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Artwork by Troy Kooper

Eat This

Why raw meat, urine, strawberries, and sunshine are so darn filling

By Gretchen Giles


Books almost without number have been written upon the subject treated in this work. Unfortunately, most of these works are utterly unreliable, being filled with gross misrepresentations and exaggerations, and being designed as advertising mediums for ignorant and unscrupulous charlatans, or worse than worthless patent nostrums.
--Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, from the introduction to his 'Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life,' 1895

Best known today for his inadvertent invention of corn flakes cereal--occurring when a pan of baking grain was left unattended during a medical emergency--Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was 43 years old when he wrote the above lines. He had never partaken of the connubial pleasures of his wife's bed, believed masturbation to be a sin best cured through copious enema treatments, and sought to cure his patient's ills through daily applications of yogurt--introduced at the body's two ends--aided by colon-wracking machines that could ably pump 15 gallons of water into a hapless behind in just a few seconds.

A strict vegetarian and devotee of what he called the pure plainness of "biologic living," Kellogg also briefly promoted "fletcherizing"--in which one's food is chewed to a ghastly liquid before swallowing--the use of electric tools to aid digestion, and quick intestinal surgery should all else fail to render the bowel, as he liked to phrase it, "squeaky clean."

Meats, dairy, and bad habits all conspire, Kellogg believed, to rid one of perfect health and a slim figure. The yeasty, odor-free bowel movement, he assured, was the key to health and happiness. Fruit and grains, he nodded, were the answer. While Kellogg was a celebrity of his day, even prompting lively bowel-movement discussions in middle-class drawing rooms, his name is now filed under "quack."

Once largely derided, the redoubtable Dr. Robert Atkins, whose Diet Revolution praises meat and fats and assails grains and fruit as the hellish carbo-barrier to health and happiness, now seems to have the estimable New York Times on his side. But the fruitarians might have a word to say about that, as they eat only fruit in their quest for health and happiness.

Not so, say the Paleothin and Neanderthin proponents--raw meats and raw dairy are the way. Uh-uh, sigh the breatharians, a daily sun bath and the very air around you easily give all the essentials you need to live, provided you like the taste of your own urine.

What's a health and happiness seeker to do? Food and its attendant waste have occupied civilized society for as long as we've had the leisure to sit around fretting about it. Splashy new diets are introduced with each book season, and serious fad seekers have found their Zones, urged their waists to Beverly Hills, and puckered an orchard's worth of grapefruit.

Yet perfection can remain elusive, unless perhaps you're willing to commit yourself to a particular cult--those food sects that are akin to food sex in devotion and passionate intensity. Herewith we offer a brief round up of food fanaticisms you may have yet to try.

Caveman Nibbles

Also known as the Paleothin or Neanderthin diet, the raw animal foods diet was introduced by Aajonus Vonderplanitz in his 1997 book, We Want to Live. Spurred by the near death of his son, Vonderplanitz turned to an all-raw, mostly meat and dairy diet as a way to both heal his son and eventually himself from cancers. He also believes that he cured himself of diabetes and that his diet will quickly clear up a host of other postmodern physical ills.

Positing that 10,000 years isn't nearly enough time for the human body to evolve an adequate digestive system for cooked foods, Vonderplanitz promises that eating as a hunter-gatherer is healthiest for our systems. While running after mastodons surely kept early man active, what kept him healthy was the lack of Promethean influences on the beasts--that is, raw meat. Unpasteurized dairy foods, including raw milk and butter--which are illegal to sell in most states--make up the second largest component.

Vegetables, nuts, and fruits are consumed in smaller quantities, as our earliest ancestors were less likely to stumble across a carrot bunch next to an almond tree beside a berry patch than we are their equivalent in the local Safeway. As for grains, well, that sturdy nub of rice remains a food that is just simply better cooked--and is therefore verboten.

Raw eating, whether inclusive of meat and dairy, is reaching an extreme vogue right now. Larkspur's Roxanne's restaurant (which is vegan) stands in expensive testament to the potential beauty and damned hard work of such a seemingly simple notion. Roxanne's chefs go to inordinately complex lengths to turn a length of raw zucchini into a strand of "pasta" or a hunk of "cheese." The results are evidently stunning but technically beyond the humble grasp of most culinary cave-people.

