Although I usually start out my blog with a colorful photo (I know most of you only stop by for my mediocre photography skills), I decided to go without one for this particular post, which was inspired by liz (one of my readers; hi liz!). She was wondering how I discovered the raw lifestyle, got started living it and managed to stick with it, while most of my household is "cooked."
So, I'll start from the very beginning. I wasn't raised this way. Growing up I ate primarily cooked foods and wasn't even a vegetarian; in fact, I am still the only vegetarian in my family.
My mom always tried to offer healthy choices, although we also ate prepackaged sugar-filled and highly-processed convenience food (oh yeah; I definitely had my share of chicken nuggets, French fries, Twinkies and Ho Ho's). She let me experience being a typical kid, while also fueling my love of fruits and veggies, and other wholesome foods.
She had a garden in the backyard, where we would sneak green onions (of all things), peas in the pod, parsley and other veggies and herbs. She had the typical carrots and potatoes, and she even tried her hand at growing corn and pumpkins (my son and nephews love tending to her mini pumpkin patch she has had for the past couple years). To us, picking a snack from the garden without asking was almost like taking a cookie from the cookie jar.
The best part of her garden was the strawberry patch, which yielded multiple bowls of berries for days when they were in season. We would eat strawberry shortcake almost every night, and my mom would make jam with the excess. But, my favorite way to eat them was raw (I guess I always had this in me).
Unfortunately, when I was very small, I was allergic to strawberries and tomatoes, but lucky for me, I eventually outgrew it. This probably explains my fondness for these fruits today.
I first gravitated toward vegetarianism for health reasons. I just wanted to have a healthy diet. As I learned more about it, my reasons also became ethical. Now, I not only consider what I am consuming for meals, but also what I wear.
I wasn't as strict when I first got together with my husband, who is a meat eater. Obviously, I was willing to overlook that fact since we had a lot of other things on which to base our attraction. Hey, we are still happily together after 8 years.
When we were newlyweds, we would make similar meals, like spaghetti, pizza, etc., but one would be traditional meat-based and the other would be veggie-based. Then, we would still enjoy our meal together. It's just like going to a restaurant and placing individual orders (we used to split a pizza on our first dates to Bertucci's; his side had meat and mine had veggies).
During our first year of marriage, I saw Juliano on television, promoting his "Raw: The Uncook Book." I was so amazed at how he was able to turn raw fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains into burgers, pizza, burritos and even desserts. I immediately ran out and bought the book.
Unfortunately, I was overwhelmed by the long list of ingredients and my lack of fancy gadgetry. My blender wasn't powerful enough, and I had yet to purchase a dehydrator or juicer (which I did manage to get that Christmas). In the end, I made a couple recipes and gave up on raw for a few more years.
Raw has definitely become more mainstream lately. I really think the Internet has done a lot to help spread the word, especially with all the raw message boards (like Alissa Cohen's Raw Food Talk) and blogs.
Speaking of the Internet, it was where I used to visit the Eat Right 4 Your Blood-type site, another food philosophy of sorts I followed for a while. According to my blood-type, I should be a meat eater, which I beg to differ. However, some of my "beneficial" foods, it recommends, like blueberries, bananas and green leafy veggies, really have proven to be beneficial.
While following this diet, I eliminated wheat, and found that the raw way of eating was a good approach to doing this. As a result, I tried some more simple recipes I found on the Web, with much more success than I had on the first go round.
It's funny. Not long after I gave raw another try, I also learned about Brendan Brazier, a vegan/mostly raw tri-athlete, who is the author of "Thrive" and "The Thrive Diet." In one of the interviews I read about him, he said he once had an interest in the blood-type diet, but didn't agree that he was a meat eater either (he is the same blood-type as me: O). I've noticed that although his meal plans are vegan, they are wheat-free and full of the plant-based beneficials.
Both of his books have been added to my collection since starting my raw journey in July of 2006, as well as some simple and more complex raw "cookbooks." Basic books like "Rawvolution" and "The Raw Food Gourmet" helped me ease into making raw dishes, while "Raw Food Real World" gave me a taste of more gourmet meals and the confidence to pull out Juliano's book again (I have made a lot more from this book now that I am more accustomed to his methods).
If you are new to the raw lifestyle, I advise starting out with basic dishes, like in Ani Phyo's book, and working your way up to the more complicated meals. Otherwise, you'll just end up frustrated.
To start, I ate kale salad all the time, raw fruits and veggies, nutmilks and prepackaged raw treats I would buy off the Internet (now I buy mostly raw ingredients to make these treats myself). I would eat before I went out or to gatherings; gravitate toward veggie trays, fruit plates and salad bars; and to this day carry raw trail mix, dried fruit or bars in my purse for emergencies.
Luckily, I have a supportive family. My husband doesn't mind that I eat raw, as long as he doesn't have to come along for the ride (but if you have a significant other who is willing to try, check out Melissa's post from Love Raw Life entitled, "How I got David to Eat Raw Foods"). My son is not exclusively raw either (Melissa's is; check out Raw Baby Alex), but he has been known to eat raw fruits and veggies, and has even tried and liked some raw bars.
My mom and one of my sisters (the other one is actually allergic to raw fruits and veggies; sad but true) are always willing to try my raw creations and have even made green smoothies a part of their daily diet. My mom actually made sure there were green smoothies for anyone who wanted to try them at the church yesterday (where we were making bon bons for a semi-annual church fund-raiser), and she always makes sure to have fresh fruits, veggies and salad at every Sunday dinner (yes, we eat together every Sunday).
On my husband's side of the family, we eat dinner at his parent's house every Tuesday night. My mother-in-law doesn't do the raw thing, but encourages me to bring my own meal to eat alongside them. I brought my n'ice cream from my previous post last night (that's the great thing about raw; you can eat ice cream for dinner, and it is still healthy and nutritious).
I guess the best advice I can give to you, liz (or anyone else testing the raw food waters), is to start slow, find a good support system and don't beat yourself up if you are not 100 percent (even I have been known to have some steamed veggies or a baked sweet potato when there are no other options available ... but don't tell anyone).
Now, I know this has become quite lengthy, so I'll just add more tips in future posts. In the meantime, keep reading inspiring raw food blogs like the ones on this list, try a new recipe (have you checked out Gone Raw?) find yourself a raw food buddy (mine is Rawbin, who you may have seen commenting on this site), try to locate a raw potluck in your area (yes, they do exist) and good luck :-)