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Omnivore chick goes raw for a week

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I love food. My Saturday mornings are spent lounging with The Food Network. Barefoot Contessa has taught me the mastery of roasting lemony chicken. One of my closest friends works at a food magazine and sends me copies. I cook seasonally – butternut squash in the fall, blue-cheese corn salads in the summer, cassoulet in the winter. Most people who know my dad have experienced his famous barbeque ribs that don’t call for sauce. My family often gets together for dinner -- an aunt seriously makes the best fried chicken in the city – in a dining room scenario that’s the movie “Soul Food” meets an episode of “Julia Child” plus martinis. Of course living in Chicago makes for a wonderful, diverse culinary experience.

Why in the world would I go on a seven-day raw food detox diet?

My fridge during the detox. Ignore the eggs. I had baked a cake the week before.

Well, I knew I could improve my consumption of fruits and vegetables. And I’m always up for a mental exercise to stimulate personal growth. I signed up for Raw Food Goddess Nwenna Kai’s detox course. Day One was last Sunday. The rules: No meat, animal products, alcohol or recreational drugs. If it’s “cooked,” it must be dehydrated. (I don’t own a dehydrator.) To prepare for this detox journey, I dutifully – and expensively – stocked up at Whole Foods. My refrigerator bloomed with bright colors from all the fruits and vegetables.

We have daily half-hour morning conference calls. Nwenna distributed a manual and sermonizes how changing over to a raw food diet is a lifestyle change that has transformed her life. She emphasizes total personal balance and urges people to think about their relationship with food during the detox.

The menu has been tricky for me. I prepared cashew cheese in a blender and promptly dumped in the trash. It was gross. I’ve gotten bored because I feel like I’m snacking all day and not eating full meals. Salads for dinner most nights. Lots of nuts during the day. I had to give up hummus because chickpeas are boiled. The diet also calls for detox cocktails. After I drank the garlic-flax oil tonic, I saw my neighbor with french fries and wanted to attack her. I went back in the house and drank a glass of water.

I’ve enjoyed sliced avocados, morning smoothies, mango salsa and cucumbers soaked in rice vinegar. Day Four was difficult when a headache settled in and my body screamed for more food. An avocado calmed my nerves. When my editor came to my office, he had a bagel. Bread never looked so good. My aunt (yes, the fried chicken aunt) taunted me about a family lunch I missed at a restaurant that has the best burger in the city.

But I have gained some lessons. I rarely eat breakfast. The daily smoothies, which I’d never made before, will be incorporated post-detox. That has given me some morning energy, the only notable change I’ve felt during the detox. I’ll scale back on the frozen entrees for lunch and replace with fruit, which will be especially helpful on nights I work late or am on the go and miss a good dinner. I’ve no intention of going raw. I’d wilt like an old collard green if I couldn’t eat here or here or here or …

There’s no one way to live healthy and I’m happy with my relationship to food: nutrition, sustenance, community and taste. Before the detox, I had a pretty balanced diet. My family has a pretty balanced diet. We’re all in shape and take health seriously. Before the words “organic” and “sustainable” were catchphrases, we grew up eating local. Childhood weekends were spent plucking weed’s from my dad’s extensive vegetable garden. We didn’t think growing eggplant and cucumber was special; we just did it.

Although when I do finish the detox by Sunday, I don’t think I’ll be immediately ready for a filet mignon. Medium rare.

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