Where do we go from here?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Long Day's Journey Into Family

Long time passing with no blogging here, due to Life Constantly Happening.  As long as I am tethered to a desktop computer (laptop stolen soon after we moved to ABQ) I can only blog when I'm at home, and at home with nothing else to do, at that. This seems to happen very seldom. Much of August was spent traveling across the country to get to my niece's wedding in Philadelphia, a lot of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee in between - along with a little Virginia and Maryland.  The wedding was a delightful gathering of the clan, my niece was beautiful, as she always is, my brother and sister-in-law were proud and happy, the groom seems like a really great guy.  Having made the mistake of moving so far away from most of my family, occasions like these are wonderful opportunities to see everyone, watch the kids growing up, meet the newest family members - and, since a big party was involved, dance our butts off.  I have lots of adorable nieces and nephews, as well as a growing number of great-nieces and nephews, and most of them were there in Philadelphia for the wedding.

But, the New England gang wasn't able to come - so, as we were only a day's journey south, when the Philadelphia diaspora happened and everyone packed up to head home, Gail and I headed to Cape Cod, where we met up with my niece Jessica and her two little girls for almost a week of camping at the beach. My nephews, Jess' brother Tom and her partner Steve, were able to come out for the first night and join in our big cookout, so I was able to see everyone I am related to, with the exception of another nephew who wasn't able to get to the Cape, during this big trip East.

We had of course planned this camping excursion well in advance, and I have to say it was just more fun than should be legal - but it ended in a scramble to leave the Cape before Hurricane Irene got close enough to blow us off. Jess and the girlies went back to Rhode Island to get their own digs battened down, and Gail and I took down the tent and spent our last night in the car (it's a Honda Element, so we often sleep in it when camping anyway), got up before dawn and made it off the bridge before the traffic piled up on Rt. 6. This time by the water filled up our ocean-homesick souls, and sent us back to the high desert vowing to immediately start saving for next year's sojourn on the Atlantic coast.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Postponing The Final Answer

I've been working on Robin's third question, What do you consider to be the big question or conundrum of your life? for several days now.  I'm off on a three week trip for several family events on the east coast, and this question has done what perhaps it was meant to do - made me start deeply thinking about a lot of things in my life up to this point - where I've been, where I am now, where I can possibly go from here.  I am saving what I've written so far in a separate post which I may eventually publish, or it may turn out to be too personal to want to put it out there in public.  In any case, I don't have time right now.  I will be thinking on this as I visit my nephew in jail, attend my niece's wedding, camp with another niece and her two little girls in North Truro, see my remaining siblings, all my nieces and nephews as well as great nieces and nephews, and in general have family immersion therapy.  The answer I am working on to this question has everything to do with family and home, so it will be most interesting to see what comes up over the next three weeks.

I think, Robin, you may be as good a pastoral counselor as I imagined you might be - to get me thinking like this by your virtual questioning - what would you be able to do in person?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Okay, I'm Game

Over at Robin's blog Metanoia, something interesting is going on.  In a post titled "Try This" she offers five lists to make - no explanation, no context, just do it.  So, okay, I will.

1.  Five Colors:

Leaf-green, Sky-blue, Brown, Smoky grey, Bright orange

2,  Five Cities:

Boston, San Antonio, Paris, Santa Fe, San Fransisco

3. Five Landscapes:

Cape Cod dunes, Ponds at Bosque del Apache at sunset when the cranes fly in, Sandia mountains when the setting sun colors them red,  Chincoteague beaches, with ponies and waves,Texas Hill Country in the spring, with bluebonnets.

4. Five Interiors:

 My sister's beautiful redone basement (I could describe it, but you have to take my word for it), a friend's herb shed/workshop on her farm, our own living room in the winter with a fire in the kiva fireplace, any darkened bedroom with the sound of sleeping children breathing, my mother's kitchen (this one is just a memory now, long gone) with the long table where we all used to eat, the big stone fireplace, the wonderful smells.

5. Five Things You Might Wear:

Big linen shirts, sandals, jeans, gardening gloves, straw hats.

