Thursday, 30 May 2013

30.5.13 Doing what i love

I've been cooking on a yoga teacher training retreat, hence the mini break from blogging...If i can figure out how to blog from my iphone, i'd be here more regularly, i'm sure!

I've had some interesting positive feedback about the food i've been making.  (It's been a combination of raw and cooked with lots of live food like sprouts and greens thrown in the mix).  The observation was that the food does not rely on large amounts of salt, oil, sugar etc. to make it taste or feel good.  That in the eating, there is a subtlety, layers of flavours, that engenders a sense of mindfulness.  I like that.  It doesn't feel like i am restraining myself in any way cooking like this.  It comes naturally now.  It's a Subtle and Botanical language of cuisine.  Real food.  We've been trying to come up with a name for the food but it defies any attempt at being put in a box or far!

It's SO beautiful here.  Loving the gardens here at the retreat centre, they've been tended to with so much love.  When i work on retreats like this, it gives me a glimpse of the kind of conscious, communal living i'd like to create for my family and i on a more permanent basis.  I'd like to grow veggies, keep rescued dogs and kittens, and chickens and pigs that will eat kitchen scraps and make fertiliser....

licorice tea and fireside and bed calling now.  More words and pictures soon.  Life is busy. Suddenly busy again, after so much time and space for just being. 


Friday, 24 May 2013

A love note from the Goddess

Food is a love note from the Goddess

Poetry of wind and rain; earth, sun, moon and stars

The story of the seed, cradled in warm, wet soil

Waiting in darkness

to became the shoot

Bursting with life
Eager to show her face to the sun

and grow, accompanied by creepy crawlies

and wiggly worms

birds of flight

day and nights' rhythms

Delighting in the daily dance

And one day bursting forth with buds

Flowering when the time is right
Glorious laughing radiance

A symphony colours

Offering pure beauty

Just because

And when the petals drop

Juicy fruit swells sweetly

She gives abundantly

of herself

that her sons and daughters may feast

on her love


copyright ShelBel 2013

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Kitchen Medicine: Ayurveda; Balancing Vata

I've only been back in the UK for 3 weeks, after spending 4 glorious months in Goa (successfully escaping the worst of the long winter in the Northern Hemisphere).  You could say that i'm still adjusting!  The stress of upheaval, travel, and finding myself back in the still-decidedly-cold and windy British Isles has left me a little 'Vata deranged' my body has gone out of balance thinking it's suddenly going into autumn/winter but it's actually Summer....

Vata is one of the 3 'doshas'in the Tridosha system of the science of Ayurveda.  The doshas relate to the five basic elements of creation (earth, water, fire, air and ether) as they manifest in the human mind-body constitution.  The three dosha essences are  Vata, Pitta and Kapha. 

(I just completed a questionnaire test online at Holistic Online, and came out as Pitta-Vata.  Most people are a mix of all 3 doshas, with one or two being dominant)

Since Vata is ruled by the element of AIR, it is upset by windiness, cold weather, extreme diet or climate changes, or chaotic/extreme environments generally.  It's very common for modern people to suffer from Vata imbalance due to the fast pace of life in the modern world.

What is concerning me at the moment is that since the recent change of climate, i am displaying all the classic symptoms of VATA imbalance: Dry, rough skin, flaky scalp, general dryness, stiffness, sore lower back, intestinal gas...

Ways to Bring Vata into Balance

(adapted from Conscious Eating, by Gabriel Cousens)

1. Live in a warm, moist, tranquil environment with a minimum of wind.  Keep warm.

2. Live in a moderate, balanced way in harmony with Earth cycles.

3. Eat foods that are warm, moist, oily and heavy.  Avoid chilled or frozen foods.

4.  Eat foods that have sweet, salty and sour tastes, not light or dried foods.

5. Get adequate sleep.

6.  Meditate regularly to maintain a calm mind. 

7. Try to make your environment as safe and secure as possible.

Balancing Vata with Food and Drink

Traditional Ayurvedic practitioners tend to discourage people with Vata tendencies from eating a lot of raw foods.  Simple meals, warm, blended, oily and unctuous foods, and certain herbs and spices (in moderation) are  all recommended to help balance vata by improving digestion.  

Ginger is a wonder-food, it's been a true medicine for me. ( I could write a whole blog post about how much i love ginger).  Try adding a generous amount of fresh chopped ginger to half a pint of boiling water in the morning, and after a few minutes, top up with cold water and drink.  Other sweet spices like cinnamon, fennel and cardamon are also good, as they aid digestion, bring heat to the system and minimise gas.

Interestingly, since arriving back in the UK,  i've not been very interested in eating as much raw as i was in India. I've been making delicious and soothing slow cooked oats or brown rice quite regularly, adding coconut cream and coconut sugar.....yum.  When i do go for raw foods, it's been oily things, like avocadoes or warm, spicy nut milks.  I'm lucky that i have the added Pitta in my constitution, as the added fire of pitta gives heat to my system meaning that i can do quite well with raw/live foods (although it does take a little more effort sometimes with all the blending and warming that is needed in a cold climate!)

