The Other Side

In the early hours I awoke from a dream wherein I was browsing in a market place.

I approached a trader to ask how business was but instead instantly and without second thought bought one of her spinach and feta pies. Having consumed it there and then I turned to buy a second - one would never be enough! - as I opened my humble purse I felt the remorse of spending my precious fruit money on a compulsive addiction. I ate the second pie sitting on some steps. It went in a flash. A young man with curly blonde hair and a guitar came and sat next to me, could have been an angel but I was in too drunken a torpor to adequately communicate.

Then I attempted to cross somewhere and found myself in an almost empty reservoir, at the bottom and on the far side. I couldn't see how I had got to where I was or how to return without entering foreboding green water, and besides there was no longer a ladder in the place where I had descended.

Suddenly next to me another ladder appeared, with rungs so narrow I could barely grip them with the tips of my fingers. Somehow I ascended, as if being lifted. At the top I found myself in a new land of green rolling hills  - and a church, I think.

I had no way to go back the way I had come, had left the place I was in before.

I am on the other side. 

No more temptation, no more old life, not even any more transitions, salads or mixes. Certainly this is the power of having access to the uplifting company of someone who has held the faith... and this book that has come to me now, Raw Eating, written in the sixties by Iranian author and true philanthropist, Arshavir Ter Hovannessian.

Since I found this book a few days ago I have devoured it twice and with the same appetite as did I the pies in my dream, starting immediately again at the first page as soon as I turned the last. Assuredly will power is nothing next to love, and loving the words of this masterpiece and the presence of octogenarian Essie Honiball is the magic which has brought me into a new land where I would never have had the will power to enter.

Raw Eating by Arshavir Ter Hovannessian
Free online here

The Engines of Creation

For a week I tried keeping the left over fruit from the Country Market produce stall. I had to arrive very early to receive the stock and stay long after anyone would fancy any fruit salad to return it to its owner. The stock looked great, as fresh produce always does, but towards the end of the four day session it began to feel that I need to lighten up. In the most recent series of days I wasn't able to receive that stock and I take it to be how things should go, that for the engines of creation to continue to grind I need to take care not to become overburdened or lose track of the original impetus.

Back to basics, I am not intending to become a fruit and veg supplier and don't have the vehicles, storage or capital to do so. Neither am i a shop that provides spiral slicing machines to the public, even if having one does help keep the menu exciting while in transition between worlds. I am a bookbinder, a transferrer of information, a herald.

One can see in this image how busy and indeterminate my work is. Humus on spaghettied cucumber, sundried tomato on spaghettied courgette, the apple cinnamon/raisin/coconut combo, and the fruit salad already mixed in the far corner. The chocolate date bombs are at the end of the table, which myself and Chloe ended up noshing the second we realised they weren't selling.

Oh these fancy savoury salads - I don't think I can maintain them, especially in the light that people adore the look of the plain, individually chopped up fruit and that is always what they want. So I think I may be withdrawing the spiral slicer from the market and just fill bowls with gorgeous, vibrant, colourful sweet fruit. I will use a plain white table cloth to show off the colours and leave no doubt about what is on offer.

Not much is selling in this midwinter period before the whales arrive and the tourists along with them. I only chop as much as I can eat, a little at a time and at the last minute. The big eater is the car which I have good fortune to have had use of, which consumes more money in petrol than I do in food, daily. Bicycle trailer, I will build you soon. And books, information, the next Vygie Street - you are on the cards. The conversations I have are what make it worthwhile, and soon will be offering written information which will say more than I ever can.

Into the gap with Essie

Alone this time, I went to visit Mrs Honiball, to show her my apron and offer her some spaghettied apple/cinnamon/coconut & raisins, from my day at the market. It was last Friday, and I found her in her new rooms on the third floor.

"You are doing the right thing, you are on the right path!" she said to me as I came through the door. There is this gap, between the braai (flame roasted flesh, caveman style) and Eden food, and she now thinks that going to Eden too quickly destabilises the project, that "recipes" and the eating of vegetables are essential to bridge that gap.

How wonderful to have recourse to this very powerful woman who looks like nothing but a little bird, shrunken and vulnerable with age. A giant in life experience, I have sat in the market solitary and alone with my fruit on the table and her book in my hands, reading and re-reading every Spirit filled word, making sure I don't waste her time by not knowing who she is or appreciating what she went through.

