Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

The past few years have seen many vegans kick it up a notch with their diets with what is known as a raw food diet. Just when we couldn’t get any weirder, some of us decided that none of our food should be cooked above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Joking aside, walking through a grocery store in any city and noting what fills the majority of the buggies is enough to cause concern about the North American diet. Many are filled with boxes and baggies filled with pre-made meals and staples biding their time in a deep freeze before being stuffed into our digestive tracts after a few minutes in the nuker.  

Though the debate is still raging and the lab rats continue to plot the data outlining the health benefits of raw foodism (or “living foodism,” as some prefer to be titled), anyone with a grounding in the fundamentals of nutrition should argue that more of our diet needs more raw, living foods. And far fewer Pizza Pockets. 

Many nutrients are lost throughout the course of the cooking process. Those of us who were paying attention during grade 10 science class may well remember that one of the easiest ways to break the basic chemical structures of a molecule is through heat. Picture your pile of steamed spinach. Imagine a bunch of little floating chains of vitamin C in there, a web of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Add heat, and bam. The bonds holding that special formation of atoms begins to break down, and, long story short, that vitamin is a vitamin no longer, but a bunch of lonely atoms that your body can’t put back together again. Then no vitamin C for you. Dig? 

Raw foodism takes a good deal of work, however. The most adherent of the bunch use dehydrators, juicers and special food processors to keep their diets full of variety. The cuisine is rapidly developing, including everything from soups, pastas, crackers and cookies – all of which have been cleverly foodie-MacGyvered into a vibrant, healthful range of cookery. 

The best way to introduce people to a new mode of eating and living is to get them to try it for themselves. Those within kayaking distance of downtown Vancouver would do to have their inaugural raw foodie fest at the lovely Gorilla Food on Richards Street. (Which is, incidentally, a few doors down from the most fabulous used bookstore in the entire world – Macleod’s Books). 

Festooned with a campy, jungle motif, the restaurant is reminiscent of being on-set at a Survivor taping. The treatment is that of an upscale café; you order at the counter, and the food is delivered to your set at few moments later. And I mean only a few moments. Remember, the food isn’t cooked. 

I immediately decided to start off with a fresh juice, the Sweet Magenta, a blend of beet, carrot and apple juices ($5.50). After asking the server about the house favourites, I decided on the Cashew Alfredo Zucchini Linguine ($10), served with a side salad with ginger avocado vinaigrette. 

After tucking in to my juice, my food arrived. The noodles, slightly warmed, had been grated to mimic pasta, and raw cashews and fresh basil had been processed to resemble a traditional cream-based Alfredo sauce. 

Both the salad and pasta were delicious. The pasta, though going down a bit bulkier than your throw-in-boiling-water gluten-based stuff, was entirely satisfying, the zucchini a very subtle offering and fitting pair with the basil and cashew cream. I considered dessert – the Maca Chocoroons looked especially delicious – but I was simply too full to partake. 

In sum, Gorilla Food is a perfect gateway experience for those unfamiliar with raw foodism. A shelf on the side of the café carries several books and products associated with raw foodism, as well as pamphlets to take away to seed further investigation. 

Photo credit: Geoff Peter's Flickr photostream. (Geoff604).