Oiling Up!

The external application of oil is often recommended as an effective way of pacifying vata.  Sesame oil is usually recommended for treating Vata in Ayurveda as it is a warming oil  (note: coconut oil is cooling).  I apply sesame oil to wet skin whilst i am showering, and the warmth of the water helps the oil to penetrate into the skin.  Oiling the tummy is a good way to moisten the gastrointestinal tract, as oil is absorbed deeply through the skin tissue.

Sesame oil is great in the treatment of my dry, flaky scalp, too.  I massage warm organic (cold pressed) sesame oil into my scalp and leave for an hour or so, then wash off with a mild soap like Dr. Bronners.   

If you have any other suggestions for balancing vata, i'd love to hear from you!  Please leave me a comment below.

I'll soon be posting some delicious vata pacifying recipes that i'm loving.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

On feeling the fear....and making Raw Chocolate Cake anyway!

I'm going to let you in on a secret; almost every time i've been asked to do any catering or make a special cake, i've gone through a huge process...

It's the fear... the fear that one of my deeply held, (false) beliefs about myself or the world, is going to be proven right.  I've been afraid of failure, and even afraid of success!

I can now see that all the times i've ever freaked out before a big job, were a huge gift.  They were opportunities to become aware of those fears, and to decide to show up and do the best i could anyway.  I've learnt that those fears are not as big and scary as they sometimes feel.  They are shadow monsters...and if i can remember that they are based on fear, which is not love, and therefore not real, i can get on with my job, which is to turn up and do what i love to do!

I recently made a massive Raw Chocolate Cake for a dear friends wedding.  I wasn't following a recipe,  but i'd made many raw chocolate cakes before and felt confident armed with a big bag of raw chocolate bars, cacao butter, coconut sugar, cacao powder, coconut cream, almonds, dates, fresh vanilla, raspberries....How could i possibly go wrong?

Confidence quickly turned to thoughts along the lines of 'AAaaaaaAArGGghhhh!!'

Dealing with such a huge amount of cake mix was no joke when the blender i was using wasn't strong enough and the whole mix (buckets of it!) was too wet. 

I kept showing up.  I had to keep going, and was determined to get it right.... although i didn't now how that was going to happen.  At my lowest point in the process, i couldn't see how i was going to turn it around.  I just knew that i couldn't possibly deliver a cake that did not match up to my vision or high standards.

It was tempting to fall prey to the fears and beliefs that i wasn't up to this job, I can tell ya!

I didn't give in to those thoughts.  I played Ena Vie's "Earth Prayer" on repeat......'i'm sorry, i love you, please forgive me, thank you' a prayer....sometimes it comes down to that...a simple act of opening up and asking for assistance.
Somehow i fixed the cake mix with just the right amount of cacao butter and powder to keep everything together.  It was light, creamy, just the right amount of sweetness & tangy raspberry accents.  3 Whole beautiful tiers of Raw Chocolate Cake came together just beautifully, in the end!  It was devoured, and much loved.

Quite a few lessons in there for me, about not giving up on my vision, getting out of my own way, and trusting that everything i need to get the job done is within (me)....even when that seems like the furthest thing from the truth!

ps. Please don't ask me for the recipe, there isn't one! Just a lot of fabulous raw & organic ingredients, bound together with lashings of love and faith!! 

pps. Never give up on your visions of success, whatever that means to you!



Tuesday, 21 May 2013

It's 2013! Reborn again Blogger....My 'Story So Far'

Hello World!!

So i've been out of the blogosphere for a long, long time.
I miss it!....I had a lot of fun blogging my Raw journey all those years ago,  and i'd love to update this blog with where i'm at right now.

So I first heard about 'Raw Food' as a movement in 1999.  That's 14 years ago!  I had already been playing around with vegetarianism since i was 16.  My family will tell you how i was always experimenting with 'weird' concoctions, like blending up greens and herbs to make sauces and dressings, making 'ice-creams' out of tahini, banana, yogurt and honey.  So when i heard that there was actually such a thing as a 'Raw Fooder' i totally fell in love with the concept, it felt like the most 'common-sensical' (is that a word?) thing i had ever heard of....and shortly after i resolved to become '100%' Raw!!

Those first 7 months found me travelling around South Africa, armed with a copy of David Wolfe's 'Sunfood Success System.' With little support and not a clue really how and what to eat, practically, I seem to remember eating large amounts of nuts, bananas, and olive oil...(not all together).  I returned from my travels and quit with the Raw....

Fast forward to 2003.  I must have been ready to try again.  All in one grey morning, child on hip, browsing at the local car boot sale, i picked up a seed sprouter and a copy of Gabriel Cousens 'Conscious Eating' which i devoured, in the same manner as i had already been studying Paul Pitchfords 'Healing with Wholefoods' for a few years. They were my 'Bibles' (see how well loved they are!), and being a good little student i read, experimented, observed, questioned.....

