Raw Deal

by Dave Arnold

Because I lost a bet I went raw vegan for a week. No meat, fish, egg or dairy, and nothing that had ever been raised above 118 degrees F.

The Bet:

A while back on the radio I was trash-talking raw chocolate –chocolate whose component ingredients have never been heated above 118 F.  I contended that good raw chocolate was an impossibility because many of the characteristic flavors of chocolate develop during roasting, a process perforce over 118 F. I was so confident, I boasted I would eat raw-vegan for a whole week if someone could produce a raw chocolate even resembling real chocolate. I got hosed.  My ex-intern Grace brought me a bar of Fine & Raw Chocolate.  It wasn’t my favorite chocolate, and the texture wasn’t right (too soft), but it was clearly chocolate.

The chocolate that lost me the bet.

What I Thought Would Happen:

Any constraint you place on yourself is an opportunity to grow and learn.  Learning to prepare raw vegan food, I figured, would make me a better overall cook.  Problem is: raw vegan food is really hard to do well. I read ten different raw vegan cookbooks and very quickly realized that most recipes take a loooong time to make –like days — and have enough steps to make my sous-vide/rotovap/liquid-nitrogen and centrifuged concoctions seem simple. A typical recipe calls for sprouting wheat (a several day process) then soaking those sprouts in water for an additional day. That water takes on a fermented taste and forms a basic raw ingredient called rejuvelac. The rejuvelac is then blended (in a vita-prep, mind you, not your crappy home blender) with raw cashews that you’ve soaked for 12 hours. The resulting mixture is then allowed to strain and set up for another 24 hours in your fridge. What you are left with is cashew cheese. It tastes pretty good, but it should not be called cheese –it should have its own name. Yummy cashew paste?  Recipes like this aren’t technically difficult, but the time management was a pain  –  I usually allot about 15 to 30 minutes to produce dinner.

Though I had grand visions of the miraculous dishes I would create, only two came to pass.

Stuff I thought I would be great but didn’t try:

The rotovap: The rotary evaporator lets me do distillations well below 118 F.  I can take a raw vegan wine (wine was my savior on the week long raw stint), and turn it into a raw brandy to make honest-to-god raw cocktails.  I had a small amount of raw brandy lying around from an old experiment, so I took a swig, but because my rotovap is packed up right now, I couldn’t make any more. Drat. For more on rotary evaporation, see here.

The centrifuge: The centrifuge lets you clarify juice without ever heating it –another great plus for raw vegan cocktails.  I’m sure most raw foodists are used to consuming mass quantities of blended stuff, but give me a pure clear beverage any day. The centrifuge also excels at making nut milks (see here). Although we use hot water for our nut milks, you wouldn’t have to.  The yield is high — a huge plus when using expensive ingredients like raw organic nuts.  Raw foodies…. go buy a centrifuge!

Stuff I did try that I liked:

“Earl Grey” White Tea: I knew giving up caffeine cold-turkey would be problematic. I typically begin my day with two double espressos, and without them I am an ornery mess with a headache. You can’t have coffee on a raw diet even if you cold-brew because coffee is roasted. Ditto with most teas, which are fired at temperatures well in excess of the raw magic numbers — with one exception.  Silver needle white tea is the least processed tea,  sun- dried and then lightly fired at extremely low temperatures (like 110 F).  I bought some at Harney & Sons.

Two left photos: Silver Needle White Tea. On right: the custom ISI cream whipper given to me by Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog that I used for the infusion.

White tea is so delicate that even using conventional brewing temperatures, the beverage is light and not very robust.  Cold brewing does almost nothing.  Maybe the leaves are difficult to hydrate because they are less mechanically damaged than most tea leaves? I turned to N2O infusion, a technique I developed last year, to solve this problem.  It works like this: pressurized nitrous oxide (N2O) forces liquids into porous foods –in this case tea leaves– inside a whipped cream maker. That pressurized infused liquid picks up flavor quick. After a short amount of time you suddenly release the pressure in the whipped cream maker. The nitrous then bubbles violently and carries the flavor back out of the food again. More on the technique here. I didn’t measure the amount of tea I used per quart of water (I was too rattled by my lack of caffeine), but I can tell you that I used two N2O chargers per quart of water and let it infuse for 2 minutes under pressure. After I vented the the pressure I allowed the tea leaves to stay in the liquid for 1 hour, after which I drained the leaves and pressed out the liquid.  I got a pretty delicious tea.

