The very thought of taking a piece about my raw foods journey and entitling it, “pitted sun dried oil cured black olives,” makes me chuckle. You see, it was the significant role those delightful little treats played in my life at the time when I was ushered into the amazing realms of the raw foods lifestyle.
It was the year 2005. A time in October just after a hurricane named Ivan, had raged through Jamaica, wreaked havoc and placed a damper on the mood of the country.
IRIE FM's program named Running African which airs on Sunday mornings, had on as guests, Sunyatta Amen, a belly dancer, yoga practitioner and Aris LaTham, a raw foods master chef. They were promoting a royal feast at a health retreat they were hosting in Runaway Bay that very Sunday evening. Sunyatta talked about the importance of belly dance to womb healing and overall health, and Aris talked about raw foods as a way of greatly assisting the healing of the body towards perfect health and wellbeing.
My friends and I were so intrigued by the stimulating talk about belly dance, yoga and raw foods as a profound way of healthy living that we embarked on a journey that took us from lush plains and verdant valleys, through the stimulating Mount Rosser hills, unto the breathtaking azure blue coastline of the north, to the location. We wanted to experience the phenomena of a royal feast of gourmet raw foods.
A royal feast it was. A splendid array of colourful gourmet, raw and delicious green and rainbow salads, nut meats and tropical fruit pies decorated tables. Flavours blended, enhanced and spiced dishes, encouraging captivating aromas to waft through the air. It promised and delivered sumptuous delights to the palate.
That was, for my friend Bena and I, an induction into the amazing world of raw food living. We later signed up with the teacher who was just as phenomenal, food scientist and raw foods master chef, Aris LaTham, so we could learn more.
That coming Saturday saw us spending the entire day learning to create gastronomical delights of wonderful tasty raw vegan cuisine. He taught us that once foods have been made fit and ready by the sun, they have already been cooked by that fire and need no additional fire.
We started out with a lovely juice made from fresh pineapples, oranges and ginger, so we could have something to sip on throughout the food preparation. This, he encouraged, was to keep the body hydrated. Hydration plays a key role in ensuring optimal health. We prepared a main course which included ackee and dulse, curried plantains a green high salad of callaloo and a hot pepper sauce made with June plums and scotch bonnet peppers. Our dishes included a lot of fresh aromatic spices of escallion, thyme, onions, garlic, parsley, allspice, rosemary, bell peppers and tomatoes.
Aris dictated a list of the staple ingredients we'd need to flavour our dishes once we started out on the raw foods lifestyle and included in that list was black olives. Later I found out that Bena takes very detailed notes. My shopping list said I needed black olives. Hers said: Pitted sun dried oil cured black olives. She had written it off the bottle of olives he was using.
We hit the stores that weekend and got all the ingredients on our shopping list except the olives. Turned out that pitted sun dried oil cured black olives wasn't easy to find and sourcing it became a challenge and an adventure for us.
Even though he taught us that plant foods that are naturally high in fats, such as coconut, nuts and seeds, avocado, olives and our ackee that grows so abundantly here in Jamaica, are good sources of protein, we were moved to ensure that black olives would also be part of our regular diet.
We scoured all the gourmet stores in Kingston to no avail. We then planned to hit Ocho Rios to continue the search, when after reading an email I’d sent out, the owner of the company I worked with called me to say we should go to a place called Thomas Finnegan in Kingston. Thomas Finnegan carried fine wines and delicacies such as freshly made tapeinade from across the Mediterranean, and our much sought after black olives. We became regular patrons of that joint until its door closed years later.
The magic of raw plant based foods is that it carries structured water needed for hydration and proper assimilation of nutrients; Oxygen for easy movement of food through the digestive system; Enzymes needed for nourishment and proper health. Consuming foods in their raw state without cooking them has been known to assist the body greatly in flushing out a buildup of mucus, toxins, waste and inflammations that make the body sick and diseased. Seeing that the body is over 90% water, it needs water rich foods for proper assimilation of minerals and vitamins and so fruits and vegetables are a great help. Proper hydration that comes from water rich foods, help the body to stave off the onset of cancer, diabetes, arthritis and a host of other chronic debilitating diseases of the organs, limbs and systems of the body. Disease cannot thrive in an alkaline oxygenated body.
12 years later, raw vegan foods has become a lifestyle for both Bena and I. She took to teaching and assisting others to use it as a way to a healthier disease free living and I used it as an aide towards healing my body from chronic ill health. Prior to that, the vegan diet I had embarked on for health reasons wasn't working for me. Intrinsically, I had always known that a plant based diet is the ideal for my health and wellness but I needed the right foods and knowledge to assist me.
I was consuming staples of tofu, vege- chunks, brown rice, peas, beans, wheat products, and ground provisions and all that was happening was, every day my body felt like the meal from the previous day hadn't digested enough to accommodate the present meal. I was puffy and uncomfortable. Add to that chronic fatigue and pains in a body struggling to recover from lymphatic cancer and the toxic poisons of chemotherapy and radiation administered to heal it. I was desperate for a change that worked.
Today, I continue to use raw foods as a way of nourishing, feeding and healing my body. I have found that it gives me clarity, lots of energy, sound sleep, better balance of emotions, pretty skin and clear eyes. It also keeps me hydrated, vibrant and ageless.
Pitted Sun Dried Oil Cured Black Olives is a rarity. To maintain the integrity of it being a healthy raw food, it should be bottled in olive oil and not citric acid. I still find it hard to source and the closest I have come to it being readily available is the ones that say oil cured olives. These I have sourced in gourmet stores in the Hamptons and Manhattan, New York.
Black Olives continue to be a delight to a savoury raw foods dish. They add a particular flavour and taste to the meal. Consuming them conjures up fond memories that always takes me back to the beginning of my amazing journey into the realms of vibrant healthy living.
Author: Hope Heaven