I started following Shazzies blog and joined an online forum which was buzzing with crazy, enthusiastic, wonderful people sharing their adventures in the Raw lifestyle.  I was still the only 'Raw' person i knew in real life, but i felt like part of a community, and that made it much easier.

My life transformed fast in those early years.  It was easy.  I took to it like a duck to water.  When i started, i was mama to a 1 year old boy full of life and energy.  I was looking after him as well as working as a childminder and minding up to 2 other children at the same time.  I had so much energy from changing my diet.  I let go easily of all the crap that was holding me back and keeping me stuck.  As i purged all the accumulated guck out of my body, so i let go of physical possessions i no longer needed, and created the space to make a huge change.  We were living in a 2 bed flat in town, no garden, on a busy road.  I was craving nature, space, real-life community...

So I returned to Kenya to visit family and give myself a little space to feel what it was i really wanted out of life.

As it turns out, what i really wanted found me!  I got a text one day from a friend saying that she knew a 'Raw Food lady' who was looking for a chef.  One email and one phone call later, i had a new job, with Kate Magic (then Kate Wood) of Raw Living, and had booked a ticket back to the UK.

What a fantastic year and a half that was!  There was such an incredible buzz around Raw Food, and i got to meet and work with so many interesting, like minded people.  I learned so much about Superfoods, special raw ingredients, Raw Gourmet....and especially Raw Chocolate and Raw Cakes.  Life was magic, i had found something i really loved to do, and i had found a community of people, in real life, to share my passion with.  When i left Raw Living, i started working with The Raw Chocolate Company in it's infancy, and also decided to set up my own business.  I started a blog, set up a food co-op, organised and hosted pot-lucks in Brighton....the community was thriving.  I organised Raw catering at a couple of festivals, that was big for me.  I developed my own recipes and made beautiful one-off cakes for a Raw cafe in Brighton.  I started being asked to travel abroad and cater for Yoga and Raw food retreats.  It was hard work but i loved it.  And all of this from within my own community and through my blog.  I never really advertised or managed to get a proper website off the ground.

I have really made it work, somehow, doing what i love to support myself, enjoying a fair amount of freedom and adventure, and being with my little boy as much as possible.  I had successfully avoided the trap of getting stuck in a well-paid 9-5, with mortgage etc.  Life has been fast changing and fluid, which whilst this has kept things fresh and interesting in some ways, it has also meant i've not managed to properly settle anywhere yet, and i just get the feeling that i could be doing a lot better financially.  In more recent years, after feeling that i'd gained a certain level of mastery in the area of nutritional well-being, i've been exploring and expanding other areas of my life.  I qualified as a Rebirthing Breathworker last year, as well as attending a year long process called 'Initiation to the Sacred Feminine.'  

So yes, i've been very quiet on this blog, as i've been diving deep into my own inner processes, confronting and working with my core wounds and low self-esteem, showing up in my vulnerability, and learning what true sisterhood really means (in a very brief nutshell!).

I feel like i'm at a cross-roads in my life again.  

I feel like there's a decision to be made, an inner commitment that's going to make me or break me.  I don't know if you've ever felt this way, it's hard to's as if i've reached a plateau in my growth, and it's going to take some huge inner movement to break through.

I have so many tools, so much knowledge, the support of so many wonderful women and my beautiful partner....but i've gotten lazy, fearful, and somehow i'm expecting things to happen without really having to do all that much for it!!  NO, that's not true, i know it's not just going to happen.  I know i have to dig deep for my strength and go for it.  Whilst at the same time trusting that when i'm in that groovy flow of alignment with my Divine Purpose there is no hard work, it's effortless....

So i'm making a commitment to myself.

I need to start blogging again.  For me.  I need to start piecing together all the memories, thoughts, feelings and experiences of the past and make sense of how i got to be who i am, where i am right now.  I need to find a sense of focus, discipline and commitment.  Because without it, i'm at the mercy of external circumstances, and deep down i know i can be a conscious, active dreamer and player in this game of life.  I want to contribute with all my joy, serve with all my love, love with all my heart and enjoy this one precious life to the absolute maximum.

There is so much i would love to share with the world.  I want to share my dreams and inspire others to dream, too, we all need each other, it's no fun doing it alone!  Saying that brings up a bit of insecurity, a feeling that what i have to say is not important, that others will not want to hear it....hmm something to work with there!  A little piece of myself that still needs to be held, loved and reassured....

I can hold it all.  All these little pieces of myself, it's time to come home!

My Birthday is coming up soon, and i think i'm going to sign up for a years membership to the Organic Sisterhood.  I've already been loving all the wisdom of The Organic Sister on Facebook for a while, and i have a feeling that the 'Digging Deep Process' and 'The Organic Sisterhood Community' is exactly the sort of coaching, support, community and mentoring that i'm looking for at this point in my life.  I'll share my journey with you here.  This might not be an exclusively 'Raw Food' blog anymore...but hey, it's mine and i can do with it what i wish ;-) 

Do check 'The Organic Sisterhood' out if it calls to you, too!

The Organic Sisterhood