Category Archives: Food Matters

food politics, philosophy, essays, and issues

Extreme Picky Eating: Criticism and New Ideas

(These are the remains of one of Max’s breakfast “cookies”.  I often find little piles of rejected bits on Max’s plate.  This is a vast improvement on when he used to simply reject an entire plate of food if there was one bit of what he considered disturbing wrongness on it.)

This past week Max met his new pediatrician in an appointment to discuss options for dealing with his bloody noses which have returned in force.  During that appointment she told us that he’s a little tall for his age and a little heavy for his age.  Due to his being in the 95 percentile for his weight she told us she has to discuss diet and exercise.  I told her that diet is difficult with Max because he’s an extreme picky eater.  She asked what he eats and on being told she launched into a lecture about how a diet made up completely of empty carbs is really unhealthy.  As if I didn’t know.  I then explained that his eating habits are related to his OCD which makes eating very problematic for him.  This did not, apparently, register with her as an important fact to consider.

She went on to ask me if I have read the labels on cheese puffs – a nutrition-less “food” – and I assured her that I am an avid label reader and am aware of everything that is in (or isn’t in) the food my kid eats.  I reiterated that there are few foods Max will eat and that at the end of the day it’s important that he eat something rather than nothing.  She told me she wanted to make an appointment for me with the nutritionist.

And that’s when I got angry.  But I held it in and told her I knew exactly what my son SHOULD be eating to be healthy – that it wasn’t a question of knowing what a healthy diet is but a question of what my son is willing to eat.  She turned to him and asked him if he understands that the way he eats is going to lead to many diet-related health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

Right then and there I knew I was going to get a new pediatrician for Max.  Trying to scare a kid with OCD into eating food that tastes like goat pellets by telling him the alternative is horrible sickness – is ineffective.  Shaming a parent of such a kid is not going to make the kid eat better either.  The worst thing is that I believe she assumed that I must eat the same way I feed my kid because I’m obese.  I LOOK like a person who doesn’t know what a healthy diet is.  I LOOK like a person who lives off of diet soda and Doritos.

My concerns about my son’s physical health are constant and upsetting to me but one thing I know for sure: badgering Max to eat differently or forcing food down his throat that makes him want to throw up is not good for his mental and emotional health.  Food is as stressful a topic for him as it is for me.  I want his physical health to be better but I have to constantly balance that against his over-all well being and the quality of my relationship with him.

We’ve been very fortunate in most of Max’s pediatricians over the years in that they understood that a picky eater like Max isn’t being picky to be difficult – they have understood that it’s not an ideal situation and their advice has been useful and their approach has been both reasonable and encouraging.  Not one of them ever assumed that my kid’s extreme dietary restrictions were a result of my ignorance of what a healthy diet is.  All of them had encountered kids like Max before and knew what I was dealing with.

Best advice:

Don’t make a battle out of food with an extreme picky eater like Max.

With your average kid who is reluctant to eat vegetables it may be effective to simply keep reintroducing them to foods you want them to eat and with the idea that eventually they will accept them.  Or that famous tactic of making your kid sit at a table for hours until they finally eat that piece of carrot.  Or the other one where if they don’t eat what you expect them to eat they don’t eat at all – in the belief that no child will ever starve themselves to death.  With average kids these tactics may work and aren’t likely to cause bigger problems.  Kids like Max are at risk of developing eating disorders by making food a constant battle ground.  So if your kid has major sensory issues that are limiting what he/she is willing to eat – understand that they may be incapable of overcoming their food aversions.

Give your extreme picky eater multi-vitamins –

Even this has been majorly challenging because most vitamins have a flavor and even non-picky adults recognize that vitamin-flavored things are usually not pleasant.  Chewables for kids can taste good or NOT.  Max would accept chewables for a while and then they would start to taste bad to him.  Some never passed muster in the first place.  Eventually he begged me to get him vitamins he could swallow.  I prefer natural vitamins but these are HUGE (even the ones for kids) and taste NASTY.  Even to me.  Max thought I was trying to kill him with the horse vitamins.  After trying to find flavorless swallowables I finally went back to chewables and made him try the ones from Trader Joe’s – he’s been taking these without complaint for the past few months.  Fingers crossed he continues to take them without complaint.

Never give up offering healthy food options to your picky eater –

It’s exhausting trying to get a picky eater to try new things or old things they used to like.  I give up from time to time.  But I always pick up the challenge again because I love my kid and I really do want him to be healthier.  I eat healthy food myself so we always have lots of produce and whole grain breads and nuts around the house.  I always offer him healthy options and try to get him to try new things.  Continue to be an example of how to eat healthily for your child and know that that example is meaningful even if it isn’t going to make them eat brown rice any time soon.  They’ll KNOW what a healthy diet is and that will help them later on.

For the last few months I’ve had no energy to engage in the constant struggle of getting Max to eat produce and during the move and settling in period his diet has definitely reached a low level.  Even before this upsetting visit to the pediatrician I was working on a plan for a renewed effort at improving his diet.  I have decided to channel my anger and the shame this doc made me feel into new food ideas for Max.  I’m going to jot them down here for my own sake – so I can keep track of them and not forget any of them.

Some diet guidelines to enforce (setting small boundaries and rules has worked for him in the past and it’s time to re-establish them):

Take his multi-vitamins every day.

Drink plenty of water – I don’t care if it’s mineral water or plain.

Take at least a couple of bites of something in the morning before gym class.

Eat one fruit or vegetable item a day (half an apple, half a cucumber, several baby carrots, or a handful of grapes).

Something with whole grains in it (cornbread made with whole wheat, breakfast “cookie”, slice of whole wheat bread with either ketchup or brown sugar on it – don’t care, or whole wheat crackers, or home made granola bar).

Potato chips only on weekends.

Soda only on weekends.

On to some new food ideas:

Grape and apple slushie:

he won’t drink most smoothies.  He asked how come he couldn’t have a grape or apple smoothie.  I explained the challenge there with regard to texture (when he says grape in this context he means concords which have seeds) and apples aren’t often a smoothie ingredient. My idea is to freeze natural unfiltered concord grape juice into ice cube trays then blend them with half an apple.  The result will hopefully be a purple grape tasting icy drink that has some fresh apple in it.

Quick breads baked in square muffin pans:

he likes cornbread but won’t eat it when it isn’t fresh (it gets too dry and crumbly by the next day) and this is a problem for me.  He might eat it more often if I could freeze individual portions.  The problem is that he doesn’t like muffins (the puffed top not matching the shape of the bottom is the problem) and usually I make cornbread in a pie dish and do triangular slices – these are too fragile for freezing.  Even if I did them in a square pan and cut them in squares – the slices will be too fragile for my purposes.  I think individual square servings of quick breads might work well.  I could do cornbread and gingerbread this way.  I also want to get him to try a zucchini bread.

