Real Food That's Real Good And Real Good For You

Ann Gentry broke the mold when creating Real Food Daily. RFD started off as a food delivery service, and has branched out to two locations serving a 100% vegan menu, using organic ingredients with as few stages between the earth and your plate as possible.

"It's really important that at Real Food Daily, we don't use imitation egg, we make seitan in house, we smoke our own tempeh to make our tempeh bacon... We really try to keep as close to the whole food as possible. Thats the real food component," says Director of Communications at RFD, Beth Griffiths.

Though not strictly macrobiotic, RFD's menu stems from a macrobiotic background. The macrobiotic approach to eating is based on the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang. Foods contain a certain level of acidity or base (yin or yang) and the idea is to maintain balance. Macrobiotics, in the same vein as eastern medicine, underscores the importance of what you put into your body in direct relation to your health.

Elisha Valdez is the Catering Director at Real Food Daily in Santa Monica, and a vegan of 16 years. A product of the military, Valdez grew up eating a standard, western diet: anything she wanted. In high school, she was a serious soccer player. The team was not to eat animal products before a game, as the coach said it slowed them down.

"Through that, I started getting into the vegetarian world and met some people who also were not eating meat, but for philosophic reasons. I met my first vegan who... exposed me to my first ever PETA article, the dairy industry, veal industry, where eggs come from. Once my eyes were opened to the realities of it, that was it. I couldn't go back."

Her ethics keep her adhered to a strict vegan diet, however, she does not deny how delicious non-vegan food can be. "You have to admit that an Egg McMuffin is so good... It's not that I deny the flavor, it's just the process it took to get to that place that I have a problem with."

Although Valdez firmly believes in animal ethics, she does not push her views on others saying, "I've realized that if you just do your thing and are happy, people will naturally be attracted to you... Any time you start judging or comparing or being holier than thou, people automatically turn off to you. They don't want to hear what u have to say."

She wasn't always this way, however. She used to be an ‘angry vegan.' She was militant in her diet and angry toward those who didn't follow suit until, "Somebody once said to me, ‘It must be really hard living in a world of imperfect people.'" This experience humbled her, leading to her current respect of life's great path. " You have to respect the path and the fact that not everyone is in the same place when you are."

She still holds steadfastly to being as vegan as possible, but approaches it in a more understanding, productive manner. "I used to be really hard on myself in the past if I had [eaten] something and later found out that it wasn't vegan. As I get older, I'm trying to not be so militant and just realize that what's done is done. Move forward and try not to get wrapped up in the emotional, beating yourself up aspect."

She urges those entering into a vegan lifestyle, "Don't make it too hard for yourself, and if you eat something that's not vegan, don't freak out. It's just like any other diet where your next meal, it starts over."

In this world, there is no such thing as being entirely animal-free. Tires on your car, gasoline, petroleum products, all have animal components. Valdez tries her best to consume as little animal product as possible, but draws the line at being wasteful. "It's not just about the animals. It's about the carbon footprint, it's recycling, its sustainability. So I wouldn't buy a down pillow, but if I had one, I wouldn't throw it away just because its down."

"I could see how [being vegan] could be overwhelming, especially if you're on a budget or don't have a lot of time." Valdez encourages prospective vegans to make the lifestyle change easy and convenient for themselves.

"Go to Trader Joe's because being vegan is expensive, and you can get everything you need there... Just the things that are easy. If you get wrapped up in ‘I want to make a real food meal' it can get overwhelming and you just wont do it . Make it as convenient as possible and prepare as much in advance as you can."

For a newbie to Real Food Daily, Valdez suggests the nachos, and Griffiths suggests the club seitan. The club seitan is RFD's take on a club sandwich. Their seitan (a protein made from gluten) and tempeh (made from fermented soybeans) are made in house, keeping as close to the earth as possible. The tempeh bacon is crisp, and tastes strikingly similar to traditional bacon.

The nachos are loaded with barbecue seitan, cashew cheese, guacamole, soy-based sour cream and more. These dishes are hearty and served in generous portions, and can leave one satisfied in lieu of animal products.

RFD boasts an impressive dessert case. Noteworthy is a RFD take on a Hostess Cupcake, dipped in dark chocolate ganache with white icing looped across the top. Unlike its preservative-filled counterpart, this cupcake is fresh and is not made with refined sugar. And yes: it had cream filling, only this cream is soy-based.

Real Food Daily is an experience, whether you're vegan or not. RFD is dedicated not only to serving quality, organic ingredients that are healthful for customers, RFD is invested in their customers' opinions. Says Griffiths, "We take the comment cards really seriously. Anne will read all of them, she's really dedicated to making sure that the customers are heard."

Regardless of being a vegan, omnivore, or a junk-food junkie, it would suit us all to really consider what we are putting into our bodies, and the direct link to our health, or well being, and how we feel.