Blog: In The Raw
by Lapis

The Raw Deal

"The advantages of the raw diet are varied. Besides the instant weight loss, it provides the body with a plethora of vitamins and apparently, all 96 minerals the body needs. And Iverson insists it helps solve the three most common immune system problems in the human body: high acidity, candida (yeast-infection parasites) and de-mineralization. Most raw foodists claim they haven’t been sick since they’ve adopted their new diet."

Date:   5/6/2005 5:22:00 PM   ( 16 y ) ... viewed 2334 times

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The Raw Deal
Candice Valantin

Not just for rabbits: the raw-food-only diet may soon come to a cafe near you

VANCOUVER - As I walk into the Living Source Cafe on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, I’m overwhelmed with the shiny hardwood floors and oversized glass sculptures that glimmer in the sunlight. Mark, the owner of the cafe, will boast that it is the only entirely raw restaurant in Vancouver. I’ve come to listen to Chris Iverson, the raw food expert who helped Mark open this restaurant, speak about the raw food lifestyle. I get a generous waft of sweet tobaccoless smoke as I walk across the room to where Iverson is holding his Raw Food Workshop.

Behind a barrier of dark maroon curtains hanging down to the floor, I see a room of 18 people staring attentively at Iverson as if attempting to absorb his knowledge by osmosis. It’s a full two-day workshop and I’ve only stopped by for some tidbits, but I find myself lost in Iverson’s ravings of the latest raw product on the market. The conversation ranges from whether or not cashews are raw, to the benefits of the urine cleanse -- which involves drinking one’s own urine -- to when the raw pies will be served. Graham W. Boyes, a volunteer from the Raw Food Society of B.C., tells me emphatically how much I missed at lunch: “Raw calzones! Better than at any Italian restaurant!”

Raw foodism is a growing fad, and has been edging its way towards the mainstream since the ‘60s. To learn more about the lifestyle, I caught up with Iverson at the Living Source Cafe and later at another raw food joint, the Raw Food Cafe, about living large, living raw and what he sees in the future.

Story of the Veggie Man

Chris Iverson, now 36 years old, has been a vegetarian for 12 years. He recalls the circumstances surrounding his crossover: “I was eating a normal diet full of Taco Bell and McDonald’s . . . and I saw this guy named The Juice Man on late night TV. This old guy, he was like 70 or 80 years old but he looked like he was 50 or 40,” he tells me. “He had so much energy I was just attracted to it. So I bought a juicer and started growing my own wheat grass and immediately I felt the benefits.”

Iverson soon began working to introduce vegetarian restaurants and juice bars into rave nightclubs. Thereafter, he gained training as a chef. During this time, he lived in Maui with Jeremy Saffron, who opened the first raw food restaurant in the United States about 10 years ago and has worked with “the best” of the raw food world. “The best” includes David Wolf, the author of Eating for Beauty, now considered the world authority on raw food nutrition.

But Iverson only moved beyond vegetarianism and got hooked on raw food when something other than his stomach intervened. “I met this amazing goddess three years ago named Giselle . . . she was travelling with David Wolf, who, like, you know, is one of the leaders of live food.” He laughs and continues. “She was 100 per cent and told me that if I wasn’t she wouldn’t have anything to do with me, so I went 100 per cent for a while . . . for love.” This said, he zones off for a while.
Beyond the goddess Giselle, Iverson credits his enthusiasm for raw food to loving the concept of “healing people one meal at a time.” He tells me enthusiastically: “Anybody can do it! They just have to learn how. I’ve always wanted to help people, and it’s a great way to help people out.”

Living Food

As a diet largely subscribed to by health-conscious individuals like Iverson, the raw food lifestyle is viewed with considerable wariness by many. This skepticism is due in part to the inclusion of raw meat or “live” food in the full raw diet. When I first told a friend of mine about the live food diet, her first comment -- other than the skeptical raised eyebrow -- was, “That doesn’t sound very food safe.” Today, it is less recommended to eat raw flesh unless one has significant insight as to its sources. To break down the misunderstandings surrounding raw food, Iverson chops up the modern raw food diet into four parts.

