On Vegetating

On Vegetating

I like food, plant food, that is — I like to plant, grow and eat it. I like to serve it to others and recycle it to contribute to next year’s harvest. I like working and being outdoors, walking and hiking (and am not a fan of health clubs). I like to study Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, especially the first five books, the Torah. Most of all, I like to think about all these things and what they have to say about the meaning of life. I started my blog when I decided to explore veganism, and it has led not just to recipes and farming but to a reexamination of the biblical text from a different perspective and to thoughts about ethics, ecology, evolution, animal rights, the human place in creation and more. I explore and refresh my own spirituality through these projects.

Black Bean Soup

(Makes 1.5 Gallons)


  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/2 cup
  • Spanish Onions, 1 lg., small diced
  • Garlic, 16 cloves (2 TB minced)
  • Carrots, 1/2 lb., small diced
  • Celery, 5 lg. stalks, small diced
  • Red bell pepper, 1 lg., small diced
  • Black beans, 3 lb.
  • Plum tomatoes, 1 lb. petite diced (about 8) or one 19-oz. can petite diced)
  • Tomato paste, 1-6 oz. can
  • Water, about 4-5 quarts
  • Salt, 1 TB (to taste)
  • Cumin, 2 TB
  • Hot chili powder, 1-1/2 tsp.
  • Hot paprika, 1-1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon or lime to taste
  • Cilantro and red pepper garnish


  1. Prepare the beans – read my post: http://vegetatingwithleslie.org/?p=818
  2. Add extra virgin olive oil to another pot, covering the bottom to about 1/8″.
  3. Add onions and garlic to saute briefly.
  4. Add diced veggies and saute briefly until softened.
  5. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Simmer for a moment or two and remove from burner while preparing beans.
  6. Drain cooked beans in a colander over a bowl to capture cooking liquid.
  7. Measure the cooking liquid and add 4-5 quarts to the tomato and veggie mixture along with the beans (add less to start if you use the blanch-soak method of bean preparation).
  8. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook the soup until all has blended together well, beans are very tender and soup has reached desired thickness.
  9. I usually mash some of the soup with a potato ricer.
  10. Add lemon or lime if desired.
  11. Adjust liquid and other seasonings.
  12. Garnish with chopped red peppers and cilantro and serve.



I love babaganoush with its creaminess and fresh taste. I used to make mine with labne, a Middle Eastern yogurt spread, but this vegan version, made with Tahina Sauce, is just as creamy and good.

Although a good variety of smoked paprika will give a beautiful smoky flavor to the babaganoush, smoking the eggplants rather than running them under the broiler will accomplish the same.

(Makes about a quart)



  • Eggplants, 3 lg.
  • Tahina, 1/2 cup
  • Lemon, ½ juiced (up to 1 TB)
  • Garlic, 1 tsp., (or 2 cloves, minced)
  • Sea salt, 1.5 tsp.
  • Cumin, 1.5 tsp.
  • Szeged hot paprika, ½ tsp.
  • Smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp. (Opt.)
  • Parsley, 1-3 oz. (start with 1 oz., add until the mixture has a beautiful light green cast)


  1. Roast eggplant with peels on under the broiler to blacken skin (about 15 minutes, turning every five minutes).
  2. Cool eggplant.
  3. Remove skin from flesh, and drain thoroughly (an hour is best, but at least while preparing the remainder of the recipe).
  4. Place roughly chopped parsley in a food processor bowl. Process until fairly smooth, scraping down the sides. Set aside.
  5. Mince garlic in processor.
  6. Add cooled, peeled, drained eggplant to processor bowl with garlic.
  7. Add Tahina Sauce, lemon juice and seasonings to the processor bowl with eggplant and garlic. Pulse all until barely mixed. DO NOT OVER-PROCESS. It should have texture.
  8. Taste, and add hot paprika as desired (or not) — and add parsley as desired. Pulse once or twice to mix in.


