Food deserves to be not only enjoyed, but appreciated, according to Corine Travaglini.
The vegan raw food specialist at Organic Connections Café on Marine Drive is on a mission to raise awareness about where food comes from and the importance of eating food as close to its natural state as possible.
The notion of a raw food diet is based on the belief that when food is cooked, its natural enzymes, which help digestion and nutrient absorption, are killed, therefore, it’s better to eat food uncooked or heated at a low temperature whenever possible.
Travaglini first became interested in raw food when she was studying human kinetics and nutrition at UBC.
“It’s been a really cool process, learning the benefits of plants and how much the earth can provide us for our health,” she said.
In her job at the café, Travaglini is able to experiment with unique recipes – including pizza, burgers and a variety of ‘cheesecakes’, all raw and vegan.
Using ingredients such as cashew nuts to replace cheese, almond milk (made in-house) to replace regular milk and dates to replace cake-crusts, she’s able to recreate many delicious meals in a much healthier fashion.
Travaglini said the positive reactions she gets from those not familiar with raw food or veganism, are always rewarding.
“It’s cool to see that change in people,” she said. “You have people with a certain attitude, but when you tell them about the nutritional value, they start to understand why they’re eating what they’re eating. I get the greatest feeling out of it.”
Sharing her knowledge of nutrition and ways to make eating healthy easy and tasty is something Travaglini hopes to expand upon in the future, potentially working with teens to ‘plant healthy seeds’ at a young age.
“I’d like to try to combine the two gifts I have for cooking and working with teens,” she said. “I had the idea of becoming a cook for home economics, and I’d really like to change the curriculum and introduce alternative baking.”
Education has been a huge component of Travaglini’s experience getting to where she is today, from classes at UBC, to making her rounds throughout Vancouver restaurants as “my own little food critic,” and, more recently, sharing knowledge with co-workers, including café owner, Beverly, and resident herbalist, Nazima.
She has also learned a new respect for food presentation, and believes that preparing meals is an art form – especially raw dishes, which can be quite labour-intensive.
“It is very time-consuming – it takes two days to even make a cracker,” she said. “But the process that you go through, it makes you appreciate the food so much more.”
From the menu at Organic Connections Café, Travaglini shares the recipe for a vegan strawberry smoothie – pictured with a raw/vegan strawberry mousse cake.
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
150 g (1 cup) strawberries
1 date, pitted
13 g (1 Tbsp) liquid vanilla
Add ingredients to a blender. Blend until fully mixed. Enjoy!