Okay, there's my lists.  It's past my bedtime, but I may have to go see what happens next.  There's a second question coming up, and I have to at least go see it.

So - Second Question:  Within each of your groups, do you see commonalities?  

1.  I think the commonalities here are that these are all colors I love in nature - the first two are obvious, smoky grey is the color of winter skies, and right now my backyard is riot of oranges, in the flowers that are blooming.

2, Yes, absolutely commonalities - these are all cities that are sui generis, each one unique,  with histories, representing a culture, brimming with culture in fact - great walking cities, cities with great food.

3. All of these are places I love, places that have spoken to my heart, places I'd gladly have my ashes deposited so I could be part of them forever.

4.  This one is a little harder - but I think they are all interiors that connect to my family or friends, that say something about life to me, life as we humans live it, especially together.

5. All comfortable, practical things.  It's all I can stand to wear.  I've just been through a week of shopping for something to wear to my niece's wedding later this month - and in the end it's going to be:  big white linen shirt, a pair a of black linen trousers, black strappy sandals, with turquoise necklace and bracelets. That's as good as it gets, for me. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Purslane, The Wonder Plant

When I posted yesterday about my wretched gardening summer, in which I had no food crops, I forgot to mention a very important one.  I can make no claims to planting this or tending it - I have no credit whatsoever for its thriving in an empty planter where a lot of things died during the winter.  This crop is considered a noxious weed by people who have velvety lawns, and the internet is full of advice on how to remove it from your lawn or garden.  But purslane (Portulaca oleracea), the crop in question, is anything but noxious.  It is, in fact, one of the most nutritious of green plants.  My niece Jessica was the first to inform me of this plant's virtues, when it showed up in our lawn in North Truro.  Jess is a wild-forager, and very knowledgeable about herbs and edible wild plants.

Purslane (also called by older names: Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little Hogweed or Pusley), is native to India and Persia, has a lengthy history, grows all over the planet, and is eaten as just what it is, a leafy green vegetable, in most other cultures.  We have such a plentiful crop of it this year that we are eating it daily in salads, where its sour/salty taste adds flavor to the other greens. It is full of vitamins (notably A and C) and minerals (just about all of 'em), and more omega-3 fatty acids than fish oils. It is such a valuable food that last night Gail jokingly said "maybe all we should eat this summer is purslane!"  And maybe she's right; it's both free and ultra-nutritious.  But what about dark chocolate?  Maybe dessert after the purslane?  Anyway, while researching the plant for this post, I found links to tons of recipes using it, mostly for salads, but it's also recommended for stirfries.  When the weather gets cool enough to use our stove again, I will certainly throw it into my first stirfry dish.  Here are some good links for recipes and general info on purslane for your eating pleasure:




  If you have a yard or a garden, you have purslane., I promise.  You may have been weeding it out, but today's the time to start improving your health with a healthy serving of little hogweed.  Here's a photo from my planter to help you recognize it.  The purple flower is not part of the purlane plant, but a sprig of Russian sage that is flopping over onto it.  It forms a spreading mat of succulent leaves on thick round stems (all of it is edible), has small yellow flowers, grows anywhere and everywhere it can find enough sun.  It thrives even in our drought, and, as you can see, has eternally endeared itself to me this year.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh, at last!!

And then, this evening into tonight - it rained.  When I came out of the Continuing Ed building at the University, it was starting, and as I drove to pick up our takeout dinner from Thai Vegan it really poured.  The streets were a nightmare of oily runoff after so long without rain to wash them, water in the gutters two feet deep, people driving like drunks - myself included - half the time I couldn't see a thing with all the water from the gutters and puddles being splashed on the windscreen - and it was a joy, a carnival of delight.  I called Gail to make sure it was happening at our house, and it was.  I sat out under the back portal after it got dark, soaking in the sounds and smells as the sweet slow rain kept falling.  No watering for me tonight, just sleeping with the fan blowing in the soft mists, the chorus of  deliriously happy crickets, maybe a little thunder from time to time. 

It rained, I'm saying.  It really rained, real rain. It rained!!!!