The N2O infused White Tea.

I then added some raw honey and some funky lemon. What is a funky lemon? Some lemons in my fridge accidentally froze. I pulled them out, allowed them to thaw on my counter, and forgot about them for two days. I was going to throw them out, but when I gave them a sniff they reminded me of bergamot, the characteristic citrus flavor of Earl Grey tea. To see if I could replicate this result I froze some lemons on purpose and allowed them to thaw for a day and a half. Yep, bergamot.  What is happening: the freeze-thaw cycle damages the tissue in the lemon, allowing part of the juice an oil to “degrade” into stale juice, but the stale/fresh combo is somehow pleasant.  I did some preliminary research, and one of the four major aroma compounds in bergamot –(Z)-limonene oxide, is also a breakdown compound of air-aged lemon oil.  I need to do more experiments;  I have had interesting results with frozen and thawed fruits (apples, pears, persimmons, quince) for years but have never studied them in depth.

Funky freeze-thaw lemon. Note the tissue damage on the rind and the overall translucency of the fruit.

N2O infused silver needle white tea+raw honey+funky lemon=Raw Earl Grey=Dave not a complete monster.

Rapid infusion in general: Many raw food recipes for vegetables call for an extended soaking time in a flavorful liquid, like vinegar or sauerkraut juice, followed by a low temperature dehydration step.  The soaking does two things: 1. adds flavor; 2. removes some liquid from the vegetables through osmosis, making them less crisp and giving them more of a “cooked” texture, which is further accentuated by the low temp dehydration.  Mushrooms respond particularly well to this treatment, though many vegetables benefit –onions, peppers, zucchini, etc.  Flash infusion, either with a vacuum machine or with N2O infusion (if you don’t have a vacuum), or even Vacu-Vin flash infusion (see here) really accelerates the process.  I was able to prepare mushrooms in 1.5 hours instead of the 5 the recipe called for.  Win.

Stuff I tried that I hated:

Flax crackers: Man did these suck.  I soaked and blended flax seeds, sauerkraut juice (I didn’t have rejuvelac), and some other junk I can’t remember into a smooth paste and dehydrated them at 110 F for 24 hours.  Flax seeds are the go-to cracker-and-crust-making ingredient for raw foodists because the seeds grind to form a gummy paste that sets up stiff enough to dehydrate into a cracker. They were crispy enough when dry, but they were beyond bad when used as the base for raw vegan nachos.  They lost their texture and took on an unappetizing bleach-y aroma when wet. Now I know why all the commercial raw cracker manufactures over-flavor their wares with spices — gotta cover up the nasty flavor.  I  bought one brand of raw vegan cracker that I truly enjoyed and would eat anytime — Go Raw Flax Snax. Their stuff is all-sprouted.  Maybe that is why it’s better?

This brand actually tastes good.

Sprouts: I really dislike raw sprouts.  Nastassia and I sprouted 8 different seeds.  I hated them all.  They all tasted vaguely of poison.  I fed some to a health-loving chef-friend, and he said they were OK.  I made him taste twice to be sure he didn’t detect the poison flavor I was noting.  He didn’t. Please never bring an alfalfa sprout into my house, as they are a magic combo of probable contamination, poor texture, and bad taste. Crap on raw sprouts.

I hate sprouts.

So what did I eat most of the time?

Unless you are

-rich and can buy many prepared foods and go to nice raw restaurants all the time, or

-have enough time to go through the raw-food time-consuming recipe rigamarole, or

-someone for whom food is merely fuel

you are in for a shock when you go raw vegan.  Most mornings I  pounded all sorts of fresh fruit, which gave me a sugar high but sent me crashing hard mid-day.  I ate a lot of avocados.  A lot.  Avocados are the Jesus-fruit for raw foodists –they taste great and are high in fat.  My go-to meal was avocado/tomato (not in season, greenhouse grown, Campari tomatoes)/raw sauerkraut (another life-saver)/chopped onion/extra-virgin olive oil salad.  Because I own a vita-prep, I was able to make a corn soup and cauliflower soup from the Charlie Trotter/Roxanne Klein Raw cookbook.  Both were quick and ok, but left me wishing I had a big hunk o bread.  I eventually became so distraught at the food I was eating that I took the whole family out to Pure Food and Wine, Sarma Melngailis’ raw restaurant in New York.  It was the one good meal I had that week.

