It can get lonely out in front, ahead of the curve, where I have lived much of my maverick life. Exhibit A: Vegetarian Teenager. I became a vegetarian as a teenager, back when no one was a vegetarian, when no one even knew any vegetarians, when people didn’t even know what “vegetarian” meant. (Is it your horoscope sign?) Some people thought it meant I liked vegetables and some people thought I would eat nothing but vegetables. Perhaps some people thought vegetables ate me. Some people thought I would eat fish but not chickens or chickens but not cows or turkey only on Thanksgiving. I wish I had a dollar for every time I found myself cornered by a know-it-all “grown-up” hell-bent on convincing me that my hair would fall out, my skin would dry up, my sex drive would disappear, and my teeth would explode if I didn’t eat meat immediately. Doctors badgered me. I wonder if any of these people and these great white physicians, who nowadays have read the research on the benefits of a plant-based diet, remember with remorse those tirades they aimed at a girl who could see so clearly into the future, beyond the consolidated animal feeding operation door. Probably not. They are probably all dead from eating too many junk-meat hamburgers.
I was more than vegetarian; I also believed in eating nontoxic, high-quality, real food, such as whole grains and fresh eggs from chickens that wandered in the yard and played dominoes. While in college, I baked my own bread because I couldn’t find anything in the stores in the 1970s that resembled actual bread. All of it was stripped skinny with no wheat germ or bran. I used to bake two loaves every other week and freeze one of them. I made a sandwich for my lunch every day with my good bread. I was the only grad student in my department who didn’t buy pizza slices and soda at the student union for lunch. I quit baking bread when I met my husband Ron, who would eat one of my fresh-baked loaves within 24 hours and make short work of the other one in a few days, all the while exclaiming “Wow, what is this stuff?” He was raised in the ghetto on Wonder Bread and other delicacies of the culture of poverty (such as government-issued blocks of frozen chili). You may recall that you could take a slice of Wonder Bread and roll it into a pellet the size of a pinto bean. The advertising geniuses in the back room came up with the slogan that Wonder Bread “helps build strong bodies 12 ways,” which leads me to believe it was a Styrofoam vitamin pill blown up into the shape of bread. Ron loved my real bread so much that I couldn’t keep a loaf in the house with him around. So I baked much less often, for a treat. I didn’t have the time to invest when it disappeared so quickly. In my grad student days, I could buy enough food to last me a week at the Soulard Farmers Market in St. Louis for $10 (it’s still there). That must be why we call it our “salad days.” Ron missed the bread, but he also enjoyed my vegetarian cooking.
Things got tricky when I embarked on parenting. When children are small, they don’t know much outside of what we do at our house, so I could get away with feeding them all “health food.” They ate yogurt, fresh fruit, tofu, soups loaded with veggies, beans and rice, veggie-cheese burritos, and broccoli quiche. I banned sugar at the door of my home. Instead I baked treats with honey. That lasted only until the children got old enough to figure out what I put in those homemade desserts. When they discovered that I put pureed stewed tomatoes into my chocolate cake they refused to eat it. Sadly, children want what their peers are having. They wanted birthday cake from a cake mix out of a box with sprinkles and they wanted hot dogs. I would cook them delicious gourmet vegetarian meals, and they begged for tater tots and pizza. My daughter once said, “I’ll eat tofu if you promise not to tell anyone I eat it.”
Now, as adults, my children gleefully exaggerate the organic healthy foods diet on which I raised them. They distort the truth so much that I sometimes wonder if they even remember what I actually fed them. Or have they obscured the truth with their imaginative exaggerations of what I cooked? They’re lucky I didn’t know then what I know now or I would have been even more careful about what I let them put into the sacred little temples of their bodies. Recently, my daughter sent me a photograph of a sign in a café selling vegan cookies. She said that nowadays those honey, oat, butter, and flaxseed cookies I baked for her when she was a little girl would sell for $15 each in L.A. That chocolate cake with the honey, stewed tomatoes, and rich cocoa powder in it would be a delicacy today. But back in their childhood, my children rolled their eyes and groaned. They dreaded their mom’s turn to bring soccer snack. However, all of them (and their partners too) are “foodies.” They love to cook and they love to eat excellent homemade food. Theirs may not always live up to my high standard of purity and nontoxicity, but often it does, and I’m glad they enjoy the slow process of cooking a delicious meal together. Just last week my youngest son and his girlfriend cooked me a super-delicious lunch largely made from ingredients they had procured at the local farmers market, which the girlfriend manages and promotes (it’s her day job).
