Spice of Life

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Day 5: Citrus

My scones and diet no longer include wheat flour, but they still need zest.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. I’m looking forward to my third go at participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break by posting prompts here on the blog and on my Instagram account. There are no rules, really. Simply take a photo every day for the month of August, based on the prompts or not. I take a photo a day all year long, but you can’t lose no matter how many days you keep this up. And the more, the merrier!

More Please

IMG_0297 Day 1: Breakfast

Since I began an autoimmune diet a year ago, breakfasts have become very strange events. Less pancakes, cereal, toast and muffins. More fruit and vegetables. And meat, my cat says. Don’t forget the meat.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. I’m looking forward to my third go at participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break by posting prompts here on the blog and on my Instagram account. There are no rules, really. Simply take a photo every day for the month of August, based on the prompts or not. I take a photo a day all year long, but you can’t lose no matter how many days you keep this up. And the more, the merrier!

Food for Thought

Beef-Butternut Stew with Pear and Thyme prepared from Mickey Trescott's beautiful Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook.
Beef-Butternut Stew with Pear and Thyme prepared from Mickey Trescott’s beautiful Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook.

Over three months into the Paleo Approach and Autoimmune Protocol diets (AIP for short) and it’s time for an update from my (rather grubby and well-used) kitchen. As faithful followers of this blog may recall, I began the elimination journey back to my hunter-gatherer ancestors’ fireside feasts on the first day of August. And, despite the formidable lists of forbidden foods and ingredients, bounty from this year’s autumn harvest has been my saving grace.

Every week, besides our usual visit to the regular grocery chain, I travel to a local orchard’s farm store to consciously purchase pastured meats, as well as fresh cider and the perfect cooking apples for homemade applesauce and crisp. I buy fermented raw kraut from the Saturday farmer’s market, and gorgeous multi-colored chard from a vegan/GF restaurant that grows its own vegetables behind the building.

I’ve taken to hanging around the organic sections, and familiarizing myself with strange, misshapen fruits that hide their beauty on the inside. Sarah Ballantyne, well-known AIP author and cook, challenged herself to buy and prepare any exotic produce that she’d never seen before. I’m not that adventurous yet, but I’m making friends with some pretty homely root vegetables.

As winter sets in, I’ve stocked up on every kind of squash and lined them along my counter, where they wait patiently for me to whip up enough courage to cut into their hard exteriors before softening them up in a slow-roasting oven. I’ve discovered that braising in a tightly covered pot can tame any wild beastie or vegetable into delectable submission. And I utilize everything, from poultry innards and bones, to the tops of beets and fennel — nothing goes to waste if I can help it.

Granted, all of this takes commitment. If I still worked at my old job, I wouldn’t have the time or energy. Slow food can take hours, even days to see results. Crock pots, pressure cookers and heavy cast iron utensils can take a toll on your arms, patience and wallet. Our lack of space in the new galley kitchen often leads to a frustrating dance while family members prepare different meals for separate diets. More than once I’ve caught myself longing for the generous side-by-side fridge that we left behind as cabbages and cauliflower roll out of our currently overstuffed apartment refrigerator.

But is there a payoff, you ask? How about no more joint pain, considerably less inflammation even after injuries, weight loss without your friends becoming alarmed, and lower doses of medicine, all while chronic conditions grow quiet or go into remission. The benefit to eliminating misbehaving dietary culprits, however socially painful, is that when I reintroduce them, I can usually tell within a day or two whether we can play well together yet. If not, the offending foe is placed on a back burner for another day.

While I had hoped for these intended results, what I didn’t expect was the spiritual connection I’ve discovered from taking this often rocky road to recovery. As in life, I’m learning not to wait until I’m starving and desperate to cook and nourish myself. This should be second nature, but in the modern world, we find it so easy to reach for the quick, impersonal calories of convenience that leave us unfulfilled and a little sick. Now, I can take a bite into something that has slowly simmered and stewed in the warm glow of an Indian summer afternoon, and really taste the thought in it.

Look what’s coming to dinner

DAY 28: SOMETHING NEW
DAY 28: SOMETHING NEW

“What’s new?” could be the overwhelming question of the year for me, especially this August. Everything is a first: new food, new diet, new cooking equipment, new kitchen, new living arrangements, new lifestyle, new world. I am nothing if not adaptable, but I may be taking things a little too far this time. Still, when I stop long enough to savor these unknown territories, I’m impressed with the view.