My first post-raw-vegan meal was a plate of barbecue brisket and ribs from Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, outside of Austin, Texas.   A healthy meat-detox after that week of veggie-binging.

Black's Barbecue: meat detox.

Raw Veganism, My Take:

Adherents of raw vegan-ism believe that food that hasn’t been cooked and is minimally processed contains active enzymes that are vital to our health and well-being. Typically, cooked food is seen as a form of poison to be avoided. Typical claimed benefits of this diet are an increase in energy, facility of weight loss, and the appearance of a healthy glow. Here are some specific claims, my responses, and some gripes:

  • Enzymes and the 118 F (or 106F, or whatever) rule: Almost all raw literature sites a temperature in this range as one at which enzymes are broken down.  This notion is simply not true. Some enzymes are denatured at those temperatures but many are not. Even enzymes that will denature at 118 F typically take a while to do so. Take beer as an example. To make beer you need malted barley –barley that has started to sprout, activating the enzymes (alpha and beta amylases), that break starches into sugars. Malted barley is invariably kiln dried well above 118F to develop flavor and preserve its enzymes. When it comes time to actually use those enzymes to make sugar, in a process called mashing, the temperature is usually between 140 and 158 degrees F.  Down at 118 F they just aren’t active enough.
  • It is a good idea to eat all sorts of active enzymes: First, your body makes all of its own enzymes. Secondly, even if you lacked enzymes, they, like all proteins, need to be broken down into short polypeptides to be absorbed through your small intestine.You can’t increase the enzyme count in your cells by eating enzymes because they aren’t absorbed into your bloodstream.  All the influence an eaten enzyme can have, therefore, happens in your mouth, stomach, and intestines. Some eaten enzymes are destroyed by the acid in your stomach and the native protease enzymes in your stomach and small intestine.  Those that make it through might have some beneficial effect, but I haven’t seen any (real) studies that show why.  Your intestines are teeming with living bacteria that produce loads and loads of enzymes that help break things down in your gut. The way I see it, obsessing over the few extra enzymes you get from raw food is like dumping water in the ocean to raise the tide.
  • Raw food is better, and everyone would eat that way if they knew enough or had enough willpower: I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t feel raw food is healthier in any way to cooked food.  I think you should eat what tastes good and is well prepared in moderate quantities.  Eating 3 pints of fresh blueberries because it is all you can find at the corner fruit stand that looks remotely appealing and you can’t sate your hunger ain’t healthier than having a piece of delicious baguette. Even if eating raw was not an imposition I would not do it.  I don’t see a valid health advantage, plus I am guided solely by taste.
  • Raw food helps you lose weight: I feel this is true.  You don’t digest raw food well. I don’t know how to put it politely. I’ll just say my body didn’t alter the raw food I ate very much; plus it made me an intestinal transit-time race car driver.
  • Raw food gives you energy: Not in my experience.  My energy took a steep nose dive during my week of raw food.  Even though I am 40 and non-athletic with two small kids, I am a pretty high energy guy.  Many people think I take meth-amphetamines because I get so wound up.  Raw food left me feeling like I had lead in my legs all the time.  I was told by a raw food friend that I have to do the diet longer than a week to see the benefits.  I suspect that after a couple of weeks your body goes into a starvation euphoria where you think you have a lot of energy.
  • Raw Food is more Natural: Not so fast. Most raw food recipes are highly processed, using dehydrators, high speed blenders, and expensive juicers.  That’s not a negative thing, but it isn’t “natural” either.  Furthermore, the raw diet isn’t natural for anyone that doesn’t live in a tropical or semi-tropical climate where good things that can be eaten raw grow year round. The raw diet, as it is now practiced, is elitist. It requires many expensive or difficult to source ingredients that usually can’t be sourced locally year round by most people.  Elitist diets aren’t bad, but they aren’t “more natural” than normal diets.  How can they be natural if they rely on modern transportation and farming techniques to make them possible?  As an aside, prepared raw food is preposterously expensive.  Almost everything I bought cost eight bucks.  A tube of cashew “cheese?” Eight bucks.  A tiny bag of raw chips? Eight bucks.  Miniature raw chocolate bar? Eight bucks.  And so on.
These 16 ounces juices cost more than 8 bucks. I'm not saying that the company is gouging. I'm sure their costs are high. I'm just saying raw food is expensive.
  • The Raw Glow: I am loath to put any credence into this claim but I will relate this incident 5 days into my raw diet.  I am a glow-in-the-dark translucently white guy who prefers the troglodyte life and avoids the sun like the plague it is. I was walking through the farmers market perusing the raw-food possibilities when a woman handed me a flier for a white water rafting company saying, “take this, you look out-doorsy.” Holy crap.  The raw-food glow.

