I’m not sure what it is about road trips that make me feel like whether we are traveling for five hours or five days we need to stock the car full of provisions for the trip. Maybe it is some sort of evolutionary survival instinct that has been passed down from our ancestors that whispers into our consciousness, “bring food, and lots of it!”
But as Kerri and I packed the cooler for our drive to Redding, Calif. for father’s day with her family, the food we put in was quite different than what we would have brought last summer. Beyond a few leftover slices of pizza, we packed apples, strawberries and almonds. No chips, cookies, or other prepackaged foods would make the 10-hour journey with us to northern California. It isn’t that those foods are inherently bad, but since the “dollar diet” our eating patterns have changed.
As we work on our latest project in the economics of eating well, which we’ll fully recount in the book (due out in early 2010), the process of experimenting with our dietary patterns is starting to pay off. In general we tended to overeat before, now we know when to stop. We used to eat far more processed foods, now we cook from “raw” ingredients. The biggest challenge that remains however is eating in social settings with others.
Kerri’s family eats a fairly typical American diet. At gatherings the guys grill up burgers and dogs, and the women cover the tables with bowls of chips, Ritz crackers with dips, some assorted fruits, soda, tea, bottled water, and some type of dessert. This year it was cupcakes, compliments of Kerri’s younger sister.
I struggle during these trips because the chips, cookies, soda, cupcakes, and other high-calorie foods are difficult to resist. I was raised to overeat, and this habit, in combination with calorie dense junk foods, is a disaster for my health.
Today I did my best. When we arrived before lunch I resisted the barbecue chips and the crackers when they came out. But as everyone around me started munching away, the crunching of chips came in like surround sound. Resisting the snack table amidst the crowd of consensus eating made me feel like that lone man standing in front of the tank in Tienanmen Square 20 years ago.
I stayed strong for a couple hours, but soon the rationalizations clouded my will to defy. Kerri said it was o.k. to snack on carrots. Then we took a long calorie-burning walk, which made it fine to have two veggie burgers instead of one (besides, who wants to bring frozen food home on long drive?).
Then Kim came out with the cupcakes and it was game over.
Rationalizations grew into philosophical platforms: eating is an act of communion – if I don’t take part I’m rejecting a shared experience, therefore rejecting her family; Kerri’s sister went out of her way to make elegant vegan cupcakes – abstaining this accommodation would be blasphemous and just plain rude. And of course the all time favorite way to indulge “bad” behavior: “Everything is o.k. in moderation.”
As the food was put away things got easier, but each day we are here is a challenge. Eating well is hard work, and although possible, there are moments when resistance is futile.
Trying to stay strong,
P.S. If you didn’t hear about it, Nestle has recalled all of their cookie dough as 66 people in 28 states have contracted E.coli 0157 from it. If you have some in your fridge, THROW IT AWAY. Cooking it won’t help, because the minute you open it you will have contaminated your kitchen.
7 responses to “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over My Brain.”
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i absolutely love hearing you and your wife’s stories! i can relate to this particularly one sooo well. i have finally started to listen to my body when i eat “junk” and also am learning when to say no to people more often. it can be so difficult and the personal mind games can be even worse. its nice to know i am not alone!
Thats a great way that you thought of regarding the food menu. Always keep away from fried foods! Fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, dried nuts, curd etc are the best ones. You can include fish and chicken as well but no oils!
I get what you’re saying about eating at family events. I don’t consider what I eat to be anything extreme. I eat meat occasionally. I eat dairy. However, I make a point to eat 5 or more pieces of produce a day and that is just foreign to their diet. I have to bring my own. Sure they have the occasional bananas and apples but more often then not the bananas spoil on the counter. They eat a lot of processed foods and they’re both retired so lately they have been experimenting with dessert making and tons of grilled meat. It’s a marathon when I go home.
I just returned from a weekend at my Aunt’s home. That was a real trial and tribulation as my Aunt does not eat vegetables and fruit. ‘Makes me have the runs’, she says. So I took my own fruit and veggies along.
