Like most writers, I like to be knowledgable about what I write about. But since I write fantasy, this isn’t always technically possible. I will never actually learn to fly, turn into a dinosaur, develop telepathy, or do a lot of the things that my characters get to do.
Well, probably never. I’m still kind of holding out hope on the flying thing . . .
Anyway, that’s probably why I tend to focus on the food that I write about. I like to develop my characters’ personalities through the food that they enjoy and I get a great deal of pleasure getting to know them better by cooking what they cook.
Or, in this case, not cooking what they cook.
The main character I am writing now is a raw vegan. And in order to get inside of her head, I’ve decided to adopt her diet for one week.
What does this mean? First, let’s define some terms. There is some controversy over the precise parameters of both “vegan” and “raw,” but for my purposes, I define them as follows:
- VEGAN: consuming no animal products of any kind (This means no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, no honey, and no animal fats.)
- RAW: unprocessed, raw plant foods that have not been heated over 104/115 degrees. (There appears to be a split in authority as to the exact temperature. But basically, it means that nothing is cooked.)
Why Would Anybody Want To Be A Raw Vegan?
I’m not going to attempt to lay out the arguments for and against raw veganism in any detail. But, in a nutshell, people adopt raw veganism for a number of reasons, ranging from spiritual/ethical/environmental concerns, to weight loss and overall health improvement (through the elimination of commercially processed food, strict raw vegans consume no trans fat and much smaller quantities of things like sugar, saturated fat and sodium). There is also an argument that cooking food above 104 (or 115) degrees destroys valuable nutrients.
Raw veganism has its critics, particularly in reference to this last claim, about food losing nutrients when cooked. A good summary of the pro/con arguments can be found HERE.
My main character is a sixteen year old who “goes raw vegan” for spiritual reasons.
My Reference Texts:
My raw vegan recipes have come from two main sources:
1. RAWESOMELY VEGAN (by Mike Snyder)
2. This Rawesome Vegan Life Blog, a raw vegan blog which hooked me with its gorgeous photographs, its comprehensive recipe index, and the blogger’s obvious love of desserts.
To experience the raw vegan lifestyle for one week, in order to gain character insight.
Using the aforementioned references, I have compiled a week’s worth of raw vegan recipes. Each day I will have a blended drink for breakfast, two full meals, two snacks, and one dessert.
I have chosen a week when my husband will be out of town. The good man has put up with my vegetarianism without complaint for the ten years we have been together, and I just can’t ask him to take this next step with me. My kids will necessarily be here with me during this experiment, but I will not be asking them to join me either. They will continue their kiddo-diets as normal.
Instead of focusing on what I can’t eat on this diet (and believe me, the list is vast), I am instead going to focus on what I can eat. This includes unlimited quantities of raw fruits and vegetables and luckily, it’s summer here in Texas so my choices are many and varied.
I am blessed to live within driving distance of a Whole Foods, a Central Market, and a Wheatsville Food Coop, all of which turned out to be necessary in order for me to check everything off of my grocery list. Even though I made an effort to steer clear of recipes that required unusual and costly ingredients, it still took two days of shopping to round up everything I needed. And the total cost . . . well, let’s just say this little adventure of mine is costing me roughly $45 per day. So, right off the bat, I can say for sure that this way of eating would be cost prohibitive for me in the long term. And it certainly would not be practical for my main character (at least in real life).
Here are the ingredients for my raw vegan week:
As you might expect, it is mostly fruits and vegetables, plus nuts, seeds, and other dry ingredients (the kinds of things you find in the bin section of any grocery store). The oils are all “cold pressed” and all of the juices are raw. In the weeks leading up to this project, I also amassed quite a collection of packaged raw food products (like Pizza Flax Snacks, raw granola, etc). These products are all raw and have been commercially dehydrated in order to achieve a crunchy texture (they’re basically the raw equivalent of crackers and chips). Since I am unwilling to invest in a food dehydrator myself, or to delve into the somewhat unsettling business of preparing “sprouted” food on my own, I will be counting on these products to add a little “bite” to my diet.
COFFEE. Coffee is not considered a raw food because the beans used to make it have been roasted. Nevertheless, this is one area where I am unwilling to compromise. My main character does not drink coffee. But she is a sixteen year old kid. I am a thirty-two year old woman with two children, one of whom is ten months old and does not always sleep through the night. I have to have coffee.
I justify this in the following ways:
- From my informal research on the subject (blog-reading, etc), coffee appears to be the #1 cheat in the raw vegan community, so I am in good company here.
- Raw veganism is all about doing what is good for you. And going cold turkey on a hard-core addiction for one week would not be good for me. Or anyone else around me.
- I’m a writer. I have fictional characters in my head that I’m pretty sure would die if I cut off their caffeine supply.
So, long story short, I will still be drinking coffee. But I plan to do so with more moderation than usual, since given my other dietary restrictions, the caffeine will probably hit me with more potent force than usual.[Interesting side note – I am gratified to learn that wine is, apparently, a raw food.]
My Forseeable Impediments:
-Hunger: I love food and I’m not good going without it. Or surviving on limited quantities of it. I’ll admit it, I’m weak. And I’m scared I’m going to be hungry on this diet.
-My Love of Cheese: I love cheese. I really, really do. And a week without cheese is going to be tough.
-My Children: They will not be going raw vegan with me. (Although, interestingly, it could be argued that my 10-month old is pretty much already on a raw vegan diet, given that he eats mainly mashed up vegetables and fruit). My 3-year-old daughter is an almost constant snacker, and I’m worried that her crackers, granola bars, mac n’cheese, etc will prove too great of a temptation for me.
-My Workout Schedule: I am worried that I will not have enough energy to work out.
I have been a vegetarian for over twenty years. In that time, I have encountered every possible reaction to my dietary preference, from total indifference to militant disapproval. So I know better than to judge anybody else’s eating habits. So any conclusions I may come to during my raw vegan adventure, and any offhand comments I make, should not be taken as commentary on the raw vegan diet in general. This experiment is only about how the diet works for me (and how I hypothesize it might work for my fictional main character). I’m not attempting to draw general conclusions about how this diet might work for others. I am not nearly knowledgable enough to make generalized statements like that.
On a similar note, I do not purport to be an expert on this food philosophy – I am merely an author undertaking a research project to better inform her writing. And no one should take anything I say here as anything more than that.
And with that, I give you my last cooked meal before my experiment begins:
A chiptole/queso burrito from Trudy’s Tex Mex Restaurant. Not a single thing on this plate is raw. Or remotely healthy.
Check back tomorrow to see how my first day went! I will be blogging every evening for the duration of the project, with details about what I ate that day and how everything is going. It might get crazy. Or it might be surprisingly undramatic. I can’t wait to find out!