Last week I decided to be Raw. Maybe because I’ve been sick off and on for the past four months, whereas before I got sick maybe once every two years- maybe because I always find ways to sneak sugar into my diet and Raw Foodism is a diet of such restriction that I wouldn’t even notice the missing sugar what with the missing Food and all- maybe because I really like those expensive raw crackers that taste like coconut curry- maybe because the only raw vegetable I eat is kale- maybe because I live in the land of privilege and my foodstamps just got refilled.
Also, maybe, because the Raw Food movement is the new Veganism, and is populated by the same moralistic, self-righteous individuals that that once defined Veganism, striving for superpowers and desperate for representation in the Snack Food Aisle, and, well, it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to be one of the Chosen People. (I was only vegan for two years, quit when I was 22.)**
For those of you who don’t know what Raw Foodism is (and good for you, there are better things to look up online) it’s a newfangled, purely modern way of eating (much like Veganism, the western diet too, come to think of it) that has absolutely nothing to do with what sort of good solid dirt you live on, what it can grow and when, what the people who used to live there and be healthy (before your great-grandparents killed almost all of them) ate, also what the weather is like, and how many hundreds of dollars you’re willing to spend each month on powdered pond scum and out-of-season cucumbers. We’re a bunch of displaced people milling about on a piece of dirt in a very globalized world, so not only do we not remember what to eat, but we have access to absolutely anything that might be edible (fundz withstanding). Raw Foodists eat these things-
-raw nuts and seeds (coconut meat and oil, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, etc.)
aaaaaaaaand that’s it.
But just open any raw “cookbook” and you’ll see- it’s not just nuts and vegetables- it’s PIZZA! And LASAGNA! And CHOCOLATE CAKE! (It’s like veganism ten years ago- trying so hard not to feel deprived!)
So why do people do it? One word- Superpowers. Or maybe it’s the fountain of youth. The holy grail? Desperation? All of the above? Look at raw food blogs (don’t look at them, please) and you’ll notice a consistent demographic- do I have to tell you or can you guess? It’s those white people again, but not just any white people- but that very certain sliver of white people, a sliver that grows larger every day- desperate white people, scrambling all over each other for the last bits of unpolluted earth and good clean air and the will to get out of bed in the morning, WHATEVER IT TAKES AT ANY COST, clawing each others’ hair out and blowing whole trust funds in the name of being the last one left without cancer in the year 2025.
How fun would that be, really? Skipping along the filthy gray streets post-apocalypse, blank-eyed children sifting lethargically through the ash, their bodies covered in tumors- and you just wave merrily as you pass, stopping to admire your reflection in a broken pane of bank-glass, thinking- “I just have the best skin! And my senses just feel so alive!”
Or maybe that’s what it feels like right now, when I go read these raw foodist’s blogs. (Don’t read them. Please.)
And how better to understand a people, than to join their ranks? To walk among them, to eat cucumbers in February, to toil along with them as they search out the very Rawest sunflower seed? And so I bring you- my short-lived foray into Raw Foodism.
I have friends who fast. Like, they don’t eat any food for a few days, just fruit juice, and it makes them feel terrible, but then at the end they feel amazing, and apparently it’s because fasting gets rid of things that have built up in your system (environmental contaminants from food and water and air and stuff.) But I don’t fast. I CAN’T fast. I’ve tried, and it makes me feel I’m dying. That’s because I’m hypoglycemic, and fruit juice, having been separated from the fiber of the fruit (which slows the absorption of the sugar into your body) is essentially refined sugar. So fasting makes me feel like I’ve eaten nothing but gummy bears and redvines for three days, which, if you asked my pancreas, is exactly what’s going on. And my poor pancreas- chugging along on one cylinder, held together with baling wire after 14 years of eating nothing but jolly ranchers and little debbies with the occasional Whopper Jr. supplement (aka my childhood). And still, still I find ways to punch my poor pancreas in the face- pilfering one too many chocolate-covered almonds from the bulk bins, eating 25 dried apricots at once on an empty stomach. And in the morning my poor little pancreas has to explain its new black eye to the other organs- again– “I fell down some stairs! Walked into a rib!” When really, what’s going on is long-term abuse and addiction. Why is it that everyday, we beat the shit out of the one human body we have complete control over- our own?
