I'll try to answer as many of your questions as I can based on my experience with Raw food.1. What would be the #1 book you recommend to read first about moving towards a raw food diet? I was considering the David Wolfe book, but figure I'll get some external thoughts first.
Which book? Natures First Law? The only David Wolfe book I have read is "Eating For Beauty" which is specifically about which raw food are good for skin,hair etc. I haven't read David Wolfes book "Natures First Law" but lots of people say it is a great resource for learning about raw food. It supposedly explains why cooked food is bad for you (I think the phrase 'cooked food is poison' is used alot so if that phrase doesn't sit with you maybe try a different book). David is considered one of the "experts" on raw food. I think one of his books would be a good start. Have you checked out his site? www.rawfood.com
Lots of books on there. My first general book about raw that I read was Raw Life by Paul Nison. It was OK but it was a bit preachy about religion towards the end of the book which turned me off.2. Outside of what the book will tell me, what are the things based on your experience I should know about in regards to nutrition on a raw foods diet vs a vegan or vegetarian diet (if any).
I am not sure about this question. I would say if you are going towards a more raw diet - do it gradually. Raw speeds up detoxification of the body so you might feel some symptoms. As far as nutrition, just try to keep a good variety of raw food (like don't just eat all one fruit) and try different combos. For fats, try to eat some avocadoes and get some good oils like olive in your dishes. Getting the nutrition thing down is sort of a process. Eat what makes you feel good. One thing about raw food that Alissa Cohen (she is a good read too) points out that alot of people feel hungry when they go raw because they don't eat enough at first. Make sure you eat until you are full. It might take more food to fill you up raw than if you eat cooked.3. As a whole, is it more difficult to prepare meals on a raw diet? How much more difficult/easy based on your experience?
Yes and no. It depends on what you are making. If you are doing a smoothie, all you gotta do is pop the fruit in your blender and than drink. If you are making sprouted raw bread, that can take some time. A few days to sprout your seeds of choice, make your batter and a day or more to dehydrate. Making big salad are pretty simple. Just cut up everything and eat. Of course, eating fruits and veggies raw are pretty simple obviously. 'Gourmet' raw is what can take some time. For me, I like to experiment with new stuff so I have variety when I eat raw. So, I love to sprout and dehydrate and make new recipes. 4. I have a blender, food processor, coffee/spice grinder and a cheapy dehydrator (circular design, electric heat element at bottom, 6 or so vented racks that sit on top of the base). I do not have a juicer. Anything else I need? How important is the juicer and the dehydrator?
You do not need a juicer to have a good raw diet. If you are big juice lover, you might want one. But you don't need
it. If you ever want to juice veggies or grasses, you will need a special juicer (and more expensive one) like a Green Star. (If you think you might ever want to do that - Green Star will juice ANYTHING - you can even run nuts thorough it). There are some recipes that might call for pulp left over from juicing veggies or fruit. You will need a juicer to get that pulp. But there are plenty of other things to make so you can skip those recipes if you don't have the right juicer to create the pulp.
The rest of your stuff sounds good except your dehydrator. The type of dehydrator you have will only do fruit, veggie and meat. If you want to do raw breads or crackers, you will need a better dehydrator. You will need one with trays and sheets to hold batter so it doesn't drip - the circular one won't hold batter. The Excalibur is a good raw dehydrator has trays that you can do crackers, breads and other things in. It is a good starter dehydrator. You can get a six tray one for a little over a hundred. So, it really depends on how creative you are going to get with your recipes. Are you wanting to have raw crackers? You will need a different dehydrator than the one you have. (you can buy raw crackers and bread already made on the web!). But - like with the juicer - dehydrated food isn't a necessity in a raw diet but you can make a lot things in one which will add more variety to your diet, if that is what you are craving, and can keep you from getting 'bored' on the raw diet. It really depends on what you want to do. I love dehydrating. I like raw crackers and breads. 5. I do not see a lot of grains mentioned when I hear about raw food recipes. Am I just missing these? In general, do raw foodists get a proper amount of grains, or do raw foodists believe (correctly or incorrectly) that they do not need the recommended amount of grains?
