Tag Archive | food

Something to Put a Pickle On

I want something to put a pickle on.

That’s my whine every night as I ride home on the crowded #3 bus.  At least it is ever since Jeff and I decided to eat vegan.  I’ve never said it out loud, this pickle prayer, but if I did, it would sound ridiculous.

Why are you eating vegan?  That’s the question everyone asks.  If I had a better answer to that, then this whole thing would be going better.

Animal rights? Um, nope. It’s shameful, but I don’t particularly care about animals. No, I don’t gun the gas when I see a broken-winged bird in the street.  But I can’t pretend that my vegan experiment stems from a crystallizing moment when I stared into the eyes of a gorilla at the zoo and just knew.  Actually, the fact that I willingly visit zoos probably points away from a deep communion with the animal kingdom, Amiright?

Health benefits? Another great answer, but also false. I’m fairly reckless with my health. Exhibit A: I run home in pitch dark during the winter.  Exhibit B: I don’t always wear sunscreen because GREASY.   I think the China Study is compelling and believe that animal products spell big problems for our hearts and the size of our asses, but none of that is as compelling as a tasty hunk of brie or milk chocolate.

So, basically, I agreed to go vegan for all the wrong reasons.

First, I wanted to beat Jeff.  I knew he’d be more moderate in his approach.  I, knowing nothing of moderation, planned to out-vegan my husband and raise my fists in victory.  On day four he caved at a business meeting while I was home eating quinoa and asparagus.  Victory was mine in less than 96 hours.

Second, I love talking about food.  And of all the conversations I’ve started about food– including ones with an opening salvo about my anorexic and bulimic past– nothing gets people more riled up than talking about plant-based eating.  Ooooh eeeeeh, I’ve heard some mouthfuls on this.  Vegan enthusiasts at work stopped by to give me tips on new ways to eat beans.  Ardent champions of meat stopped by with their sausage McMuffins to taunt me and describe their grandma’s thick-cut bacon.  Friends expressed their concern when I posted a picture of vegan cheese on Facebook:

Nachos.  "Nachos." Not chos.  Not chosen to be eaten because vegan cheese is puke.

Nachos. “Nachos.” Not chos. Not chosen to be eaten because vegan cheese is puke.

(I was trying to make nachos.)  I liked the attention.  I liked the discussion about the ethics of eating, mindfulness about food, and the health benefits of food choices.  It was enjoyable to watch other people froth at the mouth in defense of their own food choices.

(For the record, I’m not judging others.  I’m too busy grieving the loss of cheese in my life.)

Third, I’d been in a rut for a while with the chopped/cobb/Caesar salad routine, so it was a novelty to order the hummus with pita toast points and carrots.  I started eating an avocado every single day.  I replaced my afternoon yogurt with nuts and a mango.  I wept with joy when I found something called Soy Chorizo at Trader Joe’s.  Now of course I’m in a vegan rut.  I’ve eaten a criminal portion of beans over the past twenty eight days.  Lentils now remind me of the mushy hairballs I’ve pulled from the pipes in my sink. I had a crisis of faith when all the avocados at the store were rock hard.

I’ve put pickles on the black-bean-and-corn “burgers” that Jeff has perfected.  Folks, it’s not the same.  Think about putting a pickle on a loosely packed pile of beans and corn.  See? Not appetizing.

I’m willing to stick with vegan eating for all kinds of morally muddy reasons.  But please, someone, help me find something to put a pickle on.

Please.

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Help! I Need A Food Tribe

Foodwise, I’ve lost my tribe, and I’m wandering in a vast, lonely wilderness with a bag of snacks that no one will share with me. (Except my children who would as soon murder me as share them so I hide my snacks from them.)  Trying to keep track of who’s off sugar, who’s avoiding gluten and who’s gone raw foodist is like trying to keep track of my children’s favorite toy– the ground is ever shifting and the stakes are high. 

After years of extreme and rigid eating (think: cabbage, mozzarella cheese and milk every morning for three straight years), I have found my spiritual home in moderation.  Once I got into recovery for my eating disorder, it still took the better part of a decade not to be a full-out freak about food.  A few of my old friends enjoy reminiscing about the days that I would carry a can of tuna fish to a restaurant because… well, at the time I thought I was doing it to “follow my food plan,” but really I was scared to death of not controlling my food.  I wasn’t, however, scared of embarrassing everyone around me by popping open a can of chicken of the sea while everyone else supped on falafel or steak frites.  (Have you ever brought your own can opener and canned meat on a date? Not exactly an aphrodisiac, people.)

A long time ago, I came to terms with the fact that I had used up all my privileges to engage in eating trends.  But now I am feeling like that one child who actually was left behind as everyone else forges a new identity as “paleo” or “vegan” or “nondairy” or “sort of that Crossfit diet but not quite as extreme.”

I’ve asked myself if I am jealous that other people can dabble where I can’t.  The answer: hell yes.   But like an alcoholic who knows she can no longer drink alcohol socially, I know in my marrow that dipping into something extreme or restrictive will trip a trigger in me and I will lose my hard-won battle to be mostly serene about food. 

(I will note Jeff and I are experimenting with more plant-based dinners, but I recently made some pumpkin thing that was so inedible that I was craving chicken wings smothered in ground beef for weeks.)

What I find most upsetting is that I don’t really know anyone who is serene about food.  Everyone’s sure she is eating wrong– too much of this and too little of that.  And who the hell can follow the “advice” out there, which is confusing and scary?  Unless I can figure out how to grow my own food on my fourth floor balcony in downtown Chicago, I have to trust someone else to do that for me.  And I don’t have free time to suss this all out; in my free time– those precious 15 minutes per week– I want to play with my kids, write, and read books for pleasure (not to confirm the 800 ways I am going to die of cancer before the next lunar eclipse).

What I remember and miss about being engaged in a way of eating that was counter-cultural is that it created community.  In my tuna-in-my-purse-days, I knew everyone who ate like I did, and we had a bond.  It was a glue that was thicker than blood.  Now I am only glued to the handful of people who are left who don’t engage in the other sects of eating.  The catchall group.  The “and everyone else” group.  And I guess that’s fine, but it still feels lonely and unspecial.  And ooooh, sweet buttercream on a fudgey chocolate muffin, I sure like feeling special.   It also feels lazy because everyone else is working so damn hard around food, and I just don’t have the bandwidth to pick up a new hobby right now.

So, I’ll soldier on with the only barometer that works for me.  Is there tuna in my purse? No? Then I am doing just fine around food.