So I can’t fast. But I wanted to CLEANSE! God, that is such a weird word. CLEANSE! BE CLEAN! PURE! It reeks of eating disorders and Catholicism (aka my teenage years). But seriously, I’ve been feeling somewhat rundown lately, and I know that it’s because I live in the city now. And I want to stay here, for longer than, like, three months, so I want to find a way to keep my health up so I don’t freak out and leave. And I thought, hell, if you can’t live in a beautiful pure green forest nature wonderland, why not bring a pure green forest nature wonderland to your internal organs? Because that is what Raw Foodism seems like to me. Like trying to do permaculture in your colon, or doing a tree-sit to save the last of your liver. And if it “cleaned out my system” and gave me more energy, heck- it’s cheaper than going to the natropath!
A fast, but without punching my pancreas in the face.
But really I just wanted superpowers.
So the first thing I had to do was confront the cultish bullshit of Raw Foodism in order to figure out what I could even eat. I got a “cook”book for this, a big heavy one with nice glossy pages, and in its extensive, rambling, incoherent introduction, I encountered such claims as this- that “traditional people” “thrived” on a diet of nuts and seeds and fruits and vegetables- and I thought, “Yeah, earlier hominids did! Like 2 million years ago! And then they figured out how to make spearpoints and learned to kill animals and evolved into homo sapiens, which is what we are!” and also all the weird weighted terminology for food- all good food was “live”, all gross, icky, clogging, impure food was “dead”- (much like early veganism.) I finally found the recipes in the big, heavy book, and was relieved to see a good assortment of cracker recipes- remember how much I like those expensive raw crackers that taste like coconut curry. I mean, I already eat the raw kale, so I needed to know what else. And crackers, I could do that. No matter they were made out of germinated flax seeds and powdered carrot instead of grains. I could eat a cracker.
So then I dropped a small fortune (aka a whole month’s foodstamps) at the store to buy big bags of raw almonds and flaxseeds and hazelnuts and apples and celery and more kale and tahini (which I don’t even like), and whatnot. Oh, and that brings me to my next point-
I HATE NUTS.
Like, really kind of dislike them, and more every day. If you ever ride trains and hitch-hike for five years in a row, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. And for a good three years of that, I’d say about a quarter of my total calories came from nut butter.
Peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter (which is not so bad)…. And the very worst part of it, is that no matter how fucking sick you think it is, it tastes good when you’re hungry.
Not that I can digest it. I can’t. When I eat nuts it makes me feel like my colon is full of compost, and I’ve only in the last year admitted this fact to myself. They just sort of sit in my stomach and rot. Gross!
But when you’re a pure Raw Foodist, you soak all your nuts! Which makes them more digestible!
Or not. I’ve tried that, and my body still hates them.
So I filled my one remaining bicycle pannier with supplies, and strapped a borrowed dehydrator in a cardboard box onto my bike rack. I was ready! At home I soaked sunflower seeds and flax seeds, hazelnuts and almonds, and made my daily kale salad even bigger than normal. I dried out some crackers (which came out too oily) whipped up a batch of sprouted hummus, and then Monday was my First Raw Day.
The first half of the day was fine. My body was too confused trying to figure out what to do with the sprouted hummus and kale I’d eaten for breakfast to feel much hunger. Actually, I had tons of energy. But that’s probably just because I’m awesome.
Then, in the late afternoon, at a friend’s house, I became very much hungry. No matter! I had a jar of tahini with me, and a nice head of celery! YUUUUUUUUUMM! Four twigs of celery, a quarter of a jar of tahini, two apples and a grapefruit later, I felt better… for a minute. Then, I just felt hungry again! So I ate some raw crackers. And… hunger! Yep, still hungry! I decided to ignore it, and my friends and I went to the soaking pool at the Kennedy School. At which point I realized, it wasn’t just the hot water making me feel slurry! My blood sugar had dropped through the floor! What I needed, was protein! And fast! Thankfully, there was a grocery store right next door, and I bought myself a nice quarter of roasted chicken. The dark meat part. And ate it, standing next to my bike, in the rain. And then I ate the rest of my crackers. And then I finally felt normal again. Except, my stomach felt fucking weird. And composty. From all those crackers. Which were really made out of nuts.
