, brownies or sweet coconut lemon squares in literally 10 minutes or less since there is no cooking required and I have all the ingredients on hand,” she says.
“Dehydrating does take ages — sometimes 24 hours or more — but making dehydrated foods, such as crackers, veggie burgers, breads or kale chips, is not something I do every day.
“I dehydrate about once or twice a month and the results last for a week or two. But I don’t recommend that anyone get into dehydrating until they’ve mastered the art of uncooking in a blender and food processor.”
There is a cost, being that her grocery bill has increased.
Most stores on Prince Edward Island carry most of the ingredients she needs. However, she orders a few specialty items, like kelp noodles or organic raw nuts, online.
“It used to be difficult to find young Thai coconuts on P.E.I., but I was excited to recently discover that local grocery stores have recently started carrying those — I did a happy dance in the produce aisle when I saw those for the first time!” she laughs.
Although weight loss was not a goal, Koers did lose about nine kilograms (20 pounds) in the first few months but that has since levelled off.
“I feel that I’m at my natural body weight. In the raw community they talk about that a lot. You’re body gets to a certain size that it’s supposed to be . . . ,” she says.
“But that’s not why I am doing it. A huge thing for me is moods and feeling high energy because I was fairly moody before.”
Koers doesn’t advocate that everyone embrace raw foodism in full force but encourages people to try a recipe they are comfortable with, like a smoothie or
the brownies, and incorporate that into their meal plan as a
“I think everybody would agree from all walks of the nutritional spectrum,” she says, “that it’s always good to eat more fruit and more vegetables.”