The most ancient way we humanoids ate anything was raw. It’s hard to imagine a time B.C., much less “B.F.” (before fire). Well, actually, there was already fire. Along with Earth, Wind and such. But cooking with fire didn’t happen for a long time after we started strolling upright.

There is a new/old food trend and I’ve been asked to be a part of it. It all happened very innocently when a nice guest called me from her beautiful home outside L.A. to tell me that she and her husband wanted to return to dine at NORMAN’S. I remember their last visit. They were strict vegetarians. I assumed they would want to continue their pleasure of dining in this fashion while also enjoying another passion they embrace as well as anyone I’ve ever known - fine wines! It is not unusual for them to have a little dinner party and drink over $10,000.00 worth of vino. Such is life. For a few! But as we discussed their coming here she let me know that she and her husband had gone well beyond not eating meat, fish, dairy, eggs etc. they now “only eat food that is raw.” Hold on. I’m not saying raw fish and so on. Remember they don’t eat fish. Here’s a little “Iron Chef” challenge for you closet sous chefs. Devise a menu with six courses where all of the food must be raw. They came twice the week they were in town. So I had the pleasure of their company on two separate evenings with two completely different menus. I must tell you I have never spent more time not cooking for guests!

Here’s one of the rules. You can heat the food up to about 100 degrees. That’s it. After that the “raw foodies” claim that the nutritional value of the food is ruined. 100 degrees is not much. I racked my brains for ways to give them food that they never had before. At the end of it all a few weeks later I received a phone call from The New York Times. The word had gotten out that I had cooked this meal and that our guests had also dined similarly at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and The French Laundry in Napa. The “Times” sent out a photographer and then I really began to worry. What if the phones started ringing with guests who wanted me to cook this way for them? A few did. But when we told them what we would need to charge them they decided that eating cooked food was cheaper.

I’m Norman Van Aken and that’s my word on food.
Copyright © by Norman Van Aken, 2001