Monday, July 25, 2011

A Little Light Mourning

When John and I were in our mid-twenties, we lived in a trendy little city.  Every Friday morning, we would have coffee and salt bagels at a cafe.  Another young couple, attractive and hip in the way that we secretly hoped we were, had the same ritual at the same time.

Now I am in my mid-thirties.  I don't drink coffee anymore, and I have stopped eating grains.  I am trying to eliminate cheese.  No more coffee and bagels at the cafe.  I think that other couple broke up.  She keeps a shop in that same city; when I'm in town I stop by.

A friend of mind has found herself suddenly adrift.  With two small children and no place to call home, she's off to clean out her old house.  All her possessions, the peripheral items that color her rituals, are going into storage.

Each day, each hour, each minute, a little door closes behind me.  I don't dwell in that, but I acknowledge it.  "You're gonna drown tomorrow, if you cry too many tears for yesterday," as Townes said.

I rejoice in this moment, on the crest of the wave of my life.  I am grateful for the great force of the swell beneath me, and for the detritus lifted or left behind.  Still, there are flickers of sadness for the little things lost along the way, and it would be foolish of me to deny them.  Much we make of the addict's desire to return to a chemical state, but that's not the whole story.  It is also the association of our memories, the big and small places that we choose to leave but in which we also leave a piece of ourselves. "I don't want another drink, I only want the last one again," as the song goes.

So for a moment, even as I throw my arms wide in acknowledgment that I choose this place with all its rewards, let me mourn.  A slice of pepperoni pizza.  A favorite coffee cup.  The giddy luxury of a bender, when the next morning was unclaimed by children, household and health (and age).  Bread with butter.  Pierogies.

I will not try to re-create these riches now in rough facsimile, but rather let them linger, bittersweet, in my memory.  Occasionally I will put fresh flowers on their graves.  Sometimes I will throw a death-day party.

Sometimes we put parts of our lives in storage; sometimes we leave parts behind.  That's okay; if we can allow ourselves the emotional space to find what is opening ahead it can even be wonderful.  Nonetheless, those little losses are real, and sometimes I need to mourn them.

And with that, here are a few recipes that are working in my life Right Now.  One is vegan and can be raw or cooked, one has fish.

Taco-less Fish Tacos

1-2 lbs. firm wild-caught white fish, such as haddock or cod
3 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp chili powder

1 C yogurt, strained through a coffee filter or cheesecloth for an hour
1 Tbsp cumin
1 clove garlic, diced fine
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Optional toppings: 

1/2 C grated gruyere
chopped scallions 
diced avocado

tomatillo salsa


Bake sweet potatoes at 450 until tender when pierced with a knife.  I make a slit in the top of them while they cook to let the steam escape, and I put a baking sheet on the rack below so that the sugar doesn't bake onto the oven.

Once the potatoes are done, remove and lower the heat to 350.  Allow the temperature to drop, and then brush the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder.  Bake about 10 min, until flaky.  Check it regularly so it doesn't overcook.

Mix the yogurt and other sauce ingredients.   If you are not eating any dairy products, you can try making a similar sauce using a base of soaked, pureed almonds, avocado cream or a nut yogurt.  You can also omit it entirely, along with the cheese.

Cut the potatoes in half.  Put two halves on a plate, top with butter and 1/4-1/2 lbs. of fish. Top with sauce and cheese if desired.  You can also add other taco toppings, if you want.

Portobello Cap Pizza

6 large portobello mushrooms 

Marinade (optional - this is only necessary if you plan to eat these raw.  Mushrooms should not be eaten totally raw; they require cooking or marinating)

1/4 C soy sauce or tamari
1/2 C olive oil


1/2 C softened sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 C pitted calamata olives
1/4 C olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley
Parmesan cheese (optional)

If eating these raw, marinade the mushrooms until they feel "cooked," about 15 minutes with regular turning.  

In a food processor, process the topping ingredients until they are finely chopped but still chunky.  Top the mushrooms.  

If eating raw, warm them in a cool oven to desired temperature (food must be less than 115 to be considered raw).

If cooking, put the topped mushrooms on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until warm and soft.

You can do any pizza topping on these; this was what I had in the house.

Now I have my computer back, and soon I will be getting a keyboard that works properly (the u and the 7 don't function on this one so I have to cut and paste from other text), I should be able to keep up with my blog again!  However, due to all sorts of excitement that I will report later, I will not be updating the blog next week.         

