"I lived on cigarettes and Red Bull when I was a vegan," she adds, recalling that period as the unhealthiest of her life. "A lot of people go vegan for ethical reasons, but they neglect their own health, and I was one of those."

Veganism is an extreme branch of vegetarianism that rejects any food made with animal products, from veal and yogurt to Jell-O and sometimes even honey. Echoing ancient Greek philosophers, literary romantics and animal-rights champions, vegans point to the suffering of animals as reason enough to maintain their diet.

Most raw foodists tend to be vegan but rarely justify what they eat solely in moral terms. Instead they tend to gush about miraculous health benefits they claim come from food that's been only minimally tainted by human hands.

Location Info

Map

Franco

1535 S. Eighth St.
St. Louis, MO 63104

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Soulard

Whole Foods Market-Galleria

1601 S. Brentwood Blvd.
Brentwood, MO 63144

Category: Retail

Region: Brentwood

Oceano Bistro

44 N. Brentwood Blvd.
Clayton, MO 63105

Category: Restaurant > Contemporary

Region: Clayton

VegaDeli

177 Hilltown Village Cnt.
Chesterfield, MO 63017

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: Chesterfield

Details

Today's society shows "a prejudice in favor of what is natural and, therefore, supposedly pre-cultural," according Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a history professor at Tufts University. This preference, he writes in his book Food: A History, "makes raw food attractive to modern urbanites repelled by our over-contrived lifeways, seeking readmission to Eden."

As far as back as the early 1800s, the Rev. Sylvester Graham (father of the graham cracker) railed against processed food, complaining of bakers who whitened bread with chlorine to make it look more refined — a practice he considered immoral. Had Graham lived to see the 1950s, he would have witnessed the American diet veering toward mass-produced, frozen, processed and chemically altered foods.

By the end of the 1960s, though, a backlash set in as consumer advocates such as Ralph Nader publicly warned of the health risks such foods posed. Newspapers followed suit with exposés of pesticides, salmonella and botulism fouling the food supply. All the while hippies were fleeing to communes, trying to get "back to the garden."

And so began the postwar natural-foods movement, which continues today. One of its latest expressions, along with organic produce aisles in supermarkets, is raw foodism. It is a diet, writes Fernandez-Armesto, in which "romantic primitivism allies ecological anxiety."

Raines was aware of the natural-food trend before her switch to a raw diet last fall. But what really convinced her to try it was an e-book she came across that promised more energy. Her first goal was to see if she could last a week. "I thought, 'There's no way it's going to be as good as they say.'"

The first few days were rough, she recalls, as she reaches for her black leather-bound journal. She flips to the pages in which she recorded her first three days of raw food and points to large letters in red ink that fill up half of one page: "I'M SO FRIGGIN' HUNGRY!!!"

"I didn't realize you have to eat more," she explains.

After a week of the diet, she says, "Oh my God, I was stunned at how much better I felt." A week turned into a month. By that time, she had shed ten pounds.

In February she visited her sister-in-law, Andrea Achilleus. "She walked in the door and I thought, 'Something's different,'" Achilleus remembers. "She just seemed much happier and glowed with health. It absolutely radiated from her."

"I'd had inklings before that what you eat affects your mood," Raines says. "But I had no idea it was this intense."


Not all raw dishes taste raw.

Tom Tessereau owns the Healing Arts Center in Maplewood, where national raw-food leaders often drop by to give presentations. At one recent community gathering there, Tessereau's wife, Sabrina, brought a rich purple cheesecake for all to share.

She made the crust from a dough of pecans, dates and shredded coconut all ground through a food processor. The cheese filling consisted of blended cashews, agave nectar and açaí berries — a fruit that grows in the Brazilian rainforest.

In their daily routines local raw eaters munch on some unusual items, such as hemp protein and flaxseed. One raw aficionado mixes bee-pollen pellets into her smoothies.

Jane Gramlich and Steven Sloan, who live in the Tower Grove neighborhood, soak grains to make them sprout. A sprouted grain, they say, is "living" and more nutritious than a "dead" roasted seed. The couple chomps through so many sunflower greens that they have them home-delivered each week.

John Schiermann of Mascoutah, Illinois, delights in brewing rejuvelac. He'll take some sprouting wheat or rye, dump it in a gallon jar of water and let it sit for a few days. "It tastes like beer," he says, "and it's full of B vitamins."

A fully stocked raw kitchen will include a sturdy blender. Local rawists revere the Vita-Mix, which can cost more than $500 and is considered the Cadillac of blenders. The food processor is another vital tool of the trade, along with the dehydrator — the "raw foodist oven."

Native St. Louisans Tim Ferrell and Tim Convy, both members of the nationally touring rock band Ludo, are "high raw" (or mostly raw) vegans. Despite shopping almost exclusively for perishables, Ferrell claims that just one weekly trip to the grocery store will suffice. He's become an expert at timing the shelf life of produce and at salvaging what's already going bad. "It's not supposed to last forever," Ferrell says. "It's food!"

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