If raw foodists eat grains or seeds, they sprout them and than eat the sprouts or make raw crackers and breads out of them.
I sprout lots of different grains and seeds and make raw crackers and flat breads. There are raw foodists who probably rarely eat grains. I don't believe that grains are an absolute staple in a raw diet. Alot of raw foodies think that sprouts are though so you can get your grains by eating the sprouts. Grains have some good nutritional content depends on the grain. Some people avoid wheat and other hybridized grains. Seeds like sunflower etc and probably eaten raw by more raw foodists as are nuts. You will see those in more recipes than grains I think. I don't think there is an recommend amount or anything for raw foods. I haven't read about it anywhere. I don't think raw foodists follow those "Recommended Daily Allowances" that are set up. They eat what makes them feel good and what works for them.6. What is the best thing and the worst thing about being a raw foodist?
For me, I am attracted to it because I like the concept of eating as close to nature as possible. I agree with the concept LIVE FOODS = LIVE BODIES; DEAD FOOD = DEAD BODIES. I like the idea of healing yourself with a diet. Raw foodists pretty much never get sick. You don't feel sluggish after you eat a raw meal. I also like that raw food has opened me up to eating so many different food that I never new existed. I never realize there were so many different kinds of fruit. I mean, unless you live in Thailand or been there, you probably would not even be finding out about Durian unless you were into raw food. Exotic fruits are popular with raw foodists. It is fun to try all these interesting things.
The worst thing is eating out and having to deal with friends and family who don't understand the diet. They think it is dangerous to eat this way and to not go listen to doctors. There aren't alot of raw foodists so it can be hard to have a good support circle. Also, some of the hard to find foods can be expensive and you should eat organic whenever possible so that can also get expensive!7. How difficult is it to try and do raw based on a mostly "natural" set of foods. This may sound weird, but I hear about making things like crackers on a dehydrator and such. I am almost equating this to something along the lines of Tofu or something, where you really have to go through great lengths and process things to make a food product. I am wondering how difficult it is to avoid doing these things, or if I am exaggerating the "weirdness" of it.
Hmm. I think I understand what you are saying. Raw food diet can easily be done by eating just raw veggies, fruits, spouts, nuts and seeds - just as they are when you buy them. You don't have to make crackers in a dehydrator if you don't want. It is not difficult to avoid doing these things at all. You don't have
to eat raw dehydrated food to be a raw foodist. Making raw crackers and such just adds more variety to the diet. You can make things like Raw pizza, raw "ice cream", raw pies, etc. They take more time to make than eating the foods just as they are (alot of them not more time than making the cooked verisons of these) but if you want to get more variety into your diet once you have been raw a while - it might be something for you to consider. For me, it helps fill in for the cooked stuff I miss like corn chips and certain breads. Alot of the time-consuming recipes are things that are made to be like the cooked version we once ate but in raw form. If you are having a hard time and craving cooked things, you might feel it worth it to go the extra mile and make some of the more time-consuming dishes to ease your cravings. But like I said - not neccesary!
I recommend the following raw books for recipes (tons of recipes all over the web too). Some recipes you will need a dehydrator and some just blender - a good variety:
'The Complete Book of Raw food'. This has raw food recipes from tons of different and well-known raw foodists. It is like owning 10 raw food books. The recipes are unique and fun.http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Book-.../dp/1578261430
'Living on Live Food'. This has a lot recipes that are basically raw replacements for the cooked versions you used to eat. Raw Pizza!http://www.amazon.com/Living-Live-Fo...3292050&sr=1-1
Well, my post got long but I hope I helped clear some things up for you. Glad to see your interested. Raw eating can be fun if you make it be.