It was midnight on a Friday night as I waited in the emergency room at St. John’s Hospital. My six year old son was grabbing his throat saying he could not breath. I was in a panic. One adrenaline shot later my son could breath and he was back to normal. He was still on theophylline that he took daily to control his asthma. The third time we were at St. John’s, another Friday midnight run, the doctor pulled me off to the side and said “You can’t keep doing this. One time the adrenaline won’t work and you can lose him…” This was a life changing moment for me. All my chemistry training didn’t prepare me for this.
The next week a friend gave me a book, “Recalled by Life” by Anthony J. Sattilaro, MD, because his mother-in-law had just died from cancer. Reading this book about Dr. Sattilaro’s path to Macrobiotics, I got a psychic hit and I heard my inner voice say “pay attention, you’ve done this before.” I immediately called the East-West Center in Boston and got the number for the senior Macrobiotics teacher in southern California. I had a specialized life reading and then took my son in for a reading. It was like a Dr. Oz meets the psychic reading. I took cooking classes for 6 months and with dietary changes for my son, he was off all asthma medications in one year.
This began my conversion to vegetarianism and organic foods. I studied everything about macrobiotics. I lost weight and I had unlimited energy. My bachelor’s degree in chemistry and my doctorate in Geochemisty were brought into play. I was finally using my education in real life situations. The Germans have a saying “Sie sind, was Sie essen,” which means “you are what you eat.” I also learned that food is the best medicine.
During my macrobiotic regimen I worked with my dad to convert many of the Arabic recipes I had grown up with to vegetarian ones. For my weekly meditation group I would bring home made hummus with fresh pita bread. I rolled grape leaves without adding lamb to the rice. It was a new world. Before macrobiotics, if you told me something was “organic” that just meant to me that it contained carbon and hydrogen, like in organic chemistry. Now I took it seriously that “organic” meant how the food was grown and that it had no added chemicals. My Geochemistry side was loving it.
The macrobiotic diet forced me to start shopping at the Santa Monica Coop for the unique foods I needed like wakame, azuki beans, and organic produce. I joined the Coop and served on the Board of Directors for 21 years. When my hair was more grey than brown, it was time to step down from the Board to make room for the next generation. It was at the Coop I learned the health food business. I tried all the foods and around 2007 the raw foods revolution began. Juliano open his raw restaurant on Broadway in Santa Monica, the beautiful model, Carol Alt, published her book how raw foods saved her life. I was intrigued because there was an opening in the market place for high quality, prepared raw foods.
I brought my friends together with the strategy that if we used rigorous business practices, organic ingredients and good recipes we could have a viable and prosperous company. We started California Snax in 2007 and experimented with different packaged items. We worked in a commercial kitchen and delivered our products to Erewhon and the Coop. I sampled every week to get people’s feedback on what they liked.
Since I had been making hummus weekly for my meditation group, I switched this to a raw sprouted organic hummus. It was slightly different from the cooked version but everyone gobbled it up and actually liked it better. We then had to come up with a way to mass produce raw sprouted hummus and give it a shelf life longer than one week. When I was a graduate student, I had 2 years of bacteriology, because bacteria and algae literally shaped our planet, as they still do today. I also did neutron activation, using the UCLA nuclear reactor, for chemical analysis. Bacteriology and nuclear chemistry are very much alike. Bacteria and radiation are both invisible and good lab practices are necessary to avoid contamination. I brought these practices to the kitchen and we were able to make hummus with a long shelf life.
We had other challenges in order to make 20 gallons of hummus at a time. Our team overcame all these hurdles and the final one was an automated filling station that we made from NSF components.
Since that time we have produced over 250,000 units of hummus. We are the best selling hummus in all the markets we are in.