Saturday, February 8, 2014

getting back to living

Bev in Cambria 
One week ago today, we boarded the Sapphire Princess in San Pedro Harbor and began a 7-day cruise.  Today, we get off this ship and face life again. I'm feeling more each day that it's a true possibility. That is a shift I hadn't seen coming but welcome with open arms.

I have to remind myself with regularity that living life entirely in grief simply serves no one. Living is not forgetting, and grief and remembrance are not one in the same. I'll never forget. I do intend to live.

This cruise has helped in so many ways. The ease of being cared for, the crazily enormous choice in food, the entertainment we mostly ignored, the balmy weather (at least some of the time,) the cordial, helpful staff all gave me the chance to live in a safe cocoon for a few days. Did I mention we never got off the ship? We literally went to one show onboard, avoided most activities, took lots of naps, and soaked up the sun in short bursts. No sun burns, no hangovers, no vacation exhaustion.

Every night during dinner, our head waiter brought me the menus for the next day. My job was to choose what I'd really like to eat. Theirs, he assured me, was to be sure it was prepared safely. I did loosen my dietary restrictions a bit. Gluten was totally out, as was soy, but I didn't push the fruit intolerance. I decided to play that one by ear, keeping it limited on my own. I did consume some fruit, a little lemon here, a bit of olive oil there. And my biggest indiscretion of them all, sorbet for dessert on occasion. And the night he insisted they would make gluten-free tiramisu for me, I gave in and ordered it. No, it's not remotely healthy, and I'm not even a fan of tiramisu, but I love the gesture and their concern that I not only have safe meals but some fun with food, as well.

This morning I'm on my own with my food choices. Our last meal on board will be breakfast, probably at the buffet so I can see it first, before we disembark in a few hours. Then home by way of Whole Foods, a stop at Erika's to pick up Coco, and back to our own kitchen. I'm ready to give living another shot.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

so you just keep breathing? not really a food post

I tend to be a pretty private person. That may sound a bit odd, since I openly write about bodily functions, food restrictions, and my yucky health issues. I don't, however, often write about it when my feelings are hurt, I feel under-appreciated at work, or my heart is breaking. And to be completely direct, I don't even know why I am compelled to do just that, today.

I'm the oldest of five children, three girls, two boys. We've always been pretty close and still celebrate every holiday together. Our mother is 93 (don't tell her I told her age) and still the cement that holds us together, I believe. She's witty and cranky and, well, pretty much exactly what you'd expect from the woman who raised all of us.

This week the world changed permanently for me. My little sister and closest friend, Beverly Malouf Byrd, lost a hard-fought battle with an extremely rare, disgustingly aggressive form of cancer. And damn! she did fight. That story is hers, and I will not go into detail. She was as private as I, and many friends and family never knew she was ill. I know she didn't want to be thought of as the sicky. Her husband, Gary, fought hard for her, as well, and was by her side almost constantly through this. He's a saint as far as I'm concerned, and I'm so very glad he was there for her in every way possible. Their son, Dylan, caused the sun to rise and set for Bev. Attending his graduation from UC Santa Cruz was what drove her last spring, as ill as she was. She had every right to be proud of him. He's a loving, delightful, and talented young man, who adores his mother.

Bev said on many occasions that her purpose in life was to make others happy. She did just that. From her beautiful smile to her calm, friendly, welcoming demeanor, she lit up the room. To those of you who knew her, please add your experience in the comments, if you'd like. I'm not doing so well with words right now.

Right now, I am struggling to make sense of this senselessness. She's the one I'd call for help with that. We shared so much for so long, I'm at a loss. The one thing I plan to do may seem a little lame. Hell, everything feels pretty lame right now. Every Christmas, for years and years, Bev has made spiced nuts. Dozens of people looked forward to those every year. Her son and my daughter plan to continue that tradition for her. I can't eat them as she made them because of my health issues, so my plan is to tweak the seasonings for a fruit-free version. That will mean primarily using cinnamon instead of the spice blend she had perfected. When I've done that, I'll post the recipe. They won't be her nuts, but they'll remind me of her. That's all I've got for now.

I will miss you everyday, Bev.

Friday, November 15, 2013

lemons, too? phooey

There are few flavors I love more than lemon and lime, and lemon tops lime in my book, though maybe  only by a hair.

