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The Raw Food Myths: Getting My Feet Wet in California

The Raw Band: Stephen Arlin, David Wolfe, Frederic Patenaude (1997)

In the last few weeks, I have locked myself in my apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand (where I’m going to be for the next month) to finish my new book, The Raw Food Controversies (title in progress). What is this new book about?

14 years ago, I embarked on the greatest adventure of my entire life: the raw food diet.

My first few years on the raw food diet were a complete struggle. Not only did I destroy my health and ended up in a worse state than I started with, but I also was completely confused about what I needed to eat and do to achieve those amazing health benefits that raw-foodist’s claimed happen to them, but remained elusive to me.

The new book tells my entire story, with nothing held back.

How one day I packed up everything to go to California and learn with the most well-known raw-food leaders in the world. What advice they give me that worked, and which did not? How come the entire raw-food movement was confused, and what was hidden behind the scenes that many raw-foodist’s don’t want you to know? I reveal it all in the book.

The Raw Food Controversies is a combination of a personal story that reads like a novel, along with informative sidebars that explains everything that I’ve learned over the last 14 years, with very useful tips on what to eat, sleep, exercise, and more.

I’m also debunking a lot of raw food myths along the way, with solid scientific evidence to back up my conclusions.

This book is not an “anti-raw” book or a bashing of raw food gurus. I tell my story the way it is, I present my evidence, and it’s up to you to decide what to think of it.

I’m getting pretty close to finishing the book now. I’ve written over 80,000 words so far, so the final product should be about twice the size of my book The Raw Secrets.

I’ll be posting more information about the book soon. Enjoy a new excerpt that I’m presenting below. Keep in mind that it’s not edited yet… and let me know what you think!

San Diego, Here I Come

The day I left for San Diego, the snow hadn’t yet started but it was cold enough to make me long for warmer climates. I had my passport ready, enough money saved to last me who knows how long, and I had said goodbye to all my friends and family.

All of my friends were convinced that I would run out of opportunities within a few months and quickly come back home. But I saw this trip as something more. I was leaving Quebec, and I didn’t intend to come back. I had no idea where in the world I would end up, but I knew going to San Diego was the first step.

I didn’t bring many belongings with me. A few clothes, a blank journal and a pen to write on, a few books, and other basic items. I knew that while traveling on the Greyhound network there would probably be nothing for me to eat anywhere, so I also brought with me a giant bag of apples, and 2 pounds of Medjool dates.

Once on the bus, I knew I had a big trip ahead of me. A plane ride would have taken me only 5 or 6 hours, but I was in for a total of 72 hours on the bus, and waiting in bus stations.

For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I actually enjoyed the ride. I had plenty of time to reflect on why I was leaving Quebec, and what I was hoping to find once I reached my destination. For the first part of the trip, the landscape was quite similar to Quebec and still quite familiar. But once we headed to Colorado, everything changed. Near Denver, they already had had a lot of snow, and people were skiing in the mountains. A day later, I was seeing the deserted landscape of Utah, which reminded me of old Western movies. When I arrived in Las Vegas, I saw my first palm tree and the weather was already much nicer, and I started to relax and feel at home.

When you travel on a bus for that long, you don’t get to sleep anywhere comfortably. Sometimes the bus was packed, and I was crammed next to a big fat person, and sometimes the bus was nearly empty, and I could have two seats to myself and spread out. I slept on my seat, passing out for a few hours at a time, but often my sleep was ended abruptly when we arrived at a new city, and I had to get out, and wait for the next bus to come at the station.

It turned out that my idea of bringing my own fruit with me was a good one. There was literally nothing I could eat at those bus stations, except for the occasional unripe banana or orange. So I ate apples and dates for three days, and felt pretty good overall.

When I arrived in San Diego, David Wolfe picked me up at the Greyhound station. I had only seen his picture in a book, so I didn’t know what to expect. These guys were almost like cartoon characters to me, so meeting them for the first time was very strange.

It didn’t take very long to recognize David once I got out on the street and looked around. He showed up in an old, beaten up Honda Civic, walked up to me bare-chested, sporting the darkest tan I had ever seen in a white guy, while radiating an overall glow of health unlike I had ever seen in my life, but similar to what how Mario had appeared to me when I first met him.

“Are you Frederic? Hi! I’m David Wolfe!”

We got into his car, which was filled with random papers and fruit peels. David picked up a few ripe bananas and started eating them, then turned on the radio and started blasting some Slayer, a heavy metal band I knew very well, since I had been a heavy metal fan in my teenage years, before I started learning classical music.

“You listen to heavy metal?” I asked, startled.

“Of course dude! I love this s***!” 

Then David cranked the volume a few notches, and continued:

“Listen dude, I have a bunch of stuff to do today with my school, so I have to drop you off at a friend of mines, and you can hang out with them for the day. I’ll come pick you up later. Ok dude?”

This was my first introduction to the word “dude”, but quickly I realized that Californian guys used it with every sentence.

I was in shock after my first meeting with David Wolfe. I had expected some kind of nature boy, more of the hippie type, cultivating fruits and living peacefully, eating only a few pieces of fruit a day, as they had claimed in the book.

Instead by the time we reached our destination, David had already consumed the few daily pieces of fruit that supposedly one could live on for an entire day. He was driving a car, listening to heavy metal, and “duding” me all the way. He was the typical Californian, relaxed by the warm weather and enjoying the coolest life in the world.