58 thoughts on “Raw Deal

  1. “Any constraint you place on yourself is an opportunity to grow and learn.”

    The first thing to learn, in this case, is that betting is bad for you. 🙂

    Those cookies do sound awesome, though. It’s a shame that the experience has soured you on alfalfa sprouts…they can be pretty good, as a sandwich ingredient playing backup-singer to a proper application of various sliced-meat products.

    But hey…chacun a son gout, after all.

  2. For an interesting rebuttal to the central tenets of raw foodism, I would recommend Catching Fire, by Richard Wrangham. In defending his hypothesis – that the ability to cook allowed humans to evolve into their current state – Wrangham addresses and casually dismantles the main claims of raw foodists.

    1. I’ll third that… and don’t you hate it when someone posts a recommendation before you have a chance to do it yourself.

      Catching Fire is a great read, but it’s like a perfect crime. The hypothesis fits all the evidence but there is simply no proof that it is true… that said, I’m a believer.

  3. Could have been far worse, There is the raw paleo diet. Some versions of it involve eating nothing but raw organ meats i.e. tongue, heart, and many other things I couldn’t imagine chewing through.

  4. I did a raw produce detox diet for a month. I had avocado every day. My stomach felt better than it had eating cooked meats, but that just means you can eat less meat and feel the same way.

  5. “Raw Foodism” is basically calorie restriction with an animus. Rats also get a shiny coat when they’re starving. But they live forever, so I guess that’s good?

  6. I tried going vegan, but I probably couldn’t try raw vegan. It has it’s benefits, but you are right that it takes a lot of time, planning and preparation.

  7. In quite a few cases active enzymes can actually be bad for you too. For instance uncooked soybeans contain an enzyme (lectin) that strongly inhibits the absorption of protein.

    Raw foodisim is just another case of ignorant people talking loudly.

  8. Gah, this is hard! I was going to recommend an avocado smoothie (made with ice and sweetened condensed milk) but the milk made that neither raw nor vegan. Then tofu misozuke in place of yummy cashew paste as a cheese stand-in, but miso isn’t raw either.

    1. I know, right? Funny thing is I saw some raw food products that had miso as an ingredient. Either there is some sort of crazy raw kung fu that lets you make miso without steaming the rice for koji or cooking the beans/grains for fermentation, or the raw food companies aren’t always paying attention.

      1. AFAIK, miso is considered raw-with-reservations because it is a “living” food, as long as it is not pasteurized. Some sources cite it as an acceptable “transition food” from a cooked to a raw diet.

    2. Dave you are a brave man to say the least……

      There is this story about egg liqueur, which the Dutch call “Advocat”.
      Supposebly Ducht sailers learnd in their colonies about an alcoholic smoothy kind of drink made from avocados. They liked it a lot. (Prolly this stuff was raw and would have helped you as well….)
      Anyways back home the needed a substitute for avocados and chose egg yolks!
      ****triviva mode off*****

      BTW: sprouts are dangerous!
      Here in Germany nobody eats em any more (because of that nasty EHEC strain). LOL

      1. Hey wow, thanks, Schinderhannes. I never knew the connection. Presumably the Dutch’s cultivation of avocados in Indonesia then led to the non-alcoholic Indonesian avocado milkshake, which is pretty much how I grew up ingesting avocado in nearby Vietnam.

      2. Actually, Schinderhannes, I believe that is merely a retroactive folk etymology. The biggest piece of evidence against that popular story is that “advocaat” in Dutch translates to “lawyer” or “advocate” in English, not avocado. The OED backs this up, saying that the name for the liqueur is short for “advocatenborrel,” roughly meaning “a drink for lawyers”. Why lawyers? Their smooth, silver-tongued speech apparently required their esophaguses be slicked with a smooth, sweet egg and brandy drink to recuperate. The earliest source in OED is A. L. Simon Wines & Liqueurs from A to Z from 1935, so if anybody knows any Dutch sources, please spill y’r guts. This seems to be an often-debated etymology, and I’d love to get closer to the bottom of it.

