The Taste of the Real: Moving toward a whole-foods, plant based diet

Updated: Jun 19, 2018

By Saraswati

Eric Rivkin—a neighbor who is a renowned chef of raw plant cuisine—accepted our invitation recently to offer the residents (and lucky visitors) of Sat Yoga Ashram a seminar on his approach to dietary accuracy, and to give us a taste of how delicious healthful raw food can be!

Eric Rivkin in raw food bliss during his cooking class!

Eric, a good friend of the community, arrived fully energized for his annual visit to share his expertise and exuberant passion for both healthful eating and for the raising of happy fruit trees. His week-long visit included many full days in the fields, teaching our premaculture team the secrets of pruning fruit trees to perfection. In the afternoons, he still had energy to offer several hours of guidance to our kitchen staff and general sangha, introducing the logic of food combining, the techniques of preparation, and the delightful symphonies of fragrance and flavor offered by carefully, intelligently, and freshly made natural meals.

Eric is an extraordinary being with many talents, who is well known in Costa Rica within the “sustainability” community. He is most famous as an educator, expanding people’s awareness of the benefits of eating a healthful, plant-based diet. On this visit, Eric brought something fresh to the table that our community has been chewing on ever since—a more radical approach to eating than we were offering, an approach that is more closely aligned with our yogic values. Thus, he confirmed the ideas for a dietary change that we had already been considering but were delaying putting into full effect: a complete whole-foods, plant-based diet.

Amrita our ashram kitchen manager, with Eric during his class

What was really exciting and relieving for us was Eric’s softer, more open and creative approach to strict plant-based alimentation. The most updated version of the whole-food, plant-based model allows for cooking some foods while maintaining as much of the integrity and vitality of the whole food and its subtle nutritional value as possible. In previous visits, Eric had taught from a more strictly raw-vegan approach that, while inspiring, was not realistic for our community to implement, in light of our need to meet the expectations of visitors from all over the world at very different levels of readiness for raw.

The new whole-foods, plant-based approach is about using food in the most holistic, integral way that yields the highest nutrition with the lowest amount of processing. This can include using less refined flours, sugars, and oils as well as implementing alternative and minimally-processing methods that preserve the whole food, such as fermentation, dehydration, sprouting, and steaming.

Eric’s visit was perfectly timed. We were ripe and ready to be convinced that a dietary improvement doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor, fullness, or the feeling of satisfaction. Eric got to work, like an alchemist in his laboratory, spiralizing vegetables into Rapunzel-like strands of zucchini, beet and carrot “noodles”,  scooping out mounds of fresh fleshy coconut meat, and chopping tender green herbs that provided a tasty alternative to loads of salt. For the next three hours, Eric whipped up dish after dish of tantalizing delights that were all healthful recreations of classics: raw pad-Thai, ayote pumpkin pie, sprouted lentil dal, and the highlight: banana and papaya ice cream (hold the cream). Every bite offered an exotic but enticing taste and texture experience that proved to us beyond doubt that minimally processed whole-foods can be made into delicacies, without the use of salt and processed oils. Eric imparted many tricks and techniques for how to simulate the taste and texture of those classic dishes that we have all enjoyed.

Between platters, Eric shared with us in his comedic and direct manner, wisdom stories about his long and deep relationship with food and the attainment of the most pure and nourishing dietary regimen. His cooking class prepared our mental palettes for a deeper discussion of the significance of diet that we intensified by showing an awakening film on the subject later that night.

After the vitamix had been neatly stored, and the popcorn had been lightly salted, we moved from kitchen to the screening room to watch a highly controversial movie–What the Health? This documentary, followed by Eric’s deft moderation of the post-screening discussion created a sizzling space for many in the audience: some were on fire for more, while some were steaming with anger from the implications of the information, which was not always easy to digest. The ethical, health, and political dimensions of diet change were made searingly visible, and our community’s still somewhat regressive dietary choices were put on high heat. The pot was definitely stirred.

In the days and weeks following Eric’s visit, a dynamic community discussion and process of exploration and experimentation has ensued; one that includes keeping eggs and dairy on the side and not incorporated into recipes, using alternatives to refined sugar, such as tapa dulce, and adding far less cooking oil into our meals. Guided by Shunyamurti’s discerning judgment and much research by our cooking staff, we are beginning to define for ourselves what it means to be truly healthy not only in terms of the physico-chemical organism (the anna-maya-kosha in yogic terminology) but throughout all of the seven bodies we inhabit—including the pranic body, the mental/affective body, the wisdom body, the reincarnating soul body, the cosmic body, and the bliss body. We look forward to sharing more about this whole field of study and practice with our readers in the coming weeks and months, and inviting our friend Eric back in the new year to continue his educational work here and to show us more of his secrets of preparing awesomely delicious whole foods in a most delightful way.


Eric’s Raw Vegan Pad Thai

Pad Thai Mix: Mix and massage ingredients in a bowl and marinate for 1/2 hour:

  • 3 zucchinis made into noodles with a mandoline or spriolini

  • 3 scallions thinly sliced

  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned

  • 2 cups of young coconut pulp, julienned into thin strips

  • juice of 1 lime

  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Pad Thai Sauce:  

First make an infusion: Blend 1 cup of coconut water with 1 stalk of lemongrass, 3 kaffir lime leaves and 1 inch ginger root.  Then strain out the pulp

Second blend until creamy with the infused water:  2 garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp of olive oil, 5 dates or 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup of young coconut water, 2 avocados, 2 cups of young coconut pulp, 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves, juice of one lime, 1 Tbsp of lime zest, 1 spicy pepper(optional).

To Serve: Place the Pad Thai mix on a platter lined with cabbage or lettuce leaves and mix with Pad Thai Sauce and top with nuts and cilantro.


About Eric Rivkin

Chef Eric Rivkin is an internationally recognized living foods health chef who learned from top chefs of the Living Light Culinary Institute. His classes glow with accessible information, creative practical techniques and recipes to integrate the best of nutrition and living foods culinary arts. Eric has conducted dozens of workshops all over the US and Costa Rica. He lives about one and a half hours from our ashram in the Tinamastes area on his farm, La Joya del Sol. Read more on Eric’s website.

We hope that Eric will be back in 2018 to offer his cooking expertise at one of our formal meditation retreats.

Chef Eric Rivkin

Viva la Raw Program

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