Speaking of weather, I was quite amazed by my first day in San Diego. It was November 1st, and it was probably only 7 degrees Celcius (45° F) back home in Montreal. But in San Diego it was at least 25 degrees Celcius (78° F), and the sun was shining brightly.

David dropped me off at a typical suburban house where a friend of his named “Don the Raw Guy” was living. He also told me that his cousin “Raw Courage”, also called simply RC, was there too, along with his girlfriend Heidi.

Then David excused himself and drove away with his windows open and the heavy metal music blasting. I went inside the house and I met Don “the Raw Guy” who was expecting me. His real name was Don, but apparently he was the “Raw Guy”, because everybody seemed to have some kind of raw food superhero name.

Don was a thirty-something, friendly Jewish guy of the geeky but relaxed, friendly-Californian type, with whom I immediately felt at ease talking to.

Fred and RC Dini Going Berserk Under the Persimmon Tree (1997)

After I said a few words to Don, Raw Courage showed up from the kitchen. He was also around thirty or thirty-one, and was walking around shirtless, wearing only old sweat pants, with fruit juice stains all over them. Like David, he was extremely tanned. He had this crazy beard that was totally out of control, and looked like a homeless person, but he smelled like fruit and garlic instead of beer and cigarettes.
Without introducing himself or saying anything to break the ice, he brought the biggest bowl of guacamole that I had ever seen in my entire life and said, “Have some of this, dude.”

The guacamole reeked of onions and garlic, and because of my Natural Hygiene background I did not eat those items. I asked, “Is there garlic in this? I don’t eat garlic”.

RC answered, “you’re going to love it.” He handed me a leaf of cabbage to use as a bowl, and scooped a generous amount of his guacamole in it with a spoon.

I couldn’t really say no, so I smiled and ate the guacamole sandwich. It tasted really good, and I was hungry. Don smiled at me and said, “Dude, you’re going to eat so much food while you’re in San Diego, it’s not even funny.”

Don was right.

I also met Heidi, who was RC’s girlfriend and was seventeen. RC seemed to be completely in love with her.

RC was a very funny, hyperactive guy who had lost over 150 pounds on the raw food diet in the last year or two. He had pictures of him in the book Nature’s First Law that showed how he looked when he was over 300 pounds, and used to work as a manager at Jack in the Box. After David converted to the raw food diet, Fouad Dini (his real name) followed, and RC “Raw Courage” Dini was born.

Heidi was more the quiet type. She didn’t say much, but giggled often. She had only been a raw-foodist for a few months, but didn’t have a raw food name yet.

After this quick introduction at Don’s house, we headed to the beach. In the car, I was told we were heading to Black’s Beach, a nude beach north of San Diego. I had never been to a nudist beach before, and certainly wasn’t planning on taking my clothes off on my first day in San Diego, but really didn’t care and was open to any experience.

RC brought a bunch of fruit with him. He was living with his dad, and had dozens of fruit trees that he and David had planted years ago. He gave me the biggest and sweetest pomegranate I had ever had, and I was blown away at how delicious it was. He then proceeded to feed me the most amazing oranges I had ever tasted as well.

As soon as we got to Black’s beach, RC took his clothes off, and faster than Clark Kent can transform into Superman in a phone booth, RC was naked and ready to jump in the ocean.

I also got undressed and enjoyed the glorious San Diego sun.

At the time, the El Niño current had warmed the ocean to a quite unusually high temperature. When I got in the water, it was probably at least 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit). As a first introduction to Southern California life, I was quite blown away. I thought to myself, “This is paradise. I can never leave this place, this is too good.”

Although the ocean never quite got that warm again, I thought at the moment that this is the way it was all the time. I don’t think I ever swam in the ocean again in all of my time in California, but this was perfect for my first day there.

It occurred to me that all I had needed to make new friends here was to be a raw-foodist. Just eating this way made you immediately part of an exclusive club, where you lived in a completely different reality, in a world where everything seemed possible, and where cooked food eaters were not welcome.

The Confused Raw Food Scene

When I showed up in San Diego, I was a scrawny, pale French Canadian living on a diet of fruits and vegetables. I ate very little fat, because of Mosséri’s influence, and I avoided all salt, spices, condiments, garlic and onions. I ate very simply. I knew no raw recipes and I did not even blend my food.

Although I was not consuming enough calories for a young guy of my age, I felt pretty good and did not have any health problems.

One year later, I would be spending several months in bed, completely sick and with my health falling apart, in spite of being on what was supposed to be the best diet in the world.

RC’s giant guacamole was the starting point of this descent to hell.

When I tell people nowadays that I’ve seen raw-foodists completely destroy their health because of their almost religious adherence to the raw food ideal, while completely ignoring basic nutritional concepts, I am not kidding.

I was there, at a time of renaissance in the modern raw-food movement that would completely take off in the 2000’s, and I witnessed the drastic difference between the ideal of raw food and the reality of raw food.

The vast majority of people I met at the time who were so adamant about the ideal of the raw food diet are no longer eating all-raw. They all quit because it simply didn’t work for them in the end.

But the story of how people destroy their health by blindly following an ideal and nutrition misinformation is an interesting one, that I intend to reveal in the following pages.

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets.