From the Cooked to the Raw: An Experiment in Eating

Article by Amanda Skinner, published in the July/August newsletter: Raw Food

If you hate cooking, you’ll love raw. Raw means not heating food above 105 – 118⁰ as this damages the nutrients and minerals and can make food harder to digest. That means no steaming, boiling, sautéing, broiling, baking, frying or any of the other creative processes I was used to. None of the ingredients are pasteurized, homogenized, genetically modified, or otherwise compromised.

Levi Strauss wrote about the raw and the cooked as a way of describing what was found in nature and what is formed by human culture. At first glance, our home culture didn’t involve many processed foods. The challenge of eating raw for a week opened my eyes to how many processed foods we actually ate and helped me re-examine our relationship with food.

Our kids’ snacks were off limits. Coffees and teas were also off the menu (help, I thought!). Bread and all the other baked goods that peppered our week were out. And as much as I love cooking, there are days when I just throw the fallback meal together (the one where I know we will be full and I know I have the ingredients), or we eat out. Those options were not available.

Where we found our ingredients also changed. Beyond our home, the food culture is largely processed, in some cases more heavily than others. The majority of supermarket goods are processed, and a large number of those contain genetically modified organisms which are strictly off the table, so to speak, in the raw diet. Unless the produce was raw and organic, I wasn’t buying.

After some rushed research and some serious produce purchasing at the coop (thank you bulk section!) I figured I could at least get us through the first day. I knew I had to soak nuts (to release enzymes and make them more digestible) and I had a vague idea about sprouting seeds (studies have shown this increases proteins, B vitamins, and amino acids). I knew people used dehydrators (but did not have a spare few hundred $ to buy one), and was convinced of the importance of a good food processor or blender.

Despite all this, day one was abysmal.

Breakfast was put on hold when I discovered we had no cheesecloth to drain the pulp from the almond milk. I packed the kids into the car to pick up cheesecloth before they had hunger meltdowns. Did I mention there was no coffee for me during my raw week? The rest of the morning was spent preparing and researching lunch and dinner and made day one exhausting.

We made it through day one, in fact we made it through a week with zero processed foods. Some of the meals were abject failures – we spent one meal choking back blended cabbages masquerading as soup. Other meals were amazing and filling.

Eating 100% raw food completely challenged the culture we had formed around food in our home. We genuinely felt better about food because we were making such a conscious effort to eat better food. Although it was frustrating to let go of the old culture of cooking, the new culture of soaking, blending, marinating, sprouting, and drying offered fresh possibilities.

Making that cultural shift at home was not as hard as I had thought. Making a broader cultural shift will be harder. Eating out is impossible on a raw diet, and visiting with friends and family mean salads and veggie sticks, which is why now we are about 80% raw. I haven’t had a cup of coffee since our raw week began and I don’t miss it.

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