It was taught by Pol Grégoire, a chef from Belgium. He started out his career in conventional cooking, but then he got interested in what he calls “alimentation vive” and low-temp cooking, and decided to start eating and cooking that way. He opened a restaurant in Brussels along those precepts, he has written a book that is just ready to get published, and he organizes conferences and cooking classes.
The class was held in the kitchen at the back of the Pousse-Pousse boutique : the students were sitting around a long and narrow table, at the end of which Pol stood, preparing the food, talking about the ingredients and the nutrition concepts, and answering the myriad of our questions. Among the twelve students, there were three guys, which I consider a pretty good ratio for a cooking class, and a nutrition-oriented one at that. Since Pol’s classes are organized in cycles of five, some people knew each other and the chef already, and the general atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, with a little teasing thrown in the mix.
I won’t go into the details because I don’t know nearly enough, but here’s the rundown of the theory on live food. Micro-nutrients are vitamins, enzyms, oligo-elements and minerals – as opposed to macro-nutrients (the usual trio of carb, protein and fat). Live food refers to those food items which still retain all of their micro-nutrients : especially sprouted seeds, sprouts, fresh pollen, royal jelly, edible flowers, seaweed, and aromatic herbs. The idea is that anything cooked at too high a temperature looses its virtues and even starts in some cases to get toxic. So raw food is the way to go, and low-temp baking or steaming are the preferred hypotoxic methods to transform anything that’s not edible raw. All this I gathered from previous readings and from what Pol explained. He also personally advocates avoiding dairy products, cereals that contain gluten, and any kind of animal fat (apart from that which comes from fish).
During the course of that four-hour class, Pol prepared three dishes, which were then served to and gobbled down by us lucky students. The first course was a Tartare d’Espadon à la Mayonnaise Verte : raw swordfish, chopped and mixed to an avocado eggless mayonnaise, topped with sundried tomatoes and served with watercress, leek sprouts, fennel sprouts and pea sprouts. The tartare was absolutely delicious, sort of a swordfish guacamole. In my very humble opinion it would have been even nicer with a little bread or something to mop in, but hey, who am I to say.
Then came a Mille-Feuille de Pommes de Terre et Jeunes Orties, Crème d’Oignon Rouge au Thym Frais, in which a thick layer of nettle (from Pol’s garden – he had to handle them with gloves) and endive was stacked between two layers made of ultra-thin slices of potatoes. The whole thing was cooked into a sort of cake in the steamer. After about 50 minutes, the cake was shared among us, sprinkled with seaweed flakes and soy sprouts, and surrounded by a smooth red onion sauce with fresh thyme. This was excellent too : I had never had nettle before and it has a really subtle flavor, the slight bitterness of which was compensated by the sweetly fragrant sauce.
And, finally, dessert! Pol made a luscious eggless and creamless version of Lemon Posset, a lemon custard, which gained its smooth richness from cashews, soaked and ground. The gelatinizing agent was a Japanese seaweed called agar-agar, commonly found in organic stores. The custard was poured in molds on top of a layer of chopped lemon peel and dry cashews, so that it bore a crunchy and zesty topping when unmolded.
I found it fascinating to see how a pretty strict diet can still lead to delicious food, if you’re creative and talented enough. I don’t really plan on following the rules of live food, but I learned many things, and some of the ideas and ingredients can certainly be integrated into the way I cook and eat. I am also very likely to repeat each of the three recipes he made.
I have to say though, when I asked about chocolate and discovered that chocolate beans are roasted at such a high temperature that a toxic substance called theobromide develops, making a staple of my diet a big no no – well, I was pretty much lost to the cause from that moment on. I mean, really.
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