RAW FOOD IS ONLY AS DEAD AS YOU WANT IT TO BE
Is the raw food diet dead? This is a concept that several people who have, up to now, styled themselves as “raw food gurus” are espousing. Frederic Patenaude, one of the biggest names out there, raw food-wise, has announced that the raw vegan diet is a fad that has passed. Brenda Cobb announced, in a workshop I attended a few years ago that, at a “summit” of raw food “authorities”, it had been decided that it was not necessary to go all raw. Kevin Gianni, another self-styled public “raw food guru” has announced that “raw food is dead”.
In my experience, a raw vegan diet is a personal issue. You can be 100% raw vegan, or you can be 90%, or 50% or working on getting 25 % raw food into your diet.
If you want to be a vegetarian or vegan, you can still include raw food into your diet, to make it healthier. If you are a meat-eater, and don’t plan to stop, you can still include more raw vegetables in your diet to enable your body to absorb more nutrients from the vegetables you eat (how hard is it to include a salad?)
I’ve been raw vegan or mostly raw vegan for over 30 years. As far as I know, when I started, it was not a fashion. I started just because I was on the broke side, and, as a graduate student, I didn’t have much time to prepare food, and I found that I could make what I called a “progressive salad”, i.e., chopped cabbage, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, kelp powder, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar, and eat of it as I wished, then put the leftovers in the refrigerator, and add to them the next day – these salads went on for about 4 days, and then I added hot water and made soup to finish it all up.
In the 70s, I found a book by the Fathmans called Live Foods. I took that home and learned a couple of other things I could do with raw foods. I still didn’t think much about it. It was just food. I discovered Viktoras Kulvinskas’s book, Living in the 21rst Century, and, from there, found Ann Wigmore’s writings. In those days, this was a catch-as-catch-can process – there was no Internet, and all you could find was whatever popped up in Yes Bookstore in Georgetown, in Washington, DC.
I found out about “modern raw food recipes” in 1999. Wow! More stuff to make to eat! I was delighted, and bought my first food processor, then a Champion juicer, then a high speed blender (I had always wanted a VitaMix from the time I saw one in a state fair when I was about 10). I used made all sorts of inventive recipes, but, you know what? More often, I still made the food that I had always made. That was my comfort food.
Fast forward to now: I have a dehydrator now, as well as a Cuisinart food processor, the same 1975 vintage Champion juicer, and a Nutri-Bullet (the VitaMix actually died after 10 years of faithful service, right on time, when the warranty I had expired). From time to time, I will make crackers or chips or bread in the dehydrator. I also dehydrate vegetables I don’t like that come in my CSA box, and I make green powder of them, to use in soups, or as seasoning. I dehydrate leftovers that I know I am not going to eat anytime soon, so I can rehydrate them later. The three things in my kitchen that get a lot of use are the Champion juicer, the food processor, and my good old Chinese stainless steel cleaver, which has been with me forever.
I’m still raw. A few years ago, I started collecting old raw vegan recipe books. I now have the oldest one anyone remembers, from the 1920s, as well as several others, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s.
As far as I am concerned, raw food is not dead, and it is not a fad.
Okay, there has been the raw food “phenomenon” which started up in the late 1990s, and which may well be burning out.
There used to be some raw food groups here in New York City, and I used to hang out with them, at potlucks. I never asked anyone “how raw are you?” because I just didn’t care. It has never been a contest with me. It has just been what I eat. I did think it was kind of fun when folks dished on local “raw food gurus”, reporting sightings of said “personalities” exiting Thai restaurants, or what-not. Still, I have never succumbed to the allure of any raw food guru, so nothing ever changed for me, regardless of what “So-and-So” had been seen doing. I have always told everyone who asks that I am 95% raw 100% of the time. That is because I cannot promise that you will not see me eat something that is not raw. I haven’t done it in recent history, but I am not going to say that I don’t do it, because I might, if I get a notion.
Anyway, the upshot of all this is that, if you want to go raw, do it. Just because the fad may have passed does not mean that a raw food diet is not good.
You may become more interested in nutrition and investigate the different raw food schools.
The most recent raw food school has been the low fat diet. (As a nutritionist, I see that this approach is what has caused a lot of people to ditch the raw food diet, because they get too many cravings. Fat is necessary in the human diet. There are good fats and there are bad fats. If you are eating a raw vegan diet, there are simply no bad fats to be had. Raw nuts and seeds provide protein. Avocados provide all sorts of good things. Fats are necessary for the building of healthy cell walls (Since the AMA started advocating a low-fat diet, we have seen a rise in here-to-fore unknown diseases, sensitivities, and allergies. In the past few years, the AMA has begun serious back-peddling about fat in the diet.
Some say that salt should be avoided. (I am a low-salt person by nature – I never put salt on my food when I lived at home, and, when I moved away, at first, I didn’t have salt in my apartment (until people who came over for dinner kept asking for it – then I got a shaker-ful of salt) Still, I would not say that you should not use salt in your food (sea salt, or natural salt, provides a lot of health benefits). Although I rarely put salt in my food, I do recognize that it is an important ingredient for health (I get most of my salt from fermented vegetables, actually).
Some will say that you should not use strong herbs and spices. I’m sorry. Strong herbs and spices, such as garlic, cumin, and red pepper are proven, in herbology, to be good for you. If you don’t like them, don’t use them, but don’t decide that they are not food for you just because some self-styled “guru” has dissed them. If you desire them, then it is probably that they bring some needed element into your diet. As a nutritionist, an herbologist, a Bach (and other) Flower Therapy practitioner, and an herbalist, I have found that natural herbs and spices that you are attracted to tend to be things that bring certain properties into your system. (if you come to eat at my house, your food will not have much salt in it, but it will be brilliant with garlic, cumin, cilantro, and onion). The folks who guide you to avoid such edibles are most likely folks who do not tolerate them well (For example: I cannot stand mango. I understand that this is a systemic issue within my own personal body. I do not tell other people not to eat mango, because this mango sensitivity is my own. Mango is known to have great nutritional value. The fact that I cannot eat it does not mean that you should not). Another example would be that, in my family, only my grandfather liked hot sauce. I like hot sauce (to the point that I have learned to make my own hot sauce, so I can control the ingredients). Many people do not like hot sauce. There is something in hot sauce that attracts certain individuals. That is a nutritional or constitutional thing. Just because you do not like hot sauce does not mean that it is a bad thing.
Now, if you are interested in incorporating raw food in your diet, that is a good thing. In real life, there is no rule that says that you have to become 100% raw tomorrow..
Nutrition-wise, it is a good idea to incorporate as much raw food into your diet as you can. So… can you incorporate 25% raw food into your diet? (that would be a salad with dinner). Can you incorporate 50% rawfood into your diet (hey! Coleslaw and a salad with dinner). Can you incorporate 75% raw food in your diet? (Now you would be seriously into the idea.)