sunday favorites

A biweekly feature of my favorite recent reads and photos. Enjoy!

Erm… perhaps not so biweekly. It’s been a while! Here are a few photos from the first day of school and little scenes around the house, ending with the billowing smoke cloud coming up over our house yesterday from a wildfire. The fire is still going, currently at 500 acres and 50% contained. I’ve got my inhaler very handy, just feeling thankful that the wind hasn’t shifted this way. NorCal summer is a bitch.

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I have to apologize because I saved SO many great articles this month… but when I tried to sync my storage they disappeared. These are still good, but mostly not the ones I really wanted to share. Oh well.

Resonating with the death activist. This is a drum I’ve been beating for a loooong-ass time.

Loving Ben Hewitt’s blog. I can’t recommend any one post. Just get over there.

The couple that gets high together…?

How libertarians could be a significant force for good in U.S. politics (and it’s not by being purists).

Who really controls California’s water? Looks a lot like taxation without representation to me.

On being a white trash Buddhist.

A great many of my friends go to Burning Man every year, and based on those folks I think this article is probably on the right track.

“We’re taught that women’s privacy is less important than men’s pleasure.” A punch in the gut.

The ultimate homesteader’s ambition: raising a year’s supply of meat.

Stuff I want to cook… pasta with mushrooms in creamy mustard sauce, a gorgeous rose & pistachio cake, nori-spiced homemade potato chips, meringues with lemon-clementine curd, spicy sausage, potato, and kale soup.

oh hey

I sorta forgot I had a blog for a minute there.

School started. Business picked up. Inspiration is low, and the Internet is distracting.

I spend most of my days with no pants on but still can’t seem to find time to write.

I’ve discovered a strong inverse correlation between the number of times I post on Facebook each day and the amount of time I spend writing actual writing-type writings.

Plus, there are currently 56 articles about the Iraq War: Version 8.6 saved in my queue.

More critically, heartwarming animal videos. (This one is my very very favorite.)

Why not share something funny or interesting or inspirational in the comments? I’ll be back tomorrow with links.

let’s make the most of it

A few weeks ago the kids and I packed up the car and drove two hours south to San Francisco to pick up a friend visiting from Puerto Rico. We left early in the morning, in anticipation of morning bridge traffic, and arrived at the airport right on time at 9:45 am… only to receive a text from my friend that I’d mixed up her arrival and departure times and her plane wouldn’t land until nine hours later.

I felt only mildly panicked at the prospect of spending nine hours in one of the most expensive cities on the planet with a quarter-tank of gas and exactly $28 in cash… with two children. So I did what any good Millennial would do: I posted my predicament to Facebook and asked for advice from friends.

Here’s what we did.

Drove to Golden Gate Park, where the kids looked at some ducks while I did some frantic Googling.

Drove to the closest library.

Looked for free parking for twenty minutes.

Looked for paid parking for ten minutes.

Drove to the next-closest library.

Repeated #2 & #3.

Drove to the next-NEXT-closest library.

Holy shit, free parking only 1/4-mile from the library?!

The library was closed.

Two hours down!

Drove to the closest park with a jungle gym.

Realized my kids are really too old for parks with jungle gyms (sob).

Searched for San Francisco beach access.

Spent at least ten minutes completely baffled that “the City by the Bay” has virtually no beach access?

Fretted about the gas tank for a few minutes before driving to Daly City.

Nearly drove off the highway gaping at the ultra-dense urban housing.

Found a Safeway and wasted another 45 minutes buying $18 worth of chili, yogurt, water, chips, and Larabars for lunch and dinner.

Four hours down!

Arrived at Ocean Beach. Kids stripped down and went straight into the ocean.

Read on the beach until I unfortunately made eye contact with an extremely friendly, pregnant, inebriated surrogate mother, who regaled me with tragic stories for…let’s just say a while.

Eight hours down!

Drove to a strip mall where I unwisely spent $4 on a desperately-needed corporate latte and then parked in a shady spot and read until it was time to drive to the airport. I put my last $6 in the tank before we left, just enough to get back home to civilization.