Granola bars using brown rice syrup –

He’s liked granola bars a few times in the past but the commercial ones often have high fructose corn syrup in them.  When I made some at home using honey the honey flavor was too strong.  Someone suggested using agave syrup or brown rice syrup – I am not a fan of agave syrup but one granola bar he liked for a while used brown rice syrup and so I want to experiment with that.

Veggie burgers –

Recently he ate a few garden burgers (the original one) but near the end of the third one he encountered a lump of something that was unpleasant and hasn’t wanted to eat them since.  My mom and I also experienced this gristle-like lump in ours around the same time.  Very strange.  I found a recipe for veggie burgers in a Cook’s Illustrated issue that seems very promising.  The only issue with veggie burgers at home is shaping them.  Max won’t eat funky shaped things.  My friend Chelsea told me about hamburger presses and I’m going to get one and try that.

Potatoes –

I have wanted to try making tater tots at home so that I can use organic potatoes but all tater tots really require frying.  I would like to find some potato finger foods that Max would like that are baked instead of fried.  My thought here is doing a kind of hash brown but in small silver dollar sized pieces.  With the slightly flattened shape I can get both sides to be golden brown in the oven without frying.  I also want to see if I can get him to eat and enjoy oven baked fries.

Corn dog type thing that’s got a different kind of filling –

Except corn dogs require frying.  I just keep thinking of a finger food that’s got and outside grain type covering with shredded potatoes and carrots (or something like that) inside.  Something he could dip in ketchup or ranch.  This is not a fully formed idea yet – just jotting down the basic idea.  I was thinking of things like bite-sized bagel dogs but with whole wheat bagel dough and a filling that’s a mix of things that wouldn’t be too strongly flavored or weirdly textured – again – potatoes come to mind.  Yes, I know, more carbs.  I’m working with what I can.  I’ll take an all carb diet consisting of organic and home made food to an all carb diet that comes in packages.  If I could get something like this to work out – I could start playing with adding ingredients in small amounts to add nutrients.

Peanut butter balls –

He likes peanut butter flavor.  He desperately needs more protein.  I’m thinking lightly sweetened peanut butter dipped in a thin layer of chocolate (he like a little chocolate but not a lot).  Maybe I could mix a little bit of bran into them that he wouldn’t notice.  If I could get him to eat a peanut butter ball before school that would at least be a little bit of protein to start the day off with.  He’s eating peanut butter breakfast “cookies” again right now but will tire of them before too long.

That’s all I have right now.  Perhaps as I try some of these things I’ll report back how they worked out.

The last thing I want to mention in this new picky eating post is that I have appreciated the comments I’ve gotten from other parents of picky eaters like Max.  Recently a mom and daughter commented on my old picky eating post and it was really wonderful to hear from a picky eater who grew up and started broadening her eating horizons.  She reports that she is perfectly healthy and isn’t as picky as she used to be.  Thank you for sharing your stories!  It really does make me feel better and also hopeful that I can get Max to adulthood without him developing terrible diet related health problems.

Extreme Picky Eating: The Beginning

Extreme Picky Eating: The Max Diet

 

Imwalle Gardens: the best produce market in Santa Rosa

So the farmer’s markets here in Santa Rosa are filled with produce I can’t afford to buy which is a huge disappointment.  $5 per/lb for green beans is not in my budget.  Neither is eggplant for $5 per/lb or even eggplant for $3 per/lb.  $5 for a tiny head of lettuce?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  Tomatoes can’t be had for less than $2 per/lb but most of them are upwards of $3 per/lb.  Cucumbers are $2 per/lb here – I expect cucumber to be no more than 50 cents each!  Corn is between 75 cents to $1 for one ear.  ONE EAR OF CORN.  Only some of this is organic.  The green beans weren’t (I saw organic ones for $4 per/lb).

So I’ve been shopping the regular grocery store.  The good news is that it’s not difficult to get mostly produce grown in California.  In Oregon it’s much more difficult to get mostly Oregon produce at the big grocery stores – but who cares when they have such great farmer’s markets with produce being sold for really reasonable prices?  The bad news is that even at big grocery store prices when produce is on special it isn’t affordable enough to can such produce in large quantities.  While I’ve been hearing about all my friends’ food preserving escapades I’ve become increasingly jealous.  I don’t feel right not preserving food at the end of summer.  I was getting pretty bummed when a friend suggested I check prices at Imwalle Gardens.  I’d been to Imwalle’s years ago when I lived here before but at that time I didn’t shop there much because farmer’s market produce was still reasonably priced.

So I went to Imwalle’s expecting to be disappointed.

I was so far from being disappointed – I hit the jackpot of affordable produce and the best thing of all is that this week they had 4 for $1 corn and they sell 20# of tomatoes for $12!  Both of which are grown right outside their market.  They’re a regular market in that they buy a lot of produce from other growers – mostly California growers (but not small farms necessarily) but they have their own farm and grow a few different kinds of peppers, corn, summer squash, Japanese eggplants, apples, and pickling cucumbers.

Imwalle Gardens is the BEST produce market in Santa Rosa.  Here are some of their current prices: $1.49 per/lb for green beans, 99 cents per/lb for regular tomatoes, $1.99 per/lb for heirloom toms, 99 cents (or less) for a head of lettuce, 99 cents per/lb for hot peppers (that they grow – compared to $8 per/lb I saw at the farmer’s market), $1.19 per/lb for organic potatoes, 99 cents per/lb for summer squash (compared to $2 or more at farmer’s market), 49 cents each for regular cucumbers, and $1.19 per/lb for pickling cucumbers.

For $56 I came home with 60 lbs of really gorgeous tomatoes and 80 ears of super tasty corn.  That was my first visit.

Yesterday we went back and got another 60 lbs of toms, 2 big bags of organic potatoes, some Hungarian wax peppers and some jalapenos, big bag of green beans, 6.5 lbs of pickling cucumbers, 2 heads of lettuce, big bag of zucchinis, big bag of onions, and a big bag of heirloom tomatoes for $67.50.

Here is their corn growing right outside the market.

So if you live in Santa Rosa I highly recommend that you shop at Imwalle Gardens for your produce.  Some great super local produce, lots of California produce, reasonable prices, and all the staff is super nice.  Imwalle’s is my new favorite place in Santa Rosa.

Imwalle Gardens

685 West 3rd Street

Santa Rosa, CA 95401

(707) 546-0279

The Days of Yore When Life Was Simple and Gran-paw Wasn’t a Bigot

Remember the days of Yore when life was simple and people were just good and wholesome and no one ever got murdered and food came fresh from the farm every single day and Grandma baked pies 365 days a year and no one had cancer or polio – SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! – you mean all that talk about polio crippling thousands of people and two world wars and a devastating economical depression and segregation were all LIES fabricated to sully the memory of the true glory of Yore?

