"Interview with Solange Rodrigue"
by Frederic Patenaude
100% Raw-Foodist since 1981
Recorded, transcribed, edited and translated by Frederic Patenaude. To read this interview in the original French, click here.
F : For how long have you been eating raw, and how did you discover this way of eating?
S : It’s been the search of a lifetime. I started to eat raw in 1981. Now I don’t count the years anymore, I just remember the date. It was approximately two years before my first daughter was born. Now I have some good news, she’s pregnant!
So how I discovered that... that was because of pure philosophy. We were looking for an ideal diet. We had given up white bread and sugar because my boyfriend had been attending a philosophy course and his teacher made him aware of the quality of food. My boyfriend then started to philosophize and ask himself questions. So, we then gave up sugar, white bread, and we started to make our own bread. We ate brown sugar without knowing it was just colored sugar... so it was the beginning. Then, in 1978, we made a trip to Vancouver and met a group of people who followed the program Diet for a Small Planet. So there were a lot of beans in the cupboards, and a lot of dried stuff. We didn’t know how that all worked but when we came back to Quebec the following fall, we got into it.
We became part of a food coop and suddenly, by pure chance, I found myself in the natural food section and became responsible of ordering products. So, I immediately started to order all those natural foods. I then started to read books about healthy nutrition. We were still following the Diet for a Small Planet program, but we thought it was a bit heavy as a diet. We had to complement different proteins in one meal to have complete proteins. We thought it was worth something, and said to ourselves, “We must get enough protein!” But we felt pretty lethargic after the meals. And because of the beans we ate a lot of, we had lots of gas. We thought that it wasn’t so natural to have so much gas.
So, we kept looking for something to improve all of that. We then found Shelton’s book on food combining. We tried it and felt a lot better with it. The meals were easier to digest and we didn’t feel so heavy. We thought, “ Yeah, there’s something in food combining.”
But once you found food combining, your search isn’t over. You know that there must be something else. We were studying philosophy at University. We were looking for the ideal but we hadn’t found it yet. We started to think about it and wondered, “The prehistoric man, what was he eating, without fire?” It’s simple: he was walking around, found a mango tree, climbed it and plucked the fruits, or gathered them off the ground. He was satisfied with what he could find, and ate until he was no longer hungry.
We never practiced Instinctive Eating. But our conclusion was: prehistoric man ate raw. A little later, I found Albert Mosséri’s book, La Nourriture Idéale (The Ideal Food). We thought he was a bit too religious, but that the basic idea was good. He got us on the right path, that is, to eat raw. So, that was in the summer of 1981. We thought, it’s summer, there are lots of fruits and vegetables, so it’s a good time to try it. We thought we were going to try it for a month. I had my resistance because I liked my bread. But we tried it for a month and we kept going.
F: The results were positive enough to continue?
S: Yes. Mosséri eats 80% raw. But, we thought, if we don’t do it 100%, we’d always be going back and forth between raw and cooked. So we thought, we do it 100%, and we stayed 100%.
F: Ever since?
S: Yes, ever since! But we helped each other, too. It’s obvious, when you have emotional problems, you talk to each other, to discuss and find reasons to keep going with this diet. In fact, our diet is a conditioning. You have to unlearn this conditioning and put another one in place.
F: What were your motivations?
S: Pure philosophy! To find the ideal diet. I’m a perfectionist, and my boyfriend was a philosopher... [laugh] We had all of that to motivate ourselves. Of course, you need a motivation. We wanted to live longer, live healthier, live 100%, and assimilate 100%. There were those reasons too.
F: So you wanted to find an ideal in diet?
S: We looked for an ideal, and we noticed at once that by eating raw, it’s a lot easier to go take a university course. We weren’t falling asleep on our chairs! And we didn’t need tea or coffee to stimulate ourselves.
F: And you had two children?
S: Yes, we had two children.
F: They ate raw from the beginning?
S: They’ve always eaten raw. I breastfed them for a long time. My first daughter started to eat solid food at 10 months of age. Before that she only had milk. But since she saw us eat all that time, she wanted to eat what we were eating. So at some point we gave her persimmons. It’s soft and sweet and she liked that a lot. Then bananas, that children can suck on and are able to eat. And little by little I introduced solid food in her diet, but I was still breastfeeding her. At the time, we were also eating raw dairy products.
F: You ate that for a while?
S: For quite a while. But well, it all worked out fine. We knew we were not perfect, and we are not still now.
F: You stayed for how long in Quebec before you started living in foreign lands?
S: We left in 1997.
F: So you stayed 15-20 years, enough for your children to grow up?
S: It’s been five years since we left Quebec. My children were 14 and 9 when they left Quebec.
F: And during all that time, did you ever meet other people who were eating raw in Quebec?