Not a completely terrible day. My kids were absolute ANGELS throughout this whole ordeal. Through all of my searching and texting and map-reading and false cheerfulness, through warm yogurt and stopped traffic and sorry-you-can’t-just-pee-on-a-tree-here, there were no complaints.They read quietly in the backseat almost the whole time.

And I didn’t have to pay for parking even once.

SF | seed & feather

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how I recover from gluten exposure

rich chicken broth | seed & feather

So I forgot the brown rice that I’d pre-cooked for a client’s supper. I’m usually well-organized but NOT THAT DAY, so I used a bag of pasta from the client’s pantry instead, regular wheat-based pasta. And the thing about pasta is that you really need to taste it to test it, so I had two noodles. Two.

I should have done something else, I know. But I was rushed and in perfectionist mode and already pissed at myself for forgetting the rice and just wanted the meal to be right. I didn’t fully realize that I was reacting until later the next day.

It’s still surprising to me that two little noodles can cause several days of pain and discomfort when I used to deliberately eat wheat a dozen times a day. Of course, I received the “placeholder diagnosis” of IBS at age 8 and did experience varying levels of pain and discomfort throughout my life, so things were happening in my body all along even if it took a while to make the connection.

People with celiac do tend to become more sensitive to gluten when they adopt a strict gluten-free diet, because their guts heal. It’s the difference between being rear-ended in a wrecked car and being rear-ended in a vehicle that still has that new car smell. You’re going to feel it much more when your guts still have that healthy intestinal membrane smell. I think I lost my metaphor.

Every person has a different experience of gluten exposure. Some people aren’t symptomatic at all, though that doesn’t mean there isn’t damage. Others end up in the hospital. Most reside somewhere in the territory of fatigue, abdominal pain, bleeding, bloating, “brain fog,” joint pain, itchy skin, diarrhea and/or constipation.

I get to enjoy all of the latter, plus wheezing because gluten exacerbates my asthma. (By the way, that’s what was going on here. I’d been using my [banned, discontinued, stockpiled because I had no health insurance] inhaler 2+ times a day, which caused heart arrhythmia, tachycardia, and high BP. Going gluten-free stopped the daily attacks entirely, so I was able to stop using my inhaler, and my heart rhythm normalized. That doesn’t mean YOUR asthma has anything to do with gluten, that’s just my experience.)

I’ve been strictly gluten-free for a while now, but occasional exposure is nearly impossible to avoid, especially when you cook for a living. So I have a little action plan to help me feel better. I don’t know if any of these things will help you, but you’re welcome to try.

REST

For me, fatigue is the most significant symptom of gluten exposure. Muscles weak, eyelids at half-mast, I feel like I’m walking through fog for a few days. I just go with it. I nap a lot. I get a lot of reading done.

BONE BROTH

Bone broth is the great healer. Gelatin is soothing to inflamed guts and minerals help with cramping and irritability.

PROTEIN

The body uses proteins to knit structures back together. Tofu and eggs are my favorite post-gluten proteins; beef and pork feel too harsh on my system at that time.

MAGNESIUM

Natural Calm, baby. Drink it up. It eases anxiety, and can help ya poo if you need it.

FIBER

Also helps with nasty digestive problems that we’d all like to pretend don’t exist, but sadly cannot. I prefer soluble forms of fiber from oats, fruits, and vegetables. Insoluble sources like corn, crucifers, root vegetables, and raisins can be difficult to process in a pissed-off belly.

EASILY DIGESTED FOODS

This is not the time for that triple double-decker three-cheese burger on a gluten-free bun with a mountain of cheesy garlic fries. Save that for next week. Whole grains (except oatmeal), lentils, beans, cheese, red meat, nuts, and gluten-free goodies with binders & gums are all on hold, just for a few days. White rice, (certified) oats, non-cruciferous vegetables, eggs, and fruit are all ideal. Plain ol’ sugar in tea or coffee can be an easy source of energy; I find honey a little hard to digest after gluten exposure.

WATER

Oh, so much water.

YOGA

Some nice deep stretches are good for the gut, help to ease stress and make it easier to sleep.