I really want to love Mary Jane’s Farm magazine.  I love that Mary Jane Butters is a champion of organic farming and growing food and enjoying antiques and doing some stitchery while sipping juleps on the porch swing at the end of another idyllic day on the farm where all the pigs are clean and your back never goes out and every minute of the day is a wonderful new memory being made that you will stitch onto your memory quilt for your family to snuggle und – dammit.  Every time I read her magazine I feel the magnetic pull of the nostalgia it’s drenched with like heavy perfume that stays in your nostrils long after its trails have been cleared away by fresh air.  I get annoyed.  That magazine is painting a rarefied world where everything is in romantic soft focus and wisdom is everywhere to be snatched up and adored and nurtured and I’ll tell you something, if that’s what you’re looking for in life you better brace yourself for disappointment because it doesn’t exist.

I try to remind myself that this is how lots of people feel reading fashion magazines.  I love fashion magazines because I know it’s all about inspiration and design rather than the reality of what most people need from their clothing and what most real bodies look like.  I am unbothered most of the time by the unattractively skinny models because I am not fatter or uglier just because they are showing me their bones, I know this.  I don’t feel pressure to be skinnier because that’s what the fashion designers are showing me – I feel pressure to get skinnier because I’m obese.  True fact.

Mary Jane’s Farm is exactly like a fashion magazine for the homesteading crowd – it’s presenting a fantasy of cozy farm life and romanticizing the “Days of Yore” meant to inspire everyone to slow down and enjoy life more and reconnect with our pasts and get old fashioned.  Get in your pretty lil apron like Gran-maw and make your luv a cup of roasted chicory just like Gran-paw used to enjoy on the back stoop after the early morning tilling was done even though you know your grandma was a shrew and your grandpa still regrets the civil war and the end of slavery and uncle Mike was inappropriate with his daughter but whatevs, that was so much better than the complication of cell phones and fast cars and city life where everyone has lost their wisdom and the good life.

I stopped buying her magazines after the first few because every time I read them I found myself wanting to swear just because the writing was so gentle and cozy and clean.  No hard edges.  All hard knock stories are told in a dear and sweet way with such wholesome nuggets – dammit.  I can’t talk about this publication without slipping into that kind of grating fake nostalgia.  The only reason I’m bringing it up today is because my back is in pain and I was in bed doing nothing this morning so I pulled a stack of magazines from my bookshelf to weed through.  And I found the last copy of Mary Jane’s Farm that I bought a few years ago and I got sucked in by that mesmeric soft focus and then it just made me want to say mother-fucker in rebellion.  I don’t ever use that expression even when I’m swearing in earnest.  So I found myself thinking about why I’m so irritated by that kind of vision of homesteading and it’s because it’s much too idealized and I’m an urban girl with some sophisticated thoughts and tastes and I like the modern world and I like that I have plumbing and running water.

I’m interested in urban homesteading not being a farm girl.  I’m interested in keeping old skills alive that are still useful in a modern setting.  I want to dispense with all nostalgia for life that wasn’t romantic or mellow or remotely “simple”.  I don’t value all that gentleness, it just grates on my nerves.  I like people who live loudly and honestly and brazenly and swear when they crush their thumb with a hammer and laugh at themselves when they get out of hand.  It’s what I want to bring to my own site.  It’s what I want from others.

Yet I don’t want to destroy the enjoyment others have of Mary Jane’s vision, her cozy interpretation of life as it could be, or her gentle stories, because it’s just another way to find the same value in life that I am looking for (self sufficiency, organic living, and growing things).  I want it edgy and raw while others really need the quiet and sweet.  Let’s say it’s a case of respecting her gifts and what she’s bringing to a lot of people while knowing that to keep that respect healthy I just need to go my own way and tip my hat to her at the fork in the road.

So what tone am I looking for?  What inspires me and excites me?  Check them out:

Bad Mama Genny – She’s outrageous, funny, takes care of a bunch of cats even though she’s horribly allergic to them, and she makes cheese and booze.  What the hell else do you need to know about her?  I really want to live next door to her.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook – His writing is rich and poignant and has made me cry.  His posts on foraging are useful and thorough and he is solely responsible for making this vegetarian respect hunting.

The Midcentury Menu – Here’s nostalgia with the proper humor and edge to carry it off.  There is no vintage recipe too disturbing for her to tackle and force her husband to taste.

Hunger and Thirst – I became a fan when I read this blogger’s funny post about the greed of mushroom hunters.  Lots of foraging and written in a very personable way.

Aunt Peaches – Craft and DIY publications can get precious pretty quick.  I love any person who can make anything from anything and not be too cute or too cozy about it.  Aunt Peaches is funny, clever, down to earth, and not afraid of offending.

Thank You for not Being Perky – It’s all right there in the title.  Curmudgeons unite against the eternally happy curs we have to yell at every day!  Minnie swears, she’s honest, she grows vegetables, sews swimsuits, crafts, and is never smug and never precious.  Her stories about parenting are similar to mine and that is a rare thing.  She’s super cool and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her in person and spazzing out at her.

Now I have to go ice my back and watch episodes of Futurama with Max.  Philip is moving down to California ahead of us on Sunday and has a job interview on Monday.  Instead of freaking out I am thinking about how I can make good use of my time left in Oregon and the first thing on that list is to go morel hunting this weekend so I can take part in an urban homesteading challenge that Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook is doing with his friends of Sustainable Eats are putting on this month – check it out: Take The 2012 Urban Farm Handbook Challenge*

*Sustainable Eats authors wrote the Urban Farm Handbook and are doing a challenge this whole year, a different challenge every month with prizes for entering contests.  I haven’t been following it because I didn’t know about it until now.

Defining My Dairy-Free Cooking Challenge

On August 1st, 2012, I plan to stop cooking with dairy for a year.

All meals I make at home for me and Philip (and my mom) will be dairy free for one year.  Philip and I aren’t going dairy free, just our meals at home.  He’s still going to put half and half in his coffee.  We’ll still eat dairy at freinds’ houses and out at restaurants.  We’re still going to eat eggs (which are not dairy).  I’m still baking with dairy.  I don’t intend to become vegan and I don’t intend to ever give dairy up completely.  What I want (and won’t do unless I make a real commitment to myself) is to reduce my dairy consumption by 75%.

I want to learn to cook and enjoy eating food that does not have cheese, butter, or milk in it.  It’s that simple.

I eat “too much” cheese.  I am very fond of saying that there is no such thing as too much cheese but that’s a lie.  I know that for my best health I need to eat a lot less cheese.  Cheese needs to become an occasional treat.  Something I eat with reverence rather than a favorite food I eat at nearly every meal.

I refuse to disclose how much cheese I currently eat a week.

