5.12.2012

C-Change in How We Eat

There have been significant changes in my life and in the kids' lives, good changes. Healing. Rebuidling. Love carefully, gently, patiently stitching a new family together. I got married. To a man the kids adore - they call him "Woogie". He's been with us through everything. About a year ago the kids stopped calling their Dad "Daddy" and instead started referring to him by his name when we talked about him. Sometimes it felt like they were making a point of saying something about him just to hear themselves call him by his name, to feel the word inside their mouths. And they didn't really know what to call my then-boyfriend. They had grown to love him, to the point that calling him by his name didn't seem right. But "Daddy" wasn't available. The person who was the one person who that name was for is gone. Painfully. They won't give that name to another, ever. So, Woogie. He's good with it. I'm good with it. We're all good with it.

Since our marriage, we have both lost weight. Not really trying, but we watched "Forks Over Knives". We have been flirting with going vegetarian, maybe even vegan, for a while now. We watched "Food, Inc.", and affirmed that we would only eat local, farm-raised, locally slaughtered and butchered meat. Then came "Forks Over Knives". The mountain of research and data demonstrating the terrible health effects of animal protein. The multiple cases of dramatically ill individuals, some whose doctors had given up on them and told them to prepare to die, recovering healthy, vital lives simply by changing to a plant-based diet of whole foods. It was stunning.

When you have your kids a little later in life, the idea of longevity changes from a nice thing to do for yourself to an imperative for your kids (and your grandkids, should you be so blessed). And if one parent has already died, well, you can't help but feel like you have to be that much more stable, that much stronger, that much healthier and present and available. Because you do. In addition to planning on running a marathon next February, I'm trying to change my body's chemistry. Not that it was bad to begin with. I had low blood pressure, good weight, excellent cholesterol. But I'm 43, and I want to live to be 100. Am I jinxing myself saying that out loud? I don't see any reason, short of the statistical things like getting hit by a drunk driver, why I shouldn't stay strong, active and healthy for a long, long time.

So we're making the change to being vegetarians with a view toward vegan, and I'm realizing that I'm having to start over in the kitchen in many ways. When you eat meat, making dinner is actually easier. Or right now it seems so. I could throw a piece of meat in the oven or the skillet, whether it was tilapia, chicken legs, brisket - add a quick salad, a veggie, and we were done. I didn't have to think about it much.

Now, because it's new, I have to think about it.  And it seems like there's more prep work in vegetarian cooking.  More things to chop.  More grains to cook.  Things to roast, blend, soak.  I'm following two guiding principles - not to rely on meat substitutes (I'm trying to stay away from tofu and tempeh), and not to put too many ingredients into any one dish.  There's lentil loaf and ratatouille, which necessarily require a lot of ingredients, but other than that, I'm trying to keep it simple. 

Tonight's dinner, for example, was a salad of cantaloupe and mango with vanilla soy yogurt, a kale-potato pie, and a carrot-quinoa side.  There were different flavors on the plate, which helps the kids, but each dish was very simple.  The pie had 6 ingredients (crust, kale, potatoes, bread crumbs, parmesan, olive oil), but was still very simple.  I plan to start posting some of the meals and recipes, as I've done before, but I'm realizing that there's a lot of room for creativity in vegetarian cooking, and I want to have a place to write down what I've cooked so I won't forget the dishes later.  The other night we had grilled grape tomatoes with a canellini bean sauce that came out very nice.  I don't want to forget that one either.

And, um, I know I have a few followers on this blog.  It means a lot to me to know you're there.  This is the place where I've put some of my most personal thoughts and difficult times, and you have been 100% supportive, and you didn't have to be.  We have been through a few more milestones and hoops that may help someone else who is a caregiver to a child coping with the loss of a parent.  But I just wanted to say "thank you".  And I hope I can give back here, hopefully sharing some bit of information or lesson learned that helps someone else.

There is nothing to do but love everyone.