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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Title 24 Carrot Award

24 Carrot Award Trophy

In each issue Vegetarians in Paradise presents the 24 Carrot Award to an outstanding person or organization that endeavors to practice or promote education, natural health, wholesome nutrition, and ecology techniques for the mutual benefit of humans, animals, and the earth.

With great pleasure we present this month's 24 Carrot Award to Don Kidson and Dennis Knicely of the Living Light House for their efforts in educating the public on the benefits of a raw food diet.

Researching this month's award recipient provided us with an education, an experience, and an awakening to a delicious approach to preparing food that many of us urbanites have never encountered. The Living Light House, on the corner of 12th Street and Broadway in Santa Monica, is painted white and abundantly trimmed in an intensely bright blue. The Broadway side of the building displays a giant blue heart painted in a deeper shade. We instantly recognized there was a message here.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, host and owner Don Kidson and chef extraordinaire Dennis Knicely open the Living Light House doors to anyone who would like to learn about, participate in preparing, or partake of an exceptional evening meal that is like none other we've encountered. On many Thursdays, and occasionally on weekend evenings, there is a speaker along with the meal.

We called Dennis one rainy afternoon to ask if there was going to indeed be a dinner that evening. Replying positively, Dennis enthusiastically added that we were welcome to come early, about 4 p.m. and help prepare the meal. After deciding that the food preparation experience was the best way to learn, we set out for Santa Monica in the afternoon.

As we walked up to the door, we couldn't help noticing the many patches of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and trees surrounding the grass in the front yard. Dennis greeted us at the door and invited us into the kitchen. We soon noticed this kitchen was different. There was no oven with foods baking or roasting. There was no range top with pots and pans boiling, simmering, or sautéing. Yet, the kitchen was bustling with activity. Sara, a loving and knowledgeable volunteer, was grinding nuts in the food processor in preparation for a cake. Martine, another volunteer, was chopping apples and pears for the fruit salad. Dennis, the creative force in the kitchen, began juicing organic carrots in preparation for today's soup and a dressing for the salad.

This kitchen employed today's technology to prepare a flavorful meal from foods that were entirely raw. For the uninitiated, the preparation of a totally raw meal would appear unachievable. How could a dinner prepared from foods that consisted of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains that were uncooked be in the least bit appetizing, let alone delicious? We were students in the learning process. Instead of a stove and oven, the tools of this kitchen included a powerful juicer, two food processors, a blender, a small electric food chopper, an electric coffee grinder, a small electric juicer, and a two-section dehydrator with temperature control.

Dennis paused and invited us out into the garden where we picked the flower heads from the many arugula plants that had gone to seed. We collected nasturtiums, baby Swiss chard, mustard seed pods, and Russian kale for the salad. He pointed out that the avocado trees, once ailing, have recovered to produce abundantly because of the extra dose of natural vitamins they receive from water used to wash the fruits and vegetables.

We rejoined the kitchen activities with chopping, juicing, grinding, and scrubbing fresh organic produce, while Dennis and Sara created new food combinations with amazing spontaneity. All during the three vigorous hours of preparation they oriented us about the nutritional benefits of raw food--food that helped restore their own troubled health. We learned that the foods placed in the dehydrator were never exposed to temperatures exceeding 114 degrees in order to preserve the valuable enzymes raw foods provide the body.

There were no secret recipes in this kitchen, just a genuine desire to share and educate. At seven o'clock we were finished with the preparations, and our growling stomachs signaled us that we were ready to eat. Other guests had arrived, many for the first time, to experience and learn about raw food.

We all sat informally on white plastic patio chairs around long rectangular tables covered with white butcher paper. We guessed this space that was once the living room and dining room had a wall or two removed to accommodate up to 50 people .

Dennis invited everyone to form a circle and hold hands in a special manner that would connect each of us with a naturally flowing current of energy. He said a non-religious prayer of thanks for the food provided and for bringing us all together to partake of this special meal.

Birds Holding Award Then Don Kidson, expressed with soft spoken commitment that raw foods can provide the living force to heal unhealthy hearts, not just in the physical sense but to heal the emotional heart as well.

We were seated and began to munch on the first course, a generous serving of fruit salad composed of chopped apples and pears covered with a strawberry orange juice sauce.

Next came the soup, a complex mixture of juiced yams, carrots, and beets which were blended with tomatoes, asparagus, avocados, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and plenty of garlic. The flavor was superb, rich, and satisfying.

The main entrée consisted of a pate of sprouted and ground fava beans and black eyed peas topped with a tomato basil sauce. The pate was placed in the dehydrator for two or three hours prior to serving. Alongside the pate was a beautiful salad that was composed of the garden gatherings we collected, along with an array of greens, shredded parsnips, napa cabbage, asparagus, and herbs. The arugula and nasturtiums were a visually appealing touch, and the heavenly dressing was a blender mixture of avocados, lemon juice, carrot juice, olive oil, and sea minerals. Sara, who was born in India, added her special touch to the plate with three outstanding chutneys. By this time we were quite full, but there was yet another course.

During our afternoon preparations, Sara was making a birthday cake for one of the guests. She had ground almonds with dates, bananas, carob, and sesame to create a three-layer torte topped with a mango sauce and ground macadamia nuts. The lights were turned down and the cake, blazing with candles, was carried out of the kitchen as we sang to Piter, a frequenter of the Living Light House. It was a grand finale to an unforgettable evening.

We stayed to ask Don about how the Living Light House came into being. He had quite a story to tell. Several years ago, his wife developed colon cancer. Don had a sense that dietary changes would help her. When he brought home the book Fit for Life, a book that taught the principles of food combining and the use of an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, she expressed reluctance. Don, however, decided to read the book. He read it and began to study the principles by rereading many times.

Sadly, his wife passed away, but Don's journey has led him to follow and benefit from a raw food diet. Four years ago, he converted the house from an unproductive rental to the Living Light House where he can share his vision to help guide people back to the benefits of food in its most natural state‹raw.

The dinner ended about 10 p.m. The cost for this unique educational experience was $10 a person. The cost of a Thursday dinner is $15. Will we return? You bet.

To relish the experience of the Living Light House personally, contact Dennis Knicely at 310-395-6337 and let him know you're coming to dinner. The address is 1457 12th St., on the northeast corner of Broadway, in Santa Monica.

Click here for past 24 Carrot Awards

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