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Raw Food

I can't image paying to eat in a place like this. There are plenty of organic places, but why raw?

Slice up stuff? What it does it cost, and why do people go?

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  1. Well raw foods people will tell you that raw foods have tons of health benefits. I don't necessarily buy that it's a healthy diet long term myself. In any event, you'd be surprised at the stuff some of the good high-end raw places can do. Keep in mind that everything isn't strictly 'raw', but rather hasn't been heated beyond a certain point. So they use food dehydrators to make little patties and croquettes, they make non-risen "bread" that's sun-baked, etc. Due to the inherent limitations, they are forced to be very inventive. As far as almost entirely raw places, I've just been to Leaf Cuisine, but I have had raw stuff at other restaurants.

    Most raw restaurants do have at least a few non-raw options.

    The things I don't like, from my limited experience with raw food restaurants:

    1) The food tends to be very rich.. lots of nut-based and seed-based stuff
    2) For those who don't eat raw most of the time, the results can be very uhhhhh cleansing, and sometimes a little rough on the stomach. This may be good or bad depending on what you're looking for.
    3) The high end places are usually very good when they stick to their strengths. 'Raw' bread, uncooked rice... ugh. Desserts (in my experience) are usually surprisingly good.
    4) The stuff I have never seems to be "comforting" in the way I like my food to be.
    5) The good places tend to be very expensive.

    What does it cost - most of the raw places are pretty expensive.

    I do give raw foods places credit for making some innovations that have made their way back into non-raw vegetarian cuisine. But I find raw foods people a little wacky. I realize this is a strange thing for someone who is basically vegan to say, but....

    I don't know if Play Foods (playfood.org) has opened yet - their site claims they're opening soon. Their (raw) nut-based vegan cheese and sour creamis great, and their (non-raw) "grilled cheese" is unbelievable - they made food at Sunset Junction a few years back and even non-vegan friends kept forgetting it wasn't a real grilled cheese. Supposedly their restaurant will open soon. It should be a mix of raw and non-raw vegan food (the restaurant is owned by one of the kids from Home Improvement and his wife).

    Anyway, I don't go to raw places usually because I don't really like the whole "scene", but it's worth checking out sometime just to see what places can do.

    1. It's interesting that many "raw" places tout the health benefits. But many foods are actually healthier, have more vitamins available, and are easier to digest when cooked.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JMF

        Yes, I don't buy into the whole "raw" thing being healthier for you. I believe some of the major proponents of the raw food movement are that the healthy enzymes in food are destroyed when heated beyond a certain point, that cooking food creates toxins and kills nutrients. But I have also read that basically, this is mostly nonsense, that the raw food movement amounts to a few kernels of truth taken out of context, blown out of proportion and mixed with a bunch of garbage. I think it's for trendy people looking for the next bandwagon to jump on so that they can feel superior to those of us whose minds haven't expanded enough to "get" it.

        In addition, if one means to adhere to a raw diet, one must spend ridiculous amounts of time trying to transform raw food into something edible without using conventional cooking methods. (This is assuming that someone on a raw diet doesn't intend to live on salad, raw nuts and fruit for the rest of their lives.)

      2. I'm not a raw foodist by far - in fact, I think it's fussy and potentially dangerous - but I do occasionally like the food, esp. in the summer. I love salads and blended soups, along with the raw banana "ice cream".

        Where they lose me is the dehydrated "bread". I need my doughy carbs.

        1. Raw is good for people with stomach issues, because it uses whole ingredients and is unprocessed. Also doesn't use anything that "has" to be cooked, like dairy or gluten for the most part. When I eat it, I feel cleaner and less heavy, even if I'm full from the nutty stuff. I can see the benefits, but often feel short on protein...its good to mix in with an otherwise healthy diet, but yes, some things are awful, and others just take time to get used to.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Quesera

            i think the idea of eating raw foods is that it is much easier for the body to digest food in it's raw form, because it has enzymes. it is much easier on your body, therefore you have more energy. i think your body is also supposed to be cleaner from the inside out. can be uncomfortable for some people, but some people love to feel clean.

            1. re: nightdarksomethingscary

              re: "enzymes"
              That may be the idea, but that doesn't mean it's the correct idea...

