Saturday, May 3, 2008

Eating Raw...

There's been mention made here, once or twice, of raw foods and raw food cookbooks, and I thought I'd explain my history and relationship with raw food to you. And, if you've eaten this way, too, you can feel free to tell me your story.

My first exposure to raw food was in the cookbook section of our local Borders, I don't know how many years ago. I'd seen books about "raw" food and had a very vague idea of the philosophy, but the recipes were usually quite unappealing to me. The first raw book to pull me in, to make me want to look through it, to make me want to eat the food, was Raw by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein. Charlie Trotter?! The great chef from Chicago? Yes, that one. I was intrigued. I flipped through the book. It was beautiful and everything looked delicious, but it all seemed really complicated, and since I was uninformed as to the supposed benefits of eating raw, I wasn't tempted to buy the book. Off and on after that I noticed new raw books and increasing references to raw eating, but I still didn't investigate it.

Then a year and a half ago, I was facing surgery. I am the kind of person who tries to do everything as naturally as I can, so if there was a way to avoid this surgery, I wanted to know about it. I was talking to a friend, and she said, "Why don't you eat all-raw for a while to see what happens? It seems like a lot of people have seen some pretty significant changes in their health when they've changed to a raw diet." My friend told me to look into the writings of a woman named Victoria Boutenko, so I looked her up online. Very intriguing, but still overwhelming. So many new ideas, new techniques, new ways of thinking about eating... I kept thinking about it.

A day or two later, I was in my favorite section of Borders-- the cookbook section. I ran across Natalia Rose's raw food book, The Raw Food Detox Diet. I flipped through it. Some of the philosophy seemed strange, and I was skeptical about her some of her nutritional information, But, hmmm. Detox. It sounds like even a short-term or temporary, trial, sort of thing, might make a difference. And chocolate! I can eat chocolate! I liked the idea of taking a placement test (so one doesn't get sick while taking steps to go increasingly raw). The food looked tasty. The green lemonade was intriguing. I think I can do this one! So, I tucked the book under my arm and kept browsing.

When it was time to leave, Melissa saw the book and said, "What's that?" I showed her, and she quite skeptically asked if I really thought I could eat that way.Yes, I said. It's different than I thought. I think it looks extremely intriguing and worth a try. The food looks tasty. You can decide what level of "raw" you want to be, gradually transitioning higher and higher. It's a "detox" plan (strangely, the word detox made it seem more doable).

We've always eaten good, organic, whole, real foods, including more raw stuff than I had realized, so our "placement" test allowed us to start right at a level 2. A lot of people never go to level one (entirely raw), and I knew that I would never move to that all-raw level myself. We'd start eating "raw til dinner," and then our evening meal would include a mix of raw and some cooked foods.

We already ate alot of what was recommended in the plan, but where it was needed, we cleaned out the pantry and started our transition. We bought sprouted grains. Raw vinegars. Raw cheeses (some of our cheeses were already raw). Raw nut butters. Sprouted, soaked, cultured, and fermented foods (we already did some of this). Etc. The biggest new thing in our diet was the green lemonade. Natalia considers this to be the key to her diet plan. And it wasn't difficult at all to incorporate this-- it was delicious!

The delicious food was a really nice surprise. Eating raw might conjure up an image of eating off one of those horrid veggie trays for the rest of your life-- raw carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, etc., with bad dip. Yick. I don't like that kind of thing. Or of endlessly chomping down on those basic, unappetizing, unimaginative green salads with bitter dressings that get served for dinner night after night in many homes. I didn't want to eat endless amounts of rabbit food. I love to cook, and I wanted my food to taste good!

This diet plan was not hard to do. And almost immediately, both Melissa and I started noticing changes in the way we looked and felt. We were feeling better, stronger, more vibrant, more energetic, clearer-headed. Our sleep was improved, and we seemed to need less of it. Our skin got brighter and clearer. Strangely, even my senses seemed much sharper like everything was working the way it was supposed to-- food tasted so bright and vivid and delicious. We lost some weight (we don't tend to be overweight in my family, really, but I'd put on some extra pounds over the previous two years). After a few weeks of this, I told Melissa that I didn't know whether or not it was a coincidence, but I was feeling an energy in my step that I hadn't felt in decades.

And then. I went to the doctor for an updated ultrasound, and guess what? My problem was completely gone! No need to have surgery.

I wish I could say that I've never looked back, but I have. I've bounced all over the place with my eating, in fact. I've never stopped eating much of what is promoted in the raw books, but we occasionally make desserts, we sometimes eat too many cooked foods/too few raw foods, we sometimes eat too much food period. At holidays we eat some sweets. And sometimes we'll buy foods that are out and out wrong! :-) Fake food. Food that makes your stomach hurt. And we always ask, "Why did we do that?!"

I still look at and buy raw cookbooks. And I use them every day. There are some books that I wouldn't recommend, but the good ones are really good. In fact, this is some of the best food I've ever eaten anywhere!

Avoiding sugar is, without a doubt, the number one thing that makes me feel better. Eating lots of produce, much of it raw, is another. And eating light is a big factor, too. Then there are the green lemonade or green smoothie drinks, which seem to be an important key.

I was going to continue this post, but it's getting way too long. There's more to explain, but I think I'll do it in another post soon. I want to tell you about another philosophy of eating that is convincing to me, too, and how I think the raw philosophy and this other philosophy-- of eating real foods or traditional foods as explained in many books, including Nourishing Traditions-- are strongly similar and where they are vastly different. I feel pulled in both directions, and I'll tell you how we tend to work out the conflicts. I'll also list some of my favorite raw cookbooks, and maybe I'll even post a favorite recipe or two.

So, more to come on this soon...