Thursday, June 3, 2010

"But it takes so looonnng...."

Stacey's the name and Information is my game.  I love, love, LOVE information!  Starting a new diet is a perfect information feeding frenzy for me.  There's new stuff to learn!  A need to know how it works, what to fix, how to fix it, and what is required to make it as successful as possible.  It makes my fingers tingle with web excitement just to think of all the searching available to me on this new topic.

As an information junkie and the topic "de jour" is food, it fits well with my love of recipe books.  While researching for the best books to invest time and possibly money in, I came across an interesting dichtomy: time prep.

From book reviews to Raw Food discussion threads, the biggest complaint I see is people saying that going "Raw" is too time consuming.  Or, that the recipes are impossible because they have so many steps that would require so many days using the dehydrator to complete with too much expensive equipment, yada, yada, yada...

As a Foodie, I have kitchen equipment like nobody's bid'ness! Raw suggests 2 items totalling about $800 to make Raw Gourmet work and Raw Food daily quick and simple; a high speed blender and a nice dehydrator.

Think on how much Caphalon pots cost? French coppers? Yes, if you're buying that type of equipment, you got bucks but that doesn't stop many cooking Foodies from buying to have the experience of working with great, quality equipment and getting the best results because they invested in their materials. If Raw doesn't work, the blender and dehydrator will continue working after the fact. Sell them on eBay to another Raw newbie if Raw doesn't fit.  (Heck, I would have loved to find a great eBay deal on a used Blendtec or VitaMix!  Which, in fact I did save about $100 by selected a factory refurbished blender today.)  But before negativity, at least invest in equipment as if it were pots and pans or small appliance for cooked food.

After marinating on the equipment issue, what popped into my mind were two things:  1) the time prep issue reviewers must not have been cooking enthusiasts regardless of diet, and 2) if they were Foodies before trying Raw, their perception of "time" is distorted between their old way of eating (cooked) and the new way of working into Raw.  In logic, this is called dissonance, a mismatch of reality to perception based on an individual's beliefs, and in this case it is on the subject of prep time.

What makes food "quick" from creation to table is preparation.  Since prepared or pre-mixed "cooked" foods are readily stocked everywhere, from restaurants to grocers, preparation time seems less.  I say "seems" because the general cooking cook writes off the time they are not making the pasta and they pick it up at the boiling water point. They ignore the time and energy when into preparing the processed food that can be pick-up off the shelf. 

What is also discounted is how they accept their food in a processed state, which is what makes it "time saving".  But, it is also the whole anti-thesis of what Raw Food seeks to be.  There is nothing "fresh" about dried pasta, canned tomato sauce, or frozen lasagna.  It is easy, but not gourmet or fresh; as any cooking gourmet chef would agree.

Raw Foodist who seek gourmet need to adopt the principles that "cooking" chefs, not general cooks, always follow.  Good cooking cooks don't buy processed food, either.  Anyone invested in food, Cooked or Raw, won't buy the "Miracle Whip" in their food selections.  They make their own "mayonaise" and store it for future use. 

Raw Gourmets need to think the same way.  It's all about planning a menu if you want to eat at at certain level of quality.  Cooking chefs don't just "make mexican".  They plan for it.  They buy certain raw ingredients and have them ready to make into products for the final dish.  They have to cook their beans.  Make their tortillas.  Chop their salsas. Gather and prep the other garnishments.  Then, they assemble the final dish.  From scratch or Raw, this takes time.  Raw Gourmet would require the same investments, but with a few different ingredients.

To be gourmet anything or to eat more gourmet daily, Raw Foodist have to do what any gourmet cooking requires; preparation of ingredients from raw foods.  Making cashew, macadamia, and other nut purees to have at hand or dehydrating flat breads in advance to be stocked on the counter, in the fridge or freezer until needed for wrapping is similar to how a cooking gourmet will make bread dough, boil up stocks, or roast meats for sandwiches or salad recipes.  Discovering and preparing a Raw Core Ingredients Supply will make life easier during the week, and makes it possible to eat at a "higher level" than quick and simple (with a note that quick and simple should be the core of any way of eating). 