In The Good Ol' (But Very Difficult) Summertime

If it weren't for the delicious coolness of the early mornings, I think I'd be a stark raving madwoman by now. I head out as soon as it's light to see what's happening in the yard, do a little hand watering of pots, deadheading, and just commune with whatever is making it thru these deadly months.  Summer seems to be an endurance course this year, with the heat and drought the hurdles I'm having a very hard time getting over.  It is well into the monsoon season now, and though it has rained in some parts of the state, mainly northern areas,  here in the Albuquerque area there have only been spot showers of very brief duration.  We can practically count the drops.  Every afternoon the clouds build up, both east and west of the city, but aside from some thunder, nothing happens.

In the spring planting season I could already see what was coming, and we were already well into a drought (no precipitation since sometime last October), so I held off on planting anything.  No food crops this year, no lovely spring lettuce, no summer tomatoes or peppers, not even much by way of herbs.  My thyme and variegated sage bought it during the subzero winter temps, so I was only left with oregano, chives, garlic chives, mint and culinary sage. A month or so ago I couldn't stand the emptiness of my gardens, so I stupidly went to Lowe's and bought a few perennials to put in pots, deciding to simply think of them as annuals and not be upset when they didn't make it.  Which is a good thing, because most of them have already decided to leave plant hell, my yard, for plant heaven, wherever that may be.  Our water bill for last month was outrageous, so I am going to night watering only, except for things in pots which I do by hand with watering cans. I am very worried about the trees and shrubs, which I drip water, but am adding some hand watering at night when it won't evaporate.

Gardening has always been my way of enjoying the summer months, a form of recreation, exercise, enjoying the outdoor environment, as well as meditation and destressing.  This year it has become its own form of stress, which is really silly.  I'm starting to detach from obsessing on keeping things in perfect shape, just trying to keep what I can alive, and enjoying whatever IS alive, especially whatever is managing to bloom.  The yard is still full of birds, butterflies and bees, so life does go on, and I continue to hope for those afternoon clouds to drop some blessed rain before monsoon season is over.  There are some pretty good chances for this to happen later in the week.  We shall see.


Photos:  1. Geraniums in pots by front gate. 2.  This year's favorite hollyhock color.  3. A crowd of Mexican Hats.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Joy of Composting

Eating as we are has a side effect that could either be considered a drawback or a gift, I suppose.  It is the  enormous amount of organic waste that piles up daily in the compost bucket by the kitchen sink.  Everything goes into it: peels, cores, shells, rinds, trimmings, grinds, teabags, even used paper towels and coffee filters. The paper towels are made of recycled paper and the coffee filters are unbleached (most of the grinds go right under the roses as food for them). So, drawback or gift?  For me, no question - a wondrous gift.  All of this stuff goes into the compost bin in the backyard, where it gets mixed with mulched up leaves and plant clippings.  We just mulched up leaves last week, and they aren't too well-incorporated into the pile yet, but they will be soon.

The center of the pile is full of fat happy worms, turning cantaloupe rinds, peapods, wilted cabbage leaves, onion skins, and old tea leaves into black gold.  We've been here five years now, moved the compost bin with us from Delaware (although we did leave the compost there, dumped it out into what had been our big vegetable garden, and our neighbor came over and scooped much of it up for his garden across the street), and started filling it up from scratch that summer.  Since then I have emptied it several times, using the resulting product in garden beds, planters and pots.  It is very full right now, with the addition of the leaf mulch, but it really needs some time to cook before I can use it. Workng on the compost always makes me so happy, makes me feel connected to everything I love: the earth and the cycle of life and death that is constantly happening all around us.  Because of the drought we're in and the recurring cold weather, weather which froze the emerging leaves on several much-loved plantings,  I haven't really done much planting yet this year. I think June will be my big gardening month, and hopefully there will be some loads of compost ready to go. The slogan "Compost Happens" is a fun euphemism for the real phrase, but in fact, it doesn't just happen.  It entails some knowledge and a bit of work:  Here are some links to sites that can get you started on your own Black Gold project if you don't already have one going, and maybe give you some tips if you are not quite sure what you're doing:

Compost Mania offers both advice and equipment (although really, equipment is nice, but optional).
Composting Section on Journey To Forever  advice, philosophy, The Big Picture
163 Things You Can Compost - A fun list of just exactly what it says.

