No, no, I’m fine. You?

I’m not trying to blame the lows of my day on lack of sugar and crackers.

I’m simply saying that I packed my children’s lunch and gave an egg to only the one who likes hardboiled eggs. Rather on-top of things, I thought. But it was raw. Relatively useless as a protein source, especially since he tends to swing his lunch around and bang it against things.

I’m not saying that my  lack of focus today was based in my steely-willed refusal to indulge in my best friend: hot cocoa.

But I did get a scoop of raw almonds in the bulk bins and then walked off with someone else’s cart. And I didn’t notice until I had emptied half the cart onto the checkout belt. Well, okay, more honestly until the cart’s owner tapped me on the sleeve and sweetly indicated her chard and coconut and whatever else. And left me alone to locate my cart. You’d have thought it was clear I needed help. I thought about leaving the boring, dumb old groceries, since they were raw and healthy and lacking in sugar anyway, but I kind of needed to use a coupon before the end of the month.

I’m not blaming my spaciness on the fact that I used up all my attention and energy on fighting urges to eat caramel and then urges to murder anyone who would not give me caramel.

I’m just explaining that when my eldest, the sweet enigma who is so touchingly sensitive and brash and quiet and exuberant and like me and not like me, was telling me how he wrote a story at school in which good conquers evil with Briar-Rabbit-like trickery (despite not yet hearing any of those stories) I quite understandably sliced off the heel of my hand with a cheese plane.

He freaked, I calmed him. Because if you don’t bleed on the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Co-op’s Dante, everything is good.

I didn’t make it through the day without sugar. I made cocoa. First I tried coconut milk, cacao nibs, and dates. If I had used cacao powder I might have been sated. But it just wasn’t enough. So I mixed fair trade, unsweetened cocoa powder, unsweetened almond milk, and raw, local honey.

And it was phenomenal.

There’s no way I’ll make Intentional Cocoa every day. Tea is easier. But it’s nice to have options. Because I can only pack hazardous lunches, steal people’s groceries, and slice off pieces of my hands so many times before I decide to go back to ordering gummy cherries by the case.


Sugar? What sugar?

Oh, this whole “eat really healthy and minimally processed and nothing I couldn’t make myself” thing is going to be easier than I thought. Because I’m totally cheating, yet still feeling righteous in my efforts to (eventually) eat better.

I’m going to start calling this the baby steps experiment.

No sugar rule? Well, I licked the knife after making the kids’ PB&J. The jam was cloyingly sweet, though I buy the low-sugar stuff. It felt nice to know that I’m already completely clear of the sugar habit. One day, totally averse to sugar. I don’t need sugar! Who needs sugar? Let’s just…oh my god, coffee tastes horrible without sugar. So I added a teaspoon of agave. That kind of substitution is not going to change my need for sweeteners, so I have to knock it off. Today’s modified rule: no sugar except agave in coffee and sugar added to stuff I lick off knives. Tomorrow’s rule will be no sugar. Maybe.

No bread rule? Dinner included three leftover finger sandwiches for the high tea I made this weekend for my mother-in-law’s birthday. Whole wheat with olive tapenade and cheddar. Because I was hungry and because I’m not going to waste food on a stupid premise that bread might send me onto a slippery slope of processed food. Today’s modified rule: no bread except leftover bread. Tomorrow’s rule will be no bread. Maybe.

No processed foods? Easy. Breakfast was leftover lentil salad and some jicama.  Lunch was peanuts and more salad. Dinner was three leftover finger sandwiches, leftover black beans, leftover brown rice, and cheese. After-fencing snack was peanuts. Clearly, if I have leftovers and easy snacks, there are no pretzel and ice cream binges. But ask me again on a day when we don’t have leftovers.

I don’t feel any better (perhaps because it’s day two and I haven’t actually ditched anything, really), I don’t have more energy, and I’m fiercely grouchy from 4-7pm. Tonight I fixed that by exercising.
Boring. I wanted cocoa instead.