It’s not just about my figure and my arteries either.  In thinking about this whole cooking challenge I talked with a vegan friend and did some online reading about the carbon footprint of dairy products.  Of meat.  Of poultry.  I thought that by eating local dairy I was doing really well as far as sustainable eating was concerned.  I was incorrect.  I was concerned that not eating dairy would result in a less sustainable diet because I know that for me I would need to increase the tropical fruits and nuts in my diet to be satisfied.  (To replace the deliciousness of cheese and yogurt and butter.  Not because it is necessary for nutrition.  It’s not.)

I have often said that a life without cheese is not worth living.

I’ve said the exact same thing about beer.

But I wouldn’t miss cheese half so much if I could make a lot of coconut milk curries.  If I could eat even more avocados than I do.  If I could buy bananas and fresh pineapples.  If I could make sauces using cashews.  Avocados are my only constant tropical splurge.  I only allow myself to buy coconut milk once in a while.  Pineapples and bananas and cashews – never.  I haven’t bought a cashew in many years.  And I LOVE them!  Oh!  And dates.  I haven’t bought dates in years.  I love those too!

I read a lot of vegan food blogs and I’ve got to tell you that the vegan sites that don’t use tropicals do not entice me.  The most enticing vegan recipes feature avocados or coconut milk or cashew sauces.  I could give up cheese for a while for those things.  But then the food I eat will all have traveled more than I ever will and that’s kind of galling.

It turns out that all dairy (local or not) has a substantially higher carbon footprint than any imported produce does.  Did you know that?  It’s a question of how much energy it takes to raise the animals (to feed them, house them, pasture them – if they’re lucky enough to get any pasture time) and then how much more energy it takes to process them and store them.  Animals that are as big or bigger than human beings eat a shit-ton of grain.  That grain has to be grown for them.  There are often lots of pesticides involved.  It’s difficult to measure and compare the carbon footprints of different foods so there are definitely varying reported numbers but one thing is consistent among all the estimates: meat and dairy have a considerably higher carbon footprint than any imported or domestic produce.  Period.

So what I’m beginning to discover is that eating sustainably isn’t just a question of where it was grown or how much poison was used to grow it or how many miles it had to travel but also how much energy it takes to feed your food and then process it in factories.  It’s complicated.

Here’s my new model of sustainable eating practices prioritized:

  • Non-GMO foods – these are just as devastating for the earth’s diversity as directly poisoning ourselves and the soil is.  This is bad-ass evil shit.  If you don’t care about anything else, you should care about this.
  • Major reduction in meat and dairy consumption (including eggs) – because having to grow food for your food takes an extravagant amount of energy.  Produce crops need water, light, and compost but compost is naturally produced by the scraps of other produce.  It’s also free if people (farmers and individuals) are doing it right.  Plus there’s the whole animal treatment issue.  If you are a person who really needs to eat meat then just consider eating smaller portions of it at meals and maybe eating a few more meat free meals a week and buy your meat/eggs/dairy from local and sustainably raised sources.  It really does matter.  Every little bit matters.  You’ll make a difference just within these parameters.  If you can afford organically and sustainably and ethically raised meat then you’re probably rich but you’ve got my automatic admiration for making such awesome choices.
  • Local – this is still important but more flexible than I realized in comparison with the dairy/meat/eggs group.  Every one of us needs to support our local farmers as much as possible so that when China decides to declare war on us we are still capable of feeding ourselves.  Support local SMALL organic farms first, then local small non-organic, then support the big local organic farms, but never support the corporate non-organic ones.  There’s nothing in it for anyone.  Do this: locate all your local farmer’s markets, before you plan your weekly menus or shop anywhere else, go to your weekly farmer’s market every single week it’s open and base as many meals a week as you can on what is available there.  Buy all the produce and other locally produced foods you can from your local farmer’s markets.  That means you’re supporting your local economy FIRST and helping local farmers and food producers to thrive in a tough economy and that means they’ll consider selling to you (a familiar weekly face) before strangers in a post apocalyptic event.
  • Organic – because poison is just killing everything and everyone and everyone’s fertility.  Except for the Duggars.  Yes, organic can sometimes be cost prohibitive.  So pay attention to the dirty dozen list when you can’t buy all organic.  I’m not going to judge you.  I can’t buy all organic either.
  • Cheapness – we spend a larger proportion of our income on our grocery budget than we do on transportation.  We don’t have much money and we have a lot less because we choose to eat good quality food and support local farmers and food producers and we also don’t buy a lot of processed food (except for Max’s stuff).  It is our belief that the most important thing you can spend money on is the food you put into your body.  Food and water are the most necessary resources humans consume.  Without them we die.  Without a car?  You only think you’d die without a car.  But since we’re pretty broke most of the time we try to buy things in bulk, we grow some of our own food, we pick large quantities of produce at u-pick farms to preserve.

 I will include links to some of the reading I’ve been doing.  I will be doing some more reading.  I’m not starting this challenge to myself right away because I’m maximally stressed out trying to find Max a new doctor on his new lousy insurance so I can get him tested before the end of the school year.  I also need to research vegan cookbooks and find a couple that will be inspiring to me (must have tons of delicious inspiring photographs – why are so may vegan cookbooks skimpy on the photos or have depressing looking photos?) and I need to get my house in better order.

I’m looking forward to expanding my cooking skills and broadening my repertoire.

Maybe in my next post I’ll talk about all the jerks out there who are sick and tired of everyone getting all worried about the earth.  But only if you’re in the mood for a fight.

The Carbon Footprint of Food (Graphic)

A Vegetarian Diet Reduces the Diner’s Carbon Footprint

Food’s Carbon Footprint

The Most Harmful Foods for the Environment

And if you’re interested here’s a link to my previous post on this subject:

Vegan Versus Local and Spring Cleaning

Food Trends: Cookies are the New Peanut Butter

For years Americans have been desperately searching for an alternative to peanut butter that would be more like eating cookies and less like eating something that could be described as being “healthy”. This whole American obsession with healthy foods has gone out of control. Not even peanut butter packed with sugar and processed to a dreamy smoothness could beat the doldrums gripping the American breakfast table. And then a miracle of processing occurred:

 

Suddenly the sun was shining again, Americans began to enjoy  breakfast again!  There is nothing you can bake that wouldn’t be made better with a little cookie spread!  Picky Palate  has been the leading Biscoff trendsetter and moms across the country are thanking her for breaking the myth that cookies are “dessert”:

 

But just when you thought life, and by that I mean breakfast, couldn’t get better, Buns In My Oven has gone and brought the concept of cookies for EVERY meal to a whole new level.  Meet the Oreo Spread:

 

It’s like black gold.  It shimmers on your toast like the most expensive caviar.  It positively sets your body up with the proper energy to face the most exhaustive day.  No one will ever be able to say you don’t eat “right” in the morning again!  All you have to do is hand them this miracle of macerated cookies* on a wholesome slice of bread and they will never argue with you again.

I can’t wait to see which iconic cookie will next succumb to spreadable glory!

