(Raw) Food for Thought

Wake up and smell the rawvioli. The raw food movement is going
mainstream. What used to be an outlandish proposition — subsisting
on a diet with no cooked food — is slowly catching on with the
general public. ‘Raw food used to be an exotic diet and lifestyle,’
says author David Wolfe, quoted by Becca Campbell and Ritzy Ryciak
Conscious Choice. ‘Now it has opened up
and is more accessible.’

The biggest change in uncooked culture has been in the
perception of raw food as an all-or-nothing lifestyle choice. Raw
food advocates now look at diets in terms of percentages. Wolfe
believes that a person can reap most of the benefits of the
unprocessed diet — from better nutrient absorption to increased
energy — from eating a diet that’s only 70 to 80 percent raw food.
For their own part, Campbell and Ryciak identify themselves as
‘weekend rawriors,’ who devote a mere 50 percent of their diet to
uncooked food.

Many of the cookbooks, diet plans, and restaurants recently
appearing on the raw food scene are catering to the raw food
curious, rather than the hard core. ‘They get into juices,’ says
Wolfe, ‘then boom, the whole thing starts rolling.’ And tastier
recipes for more interesting foods — including raw ravioli and
pizza — have helped overcome a reluctance to go raw. Yet Campbell
and Ryciak write that reactions to raw food still range from
‘bemused skepticism’ to borderline ‘hostility.’

Part of that stigma may be due to the American propensity to
‘demonize’ foods. Writing for
Grist, Tom Philpott suggests that
Americans have been fooled into thinking that processed food is
healthier than plain old fruits and vegetables. Food processing
giants have convinced Americans, according to Philpot, that they
‘could actually improve the raw food that grows from the dirt.’

Raw food advocates will point out that this belief is simply not
true, and many believe that people are finally realizing it. ‘We
have recognized that raw foods are something that our customers
want,’ Justin Jackson, executive coordinator of purchasing for
Whole Foods in Northern California, tells Campbell and Ryciak. The
supermarket has plans to stock ‘raw food concepts,’ broadening the
choices for raw foods beyond the produce isles and into
refrigerated and room temperature products. Says Jackson: ‘We don’t
think [the demand] is going to go away.’

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