Monday, April 07, 2014

Red Beans and Rice




About a month ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix, Forks Over Knives and I found it compelling. It told us all about a couple of blokes in the U.S who claim to have reversed heart disease in patients who had been given a very grim prognosis and had survived for about 20 years by eating a plant based diet. I‘ve been a reluctant meat eater for about 30 years and have endured half hearted and brief periods of vegetarianism: from time to time I’ve cut down on red meat, cut out red meat altogether, cut down on white meat, tried to salve my conscience by only buying organic and worried and fussed about the ethics of eating flesh, or, as a bloke in the film put it, eating anything with a mom or a dad or a face.

I happened to see it while I was being a bit drama queeny about my health, and in particular the health of my heart…………….I have developed a bit of a tendency to over react to any minor ailment since my dramatic cardiac event a couple of years ago. So, this bloody film resonated.

I have kidded myself that I have been good since the heart attack. I would tell myself that I feel generally OK, that my diet is better than it was and I diligently take the tablets; but it’s obvious that I lie to myself. Every morning I have to walk up a hill, and it leaves me feeling near fucking death. Any walk over 15 minutes gives me severe pain in my calves; I have not lost an ounce of weight, and, if I was doing as well as I professed, I wouldn’t be going into a panic every time I got a bit of indigestion or a twingey pain in an arm. It was clear. Something had to be done.

I decided that the thing that needed to be done was that I should go vegan. What a lark. What a doomed to failure lark. What a superb example of the triumph of hope over experience. I got on Amazon and ordered the book of the film, complete with recipes, and a couple of other books that extol the virtues and efficacy of a plant based diet.

When they say eat nothing that has a mom or a dad or a face, you think, I can do that, I’m an ethical, compassionate being, for fucks sake! It can’t be that difficult.  Then you read that anything that has a mom or a dad or face includes milk and cheese and yoghurt. All meat fish and dairy is verboten. OK, you think, I was wrong, it can be that difficult. No Cheddar, not even if it’s strong enough to strip the roof off your mouth by way of punishment. No Brie. No Yarg. No Blacksticks Blue. And you think: Fuck Me. Then you read you can’t have any fat. Not just dripping or lard………………no olive oil, or walnut oil, no hazelnut oil, or toasted sesame oil, and you begin to despair, then you begin to rationalise, then you begin to chicken out.

Right, you think, all previous attempts at improving your health have failed. Going all Taliban on yourself is never going to work, one has to be reasonable. Moderation in all things…………………all that kind of bullshit. Knowing that you won’t be able to carry it off, you resolve to do the best that you can. And you rationalise that any change has to be an improvement. You feel a bit downhearted but you make a plan. Not a proper, well thought out, structured plan, more a notion that you will go and buy some stuff.

Here’s the first problem, buying stuff. This stuff is expensive. Nut or other alternative milks are expensive (not supposed to have nut milk, but fuck it), things like date syrup and other strange condiments are expensive, as well as very hard to find, and you still have to buy all the normal stuff for the normal people in the house. And there’s another problem, once you’ve bought all this stuff, you have to find somewhere to store it. You may surmise, I wasn’t going into this with whole hearted commitment, although I did buy a decent mandolin.

Reading the book reinforced the message in the film and I felt encouraged to give it a proper good go, although I wasn’t kidding myself I could stick religiously to it. I’ll probably go on about the different things I tried and all my emotions and shit another time, but today I’ll just bang on about 2 biggish, fairly normal changes……………………..milk and porridge.

I gave up the milk of a cow. By that, I don’t mean that I started lactating, I mean I stopped drinking it. Mindful of the strictures against nut milk I compromised between almond milk and something called Koko, which I think is made from coconut anyway, so, in fact, I didn’t compromise at all. My face is red now, typing that. Both of them are OK in different ways.

I’ve been bringing a huge bowl of raw porridge into work to sustain me through the morning, and, quite frankly, it’s delicious. I pour a load of oats into a bowl, add some ground flax seed and grape nuts, along with some slivered almonds, some sultanas, some goji berries, some coconut, a bit of vanilla and a squirt of maple syrup (date syrup sometimes, but it takes a bit of getting used to). I top it all up with almond milk and by the time I get to work it’s softened up and is nice enough to have kept me away from bacon. More or less. Sometimes I add a bit of raw cacao powder. Have you seen the price of that stuff? The whole thing looks a bit disgusting,  and it elicits comments from passers by, but, fuck ‘em, it tastes nice and is good for the soul.

So, there is a use for almond milk that works really well. The Koko thingy  also works well with it and gives a slightly lighter, fresher feel on the old palate. Where the Koko works really well is with hot chocolate, made with raw cacao. Both of the milks are horrible in tea or coffee. Truly disgusting. I hardly drink any of those brews but I do have a splash of cows milk with em and feel guilty, which is progress, of a sort, I suppose.  

wheatberries with greens and butternut, quinoa burgers and tomato sauce

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