By Sara Ivry
New York Times Magazine -- 11/15/98
Vegetarianism, long considered a hippie hallmark, is now mainstream. But the
traditional no-meat-no-fish menu is being upstaged by competing practices that advocate a
far greater rigidity. In crunchy subcultures in which a "my diet is better than
yours" attitude quietly prevails, coolness is gauged by culinary austerity. And the
question abstemious eaters like to grill one another with nowadays is this: How
"raw" are you?
Raw foodism -- not, heaven forbid, as in sushi, with all its roiling bacteria -- is an
interestingly popular diet regime in which adherents ingest only uncooked, unprocessed
fruits, vegetables, and seeds. Raw meat is out, as is dairy: both are considered poison in
disguise. Other big no-nos include coffee, tea, alcohol, and vitamin supplements. Truly
orthodox raw foodists even reject seemingly innocuous products like vinegar, garlic, and
herbs, those tasty aditives the rest of us take for granted.
"The purer you are, the more status you have," says Ronni Kolotkin, a recent
raw convert from New York City. "The goal is to be 100 percent raw. We pity
meat-eaters because we know they're going to die soon. They're killing themselves."
Like many other raw foodists, Kolotkin has tested a litany of diets -- vegetarianism,
macrobiotic, the all-protein route -- but swears going raw is where it's at. She's not at
100 percent yet (she still nibbles on some pasta every now and then), but she's trying
True raw foodists definitely see themselves as perched at the top of the food chain.
"Spiritually and mentally you become clearer," says Ed Lieb, who runs Planet
Health, an alternative healing center in Manhattan. "We're elite because we eat
things as nature intended."
Certainly raw foodism makes veganism look fairly mundane. That's the diet, formerly on
the outer fringe, that considers all animal products and by products taboo. "People
say they're vegans -- they're proud of that," says Kolotkin. "But raw foodists
think: That's nothing! That's nowhere! We don't eat soy products. We don't eat tofu. No
grains. You can't even drink herbal tea. If you have to cook it, you can't eat it."