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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

MPTV’s ‘Cooking Raw’

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Last weekend Milwaukee Public Television (MPTV) debuted “Cooking Raw,” a new eight-part cooking series that offers plenty of creative alternatives to standing in front of a hot stove to cook a meal this summer. Mother-daughter duo Caroline Carter and Shenita Ray are the hosts of the 30-minute program, which teaches viewers to prepare popular dishes using uncooked ingredients, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains.

Raw food, also called living food, is food that has not been microwaved, radiated, heat processed or cooked above certain temperatures (usually from 92 F to 118 F). There are a number of different raw food diets, each with their own guidelines, but, in general, raw foodists believe uncooked foods contain enzymes that aid in their own digestion, freeing the body’s self-made enzymes to regulate all the body’s metabolic processes unimpeded. Heating the food degrades or destroys its enzymes, transferring the burden to the body’s own enzyme production.

Each “Cooking Raw” episode follows a loose theme that includes a demonstration on how to prepare three to four dishes, with an occasional guest appearance by an expert on that particular topic or genre. For Carter and Ray’s second episode, “Italian,” Carter adapted a recipe for spaghetti marinara that she inherited from her mother. Rather than use pasta that needs to be boiled, the mother-daughter team opts for fresh zucchini that is sliced like long strands of spaghetti using a kitchen tool called a spiralizer. A tight overhead camera angle captures the beauty and color of fresh Roma tomatoes, purple onion, and green celery, peppers and basil leaves as they are chopped, sliced and thrown into a food processor to make a thick marinara sauce.

While helping her mother prepare the Italian meal, Ray includes a short history of how zucchini, as we know it, developed from wild summer squash originating in the area between Mexico and Guatemala into seeds with which Portuguese and Spanish explorers returned to Europe. Carter confides that she was once obese, but says that she lost 80 pounds by incorporating raw foods into her diet and lifestyle. Viewers might recognize Carter and Ray from their appearances at local farmers’ markets, where they sell their Eden’s Market line of raw and handmade flax seed crackers and granola chunks, as well as salsa, dressings and dips.

“Cooking Raw: Italian” leaves the confines of the MPTV studio to show interviews with local nutritionist Laurie Meyer, Shawn and Rae Rediske of Water House Foods in Lake Mills, and Pat Sturgis of Beans & Barley to get their take on raw foods.

“We’ve been eating raw food since we’ve been on this planet, and so the new food is really the cooked food,” Meyer explains. “In raw food, the majority of it anyway, you’re keeping your vitamins, minerals and enzymes intact. As soon as you cook food, you’re going to lose enzymes, vitamins, and you alter the minerals so they won’t be absorbed and utilized as well.”

While MPTV’s “Cooking Raw” lacks the rehearsed scripting and premium production values of the cooking shows on the Food Network, it is a well-executed, informative local program that provides viewers with a free lesson in cost-effective and easy-to-prepare meals using fresh, nutrient-rich raw foods.

“Cooking Raw” airs on MPTV 10.1 HD on Saturdays at 11 a.m., and repeats on Fridays at 6 p.m. The series also airs on MPTV 36.1 on Sundays at noon.