In my latest travel fantasies, a New York City taxi sweeps me through town (or maybe plods along through traffic) and delivers me to Pure Food and Wine where I’m meeting fellow Peaceful Dumpling writers for a gourmet raw vegan meal—and perhaps a little sake.
Until this fantasy becomes a reality, I’ll be poring over Pure Food and Wine co-founder Sarma Melngailis’ raw food books, Raw Food Real World and Living Raw Food. Each beautifully photographed book will have you and your blender creating luxury raw food cuisine right in the tiny kitchen of your apartment. But if you’re not ready to try your hand at a raw recipe, you can stop by One Lucky Duck—Sarma’s site for all things yummy and wellness-related—and order some raw chocolate.
I was thrilled get to know Sarma a little bit more through this interview. Read on to learn about her transition to raw foods and some tips she learned along the way.
PD: Welcome to Peaceful Dumpling! We’re delighted to have you. Many of us are intrigued by or already enamored with the raw food lifestyle. Tell us a little bit about your journey to raw foods.
What physical and mental changes have you noticed since your transition?
SM: 11 years ago I started what I thought was a two-week experiment, but after only a couple days I felt so much better and as the days went on I noticed more and more positive changes, so I never went back. Most noticeable is having more energy, feeling lighter and brighter, and having a new mental clarity of sorts. I think in my book I say it’s like a fog lifting. Physically, I don’t gain weight eating raw food even if what I’m consuming is high calorie/fat. Everything just functions better. 🙂
PD: What are your tips for safely transitioning to an all-raw or raw-heavy diet?
SM: I definitely don’t encourage something extreme like a juice fast for someone new to raw food. The easiest thing to do is start with breakfast and lunch and simply adding more and more fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds and other raw foods and less of everything else, primarily meat, dairy, and empty carbs.
PD: Running your own, incredibly successful raw vegan restaurants, being a vegan guru and inspiration is pretty much a dream job for many! How did you get started?
SM: It always makes me laugh when people think I have a dream job! It may not always be how it appears from the outside! But I do love what we do and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I spent five years working on Wall Street and learned a lot that helps me now in running a business. I left finance to go to culinary school, then worked in restaurants before opening Pure Food and Wine / One Lucky Duck.
PD: You must be incredibly busy between your work at Pure Food and Wine and One Lucky Duck. Which foods and drinks do you turn to most often to keep you energized?
SM: Raw coconut water and green juice are my favorite fuel in terms of hydration. If I’m looking for energy, a nut-milk based shake with raw cacao nibs blended in, and/or maca is great. And, if I’m really busy, it’s a luxury to have someone at one of our juice bars make me my favorite green shake. Making it is really time consuming! Having someone do it for you? The best!
PD: What is your everyday beauty routine like—and which products do you turn to the most?
SM: I use a lot of coconut oil, and I have to say, I’ve tried every brand and none are close to as good as the one we carry at One Lucky Duck. It’s the purest of the pure. I use it for make up remover, lotion, lip balm, and on my face at night too. For cleansers and such, I love everything from Simply Divine Botanicals, and we carry the all time best cosmetics from RMS Beauty, seriously, nothing compares. RMS is also the purest of the pure and made by a pro… I’d be lost without it.
PD: Your cookbooks (un-cookbooks?) Raw Food Real World and Living Raw Food offer some seriously delicious-looking dessert ideas. What are your current favorite raw food indulgences?
SM: We have two sundaes on our menu at all times, which are both also in Living Raw Food, and I won’t ever tire of those. One is mint, the other is classic. And when I want something smaller, one of our mallomars is my go-to. Finally, of the sweets that we ship online, we just introduced a new brownie and it’s better than anything we’ve done before. I ate one for breakfast the other day, washed down with a Swan Greens green juice! When you eat raw, dessert for breakfast is ok!
PD: Finally, in Living Raw Food, you discuss making it past the honeymoon phase of a new lifestyle and staying intellectually engaged in nutrition science. Who are you reading at the moment, and what ideas are getting you excited?
SM: I just bought a book called Growl, by Kim Stallwood, about his experience with animal rights… that’s not exactly nutrition science! But animal rights is among the three most compelling reasons to be vegan. (The others being health, and the environment). What I love is how mainstream some of the nutrition science is going… I recently saw an article about the benefits of raw chocolate in a fashion magazine. The beauty/fashion industry is picking up on food as the most powerful tool in staying young and fresh looking.
Sarma’s Essentials List:
Favorite city/ country to visit: Italy, except I haven’t been there yet. It’s at the top of my list!
Your mantra: Be kind, always.
In 5 years, I’ll be…: No clue!
When you feel most beautiful: Going to sleep, usually spooning my dog.
Thank you, Sarma! I love that you’re a coconut oil enthusiast—we peaceful dumplings are a little obsessed with natural skincare, and I’ve gone through many tubs of coconut oil. Next time I run out (which will be soon) I’ll check out One Lucky Duck’s coconut oil. In the meantime, I think my next breakfast will be dessert 🙂
Follow Sarma on Twitter @sarma and on oneluckyduck.com.
More inspirational interviews: Samantha Shorkey, Top Vegan Bikini Competitor
Celebrity Trainer Ashley Borden
Celebrity Yoga Instructor Kristin McGee
Nobel Prize Winner Alvin Roth on Future of Veganism
Related: The Raw Food Question – Panacea or Preference?
Photos: One Lucky Duck