*After all, it really is a lot of work having to chew cookies yourself, with cookie spreads you get all the great flavor of the cookies without the irritation of having to chew them.

Food Fight: The Real Vegetarian

What does it mean to be a vegetarian?  Am I a “real” vegetarian?  Are you a real vegetarian?  Does being a vegetarian mean I do no harm to any living beings?  Do vegetarians have to sign contracts and be evaluated by an official jury to become “real”?

In my last Food Fight post I outlined how I eat in detail.  I mentioned that I’m a vegetarian and I also mentioned that I eat eggs and cheese and that my feelings are a little mixed about it because eating cheese supports the meat industry and I’m not keen to do that yet I have not chosen to draw my line there at this point in time.  Renee, a commentor on the last post, brought up some other details about the dairy industry which I felt were valid points.  But then she told me I can’t call myself a vegetarian because I eat cheese and cheese is made with rennet (enzymes from a cow’s stomach).

Dictionary definition (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary): A person who does not eat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, as eggs or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain, etc.

There you have it.  Some vegetarians (like myself) do eat food derived from animals but don’t eat the flesh of animals.  I can most definitely call myself a vegetarian and I most definitely am NOT a vegan.  I don’t think it can be more clear than that.

I was raised as a vegetarian from birth.  It’s the way I eat.  I didn’t choose to be a vegetarian in the first place but later when I tried eating meat and fish and fowl I made a conscious decision to remain a vegetarian but NOT because I love animals.  I did it because it feels natural to me to eat the way I was raised.  It suits my body.  I feel good when I eat this way.  I like it.  Meat is gross to me.  I’m sorry if it disappoints anyone to know that I didn’t choose to be vegetarian for noble reasons.  Actually, I’m not sorry.  Eating is very personal and I chose what’s right for me.  What’s right for me includes eggs and cheese.

My concern for the well being and kind treatment of animals is very real and very strong.  But it’s important to reiterate that I don’t think eating animals is wrong.  If it’s wrong for people to eat animals then it’s wrong for lions to eat gazelles.  If lions can’t eat gazelles, they die off.  Nature made many animals dependent on eating other animals and in the natural setting the way the food chain is set up helps maintain a balance of animals and insects that works.  Nature also made many animals into omnivores, giving them the edge of not being dependent on one type of food.  Humans are such animals.  Just because we can choose not to eat meat doesn’t make it wrong for us to choose to eat it.

I take my cues from nature.  Humans are omnivores and as far as anthropologists can know – they always have been.  I choose to be an omnivore who doesn’t eat the flesh of animals.  I respect other people choosing to eat animals and I equally respect other people who choose not to eat any food derived from animals.  The only thing I don’t choose is to ignore how animals raised for food are treated and cared for.  There is a respect inherent in nature between prey and quarry.  In the distant past of human history that respect was inherent in us.  It is only in our more recent history that we have disconnected from our more natural relationship with animals as food.  People used to have to work harder to have their meat.  A human having to kill the meat he/she eats is a lot more respectable than going to the grocery store and buying a slab of animal flesh any time you want it.  So we’ve lost our way and have, through overpopulation, ruined the balance that nature designed to keep the earth healthy.

I care very deeply about the treatment of all animals but that doesn’t mean I think it’s wrong that they are used for food.  When Max rescued a baby garter snake we fed it tadpoles from our little pond.  I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t love hunting out those babies and offering them to the snake but I knew, as all people must know, that a snake is not a vegetarian creature and it would be entirely wrong to impose on it a diet it can’t survive on.  So we fed him the tadpoles and knew that it was nature’s circle of life in action.  But those tadpoles, until we snatched them out of the pond, lived a natural life.  The frogs who live in that pond were not put there by us.  They found our pond and chose it as their habitat.  My point is (in case it isn’t obvious) is that those tadpoles weren’t raised in a tank in my house under unnatural conditions and they were eaten by their natural predator.

There’s one last point I feel it’s important to make: if you are a vegetarian because you don’t want to cause any injury or death to other living beings, you are fooling yourself to think that you can eat in such a way that you never cause harm to other living beings.  Every single person on earth who eats food, no matter what diet they choose, causes injury and death to other living beings.  It is 100% impossible to farm vegetables and grains without also causing collateral damage to mice, rabbits, frogs, voles, snakes, gophers, and sometimes the larger animals whose natural habitat we’ve claimed for raising crops pushing them to new territories where they sometimes starve to death as a result.  Most people don’t care about insects but even if you’re growing food organically, as I do, there are casualties to insects and sometimes small creatures.  When I was working in the community garden a few years ago I was weeding and accidentally speared a frog with my weeding tool.  I don’t know if it was fatal or not.  I picked the poor fellow up and put him out in the adjacent field of tall grasses.  If I, a careful and caring gardener, can injure a frog while weeding, imagine what all those tractors and plows and harvesters are doing to the other little creatures.

We all eat at the expense of other living beings.  That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact of life.

Where you draw the line is for you to decide.  Vegans do considerable less harm to other living creatures than meat eaters do, but everyone has blood on their hands.  I think the main thing to focus on is how we are treating the animals we’re raising for meat and eggs and how they’re killing these animals before they reach the dinner table.  These things matter a lot.

I said that was all but there’s one more thing I need to say: vegans and vegetarians fighting each other over little details of diet is like Catholics and Protestants fighting over how to interpret the bible and the proper way to worship.  The majority of vegans and vegetarians have some common beliefs and concerns and if we all want meat eaters to care about the ethical treatment of animals then it won’t do to fight each other.  There will always be meat eaters, there is never going to be an entire planet of vegetarians and vegans.  People are omnivores.  What is an obtainable goal is to inspire all meat eaters to care how their meat is raised and to inspire meat eaters to eat less meat over all of it can be raised humanely.  This should be a shared vision between all people.

I am a vegetarian.  Please don’t tell me where to draw my line.  Please consult the official definition of vegetarian before telling people what they can and can’t call themselves.

My Favorite Recent Pinterest Recipe Finds

I have been truly enjoying using Pinterest as a way to keep track of ideas and recipes I’d like to try. I want to share a few of my recent food finds with you:

 

I pinned this one because a friend sent me a box of lemons and I’m trying to decide what to do with them. I’ve settled on making lemonade and this recipe has a nice twist. I love this blog “Girl Cooks World” – reading it is like traveling with her to different destinations I might never have gone on my own and has the added benefit of having only gluten free recipes so if you thought being gluten free meant a limited diet – you’ve got to check out this blog!

 

Vegan tamales. Cheeky Kitchen is a great blog that has gone vegan (at least for the time being). The photographs are great and the food looks amazing. I’m just learning to make tamales so I was interested to try her version. The blogger is also a kind and generous spirited person – impossible not to love.

