The owner of Nicaragua’s one and only raw food restaurant shares her path to a healthy diet and what tools every raw foodist should own.
On our recent ‘FP Escapes Powered by Yogascapes’ to Nicaragua, we were lucky to cross paths with the beautiful Bridget Namaste. Escaping a past full of ups and downs, Bridget came to Nicaragua in search of restoration and balance through nature. Her focus fell on raw food, building a diet reliant on the earth’s goodness. This newfound way of life unveiled an instant healing, unlike anything she’d experienced before, and her excitement fueled endless experimentation. She developed new techniques, discovered powerhouse ingredients and opened a restaurant, Buddha’s Garden, in 2015. Bridget now leads retreats and workshops in the art of raw food, and continues to share her passion each and every day.
One thing we discovered during our workshop – raw food “cooking” is a whole different world. Stoves and ovens are out, blenders and dehydrators are in. For those looking to embark on their raw food adventure, here is Bridget to show you the way…
How did you personally find yourself in the raw food community?
By the time I turned 18, I found myself in a place that wasn’t serving me mentally or physically. An eating disorder had its hands all over me and I was completely lost in myself. I remember the first time I went to a raw vegan restaurant. I was in a 6-month rehab program away from home and my parents came to visit me. My father had picked out this place, knowing how picky I was about food, and it turned out to be a life changing experience. I remember the display case of raw vegan desserts and being enamored by the fact that these desserts didn’t contain anything but wholehearted goodness from the earth. We ate an array of incredibly delicious raw menu items and I left feeling high as a kite. I had no idea what came over me, but this natural euphoria was like nothing I had ever experienced.
The next life-shifting experience occurred when I met one of my best friends a year later. She had adopted a raw lifestyle years ago. I was completely open to her raw wisdom since I had that incredible previous experience. She showed me the way, starting with a green juice – no fruit, just green vegetables. She convinced me that it would beautify me from the inside out, healing me on both a physical and emotional level. I started sucking those babies back like there was no tomorrow.
Years went by and I was still at my favourite juice spot every day, lining up shots of wheatgrass, e3alive and supercharged green juices. The chlorophyll would charge through my system and I would again be high on life. I’ve come to understand chlorophyll as the blood of the earth. It’s a connector and a lifeline to this planet. When it’s consumed, we cultivate that pure organic life energy in our bodies.
My amazing friend also got me into eating raw food on the regular. We travelled extensively and lived in many different places, always sure to find juice bars and raw food restaurants on our path. This lifestyle became a staple.
In my earlier 20’s I struggled with the whole party scene, and I used the raw lifestyle as a crutch. My approach was a constant cycle of detox/retox. I can very happily say that, after 8 years of living in the raw food community, I no longer party or engage in eating disorder behaviours. My mission is to help other struggling women and to impart the tools that have healed my mind, body and soul. I’m beyond grateful for how the raw lifestyle has touched my life. I have now opened a RAW Vegan Restaurant and run annual raw detox retreats through NicaRAWguayogaretreats. My restaurant Buddha’s Garden provides all the rawmazing eats for both of these endeavours.
Can you provide a quick glimpse into Buddha’s Garden? What do you want people to know about the restaurant?
Buddha’s Garden is currently Nicaragua’s one and only raw vegan restaurant. I moved to Nicaragua and felt the need to provide pure, honest and healthy food for the community. Within 3 months, we opened our doors, which boasts a great outdoor area with lots of shaded space. A constant loving breeze proves nice in the hot climate. And we pride ourselves on our locally-grown organic produce. Next year, we will be incorporating cooked vegan food into the mix to reach a wider audience of vegan and vegetarian consumers.
What is the restaurant’s most popular dish?
Raw Mexican Ensalada. This raw creation has a Mexican flair that is so satisfying you will not believe that it’s dairy- and meat-free – comprised of a bed of crispy and fresh lettuce topped with seasoned walnut “meat”, avocado, fresh chopped salsa and served with a sour creamy cashew dressing.
For those looking to get into raw food, can you list 5 kitchen tools they should own?
Item: The Vitamix or Blentec high powered blender.
Where to Buy: You can often find one of these brands at Costco, or you can order online from: https://www.upayanaturals.com/category_s/49.htm
Why You Need It: Any regular blender will not do the trick! Luckily, these amazing machines have 5-10 year warranties. You will need these to blend nuts into creams, to effectively pulverize vegetables to make breads, nut butters, almond milk, “ice cream”, nut/grain flours and to make the best smoothies imaginable. There are many other things that you will need this for as you go.
Item: Excalibur Dehydrator or similar square style
Where to Buy: https://www.upayanaturals.com/Dehydrators_s/47.htm
Why You Need It: Dehydrators have heat elements, fans and vents that slowly suck moisture out of food. Food dehydrators don’t cook food; they use a constant low temperature and airflow to dissolve the water content of a food. You can use food dehydrators to dry out fruits and vegetables, as well as make raw crackers, chips, breads, granola and crusts. Be prepared, as food dehydrators require time and patience, so any meal you want to prepare in the dehydrator should be planned at least 24 hours in advance. The upside to getting a larger dehydrator that may cost more is that you can prepare more foods at once and, due to the time it takes to properly dehydrate certain foods, you may want more space, depending on how much your looking to prepare, or for how many people you are preparing food.
Item: Kitchen Aid Food Processor
Where to Buy: Costco
Why you need it: You can buy cheaper food processors but, in my experience, it’s best to go with quality equipment right off the bat. Pay now or pay later! You get great warranties with high-quality equipment which ensures they will stand the test of time. Food processors are different than blenders in that they are much more powerful when it comes to blending solids. They can chop, shred, grate and slice solid foods and are amazing additions to the raw kitchen. Raw food is all about texture. You need different machines to create different textures so that you can mimic foods like conventional burgers and pizzas! Also, the food processor makes the best soft-serve ice cream.
Item: Masticating Juicer
Where to Buy: https://www.upayanaturals.com/category_s/48.htm
Why You Need It: Cold press juicers are usually more expensive, but work much more efficiently in terms of preserving nutrients and enzymes during the juicing process. They work by first crushing and then pressing fruit and vegetables for the highest juice yield. Cold press juicers are excellent for juicing leafy greens, and soft fruits and berries. They also make very little noise.
Item: Vegetable Spiral Slicer
Where to Buy: https://www.upayanaturals.com/category_s/51.htm
Why you need it: To make zucchini, carrot, cucumber, beet and all types of veggie and fruit noodles for dishes like raw pastas and pad thai.
+What are your favorite raw vegan recipes?