One week on the raw food diet

It's trendy, but is it tolerable?

But several delicious raw meals make up for what I'm missing. Surprise favorites include Mexi Wraps of raw collard greens and a spicy macadamia nut "cheese" made with nutritional yeast, a complete protein favored by vegetarians that adds a sharp-cheddar-like umami. Topped with an olive-studded salsa, they're as addictive as junk food.

Also, who knew uncooked parsnips tasted good? Not me, until I tried them as a rice substitute in a tasty basil fried rice. The parsnips show up again in a "Stir-Fry Less" with carrots, cabbage, broccoli, and red pepper that I drench in a miso-like dressing that contains Bragg's liquid aminos, a soybean-derived protein concentrate that's a vegetarian go-to for boosting food's savoriness.

Day 5

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

Location Info

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Pure Market Express

500 Chestnut St.
Chaska, MN 55318

Category: Restaurant > Health

Region: Chaska

Details

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

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My raw diet isn't going so well today, beginning with raw blueberry pancakes that have the texture of a brownie and a faint blueberry flavor. For lunch, plain, un-fussed-with watermelon would have been preferable to a pureed soup with so much cardamom that it tastes medicinal. Raw salmon and hollandaise is the most offensive. All the dill in the world couldn't convince me that dehydrated carrot is fish. The dry, chewy lumps more closely resemble rubber dog toys than a real fillet's buttery flesh. Perhaps I should be grading my raw meals on a curve, considering the constraints they're up against?

Also, in case you're wondering, I haven't seen anything close to an "ideal" 4 on the Bristol Stool Scale since I started this experiment, which I'm starting to find a little concerning. Pure Market Express's website describes the bountiful fiber in a raw diet as a "big broom that swishes through your digestive system," and I'm certainly experiencing its effects. (They recommend bananas, dehydrated fruit, or a few cooked foods like oatmeal and rice to help ease the adjustment period.) When I tell my editor that I'm spending the week eating raw, he asks, "Did you check that out with your doctor?"

Day 6

I hold off on breakfast for a good two hours, knowing I have nothing to look forward to. This is becoming a serious problem: a food critic without an appetite.

For dinner, sausage pizza is a disc-shaped raw cracker to be topped with packets of tomato sauce, macadamia nut cheese, and little nuggets (walnuts, dehydrated mushrooms, oregano, and fennel) that are designed to imitate sausage but taste like rancid tree bark. I can't get past the crust, which resembles dried, raw dough and tastes like a mouthful of flour. It is an affront to anything Neapolitan.

Perhaps dessert will make up for it? Banana cream pie is no substitute for the real thing, as it tastes too much like coconut mush. Bliss Balls are the size and shape of chocolate truffles, but they're more like chalky blobs of unsweetened cacao. If purchased individually, they're also expensive, at $14 for nine. While the price of many Pure Market Express items is comparable to typical deli takeout—$8 for the Mexi Wraps, $9 for the Thai salad, for example—a few items that require more labor or high-cost ingredients are significantly pricier than their cooked counterparts.

The best bet is a thick wedge of mock chocolate cheesecake for $8. It's very creamy, a bit like a dense mousse or flourless chocolate cake, with a more buttery texture. For those worried about getting enough calories—nutritionists estimate that to get enough, raw foodists must eat 11 to 12 pounds of food a day—a slice of this cheesecake has 11 grams of saturated fat, or 57 percent of the average daily allowance.

Day 7

Faced with the prospect of leftover mock salmon and a few other meals I previously scrapped, I decide to call off my diet and assess the results. I certainly cut out a lot of crap by avoiding many of the things we tend to overdo, such as meat, carbohydrates, and refined sugar. I increased my intake of fruits, vegetables, and fiber while avoiding the harmful fats and preservatives common in commercially processed foods.

While my internal alarm clock didn't reset itself, as Irey's did, to 5 a.m. ("It's ridiculous to stay in bed when you have that much energy," she quips.), I did feel energetic and slept peacefully during my raw stint. But, as with many experiments, it's difficult to account for other factors, such as the finally warm weather or fun weekend plans.

I won't be going all-raw anytime soon, but Pure Market Express did help me think more creatively about my food choices and consider incorporating more raw meals in my (not) cooking repertoire. That's fine with Irey, whose approach is more encouraging than dogmatic. She suggests that a little raw is better than none at all and mentions that one of her customers told her that she loves serving the raw bacon jalapeño poppers at summer cookouts—alongside burgers and hot dogs and beer.

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