 

Potato leek soup with the best garnish ever! This blog “Apron Strings” is a daughter/mom team and they make a lot of simple food with charming presentations.

Source: azestybite.com via Angelina on Pinterest

Beer, cheese, and sun dried tomatoes? I’m not sharing this bowl with you. You will have to make your own! This is from “A Zesty Bite”.

I read close to 200 food blog posts a day and being able to visually bookmark and then share the best of what I find is so much fun. If you’re looking for any particular kinds of recipes that you haven’t found on your own yet – feel free to tell me what you’re looking for and I’ll keep my eyes open for them and share my findings with you.  Even if it’s a meat based recipe – I read them all.

Food Fight: The Way I Eat (and don’t be a food bully)

Everyone has their own idea about what a balanced good diet consists of and lately I’ve been feeling extremely annoyed with how aggressive people can get about their own dietary choices.  When someone starts eating a particular way and they feel great, lost weight, cured their aches and pains, or fixed all their relationships because of this plan for eating they’ve adopted it can become like a religion – it can transform people into evangelical zealots.  Everyone’s diet has scientific proof to back up its claims.  Special diets have become more than a way to eat – they’re becoming a way to fix everything in your life.  Panacea.

People are claiming that you can fix mental illness with gut health and that going gluten free can cure autism.  If the way you eat makes you feel fit, healthy, and happy, then you’re probably eating in a way that suits your body well.  What pisses me off is when you assume that the way you eat will make everyone feel the same way you do.  People have different bodies and though we all roughly have the same organs and functions – no two bodies are the same.  Eating lots of lentils makes me feel great but a good friend of mine can’t digest them.  No matter how much science can say we’re the same, clearly we’re not.  Most of my friends love sweet peppers and feel good when they include them in their diet but I cannot digest them without difficulty – we are not all the same.  It is clear that the foods that are optimal for my health will not necessarily be optimal for someone else’s health.

Outside of some ethical and environmental concerns I think everyone should listen to themselves and their own bodies to determine what way of eating is best for them and sharing ideas with friends is fine but trying to pound a vegetarian’s head with a juicy pork butt trying to convince them that meat should be a big part of their diet is a real asshole maneuver.  Don’t do it.  Likewise, a vegetarian trying to shove grains down the throat of a paleo eater and trying to guilt them about animal killing is an asshole maneuver.  Don’t do it.

More important than what kind of food or what balance of food groups a person eats is how our food is raised, grown, and processed.  That should concern everyone and it doesn’t yet.  Highly processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, and pesticides should be concerning everyone.  And it isn’t yet.  But even when it comes to these food issues about which I care passionately it isn’t helpful to be a jerk about it.  Be an example and an inspiration, not a bully or an evangelizing zealot.

My Eating Philosophy:

I am a vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy.  I eat mostly produce that is in season, locally sourced whenever possible, and organic as much as I can afford.  I eat mostly home made food and don’t eat a lot of processed food which keeps preservatives and high fructose corn syrup to a bare minimum in my diet.  The kind of food I make is largely influenced by Mediterranean style cooking with some Asian, Indian, and Mexican dishes thrown in.

I eat a wide variety of produce, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, eggs, and dairy and I believe that’s the best way to cover all nutritional needs.  I don’t believe any of the food groups are inherently bad for you (unless you’re allergic) and the recommended balance I strive for most closely matches that of Michael Pollan and Andrew Weild.

I believe that genetically modified organisms are not food.  All “food” that contains produce that’s been genetically engineered should be labeled so I can choose not eat it.  The biggest GMO crops in the US are corn and soy so if you don’t want to eat GMOs yourself, your best tactic is to buy only organic corn and soy products because GMOs (at this point in time) cannot be labeled organic.

I believe that one of the single most important things all of us can do to is to buy as much of our food from local sources as possible.  I don’t think I’m a zealot and I certainly buy some imported foods, but I believe it’s important to make the effort to tip the scales of your food buying to local sources for both freshness, supporting local economies, and strengthening local food sheds.

The healthiest eating habits for ME are: to eat 3 meals a day, (heavy breakfast, medium lunch, light dinner).  Eating modest portions of things like cheese is important to my health.  It doesn’t feel natural or comfortable to me to eat more than three meals a day and I do better when I don’t snack often.  Eating sweets only occasionally is best.

I don’t believe in dieting but I do believe that if you are very overweight and you want to lose some it’s helpful to count calories at least for a while to see how many you are consuming in a day and to gain perspective on how many calories your favorite treats have as well as monitoring how many calories you burn in a day.  You don’t have to be scientific and I don’t think it’s ever healthy to starve yourself.  No matter what anyone else says about weight loss – there’s no magic diet or pill or method.  Calories in and calories out is still a very important aspect of losing weight.  How many calories you consume in a day does not determine how healthy you are, of course, as you could be consuming all your calories in fats or all of them in sugar.  But it’s an important factor.

I know this works for me because I lost all my pregnancy weight (40 lbs) using portion control, increased exercise, and eating what I consider a well balanced diet.  I never gave up eating cheese or bread or pasta but all of these things I ate with more moderation than I had been while pregnant and right after giving birth.  I didn’t lose weight fast but I lost it steadily and I never felt better in my life than during that period.  So for me – that’s what works and what makes me feel good physically.

The details

No Meat:

I was raised as a vegetarian so I’ve been one since I was born.  I’ve tried many kinds of fish and meat at different times to see if I really wanted to be a vegetarian and what I discovered every single time is – the flesh of animals disgusts me.  Everyone living needs to eat food that used to be alive so it’s not that the animals used to be alive that bothers me (because plants used to be alive too) it’s the carcass factor.  I do not recognize carrion as food.  Humans are animals and so I don’t see any real difference between eating cows and eating humans.  In addition to that, I loathe the texture and the taste of flesh.  The taste and texture make it very hard for me to swallow it and once I choke it down it takes some work to keep it in my stomach.  Nice, huh?  And if I manage to keep it in my stomach I then get to enjoy the fun of my body struggling to digest it (the sensation of iron balls in my stomach for days and sometimes meat-burps for a few hours).  Especially red meat.  I will happily remain a vegetarian for life.

I don’t, however, think it’s wrong for other people to eat meat IF they are only eating meat that was raised in as kind and natural a setting as possible and killed in a setting as clean and unfrightening as possible.  CAFOs are evil and so are slaughterhouses.  The only ethical way to eat meat is to eat animals that are pastured on small farms and who don’t have to wait around in a pen smelling the fear and blood of the animals being killed before them.  The most ethical and honest way to consume meat is to either raise and kill it yourself or hunt for it.

One last objection to eating meat is that I don’t think it’s a sustainable way to feed the 7 billion people on this earth.  The amount of land it takes to feed the meat appetites of humans means that the only way to meet it is through CAFOs.  Raising meat in a natural and healthy way is much too costly and takes much too much land to keep up with meat eating.  I believe that meat production is doing a tremendous amount of damage to our land (so is factory farming).  I think the only way forward for human beings as a species is to eat a lot less meat.

