Please excuse the mess as I go through a minor identity crisis.

August 16, 2009 · 2 comments

As a mother of three, I have more than once participated in a conversation with another mom where the subject lands on the worries the mother feels about one of her children, and the fact that they might be what is usually described as “a follower.” “She is just so impressionable,” the mom might say. “She does whatever her friends do… what will happen when she gets older?” the mom frets (keeping in mind that we’re often talking about a 4-year old).

When it comes to matters of unusual diets, particularly ones that promise long-term health benefits, I am that little girl. I know no limits, and can be convinced of bizarre results from even more bizarre menus. Now — I’m not exactly a total sucker; the only people who can convince me of the benefits of an odd diet are usually very normal, down-to-earth, healthy and beautiful people whom I know personally (i.e., no spandex-wearing infomercial host will do the trick). Somehow the unorthodox eating habit makes them even more attractive to me. It’s like they’ve got a secret to all that seeming level-headedness, and they are willing to share it with me. They are the the most popular kid in school, and I am, well, not. But they’ve taken me under their wing.

Now that I’m documenting this little personality trait of mine, I realize that ALL the times in my life when I’ve done some weird dietary things have been when I’ve moved. When I first went to college, I decided to become a vegetarian (this, I know, is not really that weird; lots of kids become vegetarians when they go to college, and some even stick with it). Then, when I first left Mississippi to go to graduate school, I began following a crazy blood-type diet from this book. I stopped eating wheat and dairy, started spending all my meager quarter-time-teaching-stipend on Ezekiel bread, and began to tsk-tsk any O-positive who still consumed large amounts of cow’s milk (didn’t they understand their ancestors didn’t do that???).

So here we are, in the midwest. A girl who’s never lived outside of the South (the Appalachian cultures of east Tennessee and western North Carolina are a little different, but still The South in many ways). I’m out of my element — everything is so very unbearably new (it was “novel” for a week or so, but now I’ve grown weary of it). This has been a very easy move in so many logistical ways, but it’s still a move. And those are hard. So, yes; here we are. Me, forever trying to figure out how to buy all our groceries at something less than four grocery stores. Wondering if we’ll ever actually get to try any restaurants at all in Indianapolis since we might not ever find a babysitter. And in the middle of all this, I make a new friend.

Michelle (not her real name) is a charming mother of two boys. She is intelligent, talented, and was instantly likable — it was like I had known her for years. She is from California (this ups the credibility factor) and has really cool hair. I like her clothes, I like her house, and I like the air of effortlessness with which she seems to do everything. She was an angel, the first week we were here, and offered to take my kids for a morning so I could get some unpacking done. In the process of making the arrangements, I tell her about my son’s food allergies, and assure her that she won’t have to remove anything from her house, and that I’ll send the proper food with him. We end up talking more about food, and it comes out that she is currently on a raw-food diet.

You’ve probably heard of this. She only eats raw food. Meaning, nothing is cooked, ever. Not only this, but she also is in the process of removing all wheat and dairy from her household (this part rang a bell). I dropped off my kids and left her house thinking, what in the world does she eat?

And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. All I could think about, for a few days, was what is Michelle eating? I would get hungry for a snack, walk into the kitchen, look in my refrigerator, and think, “what would Michelle eat?” One morning I woke up to eat breakfast, and as I had my normal breakfast of raisin bran, granola, and milk, I became completely fixated on what she eats for breakfast. No dairy, and nothing cooked. She told me she doesn’t really do soy or rice milk, and she wouldn’t eat the cereals because they are cooked. I couldn’t quit thinking about it. Finally, mid-morning, I give in, and write her an email. I had some other things to ask her, but really, the question that was burning, the one I tacked onto the end of the message, was “oh, and, what do you eat for breakfast?”

The answer? Well, according to this book, a great starter would be cucumbers and tomatoes with a little lemon juice. But most often she makes a green smoothie: kale, water, a banana, and maybe some ginger.

For three days now, I am at a loss for what to eat. All of a sudden, I know nothing about what I like, what is healthy, what satisfies my hunger, what sounds good. I am circling my kitchen, like a lost child. Multiple gazes into the pantry and refrigerator do nothing but lend further to my confusion. Everything I’m used to eating seems so… milky. And somehow Ph-imbalanced (I don’t even know what that MEANS!). This morning, I made myself a smoothie: kale, a banana, and water. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll just add a touch of apple juice. And just make sure I brush my teeth well, to get all the minuscule flecks of kale out from embarrassing places.

But that’s really just silly, and I knew it. I’m not starting this diet, I don’t even understand it — by lunchtime I was so hungry and disoriented I ate leftover rice and veggies (fully-cooked) from last night’s dinner, and by dinner I was eating pizza with a Phish food chaser. But I’m so confused, about what to eat, where to shop, this new place that we live, I’m not even really enjoying it. Raw green smoothie to marshmallow-fudge ice cream, I’m just not in the groove. You could say that I’ve lost that food-lovin’ feeling.

To be fair, and to paint a clear picture: my new friend Michelle is in no way pushing her diet on me. She’s gone out of her way to make sure she describes it as something that has worked for her, but isn’t for everyone; and even seems reticent to talk about it at all. This is just me, in my well-worn neurotic way, putting all of my emotion onto the food I eat. What else is new? It just so happens that at this point in my life, it isn’t boding well for a woman who likes to write about food.

Anyway. I hope to wake up one morning soon and know exactly what I want for breakfast. Perhaps it will happen on the day I finally muster the guts to call the Amish Milk Guy (should I be concerned if Harrison Ford answers the phone?) and get a taste of raw Indiana cow’s milk. Maybe all will fall back into place later this week when I pick up my first box from the CSA I joined. It could actually be as simple as getting out the ice cream maker, and getting back into a routine similar to what I had before the move. All I ask is that, if you’d be so kind, you might bear with me as I wait to again be inspired by what I eat. It’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last. Who knows. Maybe after a week of kale smoothies, I will feel so energetic and level-headed that I will throw out all my cookware and commit to a life of crunchiness.

But don’t hedge bets on it.

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