Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Kryptonite Is Borscht

I go on vacation next month, and I’m having my usual anxiety about food while traveling. I’m so particular about what I eat that I’m pretty much not fit for travel. A few years ago, when flying to SoCal with Ron and my youngest son, my bag weighed more than 50 lbs. So I opened it up at the check-in counter and handed my sneakers to Ron and a big zucchini to my son to put into their bags, which brought my bag weight under 50. “Mom,” my son said, “they have squash in Orange County. You don’t have to bring your own.” I replied, “Yes, but do they have a squash that I grew?” A couple weeks ago, before Ron and I flew to SoCal, I emailed my older son to ask him if he has a good, working blender because I have a travel blender. My son emailed back, “Mom, please don’t bring a blender; seriously.” Such attitude. You would have thought that I had suggested I would bring a riding lawnmower.

Usually I tell prospective hosts not to worry about feeding us, that we’ll bring something for ourselves to eat. Or else I offer to contribute to the meal and then bring a whole meal. But sometimes we stay with people who genuinely like cooking for people on special diets and they want to know what we can and can’t eat. They think it will be a fun challenge. Little do they know. I’m a food challenge on steroids. I wrote up a paragraph with basic information about our complex eating habits to send to any brave souls who really want to know. Yesterday, as I read it over, I noticed that it reads like a comedy blog, even though I’m completely serious. I inserted comedy-blog enhancements into the description of our eating habits to see what would happen and the result is both informative and marginally entertaining. So here goes.

I’m vegetarian and Ron does not eat cows or pigs, even if they are dead. He does eat chicken, preferably pastured chicken, and only if it was killed humanely and quickly so it felt no pain or melancholy, and had no time to contemplate its mortality or to write about it. Pastured chicken is chicken that roamed freely, eating insects and buffaloes out on the range where the skies are not cloudy all day. Ron also eats fish, but no bottom-feeders, because who wants to put a fish that eats fish-shit into their body? Salmon caught by Eskimo shamans in handmade canoes is the best choice for him. Although I am vegetarian, I eat eggs and cheese because I make up my own rules and a life without cheese is not a life worth living. I favor eggs from pastured chickens with at least a master’s degree; bilingual preferred. You may wonder where else I get my protein. I love beans (but black-eyed peas make me sick, go figure) and I like tofu, but organic only please (see below under evil mutants). I will only eat tofu if it’s cooked correctly because otherwise it resembles an adhesive more than a food.

We are both lactose intolerant. Interestingly, full fat dairy products have little or no lactose in them. I have discovered that few people know this. We eat some full fat dairy, such as butter and cream (or half-n-half for Ron’s coffee). We don’t drink milk or eat soft cheeses because even though flatulence may seem funny, it’s not when you yourself are the flatulee. We avoid low-fat and fat-free products because 1) they are highly processed, contain dangerous toxins, and their sale lines the pockets of corporate food giants that would sooner drown your grandmother in skim milk than admit that fat is good for people, and 2) fat is delicious and is necessary for optimum brain function. We eat hard cheeses, such as sharp cheddar and parmesan, and other dairy products that are cultured, such as yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream (all full fat). I digest goat and sheep cheeses better than cow cheeses. Since goats are smarter and more interesting than cows, I recommend that you get a goat rather than a cow in preparation for our visit. Sheep are really dumb so steer clear of them altogether. Let me know if you want me to bring some straw.

As you may have already surmised, we don’t eat gluten. This is not because I subscribe to the latest fad that considers gluten the root of all evil. I don’t. Some people can eat that stuff with no adverse reaction. I’m not one of them and neither is Ron. Gluten is in wheat, rye, spelt, barley, and may be hidden in many edible products with ingredients so you have to read labels. I generally avoid food items with ingredients and just eat actual foods instead. Collard greens, for instance, have no ingredients; and they taste delicious with butter and garlic, which also have no ingredients. If a food has a label on it, I’m already skeptical. I do a lot of cooking without ingredients. But I digress. We don’t eat bread, pasta, or baked goods unless they are made especially for people on gluten-free diets; and preferably without sugar (see below under space aliens). Gluten-free substitutes include rice, quinoa, corn, and potatoes. Don’t try to do us any favors with gluten-free bread because this is a quagmire. Unless you are intimately familiar with gluten-free bread options, you risk exposure to the grain disaster equivalent of a category five hurricane.