Take these colors for example! Oh, the beauty of food in its purest form is always a wholesome revelation that I need pounded into my stubborn brain (and spooned into my mouth) every few months. I gaze at all those vibrant reds, yellows, oranges and purples, the source of my newfound health on parade, not to mention those multitudes of greens. I’m learning to be unafraid of exotic produce, to march right up to them and twist their little hats off, to peel them out of their skins, to slice them thinly and bathe them in coconut milk and olive oil, then toast them until they surrender to the touch.

The stove may be a battlefield, but there upon the dinner plate this will always be their finest hour.

This month I’m taking a photo a day and following the topics of Susannah Conway’s August Break 2014. And why don’t you join me? I double-dog dare you!

Elixir

DAY 10: DRINK
DAY 10: DRINK

This is Day 10 of the August Break, and also the strict autoimmune diet I’ve undertaken. How are they going? Here’s the latest:

1. I hate to admit this, but I feel good. Better than I have in a long time. After a few rocky days at the start, I’m not missing the coffee, or the chocolate. Just really craving a good cracker along with my soup or a crunchy potato chip at lunch.

2. I’m meeting a lot of cool participants on Instagram, and quite impressed with the unique ways they find to illustrate the day’s topic.

3. The variety of ingredients I cook with is expanding rather than contracting in this elimination diet. And I’ve become acquainted with new foods such as fennel bulbs, kombucha, raw sauerkraut, and kale chips. Preparing everything from scratch requires me to slow down and relearn patience.

4. I get creative when I’m hungry. I’ve learned to throw whatever’s at hand into the blender in combinations I would never have considered before this protocol began. That’s a blueberry, pear and coconut butter smoothie in the picture above. My favorite so far and the perfect opportunity for today’s Instagram topic.

5.  I’ve only cheated once on a little coffee, black with no sugar, and I only drank half. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I expected.

6. These challenges take more planning and organization than I anticipated, but it’s not as hard as I thought. On to the second week.

This month I’m taking a photo a day and following the topics of Susannah Conway’s August Break 2014. And why don’t you join me? I double-dog dare you!

Dog Days, August and Instagram

DAY 1: LUNCH

It’s the first dog day of August and I’m ready to take on the August Break challenge just like last year. A few things are different this time around, however. First of all, this is hardly a dog day–you know, one of those hot, dry and slow-crawling summertimes (when all you want to do is dip your feet into a sparkling meadow stream and let the minnows nibble your toes). No, we are still shedding our sweaters fresh from the coldest July on record in these parts, with a rain shower every other afternoon. Everything is still green, and well, cool! August threatens to be warmer, but still . . . .

The second difference is that since taking a daily photo and posting it here isn’t enough, I will be eating (or shall I say eliminating) my way through an autoimmune protocol diet to see what foods cause me problems. I already know that gluttonous gluten isn’t my friend, but there may be others (please may it not be eggs, coffee or chocolate). I picked August because we aren’t planning to travel, and I can avoid restaurants while I chew on my leafy greens and kale chips.

The third component is that earlier in the spring (as if moving house wasn’t enough, see a pattern here?) I decided to join Instagram and post one photo a day as an attempt to investigate a new social media. Okay, okay, I just wanted to be hip, I admit it. So, I’ll be posting photos there as well, at SuburbanSatsangs, where else?

And finally, while I gravitated toward an outdoor theme for all my photos in 2013’s August Break, this year I’ll attempt to stick with Susannah Conway’s list of topics. And today’s happens to be “lunch.” And yes, that odd pairing was united to be part of my mid-day dining liaison, as well as a bed of salad greens to rest them in. (Welcome back, sardines, my old friend. But you won’t be sharing a ride with any crusty pieces of baguette anymore.)

So, here’s my first photo, plus a glimpse of the rude awakening my foodie palate is in for. (I’m off to drink some more coconut milk without the cookies. Cheers!)

This month I’m taking a photo a day and following the topics of Susannah Conway’s August Break 2014. And why don’t you join me? I double-dog dare you!