CULTURED FOODS

This is not a blanket rule. Some fermented foods do NOT help me feel better, such as sauerkraut. I have reflux continuously for a few days after gluten exposure, and although fermented foods help some people with reflux, they do not help me. For the most part I don’t do cultured vegetables during this time. Instead it’s yogurt and fermented drinks like water kefir or (even better) coconut kefir. These are very soothing and help to tamp down the bloating and pain. Kimchi sometimes helps, but it’s kinda hit-or-miss.

REST

Yep, I put it on the list twice. It’s really the most important thing.

congee | seed & feather

My favorite dish for any kind of illness is congee (also known as jook, and probably three hundred other things), a Chinese (and probably three hundred other places) porridge of rice flavored and topped with whatever’s around — herbs, scallions, pickles/ferments, leftover meat, chiles, sesame oil. In its most basic guise, congee is just rice cooked with lots of water. Even like this, it’s delicious, soothing, warm, and easily digested, perfect sick-person food.

It’s very simple to make. Start with a short-grained rice (white is traditional, brown is fine). Combine one cup of rice with anywhere from 5 to 10 cups of bone broth — I usually use 8 and add another cup or two at the end. I know it seems like a helluva lot of liquid, but that’s what makes it so unctuous and comforting. I like to add garlic and ginger to the cooking broth, but it’s not required.

Simmer the rice for about an hour, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking. Add a little more liquid toward the end if it’s thicker than you’d like. Then top with whatever you like — this time I used cilantro, chile-garlic sauce, scallions, and some crispy chicken bits.

congee | seed & feather

blackberry cornbread buckle

I’m a sucker for free food. I don’t like to miss any opportunity to stock my freezer or can some jars. Blackberries, though…

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This year I did it. I got up early, hustled my family out of the house, drove up to the reservoir, and picked for almost two hours.

seed & feather: millcreek

seed & feather: blackberries

seed & feather: blackberries

seed & feather: blackberry picking

seed & feather: blackberry picking

seed & feather: blackberry picking

The reward was this cobbler. Also a couple of other things that I can’t remember now. Worth it!

A buckle is something like a cobbler in that a bunch of fruit is combined with a thick buscuit-y layer, but in a buckle the fruit is layered on top of the biscuit and then “buckles” underneath during baking.

seed & feather: blackberry cornbread cobbler

sed & feather: blackberry cornbread cobbler

The ratio of dry to wet ingredients is critical in a buckle. I’ve had (made) many a buckle that was overwhelmed by the fruit layer. You don’t want soggy bread in your buckle. The two elements need to stay somewhat distinct. This is why I almost always add cornmeal to my buckles (and also cobblers). I love the flavor, and it stands up especially well in gluten-free treats.

The result is a mish-mash of sweet, ripe fruit and hearty, thick cornbread. No sogginess.

The buttermilk here helps with both leavening and flavor. I’ve been using buttermilk all over the place lately. I like tangy.

seed & feather: blackberry cornbread cobbler

BLACKBERRY CORNBREAD BUCKLE

1 c. gluten-free baking blend (I use Pamela’s)

3/4 c. cornmeal

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. butter, softened

1 c. buttermilk (well-shaken)

1 t. vanilla extract

3 c. blackberries

3 T. sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9″ springform pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the gluten-free baking blend, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Work in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingers, until the mixture becomes crumby. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla to form a thick batter. Spread batter in the bottom of the springform pan.

Combine the blackberries and sugar and spread over the batter.

Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before releasing the sides of the pan and slicing.

Serve with hazelnut or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

30 Things: learn to fish!

I have been sloooooowly plowing through my 30 Things list. Last weekend I crossed off #14: Learn to Fish.

I asked our friends John & Susan to provide the education. John is an avid sea fisherman who visits the coast several times a year to stock up on rockfish, perch, sea trout, and others. He’s also an abalone diver, so basically a bad-ass. We followed him out to the Mendocino coast, then hiked over a wide plain to the coastal edge, where we risked life & limb to climb over cliffs that are specifically labeled as cliffs where you should not climb. We found some little perches where the ocean PROBABLY wouldn’t swell up and drown us, stuck in our poles, and waited.

And waited.

And waaaaaaaited.

We didn’t catch anything. But that’s okay. We had an absolute blast. It was a gorgeous day (as it always is on the Mendo coast), the sea was wild, the tidepools were an endless fascination. We’ll be going back very soon.

