Eaters Among Us: Sarma MeIngailis: Raw Foodist, Dog Lover, Cake Eater

Sarma MeIngailis is one of the country’s leading proponents of raw food.  After graduating from UPenn and beginning a successful career in finance, Sarma decided she just wasn’t having enough fun. Making a radical shift, she enrolled in New York’s French Culinary Institute, but it was after a brush with raw food that her career began to take shape. She is the co-founder and owner of Pure Food & Wine, and the founder and CEO of One Lucky Duck in NYC, and the author of Raw Food/Real World and Living Raw Food. She is currently a self-described “mostly raw food eater,” and her ever-endearing tweets can be followed @sarma (complete with adorable dog photos).

Lily Bellow: How and when did you become a raw foodist?

Sarma MeIngailis: I first heard about raw in the summer of 2003. I was reluctantly brought to a small raw café thinking it was going to completely suck. I was bummed out that we weren’t going to the fancy new Jean-Georges restaurant instead. Everything changed in that dinner. The philosophy/rationale (whatever you’d call it) behind eating raw was being explained to me while I was eating (a lot) of yummy food that was so much better than I thought it was going to be, and I felt really good—a noticeable contrast vs. the heavy, want-to-take-a-nap-now feeling that I normally felt after a big restaurant dinner. I was completely intrigued and excited.

LB: Why did you decide raw food was right for you?

SM: There are a ton of health benefits to eating more raw foods every day. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh clean food keeps you clean inside, full of energy, and your immune system strong.  Once you see how good you feel eating much more fresh foods, it’s hard to go back. Right away I noticed having more energy, and much more clarity. I just felt so much better and happier.

LB: What was your favorite food as a child?

SM: I’m not sure of my favorite… actually, I used to love lamb chops. We’d cook them in the fireplace at my dad’s house. And oddly my Mom says I ate sardines all the time, with my hands, and I’d let the oil run down my arms, and I refused to eat them if they were broken. She also says I would chew on chicken bones and try to eat egg shells? Seriously. Maybe I had a calcium deficiency (egg shells, bones, bone-in sardines?).

LB: If you were a food, what would you be?

SM: A kumquat. I just like how that sounds.

LB: What is your favorite snack food?

SM: It depends on what I’m in the mood for. I just snacked on a handful of goldenberries, I love them. They’re ridiculously good for you, and really tart and sweet, so they’re good for sweet cravings. But I also tend to love salty, so I go for these cheesy crackers we make, they’re actually called “Cheezy Quackers” since they’re made by us at One Lucky Duck.

LB: What was the last thing you ate?

SM: Above-mentioned goldenberries. When I got up I had one of our green juices, it’s called Swan Greens (made with cucumber, spinach, dandelion greens, grapefruit, pear, spearmint, tarragon, yuzu), and I add in a packet of chlorella granules, some green tea extract, spirulina, aloe vera juice, and stevia. It’s my morning cocktail.

LB:What was the last thing you cooked?

SM: I ran out of the frozen raw food that I buy for my dog and I usually give him raw eggs from the greenmarket and I felt bad about running out of his usual food so I cooked him an omelette this morning, with parsley, blueberries, pumpkin puree, and kelp flakes. Mmmmmm.

LB: Do you have a signature dish?

SM: At my restaurant our signature dish is a lasagna, the recipe is in my first book. It’s Heirloom Tomato and Zucchini Lasanga with Pigoli Ricotta, Basil-Pistachio Pesto, and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce. It’s the most accessible and crowd pleasing thing we have on our menu and it’s also not that hard for people to make at home.

LB:What’s your guilty pleasure food?

SM: Good question. Probably really good pizza. Or, something I never eat but fantasize about is movie theater popcorn, with the disgusting artificial evil “butter flavor”… I live near a couple of theaters and the smell sort of drives me crazy.

LB: What is/was your dining hall go-to?

SM: When I was in college, I wasn’t remotely vegetarian but I’d always go eat from the vegan stations because it was just healthier. Brown rice, quinoa, beans, that kind of thing. Actually, I don’t know if they had quinoa back then but it’s my favorite cooked staple food. So good for you.

LB: What is your drink order when you go to a bar?

