Sunday, August 30, 2009

If You Find My Foodie Ramblings Tedious, You'll Find This Post Tedious

I feel obliged to record some clarity of thought here, but I may just be talking to myself. In fact, I am talking to myself, but it's a self down the road, days or weeks from now, when I'm buried in the semester and not taking very good care of the Deja.

Self: poor, sad, unhappy self: listen up.

Awhile ago, when I posted something about going veganish, my friend Tara asked in the comments what made me make the leap. And I didn't answer, mostly because I didn't know how to answer concisely. I've turned the question over and over in my mind since then, figuring out how to articulate it. And, if you see how long this post is, I've given up on concise.

The short answer is that several months ago I was at the doctor's office, feeling really sick and miserable. I was getting a physical, which turned out to be the most absurdly lame physical I've ever received. I mean, my cat has given me better breast exams, if you'll excuse the image. This was a half-hearted sort of doctor, and when I told her all the things I was worried about, all the things that seemed to be going badly, she literally said, "Mmm-hmmm," and ignored me. I was frustrated, near tears as I put my clothes back on, and I had what I consider to be a spiritual impression, which went something like: They can't help you here; you have to get drastic; you have to figure this out on your own. (Please don't think I mean modern medicine has nothing to offer. I really really don't mean that. I just think this one doctor was a dud, and I've since switched, and medicine has helped me a lot in other areas.)

I went to the temple the next day, and in the chapel, waiting for a session, I read the Word of Wisdom (a set of health guidelines in LDS scripture) and felt very strongly that switching to a whole foods diet, probably a vegan one, was what I absolutely needed to do.

I'll pause here to disclaim: Do I think that's what the Word of Wisdom actually says, as in, do I think that's the only way to interpret what's there? No. I don't. Do I think everyone should be vegan? No. I don't. (Although the scientific research I've seen makes a pretty compelling case for it.) I hope you'll never catch me preaching it unsolicited, getting offended by other people eating sausage, making a big fussy deal of it. For me this has been so personal, so painfully personal at times. This has felt and still feels like direction for me, for my body, which is one of the things I love about it.

Back up 35+ years or so, before I was born. My mother was newly married, she had two babies (I think) and she was sick all the time. My dad was sick all the time. Her babies were sick all the time. And she was desperate. I imagine it was sort of how I felt in that doctor's office: hopeless and empowered all at once. There's something satisfying about taking charge of how you feel from the ground up. But anyway, they got drastic. They switched to a vegan whole foods diet. Over the years, they've gone through various iterations of that, and they no longer strictly follow that path, but pretty darn close. And I guess feeling like I'm following my mom is another reason. I like her. She's the smartest lady I know. And making a similar drastic change feels like home to me, feels like the way I grew up, feels like growing up to be like my mom.

Fast forward to today, which is my 27th birthday. In honor of my day, we went out to eat yesterday (Saturday). Sam had big plans to surprise me with whale watching (what a prince), but there's a huge freezing storm up thisaways, so that didn't happen. And we're literally in the middle of moving--stuff stradled between our new place, our old place, and a storage place--so sticking around here just made more sense. In the morning we decided to go to a little place in Allston for breakfast because they have vegan options. I opted for vegan pancakes with strawberries, and thus re-learned a very crucial lesson: vegan does not equal healthy. Actually, sometimes it means they cram in extra fat, sugar, and white flour to make it taste okay. This was one of those times. They brought me out three pancakes as big as my head: fluffy, naughty, de-licious objects. And I ate too much of them. Not nearly all, but too much. And they leveled me. Literally knocked me flat. They tasted incredible, but I hadn't even finished them before I felt miserable and sick and depressed and exhuasted. Although we had talked about hitting a museum and movie, I had to come home and take a long nap instead. When I woke up I was still sickly, and grumpy to boot.

So this is another reason: I don't respond well to food like that. Which is a crying shame because I love it with all my soul. I adore pancakes and nachos and hotdogs and marshmellows and ice cream and sausage and pizza (oh, pizza!) and cupcakes and and and. But they hate me. I'm jealous of people who seem to get away with eating this stuff. I even sort of hate people who get away with eating this stuff, who can just take a little nibble and be content and upright and slim. I've fought off the realization that I'm not one of those people for 27 years, been dragged away from it kicking and screaming, really. But I'm not one of those people, folks. I'm pretty sure that my reaction to those pancakes was not, well, normal. And Self, to you I say that no meal, no matter how tasty, is worth feeling that lousy.