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this post is not about vaccines

It wasn’t a completely conscious decision to become a non-vaxing family.

Back when I was an antisocial, unemployed mother, I frequented message boards at sites such as mothering.com and local Yahoo! groups with titles like “Natural Mothering [City/State],” online spaces for mothers who birth at home, breastfeed for years, sleep with their babies, use cloth diapers, and carry their children in slings. I remember being a little bewildered that the taglines for the some of the mothers, a collection of little emoji gifs of a cloth diaper, a breast, and a sling, for example, often included a blinking multicolored NO VAX, or something like this:

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Just to be clear, it’s my experience that the focus on the minutiae of parenting styles can be destructive to the relationships between parents and children, and parents and other parents. Back then, though, I was a homebirthing, cloth-diapering, co-sleeping, attachment parenting zealot. But I wasn’t proud of not vaccinating. I didn’t advertise the fact and I wasn’t sure why I should. It wasn’t something I chose according to some specific set of ethics or particular parenting style. It just sort of happened. Mostly from inertia. Which is weird for me.

Among attachment parents, breastfeeding holds nearly mystical status while vaccines are looked upon with, at best, suspicion (despite vaccines having no real relevance in attachment). All of the attachment parents I knew avoided vaccines altogether or placed their children on a delayed, restricted schedule of shots. Apart from classes in epidemiology and immunology, I’d never thought about immunizations in any significant way. So while pregnant with Isaiah, I decided to do some research.

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It’s my tendency to become obsessed with a special topic and put in thousands of hours of study until I can craft an informed opinion – but vaccines were the exception. I could not make sense of the rhetoric on either side. I had the constant sense that I was being sold an intensely biased viewpoint, whether the source was the CDC or a midwife. I just couldn’t get clarity on the subject. Even the medical research, usually my haven, was so laden with conflicts of interest that I found it unconvincing in either direction. And though I usually feel comfortable with rigorous science, I couldn’t fully grasp the function, mechanism, or implications of immunization. Very few people really understand how vaccines work; mostly we’re just parroting ideas that are beyond our grasp.

At Isaiah’s 2-month well-child check-up, the doctor yelled in my face for expressing that I wanted to do more research into vaccines before committing to any. He asked me if I wanted my child to die, or to kill someone else. Of course I did not. So he gave my boy a shot. I walked out in tears and did not return.

After that day, I didn’t feel that I could make an informed, unbiased decision, so I did something I’ve never done before in any other situation, with any other issue – nothing. I neither vaccinated nor made the definitive decision not to vaccinate.

Over the years Jeremy and I have revisited our decision to not-vaccinate while not making a decision to not-vaccinate. Each time, we’ve only briefly touched on the topic before jumping away. I haven’t done more research into the topic since that day nine years ago. I haven’t counseled with fellow parents, followed message boards, read books or articles, or spent time on PubMed looking at medical studies. Still, over time I grew in the feeling that my children should be vaccinated. I didn’t decide that vaccines don’t cause autism (I never thought they did). I didn’t bundle support of vaccination into my general skepticism of “natural” parenting methods. I wasn’t convinced by the nasty rage-fueled campaign against “anti-vaxxers.” I was influenced by deep consideration of just three issues:

  1. Disease rates are increasing, including in California where we live.
  2. Many people in our immediate community are unvaccinated.
  3. Some people cannot be vaccinated, and are dependent on their communities for protection.

That’s it. Essentially the scales tipped just barely enough in the direction of supporting public health measures and reducing harm to others to result in my kids sitting on a paper-covered examination table at the rural health clinic.

So that’s done. But here’s what I’ve observed from years of being uncertain about vaccination. Here’s what I want you, the vaccine opponent or supporter, to think about when this topic comes up.

Every time the vaccination issue enters a conversation, a HUGE fight breaks out between those who view vaccines as a literal poison compelled upon parents enslaved by a nanny-state government and those who view vaccines as the engine that has furthered the advance of civilization.

In online discussions it’s completely common for people to say that parents who don’t vaccinate should have their children stolen by the government or that the parents themselves should just be executed.