We had the sweetest visit, I could feel a very special vibration in the room, like when heat rises and distorts the air above a hot road. Something like that. A nurse came by and gave her a slice of milk tart, of which she ate three spoons. "I wouldn't have touched this, ten years ago", she told me. She would have been quite happy to relax into the ways of the world, knowing that she had done her work - and done it well, before passing into the Great Sleep.

But now her daily walks are jeopardised as she gets dizzy spells, and a still, quiet voice within has told her to go back to her origins. She has done this with her religion, Christianity, discarding all the studies she did over the years and returning to the presence of the Divine, Jesus Christ. Now with the dizzy spells she is feeling that she needs to return to the Eden lifestyle before she passes from this world altogether.

"I had Cosmo, then" and she told me how she needs someone to walk the path with her, passing first through "the gap" of recipes and vegetables before just taking fruit, only in season and one at a time. We agreed to walk together.

First things first, more fruit in the diet, and ceasing the heavier items. To her mind this is the fowl and fish, but in my opinion would definitely and decidedly be her innocent slice of daily bread. While flesh may putrefy within - and comes with ethical considerations, bread will ferment and is far more likely to cause her dizzy spells. She eats very little flesh foods and weekly whereas her bread intake is regular. I have also struggled with bread. All the world are alcoholics, brewing away mind altering substances within. Something needs to replace it though, and the struggle she went through decades ago has left her resistant to fruit. Salads and veg it is, then.

People all around are insisting Mrs Honiball eats more - of every and anything. I am worried as I consider Luigi Cornaro whose experience was that eating more than the amount to which the body is accustomed can make one ill, especially if in real old age.

So one step at a time, through the gap, to the other side, with Essie - a year away from her 90th birthday.

Essie's new apartment, towards the end on the top floor
Moon rising as I left, after a 3 hour visit. Had only intended popping in.

First Four Days

Sitting in the middle of town on the grass in the sun is a peachy way to make a living. Although this picture isn't quite accurate it does give an idea of the atmosphere. Carting heavy stuff around, plotting and planning and shopping and chopping chopping chopping are very hard work. Granted, its not quite as labour intensive as being in a chain-gang breaking rocks but there is full scale mental and physical exhaustion at the end of the day. Carving one's own way requires more of oneself than following instructions ever could. 

For a Fruitarian this is an ideal occupation. It has everything: being surrounded by a lot of fruit all the time, preparing it for people and being focussed and immersed in its presence and importance, promoting the lifestyle and engaging in conversations in a setting conducive to the topic, having salad leftovers or fully ripe fruit for supper, and feeling accountable to the general public to walk the talk. All this as well as feeling one is doing something worthwhile with one's life, earning a living and eating more fruit. I spent so many years, here and overseas, behind a computer, earning many many MANY times what I am right now - I'm not even really earning, I'm only just feeding myself and the car - a necessary evil until a bicycle trailer materializes - but those years behind the computer are lost to me. I studied and researched a lot but would have done that whatever occupation I was involved in. 

I always thought that one day when I was self employed I would be at liberty to be the bolshy-est person imaginable  my opinions flung freely into the wind and truths told with such alacrity. But now that I am standing on the other side of the table to the public, I find myself calling everyone Sir or Madam and feel such love for everyone and genuine concern for their wellbeing. My reputation is a fragile and precious asset and my opinions are either shared with considered tact or binned without a second thought. All that counts is the fruit, and that people love it, that they are exposed to an alternative that would never have occurred to them. 
I'm sitting here and bad habits are calling, like an old flame who wants me to remember the good times, wants me back. The strait and narrow is my spouse who sits quietly, allowing me to make the choice. If i do not remain true then I may as well find comfortable work somewhere else because then I am not a believer, just a peddler trying to make a buck. I don't want to just offer a theory, but an example, a prototype. I want to say that this is so good that I'm in it every day, for life. I want to show that it is possible, do-able, not some pie in the sky. I have walked this talk before, easily, but was prey to the social pressures all of us idealists must endure.

