Food For Thought

The other day, someone politely informed me that I was a terrible writer, with a sneer and a laugh.
Um… Thanks?

I had no response.

I spluttered and mumbled.   
“Oh.”

I was saddened by the fact that I felt so bothered and upset by such breezy criticism.
I was sad that I was sad.

A cheery circle of life, no?

Anyways, this prompted me to sit down at my computer, poised and ready to write a beautiful post, one that would surely impress this person, should they ever bother to read my blog again.

I’ve been sitting here ever since.
Sort of. 
I have been dwelling on this, more than I really should be.
This post has lain blank, while my mind churns with all the things I want to shout say.

What better place to rant than here on my very own blog, on the ever-so-private internet?
Actually, I don’t want this to be private.  
I want it to be shared and sent around, all around, despite its intimate and private contents- I want it to make its rounds through people’s inboxes and readers.
This is because I want it to have some impact.
I want people to remember how others feel when they make them feel bad about themselves, because sometimes we just don’t think before we speak.
We all forget too soon how we have felt when we are sad and broken.

We’ve all been on both ends of a less-than-kind comment, and I won’t hear otherwise.

I mean, honestly, as if I needed yet another thing to pick at inside me.
Another sore place where I feel I’m not good enough- another place which I scratch until it bleeds, until I drown in all of that bloody sorrow and regret and self-loathing.
 
I struggle to grasp at confidence; I do my best to act it, even when I don’t feel at all confident within.
There are a few things that I am (was?) confident about, and one is my baking and my blog.
I toil here, probably more than you think, to create a product of which I can be proud.
 
I love my blog.  And I love my readers.
And frankly, I put enough work in here that I don’t really care if someone thinks I’m a terrible writer.  
 
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when they tell me that.
To be honest, I’m not confident enough that it doesn’t make me doubt myself and my intentions.
I still came back to this blog with the thought that perhaps it’s not worth it, or not good enough, that people don’t like to read it.
I worried about this blog, and I worried about myself.  
For days.
 
So couldn’t that snide comment have been left to the wayside?

Because where exactly did it leave me?
Extra critical and picky over this blog.
Worried and worrying about what others think of me, not only myself, now, but also my blog.
Worried not only about how other bloggers receive me, but also my readers.
Self-doubting.
 
If we spent half as much time loving and appreciating as doubting and critiquing ourselves, don’t you think we- and this world as a whole- would be that much more satisfied and happy?

Wouldn’t we be that much more willing to love others?  To overlook their faults and embrace them?  
Don’t the majority of our criticisms and anger stem from our own sadness?

I lay in bed last night, feeling the cool air from my open window wash over me, wrapping around my ankles and resting in the crook of my elbows, flooding my nose and cooling the back of my throat, thinking about self-appreciation and love.

My thoughts- harboring hate self propagates; sow seeds of love and harvest happiness. 

The happier we are with ourselves- the more comfortable in our own skins- the brighter and happier our futures will be.

I want my future to glow- to shine- bright enough to blind.
That starts with loving myself.
That starts (anew) here.

Phew.  
To conclude this, I’m giving you the recipe for a cake that loves you back.
It’s raw, vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, and much lower in fat than most other raw desserts.
I’ve swapped in low-fat coconut milk and coconut, reduced the amount of nuts used in the crust and filling, and added a vegetable.
Zucchini!  That magical veggie which we are all guaranteed to have too much of in the coming weeks, as the plants churn out hundreds of little green squashes.
 
This cake boasts healthy fats from coconut, avocado, and walnuts.
It gets all of its sweetness from bananas, mangoes, dates, and a touch of stevia.
It’s pretty, and it’s yummy.
It’s a hug for your stomach, which is pretty much as close as I can get to giving any of you a hug.

A Cake That Loves You Back
ingredients:
for the crust:
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup coconut (I used reduced fat)
6 fat and juicy dried medjool dates, pitted
2 tablespoons coconut oil
for the banana layer:
2 bananas, peeled and chopped, then frozen
1 avocado
1 medium zucchini, peeled
1 scant cup of cashews, picked over and soaked in cold water for at least 2 hours
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 teaspoon stevia extract
for the mango layer:
2 cups chopped, frozen mango
1 cup light coconut milk
directions:
Make the crust: pulse all of the crust ingredients together in a food processor until they form a uniformly coarse meal. 
Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
Make the banana layer: in a blender or food pro, puree the cashews until very smooth.
Add in the rest of the ingredients and puree until very, very smooth, at least a couple minutes.
Spread over the crust and chill in the freezer until set.
Meanwhile, make the mango layer: in a blender or food pro, puree the mango and coconut milk until a thick, sorbet-like mixture is formed.
Spread over the frozen banana layer, then chill again until the whole thing is set.
Before serving, allow it to sit at room temperature to temper, then cut and serve.