There is no room in there for the person who isn’t sure if it’s safe to inject their children with formaldehyde, but also doesn’t want to be responsible for a resurgence of polio. Such people are immediately shouted down by “skeptical, pro-science advocates” who basically shit on anyone with a question.

On the other side, anyone tentatively suggesting that vaccines might occasionally prevent disease is shouted down by “skeptical, pro-liberty advocates” who shit on any vaccine supporter for drinking the Kool-aid of the CDC or perhaps even shilling for a drug company.

There are reasons for distrust of vaccines. This movement did not arise from a vacuum. Those reasons include the overwhelmingly suspicious behavior of pharmaceutical companies, the profit-driven, interest-conflicted approach of our health care system, and the rampant lack of honesty and respect for personal privacy, choice, and liberty from the government.

These are all legitimate concerns that can closely zero in to the vaccine issue as the only mandatory drug program in existence.

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The issue can have personal implications as well. Maybe that doctor was genuinely concerned that my one unvaccinated two-month-old would be patient zero in a varicella outbreak. But he still should not have shouted in my face. I was sick, weak, exhausted, traumatized, and desperate to do the right thing. I walked out of that clinic feeling bullied and nauseated. And however rational I like to consider myself, that experience had an impact on my future consideration of vaccinations. Whenever I thought about vaccinating I pictured that doctor asking me if I wanted my child to die… of chicken pox. Instead of encouraging me to think of my child dying of chicken pox, I became indignant, frustrated, and resistant to his argument – completely typical human behavior.

Maybe poor bedside manner, massive class-action lawsuits against drug companies, and pervasive conflicts of interest in medical research and government should not reflect on vaccines – but since vaccination is compulsory from both the government and health officials, they do. They inevitably do. And a paternal approach of patting on the head, don’t-worry-I’m-a-doctor just doesn’t work anymore. Transparency, boundaries, civility, reparations, compassion… all are necessary, and sorely lacking.

Most people really do just follow the CDC recommendations without examination because, well, they’re the CDC. We should be able to trust them. But every medical hierarchy is suspect because of the inequities and mistakes of the health care system and our government. The anti-vax movement has not occurred in isolation; it’s a symptom of a greater societal breakdown.

herd-immunity

Speaking of societal breakdown, let’s talk about public health for a sec. You might have noticed that people are, well, kinda unhealthy these days. People are living longer but crappier. And to make matters worse, our society is so fixated on this silver bullet mentality. “Nutritionism” is making a mess of people’s diets. When I was growing up, everyone was afraid of fat. I was raised on margarine and fat-free salad dressing. Now the tide has turned and people are afraid of carbs, as if we have no collective memory whatsoever. Nobody knows what really causes chronic disease, because we think there’s a cause.

A.

Cause.

Just one.

It’s all the sitting we do. Unless it’s the carbs. Or maybe the stress. Commuting? Poverty? GMOs? Low breastfeeding rates? Pthalates? C’mon, just tell us.

Well, some people think it might be vaccines. Maybe we traded infectious disease, a little thinning of the herd, with chronic disease, which makes every damn one of us sick.

Whenever I have oh-so-carefully brought up the vaccine issue in the past, someone has always rushed to tell me that Wakefield’s claim of autism as vaccine injury has been discredited. Don’t you hate when people assume your motives? I never believed that vaccines caused autism. I never worried all that much about formaldehyde or thimerosal or egg yolk in vaccines. I never even questioned that vaccines are effective, though I may have wondered if their influence might be slightly overstated.

But that chronic disease issue… I never thought that vaccines were the cause, the silver bullet, but I may have harbored a little nugget of fear that they play a role. And it’s the not-knowing that gets ya. It would have helped me so much to be able to explore that idea with someone who had no vested interest in getting me to vaccinate or avoid vaccinating my kids. But it was impossible.

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The dominant extremist monologue on both sides of the argument kept me in a state of inertia for a long time. We need a serious return to civil discourse. We need it so badly. In the end, it was my overall move toward moderation, my rejection of that culture of oppositional belief, that drew me closer to vaccination. Because I let go of that silver bullet mentality. I stopped looking for that One True Thing… the thing that could stand in for religion in our ostensibly secular but deeply puritanical culture. I stopped worrying that I might be condemning my kids to a life of chronic, incurable suffering with each specific decision. I stopped thinking in terms of “right” and “wrong” altogether, and started looking at the scale, the spectrum, the collective. The sum. In addition to the slight tipping in favor of the greater good, I also turned very gently in the direction of accepting some risks. Not viewing each individual choice as a cascade of condemning consequences.

I still don’t believe there’s an absolute correct decision in the matter of vaccinating, but that’s not what this post is about anyway.

sunday favorites

A biweekly feature of my favorite recent reads and photos. Enjoy!

I’ve had an unexpected little break from work that’s freed me up to do crazy things like… house-sitting, walking the dog, alcohol-fueled pity parties with friends, finding surprise cukes, picking blackberries, stocking up at the Asian market… really enjoying my kids and some quiet activities… basically just being a real human being.

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A few favorite reads…

Wonderful piece about giving up on the mommy wars.

If you’re not reading ‘bitches gotta eat’ you should be. Samantha’s writing is hysterically funny. This post especially.

This is also funny, but probably only if you’ve rather recently done ‘shrooms.

A hard reality… Don’t let your children grow up to be farmers.

This article on the conflict between (some) radical feminists and the trans community was very very challenging for me and roused some interesting discussion with friends.

Food : white liberals as sex : religious right?

Love The Bloggess’ (no clue how to make that possessive) take on the Women Against Feminism Tumblr. (P.S. You know what makes me feel old? I’m not exactly clear on how Tumblr works.)

How the 1% is hijacking mindfulness.

I’ve fiercely resisted monetization for almost ten solid years of blogging and though I do have some ethical considerations for it, mostly I just HATE how monetized blogs become super boring and self-promoting and also very cluttered with blinking lights and intrusive advertisements and so forth. When blogs monetize I almost always stop reading them for these reasons. So I appreciated decor8’s perspective on the matter.

A lovely essay on autonomy in relationships, from a new favorite writer.

Have a wonderful week!

how I stopped feeling addicted to nachos

A few years ago I took part in an “office cleanse,” in which a team of office mates collectively decides to be super cranky and unproductive while they starve themselves on the company dime.

This particular cleanse involved a week of raw food for breakfast and lunch, lean protein in the evenings, and a gallon of water a day, followed by three days of fasting on water, lemon, and cranberry juice.

I barely made it through the solid food portion of the cleanse because I caught a cold which swiftly turned to bronchitis, because asthma. I made a serious effort at the juice fast portion, but after the second day, I ended up face-down in a pizza box. And I wish that was facetious. For three days I ate a pizza every day. What, you don’t think two thousand fucking calories of gluten and dairy is a good idea for someone with celiac disease and bronchitis?

And that’s how I decided that I was a food addict.

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Not long after the office cleanse I became obsessed with the paleo diet and decided that grains, dairy, beans, and sugar were my problem. I was addicted. And what do addicts do? They fight cravings. So that’s what I did.

And even though I had such a small pool of “safe” foods to draw from, after several months I began to gain weight*. I gained about twenty pounds before deciding to see a doctor, because Dr. Paleo said I must have hypothyroidism. In addition to the weight gain, my hair was falling out, I was cold and depressed, my skin was rough and dry, and I just wanted to sleep. Textbook.

But Dr. Actual Medical Physician said no, I did not have hypothyroidism.

Dr. Paleo said, his test is probably stupid.

Dr. No Seriously, I Went to Medical School said, I’m an endocrine expert with a specialty in hypothyroid.

Dr. Paleo said, PALEO HARDER THEN.

So I decided to do a very popular paleo “cleanse.” About five days into it, I had a come-to-Jesus moment, and snapped out of twenty years of disordered eating. Yes, just like that. The next year wasn’t difficult at all.

Here’s what I figured out. I wasn’t a food addict. I didn’t even have binge eating disorder. My problem wasn’t dairy, grains, beans, lentils, meat, eggs, cruciferous vegetables, nightshades, vegetable oils, processed food, unsoaked nuts and seeds, or even sugar. It was restriction.

But before I figured this out, I definitely felt that I was addicted. The feeling of centrifugal force pulling you toward the kitchen or convenience store while you hang on with white knuckles? The episodes of uncontrolled night eating? The illicit binge sessions alone in the car tucked under the overpass? Sure felt like addiction to me.

I began the recovery process with the feed-bag method. Major binge triggers for me included ice cream, tortilla chips, and breakfast cereal. I could never have these in the house because I would eat the whole carton, bag, box in a day. So I stocked my house with them and replenished as needed until one day, seemingly like magic, I was simply done with them.

Now I can and do have them around occasionally with no urge to fixate, deny, or binge.

Sometimes they even go stale because I forget about them.

This was an amazing experience that completely destroyed my carefully curated concepts about food addiction. Although eating habits can be deeply ingrained, in this case I’m convinced it’s the deprivation/binge cycle that becomes a habit, not the foods themselves. We become habituated to the cycle of restriction -> craving -> resistance -> giving in -> overconsuming -> regret -> penance -> restriction.

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This is the point at which someone always says BUT FOOD COMPANIES. SUGAR SALT FAT. CORPORATE PROFITS. HYPERPALATABILITY!!!

Of course food activates the pleasure centers in your brain — the same ones that light up when you get a hug or a puppy. And of course food manufacturers create foods that are designed to be high-reward with low satiety. They need to move a lot of units, and they employ a whole team of behavioral psychologists to do so.

Still, the addiction model just can’t be applied 1:1 for food, because all sorts of things apply to food that don’t apply to, say, crack cocaine. Like that you need food to live. And that being deprived of food (calorie deficit) encourages the body to seek high-reward foods. Sugar addiction isn’t even a thing (PDF). Think about, just really think. What does your body need in an energy-deprived state? What does sugar provide, quickly and easily? This is not complicated. Binge eating disorder is a real thing, but it’s almost too closely connected to restrictive eating behaviors to delineate. I lied and stole to get food as a kid, not because I was addicted, but because I needed more food than I was given and I wasn’t allowed to ask for more. Sounds a lot like being a woman in an industrialized nation.

And the thing about these evil food corporations is that they depend on a stressed-out, time-deprived population to buy their products. Well-nourished people — people who are sleeping enough, eating enough, getting enough sex, spending enough time with friends, who don’t hate their jobs or feel completely burned out as parents, who have transportation and enough money and balanced hormone levels and some basic cooking skills — probably wouldn’t choose to eat a KFC Double Down very often. I’m not moralizing about KFC, I’m just sayin’, a 1000-calorie sandwich is something of an anomaly in the history of the human diet.

And food marvels like KFC Double Downs don’t occur in a vacuum. We’re also subject to all sorts of cultural phenomena around food, eating, and body size that impact our decision-making. The diet and food manufacturing industries are two sides of the same coin, and we swallow both with equal gusto. We absorb the message that fat is the worst thing you can be, and also that you deserve a break today and you can’t eat just one. Junk food isn’t going away any time soon, nor is misogyny, fat hatred, food fetishism, class issues around food, diet culture, moral purity through food, the whole collective eating disorder. We have to figure out how to live with this shit.

For me, it’s way more satisfying and effective to focus on my overall health and the consistency of my choices than to feel victimized and restricted in the minutiae of my habits. If that sounds boring, well, it is. It’s such a thrill to start a new diet, like paleo or juice-fasting. We’re like blushing virgin brides each and every time, looking forward to the pleasures to come… adapting recipes, finding new packaged foods, joining groups of people who eat like us, bringing our own food to every social event… (Geez, when I type it out like that it sounds pathetic.) Moderation, by comparison, is dull. It is boring to make just a few more positive choices, like walking five minutes a day. Our society is built on extremes. Moderation just doesn’t fit.

But starvation and bingeing are two of the most destructive things you can do to your body. For those of us chained to the hamster wheel of binge/restrict, recovery and moderation are the only health-sustaining options.

TL;DR? Your urge to binge on energy-dense food is probably not because you’re a worthless asshole with no self-control. Your body’s intelligence speaks for itself. Your metabolic system will override your hipster food logic without even breaking a sweat. That’s survival, yo. The solution?

EAT ENOUGH. MOVE ENOUGH. SLEEP ENOUGH. BE ENOUGH.

