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The Gastronauts
Spin magazine
Feb 2,99

The Gastronauts (appeared in Spin magazine) 2/99
by Chris Norris

THE GASTRONAUTS Imagine a world where disease is eliminated, man and nature exist in perfect harmony, and life is a perpetual high. According to a sect of dietary extremists known as rawf-oodists, utopia is just a chick pea smoothie away.

Juliano is definitely on something. He's bouncing around the room in skater shorts and a cropped T-shirt--talking fast, gesturing broadly, suffused with a seratonin glow rarely seen outside illegal warehouse parties.

"Dude, you gotta sleep outside," he says, over blasting Crystal Method beats. "I always sleep outside on a picnic table. My bedroom ceiling's higher than a millionaire's." As he talks, his eyes often grow wide with wonder and amazement, usually at himself. "I swear, I'm an instrument," he says. "I'm like the messiah to bring in the new world."

One would prescribe the chill-out room and plenty of water for young Juliano, except we're in a kitchen, not at a rave, and Juliano doesn't drink water. Hasn't since he turned 21, four years ago. "There's no reason for it," he says of the substance many find handy for things like filling squirt guns and remaining alive. The uni-named Juliano prefers to get his fluids--and much, much more--from fruit.

"An orange," he declares. "Perfectly made. You can eat the package, the label is built-in, it's perfect in every way, shape, and form. The orange was invented even before the color orange, you know? That's how good and important oranges are to our existence. Before we needed to invent a color we needed to invent a food. So we named a color after the fruit." He looks at me, laughing. "That's kinda cool."

Some people are into God, some are into drum'n'bass, others are into heroin, firearms, or white supremacy. But an increasingly avid number are into--really into--what they eat. Or, more precisely, what they don't eat. In an era when just about every substance has been ingested, experienced, and documented in a best-selling memoir, saying "no"--to chemicals, toxins, beef, and other American staples--is a radical act. Now, 150 years after a British society coined the term "vegetarian" (from the Latin "vegetus," meaning whole, fresh, and lively), the world of dietary extremists has grown to encompass as many subsets as electronic dance music. The movements include one group that considers cooked food poison; another that considers eating whole plants akin to murder; another that eats only sprouted food; another that eats only liquid food; another that eats freshly killed animals; and still another, predictably smaller group that claims to eat only air.

While the sects differ in specifics, the essential gospel is as follows: By consuming only raw fodder--untainted by modern chemicals and full of the nutrients that would be burned out by cooking--followers can attain a level of health unknown to modern man. "When you take up the raw food diet, you become a new and different and better person," promises the book Blatant Raw Foodist Propaganda! "You don't just stay the same old person, only a little healthier.... The raw food diet doesn't so much 'improve you' as 'replace you' with somebody better!" Not only is this culinary abstinence said to yield an eradication of all illness from depression to cancer, it's also supposed to render a change in one's essential being, to clarify thinking, and--does this sound familiar?--to open the doors of perception.

Echoes of the late-'60s LSD gurus abound, but they're mediated by a distinctly late-'90s, post-tech consciousness: better living through heirloom tomatoes. The thinking actually has some currency in mainstream medicine. "Raw-foodists are in touch with the fact our agricultural economy does reduce the nutritious value of our food," says Dr. Mehmet Oz, heart surgeon, Irving Assistant Professor at Columbia University, and author of the holistic-minded book, Healing From the Heart. "The good part of what they're doing is raising awareness of how important diet is to illness prevention."

Like LSD's champions, the raw-foodists have a sacrament, but rather than a space-age synthetic, theirs is pure, undiluted Nature. Rather than Huxley- and Castaneda-quoting psychonauts, they are Kulvinskas- and Wigmore-quoting food voyagers: gastronauts.

The participants are mostly outsiders--post-hippies, ex-skinheads, cancer recoverers, Woody Harrelson--and the energy is classic subcult. Citing scientific research or karmic law, believers pursue their regimes with Talmudic diligence, the ideological menu ranging from neo-hippie utopianism to quasi-fascistic purism. And there are a lot of them: Author and publisher Steve Arlin estimates sales of the raw-promoting Nature's First Law at 300,000. "Among the youth," notes Dr. Oz, "a concentration on nutrition is becoming the next wave of awareness. It's true in Ayurvedic traditions, in Chinese traditions--what you eat is a very important part of how you think. This is the West's attempt to catch up."

One such community of believers is thriving, fittingly, in the onetime home to acid rock and Day-Glo schoolbuses: San Francisco. Here in the trendy Inner Sunset District, the restaurant Raw Experience is a youthful nerve center of the raw-food movement. The airy bote was opened in 1995 under the name Raw by the autodidactic chef Juliano, then 21. It soon drew the patronage of celebrities such as Harrelson, Demi Moore, and Robin Williams, and is now to California rawness what CBGB was to American punk rock. A quote from Einstein is plastered on its front window: "Nothing will benefit health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." Inside, that evolution is being bumped up a notch.

The white-walled space has exotic Middle Eastern curves in the ceiling and framed color photographs of slender, tanned nude men and women lying by streams or hugging rocks. T-shirts are for sale that say rawgirl and rawsome. The menu offers nut-based "mylkshakes"--spelled in a culinary echo of the postfeminist "womyn." Fliers about world-music concerts and veggie retreats cover a board near the doorway. Soft shakuhachi flutes play on the CD player, giving way to Portishead. Behind long wooden counters, young people in cargo pants, tie-dyes, and Teva sandals bustle about not cooking.

The closest Raw Experience gets to an oven are its Excalibur food dehydrators, which only go up to 105 degrees, above which enzymes begin to break down and the food is no longer "live." The restaurant works ingenious variations on established cooked dishes: Pizza, pasta, sushi, burritos, and even meat loaf find their tasty if oddly colored equivalents made from chick peas, beans, squash, jicama. A row of glass-fronted refrigerators display the store's essence: green apples, yellow peppers, red cabbages, limes--a vivid advertisement of what Raw Experience's proprietor, Jeremy Safron, calls raw food's "life force."

"You can see the power of a fruit whose auric field is intact," he says. "My friend Freedom likes to talk about how the first bite is the only one that matters. It's got its life force, you've got yours, you bite it, you've broken its field and absorbed its essence. You can get rid of the fruit after that."

Right now, Safron's own auric field appears blissfully intact. Serenely smiling, with a soul patch, braided ponytail, and roomy Chinese-style hempwear, the 27-year-old is presiding over food preparation and fielding phone calls. "Aloha!" he calls into the cordless. "Oh, hey, Sequoia. Hold on, my phone is being crazed." Despite his blissed-out, neo-Deadhead affect-"n-i-i-i-i-i-ce" is a frequent commendation--Safron has an imposing knowledge of hard and not-so-hard science, with facts and figures at his fingertips about everything from world religions to lymphatic functioning to Uri Geller. He took over the restaurant from Juliano in 1997 and is in frequent contact with him, a Timothy Leary to Juliano's Ken Kesey. Like Juliano, Safron is a raw educator and proselytizer, leading retreats, publishing books, galvanizing the local scene with his energy and command of nutritional research. Among the new generation of gastronauts, he is a leading light, absolutely "100 percent raw," in the parlance of the community.

Raised in Manhattan by a vegetarian mom, Safron was an avid science student--into physics and aeronautics--and by his early teen years, a serious disciple of kung fu. After high school, a friend in Vermont introduced another arcane world of discipline and lineage. "He was fasting and I was like, 'What's the deal with fasting?' And he was like, 'Dude,' and he handed me Survival Into the 21st Century." The book, by Viktoras Kulvinskas, is the Das Kapital of the modern raw-food movement, outlining the forces in science and history that lead inescapably to the uncooked diet. "I read the whole book that night. I stuck around with him and fasted and learned all about live foods. I became very raw, about 95 percent. I really loved the lifestyle."

While on the kung fu teaching circuit--many of whose participants were already vegan--Safron began preparing raw/food for his charges and educating the open-minded. In addition to a spongelike capacity for absorbing facts and recipes, he displayed excellent networking skills, parlaying his growing mastery of raw cuisine into catering gigs and finally live-food restaurants in San Francisco and Maui. As a sort of accreditation in the raw lineage, he even studied with the octogenarian raw-food prophet Dr. Ann Wigmore shortly before she died in-surely some cosmic joke--a fire. He became an author, educator, and guru of raw food, highlighted on the rawfood.com Web site as one of the "Premier Raw-Foodists of the World."

Leading me to the restaurant's back, Safron points to a suspiciously luscious yard of spongy grass: wheatgrass. "We retilled the soil for three days, added some algae and sea kelp, then sprouted seeds in buckets, and grew crops of it," he says. "We've been cutting it and eating it and just hanging out. It's really fun stuff."

Entering the raw-food world does seem to require a recalibration of one's amusement quotient. After extolling the funness of wheatgrass, Safron tells me that wild food "is a lot of fun because you're interacting with the tree." He and his girlfriend and business partner, Annie Jubb--whose ex-husband, David Jubb, is a New York--based raw-food educator and an alternative medicine healer--are working on a book tentatively titled Dining From an Empty Bowl, a guide to 28 different fasts: juice fasts, dry fasts, speech fasts. All of which make the book, as Safron puts it, "a pretty fun thing."

Near the restaurant's doorway, Brian Lucas, a 27-year-old taxi driver, and his partner, Whitney, are making one of their daily visits to Raw Experience. Their son Zivu, 5, is racing around the store, while their curly-topped daughter Inanna, 2, is rum-inating on a pacifier. The two kids are being raised raw. Soon Zivu will be off to vegetarian kindergarten.

"It's really hard to transition kids to rawness," Lucas says. "They just freak out, you know? Whatever is the opposite of what we're doing, they'll want."

Lucas was raised in an actual vegetarian faith, Seventh Day Adventist. "But it was like schwag, gross, chemically induced vegetarian," he says. "Their vegemeats basically have all these chemicals and preservatives. At around 13 or 14 I rebelled and became a meat-eater."

At 18, after a few years of skateboarding and road-tripping, he returned to the vegetarian fold. Rawness, though, was a whole new world. "Everybody thought I was on speed," he says. "I got thinner and got a lot more energy."

"We're doing even better now," says Whitney. "We're doing a lot more nuts. I was getting kinda spaced-out because I was doing so much fruit. Nuts give me something to ground with."

Right now, the raw community provides a sort of anchor for the family, who are going through some turbulent times. Lucas, who smokes medically prescribed marijuana for a stomach ailment, says he was pulled over by unprogressive cops when he happened to be carrying his year's supply. He is on probation and will have to spend 17 days in jail, staying raw the whole time. Whitney is stripping to help pay the bills. Both are optimistic, especially about rawness.

Zivu comes running up, a tanned, energetic youngster with shaggy blond hair shading his bright blue eyes. "What do you think about raw, Zivu?" asks Lucas. He shakes his head no. "What do you like? What's your favorite food?" "Bananas!" "Well, that's raw. Hey, what's your raw superhero name?" "Smoozie! And Colorboy!" Zivu looks up at me expectantly. "You wanna be raw? You wanna be raw?"

"It is very difficult to explain something of this majesty and glory to closed and indoctrinated minds" begins Nature's First Law: The Raw-Food Diet; the tract's ecclesiastical tone is not uncommon in the raw-food movement. With books on spirituality and diet the two main contenders on the best-seller list, it's inevitable that a movement would combine the two strands: a yearning, inward-looking faith organized solely around comestibles.

Gastronauts explain that the earliest raw-foodists were animals, and that the first reference to the raw-food diet appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Vatican archivist Edmond Bordeaux Szekeley is credited with translating the Aramaic text into the Essene Gospel of Peace, in which Christ counsels raw vegetarianism and gourd-administered enemas. Some even credit the hundred-year lifespans of Genesis characters to the diet. As it says in Genesis, God gave humans for food "all plants that bear seed everywhere on earth, and every tree-bearing fruit that yields seed."

The gospel of raw was taken up in more scientific form in the late '50s by the aforementioned Dr. Wigmore, founder of the Natural Hygienics movement and an early promoter of wheatgrass, and later by the likes of Kulvinskas, Gabriel Cousens, and the Iranian-born Arshavir T. Hovannessian, whose book-jacket endorsements include the statement, "You are the Christ!"

While today's raw-food activists talk about enzymes more than Jesus, the community still has the squabbling sects and even excommunications of a religion. On their Web site, Nature's First Law authors Stephen Arlin and David Wolfe address the apostasy of the raw-food prophet T.C. Fry, who strayed from rawness and died: "So long as human beings persist in consuming cooked food, there can be neither real civilization nor lasting health on Earth."

Part of this intensity of belief comes from the idea that rad-ical diets do seem to have saved lives. Nutritionist Roe Gallo says that at age 25 she reversed a potentially fatal asthma condition with a juice fast. She claims to have since healed others of illnesses ranging from diabetes, to lupus, to cancer. Her book The Perfect Body is filled with recovery stories from people saved by a diet Gallo--now a sinewy 49--practices every day. She is a fruitarian, subsisting on four or five pieces of fruit a day, her diet based on simple principles of physiology that she says are overlooked by medical doctors and actively debunked by the drug, beef, and dairy industries.

"There's only one disease," she says. "Toxicity. Everything else is a symptom of that disease." According to Gallo's research and experience, raw organic fruit--both toxin-free and nutrient-rich--is the human animal's natural food, what our systems are designed to consume. This elegant philosophy is an undeniable balm after mainstream medicine's constantly vacillating statements about antioxidants and free radicals. Even the skeptical must admit Gallo's is at least a reasonable-sounding argument. Her fruitarianism is primarily physical rather than philosophical. Others, though, tend to take the grapefruit and run with it.

"Fruit is love," says Safron. "Fruitarians consider fruit the birth child of the plant. It's the seed that it puts all its life energy into, and it wants it to be as beautiful and tasty as possible, so that you can come along and eat it and throw the pit somewhere. We are the foster parents of the plants." Safron mentions Dr. O.L.M. Abramowski as a fruitarian founder. "He's very into papayas."

Fruitarianism is the most highly evolved form of veganism possible, an ethically driven practice so benign and low-impact it doesn't even consume an entire plant. Gradations of this mentality run throughout raw-foodism, often a seamless blend of science and post-vegan principles. One notable wing, however, enjoys a much less cuddly relationship with its fodder.

Instinctive--or "instincto"--eaters believe in eating raw animals, wherever and whenever they find them. Led by people with names like Zephyr and Aajonus Vonderplanitz, they are about as viscerally anti-vegan as you can get. Zephyr, as Safron puts it, "likes to talk about eating a spider out of its web, or catching a mongoose on the highway and biting into it, or biting a chicken's head off." Zephyr's community lurks in Hawaii, and other instincto groups have sprung up in California and, tellingly, Germany, where Teutonic myth provides a fitting backdrop for outdoorsy activities such as tree-climbing and chipmunk-noshing.

But this crowd of food radicals has nothing on the breatharians. "I have no real need to eat," says Jasmuheen, phoning from her home in Australia. "I can go years without eating and there's no problem for my body." Jasmuheen, an author of several books about spirituality, is a blond, fortysomething mother of two who is either insane, playing a great practical joke, or about to evolve into a higher lifeform. She says she subsists on prana, or light. "For yogis, the knowledge of living on prana is very common," she says. "There are thousands of people around the world who know they don't need food. These people are nourished directly from the god force within. They have simply cut out the middleman, which is food." Jasmuheen says she has gone two years at a time without the middleman, although she will occasionally have a cup of tea at a restaurant just to be social. "It's just so alienating to people when you're never eating or drinking," she says.

While other raw-foodists tend to respectfully distance themselves from her, Jasmuheen's rhetoric meshes surprisingly well with that of other gastronauts. Like a Pynchonesque Thin Thighs in Thirty Days, her book Living on Light presents a 21-day "conversion process" to food-free living. It lists the benefits of living on light, inclu- ding "increased clairvoyant and clairaudient abilities; amazing lightness of being; limitless energy; sleep requirements halve or disappear." It sounds wonderful.

Unfortunately, a former college professor died of malnutrition some years ago in an attempt to make such a conversion, under the auspices of the Temple Beautiful, a proto-gastronautic sect in Philadelphia that promised harmony of the body and soul by dietary means. "Fasting, austere diets, enemas are all consistent with the psychological needs of health neurotics," says William Jarvis, Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at California's Loma Linda University. "This 'giving up' notion, this asceticism--'If I just give up one more thing'--this is where you get into the neurosis of it." Happily, Jasmuheen does caution followers not to just jump into breatharianism, but to begin with vegetarianism and meditation. "We just say, 'How 'bout you hook into this lifestyle?'" she says. "Prove to yourself that you don't need food. If you wish to eat for pleasure you can, and if you don't, you can do that too."

"She's either delusional," says Professor Jarvis, "or she's a liar."

Los Angeles is a tough place to live on air. Here, you really want to have a little water and maybe even some food once in a while, just to help hydrate and detox. Still, few cities in the world have taken nutrition and diet in such avant-garde directions. This is where the breatharian Wiley Brooks shepherded a flock of believers before he was busted at a 7-Eleven with empty containers of chicken pot pie. ("We all feel tricked and deceived," one follower lamented to the Los Angeles Times.) This is where Permanent Midnight author Jerry Stahl would follow up his mainline dose of heroin with a shot of wheatgrass and a morning run. And this is where Juliano has landed; specifically, he has set up shop at "The Living Lighthouse," the hopefully titled, one-story community center in Santa Monica. It houses a modest raw-food kitchen--juicers, dehydrators, refrigerators-and hosts raw potlucks and vegan seminars. The clapboard-fronted cottage is either the front lines of a global-consciousness revolution or a dietary Ruby Ridge.

Currently, the house is having a minor insurrection. "I'd rather not talk too much about David," says the house's soi disant "managing director," Dennis Knicely, 46. "It's just that he kind of got into a whole different...venue of raw foods."

David Karas has fallen under the sway of the "instincto" movement and Knicely, consequently, has asked him to move out. "When somebody comes in our house and they have carcass breath, we don't feel like they're properly representing our program," Knicely says.

Not yet vacated from the small shack behind the Living Lighthouse, Karas sits working at a computer. A friendly 60-year-old with white-blond shoulder-length hair, a full beard, a small frame, a bulging stomach, and missing teeth--the remnants of a car accident he had in his teens--Karas is wearing shorts and is, as always, barefoot. He hasn't shampooed his hair in 18 months. "I just live as naturally as I can," he says. In the '60s, Karas was a computer programming grad student at UCLA, involved in developing a precursor to the Internet. Here in his small room--with flies buzzing around, bare lightbulbs, and yes, a vague whiff of something gamy--the word "Kaczynski" does come to mind.

Karas had been into rawness ten years when he encountered Aajonus Vonderplanitz, a man who preached the gospel of raw meat. "Aajonus said that he hadn't exercised in 18 years and he was just solid. He'd had cancer and diabetes and now at age 50 was completely healthy. It was his encouragement that really got me to try it."

Karas, who had once been a vegan activist, started with raw fish and then had his first raw mammal, lamb. Soon he was eating raw mammals at least four times a week and, he says, turning yet another corner in health. "First, I put on about 20 pounds and virtually all of it was muscle. I also noticed how much easier it was to stand up, how my body was more coordinated. I realized this is the way I'm meant to live."

Because this is L.A. and not the forest primeval, Karas makes a few compromises. Rather than kill the animals, he purchases their organically raised bodies from health-food stores such as Wild Oats or Whole Foods. "Some people I know have talked about buying a goat and slaughtering it and eating it fresh," he says. "But I think we're all pretty much scavengers. I'm not killing, but I'm going to this fresh kill. Instead of driving the owner away with rocks or throwing spears at him, I'm showering him with these green pieces of paper. If I give him enough then he lets me take some."

As the late afternoon sun sets, Karas returns to one of his two raw-food Web sites and the Living Lighthouse is quiet for a few hours. Then, that night, the supernaturally shiny face of rawness arrives.

Juliano is striking in the manner of rock singers and indie-film stars. A tall, lithe surfer-dude/club-kid, he has an elfin face and long blond hair bunched atop his cranium in a top-knot, lanyards hanging down the back. He wears yellow knee-length Boss shorts, his tanned, taut midriff bared by a Real skateboards half-tee with flowers in the logo. ("I just like it 'cause it says REAL and has flowers on it," he says. "It's like 'real food.'") He and his sister Valerie, 24, come bursting into the Lighthouse at around 11 p.m., bearing bushels of oranges. Joined by Piter Caizer, 40, introduced as "the wheatgrass messiah," they set right to juicing.

"Somebody drink this juice," Valerie calls out. "I can just see the vitamins flowing out of it." The two have just gotten back from a weekend in Ojai, California, where they were operating in a state of extreme rawness.

"Everything we ate today was picked directly off a tree," says Valerie. "We had mulberries all day. I feel like I could run ten marathons."

