by Carol Lent

I was just 20 years old when I traveled from southern California to San Francisco, the city of many steep hills, but I was feeling like I was 40. I’d go to the little market just 3 blocks from home and by the time I returned to our cute studio apartment I was huffing and puffing. In high school I ran track and “physically fit” was my middle name. I didn’t like what was happening to me. To my good fortune, the health-conscious movement was beginning to burgeon in northern California.

It seemed a little strange the same people that were taking hallucinogens, smoking pot and engaging in other unhealthy practices were the ones who would sit and talk about certain diets. The raw food diet, the all fruit diet and the macrobiotic diet were the diets that I first heard about. A close high school friend came up to San Francisco to visit and when she saw me, she told me—with no hesitation at all, I might add, "You need to change your diet. You look terrible." "To what, like how, what do ya mean?" was my response. She told me, "Obviously you’re eating too much white sugar and eating too much meat and you’re blood is dirty so your skin is trying to help your body rid itself of toxins so your skin is breaking out!" I had never had trouble with my skin breaking out and I didn’t like this new problem at all. She found the nearest natural food store in the telephone directory and she insisted on doing my shopping for me.

My first trip into a "health food store" is memorable in that I felt like there wasn’t anything in there to eat. My friend filled my basket for me. A little brown rice, tamari (which is soy sauce but without artificial flavors or preservatives), whole wheat bread, a book called Back To Eden and a wonderful herb, Goldenseal.

I was a smoker and it wasn’t considered something too awful for you in those days. Cigarettes were 25 cents a pack so it wasn’t a financial burden to smoke. I began taking the Goldenseal herb to clear up my skin because it is a powerful blood purifier. It worked incredibly well. The only problem was it cleaned my blood out so well that it was cleaning the tobacco out of my blood too. Every time I lit a cigarette I became so nauseous that I had to put it out. My husband told me to quit smoking and wasting cigarettes or stop taking the Goldenseal. I thought, "What, give up the bitter green powder that is clearing my skin up so beautifully—no way." So I ended up quitting smoking and of course am very thankful that I was able to do that.

I found the book Back To Eden very interesting and started to apply what I could. We ate fruit salad for breakfast in place of eggs and bacon. I hadn’t been aware of all the different fruits available and it was fun to try new ones. I discovered some great tasting yogurts and would mix the fruit with yogurt and serve whole wheat toast. Delicious!

Rice cakes became a snack staple instead of cookies. For lunch, I would put a slice of avocado, a little tamari and sprouts on the rice cakes. I would always toast the rice cakes because I liked them crisp and toasting really gives them a good flavor.

Dinner was usually brown rice with vegetables. This was 1969 and there was no tofu. I don’t know where it was, but it sure wasn’t on the shelf in any of the natural food stores. I would make a burger using rice—it was delicious. I still make burgers this way to this day because they are delicious and inexpensive. Many of the meatless burgers in the health food stores are so expensive that it’s pricey to serve them as often as you would like to.

Well, as the days passed I discovered more menu ideas and my husband and I began to feel the benefits of our new diet. We both lost weight and had more energy. I was very excited about our new diet and was anxious to share it wherever we went. We always walked into friends’ homes with a bag of groceries and then I’d go to the kitchen to prepare something I hoped they would like.

When we stopped eating meat we also learned of the waste of land, water, and grains that is caused by cattle farming and meat consumption. I was really horrified. I wanted to tell the world, but to my surprise and frustration, the world didn’t really want to hear it. So I continued to try to prove that eating grains and vegetables as the main course really can taste great. My hope was that my friends would think it tasted even better and would therefore change their diets. Some did and some didn’t.

Now, thirty years later, I am very thankful that this knowledge came my way. I hope someday to come in contact with that girlfriend who told me I looked terrible and thank her for her efforts. Please try our recipes here on the Down to Earth website. They are delicious. And pass them on to your friends and family too. They will thank you for it.