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Hi there PureJeevan readers! We wanted to let you know that Jim's new novel CHROO is available on Amazon. It's a crazy adventure involving a billionaire heiress, her Chihuahua BFF ("Chroo") and a host of human and animal characters. Find out more on Amazon! Here are some links:

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Ever since developing a personal conviction a few years ago that following a raw vegan existence was the best lifestyle for me, I've lived somewhat in conflict with the day-to-day corporate business environment in which I make my living at the moment. As we've directly stated many, many times, we're in the process of changing all of that. But, making such a huge change takes a long time because careers are in many ways very anchoring. We may write more about that process because it's true that going raw (or, really, adopting any kind of diet outside of what most other people eat) can lead to significant changes in your life. Between Wendi and me, I think we've gone through pretty much all of them, and there's certainly value and relevance in sharing most of those things here. Today, though, I thought I'd share what I call my "$75 Salad Story."

In the business world, "networking" is among the more prevalent activities anyone does. It's pretty much always going to involve food , right? It's always a breakfast briefing, meeting a client over lunch, or attending a dinner party (complete with a cocktail hour). ?The deck is more or less stacked against you at these things because, let's face it, they're usually set up to provide what most people perceive as a pleasant experience. And, quite often, that means a certain degree of culinary decadence / indulgence -- invariably at venues that have never heard of raw chocolate or raw apple pie (which, to me, is 10x more appealing and exciting than the ubiquitous "chocolate fountain").

Fortunately for me, the business circles in which I sometimes run have become at least moderately more health conscious in recent years. I'm starting to see more fruit and veggie trays at these things, for example. But, the entr es are always standard business-class fare. These bulk-produced sauce-, bread-, meat-, and cheese-heavy dishes aren't meals that any truly health-conscious person would enjoy very much. But, on some level, there seems to be some kind of unspoken vibe, as if to say in a satisfied manner: "These are delicious foods, and these foods are what successful business people like me eat." It's adult role-playing, in my view; they eat that way because they feel that that's the way adult businesspeople should eat.

Maybe it's somehow related to all of the preparation involved. Subconsciously, when you eat a meal made by someone else in such a situation, you might feel somewhat important, no? You might think, "Someone else prepared all of this expensive food -- probably a whole team of people. I've employed these people, and that gives me a sense of importance in many ways, a sense of wealth and successfulness - - which is what business is all about."

See what I'm getting at? It's all very subtle, very speculative (and, please, I'm not denigrating chefs or restaurateurs here at all -- I love going to a great restaurant!). I'm actually just kind of thinking out loud about it, not making any real conclusions. But, I think there's a whole complex psychology going on at these things. I see it, but I think articulating it might take me more time than I have available at the moment. But, can you relate to this?

The other night, I had an opportunity to attend a primo restaurant here in Pittsburgh. It's called the Le Mont, a well-established destination perched on a cliff overlooking downtown Pittsburgh. The views, through their many walls of floor-to-ceiling windows, are absolutely stunning. The prices are kind of stunning, too. I mean, it wasn't on my dime, but it's just not every day that I'm invited to attend a $75/plate meal. And, quite frankly, I don't think my boss knew that I'd called ahead and ordered a dinner salad to replace whatever was on the menu for everyone else.

Pittsburgh enjoys its reputation (undeserved, these days, in my opinion) as a blue-collar town. Our football team is the Steelers, after all, so named during the local heyday of the labor-intensive steel industry. That era long gone, the townsfolk still like to think of themselves as exemplifying some kind of legendary (mythical, even) work ethic. (Historically, perhaps this was true, but today it's just like anywhere else.) This image, though, seems to have created a brazen disregard for health. Never in my life have we encountered so many smokers, for example. And then of course there are the culinary inventions such as the Primanti's cheesesteak, which includes everything found on a normal cheesesteak, plus french fries and cole slaw on the sandwich. (I used to eat these delicious monstrosities from time to time; I also used to weigh almost 240 pounds.) The story goes: The steel workers were so tired, hungry, and rushed, they thought it was an all-around improvement to just throw the entire meal onto a bread roll. Well, I don't think that's true, but it sounds believable enough if you don't think about it too long.

My point, though, is that a sense still lingers here that we can just eat whatever, without consequences. "We're tough, and we can handle (and deserve) big, heavy, hearty meals because we're going to work it off tomorrow during our double-shift at the blast furnace." Filter that down several decades and you get the comedic scenario of my $75 salad. Here I am in a room of 100+ people. Dinner is being served. There is no choice offered to anyone -- dinner is a slab of red meat the enormity of which you've only ever seen on The Flintstones. And these tuxedo-clad servers are walking around distributing the steaks to unanimously eager patrons. Five times, a different server places one in front of me. Five times, I politely whisper: "Actually, I called in for a salad." (I'm not complaining here, btw. I mean this more as a funny story.)

So, then I see this one woman aimlessly walking around carrying a huge plate of greens. Yep, that's my salad! A server flags her over, and we finally accomplish the delivery stage of the meal. My boss looks up, slightly tipsy, and asks, "Are you a vegetarian, Jim " I laugh and say I think I'm the only one in the room.

