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Eat food. Not too much. Some of it raw.

Thu, 10 August, 2017

It seems I’ve been eating more of my food raw recently. No, it definitely doesn’t mean I’ve lost my mind and gone paleo. How could I survive without pasta? And the thought of chewing on uncooked dry spaghetti is not the most appealing.

Anyway it appears the paleo diet is not all about raw meat, as I originally thought. It argues – I’m simplifying hugely here – that the optimal evolutionary stage was achieved in the Palaeolithic era and thus we should only eat what was available to the Paleo dudes. It’s largely nonsense – firstly, we have evolved quite a bit more since then after all (blue eyes in humans have only made an appearance in the last 10 – 6 millennia; our immune system has improved and what about the evolution of the smartphone thumb???); secondly, the foods that have emerged since the stone age are if anything better, more nutritious and tastier than those known to the caveman.  

The paleo principles are jolly sensible though: don’t eat junk food, no added sugar or salt, no highly processed or refined products, I couldn’t agree more and I don’t like crisps. But then they put an anathema on perfectly innocent stuff like dairy, grains and legumes – good sources of calcium, fibre and protein going out of the window, only because the caveman folk didn’t know them. And fruit! Why on earth should fruit be banned is beyond me – surely an appetising branch of ripe berries wouldn’t have been ignored?

I digress – having set my paleo understanding right, let’s go back to eating raw. I’ll confess that it has something to do with my shrinking kitchen facilities, as well as with the nice summery weather we’re momentarily enjoying – and who wants to cook when it’s hot?

My current favourite is raw fish – it appears I’ve been making poke salads long before they were imported into Europe from Hawaii – and long before I knew they WERE poke. Spanking fresh, diced salmon or tuna (freeze it for a day if you’re worried), something crunchy like onions or radish, gherkins or pickles a must and seasoning depending on the mood. If oriental: soy or fish sauce with a dash of sesame oil and sweet chilli. If classic: lemon, olive oil and lots of black pepper.

 Tuna tartare

More delicate fish will lend itself better to a ceviche-style dish: sliced scallops, bass or bream soused with a sweet and acidic sauce. Try lime, honey and grated ginger.

Pan fried fish

With veg it’s a bit more difficult as I have a glut of carrots and French beans from the garden. And while carrots can very well be grated into a version of a coleslaw, raw green beans do not appeal being in the minority of veg like this, with aubergine close behind and mushrooms as a general rule (thinly sliced fresh porcini with salt, black pepper and olive oil – bliss). But let’s not cook beetroot. Make a cabbage salad. Grate celeriac. Shave asparagus. Shred fennel. You could really happily lose the cooker, which is what will happen to me soon…

Fennel salad

You can’t, of course, sustain on raw food only – I’m no raw fooder. As Richard Wrangham states in his entirely convincing book, ‘Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human’, raw diet will not provide sufficient nutrients or supply enough energy no matter how many steaks tartare a day should you polish off. Cooked product feeds us more efficiently and makes proteins and fibre more digestible. Raw diet contributes to weight loss (guess why I’m going that way) but unaccompanied by the odd slice of bread or bowl of soup works a bit too well, potentially leading to serious health risks.

Leek and potato soup

And the final argument: fruit salads and smoothies are all very well, but we couldn’t really be without a good piece of cake every now and then…


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