SM: My go to drink used to always be a greyhound… grapefruit juice and vodka. Grapefruit juice always feels healthy. That’s what I’d always drink in college (when it wasn’t keg beer). But since switching to mostly raw, hard alcohol seems to affect me differently. I’m much more sensitive to it now. So I don’t drink it anymore… when I do, bad things happen! At my restaurant we make sake cocktails… they’re amazing and sake gets you really tipsy with less of a hangover and it makes amazing cocktails. My favorite is Purple Haze, where we mix it with fresh concord grape juice. We only have it in the Fall when concord grapes are in season. Our cocktail menu changes a lot but year round we have a mojito made with sake, lime, tons of mint, topped off with a splash of prosecco.

LB: Best hangover cure?

SM: Coconut water! We have the unpasteurized, fresh coconut water at my shops, so I drink that. Plus green juice. And oddly I love to eat our Caesar salad with avocado when I’m hungover, or our big taco salad with guacamole. I think I crave the fatty avocado.

LB: What’s the best dinner party or party party you’ve ever hosted?

SM: Once when I was married and I was in cooking school I made an epic multi-course dinner for my husband’s bosses. It was a total wifey thing to do. But I nailed it… it was an amazing dinner. I remember the main course was lobster risotto with corn and basil. And for dessert I made hazelnut ice cream and Mexican chocolate soufflé cakes. Having a restaurant for the last 7 years I do all my hosting there, so I can’t really take credit for making the food since it’s now all my talented chefs who do it. But it’s always fun hosting people who are skeptical about raw food since luckily they’re always blown away (in a good way of course!).

LB: Your go-to date night meal?

SM: When I used to date and cook for guys it was always always risotto… wild mushroom risotto. But I don’t do that anymore. I’m at my restaurant so much of the time, or out at other restaurants, and I don’t have a kitchen or dining room table at home so there’s no entertaining going on there. (I share my home with my office, so there are a lot of cluttered desks, no tables!)

LB: What’s your biggest early cooking disaster?

SM: Once my Mom (a professional chef) came to visit when I was living in NYC and I was still in cooking school. I was making her dinner and steaming something (or trying to) and I nervously forgot to put water in the bottom of the pan under the steamer basket and ruined the pan. It was such an amateur silly move, I grew up cooking with my Mom but oddly was nervous once I’d been in school for it.

LB: Do you use recipes when you cook?

SM: I don’t cook very much anymore but usually don’t use recipes. I like making things up as I go.

LB: Cake or pie? (Are there raw cakes and pies?)

SM: Cake. And yes we have raw cakes and pies… really good stuff. But I’m a cake girl for sure. In college, I had an amazing sour cream chocolate cake recipe that I made anytime it was someone’s birthday.

Photos courtesy Sarma MeIngailis

Lily Bellow graduated in 2009 from Harvard University with a degree in English Literature. While in college, she bartended and cooked at the campus pub, and as a result has a difficult time eating chicken wings. She is currently the Assistant Managing Editor for Small Kitchen College.

Originally posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2011

3 Responses to “Eaters Among Us: Sarma MeIngailis: Raw Foodist, Dog Lover, Cake Eater”

  1. julie cucchi

    September 29th, 2011

    That Sarma chick ROCKS!!! Nice interview! Now, if only her website were more clearly branded she’d be PERFECT.


  2. Eat Raw Sm

    December 11th, 2011

    [...] [...]

