Cooking club at Kaua‘i Museum features preparing in the raw

The Kaua‘i Museum hosts a cooking club from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the third Saturday of every month that features a local chef preparing meals that are quintessentially Kaua‘i. Raw foods advocate Jan DeLaVega returns this Saturday for her third presentation on preparing exclusively uncooked recipes. Her focus this week will be on breads, crackers and breakfast items. Attendees can still expect her usual menu, which includes pupu, soup, salad, main dish and dessert.

“I demo as much as I can so they can see how easy it is,” DeLaVega said.

DeLaVega spends more then 18 hours preparing for the three-hour raw foods class. “Because there is no heat used to cook the food,” she said, “it helps if everything can sit so the flavors marry .”

DeLaVega provides handouts of the recipes, plus a book and Web site reference list. Many attendees are returning students so she is able to delve deeper into the philosophy behind a raw foods lifestyle.

“Since people come again and again, we are starting to have dialogue,” she said. “Last time we talked about the spiritual side of eating raw.”

In the past year since she has been eating an exclusively raw diet she’s observed how her mind and spirit have changed.

“I am not my cultural way of cooking,” said the Tennessee native. “I don’t have to eat barbecue ribs and collard greens with salt pork.”

What’s more, this awareness was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to other aspects of a culture she wanted to release.

“Since going raw I notice subtle things that are having the most impact,” she said. “And believe me, I am not a subtle person — I live big.”

In the early 1990s she worked as a vegan chef for touring rock stars like the B-52’s, Indigo Girls, Peter Gabriel and Sting. While on the road with a band, dinner was always served after the sound check, just before the musicians took the stage.

“It is a very stressful time for everyone,” she said.

She recognized the transformative effect her food had on her clients.

“They would become lambs, so sweet and gentle,” she said. “Like a nine year-old all excited about their food.”

Cooking has always been one way the 15-year Kaua‘i resident expresses affection.

“Food is who I am,” she said. “I put real love and care into the food I make.”

The 80-day juice fast that prefaced DeLaVega’s raw food commitment gave her clarity on how dependent she was on food preparation for personal identity. She described days during the fast when she felt like she was writhing inside with snakes.

“I wrestled like Jacob with the Angel Gabrielle,” she said. “I wrestled with all the stuff attached to food.”

Once her struggles had abated, DeLaVega felt transformed.

“I know that I have been changed at a profound level,” she said. “When we eat this way we are reprogramming our DNA.”

On Saturday she will share research that is being done on how diet relates to DNA.

“Our DNA is working to change us,” she said.

As a full-time employee of the Kaua‘i Museum gift shop and with one 12-year-old daughter still at home, DeLaVega sees her time as a volunteer chef as community service.

“This is how I give love, by working with food — it comes through my hands.”

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