Boring as hell, but more effective, and I promise you will never feel like a crazy person doing this, except when you openly eat a bagel and everyone in the room is like, WUT. HOW DAREST THOU.

You deserve peace.

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*I gained weight while paleo because of subconscious compensatory eating, not because of lowered metabolism. From what I’m read about metabolic compensation, if you are truly undereating you will only lose weight except in the absolute extreme. This is a difficult fact to face, but it’s not a moral failing. Your body is just smarter than you.

cubano pork tacos with quick-pickled tomatillos

While visiting Monterey we went to Hula’s Island Grill. I looked at the menu for approximately three seconds before deciding to get the Cubano pork tacos with beans & rice. I’m a taco fuh-REAK, plus, Cubano? Yes. I will have it.

A Cubano is a pressed sandwich made with roasted pork loin, ham, provolone or Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles. It’s insanely delicious high-reward food and I can’t eat it because of the stupid gluten.

The tacos were definitely good, but I wouldn’t say that they tasted much like a Cubano… more like carnitas with slaw. So as soon as we got home, I set out to make a truly Cubano-inspired taco.

I practiced on a client, but again, it was basically carnitas. I realized that what was missing was a sweet element as well as a pickle.

The only thing I couldn’t quite decide on was the cheese. I thought provolone or Swiss would cross the line into weird in this fusion taco. So I just didn’t include cheese, and it goes without saying, there’s no mustard either.

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Because a Cubano includes both roasted pork and ham, I decided to make a sweet pork to combine the flavors of both. I used a jar of homemade marmalade to achieve the basic ham flavor, but with the texture of roast pork. The quick-pickled tomatillos make a good pickle substitute while retaining the Mexican side of the fusion. I also fried plantains in coconut oil and dusted them with Tajín Clasíco, a chile-lime powder, which is one of the most essential spices in my kitchen.

All in all it was a ridiculously hot and time-invested meal for a 106-degree afternoon, but when you need a taco there is just no way to argue with that craving, amirite? (If you skip the plantains it’s actually very low personal involvement.)

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CUBANO PORK TACOS WITH QUICK-PICKLED TOMATILLOS

FOR THE PORK:

2 lb. pork roast, preferably bone-in

1 c. orange marmalade

1 onion, peeled and halved

2 bay leaves

1 lime, halved

Preheat the oven to 300F. Salt the pork liberally on all sides. In a cast iron dutch oven or equivalent casserole dish with a lid, heat a glug of olive oil until shimmering, then sear the pork on all sides. Slather the pork with the marmalade, then place the onion, bay leaves, and lime into the pot. Add two cups of water and bring to a boil. As soon as the liquid is boiling, cover with the lid, and place the pot inside the oven. Roast for approximately 2 hours, until fork-tender. Remove the lid for the last twenty minutes to reduce the sauce.

When the pork is finished, break it up with a fork (no need to shred it fully) and mix it thoroughly with the sauce.

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FOR THE QUICK-PICKLED TOMATILLOS:

1/2 lb. tomatillos, husked and washed

1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly

1 garlic clove, peeled

1/2 c. white vinegar

1/2 c. water

1/4 c. sugar

1 t. salt

Dice the tomatillos, then layer them with the onion and garlic clove in a pint jar. Bring the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a simmer and pour over the tomatillos. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.

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FOR THE FRIED PLANTAINS:

4 plantains, not very ripe

1/4 c. coconut oil

Tajín Clasíco chile-lime powder, for dusting

Peel the plantains and slice them thinly on a bias. Heat two tablespoons of coconut oil in a wide cast iron pan. Add the plantains in a single layer. Fry for roughly 4 minutes per side, until crispy and brown on the edges. Drain on a layer of paper towels, then dust liberally with Tajín. Continue with the rest of the plantains, adding more oil as needed.

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TO COMPOSE THE TACOS:

Corn tortillas, warmed until soft

Mexican crema or sour cream

1 avocado, sliced

3 limes, quartered

Place a few chunks of pork in each tortilla. Top with a few tomatillo pickles, a slice of avocado, and a drizzle of crema. Serve with a lime quarter for squeezing, with plantains on the side. Enjoy!