I will say that the two of you are inspirations for me. I used to weight 294 and lost 90 of that on a vegetarian diet about five years ago. I gained 20 back but that was all. I recently decided to go back on the vegetarian diet but for more reasons that to just loose weight. There are people starving in this world, animals suffering, and one person who was feeling sick all the time because of all the chemicals that she ingested.
Along with the vegetarian part, I do not eat any chemicals. I have noticed that I can now eat fruit without the itchiness that I used to get in my throat. Chemicals are in everything that is processed and I am really pushing people to get away from processed foods as a result.
Keep up the good work and I can’t wait for when your book comes out.
My extended family is starting to come around. I’ve noticed some significant improvements in their diets and pantries items over the past few years (increased quality instead of stocking up on cheap processed “coupon items”), but I still do a lot of my own grocery shopping when I visit (and they use up what is leftover). I always offer to cook when I stay (to give them a break, I say). They now stock EVOO on a regular basis in addition to the soybean “vegetable oil”, so I can dress my salads with EVOO and vinegar instead of the bottle dressings they use (my sister said she’s done buying bottled salad dressing anyway and is just using up what’s already in her pantry-yeah!). On my last visit they even got some super “backyard” eggs for me from their friends who live on a homestead-style property outside town – as they know I love eggs for breakfast but try to not consume “battery eggs” from the supermarket. Awesome orange yolks! I was able to find the grass-fed butter I prefer after a lot of searching in the local supermarket (found in the gourmet cheese section near produce, not the main dairy/butter case).
At group events I *always* arrive with something edible to contribute, if for no other reason than that way there’s at least one thing we can eat that isn’t loaded with “empty” sugar and starch, high omega 6 GMO vegetable oils, and gluten. One of my favorites is deviled eggs made with homemade mayonnaise (& the best eggs I can source, of course). Deviled eggs are always a hit (a guilty pleasure for some who still fear egg yolks); I never have leftovers no matter how many I make.
At school or team parties I always make a dip from scratch to serve with cut up fresh organic veggies (not pre-prepped in bags). The kids eat a surprising amount of the veggies, even if they are also eating chips, pretzels, and other junky snacks. In five years of recreational soccer team participation, I’m one of the few parents who doesn’t hit Costco for the individually wrapped processed snacks to hand out when it’s our turn to provide soccer game snacks.
I also frequently make a low sugar (but it doesn’t take low sugar) gluten free coconut butter cookie that is made with coconut flour when contributing to a group event. For coconut fans these cookies are always a hit and I get many requests for the recipe. Another easy one is almond meal cocoa shortbread cookies. They fit our dietary needs, but don’t seem “odd” to others. I sometimes travel with the almond meal or coconut flour, because these can be hard to find in other places. I send cookies like these with my son when he goes to birthday parties, as he can’t have birthday cake because of the gluten.
Another good party-take-along are homemade dark chocolate truffles, though it requires advance thought to allow for enough chilling time. I can make them with cream and butter or non-dairy with coconut milk. They’re rich and satisfying (really hard to overindulge), low in sugar (compared to most desserts), gluten-free, and always a hit.
The most difficult time I have is when staying with less close relatives in the MidWest. Their pantries are full of processed AHA approved food high in vegetable oils, starch, and other stuff I can’t and don’t eat. And if they have real eggs instead of Egg Beaters, they are who knows how old (same for the butter, usually leftover from Thanksgiving dinner). And I don’t usually have use of a car there (but the food issue is just about good enough reason to rent a car). Last visit my mom “saved me” with a detour to Trader Joe’s when she picked me up at the airport so I could get a few of my staples. I know there are more wholesome direct food sources there, but no time to track them down on my short visits. At the gatherings I do my best to avoid the starch & sugar, which seems to be the dominant ingredients. I end up with bunless meat and whatever non-starchy veggies are available. I avoid the BBQ baked beans as they are loaded with sugar and send my BG into the danger zone. The diabetic relatives pile the beans and chips on their plates with all other stuff I avoid, though, then take extra meds to cover the excess sugar.
As usual, your writing is elegant, and humorous. I just love your entertaining and informative voice. You’ve really connected to a widespread audience with your style, and if this is any indication of how your book will “read”, you’ll have a NYT bestseller. Looking forward to your next post…