The economy's tanking. Jobs are disappearing right and left. The national debt clock had to add a digit last year. So why is a small business focused on full-body cleansing, Kundalini yoga, and raw, organic, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free snacks doing well—nay, thriving?
Deva Khalsa theorizes that as people feel like the economy, the country and their lives are spiraling out of control, they want to take charge of one of the few things they can dictate entirely: What goes into their bodies.
Deva is president of Food On Purpose, a Santa Fe business that is gaining a foothold as a leading manufacturer of raw, unprocessed snack foods. In a short amount of time (the brand was officially launched in March 2008), Food On Purpose's snacks have shot to the top of the popularity heap in Santa Fe, and the company has caught the eye of Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods already stocks FOP in all its New Mexico stores and will soon start carrying FOP products in all its Rocky Mountain region stores.
The company started as The Cleanse of Santa Fe, a diet, lifestyle and yoga center that specializes in take-home kits that amount to "detox for dummies" (baggies of vitamins numbered by the day, a cookbook divided into phases, precisely as many tea bags as you need for the cleanse, etc.). The cleanse program is overseen by Kartar Singh Khalsa, Deva's husband and a doctor of Oriental medicine. While the cleanse kits sold well and remain a popular product, customers wanted more.
It's easier to designate 10 days to detox (which includes yoga practices, Ayurvedic herbs and other supplements) than it is to integrate raw, unprocessed foods into everyday life. Though the cleanse kits come with a special cookbook penned by Deva, clients don't necessarily have time to whip up a batch of celery soup to take to work. Deva came up with Food On Purpose, a line of unprocessed, raw snacks that fit conveniently in a desk drawer or yoga bag to make it easier for folks to integrate raw foods into their diets.
Cited benefits to raw eating—perhaps the reasons for its rising popularity of this sort of eating—include improved digestion (the food's natural enzymes are not broken down by cooking), weight loss (because, let's face it, most of us could stand to shed a few pounds) and a diet with little to no saturated fats.
While there are many benefits to eating a raw diet, there also are numerous myths and misunderstandings about what "raw" actually means. A slab of cool pink tuna and a few grapes is raw, yes, but a raw diet is more than just uncooked foods. And, for the record, not all raw food has to be cold; many enzymes in food tend to deactivate between 104 and 114 degrees Fahrenheit, so anything heated up under that range is still considered raw.
In addition, someone on a "raw diet" doesn't necessarily have to eat 100 percent raw foods; many raw diets include 75 to 90 percent raw foods (so if you just can't give up the birthday cake, never fear). The Khalsas maintain that while a mostly raw diet is the healthiest option, integrating even a few raw meals a week—or, if you can't even swing that, just a few raw ingredients per day—can spur a significant health improvement.
Deva aims more for quality than quantity. Indeed, the small company based in the Triangle District has among its immediate merchandising concerns precisely how such a small group of people will be able to churn out enough snacks to stock the entire Rocky Mountain region's worth of Whole Foods. In addition to its current obligation to New Mexico Whole Foods stores, Food On Purpose also provides its products to Body (333 W. Cordova Road, 986-0362), La Montañita Co-op (913 W. Alameda St., 984-2852), Vitamin Cottage (3328 Cerrillos Road, 474-0111) and online at thecleanse.com.
Even just the process of making the company's popular Flaxies flaxseed crackers takes days on end. Does $6 sound like a lot of money for a few little flatbreads? It's actually downright cheap when you consider that each one was spread out by hand (in Española, where the products are manufactured) and dried carefully for days. Don't feel like buying your own flaxseed and soaking and sprouting it yourself? That's exactly what FOP does for you.
Of course one can't live off Flaxies and FOP's Granola in the Raw alone. When it comes to spreading the word on healthy eating, the Khalsas want to reach everyone, including—and perhaps especially—low-income families. To this end, Deva offers educational sessions to the public in which she suggests easy ways to incorporate healthier foods into everyday eating life.
The easiest way, of course, is fresh produce. Bring an apple to work in the morning or slice up a cucumber to put on a hamburger; it's a start. If prospects like a dehydrator, a juicer and home-sprouted wheat germ are too intimidating, just get ahold of some celery.
The philosophy behind FOP's raw snacks is all well and good, and I can appreciate a company that looks at the big picture when it comes to health. But the big question remains: How do these things taste?
With visions of cardboardy granola bars dancing in my head, I decide to try a Choco Roonie raw macaroon. "Decadent chocolate and coconut bliss!" the package proclaims. Investigating the ingredients, the first one is agave nectar. OK, that's promising—if nothing else, this little brown sphere will be sweet. Upon biting into the chocolatey ball, I find it isn't merely sweet: It's a thick, hefty, compact piece of semisweet bliss. It sticks to the mouth as would a corn-syrup-laden candy but, of course, there is no high-fructose anything in sight.
Now I'm all about eating healthy food when I can, but when I get hungry, I get hungry. Accordingly, when I eat, I eat like I mean it. We're talking half a pound of pasta in a sitting. A completely clean steering-wheel-sized plate at Cowgirl BBQ. Not a crumb of burger nor potato left over at Bobcat Bite. I mean business.
Indeed, after the first bite I am convinced I could eat all six Choco Roonies in the bag; but by the time I finish the entire Roonie, I am full.
The Roonie is probably one-twentieth the size of my average dinner meal, but already I'm satiated. How is it possible?
Since raw, unprocessed foods don't contain all the fillers that their ground-up, cooked-out, life-force-deprived cousins do, they act like direct shots of nutrition and satisfaction right into your bloodstream. It's like eating a Little Debbie cake versus noshing a banana; you're likely to want another cake, yet be satisfied post-banana. So when I down a Birds in the Nest (a mild little ball of coconut stuff with a tart organic raspberry center) or crunch a Santa Fe Flaxie (complete with jalapeños—it's like pico de gallo, only in cracker form), I only need one before I call it quits. This, coming from someone who eats Ritz crackers by the sleeve.
I then pick up a bag of FOP's Nutty Nori Chips and encounter what feels like a bag full of air. The squat little snacks inside clearly exist—I can see them! So why can't I feel them? The label quotes the bag's contents as "0.9 ounces." Really?
But I have to admit those Nutti Nori Chips are pretty tasty. In fact, that little bag o' air remains stashed on my desk for a midday pick-me-up.
The Choco Roonies? They are long gone.
1½ cups raw unsalted sunflower seeds (sprouting optional)
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon dried dill or 1 teaspoon cumin
Dash of cayenne
1 tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos or Nama Shoyu
¾-1 cup Rejuvelac or water
¼ cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
¼ cup celery, diced
½ tsp Celtic Sea Salt
Soak the seeds for two hours minimum. Throw out the soak water. Blend the seeds in a blender or food processor with ¾ cup of water or Rejuvelac, Nama Shoyu, a clove of garlic and lemon juice. Do not add too much water at first or it may be too thin and you will need to add more seeds. Add more liquid to desired consistency. You want the consistency to be that of a thick spread such as hummus. Then add seasonings such as dill or cumin. By hand, mix in the diced celery and add finely chopped red onion. Recommended served as a dip or spread with FOP's Flaxies.