It’s called the blender dance.
And while it isn’t likely to land you a spot on a TV talent show, it may help you get healthier: A happy, moving body absorbs nutrients better, explained Bethany Tait, a Naples holistic health and fitness coach and raw food educator, as part of her recent raw culinary class.
The class drew about 25 attendees of various raw food experience levels, including Robin Sass, a Bonita Springs resident who has been enjoying a primarily raw food diet for two years.
“It’s made me feel really more alert,” Sass said. “I feel healthier, I have more energy.” But, she conceded, it was rough at first.
Removing familiar and long-loved foods from her diet was difficult, especially since she didn’t really know how to make any meals. Then, she met Tait and found a few cookbooks — Sass especially praised “Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People” by Jennifer Cornbleet — and began to enjoy what was on her plate again.
Tait’s menu for the class included a palate-cleansing and detoxifying raw raspberry lemonade, a zucchini pasta Alfredo that used zucchini and squash in place of pasta noodles and a chocolate-avocado mousse that definitely tastes better than it sounds.
Tait encouraged attendees to forget whatever notions they may have previously held about raw food diets. Such diets are not about being food fanatics, she said, but instead about adding more healthy fruits, vegetables and whole foods back into a person’s diet.
As for the “raw” part, letting food remain in its uncooked state allows the body to process it more effectively, Tait explained.
“Heating actually destroys many vitamins and minerals and makes them less useful to our body,” Tait said.
As part of the class, Tait shared her story of raw food revelation. When she was a teenager, she was plagued with chronic fatigue. Physicians diagnosed her with a hormonal problem and later bipolar disorder. Medical treatments for those diagnoses failed, and Tait’s condition worsened.
On a good day, she said, she walked using a walker. On a bad day, she needed a wheelchair. Open sores covered her body. Her weight dropped to 97 pounds. “My life was coming to an end, and I dreamed of a day when I could ride my bike to the beach,” Tait recalled. That was before she turned to a raw food diet.
Now in her 20s, Tait has been on the raw diet for eight years and has devoted her personal and professional life to the practice. She’s been teaching its virtues for five years. And she rides her bike to the beach several times a week, she added.
There are other advantages to a raw food diet, Tait declared: With a cookbook that includes so many fruits and vegetables, it’s not fatal to indulge a bit. She eats as much as she wants, yet she’s lean and toned. Plus, says, Tait, she has a particular passion for chocolate, and creations such as the chocolate avocado mousse don’t have to be reserved for after-dinner fare. “You can have dessert for breakfast,” she suggested.
To prepare a raw food diet, Tait suggested attendees commit to a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix, and a food processor. These machines aren’t a must, but with the amount of blending and processing that’s involved in raw food, it’s likely that a less expensive version will need frequent replacing.
To prepare the zucchini pasta Alfredo — the class entrée — Tait suggested attendees use a mandolin to slice the recipe’s two zucchinis, one yellow squash and four button mushrooms. The “Alfredo” sauce is made with pumpkin seeds, garlic cloves, a date, lemon juice, basil, sea salt, water and nutritional yeast. The last ingredient is often used in raw food recipes to give the food a light cheese taste.
Tait added all the sauce ingredients into the food processor, pressed on and encouraged everyone to join her in the blender dance, which is best described as a sort of interpretative art.
Naples couple Brandon and Amy Roller attended the raw food class. Amy is on a vegetarian and vegan diet; raw food is often part of that. They approved of all of Tait’s recipes, Amy Roller said.
“I loved all three of them,” she said, adding that her husband had already suggested she make the raspberry lemonade for their late-night refreshment.
The preparation time did not seem especially demanding, either. Tait talked as she worked, and on class day, she forgot to bring her mandolin, requiring her to chop all the vegetables by hand. Still, from preparation to plating, only 10 minutes were required for the Alfredo.
“As far as the cooking goes, gosh, this was so easy,” Amy said.
Or, as the case may be, no cooking.