Raw. Really? A friend of mine shared with me her decision to follow a raw food diet. Not vegetarianism, not lacto-ovo vegetarianism, not even veganism, but rawism.
You may be wondering, what in the world is a raw food diet? And is it healthy? My friend explained the principle and belief behind rawism is that the consumption of uncooked, unprocessed plant and animal foods is better for your body than eating cooked foods. The thought is that cooking meat and vegetables destroys their beneficial enzymes, diminishes nutritional value and promotes potentially harmful compounds.
There are many cultures in our world that eat some form of raw food. Most societies munch on raw vegetables and fruits. Some consume raw meats that have been “cooked” in lemon juice or vinegar. Italy’s carpaccio (raw beef sliced paper thin and drizzled with vinaigrette), France’s steak tartare (raw minced beef mixed with seasonings and raw egg), South American ceviche (raw seafood marinated in lemon juice and spices), and Scandanavian gravlax (raw salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill) all come to mind.
And, of course, we can’t forget Japan’s contribution: sushi. Technically, raw fish sliced and served by itself is called sashimi. Sushi includes cooked, vinegared rice and other ingredients like seaweed and raw fish. My blue-eyed, Caucasian husband loves both sushi and sashimi. Despite my Asian roots, I will stick with the California Roll, thank you very much.
So, the majority of my friend’s diet now consists of raw fruits and vegetables, sprouted seeds, beans and nuts. She occasionally eats raw egg and raw fish. No alcohol. No sugar. No caffeine.
Meal prep must be a cinch, right? Wrong. While she no longer has to preheat the oven or fire up the grill, she does employ a battery of other appliances like the blender, juicer and dehydrator. The time she saves by not sautéing is spent peeling, dicing, chopping, straining and dehydrating.
While I know my friend well enough not to question her sanity, I did wonder about the practicality of her decision. Eating raw at home seems fairly easy enough. But what about the occasional restaurant meal? Does In-N-Out have a “raw, animal style” burger on their secret, unwritten menu? Would Denny’s serve their Moons Over My Hammy omelette with raw eggs? And any diet that prohibits you from drinking a hot cup of Starbucks coffee just seems crazy, doesn’t it?
Admittedly, I don’t see myself converting to the raw food lifestyle anytime soon. But, that won’t stop me from trying out a few raw recipes and incorporating some raw dishes into my weekly meal plans. We already eat raw fruits and veggies (we do eat them, right?) so it shouldn’t be too difficult.
Knowing my propensity to eat anything that involves salsa, my friend shared this recipe that she adapted from one in “Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen Recipe Book.” I will warn you this salsa is highly addictive and one batch was not enough for my family of five. We found eating raw is not so bad, especially if it involves tortilla chips. Really.
Red Pepper Corn Salsa
Makes about 3 cups
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup corn kernels, cut from cob or frozen corn (thawed)
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 tsp. sea salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy with tortilla chips.