9. Spread on a dish for serving, garnish with extra virgin olive oil, Tahina Sauce, parsley or paprika or sumac or za’atar and enjoy.

Salad for breakfast

My favorite ingredients for Israeli/Jerusalem Salad: tomato, cucumber, red bell peppers, avocado, red onion . . . and sometimes I add a little finely chopped cilantro.

“The breakfast of champions is not cereal, it’s the opposition” …Nick Seitz

Finding a breakfast cereal without sugar can be challenging. Finding one that doesn’t taste like sawdust even more so. I propose a solution to this problem: an Israeli-style breakfast.

I visited Israel for the first time almost 40 years ago. Israel is one of those places that floods one’s mind and senses with thoughts and images. It resonates with the voices of its history and culture, voices which have become part of so many of us through biblical literature although we may have never been to Israel.

One of the most memorable experiences I had on that first visit was totally unanticipated: an Israeli breakfast. Originally a very simple meal, Israeli breakfasts have become famous. Many contemporary restaurants specialize in elaborate versions of it.

Israeli breakfasts originated with the halutzim (early pioneers). Quickly prepared from local ingredients, the meal featured a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onion and perhaps avocado, dressed with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Other typical components of the meal were soft cheeses, hard boiled eggs, pickles, olives and bread. Beans in the form of  hummus (a chickpea “dip”) or ful (fava beans) might also be part of the meal. Ful is the breakfast food of choice in Egypt and is served up with lemon, chopped garlic, onions and olive oil.

When I returned home from that first trip, I began to make a simple version of the Israeli breakfast every morning. Although my knife skills are unfortunate, I became proficient in the small dice typical of an Israeli or Jerusalem salad. We sometimes enjoyed dicing contests to see who could make the salad most quickly and with the most precision.

I love to make Israeli Salad. Because of its precision (some would call it tedious), it requires focus, especially if you don’t have great knife skills. For me, it’s “vegetative,” that is, a meditative exercise involving beautiful vegetables:


(Serves four along with other breakfast items)
Plum tomatoes, 6 ripe but firm
Pickling cucumbers, 2-3 or Persian cucumbers,* 3-4
Green onions, 2
Red bell peppers, 1-2
Avocado (opt.), 1-2 ripe but firm
Cilantro (opt.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper

*Pickling cucumbers are preferable because of their finer grain and because they require no deseeding. Persian cucumbers are even better where available.

Although not necessary if the salad is eaten immediately, deseeding the tomatoes extends the time the salad will last without drowning in its own juices. Cut all the veggies into a uniform 1/4″ dice. Chop the onions and cilantro. Add extra virgin olive oil, the juice of a lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

VIDEO #1: For a demo of the dice, see the video my son created of himself preparing Israeli/Jerusalem salad in my cafe (mandolin optional – I do it by hand): http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bzEcBa9bzu0.

VIDEO #2: Here’s one more video – a session I did at our Woodstock Farmers Market on the Israeli Breakfast. I’m a good deal slower and less expert than my son, but here’s the good news: if I can make this salad, anyone can! – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XNAdGkxq5vc

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Israeli White Bean Soup

Israeli White Bean Soup


(Makes about 1 gal.)


  • Olive Oil, 1/3 cup
  • Garlic, 1 TB
  • Spanish onion, 1 lg, petite diced
  • Celery, 2 lg stalks, bias cut
  • Carrots, 2 lg, bias cut
  • Potatoes, 5 size “A” potatoes, 1″ dice, skin on
  • Cumin, 1 TB
  • Tomato, 8 lg plum tomatoes, petite diced, or one  28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • Tomato Paste,  3 heaping TB or to desired thickness
  • Salt, 2 tsp or to taste
  • Szeged hot paprika, 1 tsp
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch, chopped
  • White beans (Navy Pea Beans or Canellini), 2 lb. dried
  • Water, 3 quarts to start


  1. Add olive oil to a pot large enough to hold the entire soup, and saute garlic.
  2. Add petite diced or chopped onions and sauté.
  3. Rinse beans well, and put in pot to cook with fresh water to cover, about 3 quarts. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to simmer, cover pot and cook ’til beans are almost tender.
  4. Add celery and carrots cut on the bias. Simmer for about 10 minutes, adding more water if needed.
  5. Add potatoes, diced tomatoes tomato paste, and continue to simmer until the potatoes are barely tender.
  6. Add remaining seasonings and water to desired thickness, and bring soup back to simmer.
  7. When finished, the soup should be thick with veggies and beans but with enough broth to be soup.
  8. Add chopped cilantro at end of cooking process, and remove from heat.

7-Grain Spelt Bread

buns rising 04_sm

I love this beautiful comment from a post in the Weston Price website. The author is contrasting modern bread-making methods with the ways grains were traditionally handled and breads made:

“Grains comprise a wholesome category of foods that must be respected for the complexity of nutrient contributions they can make to the human diet, and must always be prepared with care to maximize those nutrients’ availability as well as neutralize naturally occurring antinutrients. . .

“Growing and preparing food ought to be a sacramental service. It should not be based on violence, as is most of modern agriculture, factory animal farms and factories that produce finished food items like bread. All those processes are based on “conquering” the food item and forcing it into a form defined by commerce. There are no more subtle energies in these debased foods, let alone mere measureable nutrients or soul-satisfying taste and vitality.

“Food is holy. Its preparation and enjoyment constitute a daily opportunity to experience happiness, satisfaction and gratitude.”

I make this 7-Grain Spelt Bread weekly. Spelt is an ancient, easier-to-digest grain. My recipe uses little or no sugar and about 1/3 the yeast in most contemporary bread recipes. Allow plenty of rising time, at least 1-1/2 hours each time. I’m anxious to test out a sourdough version!

(Makes about 40 buns)

  • Bob’s Red Mill 7-grain cereal, 2-1/2 cups (14 oz.)
  • Boiling water, 5 cups
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup
  • Sugar, 1 tsp. (opt.)
  • Dry yeast, 1 tsp.
  • Spelt flour, 4 cups (1 lb. 5 oz.)
  • Unbleached white flour, 3 cups (1 lb. – if you’re happy with a denser texture and longer rising time, replace white with spelt flour)
  • Salt, 1 TB


  1. Boil the water, stir the 7-grain cereal into it.
  2. Let the cereal soak for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add oil, sugar and yeast to cereal mixture. Stir in and let sit.
  4. Mix flours and salt together.
  5. Mix flours into cereal mixture.
  6. Knead the entire mix on a smooth, lightly floured surface or knead mechanically for 10 minutes. I use my Kitchenaid mixer.
  7. The dough should be very slightly sticky. Keep as light as possible.
  8. Knead dough by hand into a smooth ball.
  9. Place in a well-oiled bowl and oil top of dough. Cover with non-porous material. Plastic garbage bags work. I clean and re-use the same bag every week.
  10. Let rise 1-2 hours. Punch down. Let rise again if there’s time. If not, continue to next step.
  11. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure, pull off a piece of dough and pack it into the cup.
  12. Remove from cup, knead slightly, press smooth side down into cup. Tap firmly on counter to remove from cup and place on baking sheet.
  13. Repeat this process until all buns have been formed.
  14. Cover buns and let rise.
  15. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
  16. Remove from oven, cool, enjoy.


When life hands you lemons…

Three years ago when I was working more on the front lines of my Cafe, I wrote a post about the fun I had serving up real lemonade to an employee and her friends using my (then) new professional lemon juicer. I’m sharing that post below.

Now I spend more of my time in civilian life, and I have a new juicer better suited to this environment. Who’d have thought it would be possible to transfer affections to a new lemon juicer so quickly and easily?! But I have!

