Raw diet is the new frontier

Cristina Bowerman tells us about her (re)discovery of raw food during a recent trip to California

06-09-2015
A dish at Make Out,

A dish at Make Out, "raw food café", one of Matthew Kenney’s restaurants: it is located in Culver City, California. Thanks to Kenney, Cristina Bowerman has rediscovered her raw diet inclination, and tells us how it happened and why

It’s no mystery I love to travel, yet every trip is different from the other. The last two opened culinary and human horizons for me that were so peculiar and different that, as often the case, I cannot sleep at night while I’m trying to keep together all the things I’ve seen and learnt. So for now, I’ll tell you about the first trip.

In the United States I had the pleasure to meet Matthew Kenney, who’s considered a raw diet guru. I came across this cuisine for the first time thanks to Roxanne Klein when I was living in South California, in the late ’90s, but I considered it to be just a fashion, and in fact a very questionable one, as it was accessible to few people. Being so health oriented and elitist, it had more moderate vegetarians and vegans turn up their noses.

Matthew Kenney at work
Matthew Kenney at work

Many years have passed since then, now I feel raw diet is back with a revenge! I had a chance to come across it once again recently at Matthew’s M.A.K.E. – which closed in these very days, but he’s got five more restaurants open or about to open, scattered in California, Maine, Miami and Yucatán, Mexico – here’s the list. I found it is much closer to my way of being than I thought until not too long ago.

Of course, I could never follow such a strict diet, based on ingredients that can be brought only to a temperature that is slightly higher than body temperature (and if you cook raw food, you need to follow the rules in all aspects of your everyday life, of this I have no doubt. Raw diet goes beyond food, it’s a lifestyle). This even though I was in fact tempted to “convert” when I met a group of people of my same age following the raw diet: they looked like kids!

Fermentation, drying, marinade, brine, pickling and juicing are the base of an extremely strict choice, focused on the protection of consumers in terms of understanding the products used, use of fresh and possibly local raw materials, banning of all sorts of preservatives, if not natural. I saw a huge press extracting delicious juices which, incredibly, didn’t oxidise despite being in contact with oxygen.

Already during my return trip I began to think about raw diet dishes and techniques I could include in my menu at Glass Hostaria in Rome. Some, as mushroom “cooking” or aubergine pickling, had excellent results. Matthew Kenney makes raw materials stand out: the flavour of vegetables and fruit becomes crucial. The curd made with milk produced from nuts can truly determine the success of a dish. I found everything very engaging from an emotional point of view.


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