One week on the raw food diet

It's trendy, but is it tolerable?

By the time I dig into a package of sushi—slightly mushy, nori-wrapped bites made with shredded carrot "rice"—I'm already appreciative that someone else is cooking for me. Some who have tried "cooking" raw food have suggested that they expended nearly as many calories preparing it—chopping, juicing, sprouting, dehydrating, blending—as they took in eating it.

In fact, the time commitment required to prepare many raw foods is what prompted Rebecca Irey to create Pure Market Express. Irey, a former self-dubbed "junk food junkie," grew up on a cattle ranch eating a meat-and-potatoes diet. She learned to prepare raw foods by training with other raw foodists and doing a lot of home experimentation. "My kitchen was like a laboratory," she says. After her sixth child was born, Irey felt she wouldn't have enough time to make raw food for her family unless she turned it into a business. And she knew that to convince her kids and husband (a "beer and pizza" guy, Irey says) to go raw with her, she would have to offer plenty of flavor and variety. "You can only have so many salads," she says. "Salad is great—don't get me wrong—but you've got to have other stuff, too."

I open a container of raw Baked Macaroni & Cheese made of zucchini "noodles" with nut cheese. The portions offered in the weekly package are not skimpy: My 16-ounce tub contains at least two whole zucchini. I'm pretty sure I've already eaten more vegetables today than I usually do in half a week. Then why am I still so hungry?

Faking baking: (clockwise from top left) raw versions of chocolate cheesecake, tostada, cinnamon roll, and lasagna
Rachel Hutton
Faking baking: (clockwise from top left) raw versions of chocolate cheesecake, tostada, cinnamon roll, and lasagna
Raw Mexi Wraps
Rachel Hutton
Raw Mexi Wraps

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Pure Market Express

500 Chestnut St.
Chaska, MN 55318

Category: Restaurant > Health

Region: Chaska

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Pure Market Express
500 Chestnut St., Chaska
952.452.4865Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert items, and snacks priced $5-$14 apiece

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I have no idea what it's like to starve, but I do know what it's like to be hungry as it applies to middle-class Americans of average means. And if your hunger is of the privileged I worked through lunch today or I just played tennis for an hour sort, some things just aren't going to cut it, among them the ribbon-like strands of raw zucchini topped with globs of nut paste that I've just heaped onto my plate. I'm craving stacks of tissue-thin pastrami, fried eggs with glossy yolks, or a thick wedge of deep-dish pizza. My stomach is full, but I don't feel satisfied. I'm longing for the mouthfeel, at least, of that hunk of mozzarella sitting in the fridge. Would it be against the rules, I wonder, to just gum it a bit, like a teething baby?

I'm finding my unsated appetite to be very distracting. I'm longing for things I only seem to want because I can't have them. I've been eating raw for a mere 10 hours and I already want this experiment to be over.

After finishing half of the mock mac and cheese, I'm still feeling peckish, so I open the fridge and start scrounging through my raw food stash for something more substantial, like...Pepperoni Bites! They look bona fide, all red and speckled, but when I check the label, the first ingredient is—no surprise to me at this point—zucchini! I pop a few anyway and find that the chewy texture and Italian seasoning do a respectable job of creating the illusion of meat.

There can be a fair amount of chicanery in eating raw, between the pureed nuts standing in for cheese, the shredded zucchini mimicking noodles, the grated root vegetables resembling rice, and the coconut masquerading as dairy. Does raw food have an identity crisis? Is it trying too hard to be something it's not?

Day 2

The morning brings raw blueberry muffins, and along with them memories of the squat little mushrooms from the Mario Bros. video games: They're the sort of thing you'd just as soon squash as eat. The mock muffins aren't so different from yesterday's roll, except blueberry flavored, so I coat them with yesterday's leftover faux caramel. The raw Donut Holes are better, with ground Brazil nuts giving them a crumbly, flour-like texture that's not unlike the real thing.

I had plans to hit a rib joint for lunch with one of my friends, but I convince her to forgo pulled pork and baby backs for a slice of raw lasagna. Zucchini strips stand in for the noodles, which are layered with tomato, pistachio pesto, nut cheese, and plenty of Italian seasoning. It's like a summer version of the classic: fresh, plucky, and not too heavy. For dinner, there's tabouli made with hemp seeds, an amino acid-packed foodstuff I've never tried that reminds me a little of flax seed.

Day 3

By day three, my cravings have vanished, and, along with them, my interest in food. I have another smoothie for breakfast and a beet-almond wrap for lunch, but by the time evening hits, I find myself standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open, staring. Pad Thai made from...zucchini? I flip through my stack of plastic boxes but nothing seems appealing. Feeling resigned to my fate, I go to bed without dinner.

Day 4

It's tough to be raw restricted at social gatherings. True, I could have brought my own meal to a brats-chips-Rice Krispy bar picnic lunch, but it just seemed easier to say I wasn't hungry. Same with a friend's baby shower, where I steer clear of the sheet cake and stock up on the fresh fruit and nuts.

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