It was... not bad. I have to say, I wasn't expecting anything more than an iceberg lettuce and shredded-carrot abomination. But, they actually put together an enormous plate of fresh dark field greens and an impressive array of cut veggies. Aside from the balsamic vinegar (which, hey, I rolled with), it was actually a raw vegan meal, and pretty darned good. Not $75 good, but I'd definitely go back if it was $12.95.

Original Comments

Below, we have included the original comments from this blog post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On April 30, 2010, Mindy wrote:

LOL on the double shift at the blast furnace. You are so fortunate you got a decent salad; amazing how many "fine restaurants" don't have anyone on staff who has a clue about salad.

Don't know if you are familiar with VeganLisa and her Vegan Cookbook Critic blog. (She has been reviewing Becoming Raw most recently, and she eats high raw). She just completed a week of seminars connected with her "day job". They provided food for her, but it was the iceberg lettuce every day. Some people expressed pity for her, but she shared with those near her about how much joy her eating habits gave her, and all the great foods she prepared for herself. Before she knew it (a few days later) she had someone sharing how he had picked up a copy of The Kind Diet, and others considering making a change.

I definitely understand you wanting to leave the corporate world behind; but for the time being, you may be helping more than you know. There's no telling who was watching out of the corner of his or her eye and thinking "I'm doing that next time". Maybe your choice will make a few other people who may be "in the closet" or "on the fence" about their food choices feel strong enough to follow in your footsteps.

On April 30, 2010, Debbie wrote:

Love it! And I've been in a similar situation. I also had a very good salad that must have cost the company an awful lot, lol.

On April 30, 2010, goddessdurga wrote:

I know this dilemma. One of the "perks" of my job over the last seven or eight years (if you can call it that) is that I get to wine and dine with some high powered people (former prime ministers, European ambassadors, famous authors, etc.) at some very fine restaurants. I'd attend 15 or so such dinners a year, at places I could never afford to eat if I were paying the check myself. It was always easy to say no to the bread, but not to the entree, not to the desert, and certainly not to the wine. Even after I went raw, I'd always make exceptions for these dinners. And truthfully, I enjoyed them. But not the break in my routine. I finally figured out that what was going on was an underlying sense of deprivation so that I felt I couldn't turn down the "free" food. I could turn down free bread, because bread I could pay for myself, but I could never afford an entree or the wine at these restaurants. It's only in the last few months I feel fulfilled enough in my life that I can go to these dinners and have salad. And since December I'm not even drinking ...

On April 30, 2010, Jim Dee wrote:

Yeah, I don't mind so much when it's the company's dime. Personally, I would rarely shell out *premium* dollars for raw food, though -- unless it was ultra-gourmet. (Never dined at Pure Food & Wine, for example, but would definitely go there!)

On April 30, 2010, Jim Dee wrote:

Wow, so it was actually an *economic* issue for you more than it was a physical craving issue? That's an interesting spin to me, as I would think most people would have more trouble surmounting the sheer desire to experience the taste of these tempting foods, without regard to their prices (e.g., a cocktail party that serves cheap, yet highly aromatic hors d'oeuvres, the smell of which might seriously stimulate your appetite). So, would you say that, by "deprivation," you meant that you equated the food's cost with its quality and therefore felt deprived of experiencing something so valued? I find these notions interesting because, as I wrote, I do sense some highly interesting psychological phenomena going on in these scenarios. Perhaps some grad student will happen by here and take this up as a thesis topic.

On April 30, 2010, goddessdurga wrote:

Definitely economic. I've never been tempted by the free donuts at work (a big Dunkin Donuts spread on almost weekly basis). But the $38 halibut at Clio and the $90 a bottle wine ... I could never say no, as long as I felt "poor." I felt like those dinners were a payback from the Universe because I felt deprived in so many other ways. So it's only now that I feel so nourished and fulfilled spiritually that I don't try to constantly "take" whenever there's an opportunity to have something that I might not be able to afford.

On April 30, 2010, Jim Dee wrote:

Thanks, Mindy. That's true... "Be the change," right ! As a matter of fact, two others did ask me some questions about diet that night. One guy said, almost apologetically, "You know, I could do without red meat. I really don't crave it. I just eat it at these dinners." That remark was actually in my mind when I wrote, "they eat that way because they feel that that s the way adult businesspeople should eat."

I like that term "in the closet," by the way. I think there are probably a lot of closeted vegetarians. Perhaps I'll do a blog post on that sometime & will cite you as the inspiration for it. :-)

On April 30, 2010, Jim Dee wrote:

I probably should have added to my initial comments not only the sheer physical craving but also the social pressures of fitting in and so forth. But, in either case, you addressed my questions. I think your experience dovetails well with what I was just starting to explore. Subjectively, for you, it was just coming from another angle. Where you might have been tempted from a perspective of deprivation, another might have felt tempted from a perspective of equating that food with a feeling of accomplishment. I think the two are somehow connected, though in somewhat opposed ways. But both view the food as valuable. I'm fascinated by this, and think there could be a book in it. (Now I'll add this to my ever-expanding lists of future projects.)

Cross-posted on