I am physically weak and tired from the effort of the last four days, and the detoxification of the lifestyle that came before it. Pray that I can remain true.

Debut at the Venue in Town

Yes indeed that is the Ancient Station in the foreground, bearing the Glad Tidings in the form of the Vygie Street Journal of the Fresh Fruit Fan Club.

And behind lies a pile of this season's first oranges amid boxes of newly picked fresh young apples.. Further aback is Spiralli, our valiant Spiralizer.

I took R18.50, a surprising amount of people were keen for just fresh fruit and I gave it away at cost or for free in very un-shopkeeperly style.. "Go on, you can have it!"

Maybe the public found whole, unprocessed fruit easy to trust. After all, what could Apple Spagetti possibly be?  

Even though they look so gorgeous posing on top of the fruit, the books were not there the whole day, I only put them down whilst rerereading them to take the photo. Do not usually mix paper and food.

I like this place, and they are looking for a fruit fan to come and set up shop here. When we come back it will be with a bigger table, an umbrella, and more fruit. 

People Will Eat Anything

Averil and I returned to see Mrs Honiball for a third time. I could see she wondered why we had come, what we expected from her. She immediately set about putting us straight with regards to any fruit movement we may be planning. She insisted vehemently "I am out of it", and I don't blame her because at 89 - of course!

One runs out of energy for these things, and there are more types of energy than just the plain old food fuel one puts in at the top. But more than this, it is all spelled out in her most recent and final book, how after achieving scientific recognition she attempted to return to normal life but found the fruit diet far preferable and so carried on with it. 

The fruit diet was and is preferable because one never gets ill, has physical and spiritual lightness, it tastes far better than the cooked diet, no cooking or washing pots, grows on trees for free and is the solution to all of man's problems. In a nutshell.

Nevertheless because of social pressures Essie did end up walking a compromise diet while lecturing on fruit and she felt terrible about the dichotomy. She ended up with a duodenal ulcer and had to have surgery, cutting off her ability to ever be Fruitarian again - or so she was told. My own sister had a similar experience, after two weeks on grapes she went back to her old, mouldy diet which infected her colon and she got an ulcer. She blamed the grapes and not the mouldy food which had got a grip on the new clean body. This is the ultimate lesson of the fruit diet - the body becomes accustomed to clean living and is ill prepared for an onslaught of gunk. Essie calls it God's wrath.

So here we were with Mrs Honiball very firmly not going on fruit, and not being wheeled out for events etc.  We chatted for a long time, and got to iron out more of her life story and put a fine point on the definitions of Fruitarianism. I had brought along a jar of my jar of lemon & chilli tonic. "People will eat anything" she said, looking at it. 

People will indeed eat anything.

Yes, according to the old ways a lemon was probably not a fruit. Definitely not ginger, nor turmeric, and we can only wonder about the chilli. Here I was with my lean and ascetic ways, rejected out of hand. These old definitions of what is fruit and what is vegetable clearly made Mrs Honiball's path even harder - imagine a life without tomatoes, a summer without watermelon.

Before we left I managed to secure the details of the Bloemfontein Hokaaiers. Unnecessarily because they are printed in ink in the final lines of Essie's final book, A Fruit Eater is Born.

Soon I will write to Mrs Loubser and introduce the new Hermanus Hokaaiers. But not right now, the time must be right. 

Market Review

Saturday passed, and instead of shopping all day and chopping all night, we decided to heed our forebodings about the Hermanus Country Market and cast about a bit further afield to see if there is somewhere else where our worthy effort will find more fertile ground.

We went to Greyton, which is an idyllic little village that cancels out any desires one might have had to return to the Himalaya, walk on a golden beach or plug into city life. A very international little community of thinkers and feelers, poets, philosophers and people of mature outlook. Some may use the word "alternative" for this frame of mind. 

Greyton had a small market, intimate enough, and with a young farmer who only does it naturally and whose mother is Raw! This gentleman would readily supply our needs, even planting on request.

Then we drove all the way across to Stellenbosch. The market was extensive and extremely well attended by people with some spending power. Closer to the great international centre, Cape Town, closer to the hub. We met a lot of people and had a lot of conversations - the Afrikaaner with the herbs and sprouts, the raw chefs, Spades and Spoons, making incredible looking 'burgers and raw (but salted) crispy tortilla like breads. Incredibly nice and very very Capetonian flavour people. 

