Rockin’ Raw


“My salad days,
When I was green in judgment, cold in blood.”
Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, Scene 5

The London of my day was a filthy city, where waste buckets were dumped onto the streets, where baths were rarer than birthdays, where deadly plagues were an inevitable part of life, and where the air of the city was thick with flies and stench. And yet, as filthy as those 16th century streets were, our world was clean. Although we had begun to spoil the Earth in numerous ways, mankind was too few to do our planet loss.

But what horrors we have since brought upon the earth! Our bodies are cleaned methodically each day, but our consciences have been stained. Consider  this–the number of humans alive today is greater than that of all those who have died since the stone age. We are a pulsating, multiplying horde, in unsustainable numbers, wielding the Earth like a child’s toy. “As flies to wanton boys” we pillage and destroy pure nature with direst disregard.

And yet, in spite of this troubling future, there is great hope. Never has there been such an awareness–scientifically, culturally, and spiritually–of the things we do to the world. In my era, we could not fathom that a creature as diminutive as man could do harm to the Earth. In this beautiful age, so many are fighting passionately for a sustainable, prosperous future.

Rockin’ Raw, a raw and vegan restaurant on Sullivan St. in the West Village, is one such warrior in this fight, and their weapon is fresh, delicious, ethical food.

Do not misunderstand me. I have oft written about the glory of a burger, and dined upon such things as foie gras and veal and wild boar with little thought to ethics of eating factory farmed food. And Alice can barely go a meal without tearing apart the flesh of some animal. I do this because, despite my reservations, it is too painful to me to imagine, in this ephemeral and paltry existence, flavors unknown and tastes


A raw burrito with a side of tasty cauliflower mash.

unexperienced. The miracle of food is too powerful to ignore, especially in an age such as ours and a place such as New York City, where the flavors of the world unite.

Rockin Raw has given me hope that one day these flavors may be experienced without the ethical and environmental cost. All the food at Rockin Raw is both vegan and raw. By vegan, I mean that no animal products were used, and by raw I mean that nothing on the menu was cooked.

Allow me to explain the science, beauty, and complexity of an uncooked meal.

For an appetizer, we began with jalepeno poppers. Deep fried and loaded with cheddar? No. The peppers were fresh and raw, filled with a cheddary sunflower paste, and coated with a flax seed “breading”. I was expecting to cringe when I had the first bite, so dissatisfied I was with prior vegan approximations of “real food.” However, I found that the experience was remarkable. This was not a meal assembled in a factory–it was fresh, real, raw food, assembled through human ingenuity into something familiar and comforting.

For the entree, I had the burrito. How does one make a raw burrito? First, the tortilla: flax seed and sun-dried tomatoes are blended together, flattened, and placed in a dehydrator. The burrito is then filled with mixed greens, salsa, delicious and creamy guacamole (if my soul were tangible, there would be avocados in it), and meat, cheese, and sour cream all made from seeds. Strange and improbable as it seems, I, a man who craves meat, found each bite fresh, fulfilling, and

Raw, vegan pasta and jalapeno poppers

Raw, vegan pasta and jalapeno poppers

interesting. I could close my eyes and taste the richness of the earth while still paying tribute to that creation I love more than almost anything–the burrito (I could still find happiness in a world where every meal was wrapped in a tortilla).

Alice had the pasta dish–Tallarines Verdes de La Lala. The noodles were made from raw squash and coated with a pesto sauce. It had all of the flavor and satisfaction of a regular pasta dish, with a kind of freshness and purity that cooked food can never give you.

But I know you, readers. I know that some of you are shuddering with each word, gagging at the word “vegan,” thinking, “that sounds awful,” and dismissing the idea that something raw and unprocessed could ever be satisfying. I am asking you to give it a try. Before you turn away from this thought, here are six reasons you should reconsider:

  • If a flavor is new and different and unique, you owe it to yourself to try it.
  • Only recently have the creatures of the earth known cooked food. Your DNA has, for eons, taught your tongue to desire things raw and freshly pulled from the earth, and only recently have culture and history hidden this desire from you.


    Raw, vegan cake. Anything is possible.

  • It is a truth known to all forms of art that restrictions and limitations nourish creativity. If you restrict poetry to a meter, the poet must reach within his soul to fill each syllable with magic. The artist, limited by his media, must make of tinted oil and stretched canvas a poem of color and light. And the chef, limited by the ingredients of the earth, must make poetry from flavor.
  • You live in the matrix. You have grown up in a world of processed food, and convinced that this is reality. Swallow the red pill, and learn the truth.
  • Raw food is wonderfully filling. In a few bites you will go from hungry to full, and you will be left wondering what it is about the food we eat every day that leaves us so unsatisfied.
  • I am not a vegan or a health fanatic. I am an omnivorous lover of steak, burgers, pizza, everything made in a deep fryer, and processed packaged pastries, and I’m telling you that raw vegan food is delicious.

I will leave you with the words of Kahlil Gibran, from the chapter “On Eating and Drinking” from his magnum opus The Prophet–a book that, about 15 years ago, brought a new era of spiritual and poetic awakening to my life:

“Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.

“But since you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it be an act of worship.

“And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in man.”

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