When I complained about the shape, cumbersomeness and relative ineffectiveness of home kitchen juicers on the market, my son 3d printed a lemon juicer for me. And I’m telling you, this is true LOVE. It’s the perfect shape (look at that beautiful shape in the picture), it squeezes every drop from the lemon, it’s easy to clean, to use and to store.

For more information about Jeremy’s 3d print projects or business, see www.3duniverse.org and www.shop3duniverse.com.

* * * * * *

“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” -Alfred E. Newman

I squeeze a lot of lemons every day. After five years of daily lemon squeezing, I finally purchased a professional lemon squeezer, the kind they use in fairs. It’s an incredible technological advance in my life. I love it!

Still, my lemon squeezer is a single function tool. It squeezes lemons for salads I make every day in my vegetarian cafe. It needed a larger purpose in life.

One day I put a little unfiltered sugar in a cup, squeezed a half lemon over it, tossed in the rind, swished it around, filled the cup with ice, added water, clapped a lid over the cup and shook. I handed the result to my employee. She drank, looked stunned and said, “Amazing.” She shared her drink with friends, who performed similarly.

This employee is 40 years younger than I as are her friends. Noting her ecstasy over the drink, I wondered if it was possible she had never had real lemonade before? Sure enough, prior to this moment lemonade for her was something made with water and canned powder. She had no idea you could just make lemonade from . . . well, real lemons.

Have you ever compared the ingredient list on a lemon with the ingredient list on one of those cans of lemonade mix? Here is a typical powdered lemonade mix ingredient list: Sugar, Fructose, Citric Acid, Less Than 2% Of Natural Flavor, Ascorbic Acid, Maltodextrin, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Citrate, Magnesium Oxide, Calcium Fumarate, Artificial Color, Yellow 5 Lake, Tocopherol.

Compare that list to: Lemon. A lemon, with its nutrients, micronutrients and phytonutrients, with its fiber and its ability to lower the glycemic index of accompanying foods. Most of all a lemon with all of its taste. A plain lemon, packaged in its own beautiful (integrated) yellow self.

It turns out real lemonade is not only more nutritious and about as easy to make as lemonade from a powdered mix — but tastier. According to the 20+ set, it is “Amazing!”

Forty years ago, I began a campaign to bring back real food. I raised my kids on it. Today I feed it to my customers. Everybody loves it! Why did we ever give it up? What did real food ever do to us but keep us healthy and happy?

Real Lemonade
0 – 2 TB Organic Sugar
Juice of 1/2 LG Juicy Lemon
1/2 Lemon Rind
Filtered Water

Wash one lemon. Add sugar to taste to the bottom of a drink mixer or cup with a cover. Squeeze over it the juice of 1/2 lemon, reserving the rind. Swish sugar and lemon juice until mixed. Add ice to the top of the shaker or cup. Fill shaker or cup with water. Secure the lid, and shake. Enjoy your lemonade.

Body Language


I grew up in the Methodist Church. When I was young, my Dad was the minister in the church we attended. I remember the sights and sounds and how much I liked sitting in services surrounded by them. One sight in particular that imprinted itself is the little gothic arch-shaped board at the front that featured the hymn numbers for the day. The numbers on that board pointed to a rich sound experience, the hymns we would sing at three points during the service. There is something very powerful about a roomful of Methodists standing to sing those old and familiar tunes accompanied by an organ.  As I participated in the experience, I became part of it.

As I grew older, like so many young people, I was searching, but I wasn’t quite sure for what. I visited all kinds of services and read about various religions. I admired many things that I read or saw and experienced in the services of other denominations and religions. I enjoyed extended stays in some religious environments. For a while, I was Congregationalist — because my friend’s father was the minister of that church. It felt familiar and homey. I loved the splendor and color of Catholic services. Buddhist philosophy attracted me.  For awhile, I was Baptist.