Then we came across a man serving raw chocolate sweetened with agave, so another awake human being on the planet. Nice. We even found a real Fruitarian (though they didn't know it) table, Essie-style, just whole, raw fruit in season, grouped in trays.

The only real salad buffet looked gorgeous but was not raw. Various cooked beans, couscous, rice and so on. These folk had such a popular following that after 3 years of being in the market they opened a full time restaurant, 4 years ago. Their salads looked GOOD and our salads look as good as theirs.

But the point of the market is not to make money, though covering our costs and remaining fed would be jolly nice. The point is information, education, revelation, even indoctrination. 

Our goal and Endgame is nothing less than the Return to Eden, the vision of Mrs Essie Honiball.

The Way which Leadeth unto Life

Without skipping a beat, the day after the Expo Averil and I presented ourselves to Mrs Honiball to show her a flick of our setup.

She said that the spread looked lovely but the fruit was "all mixed up". Mrs Honiball's truth is that in the Eden Recipe one only eats what is naturally available at that time of year, and also only one thing should be eaten at a time. No *recipes*

This would mean that we could serve, now in May, Western Cape South Africa:

Apple spaghetti
Apple juice
Orange quarters
Orange juice
Winter melon and paw paw cubes on plates
Pears somehow
Persimmon slices
Avo, not really, unless we did "mix it up" with some orange to make cream
don't think banana.

One can't feel hard done by with a menu like that. There is an old saying which goes:

Enter ye in at the strait gate: 
for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, 
that leadeth to destruction, 
and many there be which go in thereat:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, 
which leadeth unto life, 
and few there be that find it.

Hmmm. Vygie Street, maybe?


The WE was now two fervent raw food aficionados  and in the interim our style had changed from Pint of Life salads in containers, to an open buffet spread - all thanks to me mum who pointed out what we had been advised to do all along: open salads look much nicer than packaged ones.

And self service is much more fun than buying half a litre of one thing, looking all sterile and unreachable, as if behind glass.

These big changes, along with the captive audience at the expo - we were the only ones doing food, and as it was a festival with a spiritual focus, hopefully the crowd would be one who apply spirituality to their plate.. surely we were going to shine?

The crowd turned out to not be  such a throng, possibly people were deterred by the expensive entrance fee, but the stall holders themselves needed to eat and some of the public must have jumped the fence, because we sold more than 60 containers of salad!

Here is some hot footage before lunch time happened and the bowls emptied:

And here is the conclusion: (uploading final video)

We had a good day, met people, chatted loads about a topic friends and family are long bored of, and actually took home some money in our pockets - to be invested in the next adventure...

Yes, we considering a return to the Hermanus Country Market with the new format, just to try one more time to introduce the world to a new way of life... to health, freedom and joy... to raw living foods.

Mrs Essie Honiball, and Averil

Whilst at the Hermanus Country Market I received an invitation to present raw foods at a forthcoming event being held up at our local nature reserve: the Mind Body Spirit Expo.

Armed with the Vygie Street, I wanted to add more ammo to our arsenal and after years of waiting in the shadows, I now had the opportunity to introduce myself and the work to international icon, national treasure and local legend, Mrs Essie Honiball.

In 2004, on my repatriation from London where I had had a very high raw food community around me, I found myself isolated in a world of meat and more meat. I prayed for help, guidance, company, and that day in a farm stall up the road I was astonished to see a thin green book amongst the pottery on the table there:

A Fruit Eater Is Born
by Essie Honiball

This little book has been my friend for a long, long time, and I know almost every word of it. I had never wanted to disturb Essie, thinking that for much of her life she must have been subject to streams of strangers, come to prod and stare.

I wrote to her now, asking if it would please her if I sold some of her books at our table in the upcoming event, the Mind Body Spirit Expo in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. I hand delivered the letter to Huis Lettie Theron in the afternoon. 

The next day I received a telephone call from someone who had visited Essie that day, Glorious Averil. Essie is 89, she had stepped away from fruit decades previously because she ran out of spiritual energy to continue being outside of society. But she has Averil, who found her only two weeks previously. And now she has me.

