Saturday, August 27, 2011

Odds-n-Ends, Food I've Been Eating

In my typically random "odds-n-ends" fashion, here's a bit of what I've been enjoying. Above is carrot, daikon and winter squash (I know, it's out of season!) from Christina Pirello's This Crazy Vegan Life. This stew is actually very bright in flavor, like sunshine. It is finished with fresh lemon juice and Italian parsley. It's light, yet sustaining, good hot or cold.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, before . . .

 . . . and after. Olive oil, salt, pepper and a tangle of fresh thyme and oregano from my herb patch (Buster hasn't yet figured how to climb into that pot, which is up off the ground, so the herbs are living the good life, unmolested!) I loved the crunchy brown parts on these sprouts. The bowl is one of the few surviving pieces I have left from my grandma Eula's everyday collection. The blue-and-white inspired me to fill in with more of the same color scheme for my own everyday. I also have her full set of fine china, but we rarely use it since we are such a rough and tumble bunch.

Collard greens sauteed with a bit of red onion, chick peas and GOBS of garlic (at least 10 cloves!) I encourage all you vegans out there to try going overboard with garlic. You'll love it! This was a full meal on its own, and I munched it for days.

Here's a shot of the above two featured dishes, along with a baked sweet potato. We've recently added a roof to our patio, which allowed me to move some furniture around and unclutter the screened porch. I've set up a small dining table out there. This was our first alfresco meal. My eyes were bigger than my stomach. I had to save a lot of this plateful, but none of it got wasted.

Homemade miso soup with daikon, onion, cabbage and tofu. This was a big batch, and I enjoyed the leftovers for several breakfasts. Having miso soup in the morning sets the tone for the day. The soup imparts a grounded, centered energy. If you ever find yourself with leftover miso soup, remember not to bring it to a boil when reheating it. Boiling kills the beneficial enzymes.

Here's a plateful of polenta with broccoli rabe, roasted peppers, onion and garlic. I LOVE broccoli rabe, also known as broccoli rape (!) and rapini. The checkout clerk tried to charge me for broccolini, another veggie which is actually a genetically modified hybrid. Broccoli rabe is more bitter than broccolini. Personally, I prefer the bitter note of this delicious vegetable. It tastes as if I've gleaned it from a meadow in Tuscany. Not only is broccolini of a less pure origin than broccoli rabe, it is also more expensive! I enjoyed the polenta for the corn that it is, but the omnivores found it to be bland to their sugar-addled taste buds.

This says summer to me -- just a homegrown tomato, veganaise, salt and pepper on good, crusty bread. This will likely be the last tomato sandwich from my garden this year. Buster easily climbs the thick stems of the heirloom vines now, and he takes the tomatoes before they have a chance to ripen. At least I still get all the grape tomatoes I want. those stems are too flimsy to hold buster's weight. I'll be buying the occasional heirloom tomato at $4.99/lb. so that I can continue to savor this late summer treat.

Stay tuned for a feature on Buster's least favorite vegetable -- the aubergine (eggplant). Aubergine is a lot more fun to say than eggplant, porridge is better than oatmeal, and polenta is better than cornmeal mush. Do you have a favorite gastronomical delight that can be elevated with loftier nomenclature? If you do, play along and share. I love expanding my vocabulary!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Buster's a Chipmunk!!

Yes, folks, I remember I vowed to tell no more sad gardening tales. But I got over the shock and awe that was in the wake of Buster a long time ago. Buster, my mysterious garden marauder, eater of vines and stems, sampler of select veggies, but never eggplants. Buster, for whom I'd grown to, er, feel affection akin to the kind I feel for my dog when she's been very, very naughty. Buster, whose persona in my mind was a wily, mischievous raccoon.

Newsflash -- Buster's a chipmunk! I snapped a photo of him as he was evading me this evening. It's a bad photo, you can just see his little striped body tapering to his tail on the right. His darling little face, with it's huge liquid eyes, is hidden behind the thick rung of my garden fence in this photo. Now that I know my garden thief is the star of countless Disney classics, his adorability, in my mind, increases exponentially. I fancy myself to be a bit like Snow White, actually.

Savvy little Buster has surely found the sweetest burrow in the acre we call ours.  Under the wooden frame of my garden plot, and against the brick wall of our house, within the iron garden fence, Buster need only worry about snakes, as he would in any other burrow.