-- "Man's work with Nature that furthers Nature's aims is the work that rewards him the best." (I-Ching)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is Vegan Pizza Our Favorite Supper?

I ask myself this question, but I find I do not know the answer.  It is our favorite supper when we are having it for supper.  As we did tonight.  A big fat pizza full of veggies, of which we could only eat half, so there is half left for lunch tomorrow.  It is for sure one of our favorite suppers.  And here is how I make it:

I am a big fan of shortcuts when cooking, as a pizza like this would have taken me all afternoon to make, if I made everything from scratch.  This would have left no time to work in the yard, go to the Y for the daily workout routine, and pick up a few things at Trader Joe's.  So, the first shortcut is the crust - we love Rustic Crusts line of pizza crusts, the Tuscan Six Grain being our favorite.  I bake the crust for about five minutes on a pizza stone, then haul it out of the oven and let it sit and wait for the toppings to get ready.  For the topping I use a mix of fresh and frozen veggies.  Tonight's fresh veg were zucchini, mushrooms and garlic, the frozen were the SW blend from Whole Foods (red and green peppers and onions), roasted corn kernels (from TJ's).  I added some green chile to the mix, sauteed it all until it began to soften.  I used TJ's no-salt-added fire-roasted salsa on the crust instead of tomato sauce, as this pizza has a Southwestern bent, then piled on the veggies.  I sprinkled it all with Daiya shredded cheddar cheese alternative (a great find, it melts and tastes truly almost like cheese), put it back on the pizza stone and baked it for ten minutes in a 450 degree oven.

The first time I tried to make a veggie pizza I didn't prebake the crust, didn't precook the veggies, and it ended up a total catastrophe.  I kept on trying to figure it out, and tonight's was the best ever yet.  I use different vegetables, sometimes use the Daiya mozzarella fake-o cheese, and just have fun with it.  With a big green salad it is a supper that makes us feel happy and blessed to have such a delicious and healthy treat!!

P.S. - Ho! No sooner do I mention Daiya cheese sub in a post, but Ellen Kanner writes about it in her Miami Herald column, The Edgy Veggie.  She includes a recipe for cheese grits, a dish I learned to love as a high school boarding student in North Carolina. Feels good to be in such exalted company.  At last, a vegan cheese that tastes like the real thing.  

Forks Over Knives, or How To Save Your Own Life

So, life (thank the goddess) goes on, and I seem to have less and less time or inclination to sit at the computer. Well, no, the truth is that I quite often have the inclination, but since for the past almost seven months now I have been exercising more and more often than in the past forty or fifty years put together, and have become convinced of the real dangers of spending too much time sitting in a chair, I don't very often act on that inclination. I do miss spending time writing things longer than emails or Facebook status posts however, and since we're all going to be raptured (or the Chosen will be raptured, and I guess the rest of us will just fall into the Great Void) when Judgement Day happens on Saturday, I thought I'd spend a little time on the old blog today (with frequent intervals to get up and jog around the house, mind you).

It's really too bad about that judgement day business, especially if it really happens.  Gail and I have been spending so much time and effort on getting healthy and fit at this late day in our lives, and wondering why we waited so long -  be a damn shame to waste it on getting tossed into la nada by worldwide earthquakes and so forth.  I personally would really like to go down a few more sizes and maybe run a 5K race for a worthy cause of some sort before it's all over.  Maybe even a marathon eventually.  Well, I guess we'll see.

In the meantime my more immediate goal is to be able to see a movie whose progress I've been following for a while now.  It's called Forks Over Knives, and it's about the benefits of exactly what Gail and I have been doing since her Coronary Artery Disease diagnosis in September, eating a plant based, nutritionally dense, vegan diet.  We've also been doing yoga, working out on the treadmill and weight machines at our local Y's, and as soon as the outdoor pool is open (Memorial Day, and we can't wait), swimming, daily.  The movie apparently doesn't deal much with exercise, according to Roger Ebert's review "...Although regular exercise, especially walking, is invaluable, the film shows only a little exercise and focuses singlemindedly on nutrition."  Ebert is most enthusiastic about this film, and says what we have found to be true during our Medical System Journeying after Gail's diagnosis: " 'Forks Over Knives' is not subtle. It plays as if it had been made for doctors to see in medical school. Few doctors seem prepared to suggest proper nutrition as an alternative to pills, stents and bypasses." No doctor has recommended the path we've taken; quite the contrary - the recommendations are all for invasive procedures and/or medications. The reactions to our telling them our plan has universally been snorts of derision. So, we took the initiative to read the very doctors featured in this movie, T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyne, and embark on our own vegan adventure.