              (the second source seems pretty biased, and I don't know if I entirely trust them, but there are some good arguments made here


              Now I don't dispute that lots of people feel good when they switch to a raw diet, due to the cleansing / detoxification involved. This is especially true for people who normally eat meat, dairy, etc. But just because people switching to the diet feel better in the short term doesn't mean it's a healthy way to eat long-term, nor is it practical for most people to eat an almost entirely raw diet for sustained periods of time.

              That's not to say you (the OP) shouldn't try a raw foods restaurant - some of them have some good stuff, and most people who eat at these restaurants don't eat that way all the time.

          2. I think the food can be pretty good, if they don't try to make fake cooked foods, but stick to preparing raw foods in creative, tasty ways.

            I think the danger is when people develop an obsession with their food in an unhealthy way - I think this has been called "orthorexia" - the idea that raw is good and pure and cooked is filthy and unhealthy. And then people eat cooked and feel shameful and like failures...sigh. It is just like us humans with our big brains to make things more complicated than they need be.

            1. I've eaten it on the west coast and made some of the recipes from "un-cookbooks," and enjoyed both. My basic opinion is that for many people (especially those in seasonal climates) it's unrealistic to go 100% raw, and probably not so healthy, at least long term. I do think that the idea of creating appealing raw foods is great for hot weather, when it's nice to have faster, easier digestion. (In my experience, most of the foods aren't heavy and do digest quickly. I do notice I feel more energetic when I eat lots of raw foods in summer.) But, there is no way I'd get by on raw foods in winter here! It's a great idea for many people, though, who should probably eat more unprocessed foods in their natural state, when appropriate. I don't like a lot of the attitude in the books, though. People should not be shamed for eating cooked food--that's ridiculous, and no way to sway people's opinions, either.

              As for the cost of the food in restaurants, I do see some of the justification. Raw food is labor intensive, highly perishable, and usually made to order as much as possible. I prefer to make much of it at home, and living in KS, I assure you I have virtually no choice! There are a few options at grocery stores here, but no restaurants, and I don't see them coming anytime soon. Fad? For the majority, maybe. I think the restaurants are destined to be a coastal phenomena for the most part.

              1. Well..."there's a sucker born every minute."

                I've always looked askance at this form of somatic abnegation...be it colonics...what have you...the idea that the body or the social body is intrinsically "corrupt" or "unhealthy." These are merely ignorant inverted control mechanisms. Any "dietician" worth their salt will tell you...and this obvious point was just corroborated(if need be) by the Chicago Tribune...any thinking person should recognize that the body is a state of the art program always already ridding itself of toxins...no carny c'mons as per "toxicity" need apply. The body takes care of itself.

                2 Replies
                1. re: aelph

                  Generally I agree with your point of view, that this represents a fantasy. Though I'd say the opposite: that the body is naturally "pure" and that we poison it with the world. Of course not true, the body is always in the world. A lot of these movements seem to be psychologically similar to anorexia to me. That said, what we put into our bodies does obviously affect the way that they feel, and if people want to eat this way they can. Thinking about what food means socially doesn't mean that you're censoring people. It means you're thinking.

                  1. re: oralfixation

                    I appreciate your reply. Looking back over my initial response I see I generalize the "healthy/normal" state while neglecting, perhaps, those who come to these orthorexic regimens from positions of physical sickness(cancer...etc.). I still stand by my "gut" response that colonic irrigation and other purification regimens are intrinsically anti- and lacking in proof. It's a view of the body that is the antithesis of my own.

                2. I just want to point out that not everyone who eats raw foods is 100% raw, or a "raw foodist." I think it's healthy to incorporate the recipes and some of the ideas into balanced diet. There have always been and will always be "health nuts," people who take opinions and behaviors to an extreme. I don't think that the majority of people who eat raw food become this extreme in their choices. It's not an inherently ignorant or mentally ill food trend. Live and let live, people.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: amyzan

                    But I think if you're not taking the raw food idea to some kind of extreme - then you're basically just a person who eats a lot of salad, fruit, raw nuts, what have you? Which is what I believe a majority of people do who strive to eat a healthy diet.

                    And live and let live is a great idea - but my experience has been that when someone gets fervent about a new pet philosophy they tend to treat "non-believers" as pitiful, uninformed and spiritually stunted. It's annoying.

                    1. re: flourgirl

                      Yeah, it IS annoying, and I find that many of the raw food "un-cookbooks" preach 100% raw diet. There are only a few that espouse gradual or even partial dietary change. To recommend people turn 100% raw from the get go is problematic, if not dangerous for some. All the talk about purity (along with the colonics, etc.) is an issue for me, but there will always be people speaking and writing like this in a free society. I don't think they're necessarily mentally ill, just passionate and extreme.

