After mounds of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and three kinds of pie for Thanksgiving, going raw for a week didn’t seem like such a bad idea. It did seem daunting, though. Raw food eating is the most extreme form of the vegan diet: in addition to all animal products, raw eaters say “no” to anything cooked at a temperature above 180 degrees. Buoyed by the support of yogis and environmentalists who enjoy normal body functions without a warm lunch, I embarked on this journey toward a cleansing and environmentally-friendly way of eating. I was optimistic and quite excited about a week of fresh and dry fruit, veggies, and raw nuts. Frary, have mercy!
Day One, Sunday:
Driving back from Thanksgiving break. I stock up on apples on my way out of the hotel and hope we can make it in time for dinner. A paper bag on the seat next to me contains sushi, smoked salmon, and two boxes of my friend’s grandma’s cookies. I am a good raw foodist (as they call it) and look out of the window.
Day Two, Monday:
I start the day with an apple, feeling healthy and optimistic. By 1 p.m. I am starving, and my condition is not the least changed by lunch at Frary. Where are the cranberries, and why are all the nuts roasted? Dinner at Scripps is particularly raw-friendly, and the fruit I manage to take out keeps me going until late at night. Meanwhile, my friends are getting worried: after class, I find a cup of raisins on the handle of my door.
Day Three, Tuesday:
I realize that good planning is crucial, and so is an open mind. My lunch consists of salad, mushrooms, and pineapple, and I actually leave Oldenborg full and content. Cranberries and apples are a good snack in the afternoon but a problem arises when my friends decide to go to In-N-Out around midnight. Fearing that my social life would suffer an immense damage if I let food restrictions keep me home, I join wholeheartedly and order a lemonade. Another lesson I learn: keep your awkward eating habits to yourself; not everyone would approve of a diet that excludes “the best hamburgers in the U.S.”
Day Four, Wednesday:
I discover the miracle of fresh mushrooms. A quick Google search makes me regret that I have not eaten enough of these tasty almost-vegetables before. Apparently, in addition to being low cal and low fat, mushrooms are full of various vitamins and nutrients. As I get past the middle of my raw food week, I feel healthy and optimistic. My gym schedule is unchanged and my sleepiness can surely be attributed to the post-Thanksgiving workload. I am looking forward to discovering more raw food options.
Day Five, Thursday:
My enthusiasm is dead and, honestly, I am bored. The mushrooms I was so happy about already make me sick. I feel as if I have been eating the same food forever. An interesting realization is that it is not meat and sweets that I miss, but rather cooked vegetables; you never realize how soothing and comforting they can be until you can’t have them. My moods are fickle, and I can’t wait for Sunday brunch.
Day Six, Friday:
I have to admit that I am not feeling well today. I woke up with zero energy and missed all my classes. I am not sure whether the deficiency of cooked food in my system has anything to do with this; it might be a result of my recently hectic schedule featuring loads of reading and almost no sleep. In any case, I feel like going to bed. No dinner.
Day Seven, Saturday:
Finally something exciting! Juliano’s RAW, a raw vegan restaurant in Santa Monica, proves that raw food eating can be delicious and fun. The place itself puts you in the mood for something eccentric and back-to-nature: decorated with colorful plants, the bar displays a variety of dried fruit and nuts for sale. The menu is very surprising. A Pesto Pizza Deepdish featuring “authentic walnut pesto, tomatoes, Italian herbs, olives, marinated onions & shrooms” on a buckwheat crust promises to be the “Best Pizza Ever!” and actually comes quite close; the cheese tastes so cheesy, I could swear it is real. The dish costs $11.09 and is perfect for a light lunch. I also try the Lightning Sushi Roll (“sun-dried & fresh tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, mint, onion, and nut chez&rdquo, a less satisfying but still interesting pick for $6.47.
I walk out of Juliano’s with the definite conclusion that a healthy raw food diet is possible and even enjoyable, but not in college. You need a significant amount of time and money in order to go raw without running low on energy. If you are feeling curious and experimental, try it out next summer.