You know you’ve been there. Someone close to you falls in with a bad crowd. You try your best to help them, but it’s no use: they don’t want to be helped. They start acting different, dressing differently, talking differently. You start to drift apart. And you hear rumors. How they meet in converted garages, late at night, in dodgy neighborhoods like Brentwood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills. They do odd things. The words ‘indoctrinate’ and ‘cult-like’ are bandied about among you and your friends, your family. You can’t bear to watch it happen, but you are powerless to stop it.
This happened to me. When I was eighteen, my mom became…
I know I’m brave to admit this, and believe me, it hasn’t been easy. It still isn’t.
Ten years ago, I flew home from Santa Cruz for the winter holidays. My mom picked me up at the airport, and bundled me off to a converted garage in some nondescript LA neighborhood. A long wooden table had been set with twenty or so places, and an effeminate, very tan male with long blond hair bustled about, ladling out bowls of viscous sea vegetable ‘soup,’ plates of salad greens, and unidentifiable foods in various hues bearing names such as ‘lasagna,’ ‘enchiladas’ or ‘rawvioli.’
I was seated next to a young woman who dazedly described a ‘raw’ winter spent in the mountains of Colorado during which she yearned desperately for a cup of hot tea, which she fervently denied herself. I met the exuberant Juliano, the raw master of ceremonies, who gave an impassioned speech regarding the deleterious and unnecessary effects of sunscreen (you only get burned when you have toxins in your system, which you don’t if you eat raw!), then gave me a big, wet kiss on the cheek. I left that four-course ‘live food’ meal shivery cold and ravenously hungry, with visions of mac and cheese dancing in my head.
Raw-foodists, who deny the last 200,000 years of evolution, believe that food oughtn’t be heated to more than 118º. Cooked food is ‘dead food.’ (See, I told you they talked different.)
I happily purchased Gratitude’s cookbook, and immediately fell in love with their chocolate mousse, the easiest dessert recipe in the book. It tastes like the loveliest, silkiest pot de creme you’ve ever slipped between your lips, but it seems to dissolve on your tongue, disappearing, leaving behind a whisper of chocolate and a yearning for the next bite. It’s comprised of such good-for-you ingredients as freshly made almond milk, extra-virgin coconut oil, cocoa powder, agave or maple syrup, and lecithin, all of which have multiple health benefits. Best of all, to make it all you have to do is whizz everything together in a blender, then chill it for an hour.
I’ve made this pudding many times over the past couple of years, whenever I get a hankering for a healthfully decadent treat. I have slowly tweaked and streamlined the recipe to make it simpler, tastier and a bit more accessible. I substitute agar agar powder for the harder to find Irish moss (the thickening agent, which also requires a 24 hour soak); omit the dates, which gave it nice body but not without adding a weird, ‘hippy food’ flavor; increase the cocoa powder for a deeper chocolate factor; and use whole vanilla bean in place of the fancy vanilla goo they have you make separately.
The most labor intensive part of the recipe is making fresh almond milk, but you could probably get away with using any store-bought milk-substitute of your choice, or even canned coconut milk (I’d go with half light and half regular.) I’ve also made this using freshly blended coconut milk: take a couple of young thai coconuts (the white, cone shape guys), lop off their tops, pour the water into a blender, scrape out the flesh and add it in, then blend until smooth. Measure out the amount you need. Yum!
Agar agar powder, lecithin granules and extra-virgin coconut oil should be findable in most natural food stores (I get all my hippy food needs at Rainbow in San Francisco). Agar flakes seem to be more commonly available, but they won’t dissolve into the pudding. (If they are all you can find, try pulverizing the flakes in a coffee grinder, or heating the flakes with a small amount of almond milk until they melt.)
Since so many flavors go well with chocolate, you could try adding a shot of espresso, a teaspoon or two of matcha powder, or a shot of the booze of your liking, such as amaretto or Kahlua. A few Nibby Matcha Wafers would be an ideal accompaniment served alongside, if you would deign to eat ‘dead food,’ of course.
Raw, Vegan Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from Cafe Gratitude’s cookbook
Makes 2 cups, 2-4 servings
You may consider doubling this right off the bat, since the pudding’s lighter-than-air texture makes it easy to eat a whole cup faster than you might expect/like. If you don’t feel like making your own almond milk, you can purchase freshly made almond milk from Cafe Gratitude, or try subbing a store bought milk substitute. Canned coconut milk might do; I would try half light and half regular. I’ve also made this from fresh coconut milk, which you make by blending the flesh and the water from a young thai coconut, with excellent results.
1 1/4 cups almond milk
1/4 teaspoon agar agar powder
1/4 vanilla bean, finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (preferably raw and organic)
pinch of salt
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup or agave
1 tablespoon lecithin granules
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
cocoa nibs, for garnish
In a blender, combine the almond milk, agar, vanilla bean, cocoa powder, salt and maple syrup. Blend until well combined. Add the lecithin and coconut oil, and blend for a few minutes until well combined, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. The mixture will be the consistency of a thin milkshake. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove vanilla bean bits, pour into cups or molds and chill until set, about 1 hour. Top with a few cocoa nibs or a sprinkling of cocoa powder and serve.
The pudding will keep in the fridge for up to about a week, but I dare you to make it last that long!