I’ve noted three things in this second day of experimentation:

1. I’m already sick of talking about food.

2. I want candy really freaking badly after 5pm. Ever minute after 5pm. Every second after 5pm. Evening candy is habit and tiredness. If I can be mindful of my tired cravings I might actually change the way I treat my body long-term. Or I have to ban candy from my house.

3. I am hungry most of the day and don’t bother to eat until I’m in the car. That’s why the fistfuls of peanuts the past two days: peanuts are already sitting, waiting, ready, beckoning in the car. I need to keep healthful snacks in the car, and do a better job of sitting down during the day to eat.

So that was day two: cheating on invented rules, realizing I need food to be easy, and rethinking ways to get to bed by 4pm.

Side note: I want cocoa.
I’m going to go to bed instead, but I’m willing to put money on my waking up wanting cocoa.


Minimally processed experiment

Oh, heaven help me, I’m trying to eat healthfully for a month.

Actually, for a few hours I said I was going to eat nothing processed.

But I realized that someone cut the mint leaves and put them in a bag for me to make tea. And someone toasted the coconut and someone sprouted the pumpkin seeds and put tamari on them. All that is processing. I’m not going raw and I’m not doing too much work myself. So minimal processing of whole grains and legumes. Raw or sprouted nuts and seeds. No sugar, no corn, no wheat. Because I don’t like the way I feel lately. Runs are like slogs, and afterwards I stuff myself with bread and sugar. My posture is terrible, so I feel tired, which makes my posture worse. I keep myself up late with candy instead of just going to bed. As a result, my body acts as though it belongs to a long-lost neighbor who it increasingly suspects is not coming back. I don’t like feeling like a renter in my body. I like to own it.

And I feel that the mortgage is paid and I owner occupy when I make healthy choices for food and exercise.

So I finally gave myself a talking to and started this eating plan. Last night.

After two hours I wanted cocoa. Desperately. So Melissa Camara Wilkins tweeted me a recipe for cacao, date, coconut-milk cocoa. I have none of that right now, but will. I still want cocoa, but I know Melissa’s recipe will get me through. I kept on going.

After twelve hours I was mad. I wanted granola and candy and crackers and toast with jam and cocoa. I had mint tea and went running. After the run I chased some chia seeds with more mint tea. I had a handful of tamari pumpkin seeds and a small bowl of locally made granola (yes, sugar but give me a break. I’m new to this). I didn’t think about sugar or bread or cocoa for hours. And I had a handful of stupid ol’ peanuts. And I kept on going.

By then I was really, really grouchy. Not hungry. Grouchy.

Dinner was a stupid Napa cabbage salad with stupid lentils and stupid beets and a stupid french vinaigrette. And a handful of stupid toasted coconut.

I WANT COCOA. Cocoa is warm and sweet and promises good things for the morn. Cocoa is love food.

Stupid vegetables and stupid lentils are stupid growing food. It’s the stupid stuff I make my kids eat while I sneak delicious, wonderful candy in the kitchen.

Stupid October. Stupid not-yet Thanksgiving. Stupid plans to feel better about myself.

This cacao Melissa told me about had better be all that. I’m getting some raw cacao nibs tomorrow. They had better make a good cocoa. They had better blow my mind. And make me feel like Wonder Woman.

Otherwise everyone near me will hear five weeks of grousing about stupid nuts and seeds and veggies and fruit for a stupid chance to feel better and stronger and healthier. So much stupidity.

[If previous experience going off sugar is any guide, I’m going to be mean as hell for two weeks. Minimum. My poor family.]

The Kitch Witch

I’m over guest blogging at The Kitch Witch today. I think it’s today. I kind of forgot to get details. Whatever. If my stuff’s not there, hers is better anyway.

I’ll update this delightfully pithy little post when I visit Chez T and get a link for ya. Until then, hunker down with your case of the Mondays. Things’ll look up soon.

Update: Hey, look! TKW is more organized than I am and has the post up. Photo to be added soon. I forgot about the whole food blogging rule of photography. Bad parent, bad blogger…I smell a theme that goes with those muffins!

