Pilgrim’s Progress: To be or not to be vegan

eggsLast spring (there was one, I’m sure of it) a friend of mine shared an article explaining why she would not eat eggs even if she were able to gather them from her own home-raised chickens. The article was eye-opening, and I confess I wished I hadn’t read it. I’m not yet vegan, and eggs and good, vegetarian appropriate cheeses are a part of my diet that I very much enjoy.

I did read it, though, and having read it, I felt compelled to think about the content of the article and how it applies to my own life and values. I wasn’t yet ready to make a decision to become vegan, but I did decide to experiment more with vegan food. As part of that plan, I thought I might try growing microgreens in my home so I could enjoy fresh, nutritious salads every day, all year ’round.

Then I got sick. Antibiotics caused an intestinal infection that just wouldn’t go away. There was little I could eat, and I lost quite a bit of weight. Three doctors treated me and declared me well although I clearly wasn’t. I took matters into my own hands and tried to figure out how to manage what I was beginning to think might be problem for the rest of my life. I had some success with that but was finally told by a fourth doctor that I still had the infection. He treated it successfully, and everything is 100% now.

I’m rarely sick and never chronically. I was discouraged by this four-month experience. My microgreens experiment didn’t happen. I wasn’t able to eat any raw fruits or veggies! A succession of diets didn’t work. The diets recommended for intestinal issues exclude carbohydrates, some more extravagantly than others. They are built around animal products, some including more than others: eggs, some cheeses, fish, chicken and even meat. At first I restricted myself to eggs and cooked white potatoes, but as time went on, this became impossible.

My vegan explorations were at an end. Even vegetarianism was difficult. At one point, I was told the only thing that would work for me was bone broth. Hmmm. Nonetheless, I dutifully made bone broth, and when I sat to drink it, thanked the creature that gave its life for me.

Eventually I found a diet that did work for me as a vegetarian even though I still had the infection. If you are an IBS sufferer, I will be happy to tell you about this diet, which has proven effective in 90% of cases. It doesn’t exclude carbohydrates indiscriminately, just certain carbohydrates, and for very specific (tested) reasons. Although it was limited, it was less limited than all protein no carb diets. It also offered the hope that I might return to my former eating style, which is virtually all carbohydrates.

Although my plan to experiment more with veganism was temporarily diverted, and even vegetarianism was off the table for a while in the struggle to get well, I learned a great deal. I also had an opportunity to think even more carefully than I usually do about what is on my plate. In fact, I actually ate every meal on a plate! People in the food business are notorious for eating “on the run.” No more of that for me! Good digestion begins with sitting down in a focused way and thoroughly chewing every bite of food, at least 25 chews, to be exact. Try it: you will become very aware of how quickly and carelessly you usually eat.

So what did I learn? I learned about the digestive tract and how each part of it functions, including, as I mentioned, the importance of mental focus and careful chewing. I discovered  that a high protein, low or no carb diet, as unhealthy as it may be in the long run, will result in weight loss. I learned that certain sugars in carbohydrates are indigestible and that while this doesn’t cause a problem for many people — for some it does. I learned that meat and fish can be more digestible than carbohydrates for some and may be life saving. I gained more insight into the gluten-free wave that is washing over us, and I will write about that in a future post. I learned that for those who suffer from IBS, there is a way to manage it and live a normal life — perhaps even overcome it.

Most of all, I gained a new appreciation for the sentiment behind one of the daily Jewish blessings: “Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has formed man in wisdom, and created in him a system of ducts and tubes. It is well-known before Your glorious throne that if but one of these be opened, or if one of those be closed, it would be impossible to exist in Your presence…”

We are amazing creatures, as all creatures and creation itself are amazing.

Now that I’m well, I look forward to once again experimenting with vegan foods. You can watch this process in my blog! Not all the recipes are  or will be vegan, but eventually I will offer vegan alternatives to all. It is a work in progress, as am I.

