I don’t remember thinking about the act of eating while I was a child, or even as a young adult. Eating was a necessary function that served a useful purpose, but beyond that I had no particular passion or desire for it as an activity. In fact, there were times when I would forget to eat altogether (actually that still happens sometimes).
My mother cooked out of necessity (don’t worry – even she will tell you that); it was never fun for her, and always a chore. But don’t let my mother’s aversion to cooking fool you; she’s a good cook, and her mother was an amazing one. mmmmmmm. . . I can still taste the apple dumplings my grandmother made for me after I’d seen the movie The Apple Dumpling Gang to prove to me they’re a dessert and not a movie title.
I taught myself to cook after I moved away from home and my routine was pretty typical: sift through the two cookbooks I owned to determine what combination of frozen chicken breasts mixed with cream-of-something canned soup would be edible enough to pass as a meal. Next, add a microwaved frozen veggie on the plate and voila: supper!
At the wise age of 26 I felt certain I understood why my mother detested cooking and operated on a rotating meal schedule that had little to no variation week to week. The good news was we always knew what was for supper, but I am beginning to think this was probably part of my mother’s master plan to reduce the number of times she could possibly be pestered in one afternoon by eight hungry children all clamoring to know “What’s for supper?”
Then, at age 27 my whole life changed. A severe case of food poisoning triggered a series of physical reactions, ultimately leading to my body systematically shutting down on itself. No medical doctor (and there were more specialists’ opinions sought than I care to remember) could provide either a diagnosis or a cure. We knew symptoms but couldn’t explain them.
- The lining of my small intestine was gone. What the?! Where did it go? And why?
- I weighed 90 pounds.
- I couldn’t retain water.
- I had no energy. Big surprise.
- I was on more drugs than I could remember to take.
- I felt like I was living in one big hallucination all the time.
- I was in and out of the hospital for dehydration.
- My two-year-old couldn’t take care of herself, and neither could I.
Years later my mother informed me that there was legitimate worry and discussion that I wouldn’t make it. (I guess it was inappropriate to give me that news while I was slowly fading at the end of my second decade.) No one could stave off the downward spiral of my body’s inability to regenerate itself and to get me the nutrition and sustenance I so desperately needed.
But thanks to the amazing support and help of my daughter’s grandparents, my mother, and numerous other friends, I survived. I survived physically, but even more importantly, I survived emotionally and spiritually. As time progressed I gradually began to put the pieces back together again and that required deconstructing what I thought was normal.
My new normal came with constant physical pain that doctors merely excused as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but there were plenty of chemicals on which I could rely to help me through that. After consuming a multitude of medications for a year, I chose to STOP. I dumped the contents of every bottle into a remarkable and colorful pile and then disposed of that mountain in one fell swoop.
I have never looked back, but only forward as I have learned through trial and error what my body needs. I learned to listen to the signals my body gives me whenever I put something into it. What once was normal is now as far from my reality as I ever would have imagined myself.
In 2008 I eliminated meat from my diet and declared myself a vegetarian. And suddenly my culinary palette exploded with options! If normal no longer allowed for meat, then what was left to eat?! As I started exploring my new food world I got more and more excited about eating. What used to be a chore was now an adventure and since I had given myself permission to eat outside the lines, the possibilities were endless.
By 2010 I was noticing significant decreases in my pain levels, but the horrific episodes still occurred. Finally connecting all the dots, I removed dairy from my dietary equation and my residual pain practically vanished overnight. Am I a registered vegan now? Mostly. I do eat honey. If forced to label myself, I simply say I am a non-dairy vegetarian.
My Happy Ending is still being written. Each time I prepare a meal it is with joy, anticipation and hope that the gift of healthy, organic and seasonal foods I am giving my body means that my body will continue to have the necessary resources to give back to me in the form of energy, stamina, mental capacity, flexibility, and inner peace.
So whether you’re curious to know what I eat, where I get my protein, or enjoy the benefits of a plant-based diet, yourself, I’m delighted you’re here for a visit.