For dinner I was determined to behave, to find something that would thrill me without killing me. I found a place in the North End I've been meaning to try called Grezzo, which is raw vegan place. Raw means that they don't cook anything above 112 degrees, so rawists are sort of insane but they literally glow with health. (The research on raw food is a little iffy, and it seems impossibly hard to do, but I just wanted to try it out.) Grezzo is a pricey, upscale place, epicurian, fancy shmancy pants, and it's so pretty inside. The food was gorgeous as well, and it's really just incredle what these people come up with. I mean, one of our favorite dishes was this "gnocchi" thing--and all the dish names could be in quotes because they can't really make stuff like gnocchi. They had crafted these clever little nut objects into gnocchi-like shapes and made this in-cred-i-ble creamy sauce (remember--vegan, so no cream involved) and, I don't know how to explain it. We had a bunch of other cool stuff too, but I'll just tell you about Sam's dessert, which was coconut "meringue"--a free standing, exquisite mousse-like object made from young thai coconuts, layered with a berry-basil substance. Holy wow. Not only does raw food feel completely guilt-free, not only did I come home and pack like 5 more boxes because it actually GAVE me energy instead of zapping it, there's the constant awe that accompanies every bite, like, dude, seriously, how are they doing this? I'm in love with that awe. I have had more astonishing, impressive dishes since I've been trying this vegan thing than I can even count. I have made more astonishingly tasty food than I could have ever dreamed possible. So that's another reason: I have a crush on the simple innovation of the whole thing.

But the real point, of course, is how I feel. It's the five boxes I packed, all the meals for tomorrow I prepared when we got home (to make tomorrow easier), the kitchen and front closet and bedroom that are ready to go because of what I did after I ate that meal. Today, of all days, the difference it makes is unmistakable. I have a long way to go, a lot of weird fears to unlearn, a lot of habits and healthy tastebuds to cultivate. But it's all clear at this moment. Perfectly, beautifully clear.

Self, Happy Birthday to you.

10 comments:

Genevieve Beck said...

A very happy birthday!!! I was looking at a website (that I'm sure you've already heard of and are well familiar with) called greensmoothiegirl.com and it very much reminded me of you. And as I was reading it, I was also thinking that as unusual this is in comparison to a "normal" diet, it did seem a lot closer to the Word of Wisdom. I didn't agree with everything, mainly her healthy weight chart, but it gave me a lot to think about.
Once again, have a wonderful day!

Terry Earley said...

So nice to see that you are getting clarity about what to do. For us, it was a "30 day trial" to see if it would make a discernible difference. By the end of that 30 days, we had already decided that we could not deny the truth we had learned.
Happy Birthday. Enjoy to the fullest!

belann said...

Happy Birthday. Your realization will help to enjoy many more. Bookmark your post, so you can read it when confusion tries to cloud your thinking again. Paying attention to what you eat and how you feel is a true revelation.

Tia and Amara said...

Good for you! Thank you for sharing. I was talking to Jeff and Mom, and we decided it's like a series of little epiphanies for everyone. For me especially, it is really hard to pay attention to my bodies signals --how I'm feeling. I REALLY have to focus to know when I'm feeling "off". All just trial and error. I really like how you read the "word of wisdom" FOR YOU. All scripture has to be personal to make a difference in our lives.

Elise said...

Happy Birthday.

And I LOVE this post.

Stephanie said...

Happy Birthday Dej! Props to you for having the self control to stick to that diet. There's a fair amount of food that makes me sick but I have a tendency to say who cares and deal withthe consequences. Probably should try and take after you a little more. Hope you had a fabulous birthday.

Meeshab said...

Love you, Happy Birthday!

Lee said...

Hmmmm maybe I should try it. Lee would die.
-Kira

The Kitchen Witch said...

Happy Birthday, glad I got to hear your voice yesterday! I like the veganish comment. I feel like I can share some of my veggie dishes that may use egg or cheese. I have been trying to make at least one meal a week vegetarian, and sometimes it turns into 2! Food should refuel you, glad you are finding what works for you!

k. double-u. said...

Happy Birthday! I'm glad you found exquisite food.

"I'm pretty sure that my reaction to those pancakes was not, well, normal" ...

I'm not sure how abnormal you actually are. I think you might just be more aware of how your body reacts to food, which is good for you. Lots of people eat food that makes them feel like crap, but they push through it or don't eat any alternatives that let them see the difference.

I've been reading up on what cupcakes do to us (not cupcakes specifically, but things like them) and I'm pretty sure we're all killing ourselves. Keep listening to that body of yours—it's as brilliant as you are.