Sweet Pepper Salad


peppers final

I love the colors in this salad, and I love the color contrasts among my salads! I usually use red bell peppers, but orange or yellow bell peppers or any mix of the three will work equally well.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 red, yellow or orange bell peppers
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, hand minced
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Szeged hot paprika
  • 1/3 bunch cilantro, chopped

Procedure

  1. Wash peppers.
  2. Smoke or brown peppers under the broiler. I usually use a broiler for this and turn the peppers several times so they are evenly “burned” and the skin starts to wrinkle.
  3. Remove the skins. I also cut away a little of the white pulpy material that attaches to the core but leave most of the seeds.
  4. Slice peppers into strips. Cut across the strips into shorter pieces.
  5. Place pepper strips into a mixing bowl with their juices and some seeds.
  6. Add remaining ingredients to taste.

 peppers cut

 image

First cut the peppers lengthwise into strips, then across  into shorter pieces. Makes about 1 quart of salad.

A Shabbat Meditation

sunrise

I hosted a Shabbat dinner last evening and shared with my guests the 39 categories of work that are prohibited on the Sabbath. These categories, set out in the Mishnah, reflect the work associated with preparing the showbread for the ancient Temple (agricultural labors) and with building the tabernacle and creating the priestly vestments.

These categories of work are relevant to a time and a place, and over the centuries, ongoing interpretation has made them relevant to other times and places. The question that generates these prohibitions is the commandment that we should “rest” on the Sabbath. The question, therefore, is “What does ‘rest’ mean?” I can almost hear the rabbis discussing that concept.

The rabbis also make positive statements associated with the fourth commandment, to honor the Sabbath. These commandments and traditions include wearing festive clothing and refraining from unpleasant conversation, reciting kiddush over a cup of wine at the beginning of Shabbat meals or after morning prayers, eating three festive meals, engaging in pleasurable activities such as singing, studying, spending time with the family and marital relations, and reciting havdalah at the end of the Sabbath. It is the prohibitions, though, that have the status of commandments.

It occurs to me that with the prohibitions, the rabbis create a space for us to experience the meaning of “rest” freely instead of dictating what our experience should be. They are, in effect, modeling the freedom of Shabbat, freedom of worship.

The rabbis are confident that if we do not engage in the activities which fill our days, we will have a different kind of experience, an experience that will revolutionize our worldview. The prohibitions create a space for each of us to have that experience. We enhance the possibility of experience by engaging in the positive activities.

A tradition says that if every Jewish person observed Shabbat in all its particulars twice in a row, the Messiah would come (Shabbat 118). I believe that possibility exists because a complete Sabbath experience  has the power to revolutionize perspective and worldview and as a result, one’s way of acting in the world.

Lebanese Potato Salad

Lebanese Potato Salad - Final

This potato salad is my version of a Lebanese classic. It is the vegan version of my Dill Potato Salad, also posted in this blog. I like to use turmeric with potatoes whenever I can, leave the peels on potatoes and take advantage of the beautiful variety of colorful potato skins these days. I always start lighter with my seasonings and adjust them up to what is listed in the recipe if needed.

Ingredients

  • 6 lb. potatoes (2/3 white/yellow skins, 1/3 red and/or purple skins)
  • 1 TB salt
  • 1 TB turmeric
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped dill
  • 3 green onions chopped
  • 2-3 Middle Eastern dill pickles chopped
  • 4-5 TB lemon juice (juice of about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Procedure

  1. Using a variety of potatoes to give color to the salad and leaving the peels on, dice into 1″ pieces.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil and add 1 TB turmeric.  Add diced potatoes, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and cook until done (can be pierced through easily with a fork).
  3. When done, remove potatoes from water, drain, chill quickly in ice water bath, and drain again.
  4. Place chilled potatoes in bowl. Sprinkle olive oil over them, then lemon juice, then chopped dill, green onions and seasonings.
  5. Fold all together gently, adjust seasoning, enjoy!

Lebanese Potato Salad - Dressed

These potatoes are cut in a 1″ dice and cooked in boiling water with tumeric.

Lebanese Potato Salad Additions

These are additional chopped ingredients. Take a look at that 3d printed lemon juicer that my son printed for me! It sits on a cup and is the best juicer I’ve ever had. The shape of the “cone” makes the difference.

Lebanese Potato Salad - PreMix

Potatoes with all ingredients waiting to be folded in to complete the salad.