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Food in the Raw
An Interview with Victoria Boutenko
by Miriam Knight
When a carrot is plunged into a pot of boiling water, you don't actually hear it scream as you might a lobster, but, according to gourmet chef Victoria Boutenko, you are killing it all the same. In fact, according to Victoria, her family's diet of fried foods, fatty meats and wilted vegetables was killing them! Just five years ago she weighed 280 lbs and had acute heart problems, her husband Igor had surgery scheduled to remove his thyroid, their son Sergei had juvenile diabetes, and their daughter Valya had severe asthma.

Instinctively Victoria felt there must be a better way than the bleak future of drugs, surgery and hospitalization offered by conventional medicine, and she started exploring their options. Raw foods seemed the most promising, and within two weeks of the whole family switching to raw food, their major symptoms disappeared! Her son's doctor insisted that Sergei's improvement was just luck. Her husband's surgeon thought they were demented to postpone his surgery. Victoria's doctor forbade her to exercise, even though she was now bursting with energy and the weight was melting away. The family's response was to continue their raw diet, to cancel their health insurance and, within 5 months, to run a 10-kilometer race.

Victoria is the first to admit that it wasn't easy. They were addicted to sugar, coffee, poultry, dairy, pasta and other cooked foods. While everyone knows that fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are the healthiest foods, cooked food is comforting and familiar. The challenge was to get off cooked foods and still have the pleasure of being social, going out, sharing tasty dishes with family, and so on. When the family decided to switch to raw foods five and a half years ago, information was so scarce that they traveled all over to seek out other people with more experience. In a matter of months they had collected hundreds of recipes, dozens of books and invaluable kitchen appliances, such as juicers, blenders and dehydrators.

Victoria has gone far beyond her teachers and, together with Igor, has developed an astonishing variety of gourmet raw food recipes, lectures and teaches classes. You might think gourmet raw food is an oxymoron, but anyone who has had the good fortune to taste Victoria's fare would disagree. In fact there is a growing body of enthusiastic supporters who feel that Victoria has changed their lives, or even saved them. In their seminars and classes they share not only how to prepare raw dishes, but also the difficulties and pitfalls on the way and how to avoid them.

The Boutenkos feel that have had their lives given back to them through raw foods, and they have both dedicated themselves to sharing their experiences and knowledge with others. As Victoria says, "I believe that every human being is more than just a human body. The ultimate goal of human life is to become totally happy. Going on an all-natural diet (which raw food is indeed) makes people happier."

Victoria Boutenko will be contributing a regular feature on Gourmet Raw Food Recipes. See her recipe for Gardenburgers in this issue. Check our calendar of events for dates and times of Victoria Boutenko's Raw Gourmet Cooking classes. For more information she can be reached at (541) 488-8865.


VICTORIA'S UNIVERSAL RECIPES

GARDENBURGER

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. - Nuts (soak overnight if possible)
  • 1 lb. - Carrots (finely grated)
  • 1 Medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 Tbs. - Sweetener (honey, very ripe banana, raisins)
  • 1-2 Tbs. - Oil
  • 1-2 Tbs. - Poultry (or other) seasoning
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2-3 Tbs. - Nutritional Yeast (optional)

Combine all ingredients and mix in a food processor or put through a Champion Juicer with the blank plate in. If the mixture is not firm enough, add one or more of the following thickeners: dill weed, dried garlic, dried onion, dried parsley flakes, nutritional yeast, psyllium husk powder, ground flaxseed.

Forrn into balls, cutlets, or fillets and sprinkle with a little paprika before serving.

Note: If you want a "fishburger" mixture, you can add seaweed (dulse, kelp, nori) to the mixture.

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