Carrot sticks and flax chips


At 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, a long, lean silhouette practices yoga in the bedroom of a cozy home in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina.

One room over, dehydrators hum along in the kitchen. The dried flowers and branches draped along the walls tremble from the constant sound. A pitcher of freshly pressed cider sits on the table with a vanilla bean floating on top of the amber liquid. Caleb Crowell can be spotted through the foggy kitchen window examining a handful of radishes in his garden out back.

No pot of coffee is seen brewing, no stack of pancakes are waiting to be devoured.

Like today and on any Saturday morning during the spring and summer months, Caleb and his wife Megan are in their normal routines before setting up shop at the local farmer’s market.

Their business, Hold the Heat Raw Food Makery, offers a variety of raw food snacks to the small mountain community.

At the booth, bags of raw granola sit neatly arranged in woven baskets. Raw chocolate and flax chips are spread out on the table in front of Megan where she utters words like “enzymes,” “nutrients,” and “sprouted” to a customer.

The man, with a tuft of silver hair underneath a faded ball cap, picks up a sample of a Chipotle Sweet Potato Flax Chip and takes a bite.

“It tastes like a chip,” he tells me. “Except food. You know what I mean?”

Do I know what he means?

“Like, more substantial,” Megan adds.

Megan and Caleb, both 26, have been living a raw food lifestyle for the past five years. After stumbling across a raw restaurant in the Florida Keys, Caleb the former chef and lifelong health foodie along with Megan, a southern girl raised on church barbeques and Cookout milkshakes, decided to make a major lifestyle change.

“The first week was really rough,” Megan explained to me. “You think there’s nothing to eat and what the heck am I supposed to eat? You come home and there’s nothing there and you’re hungry. It’s a real problem because we’re not used to being truly hungry.”

A raw vegan diet, like Megan and Caleb’s, consists mainly of uncooked plant food including fruit, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, and grains. They believe that heating food over 115 degrees destroys the natural enzymes that aid in digestion. Without the enzymes, the body can’t easily absorb the nutrients and therefore spends more energy trying to leach nutrients from the foods we eat.

For that reason, cooked foods are out, along with anything processed, sugar, flour, caffeine, and acid-forming foods, like meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy.

While it may seem like a difficult lifestyle, Caleb views his eating habits as a more simplistic way of life.

“Through a lot of years we’ve processed and changed foods, we’ve always had to turn our food into something else,” he explained. “This is kind of a simplification. You can pull it out of the ground and eat it as is. It’s a beautiful thing.”

I continued to explore this “beautiful thing” that evening after accepting an invite to a raw potluck at the Crowell’s home. I debated bringing a plate of carrot sticks, but instead tapped into my lacking gourmet skills and whipped up a small bowl of guacamole.

I pulled up to the house to find Caleb and his father, Mark, tossing buckets of apples into an old fashioned press. The machine was earsplitting as it clinked and clanked, but Mark shouted instructions over the noise as Caleb used strength developed through years of teaching yoga to turn the wheel and churn out fresh cider.

Mark, an ex- vegetarian and former owner of Bean Mountain Tofu, explained how he’s always had an interest in health food and inflicted these views on his family, but Caleb is the only one to adopt the raw food lifestyle.

“A lot of the family thinks he’s no fun anymore since he doesn’t eat the things he use to,” Mark said. “But once you’re around him he’ll just dive into a giant salad and nobody notices that [he’s] not eating the same as everybody else.”

While continuing to emphasize his support of his son and daughter-in-law, Mark mentioned their wedding last summer.

In their own backyard, Megan and Caleb were married in front of 300 of their friends and family who celebrated with a 100 percent raw buffet catered by Hold the Heat Raw Food Makery (a.k.a. Megan and Caleb).

With a table full of options like “bread sticks” with pesto, romain tacos with corn salad, radish ravioli, tomato tart, raw rosemary cookies, and raspberry sorbet, nobody noticed the absence of a white-frosted wedding cake.

“They didn’t make anything for all the old son in laws and uncles who sat there and weren’t going to eat anything.” Mark said. “They didn’t like bring some chicken nuggets for those people. They just made as much good food as they could, but all adhering to their principals. “It was just drop dead gorgeous. It was so pretty, you had to eat it, you had to try it. All these hundreds of people, all the old church ladies, everybody just say there and ate and ate. It was amazing.”

As the sun began to set, Mark and I ventured into the house where about 12 people gathered in a small circle. Initially, I felt like I was participating in a support group like “Raw Foodists Anonymous” as the introductions began:

“I’m Megan and I’m here because raw food is what I do…” but as she continued, she explained the pumpkin cashew pudding she struggled making and a marinated kale salad thrown together for the group. Her passion and excitement to share the importance and benefits of a raw food diet showed through animated hand gestures and a bouncing demeanor.

A woman in the circle, JoAnn, a raw foodist of two years explained meeting Megan and Caleb at the farmers market months earlier. After hearing from her friend Sally that there were raw foodists she went to check it out.

“Oh, we have raw food community, I’m so thrilled, how many are there?” JoAnn explained as she told the story. “Megan said, well there’s me, there’s Caleb, and there is you!’ So that was that.”

Now with interest from the farmer’s market, local wedding guests, and customers who’ve seen Hold the Heat products at Bare Essentials health food store, monthly potlucks have grown to gather 40 or 50 guests at times.

“We get a wide range of people and we try to tell them as much information as we can about raw foods and why we don’t heat above115 degrees and why this could be a good alternative to your regular [diet],” Megan said.

Overall, the main goal of the couple is to promote a healthy lifestyle.

“And were living proof,” Caleb added.

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