If you eat only raw foods, can you still call it cooking? Kirsten Baca says yes. She's the owner of a new raw-food delivery business called Raw Bloom. She thinks of her work as cooking, although none of her creations are heated.
"'Uncooking' sounds funny to me," she said.
Raw Bloom will deliver a full day's worth of freshly prepared "living cuisine" to your doorstep for between $32-39.
Raw food is based on fresh fruits and vegetables, uncooked whole grains and nuts. In this type of cuisine, there's no meat, eggs, dairy, gluten, processed sugar or wheat. But Baca's food is less about what's absent and more about what's present - including a more conscious way of eating.
"Living foods are comforting. You eat them and you feel so good," said Baca. "It's an experiential thing. It's like if you're a smoker, when you quit you can really breathe again. Eating raw foods is like really tasting again."
The flavors of raw food are, by nature, fresh and simple. But with Baca's menu, we're not talking twiggy granola and carrot sticks.
Baca's changing daily menu has gourmet flair, and includes items such as: South of the Border Tacos with Corn Salsa and Baja Cheese, Vegetable Lasagna made with a Sunflower Seed Cheese, Falafel with Mango Chutney, and Thai Curry Soup. If a customer is feeling decadent, they can finish off with a rich slice of Coconut Cheesecake - made without cheese or eggs - or cardamom-flavored Banana Ice Cream.
Baca's tacos have a flavor and crunch that mimics the traditional version, and the cumin-scented ground-nut base is a satisfying replacement for beef. Those who are familiar with flax-seed crackers may still be surprised by her corn-based dehydrated chips.
No one would mistake them for the greasy potato version, but the crunch and flavor in her recipe is addictive. Smoothly processed cashews also are surprising: They form a silky base for dips and cheesecake.
But why avoid American staples like meat, cheese and eggs? Baca's answer is rooted in the meat-and-potatoes tradition of her childhood in Texas.
"After every meal, my stomach hurt," she said. "That's because things like chicken-fried steak take forever to digest."
Swift, healthy digestion is the key reason to eat raw, according to Baca. She says weight gain and stomach pain often can be traced to food that hangs out too long in the gut. Incorporating more raw food can help shed excess weight, boost energy, ease digestion and eliminate carcinogens, according to Baca's Web site, www.rawbloom.com.
Baca, a self-taught cook, has been a vegetarian for 16 years, and switched to a mostly raw-food diet last year.
"After a while in eating the food, I started to connect with how I felt," she said.
She isn't rigid about eating all raw, all the time. She said she craves bread, and eats it on occasion. At her Bayfield home with her meat-eating husband and 3-year-old daughter, the family eats mostly raw, with plenty of modifications.
Baca is also a kundalini yoga instructor at Yoga Durango, and her students are intrigued by the food she brings to sample after class. At social gatherings, she says she brings a potluck dish, but she also samples the cooked foods.
Friends and students tried her potluck food and wanted more, which gradually inspired Baca to open a business. Two friends will help her prepare food and make deliveries to the Bayfield, Durango and Ignacio areas.
The Raw Bloom menu was created by trial and error. Baca's husband and daughter were her primary test subjects. Her kale chip recipe is being considered for resale by a raw-food company in Santa Fe.
Baca wants to reach people who are ready for a change: "People who want to feel well. Someone who has flip- flopped with diets. Anyone who has issues with how they feel after eating, such as bloating or feeling tired. Within two days of eating raw, you'll feel the effects," she said.
Going raw doesn't have to happen overnight. Baca recommends baby steps: first by starting the day with a hydrating green smoothie (fruit, water, a handful of spinach); and second by having a big salad as a first course for dinner every night.
Baca is excited to be joining the local raw-food movement along with the established Turtle Lake Refuge in Durango, which offers food, meals and education about living and wild foods.
"It's creating a group-consciousness. We'll support each other and build a community," she said.
"To me, the definition of success is spreading awareness. I'd like to help people get healthy, happy and holy. I want to heal the world."