Sunday, March 28, 2010

In Defense of Raw Food


Ashley from (never home)maker came up with the brilliant idea to set up a a foodie book club last month, connecting foodie bloggers across the internet under one united banner of obsession... food! We'll be reading one book a month, and connecting via Ashley's website to see what everyone has to say about it. Considering that pretty much everything I've been reading for the past two years has been food related, I was excited to be able to share my experiences with both fellow food bloggers and now all of you. So here goes:


The first book on our list was Chef Anthony Bourdain's The Nasty Bits, a collection of essays and works on his food adventures and misadventures. I have to say overall, it was a very entertaining read: full of witty dry humor, and for the most part was very intelligently written. His introduction on seal meat reminded me so much of my own experiences with strange, exotic dishes from my non-vegan, vegan, and now raw days, and I love the absolute joy and respect he gives to food and travel.

However, it's probably because of his respect for culture and food, that Bourdain felt he had to take quite a nasty stab at the raw food diet. I understand he's a chef and was trained in a certain way, but I couldn't help but feel he had a total lack of understanding for the psyche of a raw foodist. I'm glad (or perhaps feel somewhat vindicated) that I wasn't the only person to notice this. Molly over at the Particular Kitchen commented on his bashing of vegetarianism/ veganism/ raw foodism too. Now I know I could have taken that passage lightly, and I tried, I did. I thought "hey, this is going to be Bourdain's funny take on raw food', but a humorous essay quickly became down right insulting. What I ended up finding (yet again) is that the person who really criticizes the raw food diet often calls the raw foodist close-minded because they themselves are close-minded, or perhaps, that they feel that their way of life, their very existence, is threatened and at risk by something they don't understand.

He totally failed to understand the true nature of the raw food diet during his travels to Thailand. To recap: he dined with a a group of people including raw foodist and actor, Woody Harrelson, who was eating a green papaya salad. To Bourdain, Harreslon was being totally close-minded and culturally intolerant, while everyone else was 'taking pleasure in all the culinary treasures of Thailand'. He then went on to bash the raw food diet, saying it was the end of culture, taste, and food presentation, and I just had to say. Stop. Wait a minute. A) It's not. B) Harrelson IS taking absolute pleasure in Thai food, just not in the way Bourdain sees it. You see, a raw foodist can enjoy the purity of food without having to do anything to it. We don't need a sauce, we don't need to fry our food to make the tastes come out, or mangle it, or steam it for exactly thirty seconds and then pan sear it, or who knows what else. We can go to Thailand or wherever and taste for ourselves how succulent local mangos are, how thirst quenching local coconut water is, how refreshing and enlivening a local green papaya salad is. Do you see where I'm going with this? Is the raw food diet not also taking the utmost joy in the food of a native land? Is this not the ultimate respect of food to be eating it as is, as nature intended? Eating raw foods goes beyond the ego-driven need for culture. It enables us to enjoy them in their most natural, primary state in a way I'm not sure many non-raw foodists can (that's why many on a mainstream diet eat dried or frozen fruits with sugar added of all things, and why the word "umami" even came into existance... because of MSG).

Like I said, since going raw, I've been enable to fully experience the countries I've traveled to 'despite' (as Bourdain would say) my new dietary crutch. I've had fresh salsas, guacamole, chili peppers, corn, honeys, raw fruit pastes, and the most amazing fresh salads and fruits in Mexico this summer. I've had melons that taste like sun and raw sorbets that taste like liquid light in the South of France. The list goes on...

Do I say stop cooking your food? No, I'm certainly not that intolerant. In fact, I can still appreciate a well-put together menu by just reading it. I can smell, see, and still take pleasure in cooked food without having a need to eat them anymore. I can still appreciate the skill, love, effort, work, etc. that was put into making a particular dish whether it was cooked or not. It's just not the only way. Raw food is respect and love for food. In fact it goes beyond that, it is also respecting and loving the environment, our bodies, and the foods we eat, just as nature made them!

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