And You Shall Be Cleansed
June 4, 2008
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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”
Well, as we round the final corner of this Total Health course I’m taking (only two weeks left–where have the past seven weeks gone?), the class has been asked to embark on a “cleanse” (detoxifying diet) as our final piece of homework.
Our teacher, the very embodiment of “tranquility,” has asked each participant to eliminate something from her/his diet that would ultimately lead to a cleaner, less toxic and healthier body. Each one of us, she suggested, should begin exactly where s/he is right now; for the instructor herself, this might mean embarking on a water fast (something she’s done for up to 10 days at a time in the past). For one particular participant, this would mean cutting out red meat for the week (and retaining the rest of the animals on his plate). And for me? Hmmn. Hard to say.
I’m reminded of a lecture I once attended at the University of Toronto many years ago. As I recall, the gist of the talk was “how we interpret past customs in the present day” or something to that effect. What I do remember is one speaker in particular, a very liberal rabbi in his thirties (tall and lanky, he wore a black leather jacket and Levis–clearly, not your typical rabbi) who happened to be a vegetarian. He related a story about a somewhat obscure religious ritual that he likened to Lent, in which Jews are asked to give up all meat for a period of time (sorry, I don’t remember how long–though I’m pretty sure it was less than 40 days).
As a vegetarian, he figured he might substitute another food to create a similar spiritual impact (since he felt the intent of the observance was to experience self-denial in the name of penitence). He met with a more conservative, elderly rabbi, an expert in this area, to ask what else he could give up instead.
“I already don’t eat meat,” he told the senior cleric, “So maybe I could choose something else, to observe the intention behind the rule. How about tofu? Or what if I give up beans?”
The rabbi appeared pensive, stroked his beard a few times, then replied: “No. The tradition decrees that you must give up meat. Give up meat.”
“But I already gave up meat,” the younger guy persisted. “Isn’t the point to sacrifice something? Aren’t you supposed to miss it just a little, so you can appreciate it more?”
The older man became a bit annoyed at this point. “Give up meat,” he repeated. “That’s what the custom says. Give up meat.”
“But isn’t there a substitute I could use?”
Well, much like our young rabbi friend, I’ve already given up many of the foods that would represent a great sacrifice to the other members of the course (meat, eggs, dairy, sugar, wheat, etc.). The problem is, I haven’t given them up permanently, nor even consistently (what springs to mind is chocolate–a substance which, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard somewhere, contains sugar).
Attempting to decide on the specifics of my cleanse got me thinking back to the first year I learned about the NAG diet. Like a bride on her honeymoon, in those early days I hung on my teachers’ every word. Each time we learned about a new diet, from Ayurveda to macrobiotic to raw to vegan, I immediately went home and tried it out. I loved incorporating more greens into my diet, loved the increased flavor intensity I discovered in organics, loved trying new and ancient grains, loved the array of natural sweeteners–loved them all. If I were still consuming a similarly (exclusively) healthful diet, I’d be in for a water fast at this point, too.
In the past couple of years, however, the purity of my diet has been sullied considerably; even though I continue to consume all the healthy stuff, I am still occasionally drawn back to the unhealthy side of the spectrum as well, and that’s what gets me into trouble: cookies, cakes, chocolate, candy–all can be highly toxic (even the vegan, spelt-and-maple syrup kind, if eaten in excess).
And so, I determined (with a little pang): I must cut out grains in all their forms for the week. I had considered simply giving up “flour” (which would effectively eliminate any baking during the cleanse), but all grains made more sense. Since I’m the type who might overdo something as healthy as a Quinoa and Buckwheat Salad or Millet and Pepper Pilaf when the cravings hit, to avoid any carbohydrate temptation, no grains it will be. For one entire week.
Unfortunately, this ban will also affect other dishes that harbor grains-in-hiding, such as my tofu omelette or fritatta, or even a delectable nut roast (which contains some breadcrumbs and flour). What the heck will I eat for the next week? Well, I’m guessing I’ll return to some previously enjoyed raw dishes, since almost none of those feature grains (and where they do make an appearance, it’s sprouted). Since the weather will supposedly (and finally!) be hot and sunny this weekend, there should be a good variety of fruits and vegetables available to me at the local market. I’ll also feast on beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Why, it’s a veritable cornucopia! And if I feel desperate for sweets, there are always raw desserts like fruit sorbet, carob-cashew pudding, or LaRAW bars. Gee, there’s just SO much choice, I might even have TOO much to eat!
(Repeat to self as required: “I am happy and satisfied eating my veggies and fruits.” “I feel comfortably full and content with my measely nuts and seeds.” “No, there is no sense of deprivation whatsoever without oatmeal for breakfast, or pasta, or muffins, especially when the HH doesn’t need a cleanse and gets to eat whatever he wants, at every meal.” “Of course not, I totally don’t feel those insistent, gnawing cravings that eat away at me like rats in a prison cell that wear me down like stones at the seaside that force me to leave my home at 11:00 PM and drive to the convenience store practically in the middle of the night just to satisfy the aching desire, the ineluctable urge, the desperate NEED for chocolate. . . . Oh, my. This may prove to be a little more difficult than I anticipated. (Help).
During this week, I’ll still post recipes that I find tasty and worth eating, though I’ll do my best to avoid anything too “out there” (but since I’ve already posted about cultured vegetables, what worse could I throw at you–except, perhaps spirulina bars?)
(“Mum, please don’t get stressed about this cleanse; we will be happy to eat your portion of the grains this week. Oh, and remember that patting your dogs will help lower your blood pressure.” )