We truly live in a golden age of food awareness. Where once Americans ate whatever grew or grazed around them, we now find a nation of extra-regional culinary tribes; whole dietary religions based on what food we should or shouldn't put in our bodies, how we prepare it, and how we obtain it. Then again, most of us just eat. And from the outside, the most dogmatic food movements can appear slightly, oh, silly. Some more than others.
1. Paleolithic diet
Also known as the "caveman diet," this back-to-basics nutritional scheme excludes everything that our hunter-gatherer ancestors couldn't kill, uproot or suck out of a dead animal's eye cavity for themselves. In: meat, fruits, vegetables, roots and nuts. Out: grains, beans, dairy products, salt and chocolate martinis.
We see two obvious problems with "going Paleo." For starters, it would make dining in any worthwhile restaurant highly impractical:
You: "Hey, you wanna try out Beckett's Table?"
Me: "I dunno. Do they make anything without salt, sugar or dairy in it?"
Yeah, eff that. Plus, if we took the Paleo diet to its logical extreme, our daily meal would have to include maggots, a gulp of Listeria-tainted drinking water, and probably the ceremonial consumption of raw, hot Neanderthal livers. And there's no way we eat that stuff without salt.
2. Freegans or Opportunivores
Profiled by New Times reporter Niki D'Andrea in 2009, these glorified dumpster-divers make like human raccoons, picking half-finished, coffee-ground-flecked hot dogs and the like from the trash bins behind your favorite restaurants and delis. Not so much obnoxious as mind-blowingly foul, the freegan movement is partly claimed by so-called "fermentation fetishists" and forager/survivalist types who also dine on road-kill.
True story: The founder of a Tennessee-based opportunivore meet-up group called the Green Path paid the ultimate price for his found-food passions, succumbing to a tape-worm infection. That's what we call a "PR fail. "
3. Raw Foodism
The pointed "ism" suffix should be a dead giveaway of the obnoxious doctrinal rigidness to come. Not that we have a problem with raw food. Great with dips, quite refreshing after a hike and, hey, who doesn't love a little sashimi? But for three squares a day? We don't care if cooking food above 104 degrees does degrade enzymes or engender harmful toxins or whatever the rawist pseudoscience dictates -- it just sounds like no bloody fun whatsoever.
It's interesting to note that not all raw foodists are vegan or vegetarians; a subgroup of carnivorous raw foodists practice an all-raw-meat diet. (Reeeeeal good intestinal health in that population, we bet.) There are also all-fruit "fruitarians." Evidently both Gandhi and Idi Imin were fruitarians. Try to figure that one out.
5. Molecular gastronomy
Now, we love Binkley's in Cave Creek as much as the next bourgeois middle-class striver. And, admittedly, we did surrender a little squeal of delight when the server delivered our fried okra in a ranch dressing foam amuse. The problem with molecular gastronomy - more a cooking discipline than a food "movement" - is that it doesn't take the whole better-eating-through-science thing far enough. Foams, polymerized pear yolk and candied lattices of pork fat are great, but science can do better.
Which is why Chow Bella is proud to break the news of the world's first restaurant specializing in the emerging field of "sub-molecular gastronomy": the CERN Large Hadron Bistro in Switzerland. Conceived in tandem with Napa's French Laundry, the bistro will feature such mouth-watering metaphysical oddities as dark matter-encrusted chicken custard brulee that exists inside and outside your stomach at the same time, and a relativistic cauliflower soup with heavy-ion cream that you literally eat with your eyes.
Rumor has it that CERN researchers are also cooking up something with faster-than-light tachyon beams and seared pork belly. Stay tuned.