May I alert you to tread carefully with corn. I have an aversion to evil mutant GMO corn, and any other GMOs or unfortunate agricultural products that may have been sprayed with Roundup, such as soy (yup, here’s the tofu stipulation). GMO crops were developed mainly so that they can be sprayed with Roundup without dying off. Roundup is one of the most toxic cancer-causing substances in the known universe and it is regularly sprayed to kill weeds that interfere with the growth of the GMO crop. Just so you know, insects, fungus, and other “pests” will not eat GMOs, which confirms my suspicion that most people are not as smart as mold. To avoid exposure to evil-mutant-GMO-toxic corn, your best bet is to buy organic. A lot of products now say non-GMO on them, which usually means they were not sprayed with Roundup. So I only eat organic corn. Pay attention because corn derivatives are in everything these days, including salad dressing, ketchup, baked goods, farm-raised fish feed, garage doors, rubber bands, presidential candidates, shampoo, boots, spoons, and corn.

Now, about sugar. I am convinced that sugar is a plot by space aliens to poison earthlings so they can take over our planet. If you don’t believe me, I have photographs. Moreover, Ron is diabetic. So we generally avoid sugar, except as manifested in high quality dark chocolate (more than 70% cacao, organic). The space aliens have definitely not discovered dark chocolate yet and so it is the last stronghold of humanity, meaning it must be eaten every day to preserve the species. Seriously, sugar is the underlying cause of most chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease (sugar causes heart disease, not fat), cancer, and arthritis. We use maple syrup or honey as sweeteners. If I could grow sugar-maple trees in California then I would be out in the yard with a bucket collecting sap to make brownies. I suggest you consider keeping bees in preparation for our visit. I’ll bring my epi-pen.

There’s more. Ron dislikes melons, except watermelon. It might be amusing to make him unwittingly eat a piece of melon just to see his expression, but that would be taking unfair advantage of a melon-impaired person. I love melons, so you see we are a match made in heaven. I can no longer digest onions in any form other than as onion powder. Don’t ask. Really, don’t ask; and try not to imagine either because you’ll live to regret it. I can’t eat bananas either, which I used to love, but I can’t digest them anymore, and so I consider them my forbidden fruit. I hate beets, even though I have tried everything short of hypnosis to make myself like them. If I were a superhero, my kryptonite would be borscht. Ron dreads finding arugula in his salad since it tastes bitter to him. I’m not crazy about it either. Give me basil or cilantro instead. Once we visited some people who assured me they would make a salad for me since the main course was pork sausage in banana sauce over wheat pasta. They made me a salad that contained only arugula and red onions. Sigh.

Good choices if you are a mutton for punishment (oops, meant glutton) and insist on cooking for us might be eggs, hard cheese, and/or organic fruits and vegetables; salmon or chicken for Ron. I love salad and will dance around singing arias to a large bowl of greens with little provocation. I could compete with a cow for consumption of greens and win hands down, because I actually have hands and a cow doesn’t. I wonder if I might be a ruminant. We are happy to bring food we like (that I approve of, no evil mutants or space aliens involved) for ourselves and to share with those who are brave enough to host us. I have also been known to graciously eat what is cooked for me if it won’t make me sick, even if it’s not up to my usual purist standard, just because I can still appreciate the love someone has put into preparing a meal for me. Food is a volatile subject and can explode if one can’t determine accurately which wire to cut to disable the soufflé.  

Now you have been briefed and should be ready for us to visit you. What’s for dinner?

Beet and banana smoothies? Not for me. 
The raspberries, much as I love 'em, can't make a difference for this.

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