Raw Reno

Carrots and nuts are just part of the story

Photo By Audrey Love

Last Christmas, Rob Fuss received a handmade gift certificate from his daughter, Heather Fuss. As River School Farm director, Heather recently finalized the Raw Food 30-Day Challenge class and gave her father a certificate to enroll as a student. Rob had heard about raw food diets but didn’t know much about them. Before the first day of the challenge, he drank a few glasses of wine and joked it was his “last supper.”

“My vision of raw food was just eating carrot sticks and celery sticks,” he said.

When he made it to class, Rob learned his idea of raw food diets was neither quite right nor completely wrong. First, the diet advises that nearly 100 percent of food be cooked to no more than 118°F. Raw foodists believe the nutrients, phytochemicals and enzymes that aid in digestion are destroyed when the food is cooked. As a result, much of the diet is plant-based.

As the class began, instructor Rory Ballard of Earth Alchemy Foods showed the documentary Simply Raw. The film reminded Rob, a self-proclaimed meat- and-potato eater, “You are what you eat.” Moreover, he saw how six diabetics managed their blood sugar, with some of them going off their medications completely. Remarkably, 30-days later and with the supervision of his doctor, Rob—also a diabetic—discovered he, too, could control his blood sugar with a raw food diet.

“I feel better, more on top of things, better focused,” he said. “When you actually have the objective results, like your blood pressure going down so much and your blood sugar going down so much—that, to me, is the proof that this thing really works.”

Raw and sensitive

Rory Ballard

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Ballard, along with his partner of Earth Alchemy Foods, Shelly Goodin, knows this all too well. On the last night of the 30-day challenge, Ballard heard time and again how the diet had not only changed people’s health, but also their perceptions of food.

“One man spoke of eating a steak, but instead of eating the normal portions he was usually accustomed to eating, he only ate a third and felt completely satisfied,” Ballard said. “Somebody else had tried a piece of gum from her friend, and it was so sweet, and her taste buds were so sensitive. It was over-the-top sweet. In general, we’re creating more sensitive eaters.”

When the River School Farm first opened the class, they had to turn people away and capped the class at 27. This month, on Feb. 13, the farm started its second, 30-day challenge. Whole Foods also began offering monthly classes on raw foods last fall. A few restaurants are opening their menus to specific raw-food recipes, and the Holland Project also plans to hold a raw food workshop on Saturday, Feb. 26. Throughout, there are a handful of raw foodists in the community who are out to change the view that raw food is a strict vegan diet of veggies and fruits. Moreover, very few people are 100 percent raw. Many raw foodists eat a diet that’s closer to 70 to 80 percent raw.

For Ballard, he simply hoped people would eat more of what has sorely been missed in the American diet.

“It’s about eating a predominantly plant-based diet. Right there, that’s the key: plant-based diet,” says Ballard. “It doesn’t say vegan, it doesn’t say vegetarian, and it doesn’t say raw foodist. Those are all personal choices. But a high-raw, plant-based diet—that’s what we’re encouraging.”

Pine nut sushi

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Michele Malchow, who teaches raw food classes at Whole Foods, said, “Imagine when you take an apple, and it’s growing off a tree, and it’s ripe, and it’s perfect, and you pick it,” she said. “You eat it, and you take a bite—that is truly raw food because it’s still living, and the life force is still in it. You want to eat that raw food because you want that living life in your body—you want to have that energy.”

Sezmu chef Larry Dunning heard about the Raw Food Challenge and started his own challenge.

“Everybody that I talked to about doing it, they can’t seem to grasp that I could even do it and would say ‘Oh, what are you eating? Oh, what are you having tonight?’” His response: “Well, I’m going to have sushi and parsnips and pine nuts, and its really good, and it’s actually a little bit better than usual sushi because it has a little more pop to it with the freshness with the pine nuts as opposed to just rice.”

Dunning liked the results of the diet so much that he even included a raw food item on his menu: Beet ravioli with “cashew cheese,” arugula, and a walnut vinaigrette. On a night of 50 entree orders, seven or eight chose the raw food entree over beef or chicken—a big shocker for Dunning.

These findings have a few in Reno turning to a raw food diet, and for some, a raw food lifestyle. Kelly Peyton, who had also done the Raw Food Challenge, summed it up best: “Maybe it’s starting out as a trend … a necessary movement, and some people are really getting passionate about it. But the more you learn about it, you realize how important it is.”