As the new century bulldozes forward, my desire to live a nontoxic life has extended beyond food and into my environment, which suffers further infiltration every day from electronic energies and electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Thus Exhibit B. From smart meters to cell phones, I live in an inescapable soup of invisible detrimental forces. My older son thinks I’m deluded because I turn off the internet router in my house at night so I don’t expose myself to the router’s sleep-disruptive (in my opinion) EMF. I like to sleep in a room with nothing glowing, emitting, flashing, humming, buzzing, chomping, hollering, pounding, debating, yowling, pulverizing, revving, slurping, ringing, kvetching, or generating energy. Sometimes when people complain of tinnitus, I wonder if they have nothing at all wrong with their ears, but instead they have internalized the hum of their refrigerator or the buzz of the streetlamp outside their window. I like to sleep far from the reach of phones, tablets, e-readers, marching bands, zombies, and computers. I switch off my bedside lamp when I finish reading and the room goes dark; and it’s peaceful. There is no bulletproof research yet about the impact of EMFs on our sleep, but I guarantee you there will be. Just as it took a while for the benefits of a plant-based diet to emerge and reach into the general consciousness, it will take time for science and our knowledge of the functioning of technology to “discover” the impact of all this radiation and electromagnificence on our health, mood, cognition, sleep, and wellbeing. Meanwhile, I must endure my son suggesting that I wear a rubber hat to bed instead of turning everything electronic off. The way he makes fun of me, you would think I was suggesting that the government spies on me through my microwave. (No, I’ll leave that fantasy to the national press secretary.)
It was challenging for my children to act like everyone else when they had a health-food mom, who talked to the vegetables growing in the garden, wrote “love and gratitude” on their water bottles (alà Hidden Messages in Water), packed them teriyaki tofu for lunch, considered watching TV the eighth deadly sin, and eyed technological advances with animosity and suspicion. Furthermore, Exhibit C, I am a pacifist, who would not accept toy weapons as gifts for my children at their birthday parties, returning Ninja swords and toy guns to the baffled gifters. (My boys made guns out of Legos and pretended to zap one another dead with laser beams from sticks they picked up in the forest in which we lived.) Pacifist-mom could not handle horror films either. No movies for me with violence, torture, deranged robots, slimy aliens, dangling guts, gore, and overly suspenseful music. They had to watch that stuff with their dad. They still try to convince me to watch certain films in the horror genre. “C’mon Mom, it’s so campy. The blood is so fake. It’s funny. You’ll laugh. That’s not a real chainsaw. It’s plastic.” They coax me and I flatly refuse. My attitude surely contributed to my older son recently imagining the kind of horror flick I would make up. He said it would be called Morning of the Living Vegan Dead, and the opening scene would depict a living vegan dead grandmother carrying her baby grandson around the back yard and showing him all the fruit trees. I’m down with that kind of horror movie. When my baby grandson was last here with me, I did take him around the back yard and we did talk to all the fruit trees together, which my son thought was sweet and also another example of how his mother is nuts, and that it would make a good opening scene for Morning of the Living Vegan Dead. In the next scene, I imagine hordes of vegan dead would sweep through a sleepy rural community like locusts and eat all the cabbage, tomatoes, and other veggies out of everyone’s gardens because that must be what vegan dead eat. Losing the summer’s vegetable crop is pretty horrifying in itself without resorting to aliens and gore.
I sinfully hope that all those doubters and naysayers who harassed me over the years, as well as relatives and friends who have lovingly “humored” me with a condescending pat on the head and jokes about seaweed smoothies and my brain bursting into flames from too many magnetic impulses, that they all live long enough to discover that science proves me right on all accounts. I have been right with my prescient ideas about organic produce, plant-based diet, no harm in eating eggs from properly cared-for chickens (oh those cholesterol vigilantes make me livid), detrimental aspects to microwaves, dangers of demon sugar, acid rain, recycling, importance of eating good-quality fats, ag soil preservation, environmental toxins (and the evil corporations that manufacture them), big pharma poisoning us with dangerous medications, pure water, cat energy, burning sage, walking in the woods, thinking positive, caring for the planet, and so forth. Science is still trying to catch up with me, but I have a long stride. One day I’ll be proven right about electronic gadgets and invisible electronic impacts. I’ll probably be long gone by then, but my descendants will hopefully find me in cyberspace on my blog and will laugh at my silly humor, even if it has become dated and obsolete. I imagine with glee a beneficent artificial intelligence (AI) version of me giving the orchard tour to my great-great-grandchildren. Robot Safta (Grandma) Amy will take them outside to commune with the trees. You can bet that I will remind them to turn Robot Safta Amy off at night so as not to disrupt their sleep patterns with my magnetic or electronic emissions. The possibility of Robot Safta Amy gives me comfort. Morning of the Living Vegetarian AI Safta.
Here is the image my daughter sent me (she put the "just like mom used to make" title on it).
I think it should say gender-neutral instead of genderless. But that's just me.