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Did the Pilgrims Fret About Cholesterol?

November 26, 1997|CARRIE ST. MICHEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving. Yes, I am clinically insane. Or at least I will be by Thursday.

The problem is twofold:

1. In one of my less lucid moments--yes, it is hard to tell--I volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner.

2. Americans no longer eat normal food.

I was planning to prepare (in this context, it should be noted, the word "prepare" is interchangeable with the word "purchase") the traditional Thanksgiving meal: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, yams, pumpkin pie and a cranberry-colored, canned substance of unknown origins.

Then, one by one, my guests shipped over, in large cargo containers, their complete medical histories, featuring, among other things, each individual's dietary restrictions. It was just their cheery way of saying, "We really appreciate your invitation, and, if it's not too much trouble, please don't kill us."

My mother, for example, cannot be seated even in the general vicinity of any foodstuff containing cholesterol. My brother and husband both have a slight problem with sodium in that it raises their blood pressure to a life-threatening level, which does nothing to enhance either one of their appearances. And two of my other guests must limit their fat intake to, approximately, air.

At this point, I plan to serve everyone a nice seasonal assortment of tree bark.

Surprisingly, things could be worse. For instance, all of my guests could be raw foodists.

Raw foodists will, as their name indicates, only consume uncooked foods. (They also are known as "living foodists" and "people who are highly unlikely to consider a side of beef to be a particularly thoughtful gift.")

I learned about this new lifestyle trend in a recent USA Today article. The story featured a large color photo of a young man who owns a restaurant in San Francisco called Raw Living Foods. In the picture he is wearing bright orange pants and seems to have something, perhaps a squirrel, growing out of the top of his head. He is holding a large serving plate that appears to contain numerous items dredged from a clogged garbage disposal.

The gentleman goes by only his first name, Juliano, I'm guessing at his parents' request.

According to Juliano, "Out of every living thing on the planet--animals, plants, insects--none is overweight or out of shape except for the ones that eat cooked foods." Apparently Juliano has never seen a walrus. This majestic animal, which is not known to eat cooked foods, can only be described as a huge mound of blubber in need of extensive dental work.

In any case, raw foodists believe that cooking destroys many vitamins, minerals and essential food enzymes. They also argue that a raw food diet is in no way limiting. Juliano notes that "In most restaurants, tortillas are deep-fried. But I take a purple cabbage leaf, pull it off, and it's automatically a tortilla."

OK, I think a vote is in order. Raise your hand if you think it's still a purple cabbage leaf.

Sorry, Juliano. But you needed to know.

However, raw food is catching on. Not only is Juliano expanding his restaurant, but others are opening similar establishments. This makes perfect sense. Why stay home and chomp on a carrot when you can just as easily drive many miles to a restaurant, order, wait for your order and then chomp on a carrot for which you will be expected to pay good money, tip not included.

There are several Web sites devoted to raw food diets, as well as newsletters and magazines that I believe also can be used in place of tortillas. There's even an American Living Foods Institute near Glendale, which, by the way, should not be confused with the American Living No-Wax Linoleum Institute.

And if all that's not enough, Juliano is writing one of the first raw foods recipe books, which, undoubtedly, will explore complex culinary techniques such as washing and peeling.

Actually, I'm hoping his book will be available very, very soon. I really need a good recipe for seasonal tree bark.

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