                      1. re: amyzan

                        Yep, that's what I meant. I totally agree with you - I'm definitely not saying that people must be mentally ill if they choose to follow a raw diet. I absolutely support everybody's right to live their life on their own terms (as long as they're not hurting anybody else) - an idea that our society seems to be moving away from very rapidly. It's all of the different voices that make life interesting and worth living.

                  2. I agree with snackish on the fact that it is best when they don't try to imitate a cooked food, but celebrate foods that are just great in their raw form.

                    I go to a raw food place for lunch from time to time, and my biggest complaint is that most things seem overly sweet - I'm talking dressings and sandwich fillings. And the nut-centric mixtures can be very heavy. Otherwise, I do enjoy the fact that they put tons of veggies into every dish, from sandwiches to wraps to "sushi" dishes. In general I can't find places that do vegetables very well (the preparation is usually either bland or its loaded with oil) so when a veggie craving hits, I head to the raw food restaurant.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: lisa13

                      All right, now that makes sense to me.

                      1. re: lisa13

                        "In general I can't find places that do vegetables very well"

                        You just need to move out to the Bay Area. All of my favorite restaurants do excellent preparations of vegetable AND meat.

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          Yes...I used to live out your way and the veg situation is the thing I miss most. I finally gave up on the cost of living and split. I do my own veggies most of the time, and here I can actually afford to buy a house - imagine that ;-)

                      2. To go back to the original question -- preparing raw food is actually very labor intensive and requires a lot of technique and special equipment, which is one reason why it tends to be expensive. It's not just buying stuff and the market and throwing it on a plate, there's a lot of grinding, pounding, extracting, dehydrating, etc. involved.

                        That said, I think it's kind of silly. The nutrients in most plant foods are actually more bio-available when they've been cooked, because cooking breaks down the cell walls and allows the nutrients to be absorbed. The health claims are mostly "junk-science."

                        1. I think the healthiest way to eat is a combination of raw and cooked food. If you eat lots of fruits, veggetables, and nuts, you're going to be eating raw food anyway. I think the raw idea has become so popular because people are bored and need something new to fixate on.
                          I went to Pure Foof &Wine in NYC and I really enjoyed the meal. The chocolate cake was the best part. I"d never become a raw foodist. I just think everything is good in small doses. The most important concept is to eat naturally raised and organic and shun those processed foods for the most part. Nobody's perfect and I think we should all allow ourselves a little room for deviance.

                          1. I like to eat raw food occasionally, and since the OP did not restricted it to just raw vegetables I assume we include raw "everything" here. I admittedly LOVE raw fish/meat like good quality sashimi and beef tartare, but I do have to have high level of confidence on the restaurants / stores where I get the food from.

                            IMO it is a lot easier to have raw meat like salmon or tuna or fish in sashimi / crudo /ceviche style often because the meat itself has plenty of flavor. However, for vegebles or nuts or grains, I just have a hard time to make them interesting or different myself. With limited "cooking" (in this case not with no heating up, more like flavoring) ability, the best I can do at home with raw vegetables is different types of salads, and that certainly become very boring in a while. Hence I am willing to pay a little more outside in the raw food restaurants like Pure food and wine in NYC that serve some interesting and hard-to-make raw dishes (I really like the lagsana and I know I will never have the patience to make it). As for desserts I eat them never with the idea of "healthy or not", so as far as they are delicious, I will have them raw or not.

                            For the most part I eat raw food either because I have a craving (and this usually just happen to sashimi) or I want some refreshing dishes in the summer.

                            For people who think that raw food means healthy, I think that they need to rethink the idea carefully. In today's world, raw food, unless clearly stated that they are organic or grown at the back of your house, are likely to be exposed to artificial substances, peticides, or may be bioengineered. On top of that, even if they are organic, who knows what happened during the transportation? in the grocery stores? Sometimes I feel that it is healthier to cook the vegetables first because I know all the bad bacteria has been killed. IMO raw food is a good idea to consume in moderation, but should not be taken to an extreme as some people do.

                            1. This thread just makes me feel like re-reading "Salad: the Silent Killer," the best thing Jeffrey Steingarten ever wrote.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: lexdevil

                                Yeah, that was pretty hilarious...

                              2. ps - Is it intentional that this post is in the "not about food" category? : >