I've been writing about this adventure in this blog since we started, and think it's time for a little update. Gail, who was not really overweight to start withbut did have some of the dreaded belly fat,  has lost fifteen pounds, her cholesterol has dropped many points, her blood pressure is now very low normal, and she never has any angina, even when racing away at high speeds and inclines on the treadmill.  I, who was quite overweight, have lost almost fifty pounds and my blood pressure is closer to a good normal reading than it has been in my entire adult life.  I won't have a physical and tests until November (first apptmt I could get), but I am expecting my cholesterol to be lower than it has been since I started having it tested in my forties.  It has always been high, and doctors have wanted to put me on medication for years now. So, Gail and I are living proof of this movie's premise, laid out here by T. Colin Campbell himself: 

For more than 2,800 years, the concept of eating plants in their whole-food form has struggled to be heard and adopted as a way of life. However, recent evidence shows that more than ever a plant-based diet is not something to be ignored. In fact, eating a plant-based diet has become an urgent matter from several perspectives. Not only will it improve your health -- and the evidence behind this claim is now overwhelming -- but it will also dramatically reduce health care costs, as well as reduce violence to our environment and to other sentient beings.

The fact is our nation's economic stability, already crumbling due to the repeated bursting of bubbles such as technology and housing, has been hard hit by spiraling health costs that seem to have no end in sight. Despite this, as a nation, we are sicker and fatter than we have ever been. The epidemic of obesity and diabetes, especially in the young, forecasts an economically unsustainable public health challenge with the gloomy prophecy that today's children may not outlive their parents.

Who will protect the public? Not our government: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutrition pyramid is laden with food that will guarantee millions will suffer ill health. Not the American Dietetic Association, which is controlled by food corporations. Not the insurance industry, which profits by selling plans to the sick. Not the pharmaceutical industry, which pockets billions from chronic illnesses. And not the medical profession, in which doctors and nurses receive virtually no training in nutrition or behavioral modification, and are handsomely rewarded for administrating drugs and employing technical expertise.

What can save America is a plant-based diet, which will help individuals recover their good health, and which in turn will set our health care system right (as well as our economy). However, for this plant-based diet to take hold, the public must be endowed with nutritional literacy, the kind of knowledge that is portrayed in the new documentary, "Forks Over Knives."

"Forks Over Knives" focuses not just on the research that both of us have been engaged in over the last four decades, whether in China and Cornell or at the Cleveland Clinic; it also traces the journey of several Americans as they move from a lifetime of eating mostly animal-based and processed foods to a whole food plant-based diet, and the extraordinary medical results that follow. It is educational, entertaining, and literally life-saving.

See this movie if it comes to a theatre, or even a town, near you. It would be so great if this movie actually provided the impetus this country needed toget itself off the track of degenerative illness and onto one of real health care. (Cross-posted to Women On.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Getting Ourselves Back To The Garden

Recently we treated ourselves to an Albuquerque Biopark membership, something we have meant to do ever since we arrived here five years ago.  Now that we have it we go to the Botanic Garden at least once a week, sometimes two or three.  Of course this is the best time for those trips, weather still very enjoyable, everything in the gardens coming into bloom, birds everywhere, air full of pollen and allergens, no no, forget that part - we just take our Zyrtec.   Yesterday we thought the myriad of irises in the Gardens would be coming into bloom, and we are mad for irises, so we spent over an hour wandering from iris patch to iris patch, lost in delight.  They are just coming into bloom, with millions of buds to come, so we are very happy to have future delights in store.