S: In Quebec, we never met anybody who ate raw. We did an article in the Guide Ressource (a popular alternative magazine — FP), but we didn’t meet anybody out of that. Then we participated in a program with Radio-Canada, and there we heard of people who ate raw in Ontario. A few people called but that’s all. We would just meet people who said, “Yeah, I’ve heard of someone who did that.” That’s the type of stories we would hear, but we never meet anybody who really ate raw.
F: Did you feel like you were outcast, in a way?
S: We felt pretty lonely, I would say. Then in Indonesia, we learned that David Wolfe had written a book where he mentioned that 1 million Americans were eating raw. We almost fell off our chairs! We thought, what’s going on, what’s happening in the West... wow! The world has evolved all of a sudden... like a miracle had just taken place.
F: You were at his conference and you saw that there were over 200 persons there and a good part of them were interested seriously into this. How do you perceive the raw movement after all this time?
S: I think it’s a way to get to raw, to the way we practice raw. But I found that pretty high-tech, the food he wants to produce. In the end, it’s not affordable for everybody.
F: What is your way of eating raw?
S: He (David) does his little things, these little jars he produces. I didn’t take a look at everything. It’s a bit high-tech...
F: The super-foods?
S: Yes, the super-foods. It’s perhaps for a part of the population, but it doesn’t matter. It’s good that he clears the way and that he talks about it. People who eat raw, who eat onions, who eat anything, it doesn’t matter. It’s an evolution. The seed is in the ground and it will continue to make its way inside of them. People will continue to evolve and ask themselves questions. It’s an evolution. Once you get into this, you always want more. It’s not for no reason that you got into this. You have a part inside of you that leads you to go for more. You want to go farther, to reach an ideal with this diet. If you decide to change your diet, it’s because diet is important for you. If it’s important, it will keep on being so and you will want to reach an ideal.
F: For you, what’s the ideal?
S: Well, to eat organic. It’s not to stay in the city. After that, once you’ve changed your diet, you will perhaps want to change your lifestyle.
F: So we’re not just talking about a diet change?
S: It’s a life change. You become conscious of a lot of things. It’s a tool for increased consciousness, also.
F: For you, what is the ideal diet?
S: You have to take into account where you like. That you eat the food that is available where you live, but it’s not always obvious.
F: What does your diet look like?
S: Every week I go to the Jean-Talon market and I buy my boxes of fruit, according to what’s available. I taste there what my merchant presents me — only the best. He knows my tastes and knows that I’m picky. Here I cannot eat organic because I work during the day and I can’t make it directly to the organic food store. So I’m following the same lifestyle I had in 1997 when I left. That was to go to the market, buy my boxes of fruit that I liked, and get by with that. I also started to do sprouting again...
F: So your diet includes fruit, sprouts...
S: Vegetables also.
F: Nuts also?
F: And what about seaweed?
S: I haven’t eaten them since I’ve been here. You see, I’ve reached my limit with seaweed in Indonesia [laugh]. I ate a little bit this summer, but not much. But since I know I’m going back to India, and there I’ll be eating fresh spirulina.
F: You find that there?
S: Yes, they cultivate it.
F: Fresh, not dried?
S: Fresh spirulina is great! Ah... it’s awesome.
F: And do you juice?
S: Yes, I make juice. I have my Champion. I juice because I sometimes find that fruits here suck! [laugh]. In Indonesia, they have the best pineapples in the world. When you eat that, you don’t want to make a juice. It would be a waste to juice them. But here, pineapples are not ideal. That’s why I have to adapt myself. Here I make compromises. I can make a juice, I use the food processor, I make salads, I make my little mix. I call those compromises. But in nature, you take the food and eat it like that. In a salad, what happens is that you don’t taste anything. It’s a uniform taste.
F: Are there some foods you don’t eat?
S: Onions, for examples. I eat some chives, though. But when you eat onions, you get burps after, and that’s a sign that the body has difficulties digesting. But I tried chives, which is different from the other kinds of onions (it’s green), and I found that it did not give problems like onions.
F: And garlic?
S: Oh, it’s terrible. When people eat that and sleep in a closed room, it smells like hell the next morning! So we don’t eat garlic. No garlic, or mushrooms, or hot peppers, or even ginger.
Our philosophy is, if you can eat a handful of a food, without it being difficult for you, then go for it, it’s natural. But try to eat a handful of ginger...
F: So it’s natural hygiene? The natural hygienists say the same thing.
S: I don’t know what it is! For us, it became obvious without having read those books.
F: And animal foods?
S: No. But I eat raw cheese once in a while. But for me, it’s not really a need, it’s more emotional. When I was in Indonesia, I didn’t eat any. In India, I made yogurt with the raw milk there, and it was the best yogurt I ever had! But in Indonesia people don’t really eat dairy products. So we adapted ourselves and ate nuts instead. It’s going well.
F: Do you eat honey?
S: I find it too sweet.
F: Tell me about your travels over the last 5 years. What led you to leave?