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Cure for the Common Everything. Best Paleo Veggie Burgers Ever, Plus a Little Impermanence For Good Measure

Yesterday morning I sat down to a precious few minutes at the computer and began to load last week's photos for My Time-Lapse Life.  My computer crashed.  Undeterred, I rebooted, only to discover that iPhoto was completely blank.  Yep, pictures all gone.  Five years of photos, not backed up. (The thing about the lower items on my to-do list is that, as the upper items all involve the survival of the family and are barely executed most of the time, they stay at the bottom.  Undone.  I have been meaning to back up my iPhoto and iTunes for about 3 years.)

My first reaction was to wail and weep as if the house had burned down.  Since then, oddly, I have felt really calm about the whole thing.  There is a good chance that I can retrieve the files if I take the machine to a tech (yes, I will buy backup memory and back everything up RIGHT THEN!), but my usual response to this type of situation is to panic until I have taken care of things.

Why am I sharing this scintillating tale with you? Well, in addition to offering an explanation for why I won't include any pictures this week, I think this is a testament to the incredible success my current dietary regimen has had in terms of regulating my adrenals.  Accepting impermanence, staying present and mindful, meeting each moment with openness and energy; everything is suddenly much easier.

I have shared here before that I often have insomnia, waking during the night for hours at a time.  While my other anxiety symptoms have declined over the years as I have made chances to my lifestyle and diet, I occasionally feel panicky or my heart races.  I have to be very careful what "news" I consume and how; certain issues put me over the edge and I have trouble bringing myself back to a normal mental and emotional state.

Last week, I wrote that I was making a casual transition to a modified paleolithic diet (and by modified I mean that I cheat sometimes!).  So now that I have gone and told everyone to eat lentils, I am easing myself off legumes and pulses.  Since I stopped eating wheat and all other grains (I am not strict about beans and lentils and dairy products, although I can tell that I don't digest as well when I eat them), I sleep at night.  Almost every day, I wake up refreshed at a reasonable hour.  If I am up during the night, it is because the baby is needing something, and I can usually nap during the day with him to catch up.  Other than that, I have energy all the time.  I feel terrific.

The big issue I am noticing during the transition is that I am hungry often.  At first, I felt really hungry, and I just ate snacks as often as I could, making sure to keep a lot of good stuff on hand.  After a little more than a week, I need to eat fairly often, but I don't feel ravenously hungry ever.  I don't eat very much at any one time, except for when I occasionally eat meat.  When I eat meat, I tend to eat a lot, and then I am not hungry for a long time; usually well into the next morning.  It occurs to me that I may be adjusting to a natural condition of being slightly hungry; I don't need to eat, but I can.  That would make sense if I were a grazing omnivore in a jungle somewhere.

One symptom I have been fortunate to avoid over the years is chronic headaches, but I know many folks who suffer from them.  I have recently read some fascinating stuff about glutamates (including, but not at all limited to, MSG).  You are right, Mom, autolyzed yeast is essentially MSG.  A lot of foods are high in glutamates, or exacerbate glutamate-sensitivity when cooked or fermented.  Check out the information on this website, it is fascinating stuff.  All of us should be careful with glutamates.  We need some, they are essential to the production of hormones that calm us down.  Too much overwhelms these processes and produces opposite and undesirable effects.  This is an area where I need to learn a lot more, so please add any links that are useful to you.

So what are we eating, you may ask? Here are some terrific recipes that are working for our family.  I still make bread or pasta when it is requested, but I am noticing a decline in demand lately as we all start feeling better.

I am living out of Ani Phyo's "Ani's Raw Food Kitchen".  Sometimes I follow her recipes but cook them.  I find the text in this book to be somewhat sanctimonious and annoying, but the recipes are terrific.

Sun Burgers with Basil Cashew Sauce

  • 3/4 C chopped celery
  • 1/4 C chopped yellow onion
  • 1 C chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1t sea salt
  • 2t dried oregano or 2T fresh oregano
  • 1 C sunflower seeds, ground 
  • 1/2 C flax seeds, ground
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1/4 C chopped parsley
  • Basil Cashew Sauce, see below

  • Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, adding water last to get a good burger texture.  As it is important not to eat mushrooms raw, you can either pre-marinate them in a little olive oil and tamari, as I did, or cook the burgers.
  • Form burger patties.
  • If cooking, bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes, checking regularly.
I did not use parchment or silpats, but I think these would be helpful in keeping the burgers from sticking the pans.

Basil Cashew Sauce


  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 2 C cashews (I soak mine for 4-8 hours)
  • 4T lemon juice.  If fresh, juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1/2 C water, as needed

  • Puree all ingredients in blender or food processor to make a thick cream.  
I keep a batch of this in the fridge; it is terrific on raw veggies, or on "breads" (I'll add some bread/cracker recipes next week).

Ragged animal hides not required.