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Chicagoist's Raw Food Hang Up Gets The Better of Us

By Caroline Clough in Food on Jun 15, 2007 4:28PM

June_2007_rawfoods.jpgWhen Chicagoist had the opportunity to receive and perhaps review a cookbook featuring raw cuisine, we thought, "why not?" Not raw foodists ourselves, we still figured it would be fun to give it a shot. Just because we like meat, dairy, eggs and hot food didn't mean there wouldn't be something in the book worth our efforts. This turns out, in theory, to be true. But in actuality Chicagoist found Terces Engelhart and Orchid's I Am Grateful a bit off-putting. We can't exactly understand what our deal is, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to make a single item from the book. This is clearly a prejudice we can't get past.

Engelhart's introduction to the book chronicles her failed marriages, eating disorders, and general sense of being spiritually out of whack for a good many years before going raw. She encourages her readers to use organic products, and we think she's right on that mark. She points out that the dairy and meat "industries are resource-dense; they require a lot of fossil fuels, water and other resources. By eating vegan you make more food and resources available for [everyone]." True enough. She goes on to say that the way our meat is raised and brought to our grocery stores is cruel and that by eating a vegan, or raw, diet will end this cruelty and, also, that there is "violent energy that is held deep within the tissues of these animals" that we shouldn't expose ourselves to. That may be where she lost us. When we bite into a grass-fed, aged piece of steak we simply don't feel any violent energy. In fact we feel pretty happy and satiated. This is not to say we don't recognize that the practices of most meat and dairy industries have much room to improve. We are all for local produce, humanely raised/produced (and hormone-free) meat and dairy. It's just that we aren't ready to tie our diets up to our spirituality nor are we willing to make such a radical leap to the culinary far left.

All the recipes in this book have extremely affirming titles, same as they have at Café Gratitude, Engelhart's California restaurant. There are the "I Am Honoring" nachos, the "I Am Awesome" salsa verde, the "I Am Open-Hearted" smoky mole pizza, and a whole bunch of others. And it rubs us the wrong way somehow; this insistence at ego stroking. The photographs that accompany many of the recipes do make the food look appealing, and we're sure it would taste good. It's the time and effort many of the more interesting recipes require which doesn't appeal to us. Especially since we don't have a dehydrator, spiralizer, nut milk bag, juicer or fermentation vessel to help things along. Intense cheese lover that we are, we can't quite bring ourselves to using our life energy making nut cheese. If you're a raw foodist, vegan or vegetarian (or simply a more patient, spiritual person than we seem to be) then this book is worth checking out. We apologize for the lack of recipe, but we seem to be rather ungrateful when it comes right down to it.