"Look at that dog, Natasha," Juliano says, pointing to a black lab lying in the corner. It looks up at me glumly. "That's a raw food dog. I've never seen a dog like that in my whole life. The dog is transformed by the energy of the food."

Juliano first saw the light at the age of 15. "I had grown up in front of a TV in Las Vegas and I'd never seen nature. Then my dad moved and he brought me to Palm Springs, and I was blown away. Just out the back door--hills, rivers, snowcapped mountains. Every day I went into this magical, mystical place called Tahquitz Canyon. Just sliding around the waterfalls, playing in the water. That's what made me appreciate nature. I knew that was the right path to take."

At 19, he became a vegan. Then, for reasons he still doesn't understand, he decided to fast on raw foods. "I just came up with it on my own," he says. "I did it and I never went back."

This was his conversion to a higher plane. "I felt so great," he says. "Two hours' sleep a night. I thought I had insomnia. I kept thinking, 'Wait, What's up? I went to sleep at midnight and it's 2:30 in the morning.' After a week of sleeping a couple hours a night and feeling great and having tons of energy, jogging, and getting so much more done--because you have an extra six hours a day--I was like, 'You know what? I'm never having that shit again.'"

The conversion to raw food brought about more than health changes. In some mystical way, it bequeathed upon Juliano a mastery of cuisine that the San Francisco Chronicle's famously picky food critic, Michael Bauer, praised, saying, "In a city known for its innovative cooking, [Juliano's restaurant] beats them all...." It's this talent that is currently turning Juliano into the toast of Hollywood-somewhere between a chef and a guru.

"Okay, here's the corny story," he says. He stops and looks at me. "Dude, I'm an instrument and there's a higher power working through me!" He breaks up laughing, his expression saying he knows how ridiculous it sounds, but it's true. "I swear! I don't know why I was selected, how come no one invented raw pizzas, raw bur-ritos, raw cheeseburgers."

"It's so weird," Valerie agrees. "When we were vegan we both cooked and I knew all his recipes and they were okay. But as soon as he went raw he just exploded with these recipes. I don't know what happened. They just came pouring out of him."

At 22, when his peers were building bongs or perfecting their ollie, Juliano was opening a restaurant. He had come to San Francisco to be a yogi, but found he was a bit too cutting-edge. "They hated me at the yoga place 'cause I was raw," he says. "They were were like, 'Ayurvedic is 5,000 years old' and I'd go, 'Well, raw is before, you know, fire, man.' So I was like, 'Later,'"

He found ravers to be more receptive. His first restaurant operated out of a deli, after-hours. While kids were blasting music and tweaking on E, Juliano was going mental with chick peas, jicama, and shredded zucchini--confecting a hallucinogenic cuisine that fit the scene perfectly. Soon he was catering to outdoor raves, whose participants aren't commonly thought to have tremendous appetites. "But raw foods are really light, and raves last for days," Juliano insists. "People were loving us. You could have like five-star food at a rave. This went way beyond a smoothie."

In L.A., he is a luminary of a scene in which natural highs are in vogue. His friend Woody Harrelson has just opened an "oxygen bar," called O2, where, because oxygen is a controlled substance in the state of California, they serve "oxygen-enriched air"--nearly pure O2 in flavors such as "Clarity," "Energy," "Joy," and, er, "Lemon"--along with herbal elixirs ("Headwaters" is Harrelson's favorite), fresh-squeezed juice, and food prepared by raw chef John Wood. Wood was a roommate of Juliano's in Hollywood, "where I continued his training," says Juliano. "Make sure you put it like that."

Juliano also caters to universe masters like Michael Milken and Steve Jobs. "I get these outcalls all the time," he says. "People pay me a thousand bucks for three hours. Those are great." He is currently negotiating with Fox for his own raw food TV cooking show, which will doubtless make the hyperkinetic Emeril Lagasse's seem quaint. He has a book of raw recipes due out from HarperCollins this spring. Rawness has provided Juliano with a spiritual shift that, in a very '90s way, proves perfectly at home in late-century capitalism. But this only makes sense, because raw is the solution to everything.

As the hour grows late, my cooked-food diet obliges me to sleep. Before I pass out, Juliano offers a prediction. "This will change the world in a couple of years," he says evenly. "Not even a couple of years, maybe sooner."

