Mixed Flavors in a 1912 Raw Food Cookbook

peanut and radish 2This is one of the appetizers I served at a dinner party recently, based on a suggestion from a raw-food advocate named George J. Drews. In 1912, he published a cookbook in Chicago, which seemed to be something of a hotbed for raw foodism in those days, called Unfired Food and Tropho-Therapy (Food Cure). Drews was emphatic that “physical, mental and moral diseases” will afflict anyone who eats cooked food. Unfired foods, in contrast, “keep the body clean, cure all diseases of body and mind, and eradicate immoral tendencies.”

Vegetarians who cook their vegetables might as well keep eating meat, Drews scoffed. There was a Raw Food Society in Chicago around the turn of the 20th century, but Drews found fault with their eating habits, as well. Their banquets were replete with raw shellfish and eggs, and dishes spiked with vinegar, items that were barred from Drews’ version of a healthy raw food diet.

Drews had other differences with two of his most prominent protégés, John and Vera Richter. After meeting and studying under Drews in the Midwest, they moved to Los Angeles and opened a raw food restaurant. In a cookbook she published, Vera Richter counseled against combining fruits and vegetables in a meal, “as this is likely to produce fermentation.” Simple dishes were best, she insisted. “The nearer you can get to one class of food at a meal, the better.” Drews, in contrast, was a big believer in carefully chosen combinations of raw foods. peanut and radish

Many natural foods, he explained, can be combined so that “when they are chewed together their flavors blend in saliva into a new and surprisingly delicious taste.” Combinations recommended by Drews include chopped pecans and seedless raisins mixed with wheat;  lettuce and grated coconut; and grated sweet potatoes, chopped cabbage and chopped almonds dressed with honey. Another “surprisingly delicious taste” could be created, he said, by chewing two or three peanuts together with each bite of radish. Which is how I came to present the friends who recently came for dinner with a rather spare appetizer.

They were intrigued by the story of Drews and his culinary notions. We were all underwhelmed by the treat, itself. For one thing, the texture of three peanuts and a bite of radish just didn’t mesh. But crushed peanuts or a peanut sauce on shredded radishes? That would work. Come to think of it, Southeast Asians already do that.

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