False Prophets

Religions who "market" door-to-door also happen to be the most restrictive in what they allow their followers to do. Fitting that those most easily "sold" on a belief system would also be the most likely to "stray" from it.

Zealotry begins identifying what people are most likely suffering from. Uncertainty, loneliness, lack of "direction"; all manner of perfectly normal human traits which can usually be alleviated over a beer and a conversation with a good friend.

What's all this got to do with food? Let me tell you.

A friend of mine (more specifically, a co-worker) from long ago added me as a friend on Facebook. Her posts were mostly inane; bike riding or going out to a movie. And then, out of the blue, she posted a link to a site that shows before and after pictures of people who had chosen to eat nothing but raw food. The results, as you might expect, were similar to those of vegans; the "before" pictures were of plump, apparently happy people, the "afters" look underweight, pale, and slightly translucent. (Maybe it's my eyes or my bias, not sure.)

There is plenty of research about the benefits of raw food on plenty of other web sites, so why did these people feel the need to post before and after pictures of themselves, and go into a long-winded (even by my standards) dissertation about their "process"? And all, coincidentally, wrote about their experiences in almost exactly the same way. I began to smell a rat...

Alongside of each of these miraculous transformations from cooked to raw were ads for books, recipes, etc. and at the very end of most of them, was a similar catchphrase; "raw lifestyle". Now I smelled an even bigger rat. About 2/3 of the people who posted these photos had dramatic and courageous stories about how they overcame their addiction to - are you ready for this? - cooked food(!) About the same number also just happened to be "life coaches". Yup. In one way or another, nearly all of them were selling something. Including my friend.

The final straw was her posting a comment about "What needs to happen before you change your behavior? Do you really need to get sick first?" It was at that moment I removed her from my "friends" list. Trying to sell your friends something was strike one, being self-righteous about an extremely boring way to live is quite another. There is no third strike.

Among the shiny, happy (semi-translucent) people on the web site she posted is "Jeff". I liked this part of Jeff's story, red emphasis is mine:

One day I showed up for a recovery group meeting and the counselor started telling us about food addictions and the relationship it has with our emotions. He invited us to try something new: go practically all raw. He asked us to eat only fruit in the morning, drink only grape juice, eat a big salad for lunch and dinner. He encouraged us to go visit a local natural market and buy only organic food. He basically told us we can eat our way out of our addictions. I became hooked and I wanted to know more. He further explained things like various food addictions such as wheat, corn, sugar, meat, dairy, and potatoes. He said we would not know what we were addicted to unless we got away from everything and then upon reintroduction we could discover the allergic symptoms associated with food addiction.
He was told he can eat his way out of an addiction, and he was hooked? He was addicted to the notion of getting out of an addiction? And this addiction was to what the rest of us refer to as "food"? Okay, corn is not inherently evil, we just put it in everything. But wheat? "Meat"? DAIRY? Milk is one of only three things actually DESIGNED to be food. Sugar? Same problem as corn; it's not evil, we just use it in evil ways. Potatoes? This is retarded.

I'm sure it's simply the way he chose to phrase it, but perhaps what these people are addicted to is not cooked food, but to the notion of being able to do without something the rest of us take for granted. A quick Google search yielded nothing, but perhaps again phrasing is to blame. Is it possible for people to be addicted to self-righteousness? To find error in one of the most primal of human instincts, then find a way to "sell" other people out of it? What larger market than food?

Because raw food has been a part of the bulk of human existence much longer than cooked, one might argue that we are (mostly) designed to eat raw foods. However, let's remember that plants evolved to defend themselves. It is not in a plant's best interest to be consumed. Cactus protect themselves in a rather obvious way. Spinach, on the other hand, is far more subtle.

Spinach contains oxalic acid. Oxalic acid combines with the iron in spinach and creates a situation where the body can't absorb the iron in spinach. Cooking "denatures" the oxalic acid and allows the body to absorb the iron. There are a number of these scenarios outlined in Jeffrey Steingarten's book "The Man Who Ate Everything".

Raw foodists are warned against "going raw" all at once. Vitamin B12 deficiency, low iron intake, likewise for calcium, etc. are all things to watch out for. Digestive systems which have had nothing but cooked food need to be "trained" how to process raw, and this can vary from person to person. And raw fans claim that "enzymes" in raw food that aid in digestion are destroyed during the cooking process. However, these enzymes are created in much larger quantities by the body itself.

Okay, I'm also biased. I cannot imagine a life without bread. Acme sweet baguettes, in particular with a touch of Plugra butter rivals any complex dish I've had in any restaurant planet-wide. The searing of a steak, the creation of that darkened crust, the deglazing of the pan, the whisking of flour (Wondra or otherwise) to create a sauce all depend on heat. We're not necessarily talking deep-frying; there is ample room in a diet for blanching or steaming.

It seems that when benefits which should be obvious become promoted heavily by a group of people, something is being sold. Then again, who would have thought Coke and Pepsi could remove nearly all of the ingredients from their soft drinks and still sell it for the same price?

And, even with that triumph accomplished - the fear of tap water, the inconvenience of a sterile container - who would have thought water would need to attend yoga class before being consumed?

Or, should I say, who would have thought there would be people to buy it?


R-Co said…
Ain't zealotry a hoot?

The whole thing reminds me of this exchange from Woody Allen's Sleeper. Allen has been put in cryogenic-like sleep for 200 years and awakened to a future much different than the '70s. The scientists are studying him:

Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik: Incredible.

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