Our raw-food experiment has been over for two weeks now, and I finally feel like my eating habits are my own business again.
The cycle of raw-based interactions went something like this: surprise and skepticism over the raw diet, inquiries about what is or is not raw, the mid-experiment avalanche of “how’s it going?” questions and the end-of-diet curiousity about which cooked foods each us was planning to eat first. Mine was cheese, for the record.
Although I have been greatly enjoying a variety of cooked food over the past two weeks, I have not forsworn eating raw meals, either. I’ve been making green smoothies for breakfast and eating salads for lunch and enjoying them just fine.
Still, I’m glad the raw diet is over. This month has been far busier than April was, and there’s no way I would have had enough time to eat healthy and raw while always on the run. (Not that I’m running right now – I’m actually working from home with the worst sore throat I’ve had in ages. Thank heaven I can eat chicken soup!)
As for the effects of my transition back to cooked food, I’ve found that I have more energy than I did on the raw diet. I’m not sure whether that’s a result of my physiology or just that it’s easier for me to find the nutrients my body needs in the food I’m more accustomed to eating. Either way, I’m rolling with it.
Done properly, eating raw food isn't just part of your life, it becomes your life.
During the past 30 days, I've learned definitively I don't have the time or, frankly, the interest it takes to live at such a high raw threshold: Soaking and sprouting seeds or nuts before I can eat them, sorting through the reams of advice and counter-advice, monitoring the minute details of my digestive process. It's just not for me.
That's not all I learned, however, when I gave up meat and dairy products and anything cooked above 118 degrees. And though I was initially determined not to, I even gave up coffee (mostly because I ran out of beans before I had a chance to buy more).
With those things off limits, I found myself necessarily paying closer attention to the food I've been eating. Because I've prepared much of it myself, I know what ingredients comprise pretty much everything I have ingested, and that's surprisingly empowering. It's also what I'll take with me as I return to a more inclusive diet.
There are parts of the raw-food diet I'll keep. Salads of sprouts and dark, leafy greens, for example, and breakfast smoothies, along with certain dishes that were delicious. I'll be eating more fruits and vegetables and way less processed food.
I also plan on eating meat and cheese and bread, and by the time you read this, I will have already brewed myself a hot cup of dark-roast coffee.
I doubt the level of raw food in my diet will qualify for what raw foodists call "high raw," but that's OK: Henceforth, I don't mind getting most of my "Raw Power" from Iggy & the Stooges.
Today is the last day of our 30-day raw-food diet.
First, to all my colleagues who predicted I'd quit halfway through, thbbbbbbbt!
Seriously, though, I've learned a lot over the past month. Raw food is more than just twigs and berries, for one thing. In fact, it can be delicious, and was especially so Sunday night when we three went to Pure Food and Wine in New York.
But it wasn't cheap. The diet as a whole isn't cheap. Raw foodists say the food bills normalize once you get a better sense of what, and how much, you'll be eating. But the diet just really isn't for me.
As I said at the outset, I like cooked food. Giving up meat and dairy (and bread and so on) for 30 days was definitely an interesting experiment in getting by. But I did it. Eventually, I even gave up coffee, though that was mostly because I ran out of beans before I had a chance to buy more. (And no, I don't feel more energetic or alert.)
I'll be incorporating all those things back into my diet, though I'll be much more watchful about how I do it. Making most of my meals at home, from natural ingredients, let me know exactly what I was eating, and I like that enough to not forswear it just for the sake of a cheeseburger. Well, not every day, at least.
It started as a response to my post yesterday, and quickly spiraled out of control. But because she's been keeping raw with us over the past few weeks, and because I've learned over the years I've known her that she often has an interesting perspective, here are some thoughts from Joann's sister, Donna Klimkiewicz, on the role food plays in our lives:
I think you have a good point, and I think you are right, on balance, in terms of how some Raw Foodists sometimes portray eating as about nutrients and perfection moreso than about pleasure.
And I think those who get caught up in that way of thinking are missing the point.
Having gone through my own repeated cycles of interest-excitement-disillusionment- rejection of a Raw Food lifestyle over the last handful of years, and having taken the 30-day plunge alongside you guys during this month, I think I’ve evolved to a new perspective on the whole thing.
I don't think that eating can or should be a utilitarian venture. It SHOULD be pleasurable. I think that the real point to eating this way, and one that isn't discussed as much, is that eating optimally can escalate energy and clear-headedness, and actually starts to make one a little more alive in their own life, less weighed down by energy-depleting foods, and more available and energized to be all of what you are and can be. I know that when I eat better, I feel better, and when I feel better I work better, I play better, I interact better, and I show up in my life better. And THAT makes life richer. And that is the only reason to do it.