Bears repeating

Peanut went to a birthday party this weekend while I stayed at home and cooked through Butter’s nap. Increasingly, I don’t have time to prep and cook meals so I do it all on the weekend to eat throughout the week.

Though I do this to save time and money, I also do it because I don’t trust most of the prepared foods at the store and in restaurants. Since the 1990s I’ve tried to be more and more aware of how food is made (and of which ingredients). I don’t like chemical tasting food and I tend to buy and prepare foods in their natural states. We try to eat whole, natural, organic foods grown by local, sustainable farms and businesses.

And since I had kids I’ve gotten much more annoying about how careful I am.

So I cook as much as I can. Local, fresh, organic, whole. And I fake it when I need to (we have almond butter sandwiches for dinner at least once a week, not because I’m an About Last Night fan but because we run out of leftovers and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna take my hour of free time during Butter’s nap every day to cook something that might or might not be eaten later.)

On the weekend I try to blend homemade sauces like tahini and hummus, slow cook some vegetarian chili, make lentils and couscous with veggies, pre-layer black bean quesadillas, overcook and mash white bean and sweet potatoes for homemade burgers, prep berry almond smoothies, slice goat cheese and polenta to grill later with marinara, and bake a homemade pizza. The boys will generally eat these things, I have two hands to prepare on the weekend, these dishes don’t take careful spicing or attentive cooking, and most of the items last well through the week. So I sacrifice an afternoon or two to the home cooking gods.

[A friend once joked that a real Top Chef quick fire challenge would be to create something edible in 45 minutes…when you have to leave the prep area every 5 minutes to break up a fight, and leave the cooking area every 3 minutes to remind people about the rules, and leave the food unattended for at least 10 minutes while you run after someone making very poor choices. I would watch that episode a dozen times, were they ever to get that real with their reality programming.]

But making good food for four people is increasingly wearing on me. I’m tired of the work, I’m tired of checking labels, I’m tired of the exorbitant cost, and I’m tired of being such an annoying stickler.

Plus, it’s a pain that my day generally falls into the pattern:
wake to crying…clean a bottom…prepare food…serve food…attend to crying…
clean a bottom…shuffle people into car…serve food…shuffle people into car…
clean up food…prepare food…serve food…attend to crying…clean a bottom…
clean up after food…serve food….clean up after food…attend to crying…
shuffle people into car…prepare food…serve food…clean a bottom…clean up after food…prepare food…fall asleep

I’m getting tired of cooking my own beans to avoid BPA and making my own marinara to avoid BPA and putting everything in washable bags to avoid phthalates and refusing to do disposable to avoid adding to the landfill and buying local and organic at three times the price to avoid pesticides and herbicides and petroleum and child labor.

Then Eric Schlosser goes and writes something new that reminds me why we do this. Pseudofood is killing the planet, killing people, and killing farmers. I want to rip out the backyard, plant a bigger edible garden, write letters to local and national government, run for political office, take on the restaurant and agriculture lobbies, and rebuild the FDA and USDA to serve consumers.

Because what we’re eating now is not food. And the more people who know that, the better the food we get will become. And the less often I will have my kid come home from a birthday party full of modern marvels labeled as food.

[Of this I’m enormously jealous, by the way. I want to go back to a time when a blue tongue was fun rather than a source of stress, and when sugar was fun not toxic. But that ship has sailed.]

On the record

Okay, it’s official. I’m going to go way out on a limb and proclaim:

Fourteen hours a day (every single day) with small children is too much. But at least it’s not sixteen.

Five years of fourteen hours a day with small children (three of those years were actually sixteen hours a day, which is how I know fourteen is an improvement), with ten days total away (ten days of one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five, which is 99.45% work days) is too much.

Four years of major sleep disruptions (waking at least every three hours, generally more) is too much.

Further, seared polenta topped with goat cheese and marinara, followed by sliced beets and goat cheese glazed with balsamic, followed by honey on goat cheese is too much.

But just as I wouldn’t change the reasons I have had only ten days off in five years and haven’t slept well and haven’t had a complete thought to myself in I can’t remember how long…just as I wouldn’t change those decisions, I wouldn’t change the cheese addiction, either. Given all the legal and illegal coping mechanisms out there, cheese is at least a decent source of protein.

The bad news is…

Nine reasons I will not lose one ounce of baby weight on my ear-infection-allergy elimination program:

1. Coconut butter
2. Spicy olives
3. Cumin fried chickpeas
4. Taro chips
5. Homemade granola bars
6. Raw pistachios
7. Mochi with strawberry jam
8. Cashews
9. Candy canes

(Did I mention I’m not dropping sugar? Or tree nuts. Dairy, wheat, soy, egg, peanut, chocolate, citrus, potato, corn, and tomato are enough. Enough, I tell you.)

(Seriously. Love has limits.)

(Mine does, anyway.)

Artisan pizza attacked, film at eleven

Handmade Gator Pizza Wheel Lies in Wait

Then Devours Local Five-Cheese Pizza

Authorities Say Cheese-Thirsty Gator Will Strike Again...

(I had to stage the last photo because the pizza wheel is so finely machined that nothing sticks to it.)

Here’s to having a knife-making artist in the family. Glad you’re putting your education to good use, dude.

So, so wrong

Crossing the street, I saw something red in the road. My heart skipped a beat as I thought it might be a Red Vine. I actually started thinking about whether it would be wrong to eat faux licorice out of the street when I realized it was some sort of electrical tubing.

And *then* I realized I have a problem.

Surely I should have known before this little incident? Or been shocked when I realized I wasn’t even a little embarrassed that I have the germ ethics of a toddler?

Month late and $23 short

Decided upon my resolutions for this year…other than joining the 2666 group read.

I’m gonna make my own pasta and bread. Starting now. Peanut and I are measuring the insanely simple ingredients for egg noodles. We already make our own pesto, so tonight is fettucine and pesto all from scratch.

Sourdough starter is fermenting and bacteria-ifying right now for a project later this week.

And any one of you who suggests I get back to my other to-do lists, or who suggests that a few weeks before a new baby is not the time for labor-intensive resolutions can suck it.

*You* can be in charge of telling the Democrats to pull out the old reels of Republicans insisting that the fillibuster is un-American and every policy should get an up or down vote. And I will proof and roll out dough and bake.

Feels more promising of results, somehow, than getting the Democrats to grow a pair and move left instead of rending garments and weeping.

An anonymous note

Look, all I’m saying is that, if you leave your favorite chocolate out in plain view, where anyone cleaning out the closets in a end-of-the-year fit of “I have to have something to show for my year besides half finished articles, unpublished novels, a couple of conference badges, and a temporarily delightful three-year-old” productivity in which he or she moves the furniture around [again] and reorganizes the closets, why then I think said chocolate is fair game.

It was only tucked into the pocket of a jacket you rarely use, probably in a vain attempt to foil my chocolate radar. Unfortunately, you should know me well enough to know I’m more of a candy hoarder than a candy eater (if that’s possible) and that I’m always checking closet pockets for cash, anyway.

So, really, it’s your fault. For the obvious hiding place and for the general ignorance of the rules of chocolate engagement.

That’s all. Not my fault. Totally your fault.

Also, not the best chocolate, either. You have poor taste in chocolate and hiding places. Wipe off that sourpuss and go get some Guittard. I left you some of your stuff. Now get me a substitute before I finish your stash. The other hiding spots are dry.

Just what the doctor ordered

No, not swine flu vax. Still don’t have access. And not a healthy diet or steady exercise. Because I prefer organic unhealthy and sporadic respectively, thank you very much.

No, the Rx of which I speak was a solo trip to New York for personal and professional reasons. Was it a success? Aye.