As I look back on it, what attracted me to the Baptist Church was really a sign of where I was headed. When I visited a Baptist Church for the first time, I liked that there were Bibles stored in racks in the pews and that during the service, we took those books out of the racks and held them in our hands and read from them. Of course I loved many parts of the text, so familiar to me, but it was the physical act of taking out the book at a particular time and holding it and opening it that was most meaningful.

At a later time, I became interested in Judaism. Initially it was an intellectual attraction. What I read worked for me, and I wanted to read more. It wasn’t until I had been part of a Jewish community for several years, though, and constantly seeking and reading and experiencing as I was in that community, that I found the center point of my journey.

For several years, my experience and my learning were conducted in a Reform environment – and in an academic environment. I had a sense I was missing something but wasn’t sure what that something was. Then one day I visited a traditional synagogue where the scrolls were taken out of the ark with a cascade of ritual activity and bodily movement. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and tears  filled my eyes. I couldn’t have put into words then exactly what that experience meant to me, but I knew I wanted more of it. That morning was the first step of my journey into the traditional corners of Judaism.

Now I know that what so moved me was ritual engagement: I call it “body language.” Judaism is a life filled with ritual activity, life enhancing movements that point to transcendence and deeper meaning. It was always non-verbal body language, ritual, that communicated meaning to me, from checking the numbers in the gothic arch-shaped sign and taking a hymnal, opening it, turning to a page, standing and singing beloved songs, to the Bibles in pews that I could anticipate picking up,  opening and holding at a particular time to read well-known passages once again.

When I first glimpsed traditional Judaism, I felt as though I had come into an amazing and brilliant garden of ritual activity that spoke to me in ways and with a power I could have hardly imagined before I experienced it. At every moment of a day, whether in a worship environment or engaged in daily activities, there are ways to place or move one’s body  — or to eat! — that communicate meaning. Even sitting in an Orthodox women’s section, an experience that so many non-traditional women view negatively, offered me opportunities for joy and religious growth. The physical experience of my body in that space and in that time communicated to me in ways that nothing else could have.

I also notice that when people try to explain the meaning of a ritual or particular body language, for example, sitting in the women’s section during synagogue services, it loses me.  How is it possible to  communicate anything but the most general concepts in language? Completely lost is the specificity of individual experience since no person shares another person’s bodily experience except in the most general ways. It is the intense individuality of the ritual experience that can make it so deeply meaningful.

How can you explain the taste of a matzah to another person? Each matzah tastes different not only because of where and how it was made but because of the moment and surroundings in which it is eaten and because of the person eating it as they are in that moment and in all their prior moments. It tastes different because of the words that are spoken at the time of eating and because of the level of awareness.

Eating matzah may have a general meaning brought to it through the education and liturgy common to all who share in a seder, a Passover meal, but it can also have a very powerful and specific meaning to each person at the celebration.

Rituals exalt mundane activities and give them meaning. They point to something beyond themselves: in the context of religion, they point to transcendence.  Rituals do this not only within the general framework of what a religion teaches but in very specific and personal ways for the person in the moment.

As structured experience, rituals lift mundane activities like eating. They do this without words, which can educate and shape a person but can also distract one and disturb religious experience. I remember many occasions when a sermon included concepts that either irritated or alienated me — or included information that I wanted to be sure to check later. In those cases, I was more involved with trying to remember what it was that I wanted to check than with the experience I might have been having.

At one seder I attended, our host asked us to maintain silence after hand-washing and for a few moments while tasting the matzah. How powerful this wordless experience was, both in its general sense in the context of a seder and its deeply personal sense communicated through the experience.

Contrary to popular evaluations of ritual as mindless repetition, I believe ritual is an aid to conscious choices. Applied to my food choices, ritual heightens and focuses my awareness. It invites me to experience what I am eating more fully and to experience and express gratitude when I am satisfied.

Gluten: Public Enemy #1?

rolls rising

I’ve been cooking from scratch with whole foods for more than forty years. I have been vegetarian several times, most recently for more than 15 years. Now I am experimenting more with vegan foods.