A disconnect happens when it becomes about perfection or neurosis about what to eat and not to eat, and labeling some foods as bad or toxic. That kind of thinking becomes really counterproductive really quickly. Eating should never be about perfection or dogma and eating solely for nutrients will inevitably, I think, take people to that place where it's no longer pleasant, but is instead wrapped up in unconscious fear or anxiety.
I know that the first week and half I was kinda unhappy with the food I was eating, and now that I've found some favorite meals and go-to snacks, I'm in the flow, and definitely it's pleasurable. I am decidedly NOT obsessing over perfection or about utilitarian fueling.
This sort of stuff is personal and I really do think everyone needs to find their own way, separate of any dogma. Eating should be inextricably tied to following your own body's needs, and your own life's larger goals. And you can never find that by following someone else's rules. Inspired by ideas, yes, but following someone else's rules to the letter, no.
I'm a bit of a contrarian anyway -- just ask Joann -- but there's a big piece of raw dogma that's been bothering me.
Over the past few weeks, I've heard more than one raw-food enthusiast posit that the only reason for eating is to fuel the body by taking in nutrients.
That's true, from a strict-constructionist perspective. But by that token, human beings have only three biological imperatives: Eating, defecating and reproducing. Still, I kind of like vinyl records.
Point is, there's more to our lives, or should be, than the mechanics of living them. Regardless of my personal values (ahem), countless years of human evolution have turned eating into one of the chief ways we socialize. Reproduction has taken on the trappings of romance and love. I'd argue that life is richer as a result.
I've been striving all along for variety, and I've tried avocado gazpacho, raw marinara sauce, raw pesto, chickpea hummus (bleh), mock salmon pate (good, but rich thanks to the walnuts), various salads and dressings, and, on Saturday night, stuffed red peppers (an experimental recipe involving mushrooms, garlic, jalapeno, spinach, green onions, cilantro, tomato and cumin).
I've learned how to select and cut up a pineapple. My knife skills with fruit and vegetables have vastly improved. I learned that asparagus tastes pretty good raw, if you marinate it for a while in olive oil, lemon juice and salt. I've learned a lot, actually. And today I'm bored with all of it.
It's not about the vegetables though. In fact, the thing I most want to eat is a batch of veggie enchiladas that I found a recipe for last year in this cookbook. Naturally, they're not raw. But you'd better believe that's what I'll be making eight days from now.
But then again, too few to mention. This is a blog, though, so here they are anyway.
Actually, one of the most frequent questions people ask, aside from what I can eat, is what I miss eating.
Truth be told, there is definitely food I hanker for, and it's not what you might think. It's the little stuff.
I miss popcorn. When I went last week to see the Rolling Stones concert movie, "Shine A Light," the scent of popcorn was wickedly enticing.
I also miss tortilla chips. Eating guacamole with celery stalks, or a spoon, just isn't the same as that satisfying, salty crunch you get from a good tortilla chip. And when the chips are a little warm? Perfect. (I have seen recipes for raw chips, but I haven't had a chance to explore them yet.) For that matter, I sort of miss eating tortillas, too.
Cheese is another one, both on its own and as a condiment. I love a salad sprinkled with a little crumbled blue cheese.
And then yesterday, the warm weather ushered in a new tantalization: the smell of a cookout. Meat, veggie kabobs, corn -- it's all delicious off the grill.
On the other hand, though, there are plenty of raw enticements, too. I have a container full of raw fig newtons generously supplied by SJB (from a recipe she invented), and they're even better than the real thing.
Yesterday marked the halfway point in our raw-food experiment, and despite my day-to-day grumbling about various aspects of eating raw, it's gone by pretty quickly so far.
I've been mightily heartened by the support and encouragement we have received, both from friends and many colleagues and from people following along with the blog and posting comments. The recipes and exhortations have been a big help.
By the same token, though, the occasional bursts of zealotry from some quarters are off-putting. For example: Maybe it's time to rethink my values and qualities as they relate to food. Beg pardon? Or, coffee is a drug. Well that's just wrong. It's the seed from a little red berry that is harvested from plants, dried and roasted. (Maybe you're thinking of caffeine, which is a naturally occurring stimulant in coffee?)
Point is, that's the kind of judgmental nonsense that dampens enthusiasm for undertakings such as this one. I probably speak for all three of us when I say that we're not doing this for outside approval from rawer-than-thou snobs. This is a test to see whether a raw lifestyle is practicable for Eric, Cindy or Joann, and that makes it a very individual, very personal endeavor.
Glen put it in context in an e-mail he sent to us last night after a conference-call interview with Dhrumil from We Like It Raw. Glen noted that "raw food is not the end all," then continued, "Living a life with great relationships, a fun job and some raw food or no raw food can also create happiness and longevity. Your body tells you what is best if nothing else learn to listen to your body."