What with the surprise emergence of prolonged fasting as a hot new diet trend this year, we shouldn’t really be surprised by any particular way people begin eating nowadays. One need only see a blockbuster cookbook dismissing most solid foods as poison to deduce that the way people eat is getting weirder.
Hence, fruitarianism, a fringe diet that’s been popular with particularly acetic hippies for several decades (and, arguably, has its roots in the early stages of human evolution) but has gained traction recently thanks to a new posterboy: Michael Arnstein, a 36-year-old gem salesman (of course) regarded as one of the best ultra-marathoners in the world.
Arnstein eats dozens of pieces of seasonal fruit a day, followed with a salad at dinner (dressed with “blended oranges”). Like many proponents of unusual diets, he claims the diet has had a slew of dramatic positive effects on his health, ranging from an absence of any and all body odor, to better vision and mental clarity, to decreased body fat (obviously) and less earwax.
Arnstein’s life has been so changed by the diet that in 2011, he organized a “fruit festival,” which has seen a steady increase in attendance since. This year, apparently something like 600 people showed up… despite the $1,000 entry fee.
And what exactly happens at a fruit festival? New York Magazine sent one Grub Street reporter to investigate:
The seven-day fruit festival is a serious undertaking: Arnstein’s budget runs upwards of $600,000, including $150,000 for fruits and vegetables. Over the course of the week, the fruitarians in attendance will go through more than 100,000 pounds of produce, including 15,000 pounds of watermelon.
Mornings start with milk from fresh coconuts — “I’ve opened at least 1,000 this week,” says a fit, shirtless dude before returning to the task. Throughout the day, everyone eats fruit constantly. There were oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, watermelon, grapes, apples, litchi, passionfruit, dragonfruit, and lots more. For dinner, head chef Alicia Ojeda — a former Dreamworks Studio executive chef — preps things like a “high-end” salad bar with “honey mustard” dressing consisting of sweet dates blended with mustard seeds that have been soaked overnight to activate enzyme inhibitors.
When people aren’t consuming massive amounts of raw fruit and vegetables, they attend lectures, participate in cooking classes and workout. There are also, predictably, drum circles.
As for the kind of people who’d spend $1000 to eat a bunch of fruit with other fruit eaters, they range from hippies (doye) to fitness freaks eager to uncover the next possible source of superhuman ability.
…Mainly hippies, though.
While the idea of eating nothing but raw fruit and vegetables isn’t terribly compelling to us, neither does it sound as deleterious as many currently-popular fad diets. Still, it never fails to amaze us how rabid people get on the subject of nutrition–not in terms of weightloss, but in terms of the philosophical/political/moral weight people will graft onto the way they eat. No diet is so bizarre it doesn’t have its own fanatics; nor so inoffensive that people won’t be frothing at the mouth about what an aberration it is. How about we all just drink Soylent and get along?