        Also, after making several boozy avocado concoctions as a result of that story, I doubt that anyone would have been taken by the flavor or texture of them, especially without the benefit of a good blender. I suppose, however, that I cannot account for the tastes of the Dutch.

        Finally: disinfect your sprouts in gin. It’s a win-win. Safe sprouts, and gin sandwich.

  9. “Any constraint you place on yourself is an opportunity to grow and learn.”

    Thank you. I have otherwise intelligent friends who become huge babies the moment anyone mentions vegan, let alone raw and the like.

  10. What a great read! Props to you for holding up on your side of that bet, and really giving it a go. I think the raw food concept is cool and I genuinely enjoy many of the flavors and textures, but I agree it isn’t better, or more natural etc. It just is what it is. And incorporating all sorts of food styles into your diet is what makes eating fun and exciting. Thanks for just an awesome and frank post about your experience. Here’s to raw green drinks for breakfast, spicy peanut noodles for lunch and a nice steak on the grill for dinner.

  11. Hey now Mr. Arnold! Look at all the Raw Food ancient cultures out there. They’ve been eating cashew chese enzymes for millenia and are thriving and have such a low incident of desease and brains the size of watermelons. Ancient cultures like…hmm…like…well..I guess there are none.
    On a serious note, my favorite comment from youir post and one that I use often when I hear about this bullcrap is this: “The raw diet, as it is now practiced, is elitist”. Period.

  12. I came here from Savuer.com…and am I glad that I did.
    I love food, cooking, experimenting and health.

    I’m really interested in raw foods, and have been trying to eat mostly raw, while learning more about it.
    (But have yet to commit to any 100% change. I am so intrigued by the world of cooking, and cooked food in the world!)

    That being said, there are so many testimonies out there about raw foods helping people eliminate diseases and lose weight that it seems like a good thing. Esp. with the crazy cancer, diabetes, and obesity rates we have in this country.
    I have been making nasty raw breads and crackers, so I feel you on that one. Yet, as you experienced, there are great raw dishes out there, so I see hope in my raw foods future.
    Raw food preparation is crazily different from ordinary cooking, it’s been a challenge figuring it out myself, and I’ve been at it for a month! It’s slow going, so I don’t think you’d find it awesome in one week. It is a challenge, and in my opinion a fun and interesting one. At the least we’d all surely benefit from incorporating more raw foods into our lives.
    I’ve found troubles, like fatigue in the evening, and not sure if this is just the transitioning, or a lack of nutrients. I’m figuring it out though.
    I have been less hungry throughout the day and felt better about what I’m eating, believing it to be good for me, keeping me healthy, and keeping me from gaining weight.
    Thanks for sharing, and letting me converse.
    All the best,
    Laura in California

  13. I am neither raw, vegan nor carnivore but I have been experimenting with raw food since about 2 months now and I do feel that the first week was the most uncomfortable and unfunniest time…digestive problems, skin irritations, cravings etc. i just wanted to try an experiement with going 80-90% raw and still have my pulled pork burrito and sushi dinners. the experience turned out to be one of the best things i “allowed to enter” my life. i guess it would have been different if that decision was based on a lost bet. who likes to admit that losing was a “great” life-changing experience??? well, i actually just want to disagree with you on the money issue as far as “cooking” for yourself and not going out to raw restaurants concerns. there is great fresh, affordable produce at farmers market and at wholefoods you can prepare in less than 30 min (“mandolined” squash pasta with basilmacadamianut pesto topped with cherry tomato salsa and this f+*#ing awesome herb RAWMESAN that is worth spending 6 bucks – everything without dehydrating or sprouting). or you simply ENJOY playing around with foods, soaking grains or nuts. i wouldnt consider it “time consuming work” – more “planning/preparing”a day ahead. not a big deal really. hope u give it another un-cold turkey try one day if u are not the center of attention from your gloating bet-friends 😉

      1. They smelled great on the counter but did not make a sorbet that was noticeably different. Fun to try anyways.

        1. Howdy Paul,
          Thanks for the testing. Nose different, sorbet not. My question is, did you use the peels in the sorbet? Maybe the change is in the peel. Maybe the freeze-thaw doesn’t change the composition of the thing at all, but just makes different volatiles available to the nose while the fruit is still whole? More testing is in order.