The Internet is rife with raw-food carnivores expounding on the delicious health benefits of uncooked chicken, lovely hunks of raw beef, and the pure, primal pleasure of eating a goat's heart fresh from the animal's cavity. The fat in the accompanying dairy is believed to "seal" the possible toxins of the animal meat away from the body, acting as a kind of molecular gondola that serenely carries such badness toilet-bound.

As with all evangelicals, disagreements are bound to arise. Why, some want to know, is dairy recommended in such abundance when early man would have considered himself lucky to be able to grab a . . . a deer and milk it? How would he, should such a miracle occur, then know to churn the deer milk into some semblance of--ugh!--deer butter? Therefore dairy should be very limited, other cadres of raw carnivores logically affirm.

Perhaps the toughest aspect of this plan is that, aside from the occasional visit to a sushi or salad bar, 21st-century Neandereaters are most likely forced to dwell in their own high-rise caves at mealtimes. They can be spotted lugging Tupperware around with them to dinner parties or business lunches. Thanksgiving dinner isn't to be eaten; the Christmas roast goose goes untouched, the diet adherent presumably pining for a slice of the plucked, white thing before it went into the pan. As with the earliest humans, Paleothinners are often forced to go it alone.

(It should be noted that any bias detected here stems from the unfortunate lunchtime sight of one Neanderthinner stabbing chunks of raw, wet steak into his mouth while chugging from a bottle of unpasteurized milk, resulting in a horrible Masai's feast of milk and blood dribbling down his beard. Eating this diet in solitude may indeed be preferable.)

Food's Lovewisdom

A fancy-pants moniker for what we now call plain old raw-food vegetarianism, vitarianism was propounded by the marvelously named Dr. Johnny Lovewisdom in his 1953 text, Spiritualizing Dietetics. Theorizing that a diet solely composed of those watery substances known as fruits and vegetables would allow the body's processes to move more quickly, dispatching fluid and cellulose posthaste, Lovewisdom supposed that such elimination would cool the libido and free the mind. Thus both dulled and enlightened, one could spend more time on the potentials of brain and soul.

He is reportedly still living a monastic life atop an Andean peak in Ecuador, presumably unaware that he shares close connections to Dr. Kellogg in his fascination with the lower functions of bowels and vice.

Feeling Fruity

While a meatless diet is hardly news, the various striations of the vegetarian lifestyle are dizzying. There are, of course, the vegans, who eschew all animal products save breast milk and yet are still puzzlingly able to feast on those luscious-looking cakes at Whole Foods. There are the Rastafarian vegetarians, who, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, "in general exclude all red meat, milk, fats and oils of animal origin but may include fish depending on nationality."

Polo-vegetarians eat chicken; pescos fish for food in the deep, briny sea; lactos enjoy milk; and lacto-ovos won't eat red meat, fish, or chicken but don't mind occasionally tucking into a three-egg cheese omelet, particularly in a strange town under an assumed name.

But fruitarians snub the lovely vegetable all together, solely consuming fruits in a riot of complex carbohydrates and sugars that must make Dr. Atkins reach desperately for another butter-besmirched lobster tail. Vegetables, some fruitarians aver, have feelings too, which possibly accounts for the sad appearance one encounters when the cauliflower's been left too long in the fridge. The only way to tiptoe around the potential emotions of a celery stalk is to simply not consume it, maintaining a guilt-free savage enjoyment of the lowly strawberry instead.

But which is the veggiest veggie? The in-fighting abounds, with polos turning up their vaguely batter-fried noses at lacto-ovos, pescos rumored to hardly even be vegetarians, fruitarians enjoying the wild ride of glucose imbalance, and no one understanding the Rastafarians at all aside from the usual happy agreement regarding Bob Marley and ganja.

What Would Jesus Eat?

The broccoli-is-next-to-godliness air of the segregated food castes within the vegetarian world shouldn't, however, earn them the derision displayed by those adherents of the Bible diet. Firmly convinced that the genesis of the meal plan is contained in the holy book, these followers believe--at least according to the illuminating, if tongue-in-cheek, Bible Diet Quiz existing on the Internet--that vegetarians are "weak heathens, worshipping other gods." Not, one might murmur, a very Christian sentiment.