We finally ended up at the Japanese Garden, joining a family enthralled by the swarming hordes of koi in the water beside a rocky platform at the edge of the pond.  We soon discovered why the fish were swarming there, the kids were dumping Doritos into the water.  Not a good idea for the koi, I'm pretty sure, but I was not the boss of them, and their parents were right there, so I kept my mouth shut.  When I lifted my eyes from the koi and looked across the water, I was amazed to see a very plump black-crowned night heron sitting on a rock gazing intently into the water in front of it.  I've never seen one of these birds there before, and knowing that it is a fish-eater I felt sure a nature documentary was about to play out in front of us.

Most of the larger fish that live in the pond were over by the Dorito kids, but there were some still swimming elsewhere in the water.  The heron waited and watched patiently, then suddenly spread its wings, leapt into the water and stabbed a pretty small koi with its beak.  It had a hard time clambering back up onto the rock with the fish in its mouth, and I wasn't at all sure it would be able to enjoy its wriggling sushi snack.  But it managed to gobble up the entire fish, over a period of about fifteen minutes.  We walked around the pond to get a view of this meal from different angles, wishing devoutly that we had a video camera with us. Koi disposed of, the heron resumed its vigil, although I can't imagine how it could manage to down another one.  I understand why it was such a very stout bird, and suppose that it has taken up residence somewhere near the koi pond. The gifts of the BioPark are many and various.  The wood ducks who were also enjoying the pond ignored the whole scene.  They were simply enjoying the wind, the sun, the water, the lovely afternoon.  We left them all to their own pleasures and went off  into the nearby Bosque for a very long walk by the river.  A lovely afternoon of enjoying the bounty of Mother Earth on her name day.

Earth Day Thoughts

I posted a very crabby status on my Facebook page this morning, an Earth Day status, but not one of flowery hope and cheer.  I don't have much hope, flowery or otherwise, and I have been sadly dead out of cheer for several weeks now.  This is what I posted this morning: 
 Yes, it's Earth Day, the one official day we set aside to celebrate the planet. What if we all really believed, and lived as if we believed it, that every day is Earth Day? We've had Earth Day once a year for forty-one years now. It's time to start having Earth LIFE, not Day. Time for serious legislative actions, not symbolic ones.
I posted that crabby message after seeing a photo on an AOL gallery of photos from Earth Days starting with the first one in 1970.When I went back to try to get the photo, the gallery was gone, so I can't put it in this post, but it was of a protest somewhere, early in the history of Earth Day. The photo was of protesters in front of a building (maybe the EPA) who had poured out oil on the steps of the building, and were holding signs demanding safer regulations for offshore oil drilling.  This was a photo from possibly forty years ago, and look where we are today.  Look at all the "earth days" that have gone by, and almost exactly on Earth Day of 2010 itself we had the monstrous BP Deepwater Horizon blowout and nonstop oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.  Really, we are such silly people - for forty-one years we have celebrated one day out of the year with local fairs featuring recycling demos, booths selling herb and vegetable plants, maybe someone showing how their solar thingy can heat a bucket of water, and so on.  Symbolic acts have been the hallmarks of our Earth Day celebrations for as long as we've held them.

In Bolivia they celebrated their Earth Day (which they call the International Day of Mother Earth) with a law granting rights to Mother Earth equal to the rights shared by humans.  In this document Mother Earth is defined as: "a unique, indivisible, self-regulating community of interrelated beings that sustains, contains and reproduces all beings. The Morales government in Bolivia also plans to establish a Ministry of Mother Earth to implement this law.  The rights for Mother Earth include:
the right to maintain the integrity of life and natural processes
the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered
the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration
the right to pure water
the right to clean air
the right to balance, to be at equilibrium
the right to be free of toxic and radioactive pollution
the right to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities

So, maybe this law will also only be symbolic, but what a huge symbol, what an ongoing committment to  the earth.  Here in this country our government can't agree on a single action to actually DO something about climate change and the rest of the imbalance we are imposing on this planet.  I find it hard to get excited any more about Earth Day.

