Monday, 14 September 2009

Raw power

Today I start a two-week raw vegan diet and I'm beginning to wonder why. It all started a few months ago when discussing raw veganism with Frank 'Aloe Vera Frankie Baby' Bryant. Frankie told me that it was a diet that he had done often, and that it had the most extraordinary effect on him, not only making him healthier of body but also of mind and spirit. A child once came up to him in the street and hugged him, seemingly due to the spiritual energy vibrating through his very being. In a somewhat Thatcherite manner (and therefore not particularly raw or vegan), he needed only 4 hours sleep a night. There were clearly benefits to such a diet.

But come on - raw and vegan? Just raw I could probably manage, quite happily living off sushi and salads for a couple of weeks. Were it only vegan I might get by as well (only for those two weeks, mind). Toast with tahini and jam for breakfast, vegetable curries and pastas and the would be very doable. But both at the same time? This ain't going to be a picnic (and quite frankly, what would a picnic be without a pork pie and a doorstop sized hunk of cheese?).

But I like a challenge, and seeing as I'd been doing a bit of writing for a vegan magazine called Off The Hoof (whilst remaining firmly ensconced in omnivorous territory), I decided to mix business with displeasure, and embark upon this fortnight of gastronomic insanity, all the while recording its effect on my mind, body and soul.

The implications on the mind and soul will, I imagine, become clear as time progresses. There are all sorts of lofty and wafty theories out there in the ether, suggesting that I will reach spiritual enlightenment, and that my connection with Mother Earth will intensify holistically, her bounty and succour becoming one with me, as I chomp through everything she has to offer without even bothering to cook the stuff.

As for the body, there are two schools of thought. Although I am doing this principally as an experiment to challenge both my willpower and culinary creativity, I'm not going to pretend the supposed positive benefits to my health won't be a bonus. Should the experiment be a success, I will have increased energy, better skin, and better digestion (sounds ominous). I should also lose some weight (a brief perusal of the last few posts should indicate that this can only be a good thing), and my risk of heart disease will decrease. I have a feeling that two weeks is not going to have a huge effect on my heart, though as someone once said, every little helps.

The bad news then. I am likely to suffer a detoxification reaction involving headaches, nausea, and cravings. Considering I crave meat and cheese at the best of times, God only knows the level of longing that will be pawing at my (supposedly composed) brain after a few days of this. I am also likely to be deficient in calcium, iron, B12, protein and calories. So quite where all this 'energy' is supposed to be coming from I'm not sure.

But it's the anthropological arguments that I find most fascinating. A vegan (and raw vegan at that) would argue that our ancestors ate everything raw, and therefore so should we. They have clearly never heard of the theory of evolution. Our ancestors lived in caves, wore loin cloths, communicated in grunts, gnawed at raw flesh, interbred, and then died somewhere in their twenties. Not the greatest yardstick by which to conduct life in the 21st century.

As the brilliant Jeffrey Steingarten points out in his equally brilliant The Man Who Ate Everything, neanderthal became homo sapiens when he worked out that a grilled mammoth steak tasted and digested better than a raw one. Health improved, brain power developed, and the neanderthal ceased to exist, remembered only as an idiom for crudeness and vulgarity. Sort of like Jordan, only better looking.

What Steingarten also explains, is that the notion that 'raw = healthier' is not only utterly misguided, but actually often contrary to the truth. Many foodstuffs are harmful until cooked. We've just about worked that out with things like potatoes and rice, yet continue to extol the virtues of raw spinach, broad beans and broccoli. It doesn't seem to make sense.

Nevertheless, in the coming two weeks I shall try to make sense of it, and will keep a day to day video diary of my progress on this site.

In the meantime, any suggestions for good raw vegan recipes (surely you have hundreds of them?) would be much appreciated.


  1. Good luck. I have a feeling that you're going to need it.