Averil and I met the next morning in the very Country Market where I had been piloting the Salad Bar. 

I had misplaced my phone and had no means of meeting or identifying her. I closed my eyes and prayed for help, to find this stranger in amongst hundreds and hundreds of people. When I opened my eyes I saw a lady standing a distance away, holding a pomegranate. I stood, walked directly over and asked, "excuse me, are you Averil?"

That is how we met.

Since then Averil has taken me to meet Essie. Old and frail, and yet her organs are clearly in good nick. Mrs Honiball has neither the energy to pursue Fruitarianism as a lifestyle nor to be personally involved in the movement, and yet her presence is a deep deep lake of pure inspiration. It is a profound honour to have met and to sit in the company of someone so close to Heaven.

Essie clearly enunciates the difference between Fruitarianism and "the raw people". A Fruitarian only eats fruit, seeds leaves and nuts, a piece at a time and without mixing them into a salad, and always and only each in its season so that it takes a whole year to make one "recipe", one's body being the salad bowl.   

The Tree of Life, with Essie in Front

The Vygie Street Journal

The marketing wing of our global empire is called Vygie Street, Journal of the Fresh Fruit Fan Club. It doesn't market the salad bar per se, but rather the things the salads are made of: raw fruit and vegetables. 

The Vygie Street is about raising awareness of the value of fresh fruit, fruiting or edible plants in our environment, and sane eating practices. Not just our physical health but our mental and spiritual condition has everything to do with that sacred portal, the mouth, and what we put into it. 

Each issue features:

  • a Fruit of the Month
  • a Recipe of the Month
  • Fruit around Town - a photograph of a local, public currently fruiting plant, along with some information about it
  • Future Fruit - a look at what is in the local nurseries, or what to plant now, how to propogate fruiting plants
  • Fruit Forecast - a run down of what's coming and what's going at the change of each season
  • a Feature Article - to do with sane eating practices
  • a Book Review - usually complements the Article
  • Leaves to Love - explores a different leaf in each issue

People often ask, "Why the name Vygie Street"

A Vygie is a humble groundcover plant which grows wild over much of Africa. It is free and natural, has never been hybridised, genetically modified or sprayed. For several months over the summer it constantly gives succulent, juicy ripe fruit, awaiting the attention of passersby. The only ones available to be bought being horrible dried ones that its a wonder anyone wants.

A Vygie represents freedom and sanity: food in our natural environment that we don't need to buy or earn. If all food was as freely and naturally available as the Vygie, this would be a different world. Indeed, another paradigm altogether.

The name implies a road, a path, and a place of specialisation

It geographyically situated in the greenbelt between Onrus and Sandbaai, here at the tip of Africa.

The Pint of Life

We started out by making the salads and then packaging them up into clear pint glasses (um, plastics) and they looked pretty funky. At this stage the Salad Bar was called the Pint of Life, with a lightning bolt for the i in Life. But the pancake luvvin crowds admired the pints for their art and then moved on to get their usual.

How could something so nice be sidelined, unappreciated? So we did tasters but no one wanted to taste in case they felt obliged to buy. Then we did them in half sizes so the commitment wasn't very significant.

Then we actually did the unthinkable and introduced muesli and yoghurt with the fruit salad, and I'm glad to say that we gave up after that. What would have come next? The whole point was being lost. I didn't want to feed people and make money, I wanted to introduce a new idea, and as hugely fond people are of the opiate, yoghurt, its not a new idea.

Neither is salad, but that you can live on it and enjoy yourself, that is a new idea to lots of people, if not most.

As you can see, our stand was extremely attractive, helped greatly by the natural glow that all living things have. Not immediately obvious is that the biltong man was on one side and beer-on-tap on the other. They had a good time swapping merchandise with each other. We were in this spot twice.

At this point I realised that we needed some cutting edge marketing and I started the Vygie Street, Journal of the Fresh Fruit Fan Club. Our own mag to advertise our ethos. The books on the bottom shelf are to do with health and spirituality. Our salad bar isn't about filling bellies, its about filling minds.

Quick point here, all "we" is usually "me", but at this stage my assistants were non raw food people. I was under a lot of pressure to introduce all sorts of things.