OK, first things first: absolutely loved the discussion yesterday on Nicolette Niman’s Atlantic piece. We all kept it civil, productive, and provocative–exactly what I want conversations on CR to be. Thanks to everyone who left a comment or asked me a question.
In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the cooked:raw food ratio here on the blog: why all the cooked food? Are you less raw purposefully? How raw are you, exactly, and what’s the ratio you recommend? Etc. These questions have, with maybe one or two exceptions, been totally sweet and inquisitive, and they don’t bother me at all. (When I do get questions from raw extremists who don’t like the cooked food I eat, I just promptly hit delete: this blog is called “Choosing Raw,” and not “Gena’s House of Green Smoothies and Judgment” for a reason. It’s about the cumulative effect of small choices, and not a global dogma.) It’s totally normal for my readers to wonder about how raw is raw, how raw I like to eat, why the patterns change sometimes, and so one. So, let’s go through it:
1) I really don’t have a regular raw percentage, but it’s safe to say that about half of what I eat each day is always raw, and sometimes quite a bit more. I go through long periods where it’s closer to 90%, and I did that consistently for my first year of infatuation with raw food, not because I thought I had to, but because I was totally obsessed with raw un-cooking. I did, though, have plenty of cooked food in that year, and I always intended to stay semi-raw, not all raw. I knew from the get-go that all raw wouldn’t be nutritionally right for my body, and I knew it wouldn’t be socially feasible for me.
And I like cooked vegan food. A lot.
2) I’m not eating more raw because it’s getting colder! At some point I promise a post on staying semi or high-raw in winter, but for now, let me say that I actually don’t crave more cooked food due to cold temperatures. I definitely go through weeks where I want more cooked than usual, but it’s usually random and unrelated to weather–it can easily happen during summer. And conversely, I often go through really high-raw months in winter. My food phases have more to do with whim and with what cookbooks I’m reading than with the seasons.
3) A few of you have noted that I seem really un-neurotic and flexible about how raw I eat. Thank you! I think I’m pretty chillaxed about it, too, and I’m happy to hear that this comes across on my blog. For someone who battled anorexia to be relaxed about anything related to food–especially in the raw foods world, which is so driven by dogma–strikes me as an accomplishment. I’m happy that I was able, given my history, to fall in love with the spirit of raw food without losing my mind about the “rules.”
4) With that said, it would be wrong to say that I could eat 100% cooked and be happy. I can’t. When I don’t eat at least semi-raw, I don’t feel my best physically, and I certainly don’t feel culinary satisfied. I love raw food! Raw food is delicious. So if I’m traveling, say, and eat all cooked food for days at a time, I’ll be really eager to get some raw veg in my body–both because I love how I feel from it, and also because I love the flavor and texture. I am not and will never be a person who feels any guilt attached to the idea of cooking food: as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t agree with the raw foods premise that eating raw food preserves live enzymes in foods themselves. Our gastric juices denature food enzymes as we digest them. But I do love the whole ethos of raw food, and appreciate the vitamin and mineral density.
So: when I’m not in my kitchen, or when I’m not just cooking for me, I have an “I’ll eat pretty much anything that’s vegan and relatively healthy” attitude. When I’m at home, I’m always eager to keep raw foods in my dietary rotation.
5) If you think there’s been a lot of cooked lately, you’re somewhat right. October was more cooked than raw, and that’s mostly because my boyfriend and I were eating most dinners together. He’s a vegan and a very healthy eater, and he has excellent taste in food (by which I mean, he tells me often that he loves my cooking). But he, like most of my loved ones, likes a warm meal at the end of a long day. Or at least a semi-warm one.
So how do I keep us both happy? Well, I start by taking inspiration by friends like Mama Pea, who cooks for a family of vegans and one vegetarian, and manages to accommodate her own tastes (super healthy), her childrens’ demand for cookies, and her husband’s desire for a good veggie burger, all at once. In my own case, I’m accommodating the taste of a healthy vegan who nonetheless likes his comfort fare, and my own, which runs the gamut from vegan cookies to blended salads.
The easiest solution is for me to make regular vegan fare at night, and eat more raw breakfasts and lunches. Again, there’s no dogma here: I also eat out a lot for work lunches, so plenty of my midday food is cooked, and it’s autumn, which means I love me some oatmeal now and then. But I enjoy the balance I get from focusing on smoothies, buckwheat cereal, and chia pudding in the morning, salads and collard wraps and raw soups at lunch, and more grains, beans, and other vegan cooked fare at night. There’s nothing inherently smart about “raw till dinner” from a nutritional perspective, but it’s an easy way for me to eat both raw and cooked right now.
Obviously, on nights when M and I are (ruefully) separated, I’ll often experiment with fancier raw entrees. For now, though, the recipes I share on CR — the more “notable” ones — may be from cooked dinners. Just be aware that lots of raw food happens at other times of the day, and rest assured that I’ll periodically show you some samples. Let’s start with some raw dishes from the last week or two, served mostly at the office:
Carob Chia Seed Breakfast: 3 tbsp chia seeds, 1 scoop vanilla sun warrior, 1 tbsp carob, stevia, and 3/4 cup almond milk, mixed and allowed to set, served alongside a banana:
Green salad served with Raw Beet “Pancakes” — recipe on its way soon!
And, that rare treat: takeout raw sushi rolls from Pure Food and Wine:
See? As I experience the sudden joys of cooking for me and for someone close to me, I’ve also been able to enjoy the foods I love on a regular basis. No compromises.
For the many of you who write to me asking how to handle a raw foods habit when your family or friends don’t share it, I’d just offer this tip: immediately ditch the complicated recipes and crazy, three course raw dinners. If you’re making cooked foods at night, or balancing more than one main dish for you and other family members, gourmet raw foods won’t be sustainable. Instead, put all of the real cooking energy into dishes that everyone can eat. Then, for whatever meals you eat alone (at the office, or when others are out of the house), keep it simple: salads, soups, collard wraps, smoothies. Those are the best foods in a raw diet if you ask me, anyway, so stick to them. It’s the easiest way to stay high raw while also remaining all inclusive in your cooking efforts.
I hope this gives you all a sense of how I balance raw and cooked in my own life. Naturally, there are some nights where I’m not with M, but I feel like eating cooked anyway, and this is fine: on such a night, I cook! I cannot stress enough how important it is to obey such instincts. My food habits are a mixture of nutritional awareness, intuition, and cravings, and all three help me decide whether I’m in the mood to cook or uncook. But it’s worth pointing out that I always, always crave raw foods–not a day goes by when I don’t want at least one raw meal. I attribute the longevity of my raw foods infatuation–going on 4 years now–to the fact that I never demonized cooking.
On that note? I’m off to prepare a half-raw, half-cooked dinner. Night all 🙂