But God can be stern, and the Bible diet thunders such Old Testament sentiments as that evil people should be forced to eat human flesh, including their own and that of their children; that sinners should be made to bake excrement into their bread; flagons of urine must be drunk; no weasels may be consumed, yet locusts will make an acceptable alfresco meal; and that wine is fortunately encouraged, but roast vulture and steaming swan are not.

As if food and fat and body image and health concerns aren't emotionally loaded enough, the Bible diet is pleased to reintroduce the concept of sin to the dinner table. Gluttony, you may remember, is one. In some, albeit smaller, traditions so too is asking for seconds, propping elbows on the table, taking napkins off the lap, not asking for seconds, and reaching "boarding house" style across the table for more butter, which in itself reflects the wayward aims of the gluttonous.

While some may secretly hope that the Bible diet consists mostly of bread and wine, its bare-bones structure--when stripped of dogma about evil people and cannibalism--preaches a sensible, sustainable spate of organic, unrefined, nonprocessed foods taken in moderation. Only those fish that swam with both fins and have scales may be consumed, pork and rabbit are absent (as are horse and dog), and tripe fares not well.

Otherwise, simply sleep well, exercise daily, fast once monthly, "Let the sun shine upon your skin," and above all, be nice to others--even those heathen vegetarians. Thin thighs in 30 days must surely await, because God is never wrong.

Breatharians

Indeed, letting the sun shine upon your skin is more than just a pleasant Biblical admonition; it's a full three square meals if you're a breatharian. Asserting that water and sun, the occasional dollop of dried kelp, and--incredibly--a fast-food burger are enough sustenance for true believers, breatharians essentially claim an aerobic existence.

While there are more than a few disturbing stories of practitioners who began to vomit black liquid after 21 days and died--21 days being a mortal limit of sorts and black liquid a creepily unifying theme--there are enough people who claim to live this way to give the notion some strange credence.

Born from the ancient Chinese technique of Yan Xin Qigong, whose tenets inform such mainstream practices as feng shui, tai chi, and acupuncture, the idea of breatharianism has since been taken up by rich yachtsmen and Australian housewives alike. Some followers estimate that there are 5,000 of their ilk worldwide.

Claiming to "live on light," breatharians tend to the randy side of the nutritional scale, though one wonders at the necessary stamina. Breatharian Wiley Brooks, age 66 and a former contestant on That's Incredible!, told Colors magazine that his body is a "love machine" and that when he does break his air-and-light fast it is to consume such nutrients as are possibly contained in a Big Mac and Coke. It's a homeopathic thing, he explains: He's surrounded by junk culture and foods, so consuming them adds balance.

Juergen Buche, N.D., writes on his breatharian blog that he was out on his boat one day and just decided to stop eating. He sailed for three full weeks fueled by sunlight, fresh sea air, spring water, and generous draughts of his own life-giving urine. He claims now to eat only on Saturdays, mostly enjoying a sere spoonful of dried kelp, and to sip the occasional glass of wine with his fortifying meal of sunshine.

But the queen of the breatharian movement is Australian mother of two Ellen Greve, who goes by the name Jasmuheen. She came to world notice in 2000 when one of her followers allegedly reached the fatal 21-day-black-liquid limit, and the former Greve found herself rallied against by protesters upon arriving in London to lecture.

Jasmuheen claims not to have consumed more than the odd cup of tea since 1993, though a journalist on her flight did purportedly hear her dally with the steward about the possibility of getting one of those yummy airplane meals. There have been three documented deaths associated with breatharianism, which should be enough to make one look for one's sunshine firmly on a plate.

Eat, Drink, Be Merry

Media doctor Dean Edell advises us all to relax. Have a little of this, a little of that, don't smoke, make love, take a hike, be happy for chrissakes. But all of those who so passionately follow their particular food religions do so because it does make them happy--or so they hope. What's striking about the above panoply is how the human body soldiers on, regardless of what it is or isn't given for nourishment and/or punishment.

In The Warrior Diet, Ori Hofmekler assures that the best way to health and happiness is to starve all day and then feast after 8pm each night. He seems to look and feel all right. Zone author Peter J. D'Adamo asserts that it's merely a matter of eating according to blood type. Fit for Life authors Harvey and Marilyn Diamond are certain that it's all a matter of food combinations.

So who's right? If these varied diet plans have proven anything at all, the answer can only be that you are, with each bite you take. After all, dinner is just a meal you eat at night.

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From the February 13-19, 2003 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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