  14. I am so impressed with how whole-heartedly you approached this bet and I appreciated your candid report back. There are a couple of raw vendors at the FM I go to and I’ve tried their stuff out of curiosity and the best that I could ever say was “this isn’t half bad”. The cost and prep time sound ridiculously prohibitive. Hahaha the first thing that came to mind when reading this was the scene from Grandma’s Boy when they go to the raw restaurant and Shiloh says “Go eat a hamburger and choke on a cow dick!” Btw my only issue with your post is that you chose to break your raw-fast with bbq from Black’s. If you were that close to Austin, you should have hit up Franklin!

    1. Howdy Sunny,
      I will make sure to go next time…. and try to check out Grandma’s Boy.

  15. Yes you are right on so many points. Having been trained as a raw food chef, I must admit that many if not most of the recipes out there in raw food “cook books” lack much in terms of flavor and texture. This was one of the reasons I went to FCI.. to learn more about food and cuisine. And I did.

    You are right that chocolate is tough raw.. because it is naturally bitter… however there are a few ways that actually make it taste good…. but they are not in a candy bar form, but more of a truffle or cake/ pudding format… However raw desserts are generally better if in tart or fruit or ice cream or gelato format … It’s just the nature of the beast …

    Also in case you are interested, there are easier ways to make raw or fermented cheeses, etc … instead of rejuvalic , use a probiotic.. the contents of one pill will do the trick …. there is less risk of it turning and its simpler…

    Most raw food people are not 100% raw, however will consider themselves 100% if they eat 80% raw…. Having spent alot of time in the raw vegan community I know this is true. I think that they just want to eat healthy and get more veggies …. and in harvest season or summer this is way easier than in winter.

    Molecular gastronomy is fascinating because it brings a different texture and balancing component to foods that do not need to be cooked. There are a great many recipes and menus that have yet to be discovered with this approach. I am very interested in it, and hope that we could chat more about it sometime.

  16. Raw foodism is a concern because it allows many women a way to justify their anorexia. It’s a serious medical problem. In 2006 my yoga class all agreed to go raw and several travelled to a place in Puerto Rico, a “spa” that would guide you for 3 weeks in the change. On return most told troubling stories about how the “nutritionists” encouraged disordered eating. Of the 2 that kept it up, they lived mostly on these cookie-like objects made with agave syrup, which we know is little different than HFCS. Not at all natural. But even as your nutritional deficiencies pile up, and your body consumes your own muscle, you’re flying on agave syrup. After the last remaining lady was actually hospitalized(!) she was told she had been living on only 1080 calories a day, 800 from agave syrup.

  17. Hey Dave –

    Not to pick the flyshit out of the pepper, but by adding honey to your tea, you welshed on the bet.

    Honey is an animal product, after all, and therefore verboten in a truly raw vegan diet…

    But good on you for following through on the bet, and reporting your experiences.

    As an aside: any chance you and your team could take the time to dispel the myths about wheat gluten? I know it’s a serious problem for celiac sufferers, but c’mon, it’s really getting out of hand. Dontcha think?

    1. Howdy Chris,
      It is true that pepper just doesn’t taste the same without the flyshit.
      Gluten intolerance is an interesting subject. I have no question in my mind that the instances of real food allergies are increasing in this country. I am also convinced beyond doubt that there is a huge swelling of BS fake allergies out there that are disguising personal dislikes or crazy, unwarranted, food beliefs. I, like most cooks, used to scoff at peoples allergies until I developed a cherry allergy at the age of 31 that has sent me to the hospital twice. I believe the allergy is punishment for talking so much crap about other people’s allergies. Cherries were my favorite fruit. Anyway, I don’t know how to sort the fact from the fiction and I always treat someone’s food allergy as deadly serious because you never know.

  18. Back when I was an anthropology student, and not a chef, it was taken for granted that the concept of a raw food diet was contrary to human evolution; most anthropologists believe that cooking foods allowed a caloric boost that allowed evolutionary brain development (brains are the most calorie-hungry thing we’ve got) unattainable from an the caloric intake provided by raw foods.

    Dave, your impression that food was not being completely digested is correct. A casual recollection of one study (forgive my ballpark numbers) is that most foods go from around 20% digestability raw to around 60% when cooked.

    So yes, you will lose weight on a raw food diet, because even if your caloric consumption remains the same, the calories absorbed by your body are significantly lower.

    $8 crackers… and you need three times as many!!!