For Raw Food, the concept of "cooked food" processed-style foods that can be picked up off the shelf is a rather oxymoronic statement in a way.  There is a growing cabin industry of crackers and glazed nut producers, but much of what would reduce preparation time cannot and should not be "off the shelf" as Raw.  It just doesn't comply or isn't Raw anymore once packaged for sale. 

To get a better comparison on Raw vs. Cooking prep time, I browsed the cookbook sample pages or "un-cookbook", as they so cheekily call the Raw recipe books. Book reviewers either embraced the recipes, the author and/or the methods, OR they tossed them aside, often with a cavallier comment about how NOT like the title suggests are the contents of the book or how the recipes were not good (a valid point).

Though often, the toss aside comments about how it takes days to get a recipe together, it make me think deeper about the dissonance, or mental disconnection, that is happening between the reviewers.

They shout from the web page, "How can I possibly prepare this after work??"  If they looked deeply at their negative perspectives about time required to do Raw Food gourmet prep, part of it, I believe, is reminicing on the "sweet past" of walking into any restaurant to be served one of many choices or browsing the aisle of plenty in our grocery stores for packaged food goods that needed little effort to make into "something" to put on the table.  It ignores the fact that while they were off at work, chefs have been busy chopping, slicing, pickling, baking, and saucing in the kitchens to get that wonderfully flavorful restaurant food plated and in front of them in the short wait between ordering and presentation.

To support my point, reflect upon the ever-popular and now re-popularized "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child.  How many of those recipes can be whipped off in 1/2 hour?  Ok, 1 hour? 2 hours?  Not bloody likely!  Many of the most delicious concoctions take days to prepare. 

My example:  Duck en Croute.  Starting with the pastry (45 minutes + 2 hours refridgeration), move to prep the duck (at least 45 minutes according to Julia and is not double counted in time with the refridgeration time on the pastry), prepare the pork/veal stuffing (2 hours), stuff the duck and brown it for baking (at least 1 hour + 1 hour for duck to cool), pastry the duck (1 hour, to make time for the fancy designs on the "en croute"), and baking time (2 hours +) and cooling time (2-3 hours).  Total time to get this dish from cabinet/refridgerator to table = 12 hours into getting one part of the meal on the table.  To have the stamina to do this would take at least 2 days to do the prep and presentation work. 

This is what gourmet is about, at times.  It's about investing a good portion of time, energy and love of food into a meal that is not usual.  French people do not eat Duck en Croute every day, just like Raw Foodist will not eat dishes that require multi-faceted dehydration techniques.  Just like many cooked recipes, gourmet Raw is not for everyday.  They are special dishes planned for, prepared and presented.  Sometimes the combinations are not correct, which makes them special occassion dishes.   If a Raw Foodist ate gourmet every day, it would be similar to the French if they ate all the sauces, creams, butters, etc.  They'd have indigestion and would not feel so great based on the richness of the food; with too much oil and nut butters, etc. for the Raw Foodist.

Everyday Raw is more like everyday French, quick 30 minute preps to create good simple food.  For Raw Foodists, it's sliced vegetables, tossed greens in a quick dressing, juiced fruits and veggies, or food combinations mixed and ready to dish out for several meals like marinated greens or sprouted bean mixtures.  Quick and simple, and no time at all!

So time is all in what you expect from it.  If you love food and love spending time in the kitchen, adopting Raw Food Gourmet is just like being a good "cook" chef.  It takes preparation, thought, and an enjoyment of food to go beyond the daily basics. 

And, from what my research is showing me, I'm grateful that there are talented Raw chefs out there giving me the recipes to produce truly gourmet options with Raw Foods.

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