Nigerian-born chef Adaora Ngozi Osimiri-Lewis a.k.a. “Goth in the Raw” talks about her love of cooking with raw vegan food.
Being from Nigeria, I come from a culture where meat is a staple; beef, goat, chicken, and fish. I ate it all and loved it…or so I thought. When I was 16, one of my best friends in high school was vegan and I was always curious as to why she never ate any meat. She informed that we didn’t meat to survive and I should give it a go as I would feel so much healthier. After some encouragement, I decided to give it a go. Gradually, I eliminated meat from my meals and within a short period of time I no longer craved it. I stopped eating red meat, followed by chicken, and then turkey and fish. I felt amazing.
However, what sealed the deal for me was – and I will never forget this – was a rock concert I went to featuring one of my favourite bands Emery. When the concert finished, people were surrounding the merchandise stand covering their eyes and gasping. Curious I moved closer. There was animal cruelty footage from factory farms being played, highlighting the torture animals face daily to satisfy human consumption. I was mortified. Now, I love horror, but this was not that kind, there was no enjoyment in what my eyes were witnessing. Animals have souls and lives and deserve to live just as I do, as we do. I later discovered that Emery is an animal rights band and is also vegan. It was then that I became vegan not only for my health but for ethical reasons, including my love for the earth. I have been vegan for over 16 years and raw vegan for almost six years now, and I will never look back.
My love for raw vegan food actually evolved quite easily. It was not a difficult transition at all. The only difference between veganism and raw veganism is that vegan = cooked and raw vegan = uncooked and unprocessed. As a raw vegan, no heat touches the food and it remains in its live form, no nutrients are lost. I became passionate about raw veganism after some initial research; I’ve been tackling the concept one raw meal at a time. Living a raw life I have noticed that my energy is increased and my body just feels renewed.
Initially, my passion for food and cooking stemmed from my parents – I actually wrote my first vegan cookbook when I was 17. I am self-taught in regards to my creations. I am driven by art and oddities, goth music and the goth culture that I have been a part of since my teens. These are my influences and inspirations. All forms of cooking of involves the immersion of art and love…..and my little dark heart infuses my passions for the arts, the alternative culture and the beautiful darkness with the beauty of nature and her glorious wares. Vegan cooking is challenging to some degree, but raw veganism takes it to another level, and I love a challenge. I love to create new and exciting dishes, dishes that reflect me as a person.
When it comes to thinking of recipes and dishes that I want to create, my heart lies in the adoration and inspiration of dark hues and shades: black, crimson, deep purples, and greys. I am inspired by the beauty of decay and mausoleums, the beauty of the unknown, creatures of the night and the beauty of the moonlight. Nature provides dark and mysterious shades, and I love to reflect that in my cooking, I’d definitely say that I base all of my dishes around the colours. Food is art and darkness is beautiful. Combined they are incredibly powerful.
To me, my signature style is the result of the gourmet culinary world colliding with the darkness, shadows and the beauty of the unknown. In other words, it’s raw vegan with a dark aesthetic. I have taken my love of all things gothic and really used it to my advantage when it comes to the styling of my dishes and the food that I create. Whether it’s my avocado on black toast or my dark and delicious smoothie bowls. A fan once nicknamed me the ‘Morticia Adams of the raw vegan world’. I could not be more in love with this title, it is quite fitting.
Pinpointing just one signature dish is incredibly tricky. Though I have many signature dishes as they all leave their mark, I have picked my raw vegan creamy ‘roasted’ kumato and purple bell pepper soup with crispy rosemary eggplant croutons. It’s unique, delicious and the dehydrated herby croutons just finish the dish off perfectly. It’s also a flexible dish; it gives you the option to serve the soup at room temperature fresh from your blender or as an ice cold gazpacho.
The complexity woven throughout the dish – its overall look, texture and taste. It’s a dish that never leaves you and completely reels you in, similar to a spider’s web. Once the prey is caught within the web, there is no escape. And much like this dish, once you try it, the effects will linger on your palate. It’s all you’ll be able to think about, and that was my goal.
As far as I am concerned, the future is endless and limitless for vegan food. I love witnessing how young people are embracing veganism at the same age that I did, and even younger than that. I am a mother of two little gothlings, who are also vegan. They love fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses and beans, to me this is such a beautiful thing to see. And what makes me very much excited to see is the diversity in veganism, especially within the goth and art culture. Veganism is not meant to fit a certain look or box that is not what it’s about. The future of vegan food is changing every day and bringing something new to the masses, and I feel blessed that I am an example of that.
You can find out more from the Goth in the Raw website.
Click here to find out how to make the Goth in the Raw signature dish.