S: When you eat raw, at some point you want to go to the places where you can eat real fruits that have grown in the sun and have not been shipped over a long distance for weeks. But also we wanted to leave society. For us, it wasn’t ideal, this society. So, we were looking for a piece of land. We wanted to become self-sufficient. At first, we went to Sri Lanka, and stayed there 15 months.
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F: How old are your children? And how was it to raise them as raw-foodists from birth?
S: They are 20 and 14 now. It hasn’t been easy to raise them because of my family. My parents hardly ever accepted that I ate raw. And there was the fact that we didn’t know whom we could trust. I never let someone baby-sit them because I couldn’t trust anybody. I was afraid they would want to try to fool my daughter, that they would want to make her eat stuff. And it happened, actually. My father wanted to fool my daughter when she was 4. He gave her a glass of milk with ice cream and strawberries in it. He told her, it’s good, it’s just raw milk and strawberries. It was something that she ate and knew. But then she said, “there’s something else in it!” She was insulted that my father deceived her. After that, my mom intervened and told her he had put ice cream in it. It’s something she kept all her life. My dad doesn’t know it, but he betrayed her.
Another time it was a neighbor. My daughter was going to her karate class. She was a little older, maybe 7 or 8. I don’t remember why, but she couldn’t eat at our place. Our neighbor then offered a slice of bread with molasses. She tried it but didn’t like it.
It was always like that. The neighbors, the family, as soon as you’re not around, they try. At school, my children would always bring their lunch, and the other kids would be really curious to see what they had in their lunchbox. They all knew that my daughters ate raw. The other kids would try to make them eat other things, for example they’d take a pizza slice and put it right in front of their mouth, and say, “Come on, try it, pizza is good!”
F: Your daughters never wanted to try?
S: No, because we had educated them in function of discouraging them from that. And we thought we had the right to do that! We wanted that they ate raw and we wanted that it lasted this whole thing. So they never wanted to try to eat other people’s food. My youngest daughter did some experiments, but now it’s well anchored in them and they don’t want to change. They are really strict with it.
F: When you raised your children, did you have concerns about their health?
S: Sure, because it was an experiment for us. We didn’t know if the raw food diet was really true, if it could work out. So I was following their progress according to the charts I had, the American charts. I was following their progress with their weight and height in relation with their age.
F: And how did it go?
S: They ended up being taller than the majority! They developed themselves really well. Until they reached puberty, they were always smaller than the other kids. On the charts, they were on the lowest percentile. After their puberty, they started to grow taller than average. They were always thin, but not skinny. After puberty, we really saw that it worked, because as adults they are very well developed.
We had a varied diet. It was a principle that we always kept. If you always eat the same thing, you’re going to become unbalanced for sure. So we almost forced ourselves to eat a vegetable meal every day. We ate two meals of fruit, but also a meal of vegetables. We thought that the nutrients in vegetables were really important. We also tried to vary our diet according to the seasons. To be sure we weren’t missing anything, we also ate seaweed. We knew that seaweeds were really rich in minerals. We had a nutrition guide with all the nutrients in every food, with two pages for each food. We wanted to know if we were missing a vitamin or mineral, we looked it up in that book.
F: You said you ate dairy products?
S: We were eating dairy products at the time. Yogurt and fresh cheese without salt.
F: Many raw-foodists have problems with their teeth. What do you think about that?
S: Someone told me about this recently. It must be because there’s not enough calcium in their organism.
F: You never had those problems?
S: No, but we ate dairy products. If you don’t eat dairy products, then you must eat sesame seeds, because they contain a lot of calcium. In Indonesia we ate a lot of sesame seeds.
F: So you never got cavities?
S: My oldest daughter got cavities when she was really young. We had the belief that by eating raw we wouldn’t get cavities. But I’ve got some news, sugar is sugar. I’m talking about the sugar in dried fruit. My daughter had the habit of eating dried fruit right before going to bed. And we were not aware of it! That dried fruit stays on the teeth, especially before bed! All night long you have that sugar in your mouth. So she got cavities, but it was before she got her adult teeth. After that she never got any problems. My second daughter never had a cavity. We brushed her teeth every night. At least once a day.
F: It’s interesting to discuss your experience, that you ate raw for so long without ever meeting another raw-foodist. Now, all of a sudden, you’re meeting all those other raw-foodists and you’re getting in contact with the raw-food movement.
S: It’s true, I was so surprised when I came back from my travels, to meet all of those people.
My children are in India at the moment, and I’m going back there soon, for an undetermined period of time. My daughter is having her baby soon.
F: So a third generation of raw-eaters?
S: I would say a second generation, because I haven’t been 100% raw all of my life, only since 1981. I’m going back to India to help my daughter and secure her in the process of having her baby. She’s also continuing her studies.
F: Thanks for your time, Solange!
S: It’s been a pleasure!
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