Undeterred, I went home and whipped up another batch of raw snacks (germinated buckwheat tossed with pulverized soaked almonds, cinnamon, and cayenne) and spread it in the dehydrator to “bake” overnight. I went to bed and fell, at last, into a fitful sleep, my stomach gurgling and clenching, my throat dry and hot.
I woke up at three a.m. to drink some water, and heard the most curious of sounds. It was a sort of popping, like- bubblewrap! But no, it couldn’t be bubblewrap- not at this hour, and not coming from the bathroom! (my bedroom is right next to the bathroom). The sounds went on for a good hour or so- loud, intermittent popping, and at last I was asleep again.
I woke up bright and early, feeling crabby, hungry, and hungover. I shuffled to the kitchen to check my buckwheats and mull over my breakfast prospects. I popped a soaked hazelnut in my mouth, and my stomach flip-flopped, kicking me- Stop doing that! Don’t you remember, on the train?! You HATE nuts!!! I prodded the buckwheaties, hungry. They were still damp. This dehydration was slow business. And not only that, but they were starting to smell kinda yeasty, like they were beginning to ferment. I stuck one in my mouth. It tasted totally sick. Sighing, I made a bowl of miso soup and sat down to stalk some peoples’ blogs.
At which point my housemate S came out of his bedroom, clutching his tummy and moaning. He’d been up all night, vomiting! With food poisoning! Oh no, I thought, remembering that I’d had him try one of my raw crackers the night before. Did I poison him? No, he said, it was some old meat that did it.
“Was that you last night? The noise I heard?” He nodded. He’d been puking and shitting, sometimes both at once, and he’d wanted to put some plastic down on the floor of the bathroom, just in case, but all he had was this bubblewrap…
S. went back into his room to suffer, and I wandered back over to the buckwheaties. The bottom tray was nearly dry, maybe I could eat those? I didn’t feel like I could stomach any kale, not this early… but what to do for milk?
My cookbook had the answer to that! Why, “Nut Mylks”, is what! I had those soaked hazelnuts, and a few leftover germinated sunflower seeds of questionable freshness, so I tossed them into the blender with some water to make “mylk”. The resulting slurry was, at first taste, creamy and delicious, and at second taste, totally made of nuts, aka revolting. I poured it down the drain, mourning my loss of fundz, and ate some buckwheaties plain. Then, admitting to myself that the buckwheaties were fermenting faster than they were dehydrating, I said FUCK IT! And poured them into a baking pan, shoving it in the oven at 340 degrees, to BAKE, thus ended my fearless and daring foray into Raw Foodism forever.
But wait! Afterwards I spent two hours on the internet, reading the above-mentioned blogs, trying to figure out how people get around the you-can’t-live-on-nuts thing, and I learned a couple of FASCINATING FACTS.
Fact number one- Some people call fasting “feasting”. As in, “I just did a sixty day juice feast!” To these people I say- “Where I come from, we call that an eating disorder!”
Fact number too- HOLY SHIT- Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (trendy condiment of post-vegetarians, a million kudos to you if you’ve never heard of the stuff) is made by soaking soybean “slurry” (aka agricultural waste) in a vat of hydrochloric acid and then adding baking soda. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And it also contains Glutamate, as in Monosodium Glutamate, which is why it tastes salty. The label used to read “no MSG”, but then the FDA made them take that part off. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Patricia Bragg, you can take your fox stole and shove it! (too bad I bought the economy-sized bottle.)
Also, did you know that I need glasses? Yeah, apparently it’s not normal to only be able to read a streetsign from six feet away. Another indicator- every day I get a little more irritated by how small the print in books is. Donations to the “Eyeglasses for Nearsighted Root Vegetables” fund graciously accepted. Button on the left.
Also, did you know I’m one of the top three finalists for “Best Lesbian Gender-Bender Blog” on The Lesbian Lifestyle? There’s not much gender on my blog, but hey! I like winning things! Voting starts Wednesday!
Footnote: I had S’s permission to write the part about the bubble wrap
**I don’t have anything against vegans- on the contrary- I have the most endless, bottomless respect for anyone who can muster the energy to find something not to be apathetic about