(Raw) Cookbook Review | Raw Food: A Complete Guide…by Erica Palmcratz

I picked up Raw Food: A Complete Guide to Every Meal of the Day by Erica Palmcratz and Irmela Lilja after a few interns and I purchased this book for a co-worker last summer. She was excited about making the bell-peppers that are on the cover of the book. They looked tasty, and the book seemed like a good book for a raw food beginner, so I decided to try it!

This book is a great starter raw food book for newbies. The recipes do not require any of the expensive, complicated materials that are often associated with the preparation of raw food, such as dehydrators. You need a blender, a food processor, and a few other common household kitchen items to get started. Last summer when I originally purchased this book, I made quite a few of the recipes.

The smoothies were great for pre and post-workout “pick me ups.” The recipes such as lettuce wraps that called for the use of avocados were downright delicious and very easy to make. My favorite recipe was the stuffed bell pepper recipe featured on the cover of the book. That recipe called for the use of leaks. This was my first time using leaks. I thought I had to go to Whole Foods to purchase them, but they are carried at many regular grocery stores. I had just been overlooking them for years.

One of the best features of this book is the beginner guides included. Palmcratz gives the raw food newbie a breakdown of common ingredients and tools with an explanation of how to use them and where to find them. She describes how to “progress” from simpler recipes to more complicated ones without feeling overwhelmed.  The book also included vivid color photos of the “finished products” so that the reader will know what to expect once the recipe is completed. For raw food veterans, this may not be the best book. Many of the recipes may be too simple. Also, many hard-core raw foodists may not like the fact that the author is not 100% raw. Instead, she advocates well rounded healthy eating and a majority-raw food diet.

The only con to this book is that, although it does not require expensive equipment, it does require time. Like many raw food recipes, the prep work can take hours even though the actual (non) cooking time is fast. The author is Swedish, so it’s hard to find concrete information about her in the US, but you can check out her website here. Google will translate it for you!

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Book Review | 12 Steps to Raw Foods by Victoria Boutenko

I read this book based on a suggestion from a co-worker. She’s a new raw foodist, and she seemed extremely enthusiastic about the lifestyle. After I and a few other interns purchased her a raw food cookbook, she graciously made us a raw breakfast and a raw lunch the next day! She even brought in her Vita-Mix and a ton of supplies from Whole Foods.

I greatly enjoyed the spread that she prepared for us, so a couple of days later, I purchased 12 Steps to Raw Foods. My co-worker said that this was the first raw foods book that she and her daughter read. It started them off on their raw food journey. In effect, it started me off as well. (Though, I have not committed to the raw food lifestyle! I’m still experimenting. I was enthusiastic at first, but now…not so much.)

The author, Victoria Boutenko is very well known in the raw food world. She popularized the dynamic Green Smoothie (a smoothie made of veggies and fruit), and she and her family have published several raw food books. In 12 Steps, Boutenko describes how she and her family were suffering from various illnesses and ailments. Out of desperation, they went raw cold-turkey. Victoria and her family’s health improved immediately. They had more energy, no longer needed medicine, and they felt better than they had in years.

A large majority of the book is devoted to convincing the reader why the raw foods lifestyle is best. In the original text, Victoria takes somewhat of a fundamentalist approach, advocating a 100% raw food lifestyle. In the expanded, updated edition (the one I have), she softens her approach, admitting that a 100% raw food lifestyle may not be best for everyone. This change may be because, as of today, Victoria is not 100% herself. She is what is known as a high-raw foodist.

My main criticism of the book is the fantastical claims about the health benefits of raw foods. Of course, vegetables and fruits are full of essential nutrients that many are missing in the Standard American Diet (SAD). So, adding these items into one’s diet almost guarantees short-term physical improvements. I didn’t find myself convinced that raw is the reason for the improvements, versus a healthier diet in general.

There was also a lot of spiritual talk in the book. As someone of faith, I wasn’t completely bothered by it. I just don’t think that raw food should be so deeply linked with the raw food movement/diet.

Lastly, I was very disappointed with the recipes in this book. They were overly simplistic. For example, the “I Can’t Believe It’s Just Cabbage,” recipe was ridiculous. Basically, Victoria suggested tossing cabbage with oil and salt…wow, creative. I think anyone could have thought to toss a veggie with oil and salt. There are a lot of raw foods out there with really great recipes, but this is not one.

If you are looking to turn to raw foods as a completely lifestyle change, versus just a diet, then this is probably the book for you. If you are simply looking to loose a few pounds, you may want to try The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. If you want simple raw food recipes, I would suggest Raw Food: A Complete Guide to Every Meal of the Day by Erica Palmcratz and Irmela Lilja. A review of Palmcratz’s book will be posted soon!