This is the mouth of Buster's burrow, into which he has attempted to stuff a fist-sized green tomato, bless his heart. This tomato was hanging next to one I harvested yesterday. Eat up, cute little booger!

The dilemma of what to do with Buster and his burrow when it comes time to clean up and sow my winter crops is one I'd rather not address right now. In the words of Scarlet O'Hara,

"I won't think about that today, I'll think about it tomorrow,"

to which I can imagine Buster answering, (also quoting Scarlet)

"As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"

Okay, sweetie, just snuggle on in . Want a blankie? (Quoting nobody here -- that's just me.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Sustaining Breakfast

I love a porridge of Irish oats. I learned from trial and error that I really love these oats a little bit firmer than other folks may. When I have followed the package directions, I've been disappointed to find the oats are not much different from the quick-cooking ones, which is not a terrible thing, but I just prefer to enjoy my cross-cut oats with a chewy texture. It seems more special that way. So I prepared these oats with a little almond milk and water (I'm too lazy to measure!) and after bringing them to a boil, I simmered the panful for only 20 minutes or so. I had to add a bit more filtered water toward the end since the oats were beginning to stick to the bottom. The porridge was lovely and delicious, without the addition of any accoutrements. Eating it out of my favorite Peter Rabbit china from my babies' early childhoods made it all the more special. Have you noticed that almost all of my dishes are chipped or cracked? (we're a rough-and-tumble bunch, I guess)  Not this one! Nobody else wants to use a bowl this small, and I take steps to keep it out of the flow of traffic and out of the microwave. I am the only one who uses it!

The first time my Mom and Dad visited after I became vegan, they brought me a wonderful book, This Crazy Vegan Life by Christina Pirello. At the time, I was deep into a couple of other vegan books, so I set it aside to read later. Over 18 months vegan now, I am finally getting around to reading it. Interestingly, the author comes to the vegan lifestyle from a background of chronic illness, as do I. She has also dealt with the dreaded B12 deficiency which I am now overcoming. This book is jam-packed with nutritional and health information, which is just what I needed at this point of my life and my veganhood.

The above porridge is just a part of a wonderful approach to breakfast advocated by Christina: grains and greens --simple! Along with the Irish porridge, I had steamed lacianato kale, dressed with a scant drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

I didn't waste the "pot liquor" as either my mother or my grandmother used to call it (can't remember who). The "pot liquor" is not as nefarious as you might guess -- it's just the cooking liquid from the steaming of the veggies!

I poured it into a cup and drank it as a tea -- surprisingly delicious! This grains-n-greens breakfast was so nourishing and calming. It provided a wonderful start to my day!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cleaning Out the Crisper

Here's an example of what a vegan makes to feed herself and all the omnivores with whom she resides. I had already thrown together a tuna, noodle and cheese casserole with frozen organic mixed veggies for the omnis. In trying to get inspiration for vegan food, I opened the 'fridge and began pawing through the crisper. I was sad to find a rotten, forgotten bunch of watercress and a couple of moldy halves of lemons which I donated to the "round file" as my husband calls it (the trashcan). Pawing deeper still, I happily encountered an unopened carton of mushrooms and half a cabbage, all still in fine shape despite the fact that I couldn't really remember when I had purchased them or what I had done with the other half of the cabbage.

I am going to get organized -- I really am now that the kids are back at school. This first week was mostly a catch-up on backed-up laundry, bills and untended issues such as "maybe it's time again to consider another refi" -- 3.25% anyone?? The whole thing makes me begin to twitch, but it must be addressed. I digress . . .

This week I vow to clean out the refrigerators and pantry, and with the knowledge of what is there already, will strive to proactively plan some menus rather than just throwing what looks pretty into my shopping cart.

But the other day, prior to the big Salinas pantry clean-up, I just needed to salvage whatever still contained nutritive properties. I warmed up the rest of the sourdough bread (I know -- I've got to stop eating that white bread -- I will, this was the last bit of it!) and made two sautees -- shallot, mushroom and white bean with lots of earth balance, and cabbage and leeks with shoyu and the juice of half a lemon (fresh, not moldy!).

Beans on bread are really satisfying and shockingly delicious. That's what my main course was, with the cabbage mixture on the side, and the omnis ate the tuna casserole with my vegan food as their sides. The husband particularly liked the cabbage, which he deemed, "an investment in tomorrow," I know he means that quite literally, which is probably too much information.