Superman

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…

Sorry.  It’s just me.  Nothing special.

But often I am asked (yes, boring old me), with slight suspicion and narrowed eyes, “What are you?”

And when I answer that question, it is immediately followed with, “So what do you eat?”
Um, so, here goes: I am a nutritarian, which is a term I use loosely.  I like to think that I follow a diet led by my principles, rather than solely my stomach.  I am conscientious of my body and of the environment.  I make choices that I hope will benefit them both.  Technically, I am a strict lacto-ovo-vegetarian (I eat dairy (generally only cheese and yogurt) and eggs), a part-time vegan, and a lot of times, a raw foodist.  I guess I’m also a locavore because I do my best to eat locally and sustainably.

One very full, very sleepy little kitty

I hate these labels.  They’re restrictions that I don’t particularly care to have.  I’m not one or the other one hundred percent of the time.  (Except the no meat or bones deal.  I’m not trying to proselytize, but if you are looking for more information, read up with some of the great books out there, like Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals (my favorite book), Hal Herzog’s Some We Love, Some We Hate, and Some We Eat, and Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. )

I believe the real truth about food and how we should view it finds its roots in the simplest fact of it all.


Food is, in and of itself, love.  Cooking is an act of love.  It represents the need and desire to feed and nurture those who you care about, including yourself.  Live to eat, not eat to live. The act of eating is hugely important; feeding yourself and others represents an innate desire to nourish those whom you love.  Most importantly, food is not just fuel; it is a vital social connection between all of us. It shouldn’t be used just to get by, nor should it be all about the labels.  
There are so many fads going on nowadays that everyone feels pressured to define their way of life and way of eating with names.  What’s the point?  It doesn’t help you enjoy a fresh piece of fruit any more knowing that you are “raw” and “vegan.”  You’re not really happy when you deny your body a treat because you’re on a diet, and your body sure isn’t happy either.  If you’ve been drooling over chocolate for weeks and weeks, have a piece of cake.  You’ll be happier and healthier for it.  Treats are treats, and we all deserve them once in a while.

Our society has got it all twisted.  Left and right, I see people going gluten-free, raw, vegan, paleo, vegetarian, dairy-free, nut-free, fat-free, low-fat, high-protein: doing the Atkins or the South Beach or Weight-Watchers or whatever.  In my opinion, we could learn a lot about eating from Europeans and Asians, who take time to have a meal and enjoy what is put in front of them.  Instead, we leap like lemmings off a cliff, plummeting towards “health” by following all sorts of wacky diets.  A lot of times, we convince ourselves that we are doing or feeling better without gluten or dairy or carbs, but most times, it’s the placebo effect taking hold.

Give your body the nutrients it craves; don’t hold back on the foods you really desire because of a restrictive diet; feed your body, love your body, love yourself.  Simple as that.

Phew.  Anyways… I made this raw cheesecake a few weeks ago, because I had been longing after many of them online.  I’m glad I did.  It most certainly isn’t low calorie or fat-free, but it is damn delicious.


Raw Blueberry and Raspberry Cheesecake
adapted from a few places, namely Green Kitchen Stories
Makes 2 4.5 inch cakes, or (possibly, I haven’t tried it) one 8 inch cake
For the crust:
ingredients:
1 cup mixed nuts; I used walnuts, almonds, pecans, and a few bits and bobs I found in the pantry
6 Medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
pinch sea salt
directions:
Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they are relatively finely chopped.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse until they begin to come together.  Press into the bottom of your springform pan and place in freezer.
For the middle (cheese) layer:
ingredients:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 and up to 8 hours
zest and juice of one large lemon
pinch cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cardamom
seeds of one vanilla bean
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons agave nectar
directions:
Gently heat agave and coconut oil together until liquid and uniform.  Place everything in a food processor and puree until very smooth and thick.  Pour over crust and place in freezer.
For the top (berry) layer:
ingredients:
about 3/4 cup mixed berries (I used raspberries and blueberries)
juice of 1/2 a lime
directions:
Puree until smooth, pour over chilled cakes, and freeze until set.