The first part, which comprises the majority of the diet, is reserved for fresh and raw vegetables -- essentially, anything you could throw into a salad. The second part of the diet consists of dried or dehydrated food. Often this consists of a mixture of various items such as soaked chickpeas and sunflower seeds, mashed, shaped and dehydrated to create raw falafel, chips, or Iverson’s famous calzones. The third part is sprouted food. This involves soaking grains and seeds in water usually overnight or for a few hours until they begin to sprout -- until, ł la Frankenstein, “It’s alive!” The final part of the diet involves cultured food. This requires soaking seeds, grains or vegetables overnight similar to the sprouting process, then rinsing and blending with fresh water. Then it must be left to sit at room temperature, “so that the good bacteria can grow,” Iverson tells me. The adventurous may try the seed cheese or the kimchee; others may want to stick to something more familiar like the sauerkraut.

The advantages of the raw diet are varied. Besides the instant weight loss, it provides the body with a plethora of vitamins and apparently, all 96 minerals the body needs. And Iverson insists it helps solve the three most common immune system problems in the human body: high acidity, candida (yeast-infection parasites) and de-mineralization. Most raw foodists claim they haven’t been sick since they’ve adopted their new diet.

For Iverson, the diet involves much more than a simple salad and a list of vitamins to check off. When properly balanced, it’s not only food safe, he says, but absolutely delicious and quite healthy. It’s an art, and Iverson takes it to heart.

Raw Past and Present

Despite its current growing trendiness, raw food is anything but a new fad. Records indicate that it was popular amongst ancient Hebrews. Inuit who subsisted mostly on fish, seals, caribou and other game they could find, sometimes ate their food raw. J.H. Romig, a doctor who visited the Inuit in 1896 in the Bering Sea region, reported on their diet: “Their food was cooked mostly by boiling, and was rather rare; they ate as well, especially in winter, raw frozen fish and raw meat.”

The raw diet didn’t emerge as a popular trend until the 1960s when Victor Klevinskus came over to the United States from Russia and taught Anne Wigmore how to sprout. Klevinskus is now credited for having started the raw movement and Wigmore is well known in the raw community for her wheat grass and other raw recipes. Now, David Wolfe has taken the reins.

Wolfe has been eating totally raw food for 10 years now and hopes “to make raw food nutrition the number one subject of conversation on Planet Earth.” The largest distributor of raw food products “for a raw lifestyle,” he holds raw adventure retreats in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the South Pacific.

The raw movement’s profile has been raised by the signing on of many famous names, including Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore, Robin Williams, Donna Karan, Sting, Madonna, Uma Thurman and Ryan Adams. Just recently Woody himself was spotted at the Living Source Cafe in Vancouver and is said to be a big fan of Iverson’s raw corn chips.

While New York is leading the international raw movement, many European countries are catching on. And with raw food establishments in the U.S. numbering in the hundreds, Canada is likely to see many more restaurants like the Living Source Cafe sprouting up, with individuals like Iverson at the helm.

Local Sprouts

In the orderly line-up gathering before the food at the Raw CafÄ, I began talking to the guests. Lucas, a tall, slim Czechoslovakian with an accent and a pear has been on the “mucusless-diet healing system” for almost four months now. Lucas is a fruitarian, an extreme kind of raw foodist that only eats fresh fruit. “It’s sweet, juicy, delicious,” he explains. “The ideal diet!”

Arnold Ehret tells me he’s joined the raw movement for a completely different reason. “It’s about how much garbage we leave behind us after we eat.” Another raw foodist considered the more ethical reasons. “Vegetarians have another consciousness to a certain degree.”

But it was Brooks who said it best and it was at this point that I was the closest to becoming a convert: “It’s like a good love affair, raw food, it expands to fill in all the empty spaces.”

The Healthy Road

Impressed by the raw foodists I’d met, I wondered why the diet isn’t more widespread. During the drive home from the Raw CafÄ, I asked Iverson what he hopes for the future of the raw food movement.

Though he admitted that at the moment raw food is limited to a fraction of the population, he expressed confidence that the diet will have its day in the sun. “Right now, it’s just a fad, it’s not part of our culture yet,” he told me. “Once it becomes mainstream, it will become part of the culture and at that point we can really reach out to everyone on the planet.”

Raw foodism is not only a diet but a lifestyle. Speaking to individuals from the raw food community, I realized that this underground community might not be underground for long. And after my meal at the Raw CafÄ of chipotle salad and corn chips, I felt open to the possibility.

Candice Valantin


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