After the meal, when the bread was finally all gone, I decided to reinvent the mushroom melange again.   Stay tuned to see its next incarnation. Waste not, want not!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Heavenly Dressing

Have you tried "Caesar Chavez Dressing" from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz ( Do it -- trust me. This stuff is so amazing I could eat it out of the bowl, like pudding. In fact, after I was done emptying out the blender I had to put my whole arm into it to scrape out what was left around the blades with my fingers. I was very careful not to cut my fingertips on the blades -- what a dumb injury that would have been! Finally, I finished the feeding frenzy by licking my forearms where they had brushed against the inside of the blender. What a sight I must have been! I can make a fool of myself that way now that I have a bit of alone time with the kids back at school. Emma and Ellie watched this whole spectacle. Bless them! They love me no matter what kind of fool I am.

I added more cashews than the recipe called for, just because I couldn't help myself. The dressing was a bit thick because of this alteration. I should have added more water to compensate. I'll have to open my mind and get over this aversion I have to water as an ingredient. Sometimes the other ingredients are flavorful enough and water is the best thing for correcting a consistency. The recipe calls for 1/3 cup water, which I did include.

As you can see, I savored this fabulous dressing atop a simple salad of arugula, homegrown tomato and avocado. After I finished this plateful, I craved more almost right away. This dressing has my highest endorsement.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Odds-n-Ends, Back to School Edition

Long time, no post, I know. Transitions have always been a challenge for me, creature of habit as I tend to be. With the kids at school, I am now thriving in a new routine, but it has taken me almost a week to settle into it. I'll share a bit of life in general around here during the transition.

The photo above is an example of a lazy way to make the mundane fabulous. This is just whole wheat linguine with jarred marinara, daiya "cheese"and kalamata olives, along with grape tomatoes and fresh oregano from my garden. The others ate theirs without all my chosen goodies.

Here is something tried and true: greens, grains and beans. The addition of french bread makes it vegan junk food, though.

Oops -- I forgot that nobody else at home doesn't really mean nobody else at home. I'll have to shut the door all the way if I want privacy. Otherwise Ellie's gonna get into my business.

On a night out with the man, at Sage, a restaurant/bar where we frequently order tapas with our drinks, I ordered what I usually do -- Mediterranean Crostini without the feta. It is the only thing on the menu veganizable except for a boring salad. Normally the veganized crostini is perfect bar food, but the other night someone in the kitchen must have decided to "improve" the crostini by broiling the toasts covered in feta. Grrrrr -- they thought I had only meant no additional cheese on top! How many times have I ordered the exact same thing? The photo is of the second batch of crostini after I sent the first one back. The cheese had been buried under all the yummy Mediterranean veggies, and we each had a bite or two before my husband noticed the flavor of cheese. I knew it tasted different, but I had forgotten what cheese used to taste like, I guess. Within five minutes of the accidental cheese eating, my head filled with stuffiness and confusion and I really was quite a boring girl for about an hour. Cheese steals my joie de vivre, my witty banter, my sense of humor. I just sit on the bar stool like a lump -- of cheese.

Back at home, after I had finally regained my personality, we decided to watch a concert DVD in our basement theater, and my husband did push-ups on the coffee table. Okay.

Taking a good look at my bread and pasta filled transitional days, I understand why I am feeling a bit, um, fluffy around the edges. Noticing and analyzing trends in cravings is a good way to get a read on what is going on with our bodies. I was craving carbs because of my lack of energy from the B12 deficiency. There is great news on that front, personally, though. I saw my Integrative Medicine M.D. the other day and she trained me to give my own B12 injections! I am no stranger to needles, since my mainstream MS medication is a daily subcutaneous injection, self-administered, but it had been ten years since I had done the intramuscular injections. The longer needle is a bit more of a challenge psychologically, but if one doesn't overthink it, the IM shot is a breeze. Now I can give myself B12 every two weeks! I bought a vial of B12 (30 doses) and a bunch of syringes for $94, and my labor is free. I am going to save a bundle on what it would have cost me to go in every two weeks to have my M.D. administer the shots. I love my doctor. She's always looking for a way to get what I need for less. Isn't she cool?

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Tomato Knife

My mother-in-law sent me a wonderful present for my birthday It is a Yoshi Ceramic knife. I thought this was a very thoughtful, sweet gift, since she knows how important cooking for our health is to me. Thanks, Mutti C.!

When I called to thank her, she told me to be very careful because the blade is sharp. She also said it shouldn't be used on hard foods like bones (no problem there!) and it is important to treat it like any other ceramic thing, i.e. don't put too much pressure on it. The knife was packaged along with a ceramic veggie peeler, which my mother-in-law said was a waste of time. I thought I would be the judge of that, but she is right. It doesn't peel anything fibrous. I think it might be good at making ribbons of something soft, like zucchini, but it is too delicate for a carrot.

Back to the knife -- it doesn't work on onions. It works like a charm on tomatoes, so henceforth it shall be dubbed "my tomato knife" The china blade gracefully slides through the skin and flesh of a very ripe tomato,without smashing it in the slightest. The tip of the blade dispatches the stem with equal aplomb.

I made salsa with this tomato. I tried to chop a few of the other veggies with "my tomato knife" but I was worried I would shatter it, as I was using a bit of pressure, so I had to pull out other knives. This is not the knife with which to smash a clove of garlic!

Here's my delicious salsa. Since I am still working on solving my B12 deficiency mystery, I am walking around without much oomph, so I find myself putting protein in everything in order to compensate. So I had to put chick peas in my salsa. Hey -- don't knock it 'til you try it! It was a big hit with the omnivores too. Here's an approximation of this version of my summer salsa:

Cheryl's Summer Salsa
One large ripe tomato, diced (I used heirloom)
A big handful of grape tomatoes, halved
one jalapeno, minced
1/4 c. minced purple onion
one can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
a large handful of cilantro, chopped
juice of two limes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Just throw it all into a bowl and stir it up, season with salt and pepper and stir again.

This was delish -- we noshed it with brown rice chips all weekend, then I ate it on a baked potato and also on a salad of mixed greens and avocado:

I love my tomato knife for chopping tomatoes, and I look forward to using it on other kind, gentle veggies like mushrooms or summer squash. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"You're the Lady Who Likes the Bok Choy!"

"Yes, I am!" I answered with a smile.

My birthday turned out to be a bit of a "birthday week". There are many generous surprise- and party- minded folks in my life and so I really had a delightful time being surprised and showered with goodies over and over again. I am very lucky! By the time my actual birthday rolled around, a Monday, my only two remaining requests were for a moratorium on sibling rivalry and a break from cooking dinner. The initial plan was for the four of us to go out.

We have been in the process of having a roof constructed over and around our backyard patio and fireplace since it is about a gazillion degrees, Farenheit, back there in July and August, and the roof was in the final stages of being waterproofed late in the day on my birthday. By the time we were finished helping the workers tidy up the work space, we were too dusty, sweaty and hungry to rally to get dressed for dinner. So we all agreed to plan B -- take out from my favorite Chinese restaurant, Xiang China Bistro. We toyed with the idea of eating al fresco in our new outdoor space, but, alas, even at 7:30 p.m. it was oven-like out there. So we ate in the comfort of our air-conditioned kitchen.

We each have our favorites at Xiang, so we normally order way too much food, but most of it gets eaten over the course of 3-4 days. I am the only one who orders two entrees, since I am the biggest leftover-lover in the family. I eat every speck of my choices, so I've no guilt in doubling up. I order "Garlic Baby Bok Choy" every time, and I choose from tofu or other veggie dishes for my second. I LOVE the Garlic Baby Bok Choy! In a light, garlicky broth, pristine bok choy specimens are quickly braised to the perfect crisp/soft consistency. The slight bitterness I covet remains, and the rich broth is not overly salted the way many restaurants tend to do. I have never been disappointed in Xiang's bok choy.

On my birthday, when my pups began doing their thing, slobbering all over the front windows, snarling  and barking to announce the visitor, I slipped outside to sign the receipt and add a tip.

"Oh, you are the lady who likes the bok choy!" the delivery man said with a little bow and a smile.

"Yes!, I love it!" I answered, realizing that I must have been the subject of some discussion back at the Bistro. A few months prior, a different delivery man from Xiang had asked which one of us likes the bok choy, and I got into a little discussion with him about other veggies they all love to make and eat in their own families, which are not on the menu at Xiang, only because it was determined the clientele wouldn't have much interest. Sugar Snap Pea Shoots (not the pea pods, themselves, but the actual shoots, or young stems) were that delivery guy's fave.

As I set up the offerings, buffet style, so we could each serve ourselves, I told my husband what the latest delivery man had said, with reverence.

"I bet you are the only person in Alpharetta who orders bok choy!" he posited.

Maybe so -- if that is the case, I wondered why the bok choy remains on the menu. The restaurant workers obviously like it, and I'll keep ordering it. Hopefully that will remain incentive enough for the bok choy to stay!

Since it was my birthday, I indulged in my favorite cocktail, a Grey Goose Martini, on the rocks this time, all the better to linger longer over, and with giant caper berries instead of olives -- I found them at the Natural Foods Warehouse! I love the traditional shaken martini with the olives, but this one was fun for a change. The caper berries, the original martini garnish, imparted a mild, pickled, slightly sweet flavor. This martini felt very old-fashioned and special. It was lovely before and during the Bok Choy, Szechuan Tofu and steamed brown rice feast!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vegan is Pretty

These grocery store mango rolls tasted as good as they looked! I tossed the sweet chili sauce that came with it, dipping each pretty roll in shoyu instead -- the rich salty flavor was perfect with the sweet fruit and creamy avocado.

I usually need something with a bit of texture to swallow my piles-o-pills with in the morning. Here's a simple, pretty, healthy, effective solution -- 5 frozen organic strawberries with about a cup of coconut water, blended.

These are my daily prescribed meds. Some must be namebrand, since it matters for optimum absorbtion, but my doctor lets me save money by shopping around for the best price for others. I take either one, 2, or three of each of these per day. I just write the amount on the lid so I don't have to dig out my reading glasses for the fine print on the script.

Here's another version of my coconut/berry pill-pusher juice. In this case, I used frozen organic black raspberries. The gritty pulp and seeds really help the handfuls of pills go down without causing a gag reflex.

What gorgeous colors! Vegan is pretty!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Coming Clean -- Sometimes I Eat Shellfish

My conscience has been bothering me. I've not felt guilty for any of my food choices until now, 18 months into my vegan adventure. Do I feel guilty about what I have eaten? No. I feel guilty that, as it turns out, I am misrepresenting myself on my beloved blog, "A Midlife Vegan". I eat shellfish sometimes.

I have been so blessed in my vegan journey to be inspired by wonderful, talented cyber-friends. Some of these people excel in lifting the vegan palate to another level, some are spiritually advanced, most are passionate about animal rights. It is to honor these folks that I feel the need to "come clean". I know many of them will be disappointed in me. Each of us comes to the vegan world for different reasons and with different motivations and standards. I have never felt the need to judge the way another vegan follows the diet, or doesn't follow the diet. But some do, and some will.

As some of you already know, I have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis now for over 15 years. I've shared much of the way I deal with my health ad nauseum in previous posts. I have been kept well for about 6 years with a combination of mainstream and alternative therapies. My vegan diet is one of those alternative therapies.

If you've read "My Vegan Story", you already know that for me, it all started with Wilbur, the little pig in Charlotte's Web. At a very young age, I knew from my identification with Wilbur that I didn't want to eat animals. Growing up, I only ate them because I "had" to, or because I felt I "should" from the information available about nutrition from the medical establishment at the time. But we live and we learn, and I was happy in midlife to have learned that an animal-free diet could be healthy -- in fact more healthy -- than a diet with a lot of animal protein. From my childhood inclinations to my grown-up desire for optimal health, the vegan diet fit me like a glove.

I did have concerns about the lack of vitamin B12 in the vegan diet, but I felt protected because of my prescribed supplementation. Predictably, because B12 is stored for some time in our body's tissues, the first year of being vegan passed for me with evidence only of increased health. But I eventually began to notice changes. I fainted for the first time in my life -- two different times. Lightheadedness began to be common. Fatigue and lack of concentration began to plague me from time to time. At first I blamed lack of sleep. Then, at a routine physical, it was determined I have a low red blood cell count. I have plenty of iron in my system from all the dark green leafies -- just not enough B12. My alternative medicine M.D. gave me a B12 injection and tweaked my supplement order. I felt great for about a month after the injection, then the symptoms of the deficiency began to return. My practitioner explained that each of us absorbs the B12 supplements at different rates. I may be one of those who needs more regular B12 injections, at least until I "ramp up" to a normal level. I am due next week for my regular bi-monthly glutathione infusion which keeps the MS quiet, and I am planning to ask for another injection of the B12 at that time. Concurrently, since the bi-monthly injections and the supplements don't currently seem to be enough, I am compelled to open my mind enough to consider listening more closely to the body's signals.

Throughout my vegan journey, one of the things that has made my diet so easy is that the body sends me very direct signals for what it needs in the form of cravings, and in the form of immediate results from what I ingest. I've learned that eating miso soup or collard greens or tofu when I crave them brings strength, focus and a calm sense of well-being. If I ever crave sugar, which is rare, I normally do not give in because, even if it's a vegan sugary recipe, the satisfaction is fleeting and I am left jittery and flighty, ungrounded. Sleep suffers after sugar, which leads to another whole set of problems So sugar is a false craving born of addiction, and needs to be considered carefully because of the predictable results. After detox from dairy, I have never craved it. When I have ingested some by accident, it is even worse than the sugar. My head becomes instantly foggy and confused. My sinuses fill up and I need to go right to bed. Sometimes the dairy-intolerance symptoms last for days, even with the tiniest exposure. I am grateful for the dialogue with my own body -- the unmistakable signals it sends to me for what it needs and what it shouldn't have.

Before becoming vegan and after, when I see shellfish I've always wanted  them. Fried oysters, steamed clams, steamed mussels, even tuna tartare (I know that's not a shellfish, but I do want raw tuna in the same way, though, strangely, no other fish). I don't normally give in to these cravings, since there is usually something animal-free that's available, but I have given in, only a handful of times the first year. I framed these forays into the animal kingdom as "cheats" and considered my standards unsullied, as I really preferred chick peas and quinoa, kale and miso. I just skipped over these incidences, realizing that I was still in the learning stages about what works for me. The surprise for me was that eating the delicious fried oysters did not make me feel bad in the way that sugar or dairy would. Immediately I felt a sense of warmth and strength, of calm and clarity -- of being grounded and centered in a way only little bits of the sea can provide.

While I've always felt compassion for animals, being vegan for 18 months has increased my compassion for and understanding of them. It's easier to step into the shoes (hooves?) of someone we don't feature on our plates every evening. How wonderful to have really considered the intelligent and affectionate nature of a pig, the calm, loving trust of a beautiful cow, the nervous pride of a turkey, the plight of a farmed chicken. There is no question I will never again put a piece of one of these animals upon my plate. They are just too much like my Emma and my Ellie. The thought of eating these animals makes me feel ill. So why doesn't eating shellfish make me feel this way? Could it be because they don't have faces, because they don't have "mothers" in the way that we understand motherhood to be? I must admit that there is some guilt about the tuna. A fish does have a face, and while it still doesn't really have a mother in the way you and I do, Finding Nemo is one of my favorite movies. I've seen it many times and I cry for Nemo, for Coral, every time. So why does my body want raw tuna? Why does it feel whole, at peace, healthy and grounded from it's consumption? I don't know yet, but living through these changes is sure to help me find some kind of reconciliation.

Yes, it all started with Wilbur for me, but the reason I really embarked upon a vegan journey last year was for my health. the animal rights part of the decision was all vegan gravy. I need to remain mindful of my initial motivation for the vegan lifestyle and open my mind to my body's signals again. My body has never let me down when it speaks to me. Right now it is out of balance and is talking to me. I need to listen. For those wonderful people who I'm disappointing, I am sorry. I must do what is right for my health.

Do I still see myself as a vegan? Yes. Vegan food is still my favorite food. It is what I crave more than anything else. My plant-based diet has done as much to improve my health as has my personal trainer. The vegan diet has stopped the MS progression it it's tracks! Stopped it! For the first time since my diagnosis over 15 years ago the MRI showed no progression! The vegan diet has allowed me a life without allergies, without sinus infections, without antidepressants! The vegan diet allows me to eat whatever quantity of healthy food I want, and to remain at the same happy, healthy body weight effortlessly.

Here is what I have learned from a vegan diet about food and how it affects my body and my disease:
Dairy -- congestion, confusion, exhaustion, sluggish cerebral function -- causes a negative neurological event.
Sugar -- jittery lack of focus, nervousness, flightiness, irritability -- causes a negative neurological event.
Plant-sourced protein -- calm, strong, balance -- causes a positive neurological event.
Veggies of all kinds -- positive. By and large, the veggie kingdom is right for me.

