Last night, at the raw vegan potluck dinner, I fielded a lot of questions – the most common among them were:
“How long have you been raw?”
“Why did you go raw?”
“Have you always been 100% raw?”
I figure that, because I was clearly the oldest attendee, “how long have you been raw” was the most popular question.
Let’s see – I did not clock in or anything, I was just in college full-time and working full-time to pay my tuition, rent, and food, and I started making what I called a “progressive salad” – chopped cabbage, bell peppers, onions,lentil sprouts, and tomatoes, with olive oil and apple cider vinegar: the “progressive” part was that what I didn’t eat went in the refrigerator, and each day, I added some more, or something different, until, after about 4 days, I would put water in it and warm it to soup temperature and finish it off. (I made lentil sprouts because they tasted good and they were easy to make and almost never failed) Back then, there was a bookstore in Washington, DC, where I lived, called Yes!, and they carried lots of interesting New Age books. In the cookbook section, I found a book on raw food (Live Foods, by George and Doris Fathman). That book taught me some new ideas, some new recipes, and told me what I had been doing all the while. Fast forward to 1999, when I went to a health food store with my mom, and she saw Rose Lee Calabro’s book, Livng in the Raw and bought it for me. I had never seen fancy recipes before, I had never had a fancy juicer, I had only my serious-business all-stainless-steel Chinese cleaver as a food processor, and now I was facing a whole new world of possibilities. I did save my money and get a VitaMix, and, a couple of years later, an Excalibur dehydrator (now, also, I have a Cuisinart food processor which, at 2 years old, has outlasted all three of the cheap food processors I had before). I still do eat pretty simply, although not as simply as the fellow I met last night, who said he eats kale by the leaf – my food has to taste like food, and not “health food”. Most of the dishes I make up are not much more complicated than the ones I was making way back when, although I do love to make crackers and breads from time to time, and dehydrate fruit when it is in season and sauces when I make too much, and I am terribly fond of banana soft serve ice cream which I make with my 1976 vintage Champion juicer.
“Why did I go raw?” The answer to that is, in all honesty, “pure laziness”. I was paying my way through college, so I took the maximum number of credits I thought you could take (18) each semester, and I took a maximum load in summer session also, and I was working full-time to meet the bills, so I did not have much time to fool around with things like food. I had my Chinese knife and a cutting board, and it made more sense to take the vegetables I chopped up and throw them in a bowl and eat them than to take the extra step of throwing them in a pan and cooking them. Once that was going, it was easy enough to keep it going, rather than to try anything new.
Have I always been 100% raw? Now, I will be perfectly honest with you. I say I have been raw for over 30 years. That is when I started. Since then, I have, like any good raw foodist (let’s be real here), gone off and eaten other stuff. Like any good vegan (again, reality check) I have gone off and eaten wild and crazy stuff like honey, or cheese, or ice cream. The thing with milk products is that, as it turns out, I am allergic to milk protein (not the more common “lactose intolerance”), so consuming them has always come back to bite me big time. As far as eating cooked food, the laziness is still a factor: it’s just a heck of a lot easier to throw something into the food processor, and then scarf it up, rather than to take that intermediate step and cook it. I have never gone off for long enough to really count, unless you are counting every minute, every second, in which case, I have only been 99% raw for all this time. (At any time, I normally tell people I am 95% raw, because I know I am a human, and I might change my mind at any moment, even if I have been 100% raw for longer than I have been counting – I don’t stop and start the count, anyway, since I always end up raw.)
When I lost my teeth, as a result of an accident, I went to cooked food because raw food seemed hard to manage (I was very distressed when I found that I couldn’t even chew a lettuce leaf!). I even wrote a cookbook for people who have no teeth or have dentures, or have other chewing/swallowing issues — but, even then, I came back to raw food quickly (my food processor and my Vitamix can make anything do-able!).
I’ve been honest with you here, which is more than a lot of the “raw food gurus” will do.
TODAY I AM RAW. And that is exactly what I teach my clients: Think “Today I am raw”. If you can do that, you can wake up tomorrow and say the same thing. If you wake up the next day and feel like you want to eat something else, you can make that choice if you want to, and, then, when you are ready, you can go right back and say “Today I am raw” (you can even go right back after one or two meals. *NOW I am raw* works. If you want to observe a raw food lifestyle at any level (okay, 50% raw, okay, 80% raw, or whatever, you can do that. No judgements. I do raw because it works for me. High raw (90%) is a really good thing to shoot for, but more raw is better than no raw (even the AMA agrees with me on this one). If you want to include more raw food in your diet, you just do it, one meal at a time. If you want to observe a raw vegan diet, you just do it one day at a time.