The next morning, I wake up on the Living Lighthouse floor, groggy and disoriented. Juliano has been up for hours. Right now, he's in the kitchen making Bryan Adams's lunch--throwing together a lavish spread while acid-house thumps on the boom box. "Jicama garlic bread, falafel, an amazing salad with an amazing dressing," he says, rattling off the ingredients. "Persian mulberries, dates, pasta marinara made out of shredded zucchini, fresh-squeezed orange juice." He adds nasturtium garnishes. "This is all his for $300," he says. "I was gonna ask for more, but the girl who hooked me up is too hot to haggle with."

Half an hour later, we're at the front gates of Paramount Pictures, where Adams is shooting a video. Inside, dream-making is in full swing. Lighting rigs are everywhere. Jim Carrey is running around with a paper bag over his head, in character as comedian Andy Kaufman. Extras mill about in either flared '70s wear or rustic Gold Rush duds. But Juliano is the one getting the stares.

Bearing a circular platter of interplanetary fare, he looks like some kind of cyber-jungle food-sprite: his hair down in a blond mane and his lean frame set off by a skin-tight, psychedelic silk-screen shirt, shiny green vinyl pants, and purple Doc Martens with green laces. Members of a civilian tour group stand behind a fence, one of them pointing at Juliano, asking a friend who he is. "I look like a Star Trek character!" Juliano says to me. A few minutes later, Worf, the Klingon from Next Generation, walks by, seeming to concur.

We get to Adams's trailer and find the Canadian rock star shirtless, in black pants and makeup. He marvels as Juliano presides over the dish, running down the exotic ingredients.

"Do you have any idea how much I love this?" Adams asks. "How'd you like to come on tour? For a year. Let me know if you want to open up a restaurant in London, where I live."

The food is spectacular--lush, colorful, and tactile. But it seems Juliano himself is at least half the attraction. He is more than a chef here; he's an inspiration. "He's like an E.T.," says Harrelson. "He's from another planet. I mean that in the best sense. People see his energy and they're like, 'I want some of that.'"

As it happens, not everyone is so enchanted with Juliano. Jeremy Safron and Annie Jubb, for instance, were less than thrilled when, in October, Juliano abruptly seized control of the San Francisco restaurant (for which they still held the operator's lease), changed its name to Organica, and replaced them with raw taxi driver Brian Lucas. Details are murky, but Jubb has apparently acceded to this usurpation. "The laws of karma are really strong," says Jubb. "And I don't feel that you have to take action on something like this." Juliano shrugs it off in a manner that a non-vegan might describe in terms of needing to break eggs to make an omelette. "Every business owner has had to fire some bad waitress. You know, there's some people in San Francisco that hate me. It's no big deal."

But it's hard to imagine what would truly faze Juliano. In fact, his What, me worry? vibe may be the most seductive part of the raw promise. Potential litigation? No problem, dude. End of friendships? Whatever. Eternal life through raw foods? Totally! Gastronauts have given us the most breathless expression of the Prozac myth to date: one magic switch that will permanently remove all angst and trauma from life. Just because the world is toxic, doesn't mean you have to be.

Back in L.A., Juliano walks away from Adams's video set and on through the promenade of alternative realities: postwar New York street corner, Parisian thoroughfare, Old West ghost town. "I can't wait to be working here," Juliano says. "It's only a matter of time."

An aspiring film director, Juliano tells me about the three screenplays he's written. "One of them's an action sci-fi adventure," he says. "It's totally just brand-new. Amazing. It's about the death and rebirth of the planet. Sorry I can't tell you more, but it's so rad. It's just gonna blow people's minds."

Another film is about animal experimentation. "I want Demi Moore to play the lead," Juliano says. "I don't like anybody else for the role. She's 80 percent raw, 100 percent vegan, and doesn't wear leather, so I know she'll be into it. I have direct access to her because my friend knows her personal assistant."

The third screenplay is a little closer to home. It's a sort of verite treatment of Juliano's own experiences in L.A. "It's, like, Hollywood 101," he says. "It's just about all the shit I do in Hollywood."

As we walk toward Paramount's exit, the merry prankster of raw breaks out laughing. "My life, it's basically a movie every day," he says. "The shit I do, the shit I pull. It's fuckin' hilarious, dude."

 

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