Seeing old friends has always been my drug of choice. It makes me feel so intensely good I can’t put into words how I value faces and voices that span all the phases of my seriously stunted personal development. It was miraculous to see some of the people I thought had disappeared into the aether. (Yeah, I went Victorian on that one. I debated the contemporary spelling, but I just finished a George Eliot book and am sprinkling my life with the nineteenth century. For fun and profit. Well, really just fun, but you never know.) So it was lovely to see half a dozen people I value above sleep. (Yes, you five, I did just say I value you above that which I’ve dedicated my life to finding, achieving, and relishing. How do you like them apples?) All this in a setting where I wasn’t chasing a small child or trying to keep him occupied with things he likes so I can do what I like: sitting like a lump discussing books and food and politics and life.

It was also a great relief to get in one more conference before the Baby Formerly Known as Vomitron arrives. I had intended to polish and publish as many articles as I could before next fall and to apply to PhD programs as Peanut settled into what I hope will be a better year for both of us. The onset of 15 weeks of nausea made me reconsider, deflate lethargically, then kick the plans into high gear. The conference reassured me that 1)Some of my work makes me a viable candidate for consideration at the journals and Universities to which I’d apply; 2)I must continue to function at as high a level as possible for the next few months, because academia will just not be possible in 2010; and 3)the stuff on which I wanted to focus my scholarship ten years ago may actually start making its way into the mainstream soon, which is freaking awesome timing, all things considered (and Vomitron willing).

But the highlight of the trip was the food. I love good food, and I certainly have access in San Francisco and Berkeley. Really good food. Really, really good….but here’s the thing. Food eaten on vacation with friends in New York City in the just-beginning-to-crisp autumn achieves a whole new level of great over that which is sandwiched in between gulps and eyebrows that remind, constantly, exactly what the babysitter is costing. Some of the dishes in NY (gnocchi alla sorrentina, a grecian omelette, and pret a manger soup grabbed between conference panels) were fine but not spectacular. And some were as well balanced and nuanced as anything I’d had before (a bread pudding of perfect consistency, a brilliant artisan cheese and local veggies omelette, the freaking mindblowing TKO and linzers at Bouchon, and a brie sandwich on cranberry baguette).

But the absolute best time, money, and calories spent were achieved via a raging 25-month sheeps’ milk local artisan cheese from the farmer’s market is still coating my palate with a NYC magnet, pulling me to go back. And telling me that despite my instincts, there need be no punctuation in the above cheese’s hyper-adjectival clause. Cause a pause would ruin the magic, yo.

Believe me, cheese guy, if I could afford to, I would be back tomorrow. Because I have to get more of that cheese and give it to all my friends. Heck, I’ll even bring Peanut this time. Because he should totally get to see NYC at night in autumn. I loved it. Even more delightful this time than it was 13 years ago.

(Holy crap I’m old. Way to kill the mood about a great trip and future successes by recalling how many years have passed since I was vibrant and carefree. Geez. I need more of that cheese to salve my wounds. Oh, look. Brought home a pound. Good thinking.)

We have to move again

It’s not what you think. Not my gypsy wanderlust or my refusal to realize that geography is less my problem than the reality of my personality being located deep in the heart of F—ed Up Head Case Land.

No, the problem is that our choice of Northern California, land of the local, slow food movement, means there’s no crappy high fructose craving food for MILES. My favorite, a confection involving soft serve blended into a grittle-y ice granule and syrup concoction, is available 14 miles away, if I’m willing to drive into the center of the solar flare that is the east East Bay. My second favorite, an ice granule and syrup concoction (one more toothsome that then whirred popular stuff the consistency of cold mashed potatoes, and where, at least in my childhood, you could control your own application of syrup which unleashed possibilities of flavor mixing and sugar comas the likes of which thrilled a younger me), is nowhere nearby. I emailed the company, which is still in business 20 years after my last craving, to find out where they sell my sugary ice crystals. Two states over, it seems, is a safe bet…

So we have to move. Because mama needs a blue raspberry something, and I don’t want that ubiquitous air and mashed potato frozen nonsense from a convenience store.

What do you NEED from your childhood that is nowhere nearby? Wanna borrow my wayback machine when I’m done with it?