The words “local sustainable organic” often evoke images of the rolling hills and grasslands covered in vibrant crops swaying in the breeze under a wide and unblinking blue sky. I’ll bet that even the second thought that comes to your mind isn’t Los Angeles California. But guess what? LA is situated just south of some of the most fertile farmlands in the country, and if you know where to look, you can eat local sustainable organic foods all day long.
On that note, it’s high time The Valley Vegan and Friand got around to reviewing two local businesses that absolutely need checking out! If you live in Los Angeles, if you love organic & whole foods, if you’re longing for vegan beauty products that actually work, then look no further! And the best part? Both of these businesses deliver straight to your door step. We’re not just talking “local” businesses here, we’re talking personal.
I always say, “the secret ingredient in soup is love” and clearly this is true with Personal Chef Monica Ford’s business “Real Food Devotee.” You want local? You want personal? How about the fact that she delivers your order personally. Have you ever met that Tom guy from Maine? No. Me neither. But I have met Monica Ford AT MY HOUSE! And we’ll get back around to Tom again in a minute…
I first learned of RFD when a friend of mine catered a party with her delights. Since then, I have placed a few orders with Monica and have yet to be disappointed! These days, we are in love with the different varieties of krauts (this week was a purple kraut!) and the kimchee is to die for! But, there is a hidden treasure in her menu which I dare you to try and then triple dog dare you to tell me you don’t like it: Grapefruit Deodorant.
Admittedly, I only ordered the deodorant out of curiosity & frustration with other so-called organic sticks. Have you ever tried Jason Natural or Tom’s of Maine deodorant? Tom’s is like a stick of armpit smell you just rub on to start your day. It sucks so bad, it blows. And, if like Friand just said over my shoulder “Tom’s gonna send you a few sticks to prove you wrong”, I still won’t use it. Monica’s Grapefruit Deodorant is it. Eye-Tee “it”.
First, check out the ingredients: sounds delicious, doesn’t it? It smells as good as the list promises. And guess who isn’t going to smell if they use it? You. At first, I wasn’t convinced this was going to work. So I put it to a couple of tests. Test #1: the long walk from the parking lot to my classroom at school while wearing a backpack. Result: pass! In fact, a quick sniff when I returned to my car 2 hours later delivered a nice little burst of cacao butter to my nose. Yum! Test #2: run 6-10 miles. Over a week, and runs of varying lengths, I discovered that not only did Monica’s stuff work, but it really stood up to those long runs. I cannot vouch for anything over 10 miles, though, so I dare you to try it for me!
<– Just to compare… would you eat this stuff?
An interesting thing happened, which I wasn’t completely surprised, but definitely amazed at the degree to which this happened. Without all those chemicals and metals under my arm, my body had a chance to cleanse. After 2 weeks of using Monica’s deodorant, the glands in my armpits swelled and became painful. At first, I thought I was sick (nope, I wasn’t) but then came to realize that my body was finally relieved to not have to deal with the poison I was rubbing under my arm daily and could finally shed all the crap that I didn’t need. Whoa. I’d also be interested to know if anyone else has this happen…
On another positive note, the body butter is fantastic as well! Again, check out those ingredients. Sounds delicious, right? Yep. And it smells like a million bucks! I suffer from horrible dry skin, as in my skin splits when I bend a finger and you can imagine how inconvenient this is as a musician. There has been only one commercially made body butter (from the Body Shop’s Hemp line) that has even remotely given me some relief. Until now! Yes, ladies & gentlemen, another miracle product from the labs of Chef Monica! Her Skin Libations Body Butter not only healed my ailing skin, but it smells fantastic. This body butter comes highly recommended.
Yes, I know there is beeswax in this product, but it is a conscious choice on my part to use this product. The Face Frosting, again, all natural ingredients, but contains beeswax. A long time sufferer of adult onset acne, my skin is super sensitive to any creams that I put on it. And this is the first that hasn’t wrought havoc on my freckly fragile skin.
We’ve all embarked on a veg*n journey different from everyone else’s. It’s a slow process filled with twists, turns and even some roadblocks. I’ve been on this path for almost 23 years now, and I still have work to do eliminating all animal products from my life. Though no animal products go into my body, I do find it difficult to identify and eliminate household culprits, and even beauty products. In the end, I feel less terrible about purchasing homemade local organic body butter from a personal business than buying a skin cream from Proctor & Gamble. Choices. I make mine.
