Saturday, September 1, 2012
Whenever I talk to my parents, a portion of the conversation always comes around to doctors visits. Which doctor did they see most recently, what test results just came in, when is the next minor or major surgery scheduled, which cap needs to be replaced by the dentist for the umpteenth time, when does physical therapy start, which medication needs to be adjusted, and on and on. And they're healthy, well informed, responsible people! I get text messages from my mother as she sits in waiting rooms, either waiting for my father to wake up or for a nurse to call her back to an examination room, bored and wanting to hear what's up in New York City. We laugh, another day, another doctor! It's not traumatic to go to the doctor, just time consuming, part-time job time consuming. At this point no one's health is great but it's all being managed by a series of specialists, and as long as my parents keep checking in, like getting the oil changed, cleaning out the air conditioner filters and paying the electricity bill, they can lead as happy, as rich and as long a life as they choose, obviously up to a point. My in-laws are in the same boat and around the same age as my parents, when you get into your sixties, seventies and eighties, all this is to be expected, and though Chris and I are still relatively young, I have begun to see that inevitable path before us. Which reminds me I need to make an appointment with my dermatologist for an annual check-up. Let's see what the sun did to me this year!
Here's the thing, you can totally ignore your health and let it bite you in the ass, royally, or you can be proactive. Right? And we know that being proactive means eating well and getting exercise. Not having access to information or health care however, is a whole other story.
But being proactive, in a world of ask.com and webmd.com, and nightly news health updates, and pharmaceuticals vs. homeopathy, local vs. organic and high-fat vs. low-fat can be overwhelming to say the least. Never mind that most primary care physicians never actually study diet in the first place. Even Mark Bittman, the great Mark Bittman, who goes vegan for breakfast and lunch, except for the half-and-half in his coffee, then eats whatever he fancies for dinner, recently wrote an article in the New York Times about how dairy is one of the worst things you can put in your body. The other day my husband showed me a photo of an egg with the title, "Eggs are worse for you than cigarettes".
Two years ago I read Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and started inhaling pasture raised beef and happy Berkshire pig bacon after nearly 15 years of not eating red meat. And after reading Nina Plank's Real Food, I was all about whole foods, full fat dairy, butter, brown eggs with rich sunset yolks, whole grains, bitter greens and happy, healthy meat. And I still am, sort of, but......
Despite all my efforts to keep myself and my husband healthy, it still came back to bite us in the ass.
My forty year old husband's blood pressure would not go down. My husband who's grandfather had a heart-attack and died at 40. I thought we were being healthy, really healthy. I even had books with medical science to prove it. It's an American obsession, health. We know it all!
I was not interested in changing my eating habits unless it was going to be delicious, because I thought my habits were already great. I can have my cake with the organic sugar and rich eggs, biodynamically raised cow's milk and spelt flour and eat it too! I thought we were eating better than most, I mean the cost alone should have cured something. But Chris' blood pressure, visit after visit, even with medications and increased doses and exercise would not come down. And it began to become clear that the blue cheese, chicken schmaltz and lamb chops weren't helping.
Chris' alternative doctor, for years (years!), kept trying to get him on a special diet that I resisted with my stack of books and whole foods receipts.
But eventually there was no other choice. Chris was going to have to give up all animal products, no eggs, no meat, no diary, and then scariest of all, no oil. No canola oil, no olive oil, no sesame oil, no coconut oil. Nothing. And me being the cook in the household, was going to have to learn to cook onions with water.
We went Forks Over Knives, and after one year, now our families are doing it too.
(to be continued....)
Oil-Free Blue Potato Salad
An assortment of farmers market greens, washed and torn
Handful of cilantro, washed, leaves removed from stems
Six or so small blue/red/yellow potatoes, boiled till tender, cooled and sliced in half
Two heirloom tomatoes of different colors, large dice
Flat beans or green beans steamed or boiled till just tender but still bright green, cooled, cut into thirds
Half a red onion, small dice
Toasted slivered almonds
Arrange in your salad bowl then...
Juice of one lemon
Splash of champagne vinegar
Two teaspoons of Dijon mustard
One teaspoon of honey
One teaspoon whole cumin seeds ground with a mortar and pestle or 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Pinch of salt
Whisk together and pour over salad just before serving. Crack fresh pepper on top.
Toast a couple slices of hearty whole grain bread, then rub each side with a raw garlic clove, and serve.