The shellfish craving is once in a blue moon, and I only partake when my body needs it and asks for it. So right now I guess I think of myself as vegan+. This will rankle the nerves of some of you, so you can call me a pescetarian or even something nastier than that if you'd rather. I don't mind. While I hate to judge others, I am putting myself out there for your judgement, so let me have it. Just know the choices I'm making have not been made without much soul-searching and a fair amount of conflict and anguish, mostly because I care what you think of me, you lovely vegans with lofty standards and goals, whose passion for your cause is so admirable. What I realize is that I am at a place in my life where I don't fit neatly into a box. I am learning how to stay healthy, and honoring the tried and true signals of my nearest and dearest healthcare worker -- my own body. Thanks for hearing me out.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

And Then There Were None

There's what's left now of my lone Chinese long bean vine. Yes, Buster got that one too.

Buster is apparently completely unfazed by my attempt to gently encourage him to dine elsewhere. There's the little solar sonic wave machine in the very sunniest part of my garden. The thing only seems to vibrate when I am holding it.

On the bright side, at least I won't have to spend any time unravelling the dead vines from the live one now. They are all dead, so I can just rip out the whole mess of 'em. Buster also continues to eat every little fresh leaf on the denuded pepper plants. I guess This is the year of the nightshades -- eggplants and tomatoes. Buster doesn't care for either of those, unless a tomato turns red, that is, so I've probably got to pick them a little early and I will be in good shape.

Does anyone have a Buster-busting suggestion for me? I won't hurt him. I sort of feel this odd affection for him akin to the way I feel about my dog Ellie when she has been very, very naughty.

I'm tired of writing sad garden stories, so I will only feature happy veggie tales for a while. But I still want your suggestions!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Buster's at it Again

Yes, I decided it would be prudent for me to name him -- the varmint who's sampling my garden delicacies, that is. When I returned, long-faced, from checking my garden again this morning, I reported my most recent losses to my son and he said, "You'll have to get a trap," My son is not unkind-- I'm sure he hadn't even yet considered what trapping an animal would mean. He, like my husband, sees a problem and fixes it, without thinking it through, in this case. I saw my son's knee-jerk response as a perfect example of the difference between how vegans think and how non-vegans think. To eat an animal without feeling bad about it, one has to mentally disconnect the animal from the meat. I can't think that way. I thanked my son for the suggestion, but told him I would not be harming any wildlife, even in defense of my garden. "Oh, of course not," he said, finally getting it.

Considering my son's response, I had to take responsibility for the potentially karmically devastating evil thoughts I had been sending Buster's way, and place them in the proper context. It is not Buster's fault that I placed a smorgasbord along his nightly route. Buster and I will have to learn to live with one another for a while, I guess. Heck, it's not such a stretch. I am already eating after him, carefully cutting out the raccoon-mouth-shaped bite marks from two lovely, large ripe tomatoes, and then slicing them up for myself. My kids shuddered to see me eating after vermin, but they don't know Buster like I know Buster. Seriously, I feel much more peaceful about Buster now that he has more of a persona, at least in my own little mind.

Here is what Buster has been up to lately. Remember how I planted marigolds all around and in between my garden plants, and thus had success this year in avoiding insect trouble? Well, Buster likes marigolds too. That's one in the photo above after he dined upon it. All of the marigolds look like that now.

Here is something that makes me sad. Remember how I praised my wonderful, hardy and innovative Chinese long bean vines? Well, Buster likes the long bean vines too. Not the beans, just the vines. This is the bottom of my bean trellis. There used to be five vines. Buster ate all of them but one, right down to the soil. Of course he left the thicket of vines winding all around above, so I will get to enjoy unravelling the rotting mess mixed in with the one live vine. Some of the vines are obviously beginning to die. You can see the difference between the healthy one and the others here:

See? Verdant and perky vs. pale and floppy.

On the other hand, Buster seems to have no interest in the eggplants. I just harvested four Hansel eggplants and one Ichiban and made an amazing Eggplant Chana Masala from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Life, and the very next day I found the three plants covered with more young eggplants.

Here's the originally eviscerated pepper plant, bravely fighting for its life with some fresh new foliage.

This bright blossom on the lone live bean vine makes me smile.

I decided to do what I can for the garden survivors, without hurting Buster. I set up a solar panel powered sonic spike. The spike vibrates like a little shock every couple of minutes. Animals are supposed to hate it. I can see where this would work, but am not convinced there will be enough sun to keep the spike fully powered overnight, which is when Buster does his thing. I will let you know.

Are any more of you out there playing Mr. McGregor to Peter Rabbit or other furry friends? What is your solution?