Or stop having so many babies in order to drastically reduce the world population.  That’s the choice but at this moment people are still eating tons of meat and having tons of babies.  The future is not looking like a good place to be for all the people being born right now.

Eggs and Dairy:

I have an uneasy relationship with eggs and dairy.  I can raise my own hens (and have) and give them a great comfortable life as loved animals and do not feel bad about stealing their eggs from them (if anyone wanted to steal my eggs I’d give them all away – unfortunately by the time mine come out they’re useless plus too small to eat).  It doesn’t harm them for me to take their eggs.  However, I can’t always have hens and buying eggs from the store is ethically unsound.  I obviously buy “cage free” eggs but that term doesn’t mean the hens are actually roaming around a nice big yard.  Sometimes all it means is that all the hens are allowed to crowd together inside a giant pen.  That’s not a good healthy life for any hen.  I try to get eggs from local people who I know have hens for their own use and are truly cage free.

Dairy, on the other hand, doesn’t harm the cow it’s coming from necessarily (if the cow is raised with care and allowed to pasture) but you can’t keep a cow in milk unless you keep her having calfs and if all calfs born were girls who could produce more babies and milk – this would be harmless.  Except that obviously it can’t work that way.  To produce dairy a number of bulls are always being born and if no one is eating them then you have animals who eat food but don’t provide anything in return.  Dairy farming only works because people are eating the boys.  This bothers me as I don’t want to contribute to the meat industry.  But everyone who knows me knows I love cheese almost more than any other food.  This is really a tough one for me and I am heading towards a personal compromise of simply eating less dairy overall.

Grains:

I have no argument with grains.  Not wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, millet (though I don’t like millet), corn… grains don’t disagree with me or make me sick and I’m tired of people trying to convince me that I’m poisoning myself but just don’t know it.  I’m tired of people vilifying something humans have been eating without problem for thousands of years.  People didn’t start having horrible dietary issues until the mid-twentieth century when processed foods took over the food scene.  So enough with this!

Many people DO have allergies to wheat and those people need to cut it from their diet.  I respect that.  Most of those people had health problems that eventually led to a discovery that wheat was destroying their intestines and preventing them from absorbing or using all the nutrients from their food.  That’s serious shit.  That’s real and it matters – but don’t tell me that everyone is allergic to wheat because it just isn’t so.  Also – if you want to not eat any grains because you think that’s the best way to eat – good for you!  But don’t try to convince me that they are evil for everyone.  Thousands of years of eating them and digesting them without difficulty is enough proof for me that for most people grains are an awesome way to get nutrients and protein in their diet.

I do believe that eating a variety of them rather than only eating wheat and sticking mostly to wholegrains is the healthiest way to go.

Produce:

Fruit and vegetables.  I eat a lot of them.  Mostly vegetables.  Organic is always best.  I can’t always afford to buy all organic but if I could – I would never eat produce that has been sprayed with pesticides.  I pay attention to the “Dirty Dozen” list and use it as a guideline of priority when I have to make a choice.  I think eating mostly local produce is even more important than eating local grains.  I allow myself a small amount of imported produce like avocados but always try to maintain a mostly local buying policy.  This automatically means I eat mostly seasonally too.  No tomatoes in winter.  No zucchini or green beans or eggplants in winter either.  I’m not a zealot and if friends make me a meal in winter that uses all summer ingredients I’d never say a thing or think twice about eating it and appreciating their hospitality.

I like most vegetables except for peppers.  I can’t digest sweet peppers and even hot peppers can be tricky.  Cayenne doesn’t ever seem to be a problem.  There are other vegetables I’m not that fond of but I’ll eat them if you put them in front of me.  I find Jerusalem artichokes to be a bit dreary.  Broccoli rabe is okay but I don’t love it so I never buy it.  Same with kohrabi.  Turnips aren’t a favorite of mine and neither are radishes though I’ll eat both and I’m fine with it, but I never get all excited to cook with them.  Bitter greens… oh bitter greens and how everyone loves you but me.  I can take small amounts of bitter greens but I don’t enjoy a big plateful of them.

Fruit – I like most fruit except mangos and papayas.  I like dried figs a lot but don’t care for them fresh.  Fruit eaten only in season is a revelation.

Fats:

I don’t believe fat is evil any more than I think grains are evil.  I believe in baking with butter and cooking with olive oil.  Those are my staples.  I don’t bake a lot so I don’t personally consume a ton of butter.  I use it on toast sometimes but I use a modest amount.  I use safflower oil and am making an effort to only get vegetable oils that weren’t made from GMO crops.  My mom says I “grease up” my food but in reality I don’t use a crazy amount of oil when I’m sauteeing.  Usually a tablespoon for stir fries and two tablespoons for large batches of soup.  My big oil extravaganza is when I roast vegetables which I’m trying to reform now to use less.  I eat whole fat cheeses (low fat cheeses are rarely worth eating) but I do use low fat milk and low fat yogurt because I like them better.

I don’t eat much fried food.  Fried food makes me feel gross and sometimes even gives me the burps.  While I love french fries and apple fritters, I eat french fries seldom and doughnuts even less.  I love spring rolls but rarely eat those either.  It is lucky for me that fried food upsets my stomach enough to keep me from making a habit of it.  I am a girl naturally attracted to fats and starch and the two go brilliantly together when fried.  I don’t believe fried foods are part of a healthy diet except as a treat.

Legumes:

I eat a lot of legumes.  I love beans, lentils, peas, and tofu.  I am only buying organic tofu now because one of the biggest GMO crops in the world is soy.  Some people can’t digest legumes well and if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t eat them or at least not often.  However, I have never had difficulty digesting legumes.  I especially love lentils and feel really good eating them.

Nuts and Seeds:

I eat a modest amount of nuts and seeds.  Mostly nuts.  Mostly walnuts.  I love peanuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pine nuts, and almonds but since where I live I’ve been managing to get walnuts for free I eat more of them than any of the others.  I hate hazelnuts.  I really do.  I like sunflower and sesame seeds but don’t eat too many of them.  I even like pumpkin seeds but I don’t buy them because it’s ridiculously easy to roast your own.  But I don’t like the hulls and it’s tedious to remove them…so I end up not eating them at all.

Sugar:

I don’t view sugar as my enemy either.  I don’t eat a ton of it.  I don’t even eat a lot of it.  My son has a sweet tooth but I don’t.  Eating too much sugar or eating even a single overly sweet dessert (lemon bars come to mind) can make my throat swell up or make me feel gross.  While I don’t crave sweets usually if they’re sitting around and I start eating them I have a hard time stopping.  In our house we use both refined and unrefined sugars.

