Uncooked food - it's the latest Californian fad. SAM TAYLOR served it up, but were her guests impressed?
To be like, totally raw, you should have a colonic after eating raw food for 21 days, that really does it for the raw fans..." Yes, Bob Saladino is a West Coast American. He also runs a restaurant called Raw Truth where nothing gets cooked. It's a kind of greengrocer's with a cover charge and no tomato ketchup on the table. He serves raw lasagne, made from a selection of raw vegetables but dressed to emulate the real Italian thing, and even though he says so himself, he does a fairly hot Neat (sic) Loaf, a recipe he borrowed from fellow raw food guru, chef Juliano. It's one of over 200 recipes, from pizzas to biscuits, contained in Juliano's new book, Raw, The UnCook Book.

Juliano started off life as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, serving raw food to early-hours ravers keen to get that raw chickpea high. At 25 years old he is now an alternative society figure who describes himself as "the messiah to bring in the new world". His body, of course, is a temple. He sleeps outside on his picnic table. He is so out there he's beyond the Vodaphone network, but the stars are lapping it up. Cybill Shepherd is a convert, Lisa Marie Presley has had him round to not cook dinner for her guests, Woody Harrelson is so smitten he's opened his own restaurant along the same lines, while Bryan Adams happily spends 300 dollars a day just so that Juliano can prepare his uncooked packed lunch.

But the new fad also has its sceptics, among them Jo Ann Haatner of the American Dietetic Association, who says that to get any nutrients out of a pile of raw vegetables,"one would have to eat all day like a cow". As for myself, as a woman brought up by her soggy vegetable-serving mother to believe that anything raw gave you worms, particularly vegetables, I'm also unsure about their veg and colonic movement, so to speak. But Bob assures me that "going raw" will change my life. I will be a new, improved person, someone who no longer slumps in front of the television as soon as I get home. And, instead of falling into a coma for at least nine hours a night, I will be up and about, zipping around, redecorating, making beds that no longer need lying in. In short, I will become a superwoman. In fact, if we all chucked out our cookers we could become supermen and women, no probs.

The very thought is enough to induce a lie-down. But at least I'm some way there: I'm already a vegetarian, albeit a chip butty kind of one, but the meat-eaters, they're in for a shock. Some rawists still eat meat, uncooked naturally, but Bob politely explains that "this can be a bit dangerous for new believers". And anyway, other hardcore raw fans have been known to refer to meat dishes as "road kill", which is certainly guaranteed to put a bit of a dampener on Sunday lunch.

However, even though Juliano personally believes that "you shouldn't even drink water, instead you have to gain all your liquid from fruit, or make your own by squashing cucumbers and lemons," the thought of becoming a fanatical over-achiever with enough spare time to resurface the drive at 5am in the morning has a certain appeal. And as the saying goes, don't knock it till you've tried it.

Flicking through Raw, The UnCook Book - "For people who think they've tried everything and are looking for another eating experience," according to publisher Judith Regan - I am struck by how many ingredients go into each menu. For instance to make a Juliano Cheeseburger, there's no burger, no cheese, but 18 ingredients - and that doesn't include the side recipes for concocting the fake cheese bits.

I am also struck by how long things can take to prepare. The Fish Patties (no fish, no discernible pattie) needs to be placed on a "dehydrater" for 10 hours at 90F or at the bottom level of your oven for the same period. As one friend put it: "Call me old-fashioned, but isn't that cooking?"

The other problem, is the glaring lack of ingredients in my local supermarket. They just don't sell living buckwheat crust, so the raw pizza is out, and they also seem to be extremely low on oat groats. Eventually I decide to test out the Raw Re-fried Beans and Rice Burritos recipe (no frying, no rice, no burrito) on three friends invited over for dinner.

Officially, rawists shouldn't touch alcohol, but Bob says going 80 per cent raw still has a radical effect. Anyway, I figure we'll all need a drink by the time I'd placed a mushy concotion of raw bits inside a raw cabbage leaf on their plates. I'd already decided not to mention the colonic.

The recipe did call for two cups of sprouted black beans but I didn't have the three days' spare for developing my sprouting bucket so I opted for prewashed beansprouts instead. And I just couldn't bring myself to buy another 10 items to make the Raw Humus, so instead they got Safeways' scrummy own brand.

All the menus in the raw food world like to emulate real dishes in the real world, but there the similarity ends. There is no getting away from the fact that raw spring cabbage leaves (served droopy if your guests prefer) do not make a tasty alternative to real flour and water burritos. If nothing else, this food is a real test of polite table manners. To their credit, neither Carmen, Joe or Dino recoiled in horror when they finally took their places at the table. But then neither did they start wolfing the stuff down like the last meal in town.

Perhaps it was the daffodil heads, artistically placed on the side of the plate, eating optional, that finally got them to crack - and then it was all over bar dialling the Chinese takeaway.

Dino was the first to dissent. "After nine hours spent hard- labouring on a building site, I don't think I'd look forward to seeing this food again," he mumbled rebelliously. He was having none of the "increased energy levels" argument. Building-site work required carbohydrates, pure and simple. Carmen, a teacher keen to show willing, ploughed through two mouthfuls before declaring that she thought there was a limit to how much beige mush one person can be expected to eat, and two mouthfuls was probably it. Joe on the other hand, who works for the Post Office, offered to eat Dino's dinner, an offer gratefully received. However, Joe does have aspirations to be a pop star.

It took just over 25 minutes to throw the meal together, I discovered - the same time it takes to make egg and chips. Which is exactly what we had for pudding. Sorry, Juliano.

`Raw: The UnCook Book', by

Juliano with Erika Lenkert, is published by HarperCollins in America.



2 cups sprouted black beans

2 cups raw hummus

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 diced tomato

1/2 medium red bell pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt

Whole green or purple cabbage leaves

2/3 cup fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons of raw or cilantro salsa

2 tablespoons of Juliano Guacamole

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved.

In a food processor combine the beans, hummus, oil, tomato, red pepper and salt and blend until mixed, but coarse. Spread into one leaf per person and add other ingredients. Wrap leaf around contents. Garnish with flower petals.