We meant to get this in here before Hannukkah and Christmas and Kwanzaa, but then the Holidays were, to quote Jane’s Uncle Jack, “at our throats,” so we didn’t quite make it, but we are determined to post for the New Year to say how much we appreciate all of you who read our blog and give us your support.
Three of us, Jane, Sadhvi, and Annice, recently celebrated the Holidays together and raised a glass to all of you, our readers, our friends, our fellow women over 50 with something to say.
We also shared dinner and this incredible chocolate dessert at Isis restaurant in West Asheville and couldn’t resist showing you a picture of this little bit of heaven.
I’ll start with my daughter. I was still eating chicken when she was born, so she grew up on that classic American child diet of spaghetti and chicken fingers. Around the 10th grade, she decided to become vegan. That was about six years ago, and it was much more difficult to be vegan then: no veggie burgers, no great websites like gardein, no cashew cream, no vegenaise.
I struggled to find things for her to eat–mostly pasta with olive oil and whatever vegetable, such as broccoli or asparagus, I could cajole her into eating. I wondered how she would survive in college, but, lo and behold, she chose to go to a school that served up a vegan menu for visiting students’ day! I vividly remember her gleeful description of their vegan pesto pizza. Only one problem: the school trotted out those vegan selections only on visiting days. They craftily ensnared her in their overly expensive system for four years: four years of battling the food system there and spending an equal amount of dining hall dollars at the local Whole Foods. (At one point, I even tried in vain to get the school to let her be on the commuting students’ dining plan, since she rarely found anything she could eat in the dining hall–and, even when she did, she’d later discover that it had been labeled wrongly or that the cooking staff had no understanding of the difference between vegetarianism and veganism.)
But she survived, and, as a result, has a strong interest in food issues and students’ rights. She spent the last year and a half working with Real Food Challenge, an organization working toward a just and sustainable food system by empowering students to enact change in their college dining halls. (I still remember one of her successes. The excitement came through in her text on the train ride home: “THE DINING CAR HAS VEGAN VEGGIE BURGERS!”).
Finally, the world was coming around to her way of thinking, and life was becoming easier around our dinner table. Vegan cookbooks appeared, and all the little secret substitutions to turn a regular recipe into vegan became common knowledge. There were even frozen food options by the score when you didn’t feel like cooking from scratch. Yes, life was good, and it wasn’t that difficult to cook for my husband and feed my daughter at the same time.
Then my husband went on a diet.
This was a terrific idea, long in coming. By the time he started, I’d long given up on trying to get him to eat better and focused more on keeping our dogs from getting harmed by anything he might be consuming, such as chicken bones or grapes. The diet has now been going on since October, and he’s dropped 30 pounds, and I’ve become the queen of salad–and not just your average, dump-the-bag-salad-on-the-plate-and-add-a-tomato variety. No, I’ve felt obligated to make things interesting, add almonds, raisins, artichokes, pears, feta, and those little orange segments whose name I can’t remember (yes, Jane, this is what the 60’s are like!).
Whatever may come next must be predicated by the best damn salad you’ve ever had. But–because of the diet–along with all of this necessary forethought, I’ve lost the ability to fudge dinner. No more luscious grilled cheese sandwiches at the last minute. No more homemade pizza, no more spaghetti, sob. My husband is thinking of food all the time because he’s starving, and I’m thinking of it because I’m trying to figure out what he can eat. Oh, and did I mention that my daughter doesn’t like salads that much? Are you beginning to get the picture of the war going on in my head each night over dinnertime?
I can either cook for him or for her but not really so much for both of them at once. My husband loathes beans; tofu makes him squeamish; and when his sons come to visit, I hear them grumbling about the almond milk in the fridge. And that brings up a whole other nightmare: two big, big, bigmeat eaters, who, when visiting with us, slip out in the night to purchase their ice cream or in the morning to get a Bojangles fix.
Worst of all: with my husband’s new diet comes competition for the foods I like. Whereas I used to get a bag of dates and savor them for days, now they get carted off to his work or just disappear altogether. I can’t keep apples in stock, and why is it that he can’t eat the older ones first and not take the prime new ones as soon as they appear? I reach for my morning banana to add to my oatmeal, but they’ve all disappeared in the night. And just as soon as I join in the game and restock sufficiently, my husband’s tastes change, and I’m stuck eating three boxes of clementines that he’s no longer touching. The irony here is that I’m not dieting, but I’m sure I’m thinking about food as much as (if not more than) he is.
Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been neglecting my daughter at mealtime, so tonight I made the lentil soup from the great classic Moosewood Cookbook and leek fritters from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (find the recipe if you click here). (Thank you, Sadhvi, for a comment in a column long ago aboutsmittenkitchen.com). My husband had the barest of tastes of each, but my daughter and I enjoyed both until we sat satiated and content. One more night down. Nothing to worry about until tomorrow!
I was attending a conference on local food production this week, and one of the speakers talked about how children have become disconnected from food. She described children in downtown Philadelphia who had no idea that peanuts came from a plant that grew in the ground or that milk actually came from cows.
It made me think about the many ways that people have become disconnected or distanced from reality. Just as processed foods keep us removed from the reality of farmers tilling the soil, credit cards keep us distanced from the reality of money flowing out the door; automatic payroll deposit does the same thing for money coming in.
Text messaging and email keep us distanced from friends. Why bother to walk down the hall and talk to someone if you can text them your question? Hair dyes and plastic surgery keep some folks distanced from the reality of aging. Junk food ads and jingles—especially the ones that stress the kind of “you deserve a break today”thinking—have brought about a disconnection between our mouths and our brains. Obesity is at the highest level it has ever been in this country, but it’s hard to make us realize our own role in making ourselves fat. It’s much easier to hope there is a new type of pill or surgery that will make the fat go away quickly.
News shows, with unending pictures of people fighting in Afghanistan or children starving in Somalia keep us distanced from the realities of war and human suffering. If everything fits into a YouTube video, which we can choose to watch or not to watch, it makes it easier for us also to choose not to think too hard about those things. I remember on September 11 having the disturbing realization that I was grateful to be able to turn off the TV picture of the towers falling—even while knowing that the people who lived or worked near the World Trade Center would never be able to turn off the picture in their heads. Continue reading Disconnection, Connection and the Local Food Movement→
1)We have wonderful friends who make us feel thankful to be alive and sharing this planet with them.
2)Our daughter Becky in Africa is feeling better, so maybe she doesn’t actually have dengue fever or some other horrible tropical disease (what I immediately assumed upon hearing that she had a fever and muscle pains). And our daughter Josie does not have a stress fracture on her leg—just shin splints! Yaay! And she’s going with me to see Becky soon.
3)Our daughter Lizzie has Janson in her life—a thoughtful, loving guy—and Janson may even have a job soon, thanks to some great folks who read about him in the paper and decided they wanted to go out of their way to help a Marine veteran!
4)Our son, Parker, is very happy at Bard College—and, even though he won’t be home for Thanksgiving, he gets to have turkey dinner with Janet and Jerry, our wonderful friends in New York.
5)I have three powerful and loving sisters (and a host of wonderful blood kin) and terrific, loving in-laws (how lucky is that?).
6)Tom can still, after 28 years (is that possible?), make me laugh so hard that I risk embarrassing him in public (but I never really do).
7)Obama is still in the White House.
8)Even though I’ve gained some pounds and need to get rid of them, I’ve managed to keep off most of my weight loss.
9)Our dog Tater loves to chase a laser around our floor—over and over again—without ever getting bored or tired.
10)Ultimate Ice Cream (in Asheville, NC), especially the Coffee Heath Bar (perhaps this last one should be avoided).