How I Got So Fat (telling the story for the last time)

I’m very fat.  I gained 30 pounds when I broke my hip and was bedridden for three months and couldn’t do any real exercise for six.  During that time I might have done things differently – like do isolated strengthening exercises that didn’t involve my hip (after the first three months because before that if I moved my body in any way I was in excruciating pain) and I could have eaten much lighter food to make up for my complete lack of movement.  I certainly could have chosen not to eat so much food out of boredom and depression.  But that’s not what I did.  I started drinking beer more heavily (which eased my pain in more than one way – I should have opted for pain pills instead of beer – but I didn’t) and I ate lots of sweets which I normally don’t.

Following that first 30 pound weight gain we made a move to Oregon and commenced the most stressful years of our lives.  I take psychiatric drugs for major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety and OCD.  When we moved I couldn’t handle my anxiety so I upped my dose of Paxil which previously hadn’t caused any weight gain in me because I’d been on the lowest dose but when I upped my Paxil I gained 20 more pounds that year.  I didn’t know at the time that it was the Paxil.  I was still eating way too many sweets and cheese and having seconds on meals and drinking a ton of beer – so it was obvious to me that I needed to address my bad habits to stop the weight gain and start losing.  I started exercising more rigorously and frequently and I stopped eating all sweets, I cut down on my beer consumption, and took greater care with my meal portions and being much more moderate with my cheese and bread consumption.  At first I lost a little and I was really encouraged but because I was in a constant state of panic I upped my Paxil again.  I gained another 20 pounds even though for that whole year I was working hard to lose weight.  It worried me but I figured I just needed to give it more time.

The fourth year we were here I upped my Paxil one more time.  Yes, it really was helping to keep the anxiety from exploding my head.  That year I gained another 20 pounds.  I started wondering if I had a thyroid problem or some other health issue that might be causing me to gain weight no matter how much I exercised or watched my portions and avoided snacking and desserts.  I had my doctor test me and thyroid issues were ruled out.  So I let it go and tried just living with the fact that I was huge and nothing I did seemed to change it.  But the next year I started taking Kung Fu and after a lapse in the beer restraint I recommitted to drinking in moderation and still every time I got on a scale it was higher than before.

I had horrible visions of having to be removed from my house with a crane.

I was then at my highest ever: 268 pounds.  Finally I went to my doctor and we looked at my charts over the years and she made the connection between the Paxil and the weight gain.  She hadn’t caught it before because she wasn’t the one prescribing.  I got off of Paxil and started taking Celexa instead and immediately lost 11 pounds.  I worked hard and lost a few more.

Since then the stress of my life has only escalated and I have been for months now drinking too much alcohol and eating more food than I’m actually hungry for and not exercising as much as I need to.  I have been in a very dark place and it’s had a profound effect on my habits. I haven’t regained all my weight but some has crept back.  I am putting this whole story down here on my food blog because it’s important to me that others know that three quarters of my fat was not gained because of bad eating and drinking habits or lack of exercise.  The bulk of it is medication related.  However, I have fallen back into snacking late at night on cheese sandwiches and eating seconds of my dinner and eating more food than I’m hungry for and drinking too much.  As long as I am in this depressive cycle it’s going to be hell trying to reestablish healthier eating practices and regular exercise.

Yesterday I found out I am going to be going to Blogher Food in Seattle in June.  This has given me a very clear motivation to work harder to get back on track with my health and fitness goals.  I have been to two Blogher conferences now being super fat and completely ashamed of how I look.  I don’t want to do that a third time.  I don’t have time to lose all the weight I need to lose by June but I can at least aim for a goal that will make me look less like Alfred Hitchcock and more like a lady.

I don’t diet.  I gained lots of weight with my pregnancy and it took me two years but I lost all of it not by dieting but by exercising, relearning what a single portion of cheese really looks like, counting calories until I got more honest about my intake of foods, especially those foods I have a weakness for like cheese.  I still ate cheese, I still cooked with oils, I still buttered my toast, and I still ate plenty of pasta.  I lost 40 pounds this way and until I broke my hip I maintained my weight.  I felt great.  I wasn’t thin but I certainly wasn’t fat.  I had good self esteem and I ate what I consider the healthiest diet for me which is vegetarian, lots of vegetables, some fruits, grains (polenta and pasta being favorites with some rice), lots of legumes (lentils, black beans, kidney beans, split peas), eggs, nuts,  and dairy in moderation.

I want to get back to feeling good about my own body.  I’m tired of being ashamed and feeling uncomfortable.  So in another post I’m going to lay out for my own purposes (and yours if the subject interests you) what my ideal diet looks like in more detail.  What my best eating and exercising practices consist of.  This way I can revisit it to remind myself when I start slipping.

I am not sharing this to invite anyone to tell me what miracle way of eating will fix me, cure my mental illness, or make my fat melt right off.  The way we eat is not a panacea – no matter how good you feel the way you eat your health is more complex than just being a matter of diet and exercise.  I will never adopt another way of eating just because some scientist (or friend) swears it will cure all my skin problems and magically cure my mental illness and make me thin.  I know that people will continue to seek the ONE TRUTH, the ONE DIET, the ONE TRICK, and the ONE CURE because people can’t seem to help themselves.  When they think they find it, no matter how many times they think they’ve found it before, they become apostles of their chosen panacea.  I think it’s stupid.  If you have a way of eating that works wonders for you and makes you feel great – that’s awesome.  But don’t assume or insist that eating lots of meat is going to fix me or that not eating gluten will revolutionize my body and I’ll realize that I’ve been sick with an allergy my whole life and didn’t even know it.  It might be true for you – and I salute you for having found this out about yourself so that you can heal yourself and feel great.

We’re all individuals and our bodies are not the same.  You honor yours.  I’ll honor mine.

Food Trends: The Return Of The Twinkie

 

You might like to suggest that a “food” that has remained so steadily in the American consciousness doesn’t qualify as a trend but once any food finds its way onto a stick you know it’s hitting the big time and will make a guest appearance with bacon in the next couple of months.  Growing up in a hippie whole grain no-processed food household I was deprived of the opportunity to get my hands on these little treats until I was a young adult.  One afternoon  a supply of Twinkies showed up at my house via one of my room mates.  I know I had to have eaten one because the memory of that chemical aftertaste has stuck with me all these years.  More memorable than that was the experiment I conducted over the next several years in which I held onto a package of these spongy treats to see how long it would take for them to go bad.  But everyone already knows the result of that experiment: Twinkies are incapable of molding.  They just get drier and drier until they crumble when you show them to yet another disinterested house guest.  Why is no one ever as amazed as I am?

 

I predict that you will soon be seeing recipes for: Twinkies Charlotte, custard pie with a Twinkie crust, Bacon wrapped Twinkies on a stick, Twinkie Po’ Boys, Twinkies with cherries flambe, Twinkie bread pudding, and Twinkie stuffed rice krispy treats.