News article published via TimesUnion…
Raw Power: Uncooked Food Diet Blends Health, Taste and Texture Into a Way of Life
Teshna Beaulieu typically starts her day with watermelon or sliced avocados and cucumbers topped with lemon juice, sea salt and tomatoes. Her beverage of choice is fresh coconut milk. The East Chatham chiropractor's routine doesn't change much as the day goes along. She eats a variety of salads for lunch and dinner, often adding fresh vegetables or seaweed. She snacks on nuts. Beaulieu almost never uses her oven or stove. The blender is the kitchen appliance she turns to most.
Welcome to the raw food diet. Beaulieu prefers to call it the raw food way of life, because diet implies a weight-loss program. For Beaulieu, who started eating raw foods 15 years ago, and many others, it's a lifestyle choice. "As the years go by I do it more and more. I feel better with it," she says. "When I eat raw food I don't feel tired after a meal. When I eat cooked food, I feel heavier and more tired." Raw food means exactly that — almost. Proponents of a raw food diet primarily eat uncooked fruits and vegetables. They also consume nuts and grains, oftentimes made edible with soaking that in some cases causes sprouting. However, many raw food enthusiasts use a dehydrator to "cook" certain foods.
Dismissed by some as a fringe fad or extreme vegetarianism, raw food entered the mainstream during the past decade when exclusively raw food restaurants began popping up in California and New York. Raw food received a ringing endorsement in 2003 when heralded Chicago chef and restaurateur Charlie Trotter co-authored a gorgeous cookbook called "Raw" (Ten Speed Press). A celebration of food in its natural state, "Raw" contains 70 color photographs of beautiful, mouth-watering dishes that were prepared without cooking.
"I believe that in the not-too-distant future all serious chefs and home cooks will have a decent understanding of how to prepare raw and living foods and have at least several raw dishes in their repertoire," Trotter writes in the introduction to the cookbook. "This is a way of eating that embraces healthful living, of course, but it is also a wonderfully exciting approach to food preparation that opens up fresh ways to celebrate flavor and texture."
While considered cutting edge, the raw food movement has in fact been around for half a century. Ann Wigmore, a self-taught nutritionist, began promoting it at her Midwest alternative health institute in the 1950s. It wasn't until the past decade, however, that raw food proponents found themselves on the covers of national publications like the Sunday New York Times Magazine. It always helps, of course, when celebrities are on board. Supermodel Carol Alt, musician Wynton Marsalis and actor Woody Harrelson are among the most prominent names touting the benefits of raw food. Raw food is actually more involved than its name implies, especially when the goal is to prepare dishes that are as appealing to the eye as they are to the palate.
The recipes in "Raw," for example, can't be considered easy to replicate. Even if you do have access to fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, try whipping together a dinner of stuffed squash blossoms with curried parsnip puree and tobacco onions the next time you're yearning for a quick meal. In addition to blenders and juicers, most raw food advocates employ a dehydrator to "bake" bread and other foods. Nothing is heated above 118 degrees, however. This is critical to the raw food way of life. The theory is that essential enzymes are destroyed at temperatures above 118, and these enzymes need to be properly digested. This is where raw food proponents run into trouble, so to speak. As pure and impressive as fruits, vegetables and nuts are in their unadulterated state, the nutritional benefits of not cooking is controversial at best.
Katherine Tallmadge, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, has called the diet "dangerous." She believes certain segments of the population — pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems — would be well advised to limit their intake of raw foods. "The idea that cooked food is toxic is absurd. There's absolutely no science to back that up," Tallmadge says. "The (raw food) diet is protein-deficient and nutrient-poor." [This is not true or accurate.]
A Long Debate
Try and convince a raw food enthusiast of that and you may be in for a long debate. Alexandra Miller is a private chef in central Vermont who learned the art of raw cuisine while working as a spa chef in the Caribbean. She adopted it for herself, but during a recent pregnancy found that she couldn't maintain an exclusively raw diet. Dry toast was one of the few foods she could keep in her stomach during bouts of morning sickness. Now that she's breast-feeding she's back to a full-fledged raw diet. "I get all of my iron and calcium through seaweed and nuts and nutritional juices. There's a lot of calcium in lemons and yellow and red peppers."
Miller believes she can tell a raw food follower when she sees them. It's that obvious. "When people are all raw they tend to glow. Your energy level is so high because your body's not clogged up trying to process all this food," she says. "You see things and see things clearer." The restaurateur most credited with making raw food popular is Roxanne Klein, the co-author with Trotter of "Raw." In 2002, the Californian opened a high-end raw food restaurant north of San Francisco in Larkspur called Roxanne's. It quickly became one of the most difficult reservations in a restaurant-rich region and was the most serious raw-food restaurant in northern California. The following year, Klein added a to-go outlet to the restaurant which became even more popular than Roxanne's. Last August, she closed "Roxanne's" while keeping open the raw food to-go venture.
Neither Beaulieu nor Miller is actively trying to convert friends to a raw food lifestyle, although each is raising her child on a raw food diet. "When people come to my house, they know they're going to get a big salad," Beaulieu says. "For dinner, I might make some winter squash for guests or some steamed greens. I don't like cauliflower and broccoli raw too much. I prefer them a little lightly steamed. Asparagus, too. But all of these can be eaten raw."
Corn-Jicama Salad with Avocado Puree
Makes 4 servings
From "Raw" by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein (Ten Speed Press)
1/4 cup jicama cut into 1/8-inch cubes
1/4 cup sweet corn kernels
1/4 cup unpeeled English cucumber cut into 1/8-inch cubes
1/4 cup peeled Asian pear cut into 1/8 -inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 avocado, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup filtered water
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 lime segments, membrane removed and cut into thirds
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons micro mint leaves
2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
Combine jicama, corn, cucumber, pear, oil, lime juice, jalapeno, mint, and parsley.
In a high-speed blender combine the avocado, lime juice, water and puree until smooth.
Whisk lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Stir in lime segments.
Spoon a line of puree down the center of the plate. Spoon 2 additional lines, perpendicular to the first line across the plate. Spoon some of the salad parallel to the first line, left on where the lines intersect. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and around the plate. Sprinkle with the parsley, mint and lime zest.