  19. In my experience, many raw foodies, vegans, fruitarians, and people with similarly restricted diets have eating disordered tendencies which are glorified by the “healthy” diets they follow. It’s a sad thing.

  20. dave,

    i’d love to blow your mind with a raw chocolate explosion. email me if you dare to get delicious.

  21. Can quinces put through a home freeze-thaw cycle be eaten out of hand, like bletting on a convenient schedule?

    1. Howdy Ben W,
      Harold McGee and I have run separate tests on this phenomenon. That was several years ago, but my memory is “qualified yes.”

  22. You had quite an experience! There are some interesting raw desserts out there. I am a ‘flexitarian’. I don’t advocate any one particular diet 100%. I eat one raw, vegan meal a day and usually have a ‘green’ smoothie for breakfast. For the 3rd meal, I eat whatever I feel is the most nutritious, in season, and that I’m wanting. The raw style takes some practice, but can be very easy once you get the hang of it. I don’t dehydrate or do any fancy, smancy stuff. I blend and I do juice every now and then. I feel the most healthy by varying my intake and finely tuning in to what my body tells me it needs!

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  23. Fantastic blog post. I am in awe of you gadgetry. I realize raw vegan is for martyrs. A revelation about freezing and thawing fruit and the bergamot info was as good as smelling bergamot.

  24. Interesting blog!
    I have a friend who used to “be” different variations of vegetarian and vegan. She claimed that it was a form of eating disorder or OCD, as she became obsessed with what she ate, almost to the exclusion of going to work or doing anything else. from your description of some of the techniques for food preparation, I can believe that. I endeavor to be as widely fed an omnivore as I can, so I appreciate the variety shown in your blog.
    I came here from Anarchangel, btw.

    1. Anarchangel is an interesting site. i once got lost for a couple of hours sifting through the Glock posts. My wife won’t let me own any guns, but I like reading about them.

  25. Oh, thank god for the pseudoscience rebuttals at the end of this blog post – I was starting to get worried that the philosophy as a whole wouldn’t be addressed 😉

    By the way, a notable mention at the end of the post re: fermented foods and the recent studies finding various carcinogens (which are naturally produced, depending on method of fermentation) – as well as higher incidence rates of gastric cancer in cultures that eat a lot of fermented items (Korean) – at the end of the post would have been really ironic!

    Re: sprouts – did you try pea sprouts? These are all over the west coast (and unheard of on the east coast), and they’re pretty much the only sprouts that I like (other than the occasional super hot radish sprout on my sushi). These (and the radish) aren’t really sprouts however, unless you count 2-3 inch long seedlings (probably grown longer than two weeks, so out of the question for this experiment) cut off from the seed as still being sprouts. They’re sweet and taste like milder versions of snow peas (raw), imo. Alfalfa’s gross, and a lot of other grains make rancid, musty, odd tasting sprouts. If pea sprouts/shoots don’t do it, then you probably have a sprouts=poison mutation in your taste buds 😉

    Thanks again for another informative and amusing blog post (I came away mostly with ideas for frozen lemons, as well – great find!)

    1. Howdy Andrea,
      I am the only person I know who doesn’t like pea shoots. I can see why people like them, but I can’t get passt the raw taste. They definitely don’t taste poisonous like many other sprouts.

      I have heard the Korean-Kimchee-Cancer link, but have never seen the studies. I should do the research.

  26. When I was 16, I became a vegan for 8 years. For long stretches of that time I lived on raw food only. I was always miserable, but I was too young, dumb, and idealistic realize I was making myself ill. I was brainwashed by the raw/vegan propaganda machine (trust me – its out there). By the time I gave it all up, I had acquired a chronic illness known as irritable bowel syndrome. Its an autoimmune disease that is extremely painful. It took a doctor, a naturopath, a chinese doctor, an herbalist, and a dietician to convince me to give up the diet. When I began to eat four food groups again and cook the two that I used to eat only raw, I began to heal from the illness. Full recovery took a few years; I am now 33. Eating raw vegan is extremely difficult in every imaginable way. Out of all of the long term raw vegans I’ve ever known (and I’ve known many), the diet either made them sick, or they felt better when they quit. If you’re someone who is in it for the health benefits, I think a week, or maybe a month, may be the learning experience or exercise in discipline you are looking for; but don’t be fooled: There is just no way that going 100% raw vegan can be good for you. On the other hand, add some raw meat, and you just might be on to something. Oh and PS: this is a great post, thank you.

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