While wrapping my head around eliminating fruit, I've realized this may be the hardest. Funny, isn't it? Not apples or peaches or grapes or pears or avocados or even wine. Nope, for me it's citrus fruit that causing the most grief. I used to cut lemons in half and eat them out of hand, sometimes with salt, sometimes without. The lemons and limes in my fridge were the last fruits I gave away. It was hard. I knew I would not eat them or cook with them, and still it was hard. I must admit, I did something else that I normally NEVER do when removing a food I find I can no longer eat from my home. I kept a few limes, well, 2 limes. And half a lemon. It was a beautiful specimen: perfectly juicy with the most gorgeous pale yellow flesh. I couldn't send it down the garbage disposal or toss it into the compost looking like that. So I left it in a small open bowl on a refrigerator shelf where it could taunt me until it got all dry and brown and withered.

Have you ever put part of a lemon in the fridge to use later? In my experience, they don't usually hold up too long. They dry up or get kind of junky, and I rarely ended up using them, though I had the best of intentions. Not this last one, I pulled it out this morning, and it was just as beautiful as the day I put it in there, well over a week ago. I have since determined that was one evil lemon. It is now sitting by the sink where GK can use it to freshen the garbage disposal.

The limes will go today, too. Keeping them was just silly. What will remain is the void left by this exodus of citrus from my life. For years I've used it so often and in so many ways, every single day. Lemon juice in salads, on fish, in soup, on virtually every vegetable, brightening the flavors in lamb dishes. I'm hard pressed to think of a food not improved by lemon juice. Still for me and the rest of us who are fruit-less, it's history. And there truly is a void. White and red wine vinegars, Champagne vinegar, and cider vinegar are also fruits, as is citric acid.

Little by little I'm working through this fruit-free thing. And dish by dish I'm finding substitutes or rethinking the flavors. Distilled white vinegar holds some promise, though I will have to stop thinking of it as a cleaning product.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

are you serious?

Where to start...

I thought my diet was already pretty restricted, what with no gluten---no grains at all, really, no dairy, no legumes, no FODMAPS, few nightshades, almost nothing processed in any way, certainly nothing artificial or "food-like." I really thought there was nothing much left to remove. What can I say? I was wrong.

In the short time between her receiving the results of my blood tests and our appointment to go over those results, my doctor sent me a quick message. She said she thought I'd find the results quite interesting and cautioned me against doing too much advance food prep because much would be changing. My first thought? She must have forgotten I've already removed most offending foods. We're just fine-tuning. There's not much left to change or remove. Again, I was wrong.

When we met, she smiled at me gently, took a quiet breath, and handed me the paperwork she'd prepared with my results and recommendations. She explained I had one primary food intolerance and one combination issue, foods that were okay as long as they were not consumed at the same time. For me it's a need to allow a full four hours in between potato, including sweet potato even though they are different plants, in any form and grains or their derivatives. Okay, I can do this.

But, but, but---fruit intolerance, I'd never heard of such a thing. And, trust me, I still wish I hadn't. Apparently, my body doesn't treat fruit as food, to oversimplify a bit, never has, never will. This isn't short term. This is a lifetime reality. When I first viewed the list she gave me, I'm sure I was still in a fog of disbelief and relief. After all, we'd done the tests because I had not been able to resolve digestive issues completely---ever. I wanted---still want---to fix that. But...all fruit?

I've since asked a million questions and pretty much divided the fruit list into the four different categories below.

1. Well, this isn't so bad.
pears, plums, cranberries, bananas, berries, kiwi, apricots, mango, fruit barks, citric acid, acetic acid, malic acid

2. Darn it!
Oranges, pomegranates, apples, cherries, grapes, cashews, cloves, nutmeg, mace, allspice, cream of tartar, palm oil

3. You're joking, right?
lemons, limes, fruit peels, avocado, honey, wine and apple cider vinegar

4. Okay, now this is just mean!
all coconut products: shredded, flour, cream and oil, olives and olive oil, wine

And again, I am so far out of water, it's laughable. I must laugh, or I'll cry. I'm starting to do what I advise others. I'm looking at what I can eat and choosing what I truly, truly love for now. I'm being a bit indulgent and gentle with myself as I make this adjustment, while adhering vigorously to the guidelines. I've also given away almost every fruit-related food in the house, except for those that GK particularly likes, as he will eat those. This is far easier than getting rid of food-like products because these should not harm the recipients.

My blog posts will likely focus on the ways I'm making this work, while I'll continue to share lots of general Paleo-friendly food ideas on my Facebook page, Aseafish Out of Water. My attention right now is on a Thanksgiving Day treat. I'm determined to create a foodie-lovers' sweet potato pie with maple syrup and a nut crust. I can do this.