  3. Semra

    July 30th, 2014

    தோழர் வித்தகன் அவர்களே,கடைசியாக உங்களுக்கு ஒன்றை தெரியப்படுத்திக்கொள்கிறேன்.//ஹமாஸ், சக பாலஸ்தீன விடுதலைக் குழுக்களைக் குறி வைத்து அழித்தது இல்லை. அமைதி வழியில் பாலஸ்தீனம் கேட்டுப் போராடுபவர்களைக் கொன்று ஒழித்ததில்லை.//இலங்கையில் அரசு ஆதரவு பெற்ற ஆயுதக் குழு ஒன்று சிங்கள பேரினவாதிகளோடு சேர்ந்து கொண்டு தமிழர்கள் மீது நடத்திய இனப்படுகொலைகளில் பற்றி நீங்கள் அறிந்திருக்க வாய்ப்பில்லை என நினைக்கிறேன். அங்கு நிகழ்ந்த படுகொலைகள் அனைத்தையும் புலிகள்தான் செய்தனர் என்ற அரசின் தவறான பரப்புரைகளை மட்டும் வைத்து நீங்கள் இப்படி கூறுகிறீர்கள் என நினைக்கிறேன்.இலங்கையில் IPKF முதன்முதலில் கால் வைத்தபோது இந்திய வீரர்கள் சீல் உடைக்கப்படாத AK-47 ரக துப்பாக்கிகள் மற்றும் ஆயுதங்களை புலிகள் அல்லாத பிற போராளிக் குழுக்களுக்கு வினியோகித்தார்கள். இந்தியப் படைகளை இலங்கைக்கு அனுப்பி வைத்துவிட்டு மறைமுகமாக RAW’ அமைப்பினர் தமிழர்கள் பகுதிகளில் உளவு பார்த்தனர். மற்ற போராளிக் குழுக்களுக்கும் புலிகளுக்கும் இடையே மோதல் ஏற்படக் காரணமாக இருந்ததே IPKF வீரர்கள்தான். மற்றும் 1987 ஆம் ஆண்டு பிரபாகரனை கொலை செய்ய உத்தரவிட்டவர் ராஜீவ்காந்தி. இதை நான் கூறவில்லை. இந்திய அமைதிப்படைக்கு தலைமை ஏற்றுச் சென்ற திரு ஹர்கிரத் சிங் அவர்கள் தான் எழுதிய ‘Intervention in Sri Lanka: The IPKF experience reltod’ எனும் புத்தகத்தில் இதை குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார்.உங்களுக்காக அந்த புத்தகத்தில் கூறிய சிலவற்றை கீழே தந்திருக்கிறேன்.“The Tigers continued to surrender their weapons till 21 August 1987. At this point of time, RAW, under directions from the Prime Minister’s Office, commenced the rearming of the other militant groups. Evidence regarding the rearming of some defunct militant groups was brought to the notice of all concerned, including the Indian High Commissioner [J. N. Dixit]. I had shown the High Commissioner and his Military Adviser inColombo a videotape on the induction of small arms with Indian markings. The rearming of militant groups other than the LTTE resulted in inter-group killings among the Tamil militants and the surrender of weapons came to a virtual standstill by the end of August 1987.” [p47-48] “Dixit wanted my assessment of the various militant groups that had becomedefunct and had now suddenly become active again. I explained that the ENDLF, PLOTE, and TELO had been lying dormant and it was only after the middle ofAugust 1987 that they had re-surfaced with newly acquired arms. … Moreover, the LTTE knew that RAW had an active hand in encouraging these groups.” [p49-50] “According to Dixit, the ultimate objective of the IPKF was to discredit the LTTE in the eyes of the local Tamil population. In short, the IPKF was expected to play a double game. I realized that these tactics would not work since the Tamils had already understood that their aspirations for Eelam could be met only by the LTTE.”[p48-49] “[Later] the EPRLF, prior to the withdrawal of the IPKF, was equipped with rifles under orders from Lt. Gen. A.S. Kalkat, it was not realized that the EPRLF cadres had no fighting potential and handing weapons to this group was an ill-advisedventure.” [p50] “In September 1987, a political dialogue between the LLTE and an Indian delegation took place at Palaly and a peaceful solution seemed to be in sight. The creation of the [Interim Administration Council] was to be thrashed out. The date set for the meeting to be held at my headquarters at Palaly and chaired by Dixit, was 16-17 September 1987.” [p57] “On the night of 14/15 September 1987, I received a telephone call from Dixit,directing me to arrest or shoot Pirabakaran when he came for the meeting. Telling Dixit that I would get back to him I placed a call to the [Overall ForcesCommander]. Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh.” [p57] “Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh directed me to tell Dixit that we, as an orthodox Army, did not shoot people in the back when they were coming for a meeting under the white flag. I then spoke to Dixit in Colombo and conveyed the message emphasizing that I would not obey his directive.” [p57] “I pointed out that the LTTE supremo had been invited by the IPKF in order to find a solution to the problems in the implementation of the Accord. Dixit replied, ‘He Rajiv Gandhi has given these instructions to me and the Army should not drag its feet, and you as the GOC, IPKF will be responsible for it.’” [p57]//பாலஸ்தீனத்திலேயே உள்ள பிற இனத்தவரை (ஈழத்தில் இருந்த முஸ்லீம்கள் போல) அவர்கள் வாழும் இடத்திலிருந்து விரட்டவில்லை.//முஸ்லீம்கள் வெளியேறியதில் இலங்கை அரசின் சூழ்ச்சிகளைப் பற்றி நீங்கள் தெரிந்திருக்க வாய்ப்பில்லை என நினைக்கிறன். இந்த விவாதத்தை ஏற்படுத்திக் கொடுத்த வினவு’ இணையதளத்திற்கு என்னுடைய நன்றிகள். மீண்டும் விவாதிப்போம்.உங்கள் தோழர் செந்தில்.

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