Read ingredients carefully on Monica’s weekly menu, as there are vegan items, but you have to be aware what they are. The stars of her menu are clearly the cabbage based condiments: kimchee and saurkrauts. If you are following the GAPS diet, though, she has many items that are friendly. She has a menu posted on her website, but it is no where near a complete representation of all that she offers on her subscription menu. For people who eat dairy, she ferments her own creams and yogurts, and she even makes a baby formula with goat’s milk. Again, with the ever evolving weekly menu, you’re sure to find something for you and everyone else on your nice list. Monica also gives in-home cooking tutorials, so if you’d like to learn how to make your own goodies, she’s your gal!
Monica earns herself another solid 5 sprouts!
Real Food Devotee:
An unexpected knock on our front door in October revealed a sales representative from “Farm Fresh To You” all ready to give us a pitch on why purchasing local produce was important to our local economy and the environment. She could barely get through the first sentence before I asked, “Where do I sign?” I purchased the monthly delivery of the “Valley Box” which contains produce from farms no more than 100 miles from my zip code.
Our first delivery arrived the day before Thanksgiving, which meant that everything was eaten within 24 hours! The first thing that we noticed was the difference in flavor of the veg. Oh sure, we’ve been buying organic at Whole Foods for ages (which does have a noticeably better flavor than the GMO compost they offer at regular grocery stores), but this was striking. The carrots were so sweet, we just stuffed them in our faces – I didn’t even cook with them! The broccoli? I think many people get a little touchy about broccoli because it can have a “skunky” quality. But this stuff is divine. It’s sweet and green tasting and delicate.
The way FFTY orders work is you go onto their website and “exclude” any vegetables, fruits or herbs you don’t want in your delivery. Sounds complicated, but once I got into it, I stopped feeling guilty and just went with my gut. It is difficult, though, to read through the lists, knowing how much time and attention went into the crops, and just check a box that says “no! I don’t want it!” but I have to be realistic. Am I really going to use 6 different kinds of lettuce (and you all know how I feel about lettuce…) before they go bad? No, unfortunately. And it would be a bigger crime to let that stuff go bad than it to let it go to a family that will love it. On the other hand, I have the ultimate power to never ever let an apricot come in contact with the same air I breathe. Now that is a relief.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, our box arrived with strawberries! In fact, we were headed out the door for our morning run and decided that a few of those little babies would do nothing but good things for our bodies.
The excuses I often hear from people who seem afraid to buy organics is that the produce “goes bad too fast” and “there’s bugs in it.” Um… yeah. You know why? Because it’s not sprayed with retardants and preservatives, coated in chemical pesticides or worse yet, are GMOs designed to kill anything that bites into them. A skill that one must perfect when purchasing organics is to figure out how much you need for a couple of days, then being prepared to go back to the store or farm or farmer’s market, to get what you need for the next few days. Sounds like a pain in the tuckuss, but really the payoff is worth it. Another complaint is cost. This idea that organic produce costs more permeates the mainstream market. True. If you buy organic broccoli at the local Ralph’s it’s going to cost more. Why? Because their market is geared toward mainstream consumers looking for cheap quantities of food. But if you shop at places focused on local or organic or another specialized shop, you’ll find the prices aren’t that much more. Why? Again, because the consumers that shop at specialty shops are looking specifically for those products, which keeps the cost down. So, don’t buy organic at Ralph’s! Go to Whole Foods, go to the local co-op, or best idea yet: order some veg from Farm Fresh To You and save some cash!
Get to know the folks at Capay Fruits and Vegetables who bring us these amazing treats from the Earth.
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An important thing to note: as I said earlier in the post, being vegan is a lifelong journey, and I’m no where near the end of it. There is no final destination, just checkpoints along the way. And when I thought “going vegan” was as close to the destination as I could get, turns out there are so many more branches to explore. In the last 6 months, our diet has become almost 100% local organic. When I first read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver in 2007, I didn’t think I could ever do it. I am. We are. And our bodies have thanked us in spades. In fact, our bodies are so clear of toxins now that even the slightest impurity throws us into a real “state.” It doesn’t make me afraid to eat out or be a guest at someone’s house, but it does make me appreciate that our bodies thrive on whole organic foods. Do not underestimate the claims that “food is medicine” that were first made by the Ancient Greeks. Don’t discount the idea that food can treat or prevent cancer or other illnesses. Try for yourself. Start cleaning up your own diet, and see how happy your body will be.
- I leave you with this final photo of the Meyer Lemon Coconut Fudge that I bought from Real Food Devotee Monica for Friand for Valentine’s Day. I believe his review went something like this: “Yummy yum yuuuum!” and “the line between veg*n and non-veg*n treats has been blurred, in fact doesn’t exist. It’s just a real treat!”