P.S.  I wrote most of this yesterday, but finished it today.  Don't know how to change the date so it shows yesterday, April 22, 2011.  But that's the correct date for this one.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Vegan Foodies Continued: Ellen Kanner

This may turn into a long ongoing series that nobody but my vegan niece will read, but oh what the heck, I'M having fun!!  One of my favorite new foodie gurus is Ellen Kanner, another writer, like Mark Bittman, with a long food writing pedigree.  I first discovered Ellen as the author of the Meatless Monday blog on The Huffington Post, and still enjoy reading her weekly wisdom there. Not least because she always closes the post with a recipe.  This week's MM post is particularly wonderful to an old sixties hippie like myself.  And, in addition, in it she introduced me to a new vegan foodie, Nava Atlas, about whom I will soon be posting. Ellen writes a column for the Miami Herald, , has a Facebook page, as well as a thoroughly delightful blog called Edgy Veggie (loving that name so much)  in which she doesn't write anywhere near often enough to suit my tastes, no pun intended.  However, who am I to talk? Her CV includes writing for all the top foodie print mags, as well as a novel, which I am about to put on my waiting list from the public library.

This is a snippet from a piece called "Welcome to the Broccoli" under the "Culinary" tab on Ellen's website:

"When the goodness of real food, fresh produce and lovingly cooked whole grains gets into you, it makes you feel terrific, too, in a way that a can of diet whatever can’t touch. It’s food that lets you know you’re being nourished, cared for – there’s not enough of that, as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve got a problem in this country.

You’ve heard of the French paradox, that mystery enabling the French to eat lavish, leisurely, artery-clogging meals while remaining svelte and chic with cholesterol levels that don’t make their doctors scream and hurl statins at them.

The American paradox, by contrast, is just depressing. We know more than we ever have before about nutrition and diet, yet we’re in an obesity epidemic. Obesity goes far beyond not being able to look hot naked. It compromises your health, period.

You know this. Everybody knows this. And what are people doing about it? Pointing fingers, filing suits against food manufacturers for making them fat, drinking soul-destroying diet meals-in-a-can or saying damn the torpedos (or scale) and ordering double-cheese pizzas. Eventually, though, the binges and the blaming, the purges and the pills lose their luster – and let’s face it, when it comes to instilling healthier lifestyles, not to mention joy, they just don’t cut it.
Eventually you’ve got to get back to yourself and get back to real food. There’s you. And there’s the broccoli. So let’s begin."

I have to say I'm only sorry that it took me until I was 67 years old to get down to the broccoli. I had a realization of just this, the "goodness of real food letting me know I was being nourished, cared for" yesterday after supper, when Gail and I were eating our incredible navel orange sections (with a few squares of deeply dark chocolate, yes) after dinner, and I was ruminating on what we'd had to eat all day - the fresh blueberry oatmeal, real oats with big fat juicy bursting blueberries cooked in for breakfast, the quinoa/vegetable soup, with raw veggies and eggplant hummous for lunch,  the vegan spinach lasagna I spent Sunday morning making, with a big salad of organic greens and cukes for dinner.  As I thought about it all, I had that ahah!! feeling, a feeling of gratitude and wonder at how good it had all been, how good I felt after eating it. It's one of those moments I will have to engrave upon my memory, for when the chipotle cheese burger commercials late at night make me want to bash my head against the wall.So, thanks for the inspiration Ellen Kanner, and keep that broccoli comin' on.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Whole New World: Vegan Foodies

As a former all-foods foodie, in the days when food was for me, not merely nutrition, but reward, self-medication, and entertainment, there were many food writers whom I enjoyed reading, both as inspiration and just for the fun of it. There are not only cookbooks, and food memoirs (Ruth Reichl is my favorite in this category) there are websites and blogs, Facebook pages....ah, the list goes on.

In my new incarnation as a vegan foodie I am challenged by the search for replacements for these sources of fun and inspiration.  And to my mild surprise, and great delight, the discoveries are piling up. I will be writing more about this in future posts, but my latest discovery is the one I want to address today.