During these forty plus years, I have tried to stay current on what we know about food and its relationship to our health. I have watched food “issues” come and go, including eggs, on the “hit list” for so many years, now not necessarily. If I were to eliminate every food that we’ve been told to eliminate, either by the medical profession or alternative health gurus, there would probably be nothing left to eat.

In this country of plenty (for many), we are particularly prone to demonizing categories of food, and someday I will write a post about the impulses behind this self-deprivation. I think of Der Hunger Kunstler (The Hunger Artist) by Franz Kafka.

Still, I am considering a next step. As I contemplate removing another class of food items from my own diet, namely eggs and cheese, I am sometimes frustrated and sometimes amused by an ever-growing list of forbidden foods. Grains and gluten are just two of the more recent on the food hit list.

I continue to consider grains my friends, despite the fact that most have gluten. I eat and enjoy wheat, oats, barley and more with no debilitating after effects even though grains are theoretically new to human consumption entering our food supply just 10,000 years ago. That appears to have been long enough ago for my system.

One day in my cafe, I was told by a customer who requested gluten free products that everyone suffers gluten sensitivity nowadays. This surprised me, since I definitely do not. I couldn’t help but think of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a story I read as a child. Did I dare to contradict what is increasingly becoming universally accepted truth, that we are all suffering from gluten sensitivity? Could I possibly suggest that the emperor might be naked, or at least partially so?

Still, I believed I owed it to my customers and myself to go beyond the evidence of my own body and read up on what the issues may be for others. I did read as many articles as I could find dealing with the issue of gluten and grains from all sides and perspectives. I read reviews on the articles to be sure I wasn’t led astray by the hype on this issue coming from all directions. I spent many days on the project but in the end found little that sounded credible or made any sense to me. For every statement, there was a counter statement that made at least as strong an argument.

Finally I came across an article on the Weston Price website (www.westonaprice.org) that had a ring of truth for me. It fit with my general ideas about the source of problems in our food supply: processing. Titled “Against the Grain,” it explores in some depth how grains have historically been prepared for consumption and in contrast how little of that correct preparation goes into them in contemporary times:

“Grains comprise a wholesome category of foods that must be respected for the complexity of nutrient contributions they can make to the human diet, and must always be prepared with care to maximize those nutrients’ availability as well as neutralize naturally occurring antinutrients. . .

“Growing and preparing food ought to be a sacramental service. It should not be based on violence, as is most of modern agriculture, factory animal farms and factories that produce finished food items like bread. All those processes are based on “conquering” the food item and forcing it into a form defined by commerce. There are no more subtle energies in these debased foods, let alone mere measureable nutrients or soul-satisfying taste and vitality.

“Food is holy. Its preparation and enjoyment constitute a daily opportunity to experience happiness, satisfaction and gratitude.”

Specifically grains have always been fermented (including raising breads several times) and/or cooked for long periods of time before use. In modern day processing, however, chemicals are used to advance the process.

Speeding the process has not always been a function of chemicals either. We all think sugar (a “natural” substance) is required to feed the yeast if the bread is going to rise properly, right? Actually, there are plenty of sugars in the grains, and no added sugar is required — yet try to find a bread on the supermarket shelves without sugar. Why? Because sugar will make the process go faster. Similarly, little or no yeast is required for bread to rise. Wild yeast is available in the air, and with time, dough can pick it up and will rise without added yeast — yet packages of yeast have almost a tablespoon in them. Why? Because more yeast will make the process go faster.  In factories, bread is rammed through the rising/fermentation process in almost no time.

It makes sense to me that our need for speed has made us neglect some age-old, important techniques in the handling of grains and development of the gluten in our bread. As I read this article, it occurred to me that those who suffer what they perceive to be gluten reactions may actually suffer from abuse to their systems from years of eating manufactured bread products. I also wondered if my own lack of issues with grains is because I have eaten whole grain breads for the last 40 or more years, most of the time made at home and raised the old-fashioned way?

