My New Food Journey- No More Labels

Avocado mash on gluten free toast.

And here we go, again! Time to reinvent my personal cookbook. So far in my life, I've been a vegetarian, gluten free, egg free, dairy free and now this new thing, I have no idea what to call. I don't have a label for what I am now and it doesn't really matter. No more labels-- I just want to eat!

I want to feel good, look good, be healthy while eating food that is delicious and nutritious.Through out my life, food has been this thing that I hyper focus on using it to try to create balance. The balance of fulfilling the desire to eat junk food while at the same time trying to eat nourishing food that's actually good for you. Meanwhile, my 14 year old son has decided he no longer wants to eat meat. He says he wants to be a vegetarian. I know this sounds like a very healthy and wise decision, which it is, but I also understand the stress and the work that goes into being a "healthy" vegetarian. Also, I've heard this story before.

The Vegetarian Years
Those years were a bit hazy. Days and nights filled with so much energy, friends, new jobs, and excitement of being on my own.  I don't remember doing a whole lot of cooking. I didn't have any fascinating recipes that I came up with unfortunately. It involved eating out most of the time at places like, Vegetarian Paradise, their buffalo drumsticks with seitan on a sugar cane stick made to look like a chicken drumstick was to die for. Or going to a cafeteria style restaurant in Chinatown and eating vegetarian duck with skin prickly like duck meat was awesome. Living on my own in NYC made it somewhat tolerable to be a vegetarian. The vegetarian lifestyle came to me as an option when I was a teenager, my mother would make me cook a meal once a week for the family, which I recently started doing with my son. When it came to cooking meat, she was very clear that you had to clean all meat properly, especially chicken, which I made sure to pass on this knowledge to my son as well. This involved chopping up a whole chicken and then removing the veins from the thighs and removing excess fat from all pieces. We were basically murdering them again. Because of her very detailed "technique" for cleaning meat, instead of dealing with the secondary torture of those poor animals, I decided to become a vegetarian, just as my son has.  I didn't enjoy handling the slimy flesh of dead carcasses and then eating them an hour later. Even going out ordering meat was ruined for me. It's so interesting how your relationship with eating meat can change when you have to prepare it yourself. Imagine how many vegetarians there would be if we had to slaughter our own animals. Unfortunately, the experiment ended after 4 years, when being healthy was of more interest than starving myself because I just didn't know what I was doing.

Gluten+ Dairy+ Egg Free= Vegan (Who eats meat)\
These were my weird and awkward years which I am still somewhat living in. Going out to brunch would usually leave me with very limited options. I'd end up eating a tofu scrambler with a side of bacon. I was, that girl. That person who was like, dear lord I won't eat eggs, but please give me a slice of pigs booty. My waitperson would usually tilt there head for a moment, and then I would explain, and I still don't think they understood. This is what made it weird, but eventually I got over it. It took a long time to get over it and boy did I struggle because everything in the world has gluten, wheat, flour, eggs, milk in it. Everything. Now, in only a few years there are way more options at supermarket and at restaurants which really helps. It's nice to know I can eat something other that just a carrot stick. I fought it at first. I started baking gluten free treats like crazy. I don't even love sweets but I was up for the challenge. Cookies, cup cakes, pancakes, biscuits, everything I made tasted like it was made with sand and if you breathed on it would crumble into dust. This is not to say there aren't currently some fabulous gluten free treats out there now, because there are, but none of them are coming out of my kitchen. When I started this diet, I was having health issues and this was suggested to me by a brief encounter with a holistic nutritionist. After being super strict on it for quite some time I have to be honest and say there was a huge change. My eczema went away, so did my nasal allergies, which I had been suffering from most of my life. It didn't happen overnight, but gradually I got to a place where I was no longer taking allergy medication or having flare up on my skin or digestive problems.  It was worth it.

And now...
The new challenge is keeping up with the commitment to eating healthy, not just for myself but for my entire family. Although there has been another addition to list of what we don't eat, at this point, I am done with labeling. Also, I don't need to qualify myself to others. Some meals will be vegetarian some will have meat. All meals will be gluten free. There will be nutritious options for everyone. My new journey, is more about learning about the food I eat and what works for us. For example, not every good food out there makes everyone feel the same. This is the challenge. My kids deserve a normal childhood filled with memories of yumminess. This takes a bit of re-wiring our brains to create new yummy experiences though. Certain things I will be strict about but our taste buds deserve something fabulous as well. A plant based diet is obviously the best option. This doesn't mean we can no longer create new memories filled with yummy treats. So far, my family has been loving the food which is encouraging. However, no more labels, just eat to feel good!

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