Some of you may be familiar with Mark Bittman, a professional food writer since 1980. Mark is currently writing in the "opinionatorblogs" at the New York Times, as well as in The Diner's Journal blog at that same paper, has a website,Facebook page, has made numerous TV appearances (Good Morning America, in particular) and quite likely more media presence that I don't even know. His writing is omnivorous, not limited to vegetarian or vegan, but does include those modes, in his articles and in his cookbooks. His recent column on McDonald's new addition to their breakfast menu, their "Wholesome Oatmeal" has garnered a lot of publicity all over the Internet, and is what has truly endeared him to my heart.  We were so happy when we saw this announcement, just before a road trip to Texas.  Road trips are especially trying for us as newly-minted vegans, and if the ubiquitous eatery was going to be offering something we could eat on the road for breakfast, we were thrilled.  Our first bowlful of this "wholesome" item cured us of this naive hope.  We declined the brown sugar and the cream that McDonalds adds to a bowl of cereal already evidently containing "11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen,” as well as "more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin...Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger." poured on our own unsweetened soy milk and managed to eat that morning's breakfast.  It was our first and our last.  Without even knowing about the weird ingredients, it bore no resemblance to the oatmeal we make in our own kitchen every morning. For our next road trip I made up a pan of Oatmeal Cake, cut it into squares, wrapped them up and tossed them into our Road Food bag.  If we stay someplace with a microwave, we can warm it up and have it with soy milk, if not we can just eat it as is. Either way it only has ten ingredients, not a single one of them weird.

I am now a faithful reader of as much Mark Bittman as I can find, am going to pick up his book Food Matters today if I have time. Because although his new slogan is "Eat Real Food," I think that this phrase "Food Matters" is the heart of Bittman's philosophy, as it now is also mine. On my way to fifty pounds lighter than I was at the beginning of this journey, I am able to see that food does indeed matter, in ways that are new and wonderful to me -  as nutrition, as fuel for my increasingly more fit physical self (a post on this is in the works too!), as a way I can contribute to the healing of this planet.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eating Animals

I have just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Eating Animals, and I will never be the same again. My partner and I became vegans just over four months ago, after several years of being mainly vegetarians. Our earlier decision not to eat four-legged creatures was based mostly on our experiences of driving through the Texas panhandle, seeing, smelling, and being horrified by, the feedlots full of cattle wallowing in mud and excrement along I40 and other highways in the area. We continued to eat the occasional chicken and fish, as well as eggs and dairy, but came to feel worse and worse about the whole thing.

As I have posted here, and on my Facebook page, the ultimate decision to eat neither animals nor any animal products, came about for reasons of personal health, when Gail was diagnosed with coronary artery disease, and we began our research into ways other than invasive procedures and medication to help her recover. I know people, most notably my niece and her partner, who have been vegan for many years now out of a moral conviction that eating animals is wrong. Reading Foer's book has placed me someplace I never thought I'd find myself, squarely in that "eating animals is wrong" camp. It's not exactly the "I'll never eat anything that had a mother and a face" position that my niece holds, but it's getting closer. I love Saffran Foer's writing, have read his earlier books, both novels, and much to my suprise found this nonfiction book equally engaging.  His writing here was as offbeat and captivating as his fiction, and I read it straight through almost without stopping. To quote the book's website:

"Like many others, Jonathan Safran Foer spent his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood—facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on a child’s behalf—his casual questioning took on an urgency. This quest ultimately required him to visit factory farms in the middle of the night, dissect the emotional ingredients of meals from his childhood, and probe some of his most primal instincts about right and wrong.

This book is what he found. Brilliantly synthesizing philosophy, literature, science, memoir, and his own detective work, Eating Animals explores the many stories we use to justify our eating habits—folklore and pop culture, family traditions and national myth, apparent facts and inherent fictions—and how such tales can lull us into a brutal forgetting."

In the past couple of days I read that  Duke University and Univ. of North Carolina have chosen Eating Animals as the summer reading assignment for their incoming freshmen. It is an excellent choice for young people on the brink of being in charge of their own life decisions. As one of the students on the choosing panel stated:  "For me, it's not just a book about food, It's a book about being really active in making your own decisions."  It delights me to think that Saffran Foer may be instrumental in helping them make some very good ones.(Crossposted to WomenOn)