“It’s so nice to see you enjoy.” Dw’s words were painful to hear.
Have I really been taking such little pleasure in my food lately?
The answer is yes. Honestly, truly. I wish it was different, but the reality is such that recently I have been cooking because my child needs to be fed, or as a way of procrastinating the mountains of packing that await me in every room. Food has, in the past few months, become a chore.
Over the years, I have removed and reinstated countless ingredients: tomatoes, oats, tamari, potatoes (sweet and regular), aubergines (eggplants to the Yanks), to name a few. Some have remained, some have been jettisoned again, while others come and go depending on how I’m feeling.
Last March, I found myself depleted of energy, drained at all times, my thyroid was acting up, and I hadn’t been able to lose even a gram of the weight I had put on during my pregnancy. The very talented Naturopath I saw recommended I remove all nuts (except coconut and some cashews and macadamias if necessary), seeds, pulses and grains. We compromised on oats, which I happily ate for breakfast every morning and stuffed in every dessert imaginable (something had to replace all those nut-filled recipes!). She also requested that I eat more meat – something I have been trying to remove altogether (since becoming a mother, I have found it much more difficult to stomach).
I agreed to try and within a few weeks, I was feeling a hundred times better. My weight started to normalize, my skin, which had been red and blotchy for a while, cleared up, my mood lightened. All was well.
Until it wasn’t.
For me, food should be about enjoyment. I love textures, colours, flavours. I mix, I match, I test, I taste. Since Vida Lev was born cooking has become even more important to me as often it is my only creative outlet.
My list was pretty stark:
Dos: greens, potatoes (which I can’t stand unless they are French Fries drowned in mayonnaise – yes, really), sweet potatoes, mushrooms, fruit, coconut, all meat, especially wild caught (ugh, yuck – sooo not into it right now), chocolate (ok, so I didn’t ask about this one. Technically, cacao is a seed, but I played shtum and decreed it was “different” i.e. the only way to get through this)
Don’ts: gluten, dairy, soy, sugar (refined), flour, beans, nuts, seeds, aubergines. Peppers, grains and other nightshades (unless well cooked).
Green, yes. But dull. Dull. Dull.
At first, I was so happy to be feeling great -- I started working out again and revelled in my newfound vigour. It was a hot summer and we spent three weeks in the Middle East where it was easy to stick to salads and fruit.
Upon our return, however, things started to change.
I got bored. Then I got angry. Then the cravings started.
Some people stop eating when they’re emotional. Not me. And sugar is my port of call. I kept telling myself that it could be worse, that I could be eating a pint of actual ice cream instead of Choosing Raw's soft serve made out of only bananas (seriously, it's amazing all on its own but if you want to be truly decadent, try it on top of my Unreasonable Brownies -- just be sure to omit the cayenne). But the body doesn’t care if you’re overeating on Carvel or Chiquita.
So what if I was eating too much healthy food – it was still too much and I wasn’t feeling good. Again.
This week, I decided to start incorporating things back into my diet. I wanted to rediscover joy in my meals.
This journey is exactly that, a journey. And when I find myself getting too preachy either when I speak to people or when I’m writing this blog, my body finds a way to remind me that I too struggle on a daily basis with what is right for me, what is healthy in my life, what I need in order to feel my best.
By now, my palate has changed. For example, I have no desire for, almonds, that powerhouse of plant-based protein I didn’t think I could live without. On the other hand I find myself craving, chia and hemp seeds, which I didn’t care for in the past.
But really, what I’ve been missing most is bread. It’s a texture thing: is there a more satisfying experience than biting into a good piece of bread? Bread is such a basic part of my food memory, a constant in an ever-changing childhood. I know I’m not the first to say this, but when I first went gluten free, the thought of living without bread was terrifying. Thankfully, and again, I know I’m not the first to have this experience, we do have a myriad of wonderful options available to us these days.
In order to celebrate my return to joyful eating, I started back at square one, a return to basics if you will: I baked bread. I made not one but two different kinds of bread – one raw and one more mainstream. Usually, I reserve these posts for recipes of my own creation. But I cannot claim ownership of either of these. It’s been a while, and it was nice to be able to find inspiration out there in other people’s adventures. Both breads came out wonderfully and there are no words to describe the pleasure I’ve been taking in every single bite.
Two Bread Recipes
Raw Butternut Squash Flatbread (raw/vegan)
A friend of mine uses her oven pilot light instead of a dyhydrator. I cranked up the dehydrator one last time before our big move. Note: when eating dehydrated foods - whether your own or store bought -- don’t forget to up your liquid intake.
(Adapted from Shazzie’s book, “Evie’s Kitchen, Raising an ecstatic Child.”)
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, roughly chopped
- 10 cherry tomatoes – I used a mixture of yellow and red. They’re so sweet right now
- ½ cup fresh parsley, roughly
- 1 t coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
- 3 T ground flax seeds
- pinch of sea salt (optional, to taste)
- ¼ t sweet paprika
- ¼ cup water
Start by processing the butternut squash and tomatoes well. Then add the water, parsley, flax, coconut aminos , paprika and salt and process again until a paste forms. This could take a few minutes and you might need to add more water, depending on the veggies.
Then spread on teflex sheets and dehydrate at 105 Fahrenheit (40 Centigrade) for 5 hours. Flip over and remove the teflex sheets and dehydrate for an additional 8 hours until they are hard but still flexible.
Enjoy with avocado and sprouts or according to your personal preferences.
Pecan, Almond and Buckwheat Bread
They say when you’re adapting a recipe, the first thing to do is make it exactly as the original instructs. Then you can play and change things from a clear starting point. Until I baked this bread, I didn’t think I was physically capable of following a recipe. Usually, I start to pour and mix and suddenly I’ll feel an overwhelming urge to change things, add an ingredient that I know will improve whatever it is I’m working on. But this bread was so easy and simple that I just followed it without even thinking about it. The only difference was that I used a rectangular baking tin because that is what I have.
I will, however, be working on an egg-free/vegan version.
The original post is so beautiful and evocative (much like the rest of her site – definitely worth losing yourself in for as long as you can spare) that I’d rather you check it out
on La Tartine Gourmande's blog rather than copying and pasting it here. This bread blew my socks off. It's hearty and rich without being heavy. Though I didn't know whether this strange new taste would stand the baby-palate test, Vida Lev gobbled up a couple of pieces with relish.