Another experience in my life gave me more insight into the gluten issue. This summer I was sick for four months with an intestinal issue caused by antibiotics. Initially my doctor recommended a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast).  The rice and the toast were both to be white.  This is considered a “low-residue” diet and theoretically puts as little stress as possible on the digestive system. It was kind of fun to eat store-bought white bread for the first time in forty years, and I ate it with relish. It made me sick. Suddenly I was very sympathetic with what all those gluten free people had been telling me.

Eventually I came across a diet that did work for me called The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet. FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are “dietary sugars that can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and fermented by bacteria to produce gas. Current research strongly suggests that this group of sugars contributes to IBSS/FGID symptoms.” (from the App, available in the ITunes store). Many grains, including wheat, are excluded in this diet because they are high in FODMAPS. Bingo!

It seems to me likely that between improper handling of grains and the difficulty of digesting sugars in some carbohydrates there may be the beginning of an explanation for some of our problems with the staff of life. As some have said, casting a wide net over gluten products has probably taken an important element out of the diets of many people who didn’t necessarily need to remove that element. A vegetarian diet without grains is hard to do, vegan even more so.

The good news about the Low FODMAP diet for me was that it allowed me to be selective in a scientifically tested way about what I excluded from my diet instead of casting that huge net over so many foods. The even better news is that not all four sugars cause difficulty for everyone, so in time, it is possible to bring some foods back. Sometimes it is even possible to restore all the foods that were removed from one’s diet.

An excellent article I read recently in the New Yorker pointed to the same two pieces of the gluten puzzle that were verified by my own experience: “Against the Grain” discusses the improper grain handling described in the Weston A. Price article of the same name and the discovery of offending sugars in the Low FODMAP Diet from Monash University.

And now I’m going to go and enjoy one of my delicious 7-grain spelt muffins. Spelt is a type of wheat that is low FODMAP and therefore easier to digest. It makes a beautiful loaf, and although I can eat and enjoy regular whole grain bread, I enjoy experimenting with spelt. Sourdough, with its long fermentation and wild yeast, is better yet since the yeast “eats” the offending sugars.



(Makes 1 – 2 Quarts)


  • Dried chickpeas, 1 lb.
  • Garlic, 2 tsp. or 2 lg. cloves
  • Tahina, 1 cup
  • Lemons, 1/2 cup juice, about 2 lg. lemons
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup
  • Bean liquid, 1/2 – 2 cups, depending on how much water beans absorbed during cooking (dilute bean liquid with water if too strong)
  • Sea salt, 2 scant tsp
  • Cumin, 2 tsp.
  • Szeged hot paprika, 1 tsp.


  1. Prepare the chickpeas. Read my post – http://vegetatingwithleslie.org/?p=818
  2. When beans are cooked, which usually takes a couple of hours, pour them into a strainer over a bowl this time so the bean liquid drains into the bowl. Reserve the liquid.
  3. Place the drained chickpeas into a food processor.
  4. Add all other ingredients except reserved bean liquid to the food processor bowl (garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, tahina, seasonings).
  5. Have the reserved bean liquid ready in a cup with a pour spout. If it is too dense, dilute it with water.
  6. Run the food processor briefly, and then beginning adding bean liquid, no more than 1/2 cup at a time, through the feed tube.
  7. Let processor run for a minute, scrape down the sides and let run for another minute, adding liquid as needed.
  8. When desired consistency is reached, let processor run for 2-5 minutes more to make the hummus as smooth as possible.
  9. Remove hummus from processor, put on a plate, garnish with olive oil, parsley, paprika, sumac, za’atar or additional chickpeas as desired.

I like to serve this delicious hummus at room temperature or even slightly warmed with toasted Lebanese pita.  Hummus is a wonderful, vegan, protein-rich addition to any sandwich or meal.

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.