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Published Thursday, April 30th, 2000, in the Sun-Sentinel
(South Florida/Section E/Sunday Lifestyle/Health & Family)
By ROBERT GEORGE
LIVE IS KING AND RAW IS QUEEN: Former butcher Amos Larkins doesn't always follow wife Annette's diet of no meat and nothing cooked, but he brags about what it has done for her. Photos/O.J. Callahan
Annette Larkins stunned her family and friends 37 years ago by giving up meat. Now, on a diet of only raw fruits and vegetables, she's still stunning them.
Even when Amos Larkins has to resort to showing off a picture of his wife, people still say "Yeah, right," and they look at him with his 67-year-old skin and 67-year-old hair and 67-year old paunch. She's a grandmother, he'll insist. She's a woman who's been married for 41 years. All of them, he'll add with a grin, to him. She's 58. They look at the picture again. "Yeah, right." "She's a cheap date, too," he'll say, though that's as close as he comes to telling how she manages to look as good as she does. Annette Larkins, his wife, eats nothing but raw fruits and vegetables, fresh enough to have their "life force," as she puts it, still in them.
It's why her husband sometimes thinks his life is a Hollywood movie and he's married to the star. And it's so totally unexpected, given her upbringing that he thought she had lost her mind on that day 37 years ago when she announced she would never again eat meat. She had always eaten what everyone else ate in the black Miami neighborhood where she grew up in the 1950s: pork chops, ham hocks and chicken, all of it fried. He worked as a butcher back then, so it wasn't just one kind of meat they'd have at each meal, but two. On this particular day, she was frying bacon and ham for breakfast, when, unaccountably, the stuff splattering away in the frying pan was no longer meat to her but dead animal flesh. Yuck! Just like that, it seemed, only it wasn't just like that, she realized two weeks later when she finally came around to telling her husband. She had always loathed the sight of fat jiggling from the skin of ham hocks. She had always had in the back of her mind thoughts of fried rat when she ate fried chicken. She had eaten meat anyway because she had been brought up on it, and it had never occurred to her that she might not like it. And so, at 21, Larkins, a mother of two, a woman with no high school education, became the only vegetarian in the neighborhood.
"This is not the way I was brought up," she says as she feeds wheat grass into a juicer in the kitchen of her Miami home. "I don't know if it's in my genes. I really don't have a clue. All I know is that I'm different." Her husband figures that she got scared off meat after seeing her mother and grandmother die of breast cancer when they were still young. But that doesn't explain what happened next. From no more meat, his wife went to no more sugar and no more processed flour. From there, it was no more cheese and no more dairy. And then, after nearly 21 years, no more cooking. That's when dinner out with Annette got to be real cheap. All she got was water and a salad, which, until then, Amos had always figured was something restaurants gave people to fill them up so they wouldn't want bigger portions of meat. "I do not have to eat and drink to be merry," said Annette. Her upstairs juicer, a $1,700 Norwalk, can liquefy any fruit or vegetable. Her downstairs juicer, a $300 Champion, can turn a frozen banana into a bowl of ice cream. For trips, she has an Acme juicer that folds up for easy packing.
She says it only takes a little longer than it used to for her to prepare meals. She used a dehydrator to dry food in bulk, and her cabinets are filled with zip-seal bags of pizza crust, tacos and chips made out of crushed corn and raw honey. She grows her own sprouts and wheat grass in the backyard garden. She has jars of mayonnaise and spreads, plastic containers with cookies and custards, all dried or juiced or squeezed or blended, all made without a single animal, a single egg or a single burner on a stove. Last year, she wrote an autobiography focusing on her dietary transformation, along with some recipes. The booklet, Journey to Health, is selling at health food stores. "Welcome to a new world -- the kingdom of live and raw -- where live is king and raw is queen," she writes. Ever since she started eating raw food only, she has slept sounder and woken up fresher. She never gets sick, she says. She has more energy than she ever did before. When her infant granddaughter got an intestinal blockage last year, Larkins started juicing wheat grass for her. The baby was back to normal in a few days. "It's not good food versus bad food," says Sheah Rarback, spokeswoman for American Dietetic Association in Miami. "It's good diet versus bad diet. If someone chooses to eat meat, they can still have a very healthy diet." While Larkins has managed to drag her husband and two sons away from their meat-eating roots, they still eat chicken now and then, and Amos Larkins has had stints as a vegetarian over the years, inspired, he says, by the passing of years that have seemed to pass right over his wife. "If she wants a younger man, she should have him because I've had 41 years of having her," he says, grinning. "She's a lotta woman." He was just back from lunch. He had Chinese. His wife was making herself a corn crust pizza with nut ball sausages.
Robert George can be reached at 954-356-4727, or firstname.lastname@example.org