Have you ever had meat-, flour-, egg- and oil free „meat” balls? Have you tasted sour cream made of sunflower seeds and water, or cakes free of refined sugar and cream, made only with nuts and dried fruits? And what about dumplings sprinkled with sprouted poppy seeds? We haven’t had much experience with raw meals so far, therefore we thought it was time for a change. Although there are pros and cons concerning raw meals, one thing is for sure: we can hardly imagine a less environment damaging preparation method than preparing raw meals: since they are “cooked” without being cooked. Only drying, sprouting and blending is needed to prepare them, and – in case it is necessary – they can be heated up to 40 C. No used oil, no wasted energy, or unnecessarily boiled water. No bacteria from raw meat that can cause infection, which results in less food-related risks than in a regular restaurant.
What they have instead is a lot of fresh veggies and fruits, a fridge and a few blenders and fruit drying machines; plus some very dedicated raw-vegan people, who happily share their knowledge and enthusiasm through the most delicious bites. Although nowadays we can eat raw food at several places in Budapest, last week our team had the opportunity to take heavenly samples of the Mannatural Foodmanufacture’s meals.
In the basement of one of the buildings on Garibaldi Street, impressive wooden floor and white shroud-covered ceiling welcomes us. We seat ourselves down under the chandelier which is transformed from a jars. In about one minute, we receive a thirst-quenching drink: a green smoothie. Unfortunately we shortly found out that the only table where nobody was sitting at the time of our arrival – is already reserved (who would have thought that there would be such a traffic jam at 6:30 pm on Wednesday?)
But Ákos – owner of the Mannatural – didn’t waste any time; he told us to go upstairs to the café shop, and he will bring the food up there. He informed us that they have made a deal with the café shop owner that in such cases, he can send the guests up – without any obligation to buy something there – since the raw-vegan people cannot find similar restaurants around so easily. We were hesitating a bit to perhaps come back again on another day, because we wanted to eat downstairs, but finally hunger (and curiosity) defeated us. We have found a pleasant table in the café shop and not much later the sampling plate of raw and fresh food mix arrived also.
While we were finally eating our dessert downstairs with the other raw-vegans, we had a little chat with Ákos about dirt-eating, laws of nature and the environment. We’ve also asked him about the plastic containers lined up in the kitchen, which turned out to be used for lunch delivery by bike – similarly to the “Kétker-Étkem” restaurant. “People are raised to produce garbage” – said Ákos, explaining how difficult it is to regain the containers that people rather buy, instead of returning them.
Mannatural has its own garden; they grow whatever they can themselves and food waste collected from the restaurant is composted here also. Of course many items – such as dates, bananas, avocados and coconut oil – must be brought in from abroad. “I have been working with the current supplier, who knows exactly what my expectations are and brings everything accordingly. I trust him totally – because when you look people in the eye, those cannot lie.”
Ákos thinks that it would be impossible to work solely with seasonal and local ingredients, but they intend to use as much Hungarian ingredients as possible (for instance in the winter months they serve a lot of meals with cabbage), even when the domestic tomatoes are softer and smaller (but more delicious!) than their foreign competitors.
During food preparation, all laws of nature are respected: seeds are sprouted for better digestion; veggies and fruits are not mixed (except for – as we learned – apples and grapes, that have such wholeness that allows them to be mixed with anything); dates are used as sweeteners (because honey and fructose together starts to ferment – which is not good for our stomach); and there are many more facts that we don’t even know about. No flavor enhancers, preservatives or additives, and no sugar is used. They’ll only use a small amount of salt – most of the time rock salt from the “Nyírség” (an area located in the north-eastern part of the Northern-Great Plain in Hungary) – and only a few times Himalaja, or Neera salts, because “we should feed ourselves with what is near us” – says the owner.
Everybody in the staff is on raw-vegan diet, so they eat at the restaurant also, which helps to clean up the potential leftovers in an environmentally friendly way. Ákos says, that “if the food was bad, they (they employees) would want to eat somewhere else”, but it seems that the Hungarian and Italian chefs do a good job. Ákos believes that everyone should follow a raw-vegan diet, because this is the best for our body – and in the same time “hardly any money is needed to be full. Cheap food sets one free, because money is not so important anymore. Thus every person can be their own masters, doing freely what they really like, for themselves and for the community”.
Ákos thinks that one day of each and every week people should drink water only. Therefore – in order for everyone to have one day of fasting – Mannatural is closed on Sundays at the moment. However, on the other days of the week do not be afraid to try out these meals, which are prepared using only a small amount of, but giving our bodies lots of energy. And if you don’t see any unreserved tables at the time of arrival, there’s no reason to be disappointed – nobody gets sent away from this restaurant!
The article originally appeared in Hungarian, on 12th February, 2012.
Thanks to Katalin Hall for the awesome translation! :)
Photos: Mannatural Facebook/website