Sarah Mastriani-Levi's appearance and manner are appealing. She is soft spoken. She is warm and direct. She hugged me when we met. But within minutes I recognize this young woman also has a fierce intellect, deeply personal philosophy and passionate mission. She says, "What pushes me is I'm a pioneer and visionary. I feel a responsibility to create community and provide tools to help people lead healthy authentic lives."
Sarah is the owner of Mannafest Living1, a personal chef and catering service targeting vegans, vegetarians, raw foodists-or anyone interested in healthy eating. She is also a holistic health coach. Her goal? "I want to be an inspirational catalyst-the connective tissue that bridges where people are to where they want to be."
During her childhood, Sarah's father was a theological researcher, studying different cultures and religious customs. The family moved frequently. They lived in the Grand Canyon for three years, where Sarah developed her affinity for nature and Native American culture. At age 15, she attended the College of Charleston; after graduating at age 18, she moved to Israel in 1993. During the nearly two decades she lived there she married and had four children-twin boys (12), her middle son (10) and her daughter (7).
Having learned more from her life experiences than traditional education, Sarah is an enthusiastic proponent of John Holt's progressive and innovative theories of homeschooling and "unschooling." In Israel, and now in Bluffton, she homeschools her children. "I don't believe in the homogenous, 'yes-man' system that underlies American public education, and I find testing offensive. I want to encourage my children to find and pursue their personal interests. I want their lives to be an adventure."
Besides properly helping her children to educate themselves, Sarah is passionate about food and its vital, nurturing impact on healthy living. In Israel, the family lived on a farm with a huge vegetable garden to provide fresh produce (tended solely by Sarah), 700 olive trees, and chickens and goats, which Sarah hand-milked. Her husband wasn't enthusiastic about her vision.she had to prove its merits single-handedly.
Coming from an Italian background she was genetically wired to love the preparation and serving of good food. She says, "Sharing a meal actually releases oxytocin2." Surprisingly, a major influence in making her a passionate advocate for healthy living and eating was the advent of the microwave. "I was five. I know for my mother and lots of other women trying to balance work and family it seemed like a godsend. They didn't know microwaving destroys all the nutritional value of food. They didn't realize heating and serving processed foods as family meals and snacks would contribute to an epidemic of obesity in this country." Sarah thinks unhealthy food is the available drug for children; she considers the processed and fast food industries "drug dealers."
In Israel, Sarah's sense of mission grew. Her husband was never "that hand on the back" offering encouragement and support. She decided to bring her children to the U.S. She initially arrived in Bluffton as a single mother of four. Israeli friends, who had moved to San Francisco, persuaded her that Californians would be more amenable to her vision. She spent a brief period there. Besides being too expensive, she felt called to come back to the Lowcountry. She believes this is an area where through education and inspiration she can bring a new vision of healthy living to the community. She believes serving others is the key to a successful life.
Her foundational goal is to inspire "authentic living." For Sarah, one indication that you're living authentically is "when you've created your own spiritual path and don't need outside permission." She has achieved this and wants to share it. She says, "People run away from their greatness because they're scared. Fear is a liar. A shadow that keeps us small." She has heard every excuse and justification for why people can't lose weight, exercise, find fresh locally grown food, cook healthy delicious meals or change life-threatening habits-even at the cost of their own health. Sarah is prepared to teach anyone to cook, to prepare meals and to coach them in developing healthy, sustainable life practices. Without judgment, she kindly and firmly says to her clients, "I'm the bowl that carries all your excuses. So what do you have now?" This woman is already wise and successful.
Passions: Sarah is an "artist of life." Besides entertaining, she loves artwork, music and dance.
Talents: She plays Native American flutes.
Wise Practice: Sarah watches no TV. She admits she'd be lousy at pop culture trivia.
To learn more: 1www.mannafest-living.com
2-Oxytocin: The horomone that affects human bonding and nuturing.