Monday, June 4, 2012

This is Grounds for Divorce


Another report from the annals of rawhood[1]…..

Day 4
            After another lovely breakfast of raw oatmeal and nut milk (déjà vu…all over again), I realize I need help. I make an appointment to meet a friend for lunch at the only raw restaurant in town. I look at the menu and I literally salivating over my keyboard. Lasagna, sandwiches, Thai pasta & yogurt!!! I’m not really caring about how they create the food because at this point anything that does not involve me grinding, soaking or starving is good.
            I head over to the restaurant and it’s packed. Mainly with emaciated fashion types with their “it” bags and the their gay BFF (I have nothing against gay BFF’s…I have one myself). The occasional guy is the man that got dragged in by their husbands.
            My friend orders an avocado sandwich with “raw bread” and I get the lasagna (because they were all out of the Thai curry pasta). I opt out of the juice selection because I don’t want any delay between anything resembling real food and me. Our food arrives and my friend’s sandwich is interesting. The “raw bread” seems to be a cracker like bread made with ground seeds and nuts, which were then spread on a sheet to dehydrate to resemble “bread.” The rest was an avocado, some veggies and a raw chili “mayonnaise.” My lasagna consisted of thin sheets of zucchini layered with a tomato puree, walnuts, parsley pesto, cashew cream and spinach.
            I don’t know if I was delirious from hunger, but they were pretty good. Even that “raw” bread thing was all right. But I noticed the food was extremely heavy. The bread was pretty leaden. The weight of the cashew cream alone, which was basically a whipped cashew butter, alone was akin to a brick. All those nuts and seeds made it the food equivalent of a raw football player – packed.
            According to rawists, the food has to be nutritionally and calorically dense due to the nature of the diet. Raw food diets often don’t contain enough calories or nutrients to keep one’s weight stable. Several studies examining the nutritional and caloric content of raw diets are seriously lacking in calories (the fashionistas at the raw café were skinny probably for other reasons) and are often underweight and undernourished. The Giessen Raw Food Study[2] examined 527 raw food practioners and found that 29.5% of males participants and 24.9% of female participants were underweight. Most of the women stopped menstruating. And all had bone density issues. The vegan rawists were the most susceptible to nutritional deficiencies, and because they all eat raw food, they were all susceptible to food pathogens (as in E. coli, Salmonella, etc.). The conclusion of the scientists was pretty harsh: “a strict raw food diet cannot guarantee an adequate energy supply.”
            It explained why I was freaking hungry all the time. But the solution? Was to eat more food, but what?

Day 5
            Determined to shovel in more calories into my system, I made a pilgrimage to the health food store looking for the all the stuff that rawists use to make their mock-fill-in-cooked-dish-here. I hit alternative food nirvana. Raw food, vegan food, vegetarian food, health supplements (my favorite vegetarian rennet) galore. I thought I would die of healthiness just from the wafting aroma of spirulina.
            Seeing that I really didn’t have a good idea about what food would be needed for a raw diet, I asked the very eager saleslady about my predicament. She piled a basket full of chia seeds, raw bars, raw cocoa nibs, seaweed powder, quinoa flakes, raw crackers and 5 different types of vitamin and mineral supplements. When I asked her what I was supposed to do with this surfeit of rawness, she said calmly, “Oh, don’t have all the raw cookbooks?” She picked out three (one in Danish, one in English and a third that I rejected because I don’t read Finnish).
            Two hundred dollars lighter and armed to the teeth with raw foods, I was determined to make something that was akin to my tasty lunch the day before. As usual, I was too late. The cake I wanted to make needed me to pre-soak nuts and quinoa flakes for 6 hours. I was going to pass out if I waited 6 hours for food. I decided upon the zucchini  “pasta.” No soaking required, just a mandoline, fresh coconut milk (which I didn’t have, but I didn’t care), some limes, curry powder, lemongrass, ginger and garlic. I shredded my zucchini into long strips and tossed it with the magic mixture and sprinkled some chia seeds on top. Not bad, but it tasted raw…very, very raw. The garlic completely overpowered the mixture because it was…raw! And I was really missing an umami element…as in fish sauce and there really needed some sugar to balance out the spices.
            I ate it anyway and I was grateful that I was capable of making a raw dish that tasted somewhat OK. The problem was that this was basically the only raw dish I was capable of making in less than an hour. Unless I was going to remember the night before to soak everything, I was going to be eating this again the next couple of days….

Day 6
            Luckily I remembered to soak some quinoa flakes and some cashews the night before. I was basically trying to find a substitute for sushi, if not to get some seriously needed iodine in my system. But before I could even go there, I, on orders of the raw police at the health food store, needed to have a drink…not of the good kind. Because I didn’t have a juicer and basically refused to be quilted into buying one by the health food pusher, I just stirred apple juice, with some yeast powder and 2 teaspoons of spirulina into a glass. It looked pretty gross. Green and brown lumps of undissolved powder bubbled on top. Unable to drink this mess, I shoved a banana and some frozen berries into the mix and chucked it all into the blender. The powdery blobs disappeared, but it was a pretty unappealing shade of green. It tasted fine when I got over the green. My daughter said, “Mommy, why are you drinking that?” Before I could answer, my husband said,  “Because sometimes, your mommy is a little silly.”
            How do you explain fad diets to a 6 year old? I, like, many parents, am very concerned about the eating habits for my child. But in an age when girls as young as 3 are worried about their weight, telling your child that you are on some kind of “diet” is not exactly encouraging healthy body images. On the other hand, when one in three Americans are overweight, I should be concerned with what my child eats. Luckily, my daughter never followed up on the question, but left me wondering how all these fad diets are screwing with our own understanding of health….but not before my husband said, “When is this diet going to end? You’re tired, cranky and your food looks weird. You know, this is grounds for divorce.”
            This diet is really starting to look like a raw deal.

[1] This is Part 3 of a 4 part series on the Raw Diet. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.